9 Things You Might Not Know About Defender

by Ryan Lambie

When Defender arrived in arcades back in 1980, nothing looked or sounded quite like it. The controls had a steep learning curve, and its shooting action was intense and relentlessly difficult. Yet Defender's boldness made it stand out in arcades full of Space Invaders clones, and gamers quickly fell in love with it.

Created by a designer pushing the boundaries of early '80s technology, Defender's development wasn't without its drama. Here's a look at Defender's making and its lasting effect on the games industry.

1. DEFENDER WAS WILLIAMS'S FIRST PROPER, ORIGINAL ARCADE GAME.

With its foundations tracing back to the 1940s, American company Williams specialized in making pinball machines. When Pong ushered in a new age of electronic games in the 1970s, Williams knew it had to break into the same market, but its first attempt was tentative, to say the least: 1973's Paddle Ball was, for the most part, a straight replica of Pong's bat-and-ball action. Fortunately, a young programmer named Eugene Jarvis had a more pioneering spirit.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY SPACE INVADERS AND CHESS.

Jarvis joined Williams in the late 1970s, where he initially worked on the software for the company's pinball machines—titles included Airborne Avenger, Gorgar, and Laser Ball. But even as those machines were making their way into arcades, they were being roundly upstaged by a new game on the block—the coin-guzzling shooter, Space Invaders. The game immediately inspired Jarvis to make his own sci-fi shooter, though one which also took in the vector graphics of the seminal Spacewar (a game he'd played while in college) and a hint of chess. He wanted his game, he later told WIRED, to be a "rich, tactical and strategic experience."

3. THE TITLE CAME FROM A 1960s TV SHOW.

As Jarvis's ideas for his game began to develop—and it moved further and further away from the straight "blast the aliens" scenario popularized by Space Invaders—he began to think about an objective that involved rescue and defense rather than straight-up shooting. And early on, he adopted the name Defender, derived from the '60s courtroom drama series, The Defenders.

"I kind of liked that show," Jarvis said in Steven Kent's book, The Ultimate History Of Video Games. "You know, if you're defending something, you're being attacked, and you can do whatever you want."

4. IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SIDE-SCROLLING GAMES.

Jarvis and his small team of programmers and designers, which included Larry DeMar and Sam Dicker, worked up a game design which, for its time, was hugely ambitious. Back then, most games took place on a single, static screen. What Jarvis proposed was a game which scrolled smoothly and rapidly along a map that was far larger than the display. At the top of the screen, a small mini map showed the player's current position. Both ideas were groundbreaking, and the mini map is a ubiquitous design feature in the games of today.

5. IT WAS COMPLETED JUST IN TIME FOR AN IMPORTANT TRADE SHOW.

As months of development passed, Jarvis was put under increasing pressure to get Defender finished in time for a trade show called the Amusement and Music Operators Association Expo. Jarvis worked feverishly to meet the deadline, but on the evening before the trade show, he had a horrifying realization: the game lacked an attract mode—the demo designed to show would-be customers how the game looks in action. An all-night coding session began, which, following another terror-inducing moment where the game refused to load up properly, the finished Defender was ready on the morning of the expo.

6. PLAYERS WERE INITIALLY INTIMIDATED.

Defender cut a strange and unnerving figure at the AMOA trade show. Where most games of the time had a joystick and one button, Defender had a joystick and five buttons—something which, Jarvis later suggested, left some people wary of even trying it. At first, though, Jarvis wasn't concerned, saying in an interview on the Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits game disc that the team was "proud that it intimidated everyone."

7. IT BECAME ONE OF THE HIGHEST-GROSSING GAMES OF THE GOLDEN AGE.

Everything changed when Defender appeared in arcades. Williams's first game of the '80s was also its biggest, selling 55,000 cabinets and reportedly making more than $1 billion in revenue. Players, it seems, couldn't get enough of Defender's speed, color, and sheer challenge.

8. A STRANGE BUG OCCURS WHEN YOU SCORE 990,000 POINTS

While Defender became famous for its vertical difficulty level, a certain breed of gamer rose to the challenge. The game's most dedicated players even discovered a bug: reach 990,000 points, and an error in the game's algorithm results in a sudden shower of extra lives and smart bombs. Yet even the bug added to Defender's absorbing challenge; as Jarvis told US Gamer, "Some of the richest elements of Defender [...] were bugs, things that I never even in my wildest imagination could have coded."

