Why There Is No Future For Old Games

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Why There Is No Future For Old Games

The games we played years ago on PC don't age very well, and Shamus explains why it is getting harder and harder to play old games.

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Virtualisation helps to mitigate a lot of these issues, though it does still fall down at licensing currently. Providing a game in a ready made minimal VM would be a solution to at least some of the problems listed here.

I agree that it has become a bit harder to play old games. Ever since I got a 64 bit operating system, it's been a pain to play old pc games. In the case of Tetris (I only play Tetris for Windows, 95, I think), I ended up installing a virtual machine to play it.

Other old games like LBA 2 had had some fans tweak it for 64 bit, although there were too many glitches to complete the game.

However, while it has become a bit harder, there still seems to be a solution to every problem. I haven't yet come across an old game that I simply cannot play. Sure, console companies don't make backwards compatible hardware, but you can get emulators on the PC that play most, if not all of the games from consoles going back many generations.

Also, even as consoles get more complex and difficult to emulate, PC technology and hardware continues to advance at a faster rate and should be able to keep up. Of course, there is always a lag before the emulator comes along, but I'm sure they will keep coming. I certainly hope so. It will be a sad sad day if we really lose access to old games. In recent times, I find myself returning to my old favourites far more often than playing new games.

What about preservation of source codes? Note: I know nothing about programming and all my guesses about source codes are based on my own interpretation of games with open ones.

If a game has its source code made public, couldn't it be made compatible with modern PCs? I know we cannot guess about how future computers will work and this entirely excludes consoles but as far as preserving old games, couldn't having access to the game's source code allow a small group of people to get many games running again on newer hardware?

If that were possible, we would just need some sort of tyrant to take over the world and make it law that games have to release their source codes after X amount of time. That shouldn't be too hard though.

it's amazing that a publisher wouldn't take interest in this chance to keep some legacy franchise alive, especially when someone else is willing to do all the work and give them a cut of the proceeds.

It depends on who it is that owns the IP. A lot of properties formally owned by companies that went bankrupt sold their IPs to individuals and firms specifically looking to buy a bunch of IPs at a very low rate. So I own ABC company, I make 30 games, I go bankrupt even though I had a few cult hits, and let's say Mitt Romney swoops in and buys all of them for a rock-bottom price.

Many times these same people and firms don't care about games, aren't game companies. Whether it's games or assets from a completely different industry, they buy it all, and their only motivation is to sell all of the games (not just one or two IPs out of the 30) for a tidy profit. Even if "everyone else does the work" when they get the rights to re-release a certain game, unless they sell the IP outright their money is still tied up in it. They don't like that. They also might have other priorities.

As for publishers and such who just sit on old IPs, doing nothing with them, that's also because they have other priorities and projects going on, and re-releasing a game is something they have to talk about with their own investors.

It sucks but that's the industry. Unlike software you can't just update the same program and call it by a different name. The only thing we can hope for is that publishers do see the wisdom in selling re-releases, so if you want more of that 10 years from now you should probably buy up all the re-releases they're selling now.

Virtual Machines are great for those OS-problems, Shamus...
Just INSTALL Windows XP if that's what you need.

"This has been going on for years, and it's terrifying. "
Now those driver hacks, I don't think anyone outside of making games knows about that! Whoa!!!!

There is one, very iffty, solution to dissapearing games.

Indie devs to take a look at Shoot Guy IV's design and gameplay, and make a spiritual successor that future people, suffering from nostalgia sickness, can sit down and play with a tear in their eye, reminescing about the original but joyous about their current experience.

And hell, why only indies?
It's time for AAA industries to reinvent the wheel, in shinier graphics.

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

Johnny Novgorod:

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

Unless you don't touch your console again, in 25 years wear and tear will get the better of it.

I upgraded (downgraded?) to Win 8.1 recently and I can attest that it can be a nightmare to get older games to run properly. Populous: The Beginning no longer works in hardware mode in Win8, but it used to work perfectly fine in Win 7. Granted, the game still works in software mode and that's better than nothing.

