562nd played so far
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: Atari Games
Publisher: Atari Games
Early 3D games are weirdly fascinating to me. Games like Ultima and 3-Demon (or Monster Maze) (I know, not famous, but I remember being amazed by it) did it by using wireframes and simple constrained viewpoints. It slowly build up using more textures – systems like those used in the Ultima Underworld series, which we’ll discuss later, deal with flexible viewpoints and more complicated scaling, until proper 3D graphics and modelling really kick in.
Still, for me as a developer, it’s interesting to see how these things build on each other – the basic principles of culling, determining what to show on your screen, come back from these games. Sure, they’re a lot simpler and we’ve learned a lot more, but it feels like this is where some of these basics started. I can easily understand this, and build on that understanding to create more complex solutions.
Xybots does take it one step further. Based on the screenshots, it has scaled textures, even if movement and design isn’t as free as it is later on. More interesting will be to see how this translates into gameplay.
Xybots is certainly fairly simple, being in between the above modes. There is certainly more depth than the wireframe options, you can look around corners and have nicer wall textures. It’s still not fully free movement, and the overhead map is needed – but the accuaracy and relative freedom of movement in there feels quite nice.
In gameplay, there’s nothing special there now, nearly two decades on, but it’s remarkably refreshing. You go around shooting things, but there’s some exploration as well that, because it’s not as refined as later, feels fresh in its oddness. There are teleporters and hidden passages, leading to some additional bonuses, through more levels than I would have expected at first.
After that, the game becomes an over the shoulder shooter, moving in a 2D set to try to kill the enemies as you encounter them. That’s fairly standard, competent but not too innovative.
So yeah, while the shooting is standard, the exploration aspects of the game feel fresh for the time and even now work well. They are constrained environments that makes exploration a lot focused, and through that more rewarding. Maybe a bit simle now, but still a good game.