The first arcade games were built on discrete logic and were strictly based on competition between the players. Therefore, there wasn’t any A.I. system.
Heuristic algorithms have been used in the arcade games. The common method of controlling an NPC in the game was by scripting.
‘Path finding’ is another common A.I. system that has been used in the real time strategy games. ‘Path finding’ works by calculating how to get an NPC from one place to another after considering the terrain and obstacles.
Games like Quake and Pursuit based all the enemy actions on particular stored patterns. The space invaders further refined this movement, by adding in-game events which were dependent on the hash functions. This resulted in more varied and complex enemy movements.
Pac-Man incorporated this technology, at the same time jazzing it up by providing different personalities for each ghosts. Although the ghost movements in Pac-Man felt random, it was a cleverly scripted and well disguised action.
The 1990’s saw the emergence of finite state machines. The arcade racing games were powered by a ‘rubber banding’ A.I. system. If the computer controlled the opponents “fall behind”, they received a superb boost allowing them to catch up.
The system too, works the other way around, enabling the human players to catch up if they fall behind. The arcade shooting games should ideally have a large rule base which is basically the list of NPC options like attack long range, call for help, flee etc.
The trick lies in using a random factor to choose from this base factor. This has displayed an enhanced feeling of intellect and developed the fun factor.
Arcade games have short learning curves and simple levels. These games have been designed to inject the quick bursts of adrenaline rushes; unlike the console games which are about in-depth game play and well scripted story lines.
Apparently, the reason being that a player is essentially renting an arcade game for as long as their virtual entity stays alive. The game titles in PC’s or consoles can also be termed as the ‘arcade game’ if it shares the same qualities.
The arcade racing games feature a simplified physics engine and preserve certain action. The effects are not always pragmatic; as you can turn sharply without drifting or losing control.
Arcade racing games used a simple Rubberband A.I. system. The system is programmed so that you don’t get left far behind or move ahead of the rest.
Arcade flight games are highly simplified when compared to flight simulators. These games are facing a steady resurgence with people increasingly favoring action over reality.
The recent success of games like Crimson Tide and Secret weapons over Normandy attest this phenomenon.
The simple game play also makes the arcade games super addictive. Arcade classics like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and King of Fighters were built on simple game play.
They were often related to mindless thrashing of the joystick and buttons. Even newer titles like Tekken and Dead or Alive with highly detailed game play and graphics are unable to overthrow these classics.
The arcade games were born in coin operated machines. The strong point of the arcade games was that they were based on a commodity technology.
Coin operated arcade games used custom made hardware powered by multiple CPU’s, specialized sound and graphic boards.
The design simplicity of these games enabled the programmers to spend more time into enhancing the basics of game play. This resulted in the conception of some of the best games ever designed.
The arcade games of the earlier years had a clever way of disguising their graphical limitation. A fine example is Atari’s Night Driver, the first racing game to deliver a ‘first’ person perspective, and also showing the road as seen from the cockpit.
The night theme was an ingenious choice as it negated the need to create perceptible complicated images. The Night Driver’s concept of ‘scaling’ flat images called ‘sprites’ to stimulate a 3d movement was a cult design basis for most 3d games.
Once these games were ported to PC, they were designed with Flash, Java and DHTML. The online arcade games that are programmed on Flash are built around the vector graphics file format.
The design simplicity never dwarfed the game play. This was, perhaps, the most probable reason for the immense resilience in these games.
Even as the arcade games incorporated newer gadgets, light guns and dance mats to draw in the crowd, the people got stuck in the good old button mashing delight.