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Soviet Video Games from the 70s

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the really-really-old-skool dept.

Classic Games (Games) 66

vigmeister writes "A group of Russian kids have uncovered and rebuilt some arcade games from the Soviet era. These games apparently offered free play when someone played well, but no list of hi-scores. Roughly 32 of them have been found and although they are based on other arcade games, I hope these games were unique enough to offer playability for the present day arcade game lovers. 'Based largely (and crudely) on early Japanese designs, the games were distributed -- in the words of one military manual -- for the purposes of "entertainment and active leisure, as well as the development of visual-estimation abilities." Production of the games ceased with the collapse of communism, and as Nintendo consoles and PCs flooded the former Soviet states, the old arcade games were either destroyed or disappeared into warehouses and basements. It was mostly out of nostalgia that four friends at Moscow State Technical University began scouring the country to rescue these old games. '"

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Amerika... The Game... (-1, Troll)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#19427875)

"Amerika" is the game where you can ruin America faster than today's politicians while denying global warming and keeping those pesky internationalists at bay.

Re:Amerika... The Game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19428163)

Soviet Russia plays games with you.

Re:Amerika... The Game... (-1, Flamebait)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429013)

It's really sad that mods don't have a sense humor to see how today's America so closely resembles Amerika [wikipedia.org] and how politicians are making a game out of it.

In Soviet Russia.. (4, Funny)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 7 years ago | (#19427899)

aww heck. It's too easy.

Re:In Soviet Russia.. (1, Funny)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#19427931)

high scores beat you!

Re:In Soviet Russia.. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19428035)

Meme posts YOU

Re:In Soviet Russia.. (0)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428143)

Man packs you.

Or is that prison?

Re:In Soviet Russia.. (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429989)

In Soviet Russia, you eat ghosts.
Unless you have the power pill, then ghosts eat you.
Actually that sounds like something vindictively fun. DIE GHOSTS! Your only hope is if I make a mistake and eat the power pill. Nah, I'd just be chilling outside the ghost house the whole time just like I camp spawns in quake.

Re:In Soviet Russia.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19501375)

The video game owns you..

In Soviet Russia... (0, Offtopic)

Omeger (939765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19427939)

Coins insert into you!

Re:In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Omeger (939765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19433657)

fuck you niggers, this isn't offtopic, fuck you and your little kike friends all to fucking hell nigger fuck shit nigger

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19434229)

Wow, I don't see many "mod parent up" replies in your future.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (1)

Omeger (939765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19462363)

nigger fuck

Sorry, it has to be said... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19427945)

In Soviet Russia, Comrade Sandiego finds YOU!

Ok, here's a try..... (4, Funny)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 7 years ago | (#19427975)

In Soviet Russia, pole positions you!

In Soviet Tetris... (1)

feedmetrolls (1108119) | more than 7 years ago | (#19430533)

Rows of blocks clear you!

Re:Ok, here's a try..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19431375)

In Soviet Russia Pole [wikipedia.org] positions you. :P

Good thinking on their part (2, Interesting)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428031)

If everyone's entertained, they're easier to control. Considering the times, I'd guess that had something to do with it.

Re:Good thinking on their part (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19428495)

Come on. The Soviet Union was largely a dictatorship/oligarchy, but that doesn't mean everything done within it has to be part of some sinister conspiracy.

The inhabitants of the USSR clearly desired some luxuries that were widely enjoyed in the west, and state-supplied video games(everything being state supplied, that would be the only alternative to no video games) were one "luxury" the state was able to offer. So the state offered it.

Don't confuse the actual USSR with the USSR as portrayed in Cold War propaganda(in the west): the actual Russians of the era were likely not mindless robots single-mindedly bent on assisting the state in the destruction of the capitalist enemy, but rather ordinary people who were occasionally interested in having fun.

You could say that every state-supplied luxury was a part of a sinister conspiracy to keep the people happy, so they wouldn't revolt based on a lack of luxuries, but that would be so general a definition of a "conspiracy" that pretty much any action taken by any government ever would be a governmental conspiracy to stifle revolt.

Re:Good thinking on their part (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429171)

It is interesting, however, that "military manuals" had to find an "serious" justification for the video games.

I've been infected! (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429685)

You know you've been reading /. too long when you have trouble taking a comment seriously because he used "an" instead of "a".

