Experienced Points: No Future for Old Games

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 17, 2015

Filed under: Column 150 comments

My column this week talks about why – barring some major changes in the way we deal with old titles – we most likely won’t be playing 2010 games in 2025, even though we’re still playing 2000 games in 2015.

As an extended topic: What games from the last five years will you still want to play in 2025?

For me: Arkahm City. Minecraft. Saints Row 3 or 4. Borderlands 2. All the Half-Lifes & Portalses. Maybe Skyrim? Maybe the Tomb Raider reboot?

Games I liked but that I’ll probably never play again: Deus Ex Human Revolution. (It just doesn’t have the emergent depth of the original. I’ve tried, but there just isn’t enough new or different to pull me through the game again.) Maybe someday I’ll go mad and feel like putting up with the Brotherhood of Stupid in Fallout 3, but I doubt it.

Although, it’s actually pretty hard to guess what games I’ll still value in 2025. Maybe I’ll go wild for Human Revolution again. Maybe new Minecraft-y games will come along that make our version seem shallow and redundant. Maybe I won’t care about Borderlands 2 because I’ll be playing Borderlands 5, and it’s basically the same damn thing. If you’d told me in 1998 that I’d still be playing Thief 16 years later I would have told you you were crazy and to leave me alone because I was busy playing it now. But I was playing Thief (original flavor) last year, and it was still pretty good.

Of course, in an ideal world all games would survive, be forwards compatible, go open source, or see re-release. But this is not an ideal world and we don’t know which games will make it and which ones won’t.

EDIT: Over at the Escapist, some people are suggesting using virtual machines to solve the compatibility problems. I’ve only dabbled with VM’s and don’t know everything they can do, but my first worry is getting that troublesome GPU driver layer to work right. (See the article for details on why that’s a nightmare.) Like, okay: You’ve got some kind of NVIDIA Windows XP GPU driver. You’re going to need some kind of feature in your VM to get that driver to talk to your 2025 graphics cards.

And now that I think of it, will you be able to properly install Windows XP in 2025? Sure, you’ve got your VM and an iso of the Win XP disk… but what about updates and service packs? What about all those Direct X runtimes that you need to run the games and that Microsoft doesn’t permit anyone but them to distribute. Just getting the final form of Windows XP running might involve several instances of “piracy”. Sure, it will exist. You’ll be able to do it. But it won’t be like running DOS Box. It will be a sketchy thing on the Torrents, not a turnkey thing on GoG.

Now I’m sad again.


From The Archives:

150 thoughts on “Experienced Points: No Future for Old Games

  1. Jacob Albano says:

    Post seems to be missing a title?

    This got me thinking…maybe if developers are really concerned about making games that stand the test of time, they should be targeting DOSbox (or something similar) from the very beginning. Obviously for performance-intensive games it wouldn’t make any sense, but smaller indie titles wouldn’t necessarily suffer the drawbacks of running in an emulator.

    1. John says:

      I don’t think that developers are concerned about making games that stand the test of time–at least not in the sense that you mean–in large part because they have very little financial incentive to do so. For one thing, my impression is that developers very seldom hang on to their IP rights for all that long. Origin doesn’t benefit from sales of Wing Commander on GOG, EA does because Origin sold out to EA a long, long time ago. For another, even assuming that future-proofing of the type you’re suggesting is possible, I have a hard time believing that developers would choose to spend much time, money, or effort today for the sake of a relatively small number of heavily discounted sales in the distant future.

      More generally, I’m not sure you can develop with future emulation in mind. I mean, how would you do so? There isn’t anything I’m aware of that you can do to ensure compatibility with an emulator that doesn’t exist yet to be run on an OS and hardware that don’t exist yet.

      1. guy says:

        Well, if you’re careful to develop to the API rather than the specific implementation, you should be compatible with any future emulator, but you’re liable to take a performance hit by not fully exploiting the specifics of the architecture.

        1. Jacob Albano says:

          Exactly. The ideal scenario would be that the game has no idea which OS it’s running on, or which version of the “emulator” is currently executing it. The API has just has to have well-defined behavior and remain consistent through future releases.

          …of course, at some point you’re just creating a new operating system with all the problems that entails.

          1. “the game has no idea which OS it's running on”

            Like HTML5 and WebGL in other words.

