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Alpha Waves was the first 3D platform game (fosdem.org)
65 points by todsacerdoti 16 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 25 comments

There's a few comments on here with earlier "3D platformer" games and while there were earlier "3D" games, they're not "3D platformers":

- Knight Lore (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23667891): that's isometric rather than 3D poligon. This is the problem with 3D though, it can be conflated to mean several different things:

. 1. 3D polygons: like Quake and later, and generally what we now think of as 3D rendering

. 2. Stereoscopy: like 3D cinema and the 8-bit 3D addons for the Master System / Sega Mark III (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9hrcd25-kU) and Famicom (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famicom_3D_System) -- as it happens I own both of those 3D systems and they're actually pretty good for 80s tech

. 3. 3D isometric: like Sonic 3D Blast (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Oon2HKYqYI) and Knight Lore.

- Sentinel (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23667789): At least this game is 3D polygons however it's not a platformer. There were plenty of 3D poligon based games before Alpha Waves. I remember playing a game called Articfox on my Amstrad CPC 464 (https://www.gamesdatabase.org/game/amstrad-cpc/arcticfox) back in the late 80s and being shocked that 8-bit system with 64k of RAM had the capability to draw polygons. Even before that there were 3D maze games; going back to the CPC, Sultans Maze (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x4b4k1pPRE) was released in 1983, often came bundled with the micro computer and that's not even remotely first of it's kind. None of the aforementioned are platformers however.

- I, robot (https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=rsaarelm): While that's got platform elements, it's really more of a shooter. Games similar would be Space Harrier and Starfox. Where this game stands out is the puzzle platformer elements but they're more a mechanic of specific levels than the defining quality of the game.

So it's fair to say Alpha Waves is the first "3D platformer" but where '3D' means 'polygon' and 'platformer' is the game genre; but other '3D' games existed before.

In terms of polygonal 3D games, the earliest example I know of is Battlezone, from 1980. It’s definitely a first-person shooter and not a platformer, though.


I have this on the 2600 and while the 2600 version doesn't use vectors, it's still one of the best games on that platform.

Yes! I was looking for the name of this game years, and was just thinking of this a couple days ago. When I saw the title of the link, I wondered, "could it be?", and yes, it's the game of my childhood. I spent countless hours wandering the rooms of this game. It was mindblowing to me at the time.

Not sure how people figured out this counts as the first 3D platformer ever and not the much older I, Robot arcade game (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmvWxG2zvs8). Is it important that the camera has full degrees of freedom instead of being locked on the depth axis?

Mind Walker for the Amiga, from 1986, is a type of 3D platformer, though it employs a fixed perspective:



Backlash (also for the Amiga) is also interesting, though more of a "3D shooter":


Wasn't Knight Lore[1] on the Sinclair Spectrum (which came out in 1984) a 3D platform game? I certainly remember the buzz about it at the time where it seemed to be a qualitative leap in games technology.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knight_Lore

Just reading this title makes me remember the music[1].

I loved this game and this might be peak Infogrames for me.


Also worth a watch/listen is the talk by Frederick Raynal at GDC about Alone in the Dark. He touches on converting Alpha Waves from Atari ST to PC:


The colony (1987) - one of the very first realtime 3D FPS/adventure games


I remember this game really well, it has wonderfully abstract graphics and fantastic music. This was a really interesting game at the time that tried to tackle a number of the problems that show up with 3d platformers:

- Controls - Alpha Waves uses tank controls - left and right rotate the character rather than move them. This control style continued for many years all through the Playstation 1 period and was a fairly natural fit for digital d-pad like controls. Super Mario 64 was the first game of this type that uses direct control (left moves him left, right moves him right, etc.) and it revolutionized 3d platformer control schemes. There is a clear break with games before and after Mario 64 w/r to this style of control. I believe some modern recreations of older games (some of the Resident Evil games) now use the Mario scheme even though the originals used tank controls.

- Camera - Alpha Waves slots the camera directly behind the player with very little deviation left and right. The more dynamic camera found in later 3d platformers doesn't really exist here. The camera does rotate up and down to show different perspectives on the avatar, but IIR it's entirely up to the user to move it to where they wish. This technique is today very common and is usually mapped to the right control stick.

- Depth Perception - One of the problems with 3d platformers is that there's no depth perception since it's not stereoscopic. This makes landing jumps and gauging other movements difficult. Games try to accommodate for this reality by using several "tricks" and Alpha Wave more or less figured many of them out. The first trick is a shadow that moves directly under the avatar. This often doesn't make sense given various lighting conditions, but provides a clue as to where the avatar is at any given moment. The second trick is to dynamicall move the camera above the shoulder of the avatar which introduces a bit of parallax and assists the creation of depth. An early game which combined these was the Playstation game "Jumping Flash" which forced the camera to take a top-down view and has a shadow target under the player that made landing jumps relatively easy. Alpha Waves is interesting because instead of forcing the camera like Jumping Flash, platforms have a forced "bounce" and the user controls the camera.

It's a beautiful game that represents some really solid innovation that's totally worth at least 10 minutes of your time to check out.