Re:Good thinking on their part (5, Informative)

biohack (955639) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429959)

Not surprising in a country where in the 50s physics textbooks had to justify presenting the theory of relativity by its correct alignment with Marxist philosophy! By the 70s and 80s, fewer people actually believed in those standard justifications, but one still had to formally have some connection to the "goals set by the Communist Party". People had to play by the rules (no pun intended), whether they actually believed the propaganda or not.

As for the military connection, some of the youth-oriented recreational facilities had been run by an organization [wikipedia.org] that specifically was charged with getting young people ready for military service. Usually, they ran sports-related activities, like parachute jumping or shooting ranges (both funfair-style and for sports like biathlon), but I wouldn't be surprised if the same outfit sponsored some of the arcades, especially in smaller towns.

Re:Good thinking on their part (1)

Ryn (9728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19436641)

Pfft, so what if things got carried away a little in the 50s. Russian scientists were on par or even better than pretty much all other scientists, so what if communistic doctrine got in a way a little. An anti-aircraft missile doesn't fly using Marxist philosophy, so KB had to get it right regardless of their party standing.

So what's the problem with DOSAAF?
We also used to have some very basic weapons training in school. When I was in 3rd grade, I learned to take apart and clean an AK-47 as well as shoot a .22 rifle. This was happening in every school, and at that age it was one of the coolest things you'd do in school. I fail to see the problem.

So what if DOSAAF prepared kids for military service? Everyone had to go through it. The military was always on a lookout for talented kids. Basically they didn't wait until you were done with boot camp to find out if you had any special talents army could have used, they "recruited" you before you even went in. If you had some kind of Junior's rank in hand to hand combat like sambo, you were likely going into special forces. If you were good at hockey, you were likely to go into "sportivnaya rota" (sports platoon) and from there you basically went on to play for USSR National hockey team (yes, they were all officers of the red army, but hockey for them was their job, not marching with Ak47 or jumping out of airplanes).

No problem with DOSAAF, just a comment (1)

biohack (955639) | more than 7 years ago | (#19437053)

The parent noted

It is interesting, however, that "military manuals" had to find an "serious" justification for the video games.

So I offered a couple of possible reasons for both of the "interesting" aspects, in a way of background information for Slashdot readers who didn't learn how to disassemble AK47 in school. Sure, DOSAAF was useful for many kids, the militarism notwithstanding. But as most people outside of the former Soviet block had never heard about that organization, I figured it was worth mentioning as a possible connection to the "military style" manuals.

Re:Good thinking on their part (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#19435629)

On the subject of military manuals: Looking through the pictures on Wired it appears that the manuals actually included full electrical schematics for each of the games... I'd be curious if this group plans on scanning and hosting these online. I know I'd be very interested in recreating some of these games, or at very least taking a peek at how they were built.

Re:Good thinking on their part (2, Insightful)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428753)

Does that explain America's entertainment industry?

Re:Good thinking on their part (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 7 years ago | (#19437321)

It may not have been meant to, but it surely succeeded in creating a generation of morons.

Slashdotters excepted, of course. You must be brilliant if you're reading this.

Re:Good thinking on their part (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429817)

Just like in the US? The only difference is that, in the US, we're much more "entertained" than soviets ever were. So are we that much more easily controlled? Is it not exploited by the powers that be?Qu7

Question is, would you have it any other way? I mean, being entertained.

-matthew

Re:Good thinking on their part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19429947)

> Just like in the US? The only difference is that, in the US, we're much more "entertained" than soviets ever were. So are we that
> much more easily controlled?

You're that much fatter, of course.

You have to understand, though (4, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#19431321)

You have to understand, though, that in the USSR the state controlled and owned everything. So it's only natural that all services were also owned and paid-for by the state.

If enough people wanted to dance, the state built some discos. If enough people wanted to drink, the state built bars and vodka distilleries. (Though they did try to curb alcohol consumption too.) If people wanted to go to the beach on vacation, the state built some hotels near a beach. If people wanted to see movies, the state built cinemas and TV stations, and paid some directors and actors to make movies. Etc.

The fact that you get those from some private companies, while they got them from state-owned companies, isn't necessarily some sinister conspiracy. It's just the way a state-owned economy is supposed to work: it essentially does the same things, but via companies owned by the state.

Some of them aren't even just part of some "keeping the population happy" plan. (Although even then, I see nothing fundamentally wrong with a government wanting to raise the standard of living of its citizens. You wouldn't mind it too much if your government cared about that, would you?)

