Coding Space Invaders’ disintegrating shields | Wireframe #9

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They add strategy to a genre-defining shooter. Andrew Gillett lifts the lid on Space Invaders’ disintegrating shields.

Released in 1978, Space Invaders introduced ideas so fundamental to video games that it’s hard to imagine a time before them. And it did this using custom-made hardware which by today’s standards is unimaginably slow.

Space Invaders ran on an Intel 8080 CPU operating at 2MHz. With such meagre processing power, merely moving sprites around the screen was a struggle. In modern 2D games, at the start of each frame the entire screen is reset, then all objects are displayed.

For Space Invaders’ hardware, this process would have been too slow. Instead, each time a sprite needs to move, the game first

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