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The evolution of online gaming is quite an interesting subject. 40 years of uninterrupted online development brings us to where we are today with the ever popular brands such as: Call of Duty, Battlefield, World of Warcraft and Minecraft. Developing the genre into its own specialized yet broadly defined classification. With the invent of more modern hardware, cable modems, fire wire, global networking, cheaper technology and societal acceptance – to a point. Online gaming has become much more than a group of nerds on ten different computers using LANs or syncing consoles to create a desired online multi player experience. So, let us take some time to see just how far we have come in the online gaming world.

PLATO Computer

The Beginning:
In the 1970s PLATO was developed by the University of Illinois Control Data Corporation aimed at allowing students at different locations to access online lessons. Then in 1972 PLATO IV is introduced with upgraded graphics capability, this readers is where we start to see the beginning of multi player games. Next 1973 was a very appealing year as Maze War written at the NASA Ames Research Center in California by high school interns was developed. Allowing two player capability by connecting two IMLAC computers with serial cables. We could consider this the first peer to peer video game as well as the first First Person Shooter.

Maze Wars

In the summer of ’73 an MIT student, Greg Thompson, having already developed Maze War decided to take it a step further. Writing a server program running on a DEC-20 mainframe allowing up to eight IMLACs to connect and “battle” one another. We could consider this the first client to server computer video game. Jump to the year 1978 and PLATO had developed multi player interactive graphics. Spawning games like – Airfight, Empire  and Spasim. Showing features of inter player messaging, persistent characters and multi player of at least 32 players. The most conceptually important of these games was called MUD(1978) which eventually became a staple for MMORPGs as well as creating a genre exclusively for the online scene.

 

IBM PC – MS-DOS

The 1980s banged off with a rough start for console gamers as in 1983 the gaming market bubble burst and quite a few companies went into bankruptcy. However, this was a time for the PC to shine and shine it did in the gaming world. In 1981 Microsoft released the Operating System, MS-DOS. Having to compete with the console platform at the time, a 3 and 1/2″ or 5 and 1/4″ floppy disk was used. Allowing the user to power up, insert and play using direct boot as well as showing an interface for the floppy to run upon. Games like Microsoft Adventure(1981), Donkey Kong(1982), Pac Man(1980), The Legend of Zelda(1986), Metroid(1986),  Final Fantasy(1987) John Madden Football(1988) and Sim City(1989) were released becoming some of the most popular of the time and still are of the most popular games even 30 years later.

Come 1982 Gene McDaniel handed Christopher Kent Mesa source code, from the Xerox version of Maze, and the bitmap that was used for the display. Afterword, in 1984, CompuServe released Islands of Kesmai dubbing it the first commercial multi player online role playing game. With the advent of the MMORPG we start to see playing cost from CompuServe selling a connection fee of $6/hour(low end) or $12/hour(high end.) Kesmai processed one command every 10 seconds equaling almost two cents per command. Around 1986 is when the X Window System first appeared as a result of collaboration between MIT and Digital Equipment Corporation. With this release Kent decided to write a networked version of Mazewar divvying it out in the same year as X Windows. Using this version X used UDP port 1111 utilizing Unix and running across the Internet. We could consider this the first game that could be played across the Internet.

SGI Dogfight

Also during the year Gary Tarolli wrote a flight simulator demonstration for Silicon Graphics computers. UDP port 5130 was added and that makes SGI Dogfight the first to use IP suite. Lastly, being that ’86 was a busy year, a class of games was developed using X display windows on personal workstation computers to remotely display a game and user input. Being that X uses multiple networking systems this enabled users to not only game on the Internet but on non Internet based TCP/IP network stacks.

Here comes 1988 and Netrek presumably the first to use TCP/UDP protocols, Internet aware teams, meta servers for open game servers and persistent user information. With the first official online game, similar to what we play today, came cheating monitoring with public key cryptography to reduce use of modified clients, auto-aimers and other illicit features. 1989 rolls around adding the capability for IP Multi cast, using the multi cast address of 224.0.1.2 making it the first game to receive an address assignment. Along with the games, big name companies started releasing, companies like Activision, Electronic Arts, Atari and Sega. All of which became size able and prominent brands in the years to come.

SEGA Meganet/Mega Drive

The ’90s in keeping up with the ’80s introduced online multi player gaming to video game consoles with Segas’ Meganet service for Mega Drive or Genesis. Then in 1991 Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web while Stormfront Studios releases Neverwinter Nights on America Online. With Sierra Network following suite and launching online chess, checkers and bridge. 1992 sets its eyes upon Wolfenstein 3D by id Software, even though it wasn’t technically 3D it still took the industry by storm becoming a landmark First Person Shooter.

