Extra Punctuation: Keeping Old Games Intact

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Dorkmaster Flek:
Fuck legality, this is why emulation needs to be legalized.

This statement confuses me, you say "fuck legality" and then say that emulators should be legalized so you can use them. If they were legalized wouldn't we no longer need to "fuck legality"?
I agree, though, it would be nice to see emulators easy and legal to use.

bombadilillo:
Heres a question. In 70 years do all the copyrights expire and all these games become free game?

differenty in different countries, however americans pushed it up for 95 years now.

On topic: looks at my stack of some 300 dvds. Aye captain!

I imagine your concerns over a potential update to Silent Hill 2 are completely justifiable, and they are the same concerns I had about Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes on Gamecube, which I hate to this very day.

Re-written and re-recorded dialogue ruins some of the most memorable lines and deliveries, including the ending. Tons of Matrix-style cut-scenes are added-on - the movie coming out AFTER the original MGS, and of course we need to throw in its gimmicks to capitalize on its popularity - so we have our Solid Snake... who now dodges bullets and is on-par acrobatically with a cybernetically-enhanced ninja? C'mon now. Oh, and now FPS mechanics are the rage as well, so let's toss in the first-person shooting perspective from MGS2 as well, to make the game easier.

This is not the Metal Gear Solid that I grew to love (one which would have been the best game of '98 hands-down, were it not for Ocarina of Time). The Twin Snakes is a whored-out and cheapened version of the original.

And yet, I'd say about 99% of the people who played Twin Snakes preferred it, if for no other reason than the prettier graphics and extra cutscenes.

Sigh.

Weeeeeeeeeeell I can still play old games. Hell, not too many months ago I got Fallout 2 from GOG.com and I can play it just fine on my new supah dupah system.

You could've at least mentioned the PC a on a little side note. It has pretty decent backwards compitability after all.

Yahtzee, I completely agree with you. I can't stand these remakes where the new developers think they know better than the old ones and add new content that's a decade out of sync with the design philosophies of the source material. Square being the worst of all, and I'm saying that as someone who absolutely loved Square's SNES and early PSX work. After FF7 they basically turned into one of those anime studios that runs the same culturally hollow show for 500 episodes that are half filler. The only remake I've ever seen Square make that came out better than the original was FF4DS, and that me completely by surprise seeing how revolting all their other remakes have been. I don't even want to talk about either of the Chrono Trigger ports.

Point is, remakes just need to stop, period, until developers can learn to respect that fact that old games don't need to be improved, they just need to be updated visually and THAT'S ALL. I've learned to appreciate ports, at least people are getting the real experience.

Speaking of the gaming archive, I'd love to do it. I have the time and passion, just not the budget. Sorry, I love gaming and I've been doing it since before the NES, but I can't make a living preserving old games, and I can't afford to maintain the servers and do the digging and ebaying required for such a project without a really good job and lots of free time. If I could break even doing it, count me in. Hell, I'd do it non-profit if I could quit my job. Problem is, there's no real interest. People aren't just unwilling to archive the old games, they're unwilling to support such an archive as well. GOG.com is a great start, but who's going to make a sacrifice so people can play old Atari 2600 games nobody's even heard of? Especially when all these games are available free through emulation anyway.

octafish:
I keep meaning to look into a good C64 emulator, but my original Commodore is still going strong, mind you my TAC-2 is getting a little worse for wear, I may have to start looking for a replacement on the bay. My concern is how emulators emulate the SID chip. Does an emulator sound like a C64?

I have a Commodore 64, an XP box, and a Win7 box for my gaming needs. XP is pretty good at emulating all the OS that came before it. Plus the XP box doesn't have to be a powerhouse to run legacy games.

Honestly I haven't even played the games that much on the emulator, my main concern was to get the disks imaged on the PC before they decay, I don't really trust these old 5.25"ers to last forever. Not sure about the SID emulation but I think that's a pretty solved problem by now, AFAIK there are even stand-alone SID emulators purely for music purposes. Either way there seem to be a ton of competing implementations.

