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First Graphics Game Written On/For a 16-Bit Home PC 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-an-e-antique dept.
The GPI writes with a story about Scott's Space Wars, a piece of gaming history: "This game was written by the famous game author Scott Adams, who founded Adventure International, the first multimillion dollar PC game company. It was founded over 30 years ago and developed for early 8-bit home PCs, i.e. TRS-80, Apple II, Atari. Scott's Space Wars is the first graphics game that was ever written at home, for a 16-bit home computer. The original source code is available as photos of the original 1975 hand-written manuscript. The last purchaser of the manuscript paid $197,500 in 2005. A brief video shows how the game was played."
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First Graphics Game Written On/For a 16-Bit Home PC

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  • It had better controls and playability than anything on the PS3 or XBOX 360.

  • Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:45PM (#27825701) Homepage Journal

    The first computer I ever saw in person and worked on was a TRS-80 model III. I was in the 7th grade and my junior high school had a lab with a bunch of them. I can remember playing games that looked very similar to the video. This was 1982, so it was probably something different, but the same idea, using letters and symbols. We learned basic in that class and did a little bit of graphics stuff ourselves. I don't remember it all that well now, but I do know that I loved it.
     
    I enjoyed it enough that my dad bought the family a Commodore Vic-20. That was a big deal as our family didn't have a ton of money. I don't think we even owned a vcr yet at that point. I spent tons of time on that thing, and took all the classes I could get in jr. high and high school. It really was a cool time to be messing with home computers. I had a friend in the 8th grade that wrote a text adventure and was selling it out of a local computer store. He didn't make a lot but it was just fun to be able to do that kind of stuff. I'm not sure if there is a similar environment or feel like that anywhere any more. (Or more likely - it's somewhere I'm just not in it, too old to see it, etc.)

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by stoolpigeon (454276) *

      I'm such an idiot - I wrote all that and I've been thinking more and more about it. I saw that game on the PC of a friend's dad - a couple years before I worked with computers in school. His dad was an engineer for Carsten Manufacturing - they make Ping golf clubs. Ah well - we did do similar stuff on school computers - but it was at Doug Avann's house that I saw this game or a copy of it that was based on Star Trek. I'd forgotten all about that until tonight.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572)
      No, you're right. We've destroyed unregulated industry-- you can't just start your own business anymore, doing anything. Your initial risk is either monetary or legal; you have to break the law a lot to get started, or put up a lot of money you might lose and probably don't really have anyway.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)

        That is patently untrue. I know that people like to say that sort of thing, but whether you care to admit it or not, regulated industry is a lot easier to get into than a system where the big guys call all of the shots.

        Additionally it depends what sort of business you're talking about, a great deal of businesses are not like you're describing.

        But then again, why question what the elites of industry want, I mean it's not like they're acting solely for themselves.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Additionally it depends what sort of business you're talking about, a great deal of businesses are not like you're describing.

          Basically, anything where you're in competition with a corporation. Sure, starting up a restaurant or hair salon isn't any different than it was 60 years ago. But try starting up a software firm? A movie studio? How about you try starting up a broadband internet business?

          Anywhere there's any amount of money, expect to be blown out of the water. A frivolous lawsuit or a herd of lobbyists doesn't cost a corporation anything, but it costs YOU your business, and your car, and your home...

          • Re:Nice (Score:5, Informative)

            by abigor (540274) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:04AM (#27826283)

            Can you be more specific about what's so hard about starting up a software firm? I've been a part of three startups, and I'm now independent and working with another small company, and none have encountered any problems whatsoever with lawsuits or lobbyists. What exactly did you have in mind?

            Also, people start movie production companies all the time (every independent movie that comes out starts their own, it seems) and they don't have any problems. A close friend of mine is a movie cameraman on various big-budget Hollywood films, and he sometimes works with smaller independents just for the hell of it. Never mentioned any legal issues.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by phantomfive (622387)

            . But try starting up a software firm?

