Defender is a scrolling shooter, developed and published by Williams Electronics in 1981. It went on to become one of the highest selling arcade games of it’s generation and was a very important title in the beginnings of scrolling shooters, going on to inspire games such as R-Type, Darius, Project-X and the Thunder Force series.
Set on an unknown planet, Defender is all about defeating the waves of aliens whilst protecting astronauts, the arcade game shifted more than 55,000 units to become Williams Electronics most successful arcade release.
Famous for being a very difficult game, Defender received high praise for it’s audio-visuals and its addictive gameplay, the game went on to be ported to most games consoles and computers of the day, which you will see in the comparisons below. The Atari home console/computer releases were developed under Atari Inc. whilst the non-Atari platforms were published by Atarisoft.
Publisher: Williams Electronics
Game mode: Single Player
Space was a very popular setting for any video game (or movie) in the late 70’s and early 80’s, no doubt from the resounding success of Star Wars in 1977. Defender was significant for Williams Electronics as it was the companies first attempt at making a new video game, in their earlier days they released a Pong clone called “Paddle-Ball”.
Development of Defender was also inspired by Space Invaders and Asteroids, in the first few weeks, Eugene Jarvis (Head developer of Defender) abandoned the idea of a clone of these games, they believed it lacked enjoyment. After seeing Atari’s Asteroids wrapping effect where the player can move off the screen, it was decided by the team they would make a gaming environment longer than the visible screen, and so was born the early scrolling shooters.
After six months of development, the team felt the game had not made enough progress. They examined other games and concluded that survival was a necessary component to implement. To achieve this, they devised enemies to present a threat, the first of which was the “Lander”.
Jarvis enjoyed violent, action entertainment, and wanted the game to have those elements. Overall, he felt the action should have a reasonable objective. Inspired by the 1960s television show The Defenders, Jarvis titled the game Defender, reasoning that the title helped justify the violence.
He added astronauts to expand on the space theme and give players something to defend while they shot enemies. The element of flying over a planetscape was added after a brainstorming session between Jarvis and Ritchie.
The landscape is depicted as a line only a pixel wide, primarily because the hardware was not powerful enough to generate anything more detailed.
DEFENDER ARCADE GAME
The Defender arcade game featured pixel graphics after debating over vector ones. It featured amplified monaural sound through a Motorola 6800 processor.
Meanwhile, gameplay saves were possible because of a pack of three AA batteries in the machine. You may also notice below that the Defender logo was stenciled onto the cabinet.
GAME PLATFORMS: Arcade, Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 8-Bit, Atari 5200, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, VIC-20, Intellivision
GAME BOX ART
DEFENDER GAMEPLAY SCREEN COMPARISONS (Use the slider)
DEFENDER ARCADE GAMEPLAY VIDEO
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