9. IT'S STILL INFLUENTIAL TODAY.

Defender's groundbreaking design paved the way for an entire generation of scrolling shooters, including Jarvis's 1981 sequel Stargate, Konami's Gradius series, and many more. Even today, Defender continues to inspire 21st-century game designers. Finnish developer Housemarque's side-scrolling shooter Resogun draws directly on the mechanics in Defender. In 2017, Jarvis teamed up with Housemarque to develop the game Nex Machina, which released to overwhelmingly positive reviews.

More than 30 years later, Defender's audacious design is still making an impact.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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10 Killer Facts About The Evil Dead

Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead (1981).
Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead (1981).
New Line Cinema

From Peter Jackson to Edgar Wright, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead has influenced many of today’s biggest directors. As it should. Famous for its practical effects and then-unprecedented amount of gore, the campy 1981 horror flick—about a group of friends who travel to a cabin in the woods and unleash killer demons—showed the world the power of guerilla-style indie filmmaking.

Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and producer Robert Tapert fought through no CGI, sticky cocktails of blood made from everyday household items, and the reluctance of major studios to get on board to make a cult classic that has since spawned two sequels, Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992); an Army of Darkness video game; a 2013 remake; Ash vs. Evil Dead, a TV series that ran for three seasons on Starz; and an upcoming fifth movie, Evil Dead Rise, that is planning to start production in 2021.

Get to know more about every cinephile’s favorite horror-comedy with this list of things you might not know about the production.

1. The Evil Dead was based on Sam Raimi’s short film, Within The Woods.

Before getting to work on The Evil Dead, good friends Robert Tapert, Sam Raimi, and Bruce Campbell created the 30-minute Super 8 film, Within the Woods. In a 1982 interview with John Gallagher, Raimi—who was 20 when he shot The Evil Dead—explained, “We used [Within the Woods] to show the investors what kind of film they’d be buying into … They needed tangible proof that we could make a movie of professional quality.”

On why the trio chose to make a horror film in the first place, producer Robert Tapert told The Incredibly Strange Film Show, “Sam and I first decided to do horror films after doing research on what did well in the markets ... Horror is the entry level that most people use.”

2. Joel Coen got his first break as an assistant editor on The Evil Dead.

Before becoming the Oscar-winning filmmaking duo he and his brother Ethan are today, Joel Coen got his start as an assistant editor on The Evil Dead. Inspired by Raimi’s DIY filmmaking, Joel and his brother created a pitch trailer (much like Raimi’s Within the Woods) to raise money for their first feature, Blood Simple. While Dan Hedaya stars in the final film, Bruce Campbell plays the lead in the two-minute trailer.

3. The Evil Dead, which is famous for its practical effects, even used real, live ammunition.

The meager budget on The Evil Dead didn’t allow for any star accouterments. As Bruce Campbell detailed to DVD talk, among the many hellish situations the cast and crew dealt with were diving into freezing cold swamps and Raimi getting chased by a bull. “We are going to rural Tennessee, 1979, where there's moonshine, squatters, and it was the real deal,” said Campbell. “The south was the south in 1979. There was no franchise this or franchise that. It was a completely different world and mentality ... We used real ammunition in the shotgun and we shot it at a real cabin in the woods, with hunters and howling dogs in the background.”

4. The Evil Dead’s infamous melting corpse is made up of everything from oatmeal to cockroaches.

Conscious of toeing the line of MPAA ratings, make-up and visual effects supervisor Tom Sullivan used different colors of goo to keep the body from seeming like it was spewing real blood. “I wanted to make it seem like their biology actually changed,” said Sullivan during the film’s 30th anniversary reunion, hosted by Spooky Empire. Among the many ingredients used to concoct the mush coming out of the melting corpse’s skull, Sullivan cites oatmeal, snakes, guts made out of marshmallow strings, and Madagascar cockroaches, which they acquired at Michigan State University.

