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Games Entertainment

The Abandonware Question 281

Posted by michael
from the copy-that-floppy dept.
An Anonymous Coward writes: "Gamespot.com has an interesting article on abandonware games. They go so far as to seek out opinions of "game makers" with some interesting results. Some of them actually are flattered that their games have gone to that big abandonware site in the sky. Then there's Al Lowe (Leisure Suit Larry creator) who jokingly replies to the question of why gamers seek out free games, "Because they're cheap bastards, that's why! Always looking for something for free! Sucking the lifeblood out of us poor humble programmers! Now leave me alone so I can download more free pirated music!"" The first couple of pages are boring, with predictable opinions from big publishers. But it gets more interesting as you go on.
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The Abandonware Question

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  • Re:Is it? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2002 @11:43AM (#3060601)
    Yes. [cornell.edu]
  • by macjerry (535984) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @11:54AM (#3060618)
    How hard would it be to take Ultima Underworld I and II, Shadowcaster, update the code to a Win32/OSX/Linux base...

    A LOT harder then you might think. Before Windows 95, games were mostly written for DOS and were tied to the good old 16 bit/640K limits of the hardware. Other things you had to deal with were hard coded delay loops, direct access/support of hardward, bizarre 5 1/4" floppy-based protection schemes and VGA 16 color graphics. Then you have to test it on a wide range of current platforms (5 Windows OS's alone) before you can even think about releasing it.

    Given the market I doubt you can sell it for more then $10, which means $5 to you after the retailer steals their share. You're proably talking $500K development costs, which means 100K units just to break even, before advertising, manufactoring, etc...

    Still want to try it???
  • Oh really (Score:2, Informative)

    by Second_Derivative (257815) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:16PM (#3060664)
    "EA actually does this with Madden NFL 95 and SimCity Classic on its Web site"

    If SimCity Classic is anywhere on their page, it sure is hidden well. Oh, wait... Google [google.com]. Ok, thanks to Google I've found it, now I see that you have to play it online (what if I want to play it on my comp?) and its behind one of those obnoxious 'you must register on this site to be able to do anything at all' pages. I hate the latter though admittedly that's the publisher's perogative. But, come on, this is some low-rent online version. This I'm not interested in. I got a copy of SimCity and Lemmings with my first ever mouse about eight years ago. Then the floppies went into out garage and next I know they've been lying in a puddle for the past five years. I can't buy either anymore, and I seriously doubt EA would make much money selling it.

    There's also some other stuff I'm confused about. Squaresoft (better known as the publishers of the Final Fantasy series) released two games called Final Fantasy V and Seiken Densetsu 3 in Japan. They didnt bother to release them in the west because they thought they were too complex for our simian intelligence or something. Now FFV has been released in the US about five years late, but from what I've heard it's not going to come out in the UK, and SD3 ... well I havent heard anything about that. I can't import FFV due to this protectionist region/DMCA crap, so I download translated copies of both. They were translated by devoted fans of Squaresoft who love these games and want to drum up more appreciation for Square by doing their translation and marketing work for them, not making a cent on this, and from what I've seen Square and Sony consider them to be criminals. I have a copy of both games on my hard disk, which I'd gladly pay for given the chance and I feel absolutely no moral shame for having them. Are either of these copyrighted in the United Kingdom, considering neither's actually been released here?
  • by Salamander (33735) <jeff AT pl DOT atyp DOT us> on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:27PM (#3060691) Homepage Journal

    Yep, exactly right. Changing from a custom overlay-segment scheme to semi-real VM involves some serious pain. Switching from direct hardware access to OS-approved APIs can require hundreds or even thousands of changes, and often wholesale restructuring of the code. Resolving timing dependencies is a bitch; ask any chip designer about those, because it's the same set of issues.

    If the program being ported is well designed, with an internal abstraction layer that just happens to match the new-OS API, and with a minimum of timing or hardware dependencies, porting might not be too bad. However, few old games were designed that way, and it's not just because the authors were sloppy (though that's often a factor). At the time many of these games were written, these issues were not well understood, and they're only well understood now precisely because so many missteps were made. Maybe "everyone knows that" now, just like everyone knows that CFCs are bad, but there was a time not so very long ago when pretty much nobody knew these things.

