A small developer called Cinemaware made its debut in ’86 with Defender of the Crown.
The game boasted beautiful graphics that were amazing at the time, though most of the picturesque stills were just that – stills. That’s what they were in the actual game. Most weren’t animated, at least not to the degree that one might think looking at them.
They might have a few small effects like a glittering pixel here, or a changing color there, but this was way before fully animated visuals hinted at by the quality of these scenes were even a twinkle in a designer’s eye. Or budget. We’d get the CD-ROM live video revolution first before CG cuts could even approach that a decade or so later. Supreme Warrior!
But at the time, anything that looked that good was considered bleeding edge home entertainment.
The game was a sort of RTS which cast you as a Saxon noble fighting to conquer England from the Normans and his other rivals by taking control of each territory. Armies needed to be raised, territory could change hands in a jousting tourney, and laying siege to castles also gave you the opportunity to conduct biological warfare by hurling black pots of disease over the wall to reduce the defenders’ numbers. I have no idea what was in those pots, but it brought invisible death to everyone on the other side of that stone wall.
It was ported to a wide variety of platforms, including the NES which also included the snazzy screens – albeit in rough form.
Defender of the Crown would go on to define the ongoing mission of Cinemaware in living up to its name delivering games that made you think you were at the movies. From the box art to the in-game shots of its cut scene stills, Cinemaware’s games may have lacked a bit in the gameplay department when compared to other titles that didn’t care how they looked, but at least they looked good while doing their thing.