Probably, it is their exactingly high level of difficulty that has created their near cult-following status. When you get in the groove with one of these games, it is an achievement and an addictive rush not soon forgotten.
Probably, that explains why, over three decades later, these Williams games are four of our most popular products:
- Defender / Defender II Upright,
- Defender / Stargate Cocktail,
- Multi Williams Upright, and
- Multi Williams Cocktail.
The difficulty derives from the high level of manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination required to play either game - Defender or Stargate.
You see, both of your hands are required to operated multiple controls simultaneously.
For your left hand -
- A two-way up-down joystick is moved with the palm of your hand.
- While the Reverse button is operated with your left thumb.
For your right hand -
- The control buttons are arranged in an arch-like shape for both Defender and Stargate.
- For Defender, there are four buttons, but for Stargate, there are five.
- The buttons (left to right) - Hyperspace, Inviso (Stargate), Smart Bomb, Thrust, and Fire.
So, it is very important (for your muscle memory) that the arrangement of the controls are as close as possible to their original control panel overlay (CPO) layout.
For comparison purposes, following is a review of the several CPO layouts - from the originals to our interpretation of those originals.
And, in two additional sections below, there is info about two other important machine components - the joystick and the monitor.
There are three sections:
A. The control panel overlay (CPO) layout (the arrangement of the controls).
B. The joystick and Reverse button.
C. The monitor.
A. The control panel overlay (CPO) layout:
(A-1) Defender upright original size CPO -
This is the controls layout that we follow exactly for our upright machines shown in this (no. 1) and in sections no. 5 and 6.
The controls layout for our cocktail machines, nos. 7 and 8, are only very slightly modified to compensate for the smaller size control panel.
Our new Defender machine, with original size CPO, $1895 -
(A-2) Stargate upright original size CPO -
Stargate adds a 6th button, the red "Inviso" button in the photo.
Thus, Stargate's title as THE most difficult of all arcade video games to play.
Our new Stargate machine, with original size CPO, $1895 -
(A-3) Defender cocktail original CPO -
Notice that the Hyperspace button is moved a few inches higher in order to compensate for the less deep size of the cocktail control panel compared to the upright control panel. And, the left and right hand controls are a few inches closer.
Our new cocktail machines (nos. 7 and 8) are built with larger control panels that allow the controls to be spaced much more like the original upright controls layout.
Original Defender cocktail machine -
(A-4) Williams Multigame upright original CPO -
This layout replaces the Defender two-way up-down joystick with an eight-way joystick.
This is not an acceptable substitution for true Defender players. An eight-way joystick does not behave (control) the way as does a two-way up-down joystick.
Example machine built using the Williams Multigame CPO -
(A-5) Defender / Defender II (Stargate), our new upright CPO -
Features the original Defender look and layout, but with the sixth Stargate button correctly added.
Our new Defender / Defender II (Stargate) upright machine, with our correct CPO, $1995 -
(A-6) Ultra Multi Williams upright, features a correct Defender layout -
Correct controls and correctly arranged for Defender, Stargate, Joust, and Robotron: 2084. (Better than the Williams Multigame CPO layout.)
Our new Ultra Multi Williams machine, with our correct layout, $2095 -
Plays 15 classic Williams games, with option for 2 more.
(A-7) Ultra Multi Williams cocktail, with our correct layout, $2295 -
Plays over 400 games end-to-end, and 7 classic Williams games at the side control panel.
(A-8) Defender / Stargate cocktail, with our correct layout, $1495 -
B. The joystick and Reverse button.
The joystick and Reverse button specs are a critical element of Defender play.
The Defender two-way up-down joystick does not function quite the way the four-way joystick functions for Ms. Pac-Man.
In Defender, you do not hold and guide the joystick with your fingers, as you do when playing Ms. Pac-Man. Instead, you cup the ball of the joystick in the palm of your LEFT hand for moving the ship up or down.
Then, you operate the Reverse button with your LEFT thumb to reverse the ship's direction.
Meaning that the ball height of the joystick is critical for allowing your LEFT hand and LEFT thumb to simultaneously operate their separate controls (joystick and Reverse button) quickly, smoothly, and comfortably.
Here is a photo showing the original Defender joystick ball height.
Notice that the top of the ball is only about 1-3/4 inches above the control panel. The short distance allows your LEFT thumb to quickly operate the white Reverse button.
Further, the clearance between the bottom of the ball and the control panel is less than 1/2 inch. (While the typical Ms. Pac-Man style joystick ball-to-panel clearance is over 1 inch.)
Also, notice the relative position and close proximity of the white Reverse button to the joystick. Again, this exact relationship between the joystick and button allows the LEFT thumb to quickly operate the button.
The distance between the center of the joystick ball and the center of the Reverse button is 2-1/4 inches.
And last, the throw (travel) of the joystick is 1-1/4 inch, which is about the same as classic game joysticks of the period.
All of these specs are the same joystick and Reverse button dimensions, that we observe when building all of our new machines described in section "A" above.
C. The monitor.
The monitor is also important - obsolete CRT versus modern LCD.
We use only 22" or 24" or 27" (depending on cabinet size) black flat-screen LCD/LED IPS professional monitors in our new machines.
In case you did not know, the Defender game images look absolutely fantastic on a black flat-screen LCD/LED monitor. Way better than you ever saw on Defender's now obsolete (white) CRT monitor.
Here are some Defender screen photos of a 27" LCD/LED monitor, take a look -