  • Actually, I have, and usually rely on The Underdogs for this system. The Underdogs (search on Google) has a list of places where to buy these Abandonware titles.

    Usually a search to Chips and Bits, or the CD-Rom shop, or Dragon Games (http://www.dragon.ca/ [dragon.ca]) turns up a list of old software (I found Masters of Orion II this way). The CD-ROM shop even had an old copy of the Bungie Sack Pack I had been looking for (ah...Marathon...come to me.)

    And no, I'm not going to publish a list just so that the SPA or SBA or whatever they call it can double check me, call me up, then stick the rectal probe to make sure I'm current. Sorry, I might be dumb, but I'm not stupid. But I can say that whenever I see a "collection" that contains the game I want (including a manual), I usually pick it up (like I did last night in pickingup the Journeyman Project Trilogy).

    I guess my challenge to you would be to go to The Underdogs, and if you find a title you can buy somewhere, let *them* know, so that they can let *me* know.
  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @12:51PM (#3060753) Homepage
    Companies can generate goodwill by releasing their own abandonware into the public. Almost two years ago, InnoVal Systems Solutions [innoval.com] made an announcement [sorehands.com] that they are dropping support for Post Road Mailer for OS/2 [sorehands.com] and J-Street Mailer for Java. A group of people, unrelated to Innoval, took on a task of making improvements to J-Street mailer. With the blessing of Innoval, J-Street mailer is now Polarbar Mailer [polarbar.org]

  • Re:Abandonware games (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2002 @01:03PM (#3060783)
    Don't forget that there also places to get a lot of the old classic games for free AND legal. Just install an Amiga emulator like WinUAE ( http://www.winuae.net/ ) and go to http://www.back2roots.org/ - they offer 1242 games, all of them with legal permission.
  • by DeadMeat (TM) (233768) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @01:06PM (#3060801) Homepage
    Porting the games to a modern OS, like other people have mentioned, would not be feasible. Besides being complicated, in many situations, the publishers don't actually have the code (they didn't develop the game) so they can't port it; but they do have the IP rights to the game "universe" and exclusive publishing rights, so the developers can't legally port it either. (This is why there was never a true sequel to Wasteland after Interplay started self-publishing -- the programmers all worked at Interplay, but EA, who published Wasteland, had the rights to the Wasteland universe. It's also why we didn't see System Shock 2 until VIE sunk and Looking Glass jumped ship back to EA.)

    One thing that might be interesting though is for some game companies to fund or license a PC emulator, like VMware or Bochs, and throw a package of a PC emulator, FreeDOS, and the game together. Lock out access to the BIOS, make pre-scripted CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files that automatically run the game, and -- presto! -- you've got an old game that runs under modern OSes, with no tech support mess. The development budget on this would be reasonably high to start off with (to get the PC emulator) but for each individual title the development cost would be practically 0. Now you've just got the marketing issue of getting people to buy old games; throw enough together in a bundle, especially if you give them a few classics like one of the Ultima or Star Control games, and people'll bite.

    (And yes, I know VMware would probably be prohibitively expensive, unless the publisher could get one hell of a bulk license discount combined with a discount for shipping a crippled version that wouldn't interfere with their regular business. I'm just using that as an example.)

  • Abandonwarez (Score:5, Informative)

    by SkewlD00d (314017) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @01:28PM (#3060873)
    Geez, why don't game companies release the source to the old games too? id [idsoftware.com] does a pretty good job. I remember Rise of the Triad was an awesome game!

    Good stuff:
    NGO's that suck:
    • MPAA [mpaa.org]
    • RIAA [riaa.org]
    • NAB [nab.org]
    • BSA [bsa.org]
    • IDSA [idsa.org] - stoopid anal idsa protecting 15 yr old dos games LOL!!
  • Copyright myth (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jerf (17166) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @01:31PM (#3060884) Journal
    I was disappointed to see Will Wright (SimCity, Sims, etc.) say the following:

    Maxis Software's Will Wright, designer of SimCity and The Sims, was also asked his opinion on the matter.


