Nintendo's "Duck Hunt," and other shooters. . .

Ok. Remember “Duck Hunt?” It was the old Nintendo game where you shot at ducks with that special Nintendo gun. You point at a duck on the screen with the gun, pull the trigger, and the duck dies. My question is this: How the hell did that (or any similar) game work? I can’t imagine that the TV read the signal from the gun and sent it to the Nintendo, since no TV would be designed to do that. So it must have something to do with the reflection off of the TV and back to the gun. The problem is that the gun was just as accurate (and inaccurate) at 2 feet as it was at 1 inch. Wouldn’t the fact that the gun was not held at uniform angles or distances affect the various reflections?

Of course, this was a long time ago for me. I haven’t played Duck Hunt since I was about 9, so I may be mistaken about the accuracy . . . but I don’t think so. Thanks.

Duck hunt worked by having a white dot that traveld to fast for you to see move across the screen. The sensor in the gun would pick up that dot if you were pointed in the proper direction. I never quite understood why the gun wasn’t more accurate at greater distances (more likely to view the dot) or less (less likely to view it because of it’s smaller size). All I knew was that if no one was watching, I could turn the contrast and brightness on the TV all the way up anf I would hit the duck (which I couldn’t see, I had to rely on sound) everytime as long I was even remotely pointed at the tv. Then if someone was coming, I’d quickly turn the levels to normal and amaze them with my ability.

They suspected I was cheating (because I was horrible when anyone was wathing) but they never figured out why.

It’s not that the TV read a signal off the gun; rather, the gun read a signal off the screen.

When you pull the trigger, a square around the ducks (or discs, if you were trap shooting) flashed to bright white- that’s what the gun saw; just a momentary burst of light surrounding the target. The gun picked that up, and you got your kill.

I don’t remember any other games on the 8-bit NES that used the light gun… anyone have memories?

When you pull the trigger, the ducks are replaced by white squares against a black background. This all happens super-fast, so your eyes don’t pick up on it. If you are aiming at the duck, the gun will pick up the white square and register a “hit.”

There’s some sort of millisecond delay so that the unit can tell which duck you were aiming at when shooting.

When you adjusted the contrast on your screen, you essentially “fooled” the gun/unit into thinking it had the small white square in its sights.

BTW, arcade shoot-em ups have better/fancier processors and better optics, enabling more moving objects to be shot at and actually will register where your shot hits. This is done by the aforementioned white square zipping across the top of the screen, moving down slightly and zipping across again (repeat until dot is at bottom right of screen). The faster processors enable all this to happen without you noticing anything but a slight “flash.”

Alright, I understand. Thanks everyone, that had been bugging me for a while.

Oh, and KiethT, how about Hogan’s Alley?

and “To The Earth”, kinda like the Tailgunner computer game.


The guns work in exactly the same way as light pens as used in many precise graphics / CAD applications. I built myself a light pen, many years ago, for a 6502 based micro using a simple light sensor.

As the raster dot travels over the screen, a couple of registers are updated in memory recording the current position. When the light sensor (gun, pen, whatever) detects the raster dot, you can retrieve the screen position from memory. For shooting games, you define a fairly large target area around your duck, for CAD applications, you can use the exact location.

You can test this yourself by pointing the gun away from the screen, and flashing a light or another TV at it - sometimes you will appear to hit the ducks if you flash the light at the right time.

I remember one of those stupid gun-romanticizing games on an old, old pre-Atari machine. Am I just dreaming this up, or was this procedure possible that long ago?

search there or here for ‘light gun’

There were DEFINITELY games in arcades that involved drawing and shooting some sort of light activated (I assume they were light activated) guns. I know I saw these types of games long before Nintendo Duck Hunt ever came out–possibly as early as the mid to late 70s. Generally, the graphics were crappy by comparison to the Duck Hunt game, and I have no idea how the technology worked.

[hijack] I had a friend who was rich (translation: he had a job in high school, so he could afford to spend tons of money on video games. I, by comparison had a $2 per week allowance). He could afford to pour quarters into video games without reading the rules.

He once played Nintendo Duck Hunt. Missed the first duck, and his hunting dog started laughing.

He then empties his gun into the animated hunting dog. Game over. Length of game: less than 10 seconds.

Years later, I still get a laugh whenever I see reference to Nintendo Duck Hunt. [/hijack]

I do remember being awazed that I could shoot ducks off of a reflection in a mirror. Now that I know how it works it makes sense. Still a neat trick though.

Ah, yes… criminals in the windows of a brick building, right?

This is a slight hijack, but I remember around 1988, Nintendo offered its system with a triple game pack - Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet, and included the Power Pad, a large vinyl mat on which you ran in place. I only used it once at a friend’s house, but we cheated, of course; it was so much easier run with my hands!

And while we’re on the subject of wacky peripherals…what the hell was R.O.B.? I got a Nintendo around '92, so I’m afraid it was a little before my time.

Duck Hunt, Hogans Alley and Inspector Gumshoe where the only shootem ups (AFAIK)

R.O.B. was a joystick that helped you cheat in certain games. It sucked.

Actually there were quite a few more gun games than the three. In addition to the ones mentioned above, I remember my brother owning a paintball themed game where you mvoed across the screen to capture a flag while shooting people before they shoot you first.

And I think the R.O.B. discussed above was the Robotic Operated Buddy (I think that is the name) where you played games and he moved around and spun and/or stacked disks. It was basically a $100 accessory for which one or two games were made.

To clarify, Tommy, R.O.B. stands for Robot Operating Buddy.

He could be used for only two games: Gyromite and Stack-Up. Playing with R.O.B. was/is a chore at best, you control R.O.B. who in turn controls the game. Weird, no?

NES Shooting games off the top of my head:
Bayou Billy (a few levels)
Duck Hunt
Freedom Force
Hogan’s Alley
Wild Gunman

R.O.B. was the worst invention ever. But ironically enough, Gyromite was a fabulous game, if you played it without R.O.B. Me and a friend paired up playing this game for hours on end. Pretty tough, actually.