is truly a child of Perestroika: a joint effort between American technology and Russian science. Here's what Maxis had to say about El-Fish
when it was published in 1993:
El-Fish would have been impossible a very few years ago, when Russian scientists were denied access to the powerful desktop computers commonly taken for granted in most of Europe and the United States.
It has been noted by some in the computer industry that many of the best programmers are hackers who learned on small, cheap computers. They had to understand their machines inside and out and develop ingenious, efficient code to get results from their low-powered computers. In contrast, many university- and business-sponsored mathematicians and scientists had access to powerful workstations or even supercomputers, and, while they excelled in their fields, because of the computing power at their disposal, they didn’t need to optimize their code. They didn’t have to squeeze every bit of performance out of their computers.
Russia seems to have produced the best of both worlds: highly trained scientists and mathematicians with the hacker mentality. Because of the limitations of their pre-perestroika desktop computers, even the best scientists had to strive for the cleanest, most efficient computer code to carry out their research. Then suddenly, trade and technology barriers were removed, and powerful lBM-compatible and Macintosh computers became readily available. Russian programmers found themselves feeling like kids in a candy shop. El-Fish is one of the first offspring from the marriage of American technology and the Russian brain.
The idea of El-Fish was conceived in 1988 by Vladimir Pokhilko, Ph.D. (psychologist and software designer at Moscow University) and Alexey Pajitnov (mathematician from the Computer Center of the Soviet Academy of Science, and author of a number of computer games including Tetris® and Weltris®). They started a company called INTEC (Intellectual Technology) in order to apply their scientific knowledge to making software, not for industry or science, but for people--or in their words, for "people’s souls." They referred to this type of program as Human Software. Human Software is defined by three rules:
To this end, they came up with El-Fish. It uses the latest in computer graphics and animation for beauty. It allows the player to build and be constructive. It exposes people to artificial life and the beginnings of virtual reality.
- It has to be aesthetically beautiful.
- It has to be constructive.
- It has to give people new personal possibilities, sensations and feelings that they don't have in everyday life.
- .ROE files are the "genetic data" that make up each fish. They're text files; you can substitute random values into a .ROE file to create some really, really odd fish (although sometimes the program will crash trying to render them).
- If you open fish file "dragon.roe" (which comes with the game) in a text editor, you can read some rather odd notes entitled "More Ronald Dragon Stuff". It seems like a brainstorm for future Ronald Dragon stories. Next you'll ask yourself: Was this supposed to be here?
- Lots and lots of bad fish puns
- A special thanks to "The Last Sea Monkey"
- Over 50 things you can do while waiting for fish to render (rendering fish takes a very long time on anything slower than 100MHz), including "Run to the store to buy a math co-processor", "Name all the provinces in Canada", "Wash your parakeet", and "Organize your album collection by the number of grooves in the records".
The music generator included in El-Fish
, called BEMUSE, was designed and programmed by Brian Conrad
. It's impressive, using a series of templates that include tempo, time signature, chord progressions, song length, drum rhythm/fill and harmonic comping dictionaries, and another dictionary for each chord (including the bass notes, the chord notes, and the notes that can be played against the chord) to generate music.
Information also contributed by
- Computer Gaming World
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #13 Worst Game of All Time