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Space Invaders

Space Invaders

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Space Invaders (スペースインベーダー, Supēsu Inbēdā?) is an arcade video game designed by Tomohiro Nishikado in 1978.[2] It was originally manufactured by Taito and licensed for production in the U.S. by the Midway division of Bally. Initially released in its native Japan in 1978, it ranks as one of the most influential video games ever created.[3] Though simplistic by today's standards, it was one of the forerunners of modern video gaming.[4]

Game Play

Inspired by Taito's earlier electromechanical machine Space Monsters[5] and Tomohiro's interpretation of alien descriptions in The War of the Worlds,[2] the game itself resembled an adaptation of the two. In this video game version of the game, the player controlled the motions of a movable laser cannon that moved back and forth across the bottom of the video screen. Rows and rows of video aliens marched back and forth across the screen, slowly advancing down from the top to the bottom of the screen. If any of the aliens successfully landed on the bottom of the screen, the game would end. Although the player's laser cannon had an unlimited supply of ammunition, it could only fire one shot at a time.

Meanwhile, the aliens would shoot back at the player, raining deadly rays and bombs that the player would have to dodge lest the cannon be destroyed. Players could also move the laser cannon under one of the shelter blocks, so that they could absorb the enemy shots until they are worn through. The player's cannon could be destroyed up to three times (the player had three lives), and the game would end after the player's last life was lost. Occasionally a bonus spaceship would fly across the top of the screen which the player could shoot for extra points.

As the player destroyed an increasing number of aliens, the aliens would begin marching faster and faster, with the lone remaining alien zooming rapidly across the screen. The player's cannon cannot be harmed by an invader firing a missile from the lowest line on the screen before the invader lands. Shooting the last alien in the formation rewarded the player with a new screen of aliens, which began their march one row lower than the previous round.

Development

Hardware

One key feature of Space Invaders was the fact that as more and more of the aliens were shot, the remaining aliens would move faster and faster. The change in speed was minor at the beginning of a wave, but dramatic near the end. This action was originally an unintentional result of the way the game was written — as the program had to move fewer and fewer aliens, it could update the display faster — but the development team decided to retain this feature rather than implementing busy waiting when there were few invaders on the screen.

Space Invaders used an Intel 8080 as its processor, running at 2 MHz. Graphics were implemented through a 1 bpp frame buffer mapped from the main CPU address space. All sound effects were implemented individually with discrete electronics.

In the upright version the actual output of the game was displayed mirror-image on a black and white monitor which sat recessed in the game's cabinet. The image was reflected on a plastic panel which the player saw. Behind the reflective panel was a lunar landscape which gave the game an impressive background setting. It is interesting to note that there were two major uprights. There was the original Taito upright which utilized joystick control, but most people in America are familiar with the Midway licensed version which used directional buttons and arguably had inferior artwork on its bezel, side art, and moon backgrounds.

Since the actual video game console itself had a monochrome video image, Taito added color by coating the reflective screen with colored bands. It should be noted however, that the very first version of the game in Japan ("T.T.", or "Table Top" Space Invaders) was a cocktail table with purely black and white graphics (i.e., no color overlay). There was also a version of the game in which the graphics were converted to actual RGB color.

Space Invaders had no hardware for the generation of random numbers, so the seemingly random point values awarded by the flying saucer actually utilized a hash function based on the number of shots that the player had fired in the current invasion wave. It did not take long for experimenters to determine that the maximum 300-point value could be achieved every time if the player shot the wave's first Flying Saucer on the 23rd shot, and subsequent Flying Saucers at 15-shot intervals thereafter.[6]

Graphics Design

In October 2005, Nishikado commented in an interview with English based video games magazine Edge that the look of the aliens had been based on the description of the alien invaders in H. G. Wells' classic science fiction story, The War of the Worlds: "In the story, the alien looked like an octopus. I drew a bitmap image based on the idea. Then I created several other aliens that look like sea creatures such as squid or crab." Nishikado also noted that his original intention in designing a shooting game had been to make the enemies airplanes, but that this had been too technically difficult to render. He was opposed to depicting the enemies as human beings (which would have been technically easier) as he believed the idea of depicting the shooting of humans to be morally wrong.

Reception

The enormous blockbuster success of Space Invaders made the entertainment industry sit up and take notice. Within the first year of its release, the game had generated revenue ranging in the hundreds of millions of dollars.[3] In Japan, Space Invaders caused a coin shortage until the Yen supply was quadrupled.[3] Additionally, when asked what the most revolutionary game was, Shigeru Miyamoto cited Space Invaders, saying it sparked his interest in gaming. [7]

Space Invaders became very popular in part due to its new style of game play. Up until its release, video games were timed to a clock, and once a player's time was up (plus possible bonus time), the game ended. With Space Invaders, the game ended only when the player had exhausted the three allotted "lives" or when the invaders landed on the bottom of the screen: a person could therefore play for as long as their skill level allowed.