            1. Jacob Albano says:

              Yeah, that’s a great example. We’re still a ways off from having cross-browser parity, but the fact that you can play HTML5 games on desktop, mobile, and even the Wii U is a huge deal, and the fact that it’s an open standard means that (theoretically) anyone going forward could create and maintain a platform to run them on any future OS or architecture.

              1. Bryan says:

                It also helps that stuff that works but is technically against the OpenGL spec, on desktop in C or C++ (like using extension entrypoints without asking for them, because they’re declared in the headers and exported by the GL library), is explicitly disallowed in webgl. So when it comes to building a webgl implementation for a new platform, there are a lot fewer places where you *should* have to care about compatibility with Shoot Guy IV.

                (…That is, the Shoot Guy IV from the article, which does something broken but which one of the video card vendors just works around.)

            2. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Is there a WebGL VR library?

              1. That depends on which one you want.

                After a quick search I found this…

                Apparently for Oculus Rift all you need is one line of code and boom you got Oculus Rift support with WebGL.


                I’m sure that now that we have the Oculus, and Sony’s new thing, and Razors thing ad Valve/HTCs thing that WebGL will get some extra VR related stuff standardized. (head tracking is key here).

                But to answer your Q. WebGL with Oculus Rift does seem possible with a library, yeah.

                Also, Epic did manage to make a HTML5/WebGL version of their Unreal 4 engine, compared to that VR support is easy.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Thanks. Its like my whole thing. I want to fancy myself being the guy that follows Shamus path, but this time with VR, then quits that to write web comics and be a pundit. But I might be a bit old. Didn’t start doing anything with web till my early 30’s.

          2. MrGuy says:

            This is why I suspect that console games will survive a lot better than PC games. I’m sure emulating an Xbox One in software will be a challenge, but I’m also sure future hardware will have sufficient spare horsepower to be able to handle it even if the hacks you need to use are dreadfully inefficient on resources. And once you’ve emulated an XBox well, you’ve got the base needed that other Xbox games that targeted the same console will “just work*” Compare that to the PC world where you have a heterogenous hardware environment with myriad possible configurations that you might need to support. It’s no guarantee that an emulator emulating a “modern” gaming PC that can run Tomb Raider will also “just work” with The Last Of Us without significant additional tweaking.

            * “Just work” as a hardware platform emulator. As Shamoose notes, DRM and required connectivity to servers that don’t exist are a pretty serious problem…

        2. Peter H. Coffin says:

          OTOH, a “performance hit” under those circumstances is unlikely to make a thing run *worse* than it did back in the day. Just not as good as it might today, but probably still better than then.

          1. It depends on how its coded. A non-game example is an old scanner I had that seemed like a great deal, since it was an 11 by 17 sized one from Mustek that sold for under $200. Unfortunately, the last time the drivers had been updated were the late 90’s. It still installed and everything, but the drivers and software were coded in such a way that when you used the scanner, it wanted ALL THE RAM, even if you had 2 gigs or more, which slowed everything else on your system down to a crawl. Any interruption, even checking for e-mail put a little white horizontal “hiccup line” in your scan.

            That’s an extreme example, though. The most common game problem seems to be an inability to cope with monitor resolutions that would probably have been considered crazy to even contemplate when the games were written.

      2. Jacob Albano says:

        I certainly don’t think they are either, at least not on the whole. I’m also aware that this approach would only work for a very small selection of games currently in development. However, I feel like targeting, say, ScummVM would be a smart move for the current adventure game community, since you get all that cross-platform availability as well as a theoretically future-proofed runtime. Adventure Game Studio is great, but it still relies on DirectDraw and some games that use it require it to run in compatibility mode or have other similar requirements.

        1. John says:

          Hmm . . . So a few small steps today to make life easier for the modders and compatibility patchers of the future? It doesn’t strain my brain to imagine hobbyist developers doing something like that.

      3. Felblood says:

        “More generally, I'm not sure you can develop with future emulation in mind. I mean, how would you do so? There isn't anything I'm aware of that you can do to ensure compatibility with an emulator that doesn't exist yet to be run on an OS and hardware that don't exist yet.”

        Sure there is. It’s called saving your bloody source code.

        I seriously cannot fathom how so many developers have failed to do this.

        1. Richard says:

          Save it where?

          GameCo writes their game, uses source control internally and that’s all great.

          Then the game goes on sale, is a massive hit (or not), they do some early patches and then move onto the next game.

