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Classic Games (Games) Games

How One Company Is Bringing Old Video Games Back From the Dead (fastcompany.com) 106

harrymcc writes: Night Dive Studios is successfully reviving old video games — not the highest-profile best-sellers of the past, but cult classics such as System Shock 2, The 7th Guest, Strife, and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. It's a job that involves an enormous amount of detective work to track down rights holders as well as the expected technical challenges. Over at Fast Company, Jared Newman tells the story of how the company stumbled upon its thriving business. "Kick didn’t have money on hand to buy the rights, so he scraped together contract work with independent developers and funneled the proceeds into the project. ... Some efforts fall apart even without the involvement of media conglomerates. In early 2014, Kick tried to revive Dark Seed, a point-and-click adventure game that featured artwork by H.R. Giger. But after Giger’s sudden death, demands from the artist’s estate escalated, and the negotiations derailed. ... But for every one of those failures, there’s a case where a developer or publisher is thrilled to have a creation back on store shelves."
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How One Company Is Bringing Old Video Games Back From the Dead

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  • by The Eight-Bit Link ( 2447312 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @12:48PM (#50893443)
    Forgive me if I'm missing something, but this seems to be exactly what GOG has been doing for years. Are they remaking them?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      System Shock 2 is available on both GoG and Steam for the same price by the same publisher

    • They are doing enhanced editions of some, but mostly they are tracking down rights to a lot of the games and doing the work necessary to get them running on modern systems when a simple DOSBox configuration doesn't cut it (as GOG usually does). Some of the games they have gotten rights to (such as System Shock) are on GOG because this company got the rights to them.
      • I seem to recall GOG doing similar tracking down of rights. They also try to get the promo stuff as well, with manuals and code wheels and such. They also do it for games that they haven't tracked down the rights for, too, in case one day they track down the rights and can sell it. A lot of people say that they just set up a DOSBox profile and are done with it, but I seem to recall they also go through with debuggers and see how to disable old forms of DRM that won't work (eg CD detection).
        • Yes, GOG did, and still does a lot of work on old games. When they can, they acquire the original source code to make them work on newer systems, fix some old bugs and remove the DRM. A lot of source code gets lost though, so they end up doing a lot of this through modifying the binary code directly.

          http://www.rockpapershotgun.co... [rockpapershotgun.com]
          However, they are moving away from the name God Old Games, as they now also offer movies and newer/new game releases.

          As for Night Dive Studios, they are doing the same thin
    • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @02:41PM (#50894619) Journal

      Night Dive is the one securing the rights so that sites like GOG can legally sell them. Check out the "Company" line on GOG's System Shock 2 [gog.com] catalog page, e.g.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        First good information here. Thanks! So GoG and Night Dive are essentially working together.

  • Dark Seed was notorious for being crap... Like many games of the era, it tried to cash in on the moral panic of the day (violent video games) but lacked anything much beyond a little bit of shock value.

  • System Shock 2? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:06PM (#50893601)
    It's really System Shock (1) that needs the remake. Even with the mouselook patch, the controls are archaic and clumsy. It doesn't live up to the standards that modern FPS games strive to.

    In fact, I can sum up all of those old first person shooters of 15+ years ago in three simple words:

    "My Fingers Hurt."
    • Re:System Shock 2? (Score:4, Informative)

      by rsimpson ( 884581 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:38PM (#50893821)

      It's really System Shock (1) that needs the remake. Even with the mouselook patch, the controls are archaic and clumsy. It doesn't live up to the standards that modern FPS games strive to.

      From the Article

      One example: Night Dive is developing a full remake of the original System Shock, going well beyond the basic rerelease that launched a couple months ago. Night Dive has acquired the full rights to the franchise, and Kick says he’s been working with Robert Waters, the game's original concept artist, to reimagine his designs from the early 1990s.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Good news. The original is a real classic story and atmosphere wise. The music is great! The graphics and controls are just far to bad to be playable today due to the limitations when it was made.

