Some ideas change games forever. For instance, a few years after the Wii came out, everyone else was doing the motion-control thing. That's just the way the industry works; recognizing the great ideas brought in by others and moving the medium forward by incorporating them.
Only some of those revolutionary ideas actually existed decades before, and everyone thought they were shit.
We Think They Started With: Ultima Online (1997)
The first RPG that could be played online in a shared virtual world is generally believed to be Ultima Online. In fact, the term "MMORPG" was first coined by Ultima Online's creator, Richard A. Garriott.
Or RICAGARR as he calls himself.
MMORPGs represent the excesses of modern gaming: People spending entire days staring at a computer screen, completely immersed in a fantasy world. Makes you feel nostalgic for the simple days of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man, when this sort of thing never happened ...
Actually Been Around Since: Island of Kesmai (1985)
This is ground zero for the modern world's greatest plague.
The first commercially released MMORPG actually came out in the mid-80s. Back then, though, it was known as a MUD which stood for Multi-User Dungeon, once again proving that inventing is half inspiration and half not naming it something so terrible everyone ignores you. Island of Kesmai could connect up to 100 players at the same time through the online service provider CompuServe. One hundred players may not seem like such a "massive" figure now, but in the 80s it was 98 more than our minds could handle.
Turns out MUD games go back all the way to the 70s and were actually quite popular on some particularly nerdy college campuses. Some jokesters even referred to them as "Multi Undergraduate Destroyers" due to their addictive nature. To put things in perspective, this was a period in time when the average household had three channels on their television, and may have had to wiggle an antenna to make them visible through the static. And these guys were already suffering from WoW syndrome.
Most MUD games were text-based, but others, like Island of Kesmai, used ASCII characters to simulate changing graphics, like so:
Add some pottery and it's a Zelda maze.
Kesmai implemented other features that are familiar to MMORPGs today, such as side-quests and the ability to trash talk other players through chat. As you can probably guess by now, the game failed to catch on, probably because it was way too expensive: It cost around $12 an hour just to stay connected to the CompuServe network. Also, a single command would take about 10 seconds to process -- that's almost two cents for every little movement you made. If playing WoW cost that much, Blizzard would own several countries by now.
"We'll keep the servers in South America and replace the Midwest with data centers. We'll build bunkers in Canada for the players. They'll be happy as long as they have Red Bull and Nutra-Paste."
We Think It Started With: The Nintendo 3DS (2011) or maybe the Virtual Boy (1995)
Before the 3DS, Nintendo's only attempt to create a 3D "handheld" was the Virtual Boy, otherwise known as one of the worst inventions of all time. The Virtual Boy was a spectacular failure and today, Nintendo doesn't even mention it on its website. But come on, surely they deserve some credit for attempting something as groundbreaking as a portable 3D console all the way back in 1995.
Even if it looked like some sort of elaborate torture device.
Actually Been Around Since: The Tomytronic 3D (1983)
Years before the Nintendo Entertainment System even came out in the U.S., a company named Tomy released the Tomytronic 3D, a binocular-shaped console that successfully managed to simulate 3D graphics. The Tomytronic worked thanks to two LED panels relying on external light.
The idea that you could look into a small machine and see a video game in 3D was just unthinkable in 1983 -- hell, we were just getting adjusted to having two dimensions in our games at that point. Here's what the major home console release looked like that year:
Do you have any idea what's going on there? No? It's freaking Starfox.
So what we're saying is that it's quite possible that the Tomytronic didn't sell so well simply because the children who played it weren't capable of explaining what they had just experienced to their friends.
Most of them turned to drugs.
Some might even say the Tomytronic worked better than the Virtual Boy -- mainly because of its impressive ability to display colors other than red. Also, some of these games actually look kind of kickass, like the one with the trippy phantom racecars:
Rainbow Road, anyone?
Or the one where you get to shoot lasers at packs of killer sharks, blowing them to pieces:
This ... just ... there are no words.
However, as cool as they looked these were still only LED games, so the gameplay was extremely limited and they probably got boring after only like 10 minutes ... and since the company only ever released seven games, this gave the combined Tomytronic series a useful life of little more than an hour. The console faded into obscurity and it would take 28 years for someone else to perfect handheld 3D technology.
Your pants will literally explode from joy -- GameWanker.com
Of course, the Nintendo 3DS isn't just a 3D console, it also features the DS' innovative touchscreen technology, introduced into the gaming world only a few years before ... right?
We Think it Started With: The Nintendo DS (2004)
The main draw of the original Nintendo DS, and what set it apart from all contemporary gaming consoles (handheld or otherwise), was its unprecedented degree of interactivity: Gamers were now able to interact more directly with the game using the system's revolutionary touchscreen technology and Nintendo's stylus.
Or, you know, an empty Bic pen.
Some called it a gimmick, but by now it's obvious that these guys were on to something (see: every phone since 2007). This is the kind of forward thinking that would eventually lead Nintendo to the Wii. Wait, did we say "forward"? We meant the opposite.
Actually Been Around Since: The Vectrex (1982)
The Vectrex was an unusual gaming console, in the sense that it was actually a huge monitor that happened to come with a gaming console attached to it.
Its "No TV recquired!" slogan seems a lot less impressive when you consider that it was a TV.
But despite its bulky size and simplistic black and white line graphics, the Vectrex had one huge advantage over every other console of its time (and the ones after that ... and the ones after that): It was the first one ever to feature touch-sensitive gaming, thanks to the Light Pen.
In 1982. When most telephones did not yet have buttons.
The initial lineup of games for the Light Pen was pretty limited: There was a drawing game, an animation game and a music game that would allow you to write and play notes on the screen -- basically, the same type of gimmicky stuff that accounts for half of Nintendo's current game library. They were also working on a slightly more exciting demo called Mail Plane:
These games were all about showing off the potential for what the Light Pen could do, before presumably moving on to more serious stuff. Unfortunately, the Vectrex was a victim of the video game crash of 1983, so they never got to apply this technology to, say, adventure games or even platformers. Most gamers probably never ever heard of it.
Via Video Game Console Library
Causing them to miss out on all this.
So the most innovative feature of the Nintendo DS wasn't actually that original, but at least it pointed the company in the direction of something that really was: The Wii's motion controls. Except ...