Also I'm generally a sucker for retro games, so imagine the hassle I had to go through to get Shadow Man and Clive Barker's Undying running properly on Win 8, I had to use a compatibility tool and I'm afraid this will be more common as time goes on, that's why GOG prefers to use DosBox or nGlide, it's easier to get these games running in newer systems under these emulators.

With a bit of sorcery and a bit of the good ol' necromancy, I managed to get Dungeon Keeper 2 properly running under hardware mode (not the one that GOG uses, that looks ugly as sin), so yeah, I guess the best solution is using a virtual machine with Win XP installed, or just having a dual boot.

Johnny Novgorod:

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

Seriously, you know that your PS2 wont last forever, I rather know that any computer, now or in the future, can run a PS2 game using an emulator.

My Xbox worked fine untill 2 years ago, now there are plenty of games that I cant play.

Funnily enough I'm already having that problem with FUEL I got it on Steam a while ago and at first I couldn't play it because of GFWL but when I got a new PC I looked up how to crack GFWL (Hey I paid for it they're the assholes that sold me a defective product) and now it won't even run, which sucks because in my old PC I could play it's just that GFWL didn't let me save.

But anyway I was just saying that because yo mentioned that game, but even then some more popular games don't work properly either, for example GTAIV doesn't let me adjust the graphics, it just locks itself on the minimum and doesn't let me modify them which is annoying and I won't play it because of that, it also has annoying DRM that I have no idea how it works, it's called SecuROM or something.

CaitSeith:

Johnny Novgorod:

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

Unless you don't touch your console again, in 25 years wear and tear will get the better of it.

josemlopes:
Seriously, you know that your PS2 wont last forever, I rather know that any computer, now or in the future, can run a PS2 game using an emulator.

My Xbox worked fine untill 2 years ago, now there are plenty of games that I cant play.

That's true of any machine.

Johnny Novgorod:

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

I used to think that way but then my GameCube and my PS1 died, N64 is still kicking though but it's kinda hard getting it to work, never does in the first try, anyway all of the old consoles will stop working eventually and CDs and DVDs won't last forever, so even owning the old hardware isn't much of a solution not to mention that hardware takes space and that's something that not everyone has.

Johnny Novgorod:

CaitSeith:

Johnny Novgorod:

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

Unless you don't touch your console again, in 25 years wear and tear will get the better of it.

josemlopes:
Seriously, you know that your PS2 wont last forever, I rather know that any computer, now or in the future, can run a PS2 game using an emulator.

My Xbox worked fine untill 2 years ago, now there are plenty of games that I cant play.

That's true of any machine.

Unless you make it already thinking about the future and have the proper documentation available. Its hard to emulate the Xbox because of that while the PS2 is much easier (there is also the fact that there isnt much interest from people to have the Xbox emulated but the documentation available is also much less so its kind of pointless).

There can be some effort to keep them available one way or the other instead of not giving a fuck and locking it to one system forever.
The PC certainly has a much longer longevity even if eventually things can change to something else.

I've been building computers for years. Recently started to get into Linux and have been using emulators both high level and low level for years too. I simply can not agree with this except the part about consoles. Backwards compatibility has only gotten better. You don't need an XP box. Hell you can do this now with a virtual machine. (I've got run that will run Windows 98)

Old games have a much more sturdy future then the new ones in all honesty. Once a game works for Direct X it stays working most of the time. I suspect that in the future Direct X will either be replaced by something different or will be sold by Microsoft as a separate toll that other operating systems can use. Think of it like Unreal Engine.

Shamus Young:
Why There Is No Future For Old Games

The games we played years ago on PC don't age very well, and Shamus explains why it is getting harder and harder to play old games.

Read Full Article

You mentioned Jade Empire and Thief Deadly Shadows. I actually scooped up those games for $6 each after someone gave me an original Xbox that was sitting in their closet collecting dust. I never played them before, and I'm glad I have a chance to play them now.

