Following my recent successful FAC of Spacewar!, potentially the first real "video game", comes its spiritual successor: Computer Space, the nine-years-later first arcade video game and first commercial video game. It's not so important for what it is in and of itself—a junky game so stripped down from the Spacewar! clone it originally wanted to be as to be unrecognizable, that sold decently for the time but not great—but for what came from it. It launched Atari, proved video games could be successful as commercial products, gave a model for how video games could be consumer arcade machines instead of arcane research experiments, inspired multiple people to enter the industry it spawned (including one of the first black video game developers), and in one case inspired someone to develop a hardware vector graphics system and a game to run on it just because he thought the game was so bad compared to Spacewar!. Without Computer Space, it's possible that the arcade video game as a concept would have looked entirely different; and without its success leading to Atari existing and releasing Pong right as the Magnavox Odyssey home console launched, allowing the two to boost each other, the industry as a whole might have gotten off to a very different start. Kind of like this article, which I originally wrote in 2016, but never brought to FAC until now due to better sources only recently coming out. Thanks for reviewing! --PresN 03:57, 28 May 2020 (UTC)
Support by GamerPro64
Gonna stake a claim here to get the ball rolling. Will take a closer look soon. GamerPro64 02:23, 30 May 2020 (UTC)
Reading through the article, I am satisfied by its prose and believe it meets the criteria for Featured Article. Support. GamerPro64 23:31, 1 June 2020 (UTC)
File:Computer_Space_Gameplay.jpg: FUR is incomplete, although I'm not convinced what's being shown is creative enough to warrant copyright protection. Nikkimaria (talk) 22:44, 30 May 2020 (UTC)
Filled in the other fields; it's my upload so I can't even blame the uploader. --PresN 03:16, 1 June 2020 (UTC)
Support by Namcokid47
Looked through the article, and I think it's great. A very fascinating and interesting read! This gets my support. Namcokid47(Contribs) 00:05, 3 June 2020 (UTC)
Comments by Indrian
As the reviewer of this article at GAN four years ago, I am happy to see this show up at FAC. I am making some copyedits as I go, but am bringing a few points here for the nominator to look at.
"A round has an adjustable time limit of 60 to 150 seconds, with a default of 90" - I believe this is adjustable by the operator via a dip switch or some such in the cabinet, yes? This should be clarified so the reader does not think the players themselves can select a time limit.
"Unable to put the game idea out of his mind, however, Bushnell soon thought of a way to manipulate the video signal on the screen with hardware without a computer having to control it, and from there the pair came up with the idea of removing the computer altogether and building specialized hardware to handle everything for the game instead" - So I know we have a real problem here in that Computer Space has two creators who tell about fifty different stories between them, but I would pay some attention to the series of events that Bushnell outlined in his court depositions and described in the Smith book. In the depos, Bushnell claims they had a basic dot-generating system going running on an exerciser that simulated just enough of the Nova to make sure the custom hardware was functioning. He then prepared to order some Novas, but learned from another programmer that the game would not run properly on the Nova. He therefore decided to expand the exerciser to eliminate a need for the computer entirely. Bushnell is sometimes hard to take at his word, even under oath, but the fact that he was ready to order some Nova computers in January 1971 is proven by a copy of a letter he wrote, but did not send, to Data General to order some Nova computers. The ongoing dialogue with Data General is confirmed by a letter from the regional sales manager for Data General dated February 26, 1971, in which he apparently is wondering why Bushnell has not ordered any computers yet. I know a little of this makes it into the article a little further along, but the part about being in contact with a Data General salesman in early 1971 is not in here, nor is the part about the exerciser.
" By January 1971, the pair had built some basic hardware which could connect to a monitor," - As per above, this is true, but the sequence is off because Bushnell was still considering a Nova computer in January 1971. Admittedly, some of the timeline stuff gets really weird in here because Bushnell and Dabney's more recent recollections do not gel well with the depo. However, said recollections are based on forty-year-old memories, while the depo is supported by documentary evidence from the period in question.
"Nutting had been founded in 1967 on the basis of Computer Quiz" - Nutting was established in January 1966 per Smith with cite to an internal Nutting document.
Location Test and Release
"and that some of the construction was done by Steve Bristow" - Bristow himself denied doing any engineering or board layout work on Computer Space while Bushnell was at Nutting, and there is really no reason to doubt that. What Bristow did do, as he told Retro Gamer for its Making of Computer Space feature, is work on some of the prototype boards in early 1971 while Bushnell was still employed by Ampex.
"monitor they are projected on" - While not an incorrect use of the term "projected" per se, using the term here does conjure up images of a projection television system in which an image is being magnified by lenses and projected onto a surface. Using a different term would provide more clarity. It's also written in passive voice.
"The rudimentary algorithm constructed by Bushnell has the enemy ships" - "Has" is an imprecise verb here. We can do better.