          The source code repository gets balled up and archived somewhere within the company.
          They don’t send it to a 3rd party because it’s their IP, and sending it to a 3rd party either risks the 3rd party doing something unauthorised, or means GameCo has to pay them to look after it.

          Years later, GameCo goes bust. Now what?

  2. silver Harloe says:

    I think points 1 and 2 in your Escapist article seem kinda… off?

    The reason isn’t that the future will hold a “like DOS Box like but for Windows XP,” but because the present includes virtual machines, and I can only imagine those getting better in the future. Very soon (even now for some people with high end systems) it will be commonplace to do all your personal computing on a VM, so your “main system” is just a Xen manager (this has advantages with protection of your system if you keep different VMs for different purposes). In the server market, it’s rare to find someone that will rent you a machine anymore – they’ll happily rent you a slice of one with your own VM on it, though. I imagine a future of GOG (or some new service catering to this model) that distributes not a game jiggered to run on modern operating systems, but distributes a VM with the old OS on it with the game already installed. VMs can also mitigate some-but-not-all DRM issues. It certainly won’t help with games that must phone home. But if you have a separate VM with Bioshock and nothing else on it, you can just not enable networking in that VM and not care that it has a rootkit.

    Licensing, however, becomes more complex. Instead of just licensing the game, you also need to license the OS and any software you installed along with the game into the VM. So it may be a wash, or it may not. Or it may mean there’s a thriving pirate community for old games.


    While I was posting this, you edited your article to pre-reply to me. I would like to comment briefly on one item in your edit: instead of distributing the iso for WinXP, distribute the “built” OS with all service packs and whatnot. Provided someone right *now*, while it’s still possible, somewhere in the world has a VM with a clean WinXP install where they’ve nothing but get mandatory updates and patches, then that VM can be used as the “base” machine – just copy it, install game in the copy, distribute the new machine.

    Yes, that would be a licensing nightmare, because technically everyone would be running the *same* WinXP, but it’s possible MS would allow future-GOG some kind of license for “that OS we stopped supporting 16 years ago”

    The graphics layers – yeah, I dunno about those. Maybe it’ll be a sticking point.

    1. Knut says:

      MS distributes VMs with older IE and Windows, though it’s for browser testing. But *maybe* they can be convinced to do the same for games (but I doubt it to be honest).


      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Windows 7 comes standard with Virtual PC with “XP Mode” precisely for compatibility. My office ran it for quite a while as we were supporting a large customer base in a very slow transition. Heck, we were able to run our old Novell stuff on it.

        Windows has been forced to continue to be compatible because of its customer base, offices that tend to be slow to upgrade and bought their apps during the Clinton administration but still expect them to run.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          That said, I don’t know how it would do with video games. I can’t remember if I tested any kind of video on it.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I think points 1 and 2 in your Escapist article seem kinda… off?

      Not only that,but you can get today emulators for pisser 3 and xbone 360,which are waaaaaay more complex than dos.So emulation will always be a possibility.

      BUT,emulators are also becoming way more complex,so your average user will not only lack the will,but the skill to use them.Not only that,but legality of emulators are iffy.

      1. Jacob Albano says:

        Uh, there’s no emulator for the X360 and the one that’s being developed for PS3 can run a handful of 2d indie games at at several frames per second in the best case. I don’t think they’re impossible, but they certainly don’t exist today.

        1. MrGuy says:

          I wonder if the PS3 will be a lost cause to emulate, at least for the next decade or so until the hardware’s so fast you can waste 99% of the processor time and still outperform modern hardware.

          The cell architecture is a crazy beast.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        … and the more complex the emulator (and the more modern systems move away from the architecture you’re trying to emulate), the more difficult it will be to get the performance of the original.
        Case in point: In 1997, my brand-new Pentium MMX 233 (that’s 233 MHz, suckers!) was not able to run some late-1980s games I used to play on a C-64 (running on 800 kHz but some hardware with very specific possibilities), and some only terribly slowly.

        That said: Win XP virtual machines are ubiquitous in some circles, and while the ones I’ve seen only have virtual generic VGA cards (no 3D acceleration), I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two virtual hardware configurations reflecting some of the more popular cards of the day to become available at some point, and then all the old games of the future would “just” have to work within that set-up. It would still be way more difficult than what people I know use virtual XP for (running 16 bit legacy software, using the 16-bit emulation of the virtual 32-bit machine running on a 64 bit computer), but it could be done if enough willpower was behind it.

