Draw (those pixels)!
By 1975, companies other than Atari are starting to take arcade video game technology further than simple solid-state PONG clones. This includes Chicago, Ill. based Midway Mfg. Corp., a division of Bally Manufacturing, a major player in pinball and slot machines. Midway introduces Gun Fight this year, the first game to use a microprocessor. With an Intel 8080 CPU installed, more varied objects and gameplay can be incorporated. In the case of Gun Fight, the results are seen as the two bow-legged gunfighters face-off across a road with increasing numbers of cacti and a moving covered wagon, as well as the computer player moving around in one player mode without exhibiting a predictable pattern, providing a greater challenge.
The game is originally manufactured by Japanese game company Taito under the title Western Gun. It is designed by engineer Tomohiro Nishikado, who would go on to create ripples in the video game market a few years later with a little number called Space Invaders. While graphically sparse, one arresting thing about Western Gun is its detailed character design for the two gun fighters. As with every game preceding it, it uses TTL logic boards as opposed to any kind of processor to run things. Midway buys the rights to the game for North America, making it the first ever licensed from Japan for overseas distribution. Contracted to Midway is Dave Nutting and his game consulting firm Nutting Associates. He and fellow designer Tom McHugh decide to forgo the flaky, hard-wired circuitry of Western Gun and redesign the game using Intel’s recently released 4-bit microprocessor. Hence, patrons in bars, restaurants and other venues in North America begin blowing holes in cacti, covered wagons and each other in Midway’s re-tooling of Western Gun, titled Gun Fight. The dynamic duo of Nutting and McHugh solidify themselves in videogame history by also doing the groundbreaking Sea Wolf for Midway in 1976, and the two team up again for Wizard of Wor in 1981.
A sequel of sorts for Gun Fight, called Boot Hill, is made by Midway in 1977. Gameplay is decidedly similar to the original, with some graphical details and music added along with a colourful diorama background . Atari has two versions of the concept, both titled Outlaw; an 1976 arcade version where players draw a light-gun pistol and shoot the onscreen villains, and a VCS/2600 home port more similar to the original, made in 1979 by renowned designer David Crane. In October of 2012, the Apple iTunes store sees Atari’s arcade Outlaw step into its dusty, wild-west streets with the iPhone/iPad app Outlaw, distributed by Atari and developed by Flying Wisdom Studios.
Sources (Click to view; inert links are kept for historical purposes)
Low Bit Games, by William Linn
The Arcade Flyer Archive
Videotopia – Arcade Games
iTunes Preview: Outlaw
Bally Manufacturing – Wikipedia
Gamearchive – www.gamearchive.com
VideoGameSpot’s History of Video Games – www.videogames.com/features/universal/hov/hov04.html
Badger’s Gameroom – Firsts of the Firsts! – www.gamearchive.com/collector/badger/History.htm
Midway 8080 System Boards – users.erols.com/mowerman/midway.htm