5. Sam Raimi worked himself so hard on The Evil Dead that he passed out during filming.

Ellen Sandweiss in The Evil Dead (1981).Anchor Bay Entertainment

At Spooky Empire’s reunion, Bart Pierce, who worked on the visual effects of the film, noted just how much filming took a toll on Sam Raimi. As his story goes, Raimi fainted during the shooting of the film’s dismemberment sequence. The director stayed up all night shooting, and wrote all day, basically working himself 24/7. To wake him up, the crew took an ice-cold bucket of water and threw it at him, and left him there until he regained consciousness.

6. Everything in The Evil Dead was real—even the drugs.

Bruce Campbell has said it before: everything was real during filming. At a Spooky Empire event, Campbell playfully recalled, “The illegal substance known as marijuana was somehow forced upon us in Tennessee ... I was forced to ingest this marijuana by a local reprobate and I therefore became, let’s just say, affected by THC ... I therefore lost any sense of time and where I was, and that’s the time that Sam Raimi decided that he needed to shoot Ash having a breakdown.”

7. The Morristown, Tennessee cabin where The Evil Dead was shot has its own real-life horror story.

Adding to the spookiness of filming at an actual cabin in the woods, Raimi noted the location’s inherent eeriness is completely justified. During an interview with John Gallagher, Raimi recounted a horror story involving three generations of women (a grandmother, mother, and daughter) who previously occupied the cabin. “One night, during a thunderstorm, this little girl woke up and was scared by the lightning happening around the cabin. She ran into her mother’s room and pulling back the covers climbing into bed with her, she found that her mother was dead. She was so frightened she ran into her grandmother’s room and somehow that same evening, she had died also,” Raimi recalled. “The little girl ran into the storm ... to this little farmhouse and [the family living there] found her screaming and banging on the doors. They took care of her after that and no one lived in the cabin since. The [little girl], who’s now an old woman, during thunderstorms after that ... would often be found wandering around the woods.”

The kicker, however, was that story came to life during the film’s shoot. Raimi continued, “As we were shooting, this fella [from the farmhouse that took in the little girl] was looking for the [now old] woman, saying that because there was a thunderstorm the night before, he was looking for this woman, because it was possible that she had returned to the cabin ... As far as we know, they never found [her.]”

8. The most difficult moments during The Evil Dead shoot were stopping for months at a time to raise money.

According to Sam Raimi, the most difficult part of production wasn't the physical toll it took on the crew, but that they'd have to stop filming for months at a time to raise more money. “We’d reach stretches where we’d run out of money and have to stop whatever we were doing and put on our suits and get our briefcases and cut our hair short and shave ... and go around knocking on doors asking for more money," Raimi recalled. On initially raising money for the film, Raimi told the Incredibly Strange Film Show, “Tapert, Bruce Campbell, and myself ... all dropped out of school. Then we worked as waiters, bus boys, cab drivers. I was 18, Bruce was 19, and Robert was 22.” Added Campbell: “We’d sit down and pretend we were businessmen. We thought it was part of the process.”

In an episode of Dinner for Five, Campbell note another lucrative source of cash: dentists. “We had one guy give us money because he didn’t go to Vegas that year. He says ‘I usually take two grand and blow it in Vegas. Well, here’s my Vegas money.’ So he sends me 17 times his money. We were pretty happy about that.”

9. Sam Raimi regrets the infamous The Evil Dead scene where a teen girl is assaulted in—and by—the woods.

The initial release of the film was met with plenty of backlash worldwide, including being banned in Finland, Germany, Ireland, and Iceland for its extreme violence. Beyond the excessive blood, the scene in which Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) is assaulted by a tree caused an uproar among viewers and critics, and almost got the film banned from being released on home video. To this day, even Raimi regrets that scene. “It was unnecessarily gratuitous and a little too brutal,” Raimi tells the Incredibly Strange Film Show. “My goal was not to offend people ... My judgement was a little wrong at that time.”

10. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell started a rumor about an on-set injury on The Evil Dead as a joke.

Just to see who’d believe it, Campbell and Raimi spread a rumor that Campbell broke his jaw when Raimi accidentally slammed his camera into Campbell’s face while filming one of the final shots. Campbell put this rumor to rest at Dallas Comic Con, saying: “The lie that we put out was that the final shot [where] this evil entity comes racing through the cabin and crashes into my face ... The big lie is that... [Raimi] rode a motorcycle through all the doors and he just had to hit me ... I was willing to do it as long as we got [the shot], took it for the team ... But no, no broken jaw.”

This story has been updated for 2020.