AT God:
What about preservation of source codes? Note: I know nothing about programming and all my guesses about source codes are based on my own interpretation of games with open ones.

If a game has its source code made public, couldn't it be made compatible with modern PCs? I know we cannot guess about how future computers will work and this entirely excludes consoles but as far as preserving old games, couldn't having access to the game's source code allow a small group of people to get many games running again on newer hardware?

If that were possible, we would just need some sort of tyrant to take over the world and make it law that games have to release their source codes after X amount of time. That shouldn't be too hard though.

That essentially is a re-release, and would be running into its own set of issues alongside with the ones named in the article.

There are a whole bunch of problems, but many of them come down to that in order for the source code to -do- anything, you need to compile it. Either you have to find a compiler of roughly the right version - and then deal with all the issues mentioned in the article, or you're rewiring every single part that was deprecated in order for it to work on a more up-to-date compiler.

IF, of course, that family tree of languages hasn't died out along the way. C and its offshoots are pretty old. They'll be good to go for quite a few more years, but there really is no guarantee whatsoever that they won't have faded to obscurity in 10-15 years.

And that's only talking under the hood. Graphically speaking you're dealing with all this, and then some, as many of the graphical gimmicks in use to day will die off in the years to come.
You can be reasonably certain that programmers in 20 years will still be using if and while statements, but things like anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, LoD? They'll be gone as soon as the problem can be solved by just blasting raw processing power at the problem.

If you're a hobby programmer just trying to preserve old games for purely historical reasons, you are now a criminal.

image
Arrrh! SNESFun, anyone? Arrh...

...ma-tey.

I do not condone illegal activities, ye scallywags.

...Arrrrh. Seriously t' be an entire website full o' ye old timey SNES retro games. Shoorley if t'were il'eegal t'woulda been taken down by now eh? Arrrh.

I still have those 90's vidja gaems on CD, now all I need is a PC with a disk drive O_o

Johnny Novgorod:

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

This would be fine if a) PS2's were still being manufactured b) PS2's never break down, and c) all electronics aren't designed to eventually break down so you'll buy new ones.

The answer to all three being 'They don't'.

Now obviously, everything is fleeting, but with games it's fucking ridiculous. The only silver lining here is that my interest in games might desolve with age so I won't care anymore that I can't play the "classics".

I don't agree with Shamus on this one, at all.

1. Yes, GoG!
2. Wine is actually pretty good today and I think it will run most games out of the box. I was amazed that I was able to run all of Steam in Wine and start Skyrim from within and it ran without a hitch. And it was easy too.
3. Virtual Machines will make it possible. Also, compatibility settings. It's possible to run almost all the games since Windows 95 on Windows 7 by tweaking around a bit.

If there is one compelling reason why old games don't have a future it's the impending age of Virtual Reality. Newer games might become so overwhelmingly immersive and interesting, that people will just not want to bother with anything less anymore.

Edit: 4. Fans. Time has proven that there are people out there that will program emulators to run just about anything, which is why it's possible today to play almost any game from any conceivable console on a PC.

Everyone was calling me crazy for saying that digital libraries instead of physical libraries, DRM (including steam), and other nonsense will mean people won't be able to play the games they bought 10-15 years down the road.

They think because you can rig 90's console and pc emulators, everything will be fine.

I agree with your point, Shamus. It's one I'm bitterly and deeply aware of, and the key reason why, when it comes to hobbies and free time, I've given first priority to gaming, before movies/series, music and books.
Unless I become blind, I'll be able to read my huge pile of unread books when I'm retired; I'm not so sure about music, pretty sure I won't be able to watch my DVDs, and dead sure the vast majority of my current games (including unplayed ones) will be unplayable unless the industry has experienced dramatic (pro-consumer) changes.
Heck, I've had games 5-years old unplayable on Steam because of drivers, and the then 8-y old DVD of the Pirates! remake unreadable because of shitty code (had to buy it again, for dirt cheap, at Gamersgate).
On the other hand, I have a 22 years old Mac who still runs, so some software and hardware can have a somewhat longer life expectancy (if I ever feel the need to play SimCity 2000 or original Civilization again).

