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making of
 
 

Making The Computer Space Simulation

Trying to do justice to a classic

 

Objective

The goal of this project is to make a clone of Computer Space that is playable in a MAME arcade cabinet, is compatible with front end systems, and is also playable as a standalone game.

I have attempted to capture every nuance of the original game as possible.

The size and speed of the ships and saucers
The rate at which they can move and change direction
The rate of fire
How fast the shots travel and how far
Accuracy of the enemy saucers missiles
Sound effects
Starfield background is identical to the original
Custom designed score numbers are placed precisely as they were in the original game
Explosion effect
General imperfections

I want this game to be indistinguishable from the original. I don't know if I can achieve that but I think I am close.

What Is Computer Space?

Computer Space was brought to the public in 1971 as the first commercially available coin-operated video game. Only about 1,500 were built. It is a very rare video game so most people will never have a chance to play it.

There are no ROMS to "dump" and no software to emulate, so I had to redesign the entire game from scratch.

The gameplay itself was not difficult to design. Getting it to behave and look like the original was a bit of a challenge, partially because I did not have access to a real machine.

One of these 2 screen captures are from the real game. In the image below the saucers are a little bit out of proportion. The score numbers so they are placed exactly as they were in the original game. Can you tell which is which?

sidebyside

Replicating the explosion "flash" was interesting.

sidebyside_flash

Other Features

I have added a few things to the game that are not in the original.

One is a MAME style menu system, as this game was designed with MAME in mind, or more precisely, MAME front end software like Hyperspin and MaLa.

In the menu you can adjust keyboard and joystick input, game time length, audio level, and a few graphical effects meant to mimic an old CRT screen. You can also set the game to Free Play.

Buttons can be mapped to coin insert, player 1 start, Tab menu, Escape and Enter so it can be used in your arcade cabinet without a keyboard.

control menu small

Another added feature is a hidden one, otherwise known as an Easter Egg. I did this in lieu of the Hyperspace Mode in the original game. I will not reveal the surprise, but you must do very well in the game in order to find and play it!

I ommited Hyperspace Mode because I chose to use the scoring system from the 2 player machine. This machine featured double-digit scoring and did not have the odd characters that the single-digit score had in the earlier games.

Audio

The audio needs improvement. The real game audio wasn't exactly crystal clear by the time it reached your ears, but I'd love to get my hands on some better samples.

There are only four sounds - ship turning, thrust, player missile while it flies, and explosion.