      3. Dev Chand says:

        I’m pretty sure that emulating machines are legal in most countries. Getting software that runs on them without paying the money is not, however.

  3. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I find it funny that you’re talking about books a scant century old or less. You can still get copies of the Iiad.

    1. RodeoClown says:

      There’s VERY few ancient books around though. A tiny fraction of one percent of all the books from those periods. Of course a couple of games will still run. Some might even have loads of copies still around (will Minecraft be the equivalent of early Bible manuscripts?), but the vast majority of ancient texts are gone, never to return.

      That’s what Shamus is talking about.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        But if we do have a text, transcribing is very straight forward. Not the case with old software.

    2. RCN says:

      The Iliad and The Odyssey are certainly great treasures… but it does kinda hit close to heart when you remember there are reports of at least four more Homeric Epics.

      Maybe these survived because they were the best. We’ll never know… (unless someone figures out the bullshit science behind Assassin’s Creed genetic memory… nah…)

  4. Tektotherriggen says:

    This issue also makes a complete mockery of the whole “we can’t allow second hand game sales, because digital information lasts forever” argument that led to Project $10 and the like.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      But not for the issue of continuing to run servers for the same game changing hands between multiple players. I’m fully in support of charging for the online service for each new user.

      You should listen to Totalbiscuit’s account. He used to work at a game store. They were trained to push sales of the used copy of a game when the buyer is looking at a new copy. The profit margins are higher for the store and the company that actually created the game is denied a sale.

  5. DrMcCoy says:

    The future might not even be x86 / x86_64. It might be some ARM variant. Then we’re going to have to emulate a whole different architecture; and that’s always quite CPU intensive.

    Sure, the first few generations of the new architecture might have some compatibility layer built in. But that’ll go away quickly. Just look at Apple: the Classic Environment that made OS 9 stuff work on OS X stopped working with 10.5+, and Rosetta, which made PowerPC applications work on Intel Macs stopped working with 10.7+.

    1. Alan says:

      I’m more optimistic. Unless CPUs basically stop getting faster (for varying complex definitions of faster), it’s just a matter of time before emulating the older CPU becomes practical. It also parallelizes reasonably well, so maybe my next-next-next generation CPU doesn’t get more work done per cycle, but I can throw 16 processor-cores at emulating a single one.

      That said, I think x86/x86-64 is going to survive for a long time. There is too much installed base and too little incentive to try something else. Apple made a valiant effort to stay away but ultimately gave up. Intel tried to convince us to jump to a newer instruction set and failed miserably.

      (Warning: here Alan steps into territory he’s far less certain on. Alan is code monkey, not a CPU-design monkey.) Modern high end x86 processors don’t even directly run x86; they’re running a different, simpler instruction set and a higher level in the processor converts the rich x86 instructions into the real instructions. Having a reasonably rich top level instruction set enables more optimizations no matter what lower level instruction set you end up actually running.

      1. guy says:

        Technically, x86 and ARM are Instruction Set Architectures. Processors can use any internal instruction format so long as the ISA can be converted into it. Modern processors in PCs tend to have dedicated structures to perform complex x86 instructions quickly, while phones use ARM so the processor is simpler.

      2. Erik says:

        (Warning: here Alan steps into territory he's far less certain on. Alan is code monkey, not a CPU-design monkey.) Modern high end x86 processors don't even directly run x86; they're running a different, simpler instruction set and a higher level in the processor converts the rich x86 instructions into the real instructions. Having a reasonably rich top level instruction set enables more optimizations no matter what lower level instruction set you end up actually running.

        Well, I actually was a CPU-design monkey back in the day, and to the first order you’re correct. Those who are old enough will remember the RISC-CISC wars of the late 80s-early 90s (Reduced Instruction Set vs. Complex Instruction Set), where Sun SPARC and other RISC processors claimed to be better than 80386 & other CISC processors. The reasoning was that the complex instruction set used so much of the transistor budget of a CPU chip, which could be better spent on other things; plus, the simpler instructions of the reduced set could be clocked faster, and frequently ran at one clock per instruction instead of 2-10(!).

        A decade on, the war became irrelevant – the x86 family was RISC at the pipeline level, but had the front-end pre-parser you mention that converted x86 instructions down to what the pipeline needed… and instead of taking 30-50% of the transistor budget, it took under 3% (even less, now). And if Intel hadn’t made the conversion to this style of mixed architecture, AMD was already doing the same thing so it would have happened anyway. The war was over, and x86 won because the entire battlefield became irrelevant. x86 became the “universal” machine language for high-end processors because it was complete enough to express almost anything needed, and there wasn’t enough gain to make it worth attacking. Better to just emulate the external language while building a better internal pipeline if you wanted to compete.

