1977 Greats #03 – SPACE WARS

Space Wars
Year:  1977
Platform:  ARCADE Game
Developer:   Cinematronics
Genre:   2-person Space Duel

SpaceWarsI remember being fascinated by this machine sitting in the “game room” of a hotel.  All those buttons, modifications, different game modes.  Then that little asteroid flying around – it just looks exactly like an errant rock from a later Atari hit “Asteroids”.  Just fascinating… even if you can’t shoot the asteroid in Space Wars, it’s still sure fun to try.

This is a hall of famer for finally creating a commercial version of the “Space War” concept.  Nolan Bushnell tried with Computer Space in 1971, there was Galaxy Game around the same time.  Even though “Space War” was first a game for MIT students in 1968… it took them 10 years to make it cheaply enough to have a commercial hit.  It eventually sold 30,000 units!

What was the breakthrough?  Instead of doing bit-mapped graphics, Cinemaware launched a new type of game — this was the first VECTOR GRAPHICS game!  By drawing sharp lines defined by two points instead of trying to map low-res pixels… this game had a new look and defined this new type of graphics display.

So… a classic re-imagined, even as it is now its own classic.  Unfortunately for us loners today — the bad news is it’s only for 2-players.  But if you do manage to score a friend (or hook up an android)… there are plenty of game modifications to muck around with, great sound effects, and the crisp vector graphics are attractive in a way that you just have to see in-person.  Finally, after almost 10 years of “Space War” type games, we have the legitimate arcade hit – one that was mass produced, made money, and finally reached more than a select few college kids.  Oh how far things have progressed in the arcades in 6 years – just compare this to Nolan Bushnell’s Computer Space and see.

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