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Preserving Virtual Worlds 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-will-they-play-starcon-2-in-2150 dept.
The Opposable Thumbs blog has an interview with Jerome McDonough of the University of Illinois, who is involved with the Preserving Virtual Worlds project. The goal of the project is to recognize video games as cultural artifacts and to make sure they're accessible by future generations. Here McDonough talks about some of the technical difficulties in doing so: "Take, for example, Star Raiders on the Atari 2600. If you're going to preserve this, you've got a couple of problems. The first is that it is on a cartridge that is designed to work on a particular system that is no longer manufactured. And as long as you've got a hardware dependency there, you're really not going to be able to preserve this material very long. What we have been looking at is how feasible is it for things that fundamentally all have some level of hardware dependency there — even Doom has dependencies on DLLs with an operating system, and on particular chipsets and architectures for playing. How do you take that and turn it into something that isn't as dependent on a particular physical piece of hardware. And to do that, you need information about that platform. You need technical specifications that allow you to basically reproduce a virtualization that may enable you to run the software in its original form in the future. So what we're trying to do is preserve not only the games, but preserve the knowledge that you would need to create a virtualization platform to play the game."
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Preserving Virtual Worlds

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  • by assemblerex (1275164) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:22AM (#32650456)
    I can't go out and buy a punchcard computer, but I can go and buy a 300 year old book.
    Commit it to paper, it's the only proven archive method.
  • by ALoopingIcon (992589) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:06AM (#32650648)
    In the context of archiving games, accurate software emulation the whole HW underlying each game is the only solution.
    Obviously it should be done in a open, portable, multiplatform way to ensure that it is a long term solution.

    Mame and Mess ( mamedev.org [mamedev.org]) has already shown that this approach is viable and practical.
  • Re:WoW? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WarlockD (623872) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:25AM (#32650744)

    Going to dismiss you but then I thought of Everquest. I got this old Beta 2 CD I got years ago when I played it and I just realized how much the game has changed over the years. Does anyone remember the old crappy interface it had? The horrible stat/level system?

    Hell, how do you even preserve something like WoW? Even assuming you can get the server code for some kind of emulation you still run into the problem the poster stated about emulation.

    Makes me worry its all futile. With all the massive architecture changes Evey 5 years or so, how do you get the money or the people dedicated to keep emulators up to date. I am very much looking at all the DOS years to be lost:P

    Hell, in 50 years when I tell my grand children about this little game I played, World of Warcraft, I doubt they will ever know what I as talking about.

  • by Snowmit (704081) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:38AM (#32652310) Homepage

    The point is that we don't know what's worth preserving. I mean, we probably have a few ideas here and there but we are also almost certainly wrong about what future historians will want us to have preserved.

    Don't believe me?

    Then why are people so bent out of shape by the burning of Sapho's works? Why do we get so excited when we discover an ancient manuscript hidden under a more recent one? Why are we so enthusiastic about the Dead Sea Scrolls? How come we keep digging through the old letters and notebooks of scientists and inventors? Why are we so sad about having lost all those early films?

    History isn't just about keeping track of the stuff that the people at the time thought was important. It's often about digging through the ephemera and refuse of the past to find the stuff that gives us far more information than their disposers knew or intended. If you want to have any kind of archival program at all, then it's best to just box up the whole thing and let the archaeologists sort it out.

  • by Scoth (879800) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @08:41AM (#32652342)

    I don't think the fundamental problem is emulating the base architecture - that's pretty much a programming exercise. The problem is emulating it and having it be fast enough to be playable.

    There's nothing keeping you from writing an emulation of a 64 bit Core 2 Duo for Atari 800 and booting Windows 7 on it. You'd just be there for months waiting on it to boot and swapping hundreds (thousands?) of disks for virtual memory. You can already run 64 bit guests on 32 bit hosts in some versions of qemu/VirtualBox and other emulators. It's slow, but it works if you really, really need a 64 bit architecture for something and don't have a real one.

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