This is one of the few times I have whole-heartedly agreed with you, Yahtzee. You've always had your points, and you're often quite hilarious, but I don't tnk I've ever found myself nodding at every single point you made in either a column or video.

I'm sure that just made your day. :P

Could not agree more, and it's a massive objection that I have to "remastering" of old films. The grainy black and white footage is part of their cultural history, and retouching it (or updating stories in games to reflect current sensibilities) would be like updating Shakespeare's language. It may take some work to get into the old stuff, but that's part of the experience - you're gaining appreciation for how the medium was.

The related problem with re-makes is that it generally involves the creative mind behind the project putting in a lot of stuff that got edited out of the original, because the popularity of the game/movie/book has given them the power to ignore editorial advice. This is almost always to the detriment of the final work

Strazdas:

bombadilillo:
Heres a question. In 70 years do all the copyrights expire and all these games become free game?

differenty in different countries, however americans pushed it up for 95 years now.

Yeah, basically the US copyright laws get extended every time Mickey Mouse is about to become public domain...

I worry about this myself. Trying to get old games to run can be a complex task in itself. But even just preserving the games is hard. Media like tape cassettes, floppy disks and CD-ROMs don't last very long and with DRM and legal issues thrown into the mix its almost a hopeless task.

Digital distribution and evolving online games makes it even more complex. Can we make WoW run 50 years from now? And which release of WoW would count as the real one? What about less known MMOs like Darkfall or Pirates of the Burning Sea?

The only approach that could work is through legislation. If copyright holders are legally required to provide copies of their work to a government organization that will hold it until the copyright expires, we could save a lot of media.

Games isn't the only media suffering of course. TV shows, commercials, websites, music, movies or simply digital documents of all kinds are all media worth preserving for historical reasons, but they may end up in the void never to be seen again.

Just today, I tried to play Metal Gear Solid 2 on my Xbox 360. I was only interested because my friend has lauded it as one of the greatest games ever created. However, MS decided to forgo backwards compatibility support of that game, so now I'm left with no way to play it.

Can't go a whole article without mentioning how brilliant Silent Hill 2 is, can ya, Yahtzo?

I've started an archive on my YouTube channel featuring some of the well composed MIDI songs in their original format. I was late to the party, however, and it seems that plenty of people have done the same thing. However, it's some comfort that the legacy gaming community is still quite active and most simply want to keep alive the memory of the classic games which were left at the curb when the technology moved on rather than just distribute pirated software.

Games like A Link to the Past, Wasteland, Dune 2 and Diablo still have something over their successors in spite of their own shortcomings. And I couldn't agree more that the game companies could do better to ensure that these games don't wind up completely forgotten.

I'm still quite torn about what would happen if they re-did Deus Ex and changed JC's dialog in Paris from "A Bomb!" to something else. I'm literally split in the middle about whether I'd welcome or despise this.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: Keeping Old Games Intact

Yahtzee calls for a game archive to keep them playable after technology has moved on.

Read Full Article

Good point, Yahtzee, but aren't you being a bit hypocritical about this? Weren't it you who said that you couldn't play the original "Ocarina of Time" because of how ugly everything looked? At least the re-release gave you a chance to play it, without being disgusted by the dated polygonal graphics.

I don't see a problem in remastering, however the originals need to be preserved. I just don't see how these two things compete with each other. Apples and oranges.

Agreed that every step of the way should be collected and preserved, both in physical and digital formats (with plenty of backups and failsafes for the latter).

However, I still appreciate the redos and remasters that come out. FFIV: The Complete Collection is probably the least janked of FFIV's many straight [enhanced] ports, and I'd rather play it than the SNES original. Heck, I played FFII's GBA version first, and I'd probably give up on the Famicom version, English or not.

