GSCE Physics 2004

1. The forces of nature play a large part in our life. Discuss one of those forces, its creator and the effect on our daily lives

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And let’s bring our lunches when we go to the Jeff Minter zoo

Imagine a city where games have the same standing as other art forms. One would have an Outrun driving school, the Jeff Minter Zoo, a Ron Hubbard Auditorium, a GTA police force, but surely a Sir Isaac Newton university as well. After all, he discovered the force of Gravity, and without it, our computer games would not have been the same.

Gravity is the force of attraction between two bodies. In case of the Earth a ball will fall of the tower of Pisa with an acceleration of 9,8 m/s2, when not slowed down by air pressure as described in Newton’s 'Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica' (1687).

In the summer of 1961 Steve Russell created one of the first computer games: Space War. Two little spaceships could move around and shoot each other. His fellow students improved upon the game. One of them introduced gravity in the game. When one would come to close to the sun, one could not escape it.

At the end of the seventies Atari introduced a game called Lunar Lander. One could relive the experiences of Neil Armstrong by making a small ship land of the moon with a gravity of 1,6 newton/kilogram (Hawking, 1985). This was originally written in 1966 as a text based game, where one could input the acceleration and rotation and the computer would display the new position in monochrome numbers. Atari made an arcade game of it.

On the other hand there was a little game called Asteroids, or to quote Fuseball (2004), The Ice Maiden. Here the lack of gravity meant that one had to find other ways to slow down. The inertia you created yourself could lead to your death.

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These two games also symbolize the marriage between Gravity and the use of Vector graphics in games. The beauty of the pure mathematics, which were needed for both of them, allowed those aspects to strengthen each other. This month (november 2004) Thrust was released for the classic Vectrex console, the only pure vector graphics home console ever created, proving that this is still true.

Thrust was first released for the Commodore 64 and BBC Micro in 1982. It combined gravity with other forces as there was not only a pull towards the surface, but also a pull from the Pods one picked up, making the equation more complex, and the interaction with the environment. The C64 simulated the Vector graphics needed. It was based on Gravitar, one of Lunar Lander's successors.

Highlights in this genre were Oids (1986) for the Apple Mac and Atari ST which developed the Thrust idea further, when they put the space ship in a more complex environment (new osx version) and Gravity Force II for the Amiga which combined Thrust with Space War in such a balanced way to make it the duelling game of champions

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Two lords throwing stones. Yesterday.

Another use of gravity was used by games like Scorched Tanx (Amiga, 1994). You played a small tank and could fire at your opponent. The shot was effected buy gravity and wind, according to its weight. The satisfaction after destroying your opponent buy sheer insight is one of my most memorable game moments. This subgenre started with Stone Sling on the Magnavox Odyssey 2/Philips G7000 in 1980 as far as I know. In my opinion the concept was ruined later on in the Worms games by Team 17, which implemented some basic elements unfair and drew away the attention from the pure duel.

In these 3D days gravity is used as an integral part of the 3D environment, but the pure heroic battle of one man against the forces of nature is often lost in a shootout. Still, the recent release of Half Life 2 simulated real physics so close to reality that it might be too much. The brains experienced the virtual G-forces as real, and people got sick because the virtual G-forces weren't accompanied by real G-forces on the body, and the resulting conflict confused their brains. The game is generally regarded as a masterpiece though, even though the authentication routine is dubious and one could ask the question:‘if you want realism, why don't you try reality?'

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This monkey will shortly experience the effects of gravity

Still, one subgenre was revived recently. In 1985 Marble Madness, written by teenage genius Mark Cerny introduced the Marble-on-a-tight-route-genre. A marble had to be balanced on small roads and you had to use the gravity to move, but if it grabbed you, instant dead followed. In 2001 this game was redecorated with Japanese loveliness. Maybe the struggle of one man against the forces of nature was lost forever, but the struggle of one Monkey (in a ball) against nature is fought everyday on my Gamecube, in Sega's incredible Super Monkey Ball.

2. Calculate the height of a field in the world of Super Monkey Ball

Although the levels seem bottomless, this might be calculated by using the time it takes to restart. After about 4 seconds a new life commences. If it is assumed that G is the same as on Earth (9,78), the height can be calculated as follows: d=1/2gt2 ..errr let’s just play the game..

Biography of sir Isaac Newton:
Vectrex Thrust:
Oids for Mac OSX:

Fuseball, (2004) 'Asteroids' in the '50 greatest shooters', Way of the Rodent 50, Smaill Circle ltd.
Hawking, S. (1985), 'The Universe'
Newton, I.S. (1687), 'Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica'