Jul 112014

Every now and then, something in DDO (or in another game, it is not just a DDO thing) reminds to stop and appreciate what has happened to computer graphics during my life time.

Yes this is going to be one of those kinds of articles, one that emphasizes just how old I have become – somehow, and I often wonder how that happened – but it is not a nostalgic look back and I promise it won’t end with me shaking my fist and yelling at all the snotty kids to get off my lawn.

Because when it comes to graphics, these are the good ole days. And one can safely assume that the future will be even better.

Snoopy as typewriter artWhen I was in high school, there were no graphics at all, not on screen anyway. The larger public high schools might have a computer, but not really, they would only have a terminal, something that allowed remote access to a computer, because computers were these massive things that cost millions and filled a warehouse.

There would be a computer club. They would spend hours and hours devising programs that would be stored on paper tape or punch cards, and that if successful, would spend an hour printing a version of typewriter art Snoopy on a giant printer that sounded like several people hitting a log with big wooden mallets.

State of the art. But dorky.

Then suddenly, video games. After basketball practice, we’d wander over to this one Italian restaurant that had a Pong table. It transfixed us, everyone, jocks and dorks alike. You could manipulate things on a video screen using controls! No terminals, no paper tape, just a screen with two dials. Yes, the “players” were just lines and the “ball” was a single giant pixel, but still, wow! Tennis! On a video screen! More or less.

Real-time changes without paper tape or anything
Tennis! On a video screen!

I remember when my Dad brought home a version of Pong and hooked it up to our TV. We invited people over to play it; it was special. So different from anything that existed previously.

Home video gaming grew quickly. Atari came out with something so ridiculously far ahead of Pong that it was breathtaking: the Atari 2600 system. It didn’t just play Pong, it played all kinds of games. And the graphics! So advanced.

Atari 2600 playing Basketball
Basketball! On a video screen!

But the real star of the graphics world was Mattel Intellivision:

Now these were advanced graphics
Now these were advanced graphics


The pixels kept shrinking. Meanwhile, usable home computers became popular, not just gaming devices but actual programmable computers. With their own form of graphics.

Fifteen years after Pong, my friends and I spend countless hours – probably countless hundreds of hours – making up crazy illogical football plays on Playmaker Football, or playing Dungeons & Dragons on computer in the form of Final Fantasy.

Hundreds and hundreds of hours. We were all married too. Thank you, spouses, thank you.

Playmaker Football
Playmaker Football

Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy

Never could we have imagined that someday, not very far away in fact, we would be playing Dungeons & Dragon on a computer in the form of an immersive 360-degree world with thousands of pixels rending every character, in 3D!

From Pong to this:

Zoarinnia the Red Dragon

and this:

Over the Stormreach Market

and this:

On a Xoriat airship

and this:

The Storm Horn Mountains

and this:

Weapon Shipment

and this:

Droam forces

It is all so beautiful. And more important, playable.

This is the golden age of computer graphics, this. From a one-pixel tennis ball to a teeming world of thousands of polygons each containing textures built of hundreds or thousands of pixels.

And it’s only going to get better.

I can hardly wait!

πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

  15 Responses to “The Golden Age of Graphics”

Comments (15)
  1. Dammit Geoff, now I feel old πŸ™

  2. I want to be IN the game! #SAO

    HDMI killed the ASCII all-stars

  3. Say what you will about the advancement of graphics (and don’t get me wrong, it’s great!), but one of my all-time favorite video games was the Atari Football table-arcade machine (4-player, of course). It used “X’s” and “O’s” to represent the players, just like you see on a coach’s clipboard. It was great.

    I really should find one and buy it…last time I looked, they were “only” about $1,500…

  4. I can’t believe you left out this ad:
    [the infocom (8 bit era) ad showing the “other brands’ graphics”.]

    Note, I haven’t shelled out $1000 for DDO, but there is a reason text adventures are all but dead.

  5. Just got my new system, have redownloaded DDO, and now i can finally use it with full dx11 max detail etc… ohh it’s so nice to see the ol game with a fresh coat of paint πŸ™‚

What do you think?

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