The world’s first video game is coming to an analog pocket near you. Today, Analogue announced its launch Space War!a game originally designed for the earlier PDP-1 minicomputer Pong with an entire decade, on Pocket as part of its larger strategy to bring cutting-edge video games into the modern era.
The original Space War! was created in 1962 by a cadre of engineers led by Steve Russell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using a PDP-1 minicomputer and a 1024 x 1024 pixel CRT monitor, Russell and his colleagues programmed a game in which two spacecraft duke it out in the gravitational well of a star. Two controllers were made for the game with switches for maneuvering and buttons that were designed to be silent when pressed so your opponent couldn’t hear you firing missiles.
To bring Space War! for the Analogue Pocket, Spacemen3, a third-party developer, used the source code from the PDP-1 computer and Space War! itself, both of which are in the public domain, along with OpenFPGA software. Emulating 60-year-old software came with some interesting challenges.
“The PDP-1 had some unique features about it, it had a 1024×1024 vector display with a unique way of generating the image,” Analog CEO Chris Taber said in an email to The Verge. “It was a bit difficult to accommodate this.”
Alex Cranz from The Verge had the opportunity to play Space War!
Space War! looks a little different on Analog Pocket. The lines are sharp and clean with none of the ethereal glow that the original green CRT gave off. The AI for your opponent is non-existent, but there’s still something really fun about accelerating towards a star and then using gravity to whip around it and take out another ship. Decades later, you still really feel like you’re fighting a little war in space.
Space War! is emblematic of Analog’s larger mission to preserve and play not only recent video games as with their retro console offerings, but also from the distant past. Games that were never released commercially as Space War! represent some of the lost video game history Analog is trying to resurrect.
“The purpose of openFPGA is to open up Analogue’s hardware to developers to help preserve video game history… We’ve started the program that highlights the beginnings of video games with a recreation of the PDP-1s Space War!Taber said.
Space War! is launching on Pocket alongside a new software update that adds save states and more.