Multi-player games are the games of the future. Steve McGill finds out how the mighty Amiga brought that future to everyone, yesterday.
We broke the exclusive news last month. Super Skidmarks 2 is the first simultaneous eight-player game to appear on the Amiga. Achieving this sublimely innovative state is simple. Link two Amigas through the serial port, park two monitors beside each other, ensure that everyone is sitting or standing safely, and RACE! Truly, multi-player gaming is the future of videogaming. With the Amiga, that future was here yesterday, it's here today, and judging by the impact of Super Skidmarks 2 in the Format office it's going to be here for lots and lots of tomorrows.
So what are serial link games all about and why do they generate so much excitement in people who play them? As with all the best ideas, it's simple really.
All that's required is compatible software, two Amigas and a null-modem lead. Then, the Amigas will happily talk to one another. In the case of a game such as Knights Of The Sky, this communication consists of co-ordinate data concerning the orientation, direction, and placing of objects, such as an opponent's plane, and collision detection; if the bullets have hit the enemy plane, and if so, has that information been passed on? It's that simple. Or that complex, depending on the criteria to be fulfilled by the game's parameters.
Most surprising is the small number of Amiga owners aware of the potential for fun and sport.
"Multi-player games are the future of videogaming," claims Peter Molyneux of Bullfrog. When Bullfrog games are developed, the serial link option is put in first. "That's how Populous was developed. It lets us gauge the ability of each player and makes it easier to decide on the toughness of the computer's artificial intelligence routines," he adds.
But the artificial intelligence routines aren't needed when playing against a friend. While I was working in the retail side of the industry a few years back, one of our regular customers asked us to make him a 25-metre serial link cable.
Naturally enough, we asked why he wanted such a long cable. The answer was simple. After talking to us about link games, he decided that he wanted to play Populous against his Amiga-owning friend who lived next door. Their bedroom windows faced each other and he had worked out that 25 metres would be long enough for the cable to link up both of their Amigas.
After such a promising start, he started collecting linked games. His circle of friends increased and apparently he's getting shagged every day by excited hot chicks with long legs, big tits and enormous IQs. Those serial links eh?
Hopefully, after taking a look at the various boxouts dotted around this feature, you'll be champing at the bit to get connected and get playing. If you haven't already indulged in the sublime world of linked games, check out the box that shows you how to make a cable for yourself. Grab a compatible game - Stunt Car Racer is as good a start as any - and get competing.
It's also worth bearing in mind that Super Skidmarks 2 is out there, in the shops, right now, waiting. Alien Breed 3D is coming to an Amiga near you soon. Details are scant, but it looks as if there may be a split-screen option which means that four people will be able to compete on the link.
Remember, consumer power is only ignored by companies suffering from marketing myopia or PC market blindness. Multi-player link games fire the imagination and competitive instincts of all who play them. Even the previously unconvinced. Show the software houses it was no accident that Amiga games were the biggest sellers last Christmas. And with more serial link games that market can only get bigger.
The last word goes to Mark Sibly from Acid Software: "The future of games lies in the direction of multi-player experiences. We're not the sort of types that go home and play games in our bedrooms by ourselves. We like the ego involved with competing against other humans..."
Truly, that is the future of videogames. Amiga owners are already there. So, see you tomorrow if it ever decides to come.