Mosaic Web browser

With 1993 comes Mosaic the first graphical Web browser, while DOOM is released becoming an immediate success. 1994 brings about the Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation and a dial-up game called Avalon MUD offering a pay to play Internet service. Sony releases the PlayStation in 1995 and the Nintendo 64 is launched in Japan. Meanwhile Windows 95 sells over a million copies in four days and Sun launches JAVA.

Meridian59

Id Software releases Quake bringing true 3D to multi player gaming and in the same year QuakeWorld launches, making play over the Internet much easier. They then release the original Team Fortress, as a Quake add on. Within the first year it is used on over 40% of  dedicated servers running Quake. Meridian 59 rounds out the year becoming one of the first high graphic multi player games played in a persistent online world, with a limit of just 35 players. Potentially it was also the very first online game to charge a flat rate for monthly access instead of by the hour access.

Lineage(1998)

As a Korean software company NCsoft releases Lineage, in 1998, 4 million people subscribe and make it one of the most popular MMORPGs. With the Quake 2 engine also being developed Sierra releases the popular title, Half-Life. Sega releases the Sega Dreamcast in Japan becoming the very first console sold with a modem. Finally in 1999 the Dreamcast debuts in the US. Sony launches EverQuest, the fully 3D MMORPG, seeing more than half a million subscribers. The first appearance of the FPS genre then opens up as Minh Le and Jess Cliffe release the first beta of Counter-Strike. CS eventually goes on to set the record for the largest footprint of any Internet based game with 35,000 servers. Then to wrap it up Quake 3 Arena debuts as well as Microsoft’s release of Asheron’s Call.

Shogun: Total War(2000)

Onto the 2000s, Sega had fallen out of the industry becoming a 3rd party vendor. They were looking for their next break out title, since getting forced out of the console gaming world.  In 2000 they delivered it with Shogun:Total War, revolutionizing the way we strategy enthusiasts viewed the genre. As Age of Empires and Command and Conquer are both 2D based games, Total War was able to bring something much better to the table – 3D. Sega showed off their success by creating 6 successors and a variety of expansions. The most popular of the series being Rome: Total War and Empire: Total War. The team at Sega has been running on that franchise for a decade and a half now and shows no signs of slowing down. As they have recently released  their newest in the Total War series, Shogun: Total War 2.

In 2002 Microsoft created a subdivision called Microsoft Game Studios  relating to the development of Xbox games yet they also seemed insistent to push out PC titles too. MGS came swinging with Combat Flight Simulator 3, Battle for Europe, Age of Mythology and Halo. Halo being their most popular release and big merchandising giant, gaining short films, a book and comic book adaptations to rival that of Star Wars. Quite impressive Microsoft, while you get no cu dos for a couple of your Operating Systems you still impress me with your gaming prowess. MGS went on in the 2000s to produce more well known titles including: Halo 2, Rise of Nations, Flight Simulator X, Age of Empires 3 and Gears of War. All of which were major profitable franchises.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault(2002-IGN)

Then came the real start of one of the most popular genres still today, people I am talking about First Person Shooters! From 2002 through 2004 we saw a massive influx of FPS games. Being that they are FPS games its worth while to mention a few of the great titles. In 2002 Steven Spielberg produced Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, one of my all time favorite games. MOHAA as it would later be dubbed, was set in 1942 North Africa and 1944 France. Enveloping players with rich cinematic scenes in single player and the best online FPS experience to be found in the genre. To follow Medal of Honor the year after its release was none other than Call of Duty. We all know where this franchise went and it is still producing more content. More than likely they will not stop creating Duty content any time in the near future.

WoW – Director

2004 brought about the next big hitter in the FPS scene, the sequel to Half-Life, Half-Life 2. Revolutionizing the way content was authenticated by requiring product activation with Steam and even featuring a gravity gun. Going just a touch further the Half-Life development team had implemented advanced physics, animation, audio and narratives. Then as if they didn’t already do enough, they had plans for a 3rd episode. This is what makes a great game and the HL team deserves having HL heaved into the category of one of the greatest games of all time. By 2005 Blizzard Entertainment released their ever popular game with over 10 million subscribers, World of Warcraft, pushing the bar for MMORPGs. Being what WoW was and what it had accomplished, Blizzard felt the need to, since it was so successful, release 4 more expansions for the game. The Burning Crusade,  Wrath of The Lich King, Cataclysm and Mists of Pandoria. World of Warcraft set the stage and basis for future MMORPGs and following not far behind were games such as Guild Wars, Lord of The Rings: Online and MapleStory providing different MMO platforms for a gamer to choose from.

