Throwback Thursday Gaming – 1st game with a cheat? 1977

Starship 1 – First game with a cheat? 

To cheat is using non-standard methods to create an advantage or disadvantage beyond normal gameplay, in order to make the game easier or harder

Greetings traveler! Welcome to another Throwback Thursday, step into our gaming Tardis as we travel to 1977. We are now in the era of arcades and we are focusing on one particular arcade game known as Starship 1. Here is the basic information about the game;

Release date: July 1977
Publisher: Atari
Creator / Dev: Ron Milner
Platform: Arcade Machine

You pilot the Starship 1, from the first-person point of view, avoiding planets, shooting enemy spaceships for different point values. Achieving 3500 points before time runs out earns you extended play.

Starship 1 was a black and white game where you as the player were focused on flying your ship in space and destroying enemy ships while also avoiding collisions with things such as planets. The controls for the game were pretty interesting with a throttle, two firing buttons, and a steering wheel. See them below.

What sets this game apart for us in gaming history though? Well as of right now this is the first video game we know that the developer, Ron Milner, built a little something extra into the system. In an interview, Ron had with Ed Fries some 40 or so years after the release of the game Ron stated that he had created a backdoor in the game.

Ron programmed in the source code that if you press the start button and phasor in at the same time while dropping a coin into the machine and then quickly releasing the button and hitting “slow” that it would trigger an event.

As you can see by the picture the event would print out “Hi Ron” on the screen and give you 10 free credits. What does that mean? Well, it means that this is the first game we know of that includes a cheat. Most people refer to this as the first easter egg, however, an easter egg is something that the developer puts in as a secret message or scene.

A cheat is something that is built in by the developers that would give you an extra advantage if triggered. Thus by that classical definition, this is a cheat and not an easter egg. If you want to read more details of how this 40-year-old cheat was rediscovered you can read the blog post by Ed Fries. However, join us next month when we do talk about easter eggs.

Check out our previous throwback storyClick here


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