If ever a game needed no introduction, it's Space Invaders. The arcade sensation swept through Japan, the US and Europe in 1978 and was an instant sensation, pulling gaming from the ghetto and dragging it kicking and screaming into the mainstream. Blamed for untold wasted hours, a nationwide shortage of ten pence pieces and reportedly earning Taito over $500 million, it's an iconic title and we tracked down the game's creator Tomohiro Nishikado to hear his thoughts on gaming today. We've also managed to get a look at the original concept sketches for the game which we present here for you in all their glory.
What is it about Space Invaders that makes it as appealing to play today as it was when it was originally released?
Nishikado-san: I introduced a number of elements that were new in video games. First, enemies respond to your movement and attack you. Until Space Invaders came out, most video games involved nearly non-interactive situations where the player unilaterally attacked the targets within a set amount of time. In Space Invaders, the enemies react to the player's movement and attack back. Also, even if the player has their laser base in stock, the game is over when the invaders reach your territory. I think these new elements added more thrills in the game, and gained popularity among young players. In fact, the game was unpopular among the arcade distributors when it was first introduced.
Compared to modern games that require skills and complex rules, Space Invaders is a game that almost anyone can immediately pickup and play. I, for one, am interested in how younger players react. I hope the game will find its way as a quick fix for those who are tired of modern games.
Does it surprise you that, so many years on from its release, there's still such interest in Space Invaders?
Nishikado-san: I anticipated it will be a hit, but never thought it will be so huge. I was delighted to see it became popular, but I did not get overwhelmed by it, because I was too busy working on the next project.
Have videogames become too complex in your opinion, and are games easier or harder these days?
Nishikado-san: I think they have become harder. A good example is the shooting genre. If you compare Space Invaders to the shooting games these days, it's obvious. Game difficulty has become much harder and only hardcore gamers can really enjoy it. These games are clearly not made for casual gamers.
And what do you think of the direction in which videogames have gone generally?
Nishikado-san: As far as hardware is concerned, I think it has evolved too much. But then any technology must evolve, so we must conform to it. Creating contents that are appropriate for new hardware is a big challenge. Development cost is the most major issue. And it is questionable that newer hardware will gain more user base. I would like to see brave publishers putting out 2D games on the cutting edge hardware. I don't think next-gen games have to be complex. There should be room for simple games on these hardware.
Is there still room for innovation in videogame development?
Nishikado-san: It's difficult for me to answer, as I am no longer directly involved in development. However, as hardware has evolved, it would take too long to create the program from scratch. So program management such as utilizing middleware or sharing code between developers is becoming important.
What excites you about the videogame industry today?