They're also part of the idea that the "soviet socialist" economy, at least in Lenin's view, wasn't supposed to be _that_ different from a capitalist free-market society. They never got to the utopian part where everyone gets according to their needs, so it was still based on money, like in the west. The economy was still supposed to be match supply and demand, and it was still supposed to keep the money circulating, etc. The only difference was supposed to be that it's the state who does that matching (e.g., by building another car factory if demand for cars outstrips supply by too much), and in a carefully planned way.

Now that planning never actually worked too well, but that was at least the idea(l).

At any rate, they were still supposed to give people some stuff to spend their money on, and preferrably the same things a private company would have offered. (Or at least those things which weren't against the communist ideals.) So basically if they paid someone X rubles per month, they still had to offer the possibilities to spend that money on, and hopefully those would also be the things that people actually want. At least theoretically, anyway.

What I'm getting at is that it really made just as much sense for them to let people blow their coins on arcade games, as it made in the USA. From a simple economic point of view, if there's enough demand for X, it makes sense to take people's money by creating a supply. And it made just as much sense in the USSR as in the USA. Just because that money gets back into the state's pocket, doesn't mean that it doesn't want them back eventually.

Now, as I was saying, they weren't too good at that planning part, and the economy went increasingly off the intended track. But you don't have to assume conspiracies where it's just that, well, they just hadn't figured out a way for it to work without the money circulating like in any other market. For better or worse, they still had to play a pseudo-capitalism game.

Re:You have to understand, though (1)

erlenic (95003) | more than 7 years ago | (#19436249)

You wouldn't mind it too much if your government cared...

Actually, I've typically found that to be the problem. I'd rather the government just stay the hell out of my life instead of trying to fix it.

Re:You have to understand, though (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#19442725)

The fact that you get those from some private companies, while they got them from state-owned companies, isn't necessarily some sinister conspiracy. It's just the way a state-owned economy is supposed to work: it essentially does the same things, but via companies owned by the state.
That may be the intent, but I can assure you that only a true capitalist economy could come up with "Chocolate Chip" variety Pancakes and Sausage on a stick [teamsugar.com] .

And what's worse is that if the Soviets had ever seen anything like that under communism, they'd have wanted it too. It takes the sheer evil of capitalism to create such crap *and* make people want it. :-/

wow... (3, Informative)

Endymion (12816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428067)

I played some of those when I was staying in Moscow in... when was it... '92?

They had "sniper-2" (with the moving circular targets) and the yellow one with the atari 2600 style Pole Position clone at the hotel...

Though, they charged us 2 ruble for a game, not the 15 kopeck one of the pictures shows. I guess that's what happens when capitalism runs in or something.

They were pretty fun for a computer-geek traveling in Russia at the time...

Re:wow... (1)

Gropo (445879) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428487)

They had "sniper-2" (with the moving circular targets) and the yellow one with the atari 2600 style Pole Position clone at the hotel...
NICE yeah, I was on a student tour in '87, in Moscow we stayed at the PIONIR (Ruskie boy/girlscouts) hotel and in the lobby they had the sniping game.. and another I can't recall.

Being 13 at the time they really left a hollow feeling in my soul... Like so-much-so I couldn't bring myself to try one. Of course this was pre-Glasnost so there wasn't any "oh-ho-ho those crazy commies" vibe to them. It was what their idea of 'fun'. Pretty sure they were in the low-kopek range to play at that point, yeah ;D

Re:wow... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428489)

I remember "Deer Hunt" arcade.

Ahh, nostalgia...

15 kopecks... (1)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19430889)

I guess that's what happens when capitalism runs in or something.

Actually, just a first-hand price point for you: 15 kopecks at my time (about 1980) was what it took to play a round of a game OR get about half a pound brick of *good* icecream (cheaper ones started at 7). As you can imagine, it was sometimes quite a tough choice for us kids, but when we were lucky we would eat our icecream AND play couple rounds too.

Try getting icecream in the US for a quarter, and you would realize that those arcade games were actually considered quite a luxiry at the time. I do not remember if in 1992 you could get an icecream for 2 roubles either! :)

Of course we would have to sneak into a movie theater (where machines were installed), giving our word to the old lady that no, we are not going to stay for the movie, especially since it started 40 minutes ago and who would want to see it from the middle! :)

Paul B.

Re:15 kopecks... (1)

Endymion (12816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19431541)

I guess that was my point...

when I was there it was during the rapid-inflation that happened in the "new capitalism" of the 90s. I believe when I arrived it was 105 Ruble/Dollar, and when I left about 4 weeks later it was 145.