Later Releases

The home version of Space Invaders for the Atari 2600 was a huge success. It offered 112 different versions of the game. Variations included invisible invaders, zigzagging missiles, fast missiles, and moving shields. It was not the first video arcade adaptation for the Atari 2600 system (most of the early games for the 2600 were adaptations of early Atari video arcade games such as Breakout, Pong, Night Driver, etc.), but it was the first officially licensed arcade game for home conversion from one company to another (in this case, Taito to Atari.) The game was the breakthrough for the popularity for the Atari 2600. Other home console companies would make their own conversions of Space Invaders. Examples included Space Armada for the Intellivision, Alien Invaders — Plus! for the Odyssey 2 and TI Invaders for the TI-99/4A. But only Atari and Bally owned the rights to the use of the title Space Invaders. The console had been released in 1977, but sales of the 2600 skyrocketed during the 1980 holiday shopping season, as millions of families bought the Atari system just so that they could play Space Invaders. This marked the beginning of home video adaptations of popular arcade games. Space Invaders was also available for the Atari 8-bit family of home computers.

Space Invaders: Coke Version

Space Invaders spawned a large number of imitators, as other video game manufacturers sought to cash in on its successful formula, and released many arcade games featuring variations of the same theme: attacking aliens from outer space. One such example was a game called Pepsi Invaders, made by Atari at the request of Coca-Cola for their Atlanta employees. Taito released several sequels to Space Invaders in the arcades over the years:

  • Space Invaders Part II ("Space Invaders Deluxe") (1979)
  • Return of the Invaders (1985)
  • Majestic Twelve: The Space Invaders Part IV ("Super Space Invaders '91") (1990)
  • Space Invaders DX (updated version of the 1978 original also featuring a 2-player versus mode, and a "parody" mode featuring various Taito characters from games released up to that point (1994)
  • Akkan-vaders ("Space Invaders '95: The Attack Of The Lunar Loonies") (1995).

The release of Pac-Man in 1980 broke the mold of "alien invader" games, and it opened the way for more creativity and originality in the video gaming industry. But the legacy of Space Invaders lives on, and action-based science fiction games continue to pay homage to the original shoot-em-up video game.

Enemies based on Space Invaders also appeared in Bubble Bobble games. To top it off, Bubble Symphony featured both a giant Space Invader guarded by aliens who move just like in Space Invaders as a boss and cameo appearances by the player controlled spaceship as a companion for the main characters.

Due to its high popularity, clones of Space Invaders were developed and published by other companies. Space Fever was one of the first Space Invaders clones ever made. It was developed and published by Nintendo. Unlike Space Invaders, Space Fever has three modes, and was released in monochrome and color.

Super Space Invaders was another Space Invaders clone for a range of systems including the Amiga, Master System and Game Gear featuring greatly upgraded graphics and sound, along with additions to the game play such as power-ups and advanced forms of aliens. Despite this, it was given average reviews at best, and sold very poorly.

In 1999, Activision released a 3-D remake of the game for the Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation, Game Boy Color, and Windows PC; a Game Boy Advance version showed up in 2002. This remake features 3-D graphics, power-ups, and various enemies, as well as boss fights. One or two players can take on the Invaders, who march down the screen in orderly rows and columns, at one of three skill levels. Starting at the planet Pluto, players work their way through the Solar System to Mars, then Venus, and finally Earth. There are four common aliens (red, green, blue, and yellow), plus seven more less common ones. Players receive special one shot power-ups by shooting four of the same type of Invaders in a row. As in the original game, there are also Mother Ships that fly above the action, but in this version if they are hit them you can pick up other useful power-ups like shields or double shots. Plus, after fighting off several waves on each planet, you'll face a unique boss. Finish the game and a reproduction of the original coin-op will be unlocked.

Space Raiders (Space Invaders: Invasion Day in Europe) was released in 2001 and is a 3D version of space invaders. Rather than a laser at the bottom shooting up, the player is a human shooting forward at aliens in the street.

Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part II, and Return of the Invaders were re-released in October 2005 as part of Taito Legends for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC. The other three arcade Invader games, Space Invaders DX, Super Space Invaders '91 and Space Invaders '95: Attack of the Lunar Loonies were re-released in the Fall of 2006 as part of Taito Legends 2 for the same platforms.

In April 2007, Space Invaders Trilogy which includes the original arcade versions of Space Invaders, Space Invaders Part II, and Return of the Invaders was released for Pocket PC and Windows Smartphone.

A new and enhanced version called Space Invaders Extreme for the Playstation Portable and Nintendo DS was released February 2008 in Japan, the American release is due in June 2008.

A spin off coming to the Wii, Space Invaders Get Even is a real-time strategy game in which players command the Space Invaders themselves as they destroy cities, commanding up to 300 ships at once. [1]

References

  1. System 16 - 8080 Based Hardware (Taito)
  2. Taito men talk legendary games. Edge. Future. Retrieved on 2007-05-07.
  3. Kevin Bowen. The Gamespy Hall of Fame. GameSpy.com. GameSpy.
  4. Giles Richards. A life through video games. The Observer. Guardian. Retrieved on 2007-05-07.
  5. Williams, Kevin (2003-02-05). Arcade Fantastic (Part 1). Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  6. Space Invaders — Tips. The Ultimate Space Invaders Shrine. Retrieved on 2007-05-21.
  7. 10 Questions for Shigeru Miyamoto. Time.com. Time. Retrieved on 2007-09-04.