Apr 30 2023

Space Invaders

When I played the original Space Invaders arcade game I always assumed, to the extent that I had time to think about it, that the gradual speeding-up of the advancing aliens as a level went on and their forces were culled by your efforts to mow them down was part of a cunning plan to increase the tension. Turns out that was not entirely the case according to the game’s designer, Tomohiro Nishikado:

This was the result of the game board’s low processing power,” says Nishikado. It was designed to draw one invader every 60th of a second, instead of all the invaders at once. At the start of the game, it takes about a second for all the invaders to take a step. As their number decreases, the time to draw them all becomes shorter, and so their speed of movement increases. This makes the game more interesting and effective — and compensated for the board’s lack of capacity.”

Amazing what hardware constraints can do for a game’s playability. Would a Space Invaders launched a few years later, with a faster processor and perhaps higher-resolution bitmaps of the aliens, have been so compelling to play?

[Via Clive Thompson, via Sentiers]