I think the obvious is being missed, at the end of the day I think it's not all that difficult to sort out the problems if the people involved really want to. The problem is that old IPs like "No One Lives Forever" have an indirect value that companies do not want to give up. It comes down to high end IP trolling, a lot of which is handled behind the scenes by lawyers out of the public's eye. The more IPs a company has the easier it becomes to both try and shave pieces off of someone else's work, as well as establish precedent to defend your own work if someone tries to do it to you. If say someone accuses you of ripping off their 3rd Person Space Marine Shooter, the more IPs you have that are in some way similar to what you released and were unchallenged allows you to say "it was based off of these things". Similar to having the rights to old engines where you can claim an innovation came by building off of an engine you own, as opposed to stealing from someone else. Perhaps more relevantly to something like "No One Lives Forever" is that it was a well done, but ultimately fairly generic game, that plays in a common sense fashion for the genera. Those who hold that IP are thus in a position to try and shave pieces off of anyone else who tries to make a spy game, especially one set in the 1960s using old spy movie/TV series tropes. There were rumors that the whole reason why the "Alpha Protocol" franchise failed was that once development was started the publishers started getting challenges specifically off of this IP due to vague similarities, enough where it slowed development, and involved the modification of certain game systems, the game came out late, buggy, over budget, and with enough potential baggage that nobody was in a hurry to try again, and allegedly this is why what should be a popular genera has not seen anyone else making an effort to revive it. There were also rumors about WoTC which owns TSR's "Top Secret" RPG license wanting to do video games based off of it (ORION Vs. WEB) and giving up for similar reasons. This could all be untrue mind you, I get all this from rumors, speculation, and some pretty old discussions, but the bottom line is that old style 60s spy stuff is popular and pretty much everyone who wants to mess with it winds up being inspired by things like "The Man From UNCLE" or even "Get Smart" (which was parodying the 60s spy genera before Austin Powers was remotely conceived of). The thing is that video game IPs can be odd which is why so much defense is needed and why Tim Langdell even tried his form of copyright infringement, because at the high end unless your holding a lot of cards to defend yourself, someone can make broad claims to an IP. Using acronyms like say HARM and the like which invoke images of SPECTRE and CHAOS and others can ridiculously enough lead to people claiming anyone who wasn't as quick to rip off the 60s spy series either can't work with the IP or owes them money. What's more given time everything comes back around, whomever has the "No One Lives Forever" rights is probably sitting on them, waiting to bring out that bit of precedent to try and exclusively develop within the genera when it becomes a serious fad again... not well articulated, but there are my thoughts based on how I've heard about how the games industry operates, and that with video games it's much easier in a lot of cases to make IP claims with broad strokes than with other media.

I would have to disagree with you here Shamus, there are quite a number of options to get older pc games to work.

1. Compatibility settings for Windows , this works surprisingly often given the huge changes between old and new versions of operating systems.

2. Emulation, you can emulate a lot of old games pretty easily now especially the older consoles like the PS1/2 for example.

3. Companies like money and are often all to happy to sell you a "new" version of the game or a HD remake that works on current systems at the least. Also GoG fix a lot of older games so they will at least function on a modern PC. Granted sometimes you can't get a reboot of some games because of IP law hell as is the case with No one lives Forever and i'm sure a number of others as well.

4. Wine is a thing now, if you are using a Linux disto Wine is getting pretty damn good at making both older games work and Windows only games. It is also not an emulator (Wine is an acronym of "Wine is not an emulator")

5. Virtual machines, You can run a Virtual machine of an older or different operating system that will work with your older games.

6. Dual boot, pretty simple really, have either a separate partition with an older OS on your hard drive or another hard drive with a different OS on it.

And sometimes inexplicably you luck out and find a game that works without having to do any of the above, my old copy of Earth 2150: Th moon project works on Windows 8 without having to do any of the above for example.

