Feeds

Thirty-five years ago today: Space Invaders conquer the Earth

Bleep Bleep PEW Bleep Bleep PEW PEW BLEEP BLEEP

Mobile application security vulnerability report

Antique Code Show Tomohiro Nishikado already had a string of almost a dozen arcade games under his belt when he started on what was to become the best remembered - certainly the most played - game he was ever to create: Space Invaders, released in Japan 35 years ago this month.

Nishikado was an engineer who had joined vending machine company Taito in 1969, not long after graduating. Taito's managers put him to work on mechanical gaming machines, called Pachinko by the locals, but in 1972 he devised the company’s first electronic offering, a take on Atari’s popular Pong. Released in 1973, Nishikado's Elepong was a something of a hit, and he went on to create a number of other video games, including Speed Race, a top-down scrolling car racer released in 1974, and Interceptor, a cockpit-view aircraft combat game that came out the following year.

Then, in 1977, he began work on what would become Space Invaders, though he has said it was originally to be named Space Monster

“Early on in development, Space Invaders was designed as a game where you shoot people, airplanes and tanks,” Nishikado told USA Today in 2008. “However, the characters’ movements didn’t really look or feel like tanks or airplanes. When Taito saw the prototype, they said, ‘You can’t shoot people! And you must not create the image of war.’ So I changed the characters into monsters.”

Having said that, Nishikado had created Western Gun for Taito two years previously. Western Gun, a two-player affair released in the US as Gun Fight, was the first video game that challenged the player to shoot representations of people. Taito didn't seem too bothered then - so why kick up a fuss in 1977? Western Gun is essentially Pong with bullets instead of balls, and cowboys instead of bats. Static cacti and moving stagecoaches can be seen as early takes on Invaders' protective blocks and moving UFOs.

Space Invaders

Life aquatic: the Invaders were inspired by the creatures of the sea

If Taito didn't ban human combat, then it's more likely Nishikado simply got wind of the growing interest in space opera sci-fi and cut his new game's cloth accordingly. He told USA Today: “At the time, I was trying to decide what the focus would be, and had heard of a sci-fi movie being produced in America called Star Wars. I thought a space fad might be on the way and decided to focus on aliens. And that’s how the monsters became the Invaders that are known today.”

George Lucas’ film wasn’t Nishikado’s only inspiration. Seeking out possible monsters, he hit upon the brain-and-tentacles Martians from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds. This gave him the notion for an octopus-like creature and, in turn, got him thinking about other possible sea beasties.

“I came up with a squid and a crab. My favourite is the crab,” he revealed back in the 1980s. Pencil sketches of the aliens were refined to yield each alien’s basic design which was then simplified into pixellated equivalents, with a variation of each added to provide a sense of animation.

Western Gun

Pong with bullets: Nishikado’s 1976 shooter, Western Gun

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Apple gets patent for WRIST-PUTER: iTime for a smartwatch
It does everything a smartwatch should do ... but Apple owns it
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.