PC Game Pioneers- Games of the Early 70s

Author: Khang Thi-Le, 2/27/16   While browsing this page, you will notice that games of the 70s were very text-based and many of them are space themed. Why was space such a common theme during this era? Perhaps it is because half a decade prior Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon or maybe it was because Star Trek and Star Wars were both very popular during this decade, no one is sure but they all had one common trait: the graphics sucked. PC games were still 2D or wire-framed 3D. Even with the subpar visuals by today’s standards, gaming was tremendously popular. Why did PC games spike in popularity during this decade? That is because during this era home computers became much more affordable. Desktop prices ranged from $200 – $400 ($1254.77 – $2509.54 nowadays), which was cheap, compared to the $3,200 ($20,076.39 nowadays) price tag it had a decade before.

Empire (1973)

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Written by John Daleske as a project for a class and assisted by Silas Warner, who provided Daleske disk space within the PLATO environment. The game was designed for eight players, each with their own resources (similar to a modern-day RTS), and the objective was to shoot torpedoes (tiny rectangles) at the other ship. This was the first game that supported more than two players. Empire is still played today and has about 300,000-logged hours. It is rather amazing considering Empire started as a homework assignment, but became a piece of PC gaming history.

Spasim (1974)

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Jim Bowery created Spasim as a first attempt at a 3D multiplayer game and by 3D, I meant that everything was wire-framed. Like Empire and many other games, it was a space-themed-space simulator/shooter (Spasim = Space + Simulator). It had many numbers and a lot of text; it is something I would imagine a rocket scientist would play because there are a ton of numbers and co-ordinates. Did I mention that this game has a lot numbers?

Maze War (1974)

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Steve Colley and Greg Thompson developed Maze War, and of all the games thus far, this one is the most influential by far. Maze War was the very first FPS (first-person shooter) created. Two players are put at different points within a maze and then you take turns hunting each other down, whenever you are killed, you spawn at another point in the maze. Each player’s avatar is a creepy-looking floating eyeball, which I assume would add to the intensity of hunting a player down in a maze. This game would later lay foundation for the entire genre of FPS shooters and inspiring the creation of games like Moria, Phantasy Star, and Ultima.