In fact, it was quite the striking thing to see such rapid inflation in person. Anybody would do anything for hard currency (USD, mainly), as it was so obvious the ruble was falling through the floor.

A lot happened in the that 10+ year period...

Re:15 kopecks... (1)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19431865)

Anybody would do anything for hard currency (USD, mainly)

People would do prettu much anything for hard currency in 70s and 80s too (I suspect for longer, but this is the time span I personally talk about). Another (less enterntaining than icecream to arcade game price ratio) datapoint for you: black market trading of "sufficiently large" amounts of hard currency in Soviet times (on ~$10K scale, I think) was considered "economic sabotage" and was punishable by death.

"Official" $/rouble rate in 80s was $4/rouble, but it was a very special, "golden" rouble (which no normal person ever saw, unless they worked abroad, where they were paid in the paper equivalent of that). Street rate was the other way around, like 6 roubles/$ -- here is your factor of 24 discrepancy even in the hight of Soviet rule.

And, of course, russian (vodka :) ) equivalent of a "crack whore" was just a prostitute, but os an "escort" would be "hard currency prostitute", a character almost respected by "normal" people! :-/

Before you get me started on the necessity of switching back to gold-backed currency and real reasons of the decline of Soviet Union in the 80s (oil prices going down), I better go...

Paul B.

Re:15 kopecks... (1)

ringm000 (878375) | more than 7 years ago | (#19433001)

Your rates are severely overestimated. Official was .62rub/dollar (not sure about precision... something like that, not .25) and black market rate was more like 2-3rub/dollar. Nevertheless, a factor of about 4 makes some serious difference. A Russian equivalent of a crack whore was a plumber/electrician/any-person-who-provided-any-se rvice-to-you, tending to prefer vodka as a hard currency (due to 1980s semi-prohibition).

Re:15 kopecks... (1)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19433675)

did you grow up there? I did... :)

Of course "tips" to plumbers and such were given in vodka, but it was long before Gorby's 85 attempt to curb drinking. During that it was more of a really valuable tip, considering that you'd get a ration of a bottle per family member per month... As to plain cs. hard currency whores, I did mean it literally! :)

Paul B.

Re:15 kopecks... (1)

ringm000 (878375) | more than 7 years ago | (#19434173)

Sure I did, though it looks I've already got infected with this spelling/rate/etc Nazi Slashdot Imperialist virus. Those rates I remember pretty well. Also, I remeber that stupid idea of a "hard currencly rouble" - "invalutny rubl'", which you could use to buy some imported goods you could not buy for regular rubles.

Probably I was younger than you at those times, so I'm not sure about the longstanding tradition of tipping with vodka... I was only 7 in 1985. However, what I remember pretty well is traveling in the Arkhangelsk region countryside in 1996. Alcohol still remained hard currency there, even though it was easily accessible in cities. Almost 100% of those who lived in the countryside were alcoholics. Whatever alcohol you could buy there was extremely low-quality and toxic, and even that was still hard to get. Whenever you offered money to people (for their services or for some produce you bought from farmers, etc), they suggested that you'd better go and try buying some vodka instead. That was terrible... And I'm not sure anything has changed.

COOL! (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428119)

I love arcade machine... as well as old soviet tech. so this stuff is very interesting to me.

The note about there being no high score list on any of them I think was rather intriguing. it kind of falls in line with the whole communism ideal. Also interesting that these were (at least in some cases) distributed by the military. I wonder if they were also developed by the military.

Re:COOL! (2, Funny)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428329)

I wonder if that means the Star League recruited some Russians as well...

Re:COOL! (1)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428539)

You, I and probably a dozen or so people will get that reference on the first try, kudos. What do you mean "theoretically?"

Re:COOL! (1)

SparkyFlooner (1090661) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429207)

Centauri rules. Go Alyx!

Re:COOL! (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 7 years ago | (#19430657)

Oh comeon, Last Starfighter isn't THAT obscure amongst /. readers. ... is it?

Re:COOL! (3, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429245)

I wonder if that means the Star League recruited some Russians as well...

The problem was, they ended up contacting a Russian Jew, and Kohan sounded too much like Kodan, so they blew him up.

(Just needed one more reason to burn in hell)

Re:COOL! (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#19430019)

"The note about there being no high score list on any of them I think was rather intriguing. it kind of falls in line with the whole communism ideal."
It probably was more that memory was expensive. To have a high score list you needed ram plus more ROM space for the game code. Both where probably at a premium.
Or it could be that they didn't use a CPU at all so a high score list would have been less than useful.
Or it they didn't see any point since the games would lose the list when they where powered down at night.
I doubt it had anything to do with communist ideals.

