View Full Version : Gaming history

29th April 2009, 14:39
As most here already know, many different projects exist and are running around the world with the express interest in trying to catalogue and collect software and games from the past for now dead systems, or for the huge back catalogues of systems like the PC. Large projects like TOSEC or Good have been running with this aim for many years now, and we have all benefited from this as others have used the dat files from these archives to create actual complete rom and ISO collections for these systems.

Some view this as just piracy, and think it shouldn't be performed as they view it as illegal. However for now dead systems, especially those from the 8bit and 16bit systems, and early 32bit consoles, many (including myself) now see this as vital to retain the software from these systems so it can still be accessible into the future as part of computing history. Otherwise some of these systems and their software will be lost to time, and in turn their contribution to the computing and gaming world along with it.

Emulation obviously goes hand in hand with this because it is not just the media the software was originally stored on that will become lost to time or degrade so much it can't be read. Hardware slowly degrades as well and eventually the original platforms will be dead and unable to be easily revived. This is especially true of systems that used proprietary drives to store their media, such as the Amiga's floppy drive, or the Dreamcast's GD-Rom drive.

Now while all of this is great for preserving the history of both gaming and computing into the future, we now have a new problem that could mean in years to come we might very well lose a huge chunk of gaming history. The problem is the internet and multiplayer games.

The most obvious to first mention is MMO style games. These require a server or they wont work. When servers are eventually shut down for a game this kills the game outright and it cannot ever be run again. The first MMO I played that this happened to was Earth and Beyond. A great space trading, combat and exploration game. After the servers were shut down that was it. Owners of the game were left with a game box and disc that had no use or ability to access the game it contained.

The next are games with extensive online functionality. Games like the Battlefield series is a good example of this. And others such as Phantasy Star Online others. For some of these the same thing happens to the online content as with MMOs. When the PSO servers were closed down for the Dreamcast game that was it. All that game content lost forever.

Some others of this type include the ability to run your own servers for multiplayer gaming. A good early example of this was Quake 3. And others include games like Freelancer. But for some they rely on the developer's servers to access the online multiplayer content, and it is these that we will lose. A recent example was the closing of the Hellgate London servers in January because the developer closed down. So that game, which is fairly new, has already lost a large chunk of its content.

The solution is obvious. Developers should make their server software available to owners of the games to be able to run the multiplayer servers for games like this from any location. This would then safeguard the full content of these games for the future.

It however isn't so easy for full MMOs. The player's PC is really just a hub connecting to the game world on the developer's servers. For this things are much more complex. But not impossible. When PSO closed down on the Dreamcast and PC, some fans of the game reverse engineered the game and build their own servers to run the multiplayer part, and it worked fine. Others are doing similar things for other games, but development isn't as far along or as successful. For Earth and Beyond some have been working on a server for a few years now, and it still isn't really anywhere need to a state capable of running the game in full.

When the servers for online games, or games with a large chunk of their content being online, get shut down, should the developers release their server software into the open source community so the game can continue?

I would like to know others views on this.

What are your thoughts on complete system software/game collections?

Do you think software and games should be collected and preserved as part of the history of gaming and of each platform?

And what about the danger of losing games over time because they rely on online content that isn't open source and is locked into the developer's servers?

29th April 2009, 20:44
Man, Harrison, that is one piece of text, I really wish I could write something on a similar intellectual level.
Well I will give it a try.

What are your thoughts on complete system software/game collections?

I myself am really in favor for the creation of libraries with details on older games and the collecting and saving of the various roms, iso's or whatever the format of the game/program is called, plus the creation of emulation software to run the programs.

I do not know how developers and publishers currently feel about games they have developed or published being preserved this way, but it is a fact that like every form of knowledge a lot of it is lost because it badly preserved or not reprinted/remade for current day machines or OS's.
It is a bit difficult to say that this can be classified as piracy, while some publishers indeed bring out older games or arcade games on online services such as Xbox live, PSN, perhaps various PC online services, a lot also isn't and as I said simply disappears.

This includes old console and home computers but also arcade cabinet games which will most likely never be released again because no profit can be made of it or a current day audience no longer exists for it. (mainstream audience that is, often still retro fan groups exists but those are considered minorities).
Another problem is that over the years publishers and developers who actually made the games have disappeared because they have either merged with other companies or have become defunct, making it unclear sometimes to who the rights belong or where the boxes with software go too.

I am not even sure if publishers/developers preserve such material even, perhaps for a while but when it takes to much space it is simply thrown away or sold/given away, leaving no information of where it went.

Perhaps in a way, after a while old games and such do become public property so to speak.
Of course that doesn't mean people can just take and use it as they see fit, but that they are in their right to preserve it for the future.

And what about the danger of losing games over time because they rely on online content that isn't open source and is locked into the developer's servers?

I find that one really difficult, but I guess sort of the same applies.

Take Electronic Arts for example, it sort of 'sits' on a large pile of franchises it gained when it bought up various publishers.
It doesn't do anything with them really, it has the 'Bioforge' license for example.
It is highly unlikely that EA will ever make a sequel or a remake of that game, but if a fan effort is started for a remake or a sequel and Electronic Arts feels it threatens their intellectual property they will send in their lawyers and close down such a project.

It has become sort of like a collectible card game, collect as much franchises as possible, don't do anything with them but do look out that no one else violates your IPs.

I am probably saying something very ridiculous, but if a company owns an IP but does nothing for them for years, say a decade, perhaps after that time the copyrights should be 'suspended'? (I don't know the right word).

30th April 2009, 22:02
I am probably saying something very ridiculous, but if a company owns an IP but does nothing for them for years, say a decade, perhaps after that time the copyrights should be 'suspended'? (I don't know the right word).

That is an interesting idea. A similar comparision could be made with companies that sit on internet domain names, but don't actually use them. This practice is now illegal in some countries, making domain parking illegal. I wonder how a court would view a similar thing being done to an IP of a game franchise. It would be interesting to find out as I don't think anyone has every challenged this in court.

Although, game IP is kind of the opposite thing to game preservation. One is maintaining the past for future reference, while the other is allowing future development to continue.

I know from contacting many ex Amiga developers that most hardly ever keep their old code, so completely lose their own old games. To me this seems quite mad. If I had a successful game I would want to keep a mint condition boxed copy of it as a reminder of the game's success. The same is also true of book authors. I contacted some authors of Amiga reference books recently to find out what the situation is with copyright on this now out of print Amiga publications, and none of the authors still had any of their original drafts of their own books.

2nd May 2009, 17:29
It brings to mind the 'Fly Fishing' by J.R. Hartley advert some years back (Man, I am showing my age now). As amusing as the advert was, it is strange to think that it was imitating real life.

Is it not possible that the code situation for developers will have come down to a copyright-related situation. Once they have sove the rights to a company to publish, effectively the code (in an assembled form) is no longer theirs to possess.

Does anybody know any decent (but cheap) lawyers.... that accept paypal???:)