            Wait, why do you think this is so hard? I've worked at two different software companies that started within the last seven years. One has been reasonably successful, and the other is struggling along. Many many software companies start every year. A lot of them fail for various reasons, many are successful. Some phenomenally so. Google was nothing more than a startup, literally in a garage, in 1998. Now, of course, it is a multi-billion dollar company. It happens over and over again, and there is no

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by gadabyte (1228808)

              It happens over and over again, and there is nothing to stop you from doing it as well.

              the crushing weight of regulation has so far prevented adoption of my rearden-fill bean bag chair.

              • I have no clue what a rearden-fill beanbag chair is; mainly what rearden might be.
                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by YenTheFirst (1056960)

                  I have no clue what a rearden-fill beanbag chair is; mainly what rearden might be.

                  'rearden', I suspect, would be a reference [wikipedia.org] to a character in the 1957 novel 'Atlas Shrugged'

                  The novel is known for it's viewpoint on capitalism, and unregulated markets, as the ideal. I expect the reference works into that.

                  Personally, it's one of the few books I've started reading but didn't finish. The side characters/'bad guys' at the beginning of the book were just way too fake. If I'm going to read a novel that thick, and give its philosophy and arguments real weight, I don't want to wade through s

        • regulated industry is a lot easier to get into than a system where the big guys call all of the shots.

          A regulated industry IS a system where the big guys call all of the shots.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          There's tons of ways for little guys to get into the software market. I would say that with things like Steam and WiiWare, it's getting easier than it's been in the last 5-10 years. If you take a look at the really popular WiiWare (not virtual console) games, you will notice that most of them are done by small independent game studios. There are also tons of indie games on Steam. If you don't like those, it's extremely easy to set up a website where people can download your software and charge them vi
      • Nonsense. Games in particular. My company's nearly done with our proprietary 3D engine technology (we've got an absolute whiz with the graphics side of things, keep him in beer and pizza and he'll be implementing "DirectX 10 only" stuff in SM2 all night), and we've already got licensees lined up, as well as two indie-game titles around 70% complete. It's not that hard if you have a clue.

        • Nonsense. Games in particular. My company's nearly done with our proprietary 3D engine technology (we've got an absolute whiz with the graphics side of things, keep him in beer and pizza and he'll be implementing "DirectX 10 only" stuff in SM2 all night), and we've already got licensees lined up, as well as two indie-game titles around 70% complete. It's not that hard if you have a clue.

          I read shit like this on TDWTF all the fucking time. Please publish small bits of source code in a few years.

          • I read shit like this on TDWTF all the fucking time. Please publish small bits of source code in a few years.

            Code's fine. I'm no expert in 3D technology (but unlike the rest of the team, I actually know how to run a business), but I do know C++ very well and we do weekly code reviews with the entire team. The guy's one of the rare ones who's really that good, and we're lucky to have him.

    • 7th grade? I was in college when both the Trash-80 Model III and the VIC-20 were released. Time for my pills...
    • My first computer was a TRS-80 MC-10.

      What I learned it after about an hour of playing with the basic on it, was that I needed a better computer.

      It is a lesson I am still using almost every day, as I sit at my duel core processor with 6 gigs of ram and raid 0. I still need a better computer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        gigs of ram and raid 0. I still need a better computer.

        The mnemonic I learned was : RAID 0 - The 0 stands for the amount of bits of data that are safe in the event of a single hard drive failure.

        RAID 5 may serve you better my friend.

      • TRS80 and Apple II were 8 bit machines ... I would also argue the point about it being the "first" game written for a 16 bit machine.

        First game I saw on an 8 bit machine was "electric fence" which ran on an Altair. Pretty sure the first game on a 16 bit machine would have have been written in BASIC.

        Sure am amazed about some of these claims, and the fact that halfwits end up beleiving them
        • >>>the fact that halfwits end up beleiving them

          I think you're the halfwit. This 1975 computer was a hand-built kit and didn't come with BASIC. It had to be written in direct machine code.

