10 Things You Might Not Know About SPACE INVADERS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About SPACE INVADERS

Geek Dave gets in line...

1. Space Invaders was created by Japanese designer Tomohiro Nishikado, who spent a year designing the game for the Japanese video game company Taito. He even developed the necessary hardware to produce it. The game's inspiration is reported to have come from varying sources, including a dream about Japanese school children who are waiting for Santa Claus when they are attacked by invading aliens!

Nishikado himself, though, cited Atari's arcade game Breakout as his inspiration. He aimed to create a shooting game that featured the same sense of achievement from completing stages and destroying targets, but with more complex graphics.

2. Early enemy designs for the game included tanks, combat planes, and battleships. Nishikado, however, was not satisfied with the enemy movements; technical limitations made it difficult to simulate flying.Humans would have been easier to simulate, but the designer considered shooting them immoral. After the release of the 1974 anime Space Battleship Yamato in Japan, and seeing a magazine feature about Star Wars, he thought of using a space theme.

3. Nishikado drew inspiration for the aliens from H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, and created initial bitmap images after the octopus-like aliens. Other alien designs were modeled after squids and crabs.

4. During development, the game was originally titled "Space Monsters" after a popular song in Japan at the time, "Monster", but was changed to Space Invaders by the designer's superiors.

5. Think that speeding up of the aliens is a cleverly designed feature of the game? Think again!

While programming the game, Nishikado discovered that the processor was able to render each frame of the alien's animation graphics faster when there were fewer aliens on the screen. Since the alien's positions updated after each frame, this caused the aliens to move across the screen at an increasing speed as more and more were destroyed. Rather than design in compensation for the speed increase, he decided to keep it as a challenging gameplay mechanism.

6. Among the many 'firsts' attributed to Space Invaders are;
  • The first fixed shooter game.
  • The first video game to popularize the concept of achieving a high score, being the first to save the player's score.
  • While earlier shooting games allowed the player to shoot at targets, Space Invaders was the first in which targets could fire back at the player.
  • Space Invaders was also the first game where players were given multiple lives,
  • ...had to repel hordes of enemies,
  • ...could take cover from enemy fire,
  • ...and use destructible barriers.
  • Space Invaders was also the first game to use a continuous background soundtrack, with four simple diatonic descending bass notes repeating in a loop, which was dynamic and changed pace during stages, like a heartbeat sound that increases pace as enemies approached.
7. Space Invaders was first released in Japan a cocktail-table format arcade cabinet with black-and-white graphics, while Midway released the Western version in an upright cabinet; it used strips of orange and green cellophane over the screen to simulate color graphics. The graphics are reflected onto a painted backdrop of a moon against a starry background.

Later Japanese releases used rainbow-colored cellophane, such as T.T. Space Invaders in 1978, and were eventually followed by a version with a full-color display. The cabinet artwork features large humanoid monsters not present in the game. Nishikado attributes this to the artist basing the designs on the original title of "Space Monsters", rather than referring to the actual in-game graphics.

8. By 1980, Taito had sold over 300,000 Space Invaders arcade machines in Japan alone, plus an additional 60,000 machines in the United States and tens of thousands more worldwide. These cabinets sold from $2000 to $3000 for each machine, a hefty investment for any arcade, but a worthwhile one because by 1982 eight billion quarters, or $2 billion, had been grossed from Space Invaders machines (adjusting for inflation, that's equivalent to $7.23 billion!)

Compare that to Star Wars. Released in 1977, within the same time scale George Lucas' blockbuster movie had become the highest grossing film of all time, with a total gross of $486 million. Chump change when compared to Space Invaders!

9. An urban legend states that Space Invaders' popularity led to a shortage of 100-yen coins in Japan. In actuality, Space Invaders probably helped combat a shortage! For reasons only known to the Japanese Mint, 100-yen coin production was lower in 1978 and 1979 than in previous or subsequent years. Space Invaders was such a massive hit that arcade operators were emptying their machines and taking bags of 100-yen coins to the bank far more often than they usually would, thus keeping the coins in circulation.

10. As it was the highest-grossing entertainment product of its time, naturally it wasn't long until Space Invaders found its way into living rooms. In 1980, the Atari 2600 release became the first official licenced home console version of an arcade game. With 112 variations to keep you playing, excessive success continued for Space Invaders after it earned the title of the first video game title to sell one million units, it also is the game responsible for quadrupling sales of the Atrai 2600! But consumers didn't stop there, and over two million cartridges were snapped up within it's first year on sale.

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