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Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1980). Williams Electronics (WE). Designed by Eugene Jarvis, Larry DeMar. Platforms: Arcade, Others.

Defender is a two-dimensional arcade game (see Videogames) in which the player flies a small spaceship over a planet, defending the humanoids who live on its surface from various types of invading Aliens. The main display scrolls horizontally across the planetary surface to keep the player in the centre of the screen, while an overview of the whole world is shown at the top of the display. Previous arcade games such as Space Invaders (1978) had been limited to a single screen; Defender's introduction of a larger playing field opened up arcade players' concept of what a game world could be. The need to balance competing priorities (rescuing the humanoids, destroying the aliens, and checking the overview for dangerous situations developing elsewhere) make Defender a highly complex game, requiring players to make frequent fast decisions as well as exercise their reflexes. Though generally seen as too complicated when it was first demonstrated, Defender eventually proved to be very successful commercially, prefiguring the kind of complex high-speed gameplay later seen in First Person Shooters.

Related works: There have been several sequels to Defender. Stargate (1981 WE, Arcade; vt Defender Stargate, 1981, Arcade; vt Defender II, 1983, Others) designed by Eugene Jarvis added new types of aliens and a "Stargate" which could transport the player across the planet, while the less successful Strike Force (1991 Midway, Arcade) allowed two players to cooperate on multiple planets. Defender 2000 (1996 Atari, Jaguar) designed by Jeff Minter is a remake of the original with improved graphics, and Defender (2002 Seven Studios, GBA, GC, PS2, XBox) converted the basic gameplay to a three-dimensional view. [NT]

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