BUT, back to your concerns for Silent Hill 2 HD's redone voices, that sort of thing should always be a possibility for anyone who's not satisfied with what has been done in the latest do-over. The nicest possibility, of course, would be to have mix-and-match options (even on such a small scale as re-inserting "submariner" instead of "sandworm" in FFVI), to take what you want of the old and the new to make the best experience for the player, especially the one who knows what's what about what the game had been up to that point.

Now, if we can just get young Anakin out of Return of the Jedi...

Sure Pc's are all well and good for this but tried to play many N64 games on the PC? Very glitchy, My Pc can play the Crysis of today or the Beach head of C64 but can i play age of empires 2 on win7? no.....

I have a hefty list of retro consoles including (but not limited to) A 3DO, 2xDreamcast, 3xMega Drives and 5xPlaystations...

I constantly fill my room with more gaming stuff from the bargain bin games to the treasures you only find on ebay, I believe all games must be preserved, good or... Total recall for the NES.

Nothing can replace that crappy controller and terrible load times!

Load"*",8,1

Loading.....

Part of the trouble is that our arguments to this effect get growned out by the twoway idiocy of oldschool (i.e. people my age - I started gaming in 1982) fans complaining that ecverything is graphics-yped v newschool who refuse to believe that anyone could be a fan of pre-2000s games due to anything but nostalgia.

I have no problem with console games per se. And plenty of console gamers LOVE their older console platforms. But it does seem to me to have bred a mentality of throw out the old games when the new console hits...or at least to consider those games 2nd-rate.

A lot of PC-games rate syndicate (released: 1993) and Ultima 7 (1995) as two of the greatest games EVER. Not just for their time, but EVER - even compared to modern masterpieces. And they aren't even oldschool - I still fire up Wizardry 4 (1987) for the challenge of the hardest crpg ever made (the 1st 3, starting in 1982, were my first games, but I'll admit they bring nothing that later games didn't do better).

Not to mention the golden years of 1998-2001 - those few years brought us Baldurs Gate 2, Planescape: Torment (do I need to say AGAIN that it's the greatest game-as-art ever made?), Deus Ex, Thief, Fallout 1-2, System Shock 1/2 (yes, that's 'shock', as in where 'Bioshock' comes from), Morrowind, Under a Killing Moon, Jagged Alliance 2 The Longest Journey...oh it brings tears to my eyes.

And it isn't even nostalgia - my nostalgia period was Wizardry 1-3, Ultima 1-5 - I was in my 20s by the time I started playing Planescape:Torment, The Longest Journey, Deus Ex etc.

I'd love to see straight-up graphical and technical upgrades of those games. Not style-changing remakes like FO3, where they transplant fallout's setting into an Elder Scroll's Game (NOT saying the final product wasn't good in its own right, but it wasn't an update of the originals - it was a fun action-rpg-exploration romp, rather than a moody, deadly, mysterious, stat-heavy, roleplaying (not action-rpg or LARPing, but geunine GURPS-guided roleplaying with choices+consequences, and major blowback if you tried to take on the local slave-trading order without a LOT of guns/backup) trek through the wastelands...ever closer to ground zero (shudder)).

Something worth noting on this topic:

Spiderweb software makes marvellous crpgs for those interested in action rpgs, rather than crpgs. AND he is starting to update his older games with new graphics, to make them accesible to modern computers!!!! (great move, in my opinion) - and the updated versions are still dirt cheap. His popular series is Avernum, but I can't urge you strongly enough to play the Geneforge series instead. It is massively superior, and the only reason why Avernum sells more is that it is less original, and originality seems to scare people for some reason. Geneforge is, in my opinion, the greatest crpg series made in the past 10 years. Including Bioware and Bethesda.

