Players

Two years before many of these players savored the intensity of Robotron 2084, they were getting hooked on one the hardest, most technically advanced games of 1980.  As a testament to the quality of the game, the comradery and joy of playing Defender is still alive over 30 years later.

  • If you enjoy the game of Defender, you are invited to be included in this project.
  • Please, provide a brief answer to the following questions, how you would like your name referenced, and email m5h5m@hotmail.com
  • Thank you in advance for your participation!
  • Are you a master level player?  Defined as playing the game for many years; capable of reaching stellar scores.  Extreme- master level play on highest difficulty (99-99).
  • If you have any new gameplay tips to share,  please forward them by email and we’ll add to the instructionals.
  • Early 80’s images of Defender in a real arcade- http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/40-pictures-of-arcades-in-the-80s

Questions-

  1. First experience that made you want to put a quarter in a game?
  2. First experience that made you aware of the game Defender?
  3. Favorite memory or experience playing Defender?
  4. Optional- Most notable game you played? (ie any achievement you are proud of)

Player “Defender-Bios”-

Larry DeMar – Defender developer (Vid Kidz)

  • I’m nowhere near the “play indefinitely” category (although I enjoyed watching Darrin Cormier’s utter control on Robotron last month and related watching Doug Mahugh dominate Defender.  My high on Defender is about 100,000.  Stargate around 250,000. (Sept 2012)

Dan Tearle – Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK

  • First experience that made me deposit a coin: Age 8 or 9, in a seaside arcade, seeing a row of about 5 Defender machines all snarling at me, enticing me to have a go. One of the most intimidating 50 seconds I can remember!
  • First experience that made me aware of Defender: I first saw Defender actually in the US, on a holiday in California. The hotel had a Defender, Pac Man and Asteroids machine in the lobby,. Defender was colourful, noisy and looked hard.  I didn’t play it that holiday, but made a point of looking for it in my local arcade when I got home (see above!)
  • My favourite memory is probably when ‘the lights came on’ with regards to understanding the enemies and their nuances. although only recently, it was a breakthrough as all of a sudden I could get scores in the 100Ks. From back in the day, as it were,  used to watch wide eyed as the ‘bigger kids’ would rack up ridiculous scores on one credit, finish their game, and with no more than a little nod, walk away. I wanted to be one of the bigger kids. I may not be a master player by any stretch, but I wholly enjoy pushing my own personal targets higher.
  • Most notable game/achievement – Defender hasn’t always been one of my main games. I have a big love of Robotron, and was so proud to finally top 1 million points. Robotron is one of the most complete games I have enjoyed. Aside from that, silly as it sounds, I had serious excitement the first time I completed games like Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace – being a big fan of those two when I was younger. Despite their simplicity, it was exciting to go through those games and complete them perfectly, and with a small crowd watching you. I also used to regularly top the scores on our Star Wars cockpit which was always nice.

Paul Spriggs- “Spriggsy” – UK

  • First experience of an arcade game : In Whitley bay in about 1979 I saw a space invaders machine and was curious about what it was all about. I put a coin in and was fixated by the game play. Also the “Thud Thud Thud” sound was quite hypnotic, and as it got faster as the wave progressed the adrenaline pumped, panic set in, palms got sweaty and heartbeat increased. Then the last invader was killed and the sound slowed down again and you could relax for a minute or two, until it became frantic again. The adrenaline rush had quite an addictive quality, maybe to do with our innate risk/reward responses. That was when I got into video games, and my type of game was always shoot-em-ups to try and recreate the adrenaline rush that I still feel when playing Defender. Can’t get the same rush playing Donkey Kong or Mario, although I do like Pac-man!
  • I saw my first defender machine when I was about 14 years old, back in 1981/1982 in an arcade in Whitley bay, which is in the North East of England.  Nobody was playing the game so I took a cursory glance at the attract mode and decided that it was probably just a “Scramble” clone, or something like that (WRONG!!!) and walked away.  A guy a few years older than me put in a coin and started playing.  The volume had been turned up and compared to playing Space invaders, Galaxian and Asteroids the sound blew me away.  I watched the guy play and the colours and noises were like something I hadn’t seen before. I then noticed all those buttons. Why so many?? Weird ??  The machine was big, noisy, colourful and looked totally unplayable.  Why no 4 way lever to make it easier?? I felt totally intimidated by this machine. I didn’t even play it at the time.
  • A couple of weeks later at least 7 arcades in my home city had defenders put in. The local recreation centre run by the local authority had 3 of them and the last time I noticed 3 of the same machines in one place was when arcades started filling up with Space Invaders machines a couple of years earlier.
  • I wondered why such an off the wall game was so popular with arcade owners?  I started playing the game and just moved the ship up and down. No thrust. Mutants came on and rammed me 3 Times. No idea where they came from. Game over.  Insert coin again and repeat the above! Game over again.
  • I watched someone who knew about the thrust button and then got the idea. Soon afterwards the main goal was to clear wave 1, start wave 2, shoot the pod for 1000 points and then smart bomb as quick as possible to kill swarmers and hopefully a lander or two for even more points. Anything beyond that seemed impossible.
  • Score would increase from about 2000 points to 4000 points. That seemed like such an achievement at the time. Then over the weeks and months we could regularly get onto wave 3: THREE pods : hopefully we could emerge from wave 2 with a smart bomb and bomb 3 pods. Just think of the scores . 20,000 was possible now if all 3 pods bombed at the same time. The rest, as they say is history!
  • Favourite Defender game: There was thousands of games but my memory isn’t what it was, however the most frustrating and memorable Defender game I played was in a 24 hour Taxi rank about 27 years ago. A few of us who could play indefinitely (and were unemployed) decided to see how long we could play a game for on one coin, as the machines were never switched off. We took it in turns, about 4 hours at a time before handing over to the next guy so we could rest, sleep, eat etc etc…. All was going well and we had played for about 28-29 hours when an eagle eyed Taxi driver who was finishing his shift noticed that the same bunch of lads who were in the previous day were still on the machine. He told us that we must have been “cheating” the machine, and before we could protest or explain anything he turned it off. We felt totally deflated.
  • Hitting 1 million on hardest difficulty using red roms- Youtube

