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Epic's Sweeney On the PC Shareware Revolution 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-didn't-love-a-good-8-bit-nag-screen dept.
simoniker writes "Over at Gamasutra, there's a massive new interview with Epic (Mega)Games founder Tim Sweeney, the guy who's still a key technical figure at the Unreal Engine/Gears Of War developer. He discusses his early programming days, the story behind classic shareware game/tool ZZT, the origins of Epic, the '90s shareware business, and even a bit about the future as well. Particularly neat is his revelation that you can still order ZZT via mail, with orders fulfilled by his dad: 'My father still lives at the address where Potomac Computer Systems started up, so he still gets an order every few weeks... he's retired now, so he doesn't have much to do. Every week, he'll just take a stack of a few orders, put disks in them, and mail them out.'"
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Epic's Sweeney On the PC Shareware Revolution

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  • Re:shareware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday May 25, 2009 @09:59PM (#28090219) Homepage Journal

    Heh.. that certainly sounds like a good theory. But personally I think it was because it was significantly more effort to move around large amounts of data (a whole game) vs a small amount of data (the demo). The reasons being:

    1. Modems were slow (even slower than they are now).
    2. We all still used floppy disks.

    Demos were often exactly 1 floppy disk. The whole game was often many more.

    That, and the fact that the guys who made these games were totally awesome people and you didn't want them to go broke and stop making games. There was an actual cult of personality in shareware.. whereas retail games (as much back then as now) are made by big business who can go spin. That's the way the small-tribe-logic of the brain works.

  • Re:Slashdotted? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @11:00PM (#28090645)

    Sounds like one of those "1) xxx 2) ?????? 3) Profit!" yokes.

    But seriously, all those Slashvertisements of old require that a slashdotting that will result in higher bandwith fees, even if you do sell.

    So imagine skipping the bandwidth fees, altogether, like in this case. A mailing address WAS the standard shareware transaction fulfilment model because email and epayments through websites and e-payments weren't common.

    Now, If only I could build a time machine to just get my address out there... ;)

    The problem is that one steady $30 sale per month won't justify shutting down websites. Now that I think about it, poor dad... his keeping a "dead" customer base for a shareware singlehandedly shows a lot about good character. Think of all those old websites you have seen die, and all the software companies that you saw blink out into obscurity ... you bought the game too late and now can't get support for X older version of windows to run the game.

  • Re:shareware (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @03:58AM (#28092237)

    Um, no.

    Shareware was popular then for the same reason file-sharing is popular now. It lets people know that when they hand over $20, or $50, for a piece of software, that it isn't a piece of crap.

    Or, that they can decide not to pay for it at all, if they are satisfied with what they got for free.

    The difference is that the people who ran shareware publishers understood that sharing is marketing, while the people who run publishers today think that litigation is a business model.

A CONS is an object which cares. -- Bernie Greenberg.

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