Subsequent Developments and Variants
The first operational version of the game, finished by February 1962, contained a randomly generated background starfield. However, the inaccuracy and lack of realism annoyed Samson, so he wrote a program based on real star charts that scrolled slowly: at any one time, 45% of the night sky was visible, every star down to the fifth magnitude. The program was called "Expensive Planetarium" (referring to the price of the PDP-1 computer), and was quickly incorporated into the main code. The star gravity well and the hyperspace feature also had yet to appear in that first playable version; they were written by Edwards and Russell, respectively, to add elements of strategy to what initially was a shooter game of pure reflexes. With these additions, Spacewar! was essentially complete by late April 1962.
The game spread rapidly to other research centers, where other programmers began coding their own variants, including features such as cloaking devices, space mines, and even a first-person perspective version, played with two screens, that simulated each pilot's view out of the cockpit.
Spacewar! was a fairly good overall diagnostic of the PDP-1 computer and Type 30 Precision CRT Display, so DEC apparently used it for factory testing and shipped PDP-1 computers to customers with the Spacewar! program already loaded into the core memory; this enabled field testing as when the PDP was fully set up, the field representative could simultaneously relax and do a final test of the PDP.
Read more about this topic: Spacewar!
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