On this day in history, July 31 …
The Shadow radio program premieres on the Mutual Broadcasting System. It is the earliest instance of a superhero in an electronic media format rising to national, then global popularity.
The Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) introduces a new rating system for video games based on the amount of violence, sex, and adult language contained in a game. The association’s member companies effectively account for more than ninety percent of the entertainment software sold in the United States.
Activision releases the game compilation Classic Text Adventure Masterpieces of Infocom for Windows in the US. The compilation includes thirty-three classic Infocom interactive fiction games, their bonus materials, instructions, and maps. Games included in the compilation include: Beyond Zork, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Sorcerer, Spellbreaker, Zork I, Zork II, Zork III, and Zork Zero.
Sega releases the fighting game Virtua Fighter Kids for the Sega Saturn in the US. The game features the gameplay of earlier Virtua Fighter games but with charactures of the series' classic characters. (ESRB: E)
Virgin Interactive release the real-time strategy game (RTS) Z for personal computer in the US, which puts players in control of an army of robots across a series of planets. (ESRB: T)
Namco releases the single-player, flight simulator Ace Combat 2 for PlayStation 2 in the US. (ESRB: T)Sega releases the platform game Sonic Jam for the Sega Saturn in the US. (ESRB: K-A)
Acclaim releases the versus fighting game Mortal Kombat 4 game for personal computers in the US. (ESRB: M)
Aztech New Media releases the add-on pack StarCraft: Insurrection for the real-time strategy game (RTS) StarCraft for Windows in the US. It includes three new campaigns, approximately thirty missions, and over one hundred new multiplayer maps. (ESRB: T)
Interplay releases the children’s platform game Heart of Darkness for the PlayStation in the US. Despite being designed and marketed specifically for children, it will rapidly gain a reputation both for its difficulty and graphic depiction of death, particularly in scenes involving children. The game is the first to be produced with a soundtrack recorded by a full orchestra but because of delays in its release, it won’t be the first game featuring an orchestral soundtrack to be released. (ESRB: E)
Microsoft releases the vehicular first-person shooter (FPS) Urban Assault for Windows. (ELSPA: 11+, ESRB: E, USK: 16+)
Natsume Co., Ltd releases the fighting game Flying Dragon for the Nintendo 64 in the US. (ESRB: T)
Delphine Software International releases the roleplaying game (RPG) Darkstone for Windows and the PlayStation is the US. Its gameplay is very similar to that of Diablo. (ESRB: T)
Infogrames releases the action game Outcast for Windows in the US. (ESRB: T)
LEGO Media releases the racing game Lego Racers for Windows in Europe and the US. (ESRB: E)
Nintendo releases the puzzle game The New Tetris for the Nintendo 64 in the US. The game attempts to differentiate itself from the original Tetris with several small deviations in gameplay. The game allows players to store pieces in a “storage area” for later use, displays the next three upcoming pieces, and features a more flexible rotation system. (ESRB: E)
Ubisoft releases the fantasy-themed real-time strategy (RTS) game Seven Kingdoms II: The Fryhtan Wars for Windows in the US. (ESRB: T)
Metal FatigueTalonSoft releases the real-time strategy (RTS) game Metal Fatigue for Windows in North America. The game’s most notable feature is its use of “Combot” mechs, which players configure and customize piece by piece throughout the game. Players can manufacture arms, legs, and torsos in their own factory or salvaged them defeated enemies, opening up thousands of possible combinations. While it isn’t the first game to feature a build-it-yourself arsenal, Metal Fatigue is revolutionary in the quality of its gameplay. The game will go on to garner high praise from critics and consumers alike. (ESRB: T)
Electronic Arts releases Majestic, an early alternate reality game (ARG), for Windows in North America. Gameplay extends outside of the game to the real world, with players receiving clues through AOL Instant Messenger, email, and phone that are required to solve in-game puzzles. Though it may be an urban legend, many fans believe that Majestic inspired the 1997 film “The Game,” starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. (ESRB: M)
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announces future Electronic Entertainment Expos (E3) will be scaled back from their current “mega-show” size to a more intimate event due to the rising cost of attendance for publishers.