        RISC-style chips still exist at the low end, where the transistor budget is low enough that the trade-off is worth it. ARM, ATMega, MP430, etc. all play in that space. But optimizing compilers (and cross-compilers) have gotten enough better that we don’t care about the differences any more.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          sadly, cross-compiling only works if you have the source, and that again may be very very specific for certain architectures (including the funny driver optimisations Shamus mentions in the article), and of course it does not help you if you still own the game but not the computer… You can play your old DOS games from the early 90s on modern PCs (supposed you copied them off their floppy disks onto something readable today at some point), but for more modern games, that may well be more difficult.

          (great, and now I’m unhappy I never managed to save my C-64 games collection onto something more durable than the old 5 1/4 disks…probably a little late to try that now)

      3. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Well, processors *aren’t* really getting much faster. We aren’t getting anywhere near the increases in speed we were getting a decade ago, thus the move to multi-core processors. But since there’s no general solution to turning single-threaded code into multi-threaded code, there’s only so far that approach is going to get us.

        There are also projected limits to further shrinking silicon. Basically, we’re going to need to find a better computing technology soon if we want to keep getting more processing power.

      4. Moridin says:

        x86_64 CPUs basically HAVE stopped getting faster. Clockspeeds max out around 5 GHz(and even that’s pushing it without watercooling), IPC is increasing quite slowly(around 5% increase per generation for Intel, slightly more for AMD), and apart from servers and enthusiastic platforms(well, mainly x99, which just went from 6 to 8 cores after multiple generations of hexacores), the core count isn’t increasing very quickly either, with mainstream being limited to 8 cores(or 4 cores/8 threads, in case of intel) for quite a while now.

        1. Richard says:

          Throughput is still slowly going up, and will continue getting closer and closer to (amortised) 1 instruction per clock cycle.

          Core count is going to keep going up effectively forever, as it’s relatively cheap to bolt on more as manufacturing scale and yields improve.

          So if you have a game that redlines all cores today, in a few years time that’ll nearly redline the same number of cores – but there’ll be one or more extra cores to handle emulation layers.

          The graphics card is the interesting bit.
          Assuming the fundamental architecture of “large numbers of cores” doesn’t change, it should be relatively simple to perfectly emulate the API of OpenGL v1, 2, 3, 4, 5… a little harder to do the same for DirectX (unless you are Microsoft).

          However, the little ‘hacks’ which nVidia and ATI/AMD have put into their drivers are effectively unknowable – so any game that needs them is likely to die as later generations of GPUs come out.

  6. WWWebb says:

    Virtual Machines are nice, but most of them are slow enough to make running Office seem sluggish. It may be possible to load them on a fast machine and assign them a fast(ish) virtual CPU, but virtual GPUs are NOT a simple task.

    It’s akin to “cloud based rendering”. It sounds great in theory, but needs to be optimized heavily (i.e. used only for non-essential stuff) or it’s going to choke on those tiny 100MBps internet connections.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      That may be the case now in the home-computer market, but given that Amazon and Rackspace and such companies do all their business renting out slices of their servers as VMs (some even running Windows) for businesses that demand machines that work fast and well, it’s clearly the case that “VMs are slow” is a hardware problem which Moore’s law will solve for us in time (especially if we’re talking about an image of a computer from 2010).

      But, as I said above: Graphics, I dunno. Probably going to be longer until that’s sorted.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        Those VMs are running OSs (and software) that are made to run on that hardware, though. Server partitioning works by running multiple OSs concurrently and isolating them from each other, but it does not attempt to emulate hardware which is not there, nor the particulars of that emulated hardware’s drivers.

  7. Knut says:

    Games using software rendering are a lot easier to get to run because of this. If it worked then, it should work now (even faster actually).
    But some sort of compatability layer should be feasible to implement if you want to re-release and if you can get the original source (though this is not always possible).

  8. somebodys_kid says:

    I don’t know about the last five years, but I will literally keep an old machine available that will play No One Lives Forever as long as I have to. Fortunately it works in Windows 7 with some (very) minor tweaks. I try to play that once a year, hoping in vain that my continued loyalty will somehow (through metaphysical means) inspire someone to make more games like it. Fifteen years and counting!