Gary Whittington- “GUS”- Australia

  • First game experience- Super Bug. It was 1977 and for reasons unremembered, me and my mate Kev (both as 11 year-olds) caught a bus into the city centre Bullring Shopping Centre (Birmingham, UK) to deposit our 10p piece (formerly known as a ‘two-bob-piece’) into what is now known as a ‘video game’. We were hooked on this but since funds were scarce as 11 year old council estate kids, we could only play this new-fangled thing a couple of times on a Saturday.
  • My first experience of Defender was in fact a late 1980 UK rip-off called ‘Defense Command’. It appeared out of the blue in my local ‘chippy’ (fish-and-chip take-away) to replace the beloved Firebird machine which I never really mastered. For weeks and weeks I strived to top 7,000. This game was difficult. I pedaled my bicycle 5 miles each way every evening to play. Eventually I made the 10k mark and got my extra ship! From that moment forward (basically wave 2) I became hell-bent on “getting my name up”.
  • Favorite memory- Without doubt seeing my sparring partner MPS clock our local arcade Defender at 20,000 extra, green ROM, 30-99 settings (equivalent to 99-99 I’m told).
  • Notable achievement-  I’ll always remember fondly my progression up through the scores from 7k to 13k to 18k to 28k to 44k and so on up to 550k and 808k and finally getting to 990k (default red ROMS) – but I guess my  notable score would be when I  eventually clocked a green ROM machine at 30-99 on 15k extra (my 20k extra score was in the 700k range I think…)
  • Gary is host of the Facebook group- Williams Defender Players Unite
  • Visit his website- http://www.virtualgaz.com/videogamespage.htm
  • Watch him in action – Youtube
  • Detailed training session with Gary HERE

Simon G. – “BrundleMoose” – UK

  • Favourite memory or experience first clocking it in an arcade in Westgate road Newcastle.
  • Most notable game played in 2007. Scored 93.1m on the shockwave version over two weeks. Also in the game I managed to clock the attack waves in the Goldilocks zone (990k-1m) after months of trying.

Mikael Lindholm- “MOS” – Stockholm, Sweden

  • First game experience: I remember playing ‘Gun Fight’ (1975) and especially ‘Tank’ (1974) – I loved sneaking through the maze, trying to outmaneuver and shoot your opponent. Never cared much for games like ‘Breakout’ or ‘Sprint’ – it was shooters from the beginning.
  • First Defender experience: March 1981, in a hamburger stand in a suburb north of Stockholm, Sweden. 14 year old Mike had just crashed into 3 Landers for a score of 450 pts. It was hook, line & sinker.
  • Memorable experience:  All the early exploring of Defender was magic. Like when seeing the black (invisible?) wave (8th) for the first time, and later, when pushing the humanoids through the ground/out the ceiling, and they started walking down. Would you get additional bonus if they reached surface again? Clocking it for the first time was a surprise too. We had seen the 999.975 score on a Defender in one of the biggest arcades, but didn’t know what to make of it. So when the “bonanza” began at 990.000, it was a first for all of us. Would the game stop at 999.975 pts? I played right through it, and my final score was 1.939.000 pts. 
  • Accomplishment: I don’t have any recollection of clocking Defender on max difficulty (99-99/10K) for the first time. Probably because I did it alone, at home, in 1985-86 (I bought my Defender in 1985). But doing it again last year, as a 45 year old, is probably a greater feat. (Tags: ‘cardiac arrest’, ‘aneurysm’, ‘spontaneous human combustion’).
  • Watch his “surgically precise” Tournament Settings play- Youtube