    "This is a rather complicated issue, but let's say I create a game about [a fictitious character named] 'Zars from Mars,'" begins Wright. "Now even though the game may be off the market, by allowing everyone to freely download or even sell collections of old games, I might lose whatever copyright claims I have on the original character. So if many years later I want to start a comic book about Zars, I might have a hard time legally protecting the intellectual property."
    That is incorrect. Copyright never expires due to lack of enforcement, and this argument is complete bullcrap... though to be fair, I bet Will Wright doesn't know that.

    It would be interesting to know if he came up with this misunderstanding on his own, or if somebody fed him this line.

    Now, he may be legitimately concerned about the trademark, which does need to be defended, but as long as nobody is doing anything with the charecters other then downloading the game they came from, I can't imagine that trademark infringements are taking place. That would happen if you started printing posters of the char, or putting it in your own movies, or other similarly infringing activities, none of which have anything to do with downloading a game.

    Downloading games does not strip publishers of any rights. In fact, if massive downloads of a game did strip publishers of the copyright, then this would be a null issue, as abandonware would be perfectly legal! Once the copyright is stripped, we could all download these things with impunity. (Extensive warezing could become legal, too, by the same argument.) Lawyers aren't stupid, so they didn't leave this gaping loophole open.

    It's difficult to move debate on these issues forward when there's so much ignorance of the issues. (How many of you noticed this before I pointed it out? And IANAL, either.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2002 @01:50PM (#3060972)
    as stated here: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/506.html

    (a) Criminal Infringement. - Any person who infringes a copyright willfully either -

    (1) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain, or

    (2) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000,shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, United States Code. For purposes of this subsection, evidence of reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work, by itself, shall not be sufficient to establish willful infringement.
  • by almightyjustin (518967) <dopefishjustin&gmail,com> on Sunday February 24, 2002 @04:15PM (#3061655) Homepage
    I think it was rather irresponsible of them to include screen shots of Wolfenstein 3-D and Duke Nukem 3D in an article about abandonware. Those titles (and in fact nearly all of Apogee's games going back to about 1990) are STILL FOR SALE *AND* SUPPORTED AT 3DREALMS.COM!!! They go out of their way to do offer this. You can download a copy of one of their older games for only $10. Yet I routinely see Apogee titles available as abandonware. If you're going to run an abandonware site, RESEARCH the titles you put up, and if you don't, call it a warez site, because that's what it is.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by crush (19364) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @05:13PM (#3061898)
    That is the most trollish comment that I've read for a long while! Did you even manage to read the article?
    • Do you realize that these are not games that will run on Linux?
    • Do you realize that the site is mostly targetted towards Windows users?
    • Do you realize that the site makes an effort to link to where you can BUY the games?
    • Do you realize that many of these games cannot be bought because they failed in the marketing/distribution wars?
    Either I've fallen for a troll, or else you are not thinking very clearly ;-)
  • by Kisai (213879) on Sunday February 24, 2002 @07:23PM (#3062514)
    This exists belive it or not. M.E.S.S has XT/286 emulators... but don't have VGA, just CGA.

    The "VM" software like VMWARE doesn't come close to emulating anything useful for old games, it's designed to emulate the existing computer with a crappy video card.

    Windows NT however does have a built in "DOS" emulator that works pretty well. You can even use VDMsound to make things that use a sound card work?

    Trade off? Yes there is... Still no VESA supported video modes (640x480x16 ot 320x200 or 320x240 256 color modes) But it's sufficient for all the pre-vesa games except some whacky Origin "386 enhaced" games with their own memory manager (U7 has an engine rewrite project, U8 has a hack/patch to make it work on Windows.)
    Hell even U9 needs a crack to work on Windows 2000 or XP. (CDilla EXE-wrapper protection does not work on Windows NT.)

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