    • I agree in that System Shock has clumsy controls. But why do you say that about others? From Quake (1996) until recently all FPSs have had standardized and pretty good controls.
      Today FPSs are awfully optimized for consoles and are unbearably boring, you'll end up with this: https://youtu.be/W1ZtBCpo0eU [youtu.be]
  • by KatchooNJ ( 173554 ) <Katchoo716.gmail@com> on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:33PM (#50893783) Homepage

    One that few will likely remember is Amber: Journeys Beyond. Loved that one. It was a Myst-like point-and-click adventure with a ghost/horror theme. That one came out back in the Windows 95 days and won't even run on Windows 98, if I remember correctly! It had something to do with the media player native to Windows 95. I fought to get that game working in the XP years and ultimately had to install Windows 95 using VMWare to get it to play. Ugh! This game definitely needs some conversion treatment. It has been long enough, that I have forgotten enough to enjoy it again, I'm sure. :-)

    • I played it, and thought it was great. Didn't it use QuickTime (or was it Flash?) for some its gameplay? That might be an issue for newer Windows systems.
    • Some fun old games I recall that were a massive PITA to get running are Crusader: No Remorse and Crusader: No Regret. They were isometric sci-fi shoot-em-ups where you played as a character that looked an awful lot like Boba Fett with a coat of red paint. I remember the game had a lot of puzzles as well. It was a total PITA to run even on Windows 9x, IIRC you'd have to restart in DOS mode to get it to run.

      • Yeah, you were basically required to have QEMM and a boot disk if you wanted to run those games. IIRC, they required 602kB of the 640kB of memory. That's not a small feat when you consider that DOS kernel, command.com is in there, as well as HIMEM.SYS and EMM386.EXE. With QEMM, you could shim some of the programs into the no mans land between 640kB and 1 MB, leaving more low memory available for playing games. Some games, most notably Ultima 7, had their own memory manager technology (VooDoo Memory Mana
    • [I] had to install Windows 95 using VMWare to get it to play.

      This reminds me of a thought that I've had about Linux gaming. Basically, it would be really great if the whole Steam Machine thing took off, and Linux became the de facto platform for PC gaming-- not because of immediate problems that it might solve, but because of this issue of archiving old games. Even if the game itself was never open sourced, you would always have the option of tracking down the specific Linux version/revision that the game was designed to play on, virtualize that platform, and then

  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:36PM (#50893799) Homepage
    It's a nightmare. I have a piece of music I want to put on my next album. It contains speech from an old BBC programme (1982), so to release it I need to get in touch with the copyright holder. But who actually is that?

    The BBC told me to try Getty, because they'd sold off a lot of things to Getty. Getty told me they didn't know, and to contact the original narrator and the scriptwriter for that narrator. I have no idea who the scriptwriter was and, whilst I imagine I could find the narrator I doubt he'd know either. Result? This piece of music will never be released, simply because I cannot find who to ask (and those I did ask do not seem sure of their answers). That's exactly analogous to the problem they're describing in the article - actually finding who to ask, let alone getting a co-ordinated yes/no decision, is just much harder than people might imagine it to be.
    • Just do it.

      You'l either find out eventually who the rights holder is, or you get to use it for free. You win either way.

      • That'd be fine if infringers were liable only for actual damages. But as long as statutory damages are available to a copyright owner, the orphan works problem will continue. Or are you thinking of another "Nike model" of some benefactor being willing to pay the statutory damages the way Nike reimbursed Michael Jordan for paying fines to the NBA for wearing out-of-spec sneakers?

        • But as long as statutory damages are available to a copyright owner

          I think coming to a copyright holder with a positive attitude of "I was trying to reach out to pay for rights but I couldn't find you, lets work it out instead of paying a bunch of lawyers" would get you what you wanted (license to use the work) to start with. If you have the game distributed under it's own company that can just declare bankruptcy if things turn sour. As long as you pay attention to the legal structure up-front there is no

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      It's a nightmare. I have a piece of music I want to put on my next album. It contains speech from an old BBC programme (1982), so to release it I need to get in touch with the copyright holder. But who actually is that?