In 2007 Crysis was released laying down yet another new advancement for PC Games. This FPS had graphics that were well ahead of its time and the system requirements to match it. Crysis was such a resource hog for most users that eventually it became used for PC benchmarks, matching that to the epic story and gripping game play created a whole new basis for PC Gaming. Crysis certainly played its part  in graphics and game play. Imagine if Crysis was never released, we may not have COD: Ghosts, BF3, BF4 or the upcoming COD: Advanced Warfare – stunning, isn’t it? In 2008 the hit, Left 4 Dead, zombie mash’em up was released. Featuring team based co-op missions with up to four other people trying to fight for survival. If you ask me, this was the game that started the zombie craze.

Starcraft II Wings of Liberty

The Ending:
Now onto 2010: At the end of the decade came a highly anticipated game, not only by casual gamers, even for professional gamers. That game is called StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty and I must say, the fans of StarCraft waited quite a long time for this release and Blizzard delivered.

From 2010 to 2014 and back through to 1970 there have been many, let me reiterate, many great games that have been released. We now have all the information on much of online gaming like: when networking was developed, how they found a basis for First Person Shooters or where the basis of the modern MMO/RPG came from. We also have crossed the threshold on graphics development, stretching from PLATO/PLATO IV, paving the way for Maze War, to the modern release of Crysis and its heavy PC requirement specifications. Even major brands from today and from back in the 1980s were mentioned as well as some of their most popular titles. So, where do we go from there?

There is the invent of TeamSpeak, Ventrilo and any other software developed strictly for VOIP communications, popularly used for gaming. The rabbit like population appearance of Game Server rental sites and all the games they supported. Server tracking and statistics from various websites, allowing server administrators to gather intelligence to better populate their server. We’ve come from computers like the Commodore 64 to Intel i7s, AMD A-10s with integrated graphics chips, 8 core-6 core and quad core processors, hyper threading, terabyte hard drives, Solid State Drives that hold many times more data than SATA HDDs could ever comprehend, Radeon R9 290X and Nvidia GTX 780, motherboards that hold upwards of 32GB of RAM, enhanced peripheral devices(printers, mice, keyboards, etc.), even monitors that are upwards of 32″ or more. When one actually takes the time to look backward and see the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s it is almost like, today, we are functioning with alien technology.

Call of Duty Black Ops

Just to satiate every ones appetite, let us indulge in the greatest online games developed and released within the last four years. Note: the games about to be mentioned are of my personal opinion to be the best, as well as others within the gaming community. 2010:  Halo – Reach, COD: Black Ops/BO 2/Ghosts, God of War III, Red Dead Redemption, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood/2/Revelations, Borderlands/2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time/Warrior Within/The Two Thrones, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Age of Empires III/The War Chiefs/The Asian Dynasties, Portal 2, Shogun: Total War 2 and The Witcher 1/2. Seriously this list could just go on and on.

The very last part to mention about PC online gaming would have to be about the impact socialization has had in gaming and its evolution. More often when you see or hear those two words in one sentence, the feel is always focusing on negative associations. Where are the positive impacts, shouldn’t they be brought into plain sight and discussed along side the negatives? We all have heard of the stigma handed out: “Your just a loser sitting in your mothers basement playing video games all day.” What a crock if you ask me, is that what Robin Williams was? I didn’t think so.

The anti-social behavior of course exists in online gaming but that does not mean that even those “loners” are all that anti-social. Just to stick in the craw of those who will tout the “games cause violence” topic. It is very important to take note of all the other forms of media that are much more violent in their depictions. A more realistic approach would be to take notice, not of the technology itself, but more so about “how the technology is used” to showcase the violence.

I would like to introduce those people to the American Psychology Associations 2013 research article entitled: “The Benefits of Playing Video Games.”

“Research has shown that the extent to which individuals endorse an incremental versus entity theory of intelligence reliably predicts whether individuals in challenging circumstances will persist or give up, respectively (Dweck & Molden, 2005).” They go further on to say individuals believing in fixed intelligence typically take failures as worthlessness. Where as individuals believing in developmental or effort based intelligence take failure as a means of improvement. It is in that positive way of thinking that can give video gamers an advantage as opposed to their peers.

Being that there is this positive attitude implemented in most popular games of today they note – “Being immersed in these gaming environments teaches players an essential basic lesson: Persistence in the face of failure reaps valued rewards (Ventura, Shute, & Zhao, 2013).” This research is so in depth with its verifiable benefits of video gaming that I can’t even continue writing about them, for fear of making this post far too long. So check it out for yourself here. Then don’t forget, the next time you hear someone say or write about “indulging oneself in some gaming” be encouraging and pick up that mouse/keyboard or controller  and begin experiencing the benefits of gaming yourself.

References:
Wikipidea
APA(.pdf) – Benefits of Gaming
1980 PC Game List
Host Based System History
The X Window System
1990 timeline
2000-2010 timeline
Best of 2011-2014

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