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A new, regular feature from our in-house games master, Gale Van Rye, who talks about memorable skiing and winter sports games. This week: 1080 Snowboarding (N64, 1998).
In 1998, the PlayStation and N64 were just hitting their stride. Games weren't just developed by a nerd alone in a bedroom anymore, instead they were made by big groups of nerds — in actual offices. And it wasn't just nerds playing the games either, but also normal human beings.
The PlayStation already boasted Cool Boarders by this point, the first half-playable, full-3D snowboarding game. However, a rushed development cycle to release before the winter meant although an impressive start, it suffered from a lot of gameplay frustrations. Enter Nintendo, struggling to bring in third party developers and needing to fill the winter sports gap for the N64, they decided to make 1080 themselves.
Nintendo were known for cutesy classics, not beautifully-rendered, realistic, extreme sports games with heavy soundtracks. Yet, 1080 stood over its peers for the entire remainder of its generation.
You remember the details — your baggy hoodie rippling in the wind, stretching out your hand to balance on the ice patch whilst the orange sun sets behind the looming peak in the distance. Nintendo paid attention to the feel and it paid off.
1080 was tough — there's no question about that — landing a trick took practice, whilst falls and crashes were punishing. Yet, the game was rewarding after you mounted the steep learning curve. As you got better, the carving felt better. Finding the best shortcut downhill, then pulling off a stalefish 1080 on the final jump and landing with perfection was well worth the blistered thumbs.
Backed by Tommy Hilfiger and Lamar in-game gear, Nintendo released 1080 Snowboarding in 1998 to consistently high critical acclaim. It became the benchmark for snowboarding games thereafter and whilst snowboarding games went on to become much prettier and much more successful, the right balance of controls and skill hasn't quite ever been matched.
It's that time of year again when you go through all your old kit, deciding what to keep, what to repair and what to bin. Before torturing yourself by looking at all of this year's new stash. Whether you need some new skis, a new jacket or some new boots, you won't be able to keep your eyes away from the rest of the kit on offer.
With so much kit being launched at the moment, from HD helmet cameras to iPhone friendly ski gloves, I thought I'd start us off with what new kit is around this year that will make a family ski holiday a little bit easier, without being too hard on your wallet. Firstly, because anything that makes skiing with 2.4 children easier is a winner, and secondly, we don't all have £300 to spend on a GoPro camera.
The NipperGrip, does exactly as it sounds, it grips your nipper. The child ski-harness is a fantastic idea as it means you can let your little 'un loose on the slopes, while making sure they don't fall over, or ski off!
The NipperGrip was designed by parents, therefore they seem to have everything covered. The simple harness means you can pick up our children, should they fall, with ease and it also makes getting off chairlifts a much easier experience.
There are also detachable reins, which turn the NipperGrip into a kind of kids skiing-lead, meaning you can ensure they are skiing within a close distance and not racing off down the mountain out of control — or wandering off in busy resorts chasing after some random French dog.
All-in-all, this is a really simple idea, that's well executed and I won't be surprised if resorts are full of kids wearing them this winter.
The Ski-Walker is another great and simple idea, which makes carrying skis much easier. It is basically a handle that loops around your skis making them easy to carry. Now, this might seem like an obvious, yet somehow inconvenient idea. Well, it really isn't. The Ski-Walker is about the size of a Mars Bar — meaning you can stick it in those random pockets, half way down your salopettes, that you never use and are seemingly there for looks over function.
There really isn't anything to explain about how it works, but there is to why it's a great idea. First of all, carrying skis is a pain in the backside and this makes it much, much easier, second of all it gives you a lower centre of gravity, meaning walking around in treacherous ski boots will be much easier.
There is also the advantage for when you are skiing as a family, as you often have to carry more than one pair of skis. This makes it much more simple, as all you need to do is hold onto the handle, as opposed to balancing them over your shoulders in one hand, while keeping hold of your children in the other. Also, once the little mites are strong enough to hold onto their own skis, with their limited, child orientated common sense, they will find them much easier to carry the usual tangle of crossed skis, poles, hats, and goggles that you would usually encounter.
Now these two products may seem incredibly simple, but that's because they are. It's the simplicity that makes them such good ideas. Just think, the next time you are skiing with your three year old, you can walk to the slopes, carrying two sets of skis in one hand, a bit like carrying your shopping, with your little 'un essentially on a lead in the other hand. You get to the slopes, pocket the Ski-Walker, put your skis on, grab the reins and off you go again. As the old phrase goes, Keep It Simple Stupid, and a kiss is better than a smack in the mouth from a flailing ski!
NippedGrip are currently offering Iglu customers 20% discount as they liked the blog so much, all you need to do is quote IGLU1112.
A new, regular feature from our in-house games master, Gale Van Rye, who talks about memorable skiing and winter sports games. This week: Skiing (Atari 2600, 1980).
"Sacre bleu! And [sic] voilà! It's Skiing by Activision!" These were the words bumbling out of Claude LaFeet's mouth in 1980; his French accent as clumsy as a drunk putting their skis on for the last run down after après ski.
In those days we'd call it naff, thanks to Ronnie Barker (and later, Princess Anne), yet the game wasn't. In fact it was one of the earliest examples of the top-down skiing game style which would be emulated by other developers for the entire next decade. This was Skiing by Activision. "Pop ze cartridge into your Atari Video Computer System..."
The Atari 2600 is the definiton of a classic console. It looked so futuristic in 1977 with its wood veneer finish. It took gaming to the next level after Pong and the Magnavox Odyssey, featuring unforgettable games like Pitfall and Breakout. In fact, it was that Breakout which was famously worked on by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (with Jobs keeping from Woz the bonus payout from Atari!).
Activision's Skiing would come a few years later in 1980. Activision are a huge household name now, with series like Tony Hawk and Call of Duty under their belt. Back in those days though, there were no third party developers. Atari made games for the Atari console, not anybody else. Activision became the first to do it in 1980 and Skiing was one of the very first games they ever released.
Looking back now, it looks all so familiar. Yet it was fairly groundbreaking at the time. The left/right turning worked great on the Atari joystick and allowed last second adjustments just before you hit that tree. The formula would be used in many other games afterwards, including Horrace Goes Skiing (1982) and SkiFree (1991). Chris Pirih, developer of SkiFree would later admit: "[It] was itself inspired by an Activision game for the Atari 2600 console, which I enjoyed playing in my youth. I remember very little of the Activision game, but I think it looked pretty much like SkiFree".
In the same year Phillips would release the less well-remembered (but equally inspiringly named) Skiing on the Videopac (Odyssey 2 in the US). It played very similarly to Activision's Skiing, but lacked the same polish and variety, so as such never claimed itself as the orginal king of the ski games. As Claude would say: "So real you must have it!".
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