      The BBC told me to try Getty, because they'd sold off a lot of things to Getty. Getty told me they didn't know, and to contact the original narrator and the scriptwriter for that narrator. I have no idea who the scriptwriter was and, whilst I imagine I could find the narrator I doubt

      • FarSight sucks next to the free / open source system that does the same thing + has all the home rom's (that are dumped) + hacked rom's (that are dumped) + most of older ver's and some beta roms as well. (based on what is dumped)

        Also there emulator system sucks. They are the same people that made action 52 genesis

    • Not tracking down, but disagreement with rights holders was just the reason Night Dive couldn't re release No One Lives Forever which, by all accounts, it's a very nice game.
      I could try to download a pirate version but I'd rather have a version optimized for modern computers and give some money to Night Dive
    • actually finding who to ask, let alone getting a co-ordinated yes/no decision, is just [hard]

      Just release it then. They (or the legal counsel that thinks they supposedly represent them) will find you if it matters.

      But really, that may not be such a bad idea. Log and document EVERYTHING you do and who you talk to. put an ad in the public newspaper (at least that USED to be how you did it) describing who you're looking for and what you're doing. 30/60/90 days after reaching a compete dead-end, go for it.

      If bought to court, the judge should recognize that you tried significantly beforehand.

    • Crazy idea: but couldn't insurance companies bridge the gap?

      You buy insurance and if the copyright holder even surfaces one day, they'd cover the relevant licensing fees.

      Most policies should be dirt cheap based on the extremely low probability of an actual lawsuit materializing.

    • A favorite band of mine was in a similar situation.

      They ended up releasing the song just as they were about to break up, and the publishing company also went out of business about the same time.

      The end result was like yours but in reverse: impossible to track down anyone to sue.

      And even supposing you did get permission from the legal rights holder, that does not indemnify you from lawsuits.

      https://news.google.com/newspa... [google.com]

      Basically, make the cluster-fuck of copyright law work for you.

  • MMORPG revival (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @01:45PM (#50893887) Homepage Journal

    As a former avid City of Heroes player, I wish that someone would do this for shuttered MMORPGs. There are so many, and unlike single-player games that will at least run on old hardware and/or OSes, shuttered MMORPGs are completely inaccessible by any means. (Well, other than server emulators, for the very, VERY few that are lucky enough to have them.)

    A while back, I wrote an email to GoG basically telling them that I wish they'd consider approaching some of the publishers of shuttered MMORPGs and offering to host them, either buying the rights to the games outright or licensing them, and charging $10 or $15 per month for access to everything (or offer cheaper plans for limited access to one or some games). Because the playerbase of many of these games would be a lot smaller than the new flashy hotness MMORPGs, it probably wouldn't take that much in the way of hardware, and if they could negotiate access to the source code, they might even be able to rewrite parts of the game to run more efficiently or even release updates. I got back a response that boiled down to, "Thanks, but we're not going to do that."

    I still think it's a market that's ripe, and someone at some point will exploit that and make a killing off of it.

    Hmm... Anyone got some negotiating skills that could pair with my technical skills to get this done?

  • Giger (Score:4, Insightful)

    by careysub ( 976506 ) on Monday November 09, 2015 @02:29PM (#50894487)

    In early 2014, Kick tried to revive Dark Seed, a point-and-click adventure game that featured artwork by H.R. Giger. But after Giger’s sudden death, demands from the artist’s estate escalated...

    [sarcasm]Clearly it is far more important to compensate artists after they have died. That really stimulates their creativity and productivity.[/sarcasm]

    On the other hand, in Giger's case, maybe post-mortem artistic output is possible. Still, I expect to see him publishing his works-from-beyond-the-grave.

  • Shy gypsy, slyly spryly tryst by my crypt.

    Crazy that I can remember it some 22 years later.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... copyright should expire.

Never call a man a fool. Borrow from him.

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