John McAllister- Pacific NW

  • Marathon World Record Holder
  • Playing 5 man game- Youtube

Billy Joe Cain- Texas

  • Defender saved my life as a kid and gave me something to focus upon and stay away from any of the usual distractions in a small, blue collar town. My local “arcades” were a 7-11 with constantly rotating machines EXCEPT Defender and Girouard’s, a hardware store with 4 machines, one of them a Defender. One of the owners of the hardware store would challenge the kids to beat high scores he set for them. If you beat his challenge, he’d give you $10 in quarters, which we’d pump right back into his machines. Kept us all safe and sound.
  • Entered and became the State Defender Champion in the “First Annual Texas Video Game Championship” in ’82. First prize was a new Defender. My play style was fast and furious, and the competition was time-based, so I wound up winning. Since they weren’t making any Defender machines by that time, I asked if they’d get me a Stargate. They did, and it arrived at the house still in its original box.
  • Followed a truck that was carrying a Defender to an arcade, and bought it off the driver for $100. I still have both machines to this day, through tons of moves. My friends hated moving those things.
  • Joined the video game industry in ’92, became lead designer of Wing Commander: Prophecy, and turned it into the best first person version of Defender ever.
  • Around 2009, I decided to go for a world record: http://billyjoecain.blogspot.com/2009/12/road-to-defender-world-record.html. That quest continues to this day.
  • Feel free to write me at billyjoecain@gmail.com or google me!

Hiroshi- blastAgain (Twitter)-  Japan

  • When I first saw and played Defender, I was visiting in Kyoto taking entrance examination for universities in Kyoto.  In Kawara-machi big arcade (now not present as it was) I first saw Pacman, BattleZone and DEFENDER at the same time! I played them in turn again and again, and one game I chose to play more. The game was (of course!) DEFENDER.
  • I was really fascinated the visuals, sounds and difficulty all that I have never experienced! When I was first thrown in the Mutants’ space, it was really an indescribable insane experience in my life! The controls also super stressed me!
  • I was so hooked on the game that I changed my return express train to local (long hours) train to play more! I was lucky I didn’t have a credit card!!
  • Until this, several years I hadn’t played DEFENDER because I didn’t have handy environment to play DEFENDER.  The same as ROBOTRON’s case, thanks again to Twitter, I also started to play again in many years. First I set up environment for playing STARGATE and then DEFENDER.
  • It is really a great experience in my life to be playable with many new friends in twitter and old friends back in the day. A pleasant memory was when my friend bought DEFENDER upright very recently and had a party with friends and hotdogs! What fun!  I score DEFENDER around 210K. It is my high score!!  Currently, I’m playing a 19in1 board with hand made control panel environment.

Satoshi-  denji_n (Twitter)- Japan

    • First game experience:  My first quarter goes into the mini upright in front of the toy shop. It was Crazy Kong which I blindly thought it is the original and much later I found Donkey Kong! First
    • Defender experience:  Very long time ago when I was a child I played but I don’t remember details
    • Favorite Defender memory:  Around 2 years ago I was told that  Defender is also super fun from Hiroshi and PinGarage so I got Defense Command from auction site. First I was playing with StreetFighter2 control panel (1stick+6buttons), but later I want to experience real control feeling and made near original control panel by myself. Last year I got real Defender board at eBay, then Defender and ROBOTRON became my best games!
    • Best Defender game: Recently I reached to 400k points. Aim to 1 million pts!
    • Making a Defender: I want to experience real Defender feeling so much that I got Defender board at eBay. I want to get it cheap, so I got several different boards in parts from many sources. As always they didn’t work only connecting them, so I decided to repair them. (CPU/RAM socket replaced- not working DRAM changed- not working Sound board CPU changed)
    • Board set takes large space, so I fixed the working board with lock-tie to the cardboard folded like triangle. I want to experience Defender as possible as original upright, so I made control panel buttons and 2way joy with leaf switches as used in the original cab.  Now it feels really NICE!  You can see the photos from this link- FLICKR