"The rudimentary algorithm constructed by Bushnell has the enemy ships firing towards the quadrant of the screen that the player's rocket is in, rather than a more complicated tracking algorithm" - I am not sure why there is a comparison here. He used a simple algorithm, so we already understand its not a complex algorithm by that single statement. The article does not provide an expectation that he would have used a complex algorithm, so the "rather" part does not serve any real purpose.
"it was a disappointment to Nutting, who had been hoping for a large-scale success" - There is Bill Nutting the man, and Nutting Associates his company. Up until now, only Nutting Associates the company has appeared in the article; Bill is not mentioned at all. The pronoun here indicates you have shifted to talking about the man. The easiest way to fix it is probably just changing the "who" to a "which."
"The game had no further involvement from Bushnell or Dabney" - Passive voice.
"Ed Logg, who borrowed the control scheme for Asteroids" - It inspired more than the control scheme: as Lyle Rains told Retro Gamer, the Asteroids concept started as essentially combining the movement and physics of Computer Space with the "clear the screen" game play of Space Invaders.
Another important influence not menioned in the article is that Steve Bristow stated in the book Replay that his inspiration for Tank was wanting to redo Computer Space with simpler physics and easier controls.
Overall, this is a wonderful article, and I look forward to supporting after a few small edits are made. Indrian (talk) 20:17, 3 June 2020 (UTC)
Gameplay: Adjusted to clarify that it's a setting the operator controls
Development: Rewrote/adjusted this section to handle the early 1971 issues. Should be better now! Also fixed the Nutting 1966 bit- I read that section of the book while I fixed up that section, you'd think I'd notice the obvious date mismatch.
Location Test and Release: Fixed the grammar and Bristow issues
Reception: Fixed grammar issues, expanded Logg bit and added Bristow; I wrote Tank as well so I'm surprised I forgot about that.
Thanks for reviewing (again) and the copyedits! --PresN 22:52, 3 June 2020 (UTC)
I suppose I really should Support this. Nicely done! Indrian (talk) 19:49, 21 July 2020 (UTC)
I'd like to see a source review from someone outside the video game project, likewise a comprehensive review from someone outside the video games project, just so we're sure that it's clear to non-specialists. --Ealdgyth (talk) 14:50, 14 June 2020 (UTC)
@Nikkimaria: how is the source review looking? And we're still trying for an outside the video game reviewer for this..I'm putting it on the urgents list. --Ealdgyth (talk) 15:00, 7 July 2020 (UTC)
Not super-happy with the Starlog rationale but it's otherwise fine and I'm not going to oppose over that. Nikkimaria (talk) 20:47, 7 July 2020 (UTC)
Source review - spotchecks not done
The anchor for the Smith source differs between References and Sources
FN5: is this an authorized republication?
What makes Technologizer a high-quality reliable source?
Infolab is a publisher not a work
Our article on Cash Box identifies it as a trade magazine for the music industry - is that an accurate characterization? Similarly Starlog is identified as a science fiction magazine?
I haven't found a website or anything for Syzygy Press - is there any more information available about this publisher? Nikkimaria (talk) 19:30, 20 June 2020 (UTC)
Cash Box primarily functioned as a music trade, but because the jukebox was a big part of music and jukebox route operators also operated coin-operated amusements, each issue into the 1980s contained a “Coin Machine News” section that functioned as an amusement industry trade. After Billboard basically stopped covering amusements circa 1970, Cash Box and Vending Times were the only trades covering the coin-op amusement industry in the United States until Replay and Play Meter appeared in the middle of the 1970s. The founder of Replay had actually been the editor of the Coin Machine News section in Cash Box. Indrian (talk) 17:41, 21 June 2020 (UTC)
As Indrian said, Cash Box was a music industry trade magazine, but at the time of this game (aka the founding of the video game industry) it also covered the "arcade" industry due to its connection to jukeboxes, and therefore was the trade magazine for that as well.