Good grief, I can't even get Fallout 3 running on Windows 7.

(Which is part of the reason I'm likely to continue running a dual-boot, multi-OS machine as long as possible...)

It seems to me that a significant portion of this is legal. If Microsoft would be more lenient in letting others use code of long-dead operating systems (or laws were more permissive in regard to letting others reverse-engineer them,) several of the issues listed would be, if not easy, at least visibly surmountable.

Therumancer:
Perhaps more relevantly to something like "No One Lives Forever" is that it was a well done, but ultimately fairly generic game, that plays in a common sense fashion for the genera. Those who hold that IP are thus in a position to try and shave pieces off of anyone else who tries to make a spy game, especially one set in the 1960s using old spy movie/TV series tropes.

I'm not sure that would work. They can't sue for copyright infringement unless content is being stolen and trademarks must be maintained through use. Since NOLF hasn't been sold for quite some time, a trademark claim would go nowhere. In fact, I'd say the reason why we are getting numerous remakes is because the lawyers pointed that out.

josemlopes:

Johnny Novgorod:

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

Seriously, you know that your PS2 wont last forever, I rather know that any computer, now or in the future, can run a PS2 game using an emulator.

My Xbox worked fine untill 2 years ago, now there are plenty of games that I cant play.

Then buy a new one. And by new I mean used, but still easy enough to obtain cheaply. By the time PS2s and Xboxes become genuinely rare enough that they become prohibitively expensive, emulators will have gotten sophisticated enough -- and computers powerful enough to run them will be common enough -- to make that a non-issue.

Magmarock:
Old games have a much more sturdy future then the new ones in all honesty.

That... was literally the exact point of the article. The games that are old now are easy enough to get running, but once more recent ones get to be that age, they might not be.

Steve the Pocket:
.

Magmarock:
Old games have a much more sturdy future then the new ones in all honesty.

That... was literally the exact point of the article. The games that are old now are easy enough to get running, but once more recent ones get to be that age, they might not be.

My point is when these games get old they should still work fine. Emulating windows XP can already be done

I don't know about this. I'm not an expert at all, but one thing I always see is there will always be a dedicated group to keep it alive. Even the original chapters of old MMO's I can still find and play with other people.

Johnny Novgorod:

... the only way to run yesterday's games is to own yesterday's hardware.

I never got this attitude from PC gamers, as if consoles turned into dust whenever a new generation comes along.
Dude, man, Shamus: my PS2 works fine.

Me too. Hell my NES is happy and chugging along at 25 years old.

I see the problem occurring, at least for consoles, starting this generation because there is so much interconnectivity with the net. Sure they aren't technically always online, but they are crippled when they aren't.

Even PS3 and 360 digital games are a black box. What happens when those systems are not allowed to log in anymore?

Personally I think the PCs have a better chance at the future, but it will take a lot of really smart people to do it.

DO NOT question emulators. We have emulation of things as recent as the Wii. I can run DS emulation at 60fps on my 6 yr old gaming laptop. Old games will be fine, but the multiplayer experience will be forgotten, or, not entirely.

If the modern trend is anything to go by multiplayer genre's will be kept alive by indies, or heck ppl still playing that old game. Jedi Knight Academy is still kicking with a userbase dedicated to dueling. And if you want a modern equivalent, look at the independent title, Blade Symphony. Things simply don't die. They are remade. Where there is potential profit there is are mediocrely talented indie devs looking to cash in.

Nazulu:
I don't know about this. I'm not an expert at all, but one thing I always see is there will always be a dedicated group to keep it alive. Even the original chapters of old MMO's I can still find and play with other people.

Yeah, I don't know how ppl reverse engineer MMO's but really any MMO that had at least a cult following you can find a private server on. Never heard of Ace Online? Not many have, but if you ever wanted to play without the grind, there's 5-7 private servers waiting for you.

Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless. What does man gain from all his labor? Generations come and generations go. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.

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