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It has also been recreated in more modern programming languages for PDP-1 emulators. It directly inspired many other electronic games, such as the first commercial arcade video games , Galaxy Game and Computer Space , and later games such as Asteroids In , Spacewar was named to a list of the ten most important video games of all time, which formed the start of the game canon at the Library of Congress.
During the s, various computer games were created in the context of academic computer and programming research and for demonstrations of computing power, especially after the introduction later in the decade of smaller and faster computers on which programs could be created and run in real time as opposed to being executed in batches.
A few programs, however, while used to showcase the power of the computer they ran on were also intended as entertainment products; these were generally created by undergraduate and graduate students and university employees, such as at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT where they were allowed on occasion to develop programs for the TX-0 experimental computer.
The games included Tic-Tac-Toe , which used a light pen to play a simple game of noughts and crosses against the computer, and Mouse in the Maze , which used a light pen to set up a maze of walls for a virtual mouse to traverse.
Not a very good demonstration. Here was this display that could do all sorts of good things! So we started talking about it, figuring what would be interesting displays.
We decided that probably you could make a two-dimensional maneuvering sort of thing, and decided that naturally the obvious thing to do was spaceships.
The gameplay of Spacewar involves two monochrome spaceships called "the needle" and "the wedge", each controlled by a player, attempting to shoot one another while maneuvering on a two-dimensional plane in the gravity well of a star, set against the backdrop of a starfield.
The ships have a limited number of torpedoes and a limited supply of fuel, which is used when the player fires his thrusters.
The ships follow Newtonian physics , remaining in motion even when the player is not accelerating, though the ships can rotate at a constant rate without inertia.
Each player controls one of the ships and must attempt to shoot down the other ship while avoiding a collision with the star or each other. Flying near the star can provide a gravity assist to the player at the risk of misjudging the trajectory and falling into the star.
If a ship moves past one edge of the screen, it reappears on the other side in a wraparound effect. Player controls include clockwise and counterclockwise rotation, forward thrust, firing torpedoes, and hyperspace.
The location of the switches also left one player off to one side of the CRT display due to the limited space in front of the computer, which left them at a disadvantage.
The button was silent so that the opposing player would not have a warning that the player was attempting to fire a torpedo during a cooldown period.
In the fall of , while discussing ideas for a program for the PDP-1, Russell had finished reading the Lensman series by E.
That sort of action was the thing that suggested Spacewar. He had some very glowing descriptions of spaceship encounters and space fleet maneuvers.
For the first few months after its installation, the PDP-1 programming community at MIT focused on simpler programs to work out how to create software for the computer.
When members of the community began to feel the time was right to start work on the game, Russell, nicknamed "Slug" because of his tendency to procrastinate, began providing various excuses as to why he could not start programming the game.
Kotok drove to DEC to pick up a tape containing the code, slammed it down in front of Russell, and asked what other excuses he had.
Russell had a program with a movable dot by January , and an early operational game with rotatable spaceships by February.
The initial version of the game also did not include the central star gravity well or the hyperspace feature; they were written by MIT graduate student and TMRC member Dan Edwards and Graetz respectively to add elements of a strategy to what initially was a shooter game of pure reflexes.
The initial version of the hyperspace function was limited to three jumps, but carried no risk save possibly re-entering the game in a dangerous position; later versions removed the limit but added the increasing risk of destroying the ship instead of moving it.
Additionally, during this development period, Kotok and Saunders created the gamepads for the game. Beginning in the summer of and continuing over the next few years, members of the PDP-1 programming community at MIT, including Russell and the other Hingham Institute members, began to spread out to other schools and employers such as Stanford University and DEC, and as they did they spread the game to other universities and institutions with a PDP-1 computer.
Spacewar was extremely popular in the small programming community in the s and was widely recreated on other minicomputer and mainframe computers of the time before migrating to early microcomputer systems in the s.
In the early s, 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 and , college student Hugh Tuck remarked that a coin-operated version of the game would be very successful.
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.
Byte magazine published an assembly language version of Spacewar in that ran on the Altair and other Intel -based microcomputers using an oscilloscope as the graphical display and a lookup table for orbits,  as well as a three-dimensional variant in written in Tiny BASIC.
In addition to Galaxy Game and Computer Space , numerous other games have been directly inspired by Spacewar.
On March 12, , The New York Times reported that Spacewar was named to a list of the ten most important video games of all time, the so-called game canon , which were proposed to be archived in the Library of Congress.
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