They are indie, so don't expect much shiny graphics, but they are AWESOME. The game might start looking like there are your standard few factions, but as it goes on there are factions within factions, leaders to promote or demote within factions, ideologies to push, and many many possible outcomes. It's tech-based, but with magic effects, and a strong theme (as the series goes on) about weapon proliferation. Oh, and some...cannisters. Like much weapons proliferation, they'll give you power...at a price. As does introducing shaping tech to those who might now control it responsibly (by the last game, shaping tech has spread everywhere and is threatening to tear apart the world). On the other hand, if you don't spread the shaping tech (the tech by which new creatures and ALL technology is made), you are basically acquiescing to the worst form of slavery and abuse (later, more 'benevolent dictatorship' options may appear, especially in later games as factions start splitting from factions).

There are NO dungeon-crawls. Instead, one faction's city/quest-hub will be another faction's dungeon, and the aim will be to conquer your opposing faction's cities/quest-hubs (oh...and there's usually a surprise twist where some 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th party jumps in, changing the endgame requirements). There are always at least 2 or 3 paths though each area of the game - some maps (there is an overland map system where you choose which submaps to travel through) might be near-impossible for those with low tech-skills, others might be combat fests, others might favour diplomacy-heavy characters, others might favour stealth. Town maps (i.e. the places that would be quest-hubs if you were in their faction) are impervious to direct assault unless you are very high level, but almost always have some trick that allow an earlier take-down (such as sneaking past the inner patrols, or feigning loyalty to that faction, then cutting the power and letting their 'creations' (the game is about genetic modification) free to rampage, with you taking the town in the chaos...or of course just going the time-favoured stealth+assassinate-the-leader option:-)

My advice is start with the last 2 games. They have more choice+consequence, and more factional manipulations than any other game I've seen (MUCH MUCH more...including professional studies like Bioware and Bethesda - the guy has been making a full-time living from this stuff for decades now, so he knows what he is doing). If you really want backstory, start with Geneforge 2 (there are 7, and they start getting BRILLIANT as of 5 or 6) - it will give you the please of seeing minor NPCs rising the ranks as the story progresses, swapping sides as zealots become moderates when confronted by the reality of battle, and sympathisers become hardliners when they see the damage wrought by uncontrolled shaping tech.

Oh, did I mention that I liked Spiderweb software's Geneforge series?

Stay away from his newest game Avadon. It's not bad, but it's basically an indie version of Baldurs Gate 2. Still a type of game we don't see anymore, and MUCH prettier than his other games, but it lacks the sheer 'gazillion options for progression, do anything and be rewarded for ingenuity, ultra non-linear, one faction's quest-hub is another's dungeon-crawl zone, etc', replacing that with a linear set of 'go here, then here, then here' progression. Not bad, but lacks the crazy brilliance of the later Geneforge games

Games should be remembered, not remastered.

Why not both? Sometimes the latter sows interest in the former.

As for Ocarina of Time specifically: An N64 cartridge and console are quite obviously not a Commodore cassette and computer. I understand the argument being presented through the Commodore game example, but it doesn't work as an argument against the remastering of older games which are very easily available for enjoyment in their original forms.

I vote PC ports of everything. Consoles can't keep their shit together in the same generation, let alone 20 years from now. Not only would your Fantasy World Dizzy not work on newer technology, it might not have worked on technology that existed when it was released.

Oh, you got the Commodore 64 version? That's not gonna work with the Atari ST, etc. A trend that continues today with PS3 exclusives or Wii-only games

Once we get everything ported over to Windows compatible, we could put it on steam and sell it by the bundle. Perhaps the "Old School Beat em up extravaganza" - Battle Toads, River City Ransom, Double Dragon and the old XMen arcade game. Or the "Square before they got all Eenixed" package - Final Fantasy 1-6, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore.

Or replace "Steam" with whatever other download service comes along.

The only hitch is hardware dependent games. Wii bowling won't exactly work as intended with a keyboard and mouse. Likewise, all the DS games will lose a bit of luster without touchscreen capabilities, or a mic to blow on.