Mitsuyoshi- PinGarage (Twitter) – Japan

  • The first memory of Defender is that one arcade had brand new game Defender where I stopped in when I go back from school everyday.   Without saying, as other players who tried this game, I’m defeated in seconds in confusion of control.
  • TAITO got license and manufactured and operated in Japan but they made unbelievable change to control scheme. Left hand controlled a Joystick with thumb button for reverse.  Right hand controls:  thumb button=thrust, index finger button=fire, middle finger button= smart bomb, and third finger button=Hyper Space. This continued until when I experience the original Williams DEFENDER  upright.
  • In the middle of 90’s I met “REAL” Defender in one game exhibition (see note), I ‘m amazed how good the feeling of the 2 way joystick. This determined to get REAL upright, but until recently I couldn’t own as it is almost impossible to get in Japan.  But The Time has come! Recently one of my customer asked me that if you know someone can buy one old arcade game. He said, ” The game is called DEFENDER, do you know?” My answer is no way “Defender? whats that? never heard of it.”  And DEFENDER arrived in this April in my workshop at last!
  • Current high score is 660K.
  • Hiroshi note- The exhibition was held as “Bit Generation ’96” in Osaka Tempozan Gendaikan. Curated by Hiroshi Masuyama. I also participated as a game fan who know those era (80th). The exhibition showed video game (console and arcade) and some are playable. Ateroids, Night Driver Computer Space, Defender, Space Invaders and others are exhibited as original upright condition. I played ComputerSpace in that exhibition for the first time.

Mitsuyoshi-pingarage

Mark H.- Ottumwa, Iowa

  • My first game experiences were found at the local Skating rink.  Games like Stunt Cycle and the scrolling plastic driving games on reels.
  • First awareness of Defender was when a friend in Ottumwa stayed up all night trying to break a Defender world record at a tiny neighborhood arcade.  The fireworks style explosions really drew my attention, but was never able to play the game well.
  • Starting in the summer of 2012 I decided to try the game again after being coaxed by the UK’s extreme master player, Spriggsy.  Almost a month in and barely able to reach wave 4 on my home machine.  The coin counter shows almost 200 plays which would be 50 bucks by arcade standards. Whew! Defender is proving to be more fun than in the early 80s when it cost valuable quarters so this just might be the year I break 100k! well maybe, maybe not…
Steve Dressler-
  • First arcade experience: This would have been a Space Invaders game located in the Diary Queen on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. The year was about 1980.
  • First Defender experience: Around the corner of the Diary Queen there was a café know as the Wagon Wheel. They had a number of video games: Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteriods, and Defender. I tried all the other games and although they offered a few moments of entertainment, they were very simple in their design. After engaging the Defender game (and after a $100 of quarters, I’m sure) I came to appreciate the level of complexity that the game afforded me. The eye-hand coordination was intense and the speed at which the game flowed was exciting and fun. I FELL IN LOVE WITH THIS GAME!!
  • Favorite memory: The day that I turned the game over twice was a memorable experience. I had been playing the game almost non-stop for about a year and then one day, after school, I stopped at the Wagon Wheel Café and played for almost 2.5 hours! Although I didn’t stop at the point at which I could enter my initials, I was more than satisfied in my personal record-setting attempt.
  • I hadn’t played Defender since about 1988 and then I discovered the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, NV in 2011. Imagine my joy when I came upon the upright Defender game and plunked in the quarters to the terrific sound of the synthesized Defender welcome — AWESOME! I recorded a score of 125K at that time, but I now play Defender at the Atomic Arcade in Salt Lake City, UT. As of May 2012, my score has climbed to 250K. I’m looking to improve on that score, but I would really like to find a Stargate machine — the sequel to Defender on which I scored an amazing 6 million points on in 1986 in Page, AZ!
  • Notable accomplishment: Stargate – 6 million points

David Hamilton-

  • CLICK for the full story

Phillipe Lafortune-

  • CLICK for the full story

Wes Copeland

  • CLICK for the full story

Dan Garrett – Geneva IL

  • I started playing vids on Space Invaders &
    Asteroids in 10th grade (1977) and my locations kept up with new releases, so I
    saw most of the models in my town and then through the student center in college
    1980-1984.  Defender arrived when I started college at Drake University in the
    student center in 1980 and spent my free time mastering Defender.  A few
    students from NYC, Boston and quite a few Chicago guys started having regular
    casual and serious contests – it was my first competitive video or pinball
    experience and I was hooked.  Today (2013), my pinball skills have won some $
    and much improved state, national and world rankings.  But Defender is still my
    first game that I continue to go back to for “best fun”, Robotron is a close
    second.
  • I am fortunate today to play in a pinball league where one of the
    “every so often” players/members is Larry Demar, and we rotate between basement
    collections to have our matches, and a few of use have Defender videos in the
    collection.  Lyman Sheets, a legend in pinball software, also has a Defender
    game in his collection- its awesome to play doubles on Defender with those
    guys.  I hope to meet Eugene Jarvis at some point.
  • My high scores tend to
    be in the 200-300k range, my PB is around 550k.  I have a MAME system, that has
    white, green, red and blue rom choices, plus the bootleg versions.  I have just
    now gotten back into a strong interest in learning tactics and upping my game
    play skills.  Running into Mark at Oct 2013 pinball expo kick-started some
    renewed interest in my first love, I joined the WDPU facebook group, and off we
    go!

Click HERE to read about past players whose Defender skills made the news.

 

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