The following is a short commentary of mine about the origins of video games, particularly one forgotten classic that is an old favorite of mine. It is a combination of facts and information pulled from wikipedia along with my own thoughts and opinions.
Excluding very simple Pong type of games, Spacewar! is essentially the first real video game ever created. The first to feature full movement, hitpoints, and so much more, and yet it is no longer widely known. It’s a classic that has been buried over time.
This is back before there even was a Video Game Industry. By the time it was turned into a commercialized product, it had already branched off into several other lesser known clones. The game itself has sort of been forgotten by history. It’s all very interesting, allow me to explain.
Since it is difficult to emulate or play it on modern computers, I have chosen to remake the game myself. I love the game for how simple and fun it is, and despite it’s limitations how it can offer such a fun experience (And possibly the first real “Deathmatch” mode in gaming history).
It will be my first public start up project here that I choose to host for free. My version is a mix between the original 1960’s classic and the DOS remake from the 1980’s, with my own tweaks here and there. I’m renaming my free to play version to Space Warfare and I will update it little by little here and there as the years go by.
Using an open source Asteroids engine, it only took me less than an hour to rebuild the very first version of this game. But in this day and age, it is incredibly easy to do so. Back then, it took a handful of programmers six weeks to build the first version of the game.
The original Spacewar! was created by Steve Russel in 1962, back when there were very few computers available at all (much less ones with monitors). In the 1960s the PDP-1 was priced at US$120,000 and only 55 were ever sold.
By 1971, it is estimated that there were over 1000 computers with monitors, rather than a few dozen. In 1972 the game was well-known enough in the programming community that Rolling Stone sponsored the “SpaceWar! Olympics”, possibly the first video game tournament.
In the early 1970s, Spacewar migrated from large computer systems to a commercial setting as it formed the basis for the first two coin-operated video games. While playing Spacewar at Stanford sometime between 1966 and 1969, college student Hugh Tuck remarked that a coin-operated version of the game would be very successful.
While the high price of a minicomputer prevented such a game from being feasible then, in 1971 Tuck and Bill Pitts created a prototype coin-operated computer game, Galaxy Game, with a US$20,000 PDP-11. Around the same time, a second prototype coin-operated game based on Spacewar, Computer Space, was developed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, which would become the first commercially sold arcade video game and the first widely available video game of any kind.
We later saw the ups and downs of the early history of video games, leading into more well known products featuring memorable mascots such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Spacewar! has been long forgotten by time. I thought it would be interesting to start here, at the beginning.
I hope everyone enjoys this classic! Check back on it from time to time as I will keep updating it here and there over the years.
Have fun playing Space Warfare!