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Ah, but how long will the hardware last, before it expires?
      PCs, consoles, and every type of computer in general, doesn’t last forever.
      Even things without moving parts start breaking down.
      (Tin whiskers, capacitors ‘drying out’, etc)
      There’s guys who today are having a hard time running NES games for let’s-plays, because the hardware is glitching out.
      Just one more reason playing old games will be infeasible in the future. :C

  9. The Schwarz says:

    This is not to say that your argument is entirely wrong, but keep in mind that the reason you can still buy copies of movies (or albums or TV shows or whatever) released more than 10 years ago is that the studios keep re-releasing them for all the new formats.

    Sure, it’s much easier for these things than for games, which need to be updated to modern tech and recompiled and everything, but there’s still a lot of work to be done and the fact is that movie/music studios just seem to care much more about conserving the past. And I think this has a lot to do with the age of the medium – a lot of older movies for example are completely lost to time. (IIRC MovieBob had a very interesting video about it)

    EDIT: I just remembered how you yourself have only recently complained about not being able to watch M.A.S.H. anywhere. So that’s a pretty good example I guess.

  10. Felipe Pepe says:

    I’ve dabbled a lot with old games recently, and while Virtual Machines are very handy, I’ve got better results with DxWnd: http://sourceforge.net/projects/dxwnd/

    It was the only way I found to play games like ZanZarah and the PC ports of Breath of Fire IV & Grandia II without any issue.

  11. Rayen says:

    And here’s another thing, even if something does get an HD re-release there’s no guarantee you’ll get the full game. People’s Evidence A; Age of Empires II: Age of Kings HD. It works like an exspansion pack, It’s got all the former playable races and game elements with some news bits and races pasted on… IN THE RANDOM MAP MODE. The previous campaigns are gone, the ones in the original and the conquerors expansion including the tutorial! So even if your favorite game gets this nice HD re-release no promises of your favorite part being in it.

    1. fd says:

      Er, you know you can click “Play HD Edition” at the top to get all the campaigns from AoK and AoC, as opposed to The Forgotten, right? It might not be the best UI choice, but it’s there.

      1. rayen says:

        gonna be honest didn’t even notice that was there.

        I still stand by my argument that re-releases may experience revisionist history.

        1. Phill says:

          Which depressingly reminds me of the original Star Wars trilogy, and how George Lucas got rid of the original versions of the films in favour of his ‘improved’ reworked versions. I think it is still the case that if you want the original theatrical version of the films, you have to get hold of a copy that pre-dates the changes in an older format.

          I think there might be a fan remake project that is attempting to de-special-edition-ise the films in newer formats, and with Lucas recently (IIRC) selling his stake in the films it is possible that an original version re-release might one day become possible.

          Incidentally has anyone else read ‘Remake’ by Connie Willis? The it’s a near-future sci-fi story where the viewpoint character’s job is to edit old films for re-release according to modern sensibilities by editing out alcohol, cigarettes etc. (and editing in the studio exec’s new girlfriend). The character got in to the job because of his love of old films, and hates that he has ended up being the one butchering them for the sake of passing cultural fads. (One of the other running barbs in the book – somewhat echoing the NOLF situation – is about how most of the films aren’t even available most of the time because they are always locked up in litigation between studios over rights, and so neither studio can use them until the case is resolved).

          1. Peter H. Coffin says:

            Incidentally has anyone else read “˜Remake' by Connie Willis? The it's a near-future sci-fi story where the viewpoint character's job is to edit old films for re-release according to modern sensibilities by editing out alcohol, cigarettes etc. (and editing in the studio exec's new girlfriend).

            Thanks for recommendation. I’m *highly* amused that my local library system only has it in ebook form, which would be very amenable to the very alteration under discussion…

          2. AileTheAlien says:

            “I think there might be a fan remake project that is attempting to de-special-edition-ise the films in newer formats”

            I know that there most definitely is at least one version of Star Wars IV that’s been completely re-done. It basically looks like how it looked in the theatres in the 70s, but with the colours touched up, so they don’t look faded. Essentially somebody went through several versions of the film (Laserdisc, VHS, DVD, etc etc) and picked out the best pieces for each scene. Also did stuff like, using the colours from the DVD version, to re-colourize the Laserdisc version – so you get the correct aspect ration (letterbox vs 4:3) but with the better colours.

            Can’t remember if they also did episodes V and VI…maybe yes?

