First job, first kiss, first pet — firsts are a big part of life, and so it is with games.
From MMOs to Madden, from sophisticated CG cinematics to gritty shooters, gaming’s biggest franchises, genres, and techniques all had to get started somewhere. Journey back in time with us as we excavate the obscure origins of the gaming world we take for granted today.
First 3D shooter: Wolfenstein 3D
Conventional wisdom holds that the first true first-person shooter — combining texture-mapped 3D graphics, a first-person perspective, and arcade-quick shooter action — was id Software’s seminal hit, Wolfenstein 3D. And, as it happens, conventional wisdom is mostly correct. Sort of.
Shortly before the release of Wolfenstein 3D (which is itself based on the classic 8-bit adventure Castle Wolfenstein), id took a dry run at the same technology with 1992’s Catacomb 3D, a fantasy shooter in which gamers battled enemy goblins with an arsenal of fireballs. All the pieces of the genre were already more or less in place, but Catacomb lacks the visible firearm and ammunition counter that make Wolfenstein seem so familiar to today’s Call of Duty devotees.
Earlier games had already established some of the genre’s touchstones — 1988’s The Colony and 1986’s Mercenary, for example, allowed users to freely roam a 3D rendered environment — and later titles, such as 1995’s Terminator: Future Shock, which pioneered mouselook, would add essential refinements. But it’s safe to say it all started with Wolfenstein.
First cutscenes: Space Invaders Part II
Cinematic cutscenes are such a ubiquitous part of video games nowadays that it’s hard to remember it wasn’t always that way.