That's one of the reasons I won't buy another console. On my PC I can still play my earliest bought games through the DOSBOX emulator.

I am a fairly young gamer, at least I would think so myself (I'm 23 as of tomorrow). Compared to many of my peers I have played much older games. I had a Commodore 64 before a Genesis, and years after that I got a PS1 from my parents.

Gaming culture grew on me when I started gaming on the PC, and I have spent many hours trying to find working copies of some of my old favorites.

Emulation may be the only way we can preserve some of those games. The PS1 is quite emulate-able with current-day technology, and the PS2 should not be different if Sony decides to release the specs for it.

The problem with the PCs backward compatibility is elsewhere though. Sure my two year old Core i5 can run the same code as Intels processors ran 25-30 years ago, but that does not make it a good idea.

Have you ever played a game that calculated time using the clock frequency? You probably have if you are an old-school PC gamer. Now have you tried that game on a 2.xx GHz machine? Or even 500MHz? Furthermore the old dos EXEs run in 16-bit mode, which is not supported in Windows 7 64bit.

Inter-console compatibility is not in the interest of the console makers, therefore it will not happen even though the PS3 and Xbox 360 have basically the same general purpose CPU.

How to fix this problem?

Every console maker should, after the old generation stops making money, release a free emulator. Coupled to that emulator should be a store in which one can buy old games cheap and legally. These should be region free so we don't have to jump through hoops to get the "right" version emulator.

I think the biggest problem with archiving games is copyright and patent bullshit. It's not that the technology to do it doesn't exist, we are seeing it done all the time. The problem is that lots of games are either owned by corporations that refuse to let anyone do anything with them, or no one has any idea who owns the rights, or whatever. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if the copyright limit was, oh say, 20 years or so, but lobbyists keep trying to get it extended. I think it's over 70 years now. For movies, books, and music that might be fine, but the way technology evolves for games means tons of obscure stuff vanishes into the cracks before anyone notices. Luckily, the emulation and abandonware community doesn't worry so much about copyrights and can keep it in circulation far after obtaining a physical copy becomes virtually impossible.

And what I am talking about isn't things like "Virtual Console" and "Good Old Games". They are nice, but for every popular game re-released on stuff like that, there are hundreds more that exist in a legal limbo because the company that made them fell apart, or had their rights acquired by someone who is completely unwilling to re-release it, or are from another country and was never exported and never will be. Some of the more interesting games are ones you will never, ever be able to play outside emulation/abandonware releases. And not all emulation or abandonware is illegal either. Some corporations have allowed games to be released as freeware. I just wish this practice had some legal protection in these cases.

the ONLY thing preventing an emulation based archive of all games ever is the illegality of such an endeavor.
There are no serious technical issues and there are more then enough people with the will and the money.

I'm a library and information science student and just last year I wrote a paper on this very topic.

There's a few noble pursuits going on at the likes of the University of Texas and the University of Michigan, but the facts on the ground are very grim. To put together recreations of experience is soon going to be impossible because of bit rot. To emulate is one thing, but to put together a true recreation of the experience is quite another. With a medium like film, the old machines last and can be rebuilt if necessarily. Old consoles are drifting away at an alarming rate.

Whats worse, as the older generations die out entirely, many games stand to be lost forever. While we all know that no game companies care about old game emulation, the technical illegality of emulation prevents libraries from doing their crucial work. If the industry can't come together as a whole and agree on legal exceptions for preservation and scholarly pursuits, bit rot is going to end up casting large shadows over video game history.

For anybody that wants a good overview on the dire state of video game archival and preservation, The International Game Developers Association published an excellent paper on the subject back in 2009.

http://bit.ly/p7QH1j

Completely agree. I hate trying desperately to find those classic titles that no one sells anymore, and that no one will sell because of the fact that they are good games.

