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MemoryLeak
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I guess the original point of the question was to identify "turning points" in game tech. So vehicles in Halo or Tribes don't really count. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean they're not important, but they're important from a gameplay point of view, there wasn't a sudden change in tech which made them work. Someone just took a 3D engine and refined what it means to control a vehicle model to make it fun.

e.g. When Doom came out I thought videogames were 2D platformers (the most common game type on the consoles my mates had) and I had a spectrum, so 8bit speccy games. Doom was simply "What. The. Fuck". I hadn't even considered that games could be in first person in a 3D world at that point. Admittedly there had been 3D games before, but Doom was texture mapped, colourful, almost real, and ran really fast.

Similarly I remember seeing Daytona and Sega Rally in the arcades, and being completely blown away.

There have been a few mentions of "firsts", like "first scrolling 2D game", and I guess that's what I meant. Either the first, or the definitive version, perhaps refining the "first" and bringing it to the masses.

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When Doom came out I thought videogames were 2D platformers (the most common game type on the consoles my mates had) and I had a spectrum, so 8bit speccy games. Doom was simply "What. The. Fuck". I hadn't even considered that games could be in first person in a 3D world at that point. Admittedly there had been 3D games before, but Doom was texture mapped, colourful, almost real, and ran really fast.
OK, but purely from a technical point of view, isn't Wolfenstein more groundbreaking?
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Maybe I'm just old but I reckon you could sit someone in the 1982 Atari arcade Star Wars cabinet even now and they'd get a rush from the sheer speed and sonic quality of it.

Aside from that, I still remember being gobsmacked by the character animation in Impossible Mission and the Games series from Epyx. And Ultimate's pseudo 3D stuff on the Spectrum.

Last 20 years it's hard to see anytning that's had the impact of the replays in Gran Turismo. That certainly fits your 'to the masses' requirement, I think it's impossible to overstate the importance that had in showing non gamers that the tech had caught up.

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No one's mentioned 'Knight Lore' and its isometric viewpoint yet? I couldn't quite believe a Spectrum could do that at the time and it really looked like nothing I had seen before.

'Splat' on the Speccy had speech. It said 'Yipppeeeeeeeeeshskhshshhshkss' if you completed a level. Not quite proper speech admittedly.

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Surely Virus on the Amiga was quite big at the time? Or at least I seem to remeber it being rather impressive anyway...

Wasn't the wireframe and speech of the star wars arcade rather revoloutionary at the time too?

The first game to have synthethised speech was Gorf, IIRC.

Star Wars was and is amazing, like I said earlier I think it's aged well too.

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There have been several 'wish-fulfillment' games which I'd classify as personal turning-points in games. Games which I knew must be possible, I just had to wait for the technology:

1. Ridge Racer. I remember thinking: what if someone took the filled-polygon idea from Hard Drivin', made it all fast and smooth, and added details to those polygons?

2. Grand Theft Auto 3. When playing some old Pole Position clone in the arcades, I actually tried to drive off the road and reach the bitmap city in the background. Ever since then I'd been waiting for a game where you could actually see a city skyline in the background, and drive to it. Turbo Esprit (is that was it was called?) was an early version, but nowhere near what I was after.

3. X-Wing. Everyone who loved Star Wars wanted to actually be properly in control of an X-Wing and fly around the Star Wars universe with full 3D graphics. The arcade game is amazing, but it didn't look much like the films.

4. Doom. I always used to wonder when someone would make a shooty arcade game which took place through the eyes of the protagonist, and actually allowed you to control him. The thing I could never figure out was how you could control such a game.

Granted, there are probably earlier examples of each of the above, but those are the ones I remember for actually answering my prayers.

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What about motion capture in games. Not cut scenes but in game animations. Did another world do this first? I remember being blown away the animation in it and later in flashback.

Surely Prince of Persia?

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Geoff Crammond with Stunt Car Racer on 8/16bit computers

Hard Drivin by Atari

The original Street Fighter with pads whereby the harder you hit them the more powerful the punch/kick. They did not fare so well hence the six buttons (for kick/punch) that we all know today.

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Similarly I remember seeing Daytona and Sega Rally in the arcades, and being completely blown away.

Virtua Racing was the first big one, but it was Ridge's super graphics which made me go, 'OMG next gen is here, this is the future!"

I appreciate your enthusiasm for Doom, but at the time I'd been mashing Wolfenstein, so it wasn't quite so 'woooah!'

Otherwise, I think an earlier point really hits want you want - the replays in Gran Turismo. OK, so it wasn't THE GAME itself, but they were a massive part of it. You could see the car pitching/rolling as it accelerated/braked/whored round corners. It's sounds silly now, but at the time it really was ZOMG! Maybe a few F1 games had tried 'TV camera' views, but in GT those fast zooms and tracking shots really made people sit up.

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What about motion capture in games. Not cut scenes but in game animations. Did another world do this first? I remember being blown away the animation in it and later in flashback.

There was a making of IK+ article in Retro Gamer where Archer McClean talked about how he DIY rotoscoped the somersault animation from a dancer in the back of one of the scenes in Greece by pausing and advancing each frame of the movie on an betamax VCR and drawing each frame using tracing paper on the TV screen.

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