History of Retro Arcade Games

We arrive, friends, at the moment in the history of arcade machines that consolidates its existence and produces many of the best classic video games. We are in the late 1970s, and the continuous advance of the technology applied to video games helps to create more and more games with new concepts. Many of the games that emerge in this period will define styles that were and are to this day, the basis for many others. We are now going to dive fully in this exciting stage of the History of the Arcade Machines: The Golden Age of the Arcade Videogames that we Started with an entree: Space Invaders.

Just with him, we could fill entire blogs. Become an icon of the classic video game (and star of our logo Arcade Vintage); Space Invaders appears in 1978 from the hand of Taito in Japan and Midway in the United States. Developed by Tomohiro Nishikado Space Invaders was a revolution. In Japan, it was so successful that the urban legend tells that the 100 yen coins began to be scarce. Many small grocery stores modified part of their trade to allow space for one of these machines. Little will be said here about the dynamics of the game, which we all know.

We will focus on some of the novelties that the game incorporated. Space Invaders is the first game in which the player has several lives, the first in which enemies shoot the player and the first game with background music during the development of the game. Even Space Invaders, the music, if present, was limited to appearing at the beginning or end of the game. The melody of Space Invaders, though simple (it only uses four notes in Loop), adds tension element to the game. Also, the pace was accelerating as the match progressed, adding even more drama. But the most significant advance is the inclusion of a permanent scoreboard or High Score.

This simple fact popularized the competitions and’ piques ‘ between friends and strangers. Enjoy a game right here. Or better yet… come to our living room and enjoy the original machine!! Also in 1978, Atari released Football, which is the first game to feature a two-way scroll. Although in many places they refer to him as the first to use a trackball as control, it was Taito Soccer, in 1973 that has this honor, although it is true that it was Atari Football that made the use of this type of control accessible. In 1979, following the stele of Space Invaders, Namco created Galaxy, which improves the concept of the Martians, adding for the first time real color with a raster RGB monitor and which also incorporates attack patterns from the Martians, as opposed to the static enemies of Space Invaders.

Enjoy a game with friends on Game-Oldies. Several games with vector graphics also appeared in 1979. Warrior, of the hand of Vector beam/Cinematronics, is the one that can be considered the first fighting game one against one. The game shows from above two knights armed with swords. The goal of the game, of course, is to finish off the opponent. Another great vector Game of Cinematronics is Star Castle, which includes new elements of artificial intelligence, with player tracking by the enemy. Atari also launches his first vector game, Lunar Lander, which is the preamble to one of his best known and addictive games: Asteroids. These games incorporate real elements of physics into video games, such as gravity and inertia, which added element of difficulty (and fun).

We entered the 1980s and Namco Lanza Puck-Man (later renamed Pac-Man, although for all it is known in Spain as ‘come Cocos’). This game becomes a legend and is one of the indisputable icons of Pop culture and in general of the world of video games. The social phenomenon that formed around it finally placed video games in a visible place on a global level. Created by developer Toro Iwatani, it has been included several times in the Guinness Book of Records, for different reasons, including being the arcade machine that has sold the most, with 293,822 units sold. Pac-Man ended the traditional model of video games in which everything had to be ‘destroyed’ and offered a less aggressive and more humor-oriented alternative that pleased a broad sector of society and contributed to its success. The enormous growth of recreational facilities around the world encourages the emergence of standards that facilitate the design, manufacture, repair, and use of the elements that make up arcade machines.
A relevant example of this is the creation of the JAMMA connector. The acronym stands for the Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturers’ Association. The connector consists of 28 pins per side on the edge of a PCB. It includes power pins, sound, video, and controls. Plates of games that conformed to the standard could be exchanged, allowing the reuse of arcade machines generic, once that the game had to be replaced, without the need of re-rewiring, as it was necessary until then.

In 1980, Williams developed defense by The Hand of Eugene Jarvis. New developments are introduced again in the world of video games. Defender is the first video game in which the action takes place beyond the visible area on the screen, adding a kind of radar that lets you know the location of the enemies beyond the screen. It is also the first game to introduce the concept of ‘secondary weapon.’

The difficulty of Defending is legendary, fueled by the fact of having to use a joystick to control the height of the ship, and five more buttons to control other aspects of the movement of the boat and the weapons. This is another one of the jewels from our vintage arcade room. Progress continues to appear. Battlezone de Atari is the first video game to use a real 3D scenario for the development of the game. Star Fire is the first game that incorporates a complete cabin, the first one that allows to include the initials next to the highest scores and the first one that introduces the concept of partial damage to enemies. Sound also benefits from digital audio advances. We’ve already talked about Space Invaders, like the first one with essential background music. In 1980, Rally-X was the first to incorporate music using a dedicated chip, a 3-channel Namco PSG. In 1981, Stratovox, of Sun Electronics, was the first game to include voice synthesis. Closely followed, there is King & Ballon of Namco, which begins to make use of several CPUs or microprocessors (in this case two Z80, one for general processing and the other for sound themes).

The use of several CPUs on the game plates is widespread, including in many cases also dedicated sound chips. Examples include Frogger, Scramble, Gyrus (already with stereo sound) or Pole Position.

In 1981, Nintendo released another mythical title: Donkey Kong, from the Great Shigeru Miyamoto, which began its way to the living legend that it is today. The character we control, Jump Man, will evolve to our beloved Mario. Atari launched another of his successes in 1981, Tempest, which premiered a color vector monitor that is a real marvel. Tempest introduces a difficulty selector, as well as the development of the game at different levels that gradually progress in difficulty. As you can see, great classics of the arcades are the protagonists of this era. Technical advances, but above all an exquisite care of gameplay (and why not, nostalgia) is what makes these games still play today. At the same time, the first portable consoles have emerged, such as Milton Bradley’s Micro vision or Nintendo’s well-known Game & Watch. The second generation of consoles has entered the homes of the users (Colecovision, Intel vision, Atari 5200, Sega SG-1000), although they do not yet reach the technical level of the arcade machines. We are approaching 1983, where necessary changes will happen, with influence on the history of arcade machines. We will see this in the next inning, and in the meantime, we encourage you to visit us in our lounge and enjoy the original mechanisms of Galaxy, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Defender, Star Castle, Asteroids, Scramble, Pole Position, Tempest.