Re:COOL! (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#19435765)

Normally I'd agree but TFA noted that NONE of the machines featured a high score. I would think that at least _ONE_ of them would unless it was a mandated "feature" to not include one. Particularly considering that most of these machines are electro-mechanical as opposed to the modern "video" arcade machines. Heck even US and Japanese video arcades in the early days didn't save the scores when the power went out.

It just seems particularly odd because unlike modern games where you either compete directly against another player or work to unveil a storyline classics like this were all worked on the motivation of using your skill to get the highest score possible. Not saving or even displaying the high score just seems too vital a feature to have left out for technical reason... even stranger when you consider it was left out on every game made mechanical or video.

Looking through the pictures on wired it would seem the manuals included full schematics for the game, I really hope these guys plan on scanning and publishing them online... some eprom dumps (where applicable) would be sweet too.

Did they have Global Thermo-Nuclear War? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19428319)

No? How about tic-tac-toe?

Sniper 2 (1)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428323)

I thought it funny that the only gun related game wasn't even violent. All you do is shoot at little round targets. Of course everyone and their vodka drinking dog had an AK-47 so I guess they just shot bottles, cans and capitalists for their shooting games.

Re:Sniper 2 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19429297)

Of course everyone and their vodka drinking dog had an AK-47 so I guess they just shot bottles, cans and capitalists...


Wow ... You are a trash action comic book author or what?

No high scores (5, Funny)

riskeetee (1039912) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428671)

Because under Communism, everyone is equal.

Re:No high scores (1)

Elsan (914644) | more than 7 years ago | (#19436325)

No. Everyone is equal.

Re:No high scores (1)

macmastery (600662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19436437)

But some people are more equal than others.

MAME (4, Interesting)

SoCalEd (842421) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428719)

Wonder if there are any MAME Dev's around here....

Re:MAME (2, Informative)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428899)

most of them were mechanical. Hard to emulate a moving steel plate.

They were fun BTW. Lots of lights and good art on the ships and explosions, sure beat pong's graphics.

Will we see these on MAME any time soon? (2, Interesting)

British (51765) | more than 7 years ago | (#19428931)

Probably not, as I'm betting a lot of it is dedicated circuits and stuff. I love the fact one of the pictures has those vacuum tube score readouts, while another has a mechanical one! Still, would love one or 2 in my basement.

No high score tables, huh? Well, I guess with communism you could just have a list of all the players with the same scores.

It's like all the jokes about Soviet technology being behind ours came to life in video game form. Still, I'd love to try some of the cruder video games.

I know MAME supports some game that was found in East Germany with no copyright that is a set of games. They look like early-80s CGA text mode games for DOS.

Re:Will we see these on MAME any time soon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19430999)

Konek-Gorbunok runs on MAME. Look it up. ;)

Memories... (1)

E-Sabbath (42104) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429177)

Has anyone seen ANY of these in MAME? My emigre' co-worker just blew his lid when he saw them. He hasn't seen these in twenty years.

Re:Memories... (1)

ringm000 (878375) | more than 7 years ago | (#19433105)

http://www.mameworld.net/maws/romset/konek [mameworld.net] (that's one of the latest ones; however, most of them were mechanical or semi-mechanical so there's no option of mame emulation).

Re:Memories... (1)

E-Sabbath (42104) | more than 7 years ago | (#19435381)

You are a god among men. A Stalin poster-styled towering figure.

Wired is late again... (2, Informative)

TwistedSpring (594284) | more than 7 years ago | (#19429555)

The Moscow Times had this [themoscowtimes.com] last month. Better pictures at Wired, though.

For those hardcores with a taste for Cyrillic, the Museum's website is www.15kop.ru [15kop.ru]

Those in the UK could see some of these games at Swindon's Museum of Computing, as this BBC article [bbc.co.uk] from 2004 states. Not sure if they're still there.

Preserving them for when their machines fully die. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19430957)

I hope they dump the roms as a backup measure. It seemed like there weren't many replacement parts.

Re:Preserving them for when their machines fully d (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19436295)

ROMs?

Lack of originality? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19431023)

Article about Alexander Zaitchik about Alexander Stakhanov and Alexander Vucman.

No wonder baby name books sell poorly over there.
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