Before this generation greatly expanded the capabilities of consoles games, developers had to work around console restrictions if they wanted to publish a game. Even if they could have better graphics or design new areas, certain things had to be scrapped in order to finalize their game. Here are five ways that game developers and publishers worked around these limitations and changed the gaming scene.
5) Procedural Gameplay
I’ve already written an article on the wonders of procedural gaming. It was originally created to accommodate for the low amount of memory on game cartridges. By generating areas according to a formula, games could have complex settings with minimal space used on the cartridge. The games that use this best are the Dark Cloud series, the weapon system of Borderlands, and Diablo 3’s dungeons. However, it also makes an appearance in games which generate entire worlds, such as Minecraft and Terraria.
After cramming 150 Pokémon, 165 moves, and hundreds of trainers into the Gameboy cartridges, the Pocket Monsters development team realized there was room for just one more Pokémon. Shigeki Miyamoto programmed one last monster into the game—Mew—and expected no one to find it. However, when coders and hackers came across Mew in the script, it renewed interest in the game, and the company decided to give Mew out legitimately. This renewed interest in the series greatly contributed to its success, and it probably influenced the way DLC was treated in later generations of gaming.
3) Silent Hill Fog
Graphical limitations on the original Playstation meant that the draw distance for high-quality games would need to be very low. The Silent Hill development team dealt with this by weaving the fog and darkness into the plot—instead of a gimmick that kept you from noticing there was nothing in the distance, they found a way to hide enemies and pop-up scares. Silent Hill’s fog and darkness are practically the game’s trademarks, and stayed in the main series games even after the graphical limitation was removed by newer consoles.
2) Pixel Art
Arguably one of the best art styles to come out of gaming, pixel art and sprites were an easy way to cut down on graphics space for console games. Even though 3D rendering was available as early as 1976, it took consoles a few decades to catch up. In the meantime, minimalist pixel art was the best way to display characters and scenery or add graphic style to a game. While most game covers depicted paintings of the characters, the actual pixel art of retro games remain the most memorable depictions of classic characters.
1) Memory Cards
While there were already memory cards being used for computers and occasionally borrowed by video games, game saves were usually kept on a game cartridge’s RAM up until consoles started using read-only discs. Since the discs became read-only, memory cards were required to keep the RAM of expansive games intact. However, this allowed for multiple games to be played using the same disc, the transportation of said game save to another disc, and occasionally the transportation of a save from a console to an arcade system for a better control layout. Allowing a user to have multiple saves gave developers a reason to add more replay value than before, as well as incentive to have multiple games. This ultimately added depth to the games we play today—even if memory cards are no longer necessary to play on consoles.