          • While it was a kit, there was already a basic available for it. MITS basic, a collaboration of dozens of different programmers (including Bill Gates).

            PC does not mean something you can buy ready made off the shelf, it just means personal, IE: cheap enough that anyone who had the interest in computers could afford one!

            I saw Altair Serial Number 8 being tuned to work (Yes, its two phase clock generatore was difficult to get working), and the first serious program it ran was MITS basic, input through a KSR
      • My first computer was also an MC-10! (You, me, and maybe ten others, heh...) My realization came when I was typing in a text adventure game from the back of a book, and got the dreaded "out of memory" error. :)

        I hear you about needing a new computer... the 5GB of memory in this Mac Pro starts feeling tight after running a few Firefox, Eclipse, and VMWare processes...

        • by cenc (1310167)

          My favorite game was the hours of typing, followed by 'what is behind door number one'.

          LOL

          The second lesson I learned was basic sucks, and I need a better programing language.

    • Re:Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:18AM (#27826383) Journal

      I'm not sure if there is a similar environment or feel like that anywhere any more. (Or more likely - it's somewhere I'm just not in it, too old to see it, etc.)

      I've been thinking about this, and I think it was so much fun because you could do anything anyone else could. Coming up with cool new ways to arrange colored text on the screen, interesting ways to use the arrow keys, new different kinds of menuing systems, if you could see it (and it often was cool), you could reproduce it. And a single person could make something very cool in little time, it was just a matter of imagining it.

      Nowadays, it takes an artist or a team of artists several months to make something cool, and only the smallest projects can be made by a single person. It is so much harder to manipulate what happens on the screen (and this is coming from a person who is an experienced programmer), and it is not as easy to change someone else's source code. You may have a cool idea, but good luck implementing it alone.

      So many things have changed. Fortunately more powerful computers make up for it.

      • Well, Kongregate(.com) is the best example of small, very nice, creative things, that one person can do alone. And I dare to say, that they beat many large multi-million games in terms of pure fun and addictiveness. If only they would support other plug-ins, like Java applets, and maybe even things like the Quake live 3D engine...

        • Yeah, there are little corners where you can still do it, and realistically, a javascript game is not far out of the reach of most people. The barrier to entry now is significantly higher than it used to be, though. You have to be a programmer, an artist, something of a musician; not to mention the programming concepts are significantly more complicated (javascript is a lot more complicated than basic). In the old days you could do something that looked ok after learning how to print stuff on the screen a
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by YenTheFirst (1056960)

        It's not entirely the same, but I really cut my teeth on programming on a TI-83+ graphing calculator. It had a variant of BASIC, fairly simple graphics capabilities, and it was fairly easy to pick up.

        Incidentally,I think that environment was my first exposure to the ideas of open source software, too. Programs could be shared easily, by linking calculators, and being interpreted, all programs came with source. I certainly learned a bit by reading programs from other students, or downloaded from the internet

        • YES
        • Limitation breeds creativity, perhaps?

          Absolutely. Until I discovered that you could use the six lists as relatively unlimited variable space, my early games on my TI-82 were limited to 27 variables (A-Z + theta) and 37 goto labels.

          Once I pushed the boundaries of memory it forced me to use proper looping and drop the goto statements. I discovered this because, as my projects got larger and I mixed goto with loops, my programs kept running out of memory. This is because TI-OS creates memory tags every time

      • by Hatta (162192)

        But the Indie game market is thriving. There are plenty of one man projects, like Touhou, Cave Story, Everyday Shooter, etc. Sure you can't make the next Zelda without a team full of programmers and artists, but that's not stopping anyone from making great games. You don't even have to be able to code really, anyone can pick up Adventure Game Studio, or another engine and start creating.

        The problem I think is that the bar for "cool" has been raised. Back in the day, simply the fact that it was a game *o

        • The problem I think is that the bar for "cool" has been raised. Back in the day, simply the fact that it was a game *on the computer*, was enough to make it worth playing. These days people actually expect quality game play.

