Are you old enough to remember the days when you could look at your television screen and be marveled by a few colored lines and shapes moving about as you hit the keyboard over and over? If so, then you’ll also probably have happy memories of the brief range of squeaks, beeps and electronic whistles that comprised the range of sound effects that were produced by the computer.
Some of the more imaginative game designers were able to compile together a range of beeps to generate simple, and often quite catchy, tunes. It seemed amazing how half a dozen beeps could make you feel utterly crushed and humiliated as defeat loomed large again in great chunky white letters declaring to everyone ‘Game Over’, or the exultations of delight as similar beeps and whistles congratulated you as the all time winner.
Today, the feedback produced by games has come on quite a bit – and no longer are gamers content to see a couple of words on the screen, a high score or a few beeps.
Today we expect to see high resolution, high color visual images that have usually taken many hours’ hard work by professional graphics artists to produce, with sound that has been composed by dedicated music professionals and broadcast with surround sound and cinema style quality. As a result of television and film companies using more and more computer technology in producing entertainment media, computer games companies have taken advantage of the same technology to provide an almost seamless transition from screen to computer game, often recreating film segments every bit as professional and realistic as you would see on television.
As home computers have become increasingly powerful and the technology affordable, we have come to expect nothing less than cinema style quality of sound and audio, and companies are competing against each other to deliver the next leap in realism.
In addition to the basic video and audio, there are a number of other ways in which computer games designers provide feedback or output to increase the sense of realism and involvement, making the gamer feel much more a part of the action rather than a passive observer.
The term ‘feedback’ has been used as a label for a number of control peripherals, and usually refers to a rumbling vibration sensation produced in the controller mechanism that occurs whenever the player’s character is hit, falls, is in a vibrating vehicle of some kind, or is in some other way physically being acted upon. A handheld games controller, joystick or steering wheel can then provide this rumbling sensation to replicate, either the engine rumble as you accelerate, for instance, or even a feeling of force being applied against the player.
In another situation, a player can be flying a plane against a cross wind, and whilst they are using a joystick to steer the plane, the joystick is fighting against them as the steering mechanism in a plane would be if there was a cross wind forcing the plane to veer off the flight path. Similarly, steering wheels will fight back a little if the player is trying to over steer against a corner, or is up against a wall or another vehicle.