When the battery for my Pokemon Red GameBoy game died, I was horrified. There was a remastered version, but of course, it's horribly updated and just awful. I want the original, not some shiny new "appeal to the new generation" crap.

Then of course, the only way to go is emulation. That was a difficult choice - I own the game and can no longer play it, so does that make it legal? I didn't in the end, but there's your issue: more people are turning to illegal downloading to get those classics. If they're concerned about that, why not just re-release them? I'd love to be able to play the original Tomb Raiders and Silent Hill, and I'd but them at the drop of a hat.

Irridium:
This is why I love Good Old Games. They update the games to run on current operating systems, then sell them for cheap. Nothing else. Oh, and they pile in lots of extras, and no DRM. That's awesome as well.

I love GoG and CD Projekt Red. Only ones that really seem to care about their games and their customers.

If only there was a similar group for console games...

I had a sudden urge to play Roller Coaster Tycoon + Corkscrew follies/Loopy Landscapes and found it on GoG for like 4.99.

Once I have my new PC setup i'm definitely going to pick up quite a few games from there that I really want to play again.

Along with the 12 games from the humble indie bundle and some old PC games I want to run through I should be set for a while ^_^ Haven't gamed on a PC in ages. (I don't count D2, Wc3 & FFXI)

Emulators are your friend. Even if you have to violate copyright to download them and the roms that go in them, they are the only way to preserve gaming history.

But sometimes the emulators aren't good enough. For example all the old consoles had slowdown when lots of stuff was happening, and some games even took advantage of it. On newer systems the emulation runs so well there is no slowdown and the game isn't as playable (gunstar heros virtual console wii, I'm looking at you).

My objection is that trying to keep your old games contemporary this way, papering over every slightest wrinkle of old age every few years, is hopeless. When you preserve a game for history it has to be preserved warts and all, because the warts are just as interesting as the good bits. They create a cultural context and an impression of the time and the attitudes of the people thereof.

I find this hypocritical considering how you keep nagging on about how most 3-D games of that period looked like shit, Yahtzee. Which is it? Keep the games looking like "paper mache models moving about" as you put it or fix that problem with current tech? Make up your damn mind.

rembrandtqeinstein:
Emulators are your friend. Even if you have to violate copyright to download them and the roms that go in them, they are the only way to preserve gaming history.

But sometimes the emulators aren't good enough. For example all the old consoles had slowdown when lots of stuff was happening, and some games even took advantage of it. On newer systems the emulation runs so well there is no slowdown and the game isn't as playable (gunstar heros virtual console wii, I'm looking at you).

All emulators allow game specific hacks/fixes. So what you describe can easily be recreated on an emulator.

taltamir:
the ONLY thing preventing an emulation based archive of all games ever is the illegality of such an endeavor.
There are no serious technical issues and there are more then enough people with the will and the money.

There's also the problem that not every old console controller with a proprietary connector has a fully-functional adapter to the PC. Newer controllers seem to have a trend of using standard interconnects, though, and are thus either usable with third party drivers (Wii) or sometimes even have official PC compatibility (360) so it's a problem that's improving naturally

Zolcos:

taltamir:
the ONLY thing preventing an emulation based archive of all games ever is the illegality of such an endeavor.
There are no serious technical issues and there are more then enough people with the will and the money.

There's also the problem that not every old console controller with a proprietary connector has a fully-functional adapter to the PC. Newer controllers seem to have a trend of using standard interconnects, though, and are thus either usable with third party drivers (Wii) or sometimes even have official PC compatibility (360) so it's a problem that's improving naturally

It is really easy and cheap to make knock-off controllers. And in fact you can actually buy such knock-offs already. Not only that, but ones specifically made to work with modern computers for emulator purposes yet still identical in appearance and function to older console controllers.
Aka, you a USB controller that is identical to an old <console name>.

And those would be even more common and readily available if there were less legal barriers to emulation. In fact you would have companies who do nothing but make such controllers.

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