          Yes, that's exactly the point. It takes more than printing cool colored text on the screen, as I said.

    • First computer I ever used was a Radio Shack TRS-80 MC-10 during the early 80's.

      For those uninformed on the specs, the stock MC-10 had only 4K of RAM onboard, expandable to 20K via an external 16K module. (And god forbid you ever bumped the thing during a lengthy coding session!)

      My setup also used the optional audio-cassette recorder for storage and a dot-matrix printer.

      I kept that system in use all the way up to the early 90's before swapping it out for an Apple II+.

      The interesting thing about the MC-10 wa

    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      The first computer I ever saw in person and worked on was a TRS-80 model III. I was in the 7th grade and my junior high school had a lab with a bunch of them. I can remember playing games that looked very similar to the video. This was 1982,

      I remember my first computing class, in 1979, at secondary school when I was 14.

      To start with, the class was after-hours. This was because we were "overspill" from the main class. The "proper" class had been severely oversubscribed, being the first time in the country th

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      I'm not sure if there is a similar environment or feel like that anywhere any more. (Or more likely - it's somewhere I'm just not in it, too old to see it, etc.)

      I don't know, I think the internet has done a lot for the homebrew programmers. Anyone can now write a program and distribute it pretty much for free these days, and social sites let the word on decent programmes spread quickly, particularly throughout the programmer's own social echelons. Throw up a Paypal account (or similar) and ask for donations, and you might even make some pocket money out of it.

      Seeing as gaming tastes are a bit more refined these days it might be trickier to turn a profit. But indy d

  • by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:00PM (#27825799) Homepage

    I mean at least space wars at least had real graphics and not a bunch of ASCII characters. I guess this qualifies for some minor footnote in history, somewhere, somehow, but I'm really at a loss as to where. While we are at it do we know who A) wrote the first 8-bit PC game? B) Wrote the first 32-bit PC game? and C) Wrote the first 64-bit PC game? Ok...now how about the first C64 game? What about the first PC game? What about the first Apple II game? I could probably think of a million "firsts."

    Any takers? :P

    • by Kugrian (886993)

      Each person has their own firsts in gaming history. Especially us geeks. 1975 was 8 years before my birth, but I'm still interested. I never played this game, and doubt I ever will.

      I still wanna know about it though. My first gaming experience was playing pong on some insignificant console around '88/89. Time moved slowly in my computer childhood. I didn't even realize the internet existed until '97, and didn't get my first taste until '99.

      I love the history of computers as much as I love the history

    • by julesh (229690) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @02:55AM (#27827379)

      A) wrote the first 8-bit PC game? B) Wrote the first 32-bit PC game? and C) Wrote the first 64-bit PC game? Ok...now how about the first C64 game? What about the first PC game? What about the first Apple II game? I could probably think of a million "firsts."

      First 8-bit PC game and first Apple II game are probably the same: Steve Wozniak's reimplementation of Breakout in Integer BASIC.

      • by Creepy (93888)

        dang, I didn't scroll down far enough to see your post - I said basically the same thing about Apple.

        As far as 8 bit game, I have my doubts - there is way too much hardware from around that time and a LOT of mainframes before it, some of which may have been 8 bit. I know it wasn't the PDP-1 that ran Spacewar! because that was 18bit (at least I remember it had an odd bitsize and I'm pretty sure it was 18 - the other odd bitsize I remember is the Intellivision which was 10 bit). National Semic

    • by Creepy (93888)

      Try here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_video_game [wikipedia.org] though I don't know if that talks about 8/16/32/64 bit.

      I can answer first Apple game (probably first Apple ][, as well) - that would be Breakout, written by the programmer of Breakout and designer of the early Apples, Steve Wozniak. No idea about the others - I was firmly entrenched behind the Apple ][ in those days, but did play a bit with a Commodore PET, Pong system with a few other games (it wasn't just pong - had variants and a couple of other ga

  • old != classic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:04PM (#27825825) Homepage

    Just because a game is old, doesn't mean it's a classic. A classic is a game which stands as a pinnacle representative of its type, an archetypal game that defined or created a genre, or a game so supremely crafted and so well-loved, that its appeal transcends its era.