On an unrelated note autodesk’s 3ds max started its life on an Atari st too:


Edit: spelling

Most sequencer software, including Logic, can trace it roots to the Atari ST.

Interesting and I'm sure there may be earlier examples of 3D platform games.

Sentinel may well qualify on some definitions of 3D platform (1986): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V_pgo3vgiI

Video of ALpha Waves (1990): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwFPV855sI4

I think Sentinel wouldn't count as a "platformer" because you don't do any jumping (IIRC) - it's more of a tactical puzzle teleportation game. Not sure it'd count as "true 3D" either, really, not on the Spectrum anyway - it drew polygons onto a huge buffer you could pan around but the perspective never changed. But it was ludicrously impressive at the time, definitely.

[edit] 'aactical' isn't a word

A.k.a. “Continuum” in some regions.

Mike Duncan, the history author/podcaster once said something like "I've learned to never call something the first, last, greatest, anything like that, you'll always be wrong and get hundreds of comments and emails. just qualify it. One of the earliest"

I think it was in his 1830/France season of revolutions (6).

This is an effective time-saving device for an individual, certainly, but taking this strategy to an extreme leads one to hedge your statements away into nothingness. Some questions are worth discussing (what the first x is may or may not be), if not always because of their intrinsic importance, then because of details and insights that emerge from the ensuing discussion.

It's often distraction. If someone was talking about the Xerox star as the first desktop computer, then someone interrupted with talking about the hp 9100a, it's kinda derailment. The point is it was one of the first to it still had to establish a lot of things

What people mean is "before it was an established thing" "before parameters were known" or "after it was an established thing"

Like "tallest building" what they mean is "challenging to construct vertical structure that needed special considerations"

It's mostly used figuratively as a narrative backdrop like it is here and not as some indisputable factoid

I disagree respectfully. I feel that if one is going to be documenting or discussing "the very first" of something, then it should actually be documented as the very first. I prefer the term "first known" or "first documented" when it comes to something with as spotty a recorded history as video gaming.

For years, people thought Warren Robinett had made the first video game easter egg in Adventure for the 2600. Turns out there have been three other contenders for that title. The first contender was Video Whizball on the Fairchild Channel F, from 1978. [1]

In 2017, Ed Fries learned of the existence of an egg in the 1977 Atari arcade game Starship 1, and did the legwork to determine a more accurate release date, as well as the egg's trigger method. He dated it to August 13, 1977 (release date, so egg would have existed prior to that date while in development and production). [2]

Guinness even currently recognizes the Starship 1 egg as the first known video game easter egg [3]. While this is currently the first known arcade game easter egg (therefore Ed Fries' claim is accurate), there was an even earlier egg found in Spitfire on the Channel F. Someone even found a newspaper ad claiming Spitfire was available for purchase on April 16, 1977, making it the earliest known video game easter egg. [4]

And with that I have spent way too much time putting together an HN comment lol

[1] http://www.digitpress.com/eastereggs/cfvideowhizball.htm

[2] https://edfries.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/chasing-the-first-a...

[3] https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/117435-fi...

[4] https://web.archive.org/web/20200524234421/https://selectbut...

Guinness style (and other types of) facts can be unimportant, hence the term "trivia", but they need not be, that's all I'm saying. Similarly, the disputation of these facts can be pedantic quibbling or interesting and informative.

I think what's much more interesting is instances before it became a "thing".

Before things get a name, culture, rules of what it is and is not, there's many instances that are close to it. Those are interesting as a collection but drawing the lines between the isolated elements can be a bit dubious. Ideas are communicative but also come out of thin air.

We have an unprecedented amount of knowledge at our fingertips these days and can cross correlate vast expanses of say, music. You can hear say some song from 1960s in peru and then see how similar it was to something in japan in the 1980s but actually showing that the second creators even knew of the first, that's the part that I think is hard - it has to be demonstrated.

Just the other week I was talking with some artist from northern england who sounded like legowelt (danny wolfers) telling him how much I really liked his legowelt-style song - danny is a minor figure generally but pretty well known in the subgenre of electronic music he works in. This guy honestly said "who's legowelt" and got back to me the next day "wow, this guy's amazing, never heard of him".

So even today, with the internet, you can have someone essentially sound like the exact style and still have never heard of the person they're supposedly "influenced" by.

It expunges the tidy narrative where we want everything to have a clear delineated beginning. "Rappers Delight began the 80s rap formula" - that one super clear, yes, hard to argue against - but most things are not so clear.


here's an example of the "legowelt imposter" https://bassagendarecordings.bandcamp.com/track/mind-to-body... who I claim sounds like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BZbJY28iSM

Yep. "As far as we know..." is usually required as a qualification.

I don't think the problem is a lack research. I think the problem is that terms describing art are often subjective and few things are built without having inspiration.

People who write games play games and get inspired by other games they've liked. So while someone might declare something being a first in a genre, someone else might say "this earlier game is similar enough to that genre that it still counts".

It also doesn't help that 3D is such a (mis|over)used term that it can apply to a broad range of different styles that are worlds apart from one another (as I describe in more detail here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23668287)

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