Starlog is (was) a magazine focused on scifi entertainment; by 1983 it had been in publication for 7 years. I've added a They Create Worlds cite as it covers the same thing, but I want to leave the Starlog cite in as I think it's useful to have a source from 1983 saying the same thing as the 2019 source. --PresN 02:54, 29 June 2020 (UTC)
Is FN14 part of the same book or a different source? If the former suggest formatting it like that; if the latter, what makes it reliable? Nikkimaria (talk) 02:34, 23 June 2020 (UTC)
FN14 is not part of the book. It is a blog post crafted by one of the authors of the book, Marty Goldberg, describing his research into the computers available at Utah at the time Nolan Bushnell attended the university and his conclusion based on that research that Nolan Bushnell could not have seen the game Spacewar at the university in the mid-1960s. This is a key point of historical contention in the evolution of Computer Space specifically and video games generally. Mr. Goldberg is considered an expert on Atari who has been published in multiple reliable publications including the magazine Retro Gamer. He also co-authored an article for the online academic journal Kinephanos with Devin Monnens on the spread of Spacewar that references this research and this blog post, which was central to the writing of that article. Kinephanos is a proper academic journal with an editorial board and therefore should qualify as a reliable source. Goldberg's record should qualify his blog post as a situationally reliable self-published source. In this case, the source is used to illuminate Mr. Goldberg's own research methods and activities alongside his conclusions based on that research. As Mr. Goldberg should qualify as a subject-matter expert based on his prior publication history and the numerous cites to his self-published book in reliable published scholarly works, that should meet Wikipedia's requirements for a self-published source. If you have any other questions or concerns about the source, I would be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. Indrian (talk) 06:57, 23 June 2020 (UTC)
@Nikkimaria: +1 on what Indrian said; also responded to your other point. Sorry for taking so long. --PresN 02:54, 29 June 2020 (UTC)
I'm copyediting as I read through; please revert anything you disagree with.
Although not as influential as Pong, Computer Space's release marked the ending of the early history of video games and the start of the commercial video game industry. These two thoughts seem unrelated to me -- I'm not sure why you're joining them with "although".
making it potentially the first video game to be available outside a single research institute: "potentially" is an odd choice of words -- wouldn't "probably" or "apparently" or "as far as is known" convey the intended meaning better?
The first commercial video game based on Spacewar! would not be released until Computer Space in 1971. Just a suggestion but given that Computer Space is the subject of the article, I think it would be more natural to put it first in the sentence: "Computer Space, which would not be released until 1971, was the first commercial video game based on Spacewar!"
Can you expand either the caption or the text next to it to clarify what the elements seen on the screen are?
The monochrome game has... :this made me think you were going to describe a colour version of the game. If you mean that the game was monochrome, I don't think we need that in the "Gameplay" section; it could be mentioned under "Development". It's implied under the description of the hyperspace feature later in any case.
though it can rotate at a constant rate without inertia: not sure what "without inertia" means here.
or two quarters if the machine is adjusted against the instruction manual's recommendations: seems odd -- any reason for that recommendation? Or do the sources not mention it?
Striking, since that explains it. You could also drop "for optimal pricing" from the text and put in a note saying the manual recommended 1 quarter as the best price to attract customers; the expanded explanation wouldn't hurt but is too long to go inline. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 00:39, 14 July 2020 (UTC)
The game displays distorted characters if the player or computer scores pass 9, and scores restart at 0 if they reach 16: so the distortion is a bug? And does the restart affect both sides -- e.g. if I am winning 15-3 and score a hit, does the score go to 0-3 or 0-0? And if it goes to 0-3 and time runs out do I then lose the game?
as he had been working on designing video processing and control circuits and power supplies: three "ing" endings in a row. How about: "as he had designed video processing and control circuits and power supplies"?
Further location tests found a less enthusiastic response from customers confused by the game mechanics and controls, and Syzygy hurriedly tried to adjust the game to be more understandable to players. This is interesting -- are there any details available on what customers found confusing and what changes they had to make?
Your comments below are helpful; could some version of that be put in the article, perhaps in a note? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 00:39, 14 July 2020 (UTC)
as to whether Nutting took a handful or no orders at the show: doesn't seem the best phrasing. How about "as to whether Nutting took a handful of orders or none at the show"?
the design was initially contracted to Bushnell, but was either uncompleted or unused: the two-person game was never completed? Or Bushnell's design? I think it must be the latter but it should be clearer.
The sentence starting "It directly inspired..." is very long and hard to parse (and I think the word "interesting" is syntactically out of place). I think this needs to be broken up somehow.
@Mike Christie: Saw it, but wasn't able to get to it until now. I've done all of these in this diffset. To answer the questions (beyond just changing the article to answer them):
any reason for that recommendation? - the manual says that 1 quarter is a better price for attracting customers; it does not justify this claim.
are there any details available on what customers found confusing and what changes they had to make? - not with any detail, though the implication (based on retrospective commentary, so not based on this pre-release test) is pretty much "all of it" - players understood pressing a button to make things happen, but rotating a moving spaceship while firing missiles at a target was just way too much for people who had never played any sort of game like that and didn't have a mental framework for "video games" to start with. I forgot to change this sentence until now; it was too late to really change the game itself and if they made any changes they are unknown; they did expand the instructions placard on the game to give more instruction.
Thanks for reviewing! --PresN 16:23, 13 July 2020 (UTC)
@Mike Christie: Sorry again for taking so long; tweaked the wording to try to make it clear that the scores resetting to 0 happen independently of each other, and really do go back to 0 more than just visually. Also added a note with a bit more specificity (and sources) than my off-the-cuff remarks above. --PresN 02:41, 21 July 2020 (UTC)