  • xyzzy!!!

  • good memories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retchdog (1319261) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:17PM (#27825915) Journal

    Although utterly mediocre (at best) by comparison with the work of his contemporary Infocom, Scott Adams' adventure games, complete with typos, tacky jokes/puns, outright bugs, and illogical "solutions", were endearing in their own way.

    Spent quite some time playing Adventureland; Voodoo Castle (with the periodically exploding test tubes which you needed to wear a suit of armor to carry); and The Count on a VIC-20 with and without my family as a child, and I have many fond memories.

    > smoke cigarette
    OK. There's a coughin (sic) in the room.
    > open coffin

  • by Count_Froggy (781541) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:26PM (#27825983) Homepage Journal
    So what if this was written on a 16-bit hardware computer. I know of graphic games written in the Apple ][ Sweet-16 interpreter (a 16-bit machine in software installed on all Apple ][ machines) long before this. And, this machine was a one-of-a-kind creation that had no meaningful volume, even by the standards of the time. Lastly, it isn't graphical if it used TEXT CHARACTERS to represent the game elements. There were other games written on PDP-11 and LSI-11 machines (also true 16-bit hardware) that predate this.
    • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:58PM (#27826241)

      If you had an Apple II before 1974, then you had something a lot more interesting than an Apple II on your hands.

      AFAIK the only 16-bit computers outside the defense sector were at Hewlett-Packard. This is the first homebrew 16-bit machine I've seen.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      hell, back in the late 50s people were doing pong-like games on their oscilloscopes.
    • by julesh (229690)

      So what if this was written on a 16-bit hardware computer. I know of graphic games written in the Apple ][ Sweet-16 interpreter (a 16-bit machine in software installed on all Apple ][ machines) long before this.

      No, you don't, as this game was written before the Apple II was designed. Hell, it was written before the processor that the Apple II was based on was designed.

      And, this machine was a one-of-a-kind creation that had no meaningful volume, even by the standards of the time.

      Most machines of the time

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        But not home machines, not built using microprocessors, so a different class of game.

        This seems like kind of an arbitrary distinction. Much much later, I had a Sun 4/260 as my primary desktop system (and space heater.) First game on a homebuilt 16 bit seems much more impressive to me!

      • by Creepy (93888)

        Yep - Apple didn't exist as a company until April 1, 1976. Also the PDP-11 is 18 bit and the LSI-11 is 22 bit (I admit, I had never heard of that last one until now and had to look it up [wikipedia.org]), whereas I'd read long ago the PDP-11 was 18 bit.

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        No, you don't, as this game was written before the Apple II was designed. Hell, it was written before the processor that the Apple II was based on was designed.

        Offtopic nitpicking:
        From the article, the game was written in 1975.. and from Wikipedia, the 6502 was designed in 1975, and introduced in Sept 1975. Since it was obviously designed before that, I don't think we're positive it was written before the 6502 was designed.

  • ...hmm, I wonder if it runs on Linux. /ducks!

    Seriously, I wonder if there's an image. I have both Apple II and TRS-80 emulators.
  • that this can be called a "graphics" game. Looks to me like 16x32 text mode, with some of the characters re-defined. As I recall, you could re-define characters in software in some of the lower-resolution text modes.
    • I am not trying to nitpick; text-mode screens were much easier to deal with, and you could quickly refresh them by just generating a new screen of text... text was very fast. Using actual graphics modes, on the other hand, required bit-blitting bitmaps into the graphics memory and so on, which tended to be very slow in comparison.
  • was a bit of a curiosity. They did indeed use them in Sun engine analyzers. My brother has one of those if you'd like to see what a real National IMP 16 processor card [selectric.org] looks like.
    • by anagama (611277)

      That was interesting -- the ad your brother links to says that a basic model was $825, more depending on memory and options. Going to an inflation calculator ( http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi [westegg.com] ) shows that it would have cost $3266.19 in 2008 dollars. That was once upon a time, quite a pricey machine.

  • by SilverJets (131916) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:46AM (#27826583) Homepage

    Its the first graphics game written on/for a 16-bit home pc on record. There's always the possibility that someone wrote one before Scott Adams and didn't "publish" their work.

    • by julesh (229690)

      Yes, and the article is very cautious to do so. Still, we know that this game is the first for the hardware it ran on (as it was designed by a relative of the hardware's designer), and there are good reasons to think the hardware was the first home 16-bit system (it was produced using the first 16-bit microprocessor, less than a year after that microprocessor first made it to market).

    • Except that it is not a graphics game. It is text-mode. There is a huge difference, and this ain't it.
    • There's always the possibility that someone wrote one before Scott Adams and didn't "publish" their work.

      There ain't nothing easier than to write a game and never publish it.

      • > There ain't nothing easier than to write a game and never publish it.

        Tell that to the Duke Nukem Forever team!

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Are you sure it was on record, and not cassette?

  • While this may be the first game for a 16-bit personal computer, I don't believe it is the first game for any personal computer.

    I will offer a more likely contender: TARG for the Processor Technology SOL-20. I recall typing this game (and several others I've forgotten) into my SOL back in 1975. TARG became available commercially on a cassette called GAMEPAC 1, I just happened to have the GAMEPAC 1 manual sitting here and it's copyrighted 1977.

    Since the article claims sometime in 1975 as the "release' of Spa

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:54AM (#27827059)

    I call shenanigans on the claimed $197,500 purchase price. The whois data for the web site [exoticsciences.com] says that it's controlled by Richard Adams himself. It looks like he's also the author of the Wikipedia pages about himself and his company.

    I have no problem with the guy writing about himself in the third person, but I can't bring myself to believe that he paid his brother six figures for a twelve-page program listing.

  • Wasn't the TI-99/4 the first 16 bit home computer? While it wasn't until 1981's TI-99/4A that you could play Parsec, there were many classic games you could play on either: Munchman. Car Wars. Hunt The Wumpus.
  • by cmholm (69081) <cmholm@@@mauiholm...org> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @04:25AM (#27827817) Homepage Journal

    After reading the story, this sounds like a sure-fire "Outliers" scenario. The Adams brothers lived near Cape Canaveral. Richard constructed a video camera as an adolescent, before building a custom 16-bit computer from scratch, when all of the kits were strictly 8-bit. Richard, Scott, and Eric programmed the system initially from front panel switches, until Richard build a keyboard, based on existing designs. Just as Bill Gates created Altair BASIC at what was most likely the earliest possible moment, so with the Adams brothers getting their start.

    It would be interesting to know what the family, school, and social background that gave them the shot at such an early entre into digital hacking.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Scott Adams (519677)

      After reading the story, this sounds like a sure-fire "Outliers" scenario. The Adams brothers lived near Cape Canaveral. Richard constructed a video camera as an adolescent, before building a custom 16-bit computer from scratch, when all of the kits were strictly 8-bit. Richard, Scott, and Eric programmed the system initially from front panel switches, until Richard build a keyboard, based on existing designs. Just as Bill Gates created Altair BASIC at what was most likely the earliest possible moment, so with the Adams brothers getting their start.

      It would be interesting to know what the family, school, and social background that gave them the shot at such an early entre into digital hacking.

      Our Dad was a general manager of a private Aviations firm, Also sorts of neat tools and stuff in the garage and we got electronic kits in 1st and second grade to play with. Our Mom got her PHd in education when we were teens and was very actively involved in all our schooling. She never accepted anything but top notch work. For punishment we would be told we could not read books for awhile and had to do something else. When I went to highschool at N. Miami Senior high they tried an experiment and put a co

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