            Anyways, it’s really sad that projects like this are technically illegal, since copyright lasts for approximately a century. Just imagine how much better we could have this stuff, if it had been going on in the open, by many people and/or companies, all trying to keep alive versions of old films, games, etc.

          3. The multiple studios issue also affects any potential Star Wars re-release, be it in Holy Trinity or Special Edition form. Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise by acquiring Lucasfilm, but Fox retains distribution rights to the first six movies until 2020, and to the original Star Wars in perpetuity. If Disney ever wants to do a “complete saga” release, it would need to agree on a deal with Fox that would make the recent Disney/Sony pact on Spider-Man look like a simple, inexpensive transaction. (That’s assuming Disney even wants get involved in that particular tar-pit, rather than simply exploiting its ability as the new rights-holder to set the direction of future films.)

  12. Counterpoint to the pessimism: You can’t find a arcade with all of the games you remember playing back when you had pockets full of tokens from Aladdin’s Castle with the Namco logo on the back. However, you can download MAME and get ROM files for every game you played and craploads that weren’t even available in your country.

    1. MrGuy says:

      I wonder if this is a business opportunity – grab some older/current game consoles and games and put ’em on ice. Grab some PC’s that were considered high-end a few years ago when the price drops to “affordable” and warehouse them as well. Buy some older games and activate ’em.

      The arcade of the future is a gaming lounge where you can rent SuperNES time by the hour to play FFVI….

    2. MadHiro says:

      That isn’t a counterpoint, that is essentially the entire point that Shamus is trying to make. Old games are built on hardware/software dependencies that we can emulate. Present day games, the old games of the future, are built on hardware/software which between licensing quagmires and accumulation of coding cruft, are dramatically much more difficult to emulate. We’ll always have a MAME-like, even though we’ll probably have to re-create MAME itself every so often to keep up with the march of the OSs. It’ll be a long time before we have something that can run Cities: Skylines once it’s no longer compatible with the current generation.

  13. John says:

    What games from the last five years will I still be playing ten years from now? I regret to say that the answer is none of them. I've just done some checking, and it seems that I don't own a single game released after 2008 for any platform. And yet I live in hope. The reason I don't play contemporary games is that I can't afford to upgrade what is otherwise a perfectly good PC just for the sake of games. But an upgrade (or, more likely, a brand new PC) is an inevitability. Ten years on, I will have shinier, newer hardware and today's games will be on deep discount on Steam, GOG, or some such. So my day should come, eventually.

    Then again, I share a lot of Shamus' fears. For example, I just bought Wing Commander: Privateer from GOG. Privateer is about twenty years old now, and thanks to the miracle of DOSBox I can play it on a 42 inch television from the comfort of my couch. But I very much doubt that I will be able to play Elite: Dangerous in twenty years, since that game requires you to connect to a server to play.

  14. Cilvre says:

    i run vm’s on my machine at home for different school things, but i can load up steam games in them without issue and still have them be playable. you can actually dedicate hardware to vm’s depending on what you are doing as well. I actually forgot that borderlands worked on windows xp because i was running windows 7 when it came out.

    Link to 4 vm’s gaming off of one pc: http://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Multi-headed-VMWare-Gaming-Setup-564/

  15. Bropocalypse says:

    Well, here’s hoping Valve’s SteamOS gambit really, really pays off in the long run.

  16. Josh says:

    “What games from the last five years will you still want to play in 2025? …All the Half-Lifes & Portalses.”

    But Shamus, none of the Half-Lifes and only one of the Portalses came out in the past five years.

    1. Tizzy says:

      Shamus is getting old: like me, he loses track of time, the years go by faster… I never picked up on that mistake either.

    2. I’m sure by 2025, you’ll be able to play the entire Half-Life Quadrilogy with updated graphics and everything.

      1. Mark says:

        By which you mean Half-Life 1, Half-Life 2, Episode 1, and Episode 2, of course.

          1. AileTheAlien says:

            Don’t worry, they’ll be releasing Half-Life: 3 in 2026, so at least we won’t have long to wait anymore.

    3. evileeyore says:

      And Josh will still be finishing a game of Total War: Shogun 2…

  17. Jeysie says:

    Even with the likes of GOG.com preserving some stuff, there’s still plenty of older games that are all but lost to us now except for a few scant copies on someone’s random hard drive. Go browse Home of the Underdogs sometime (and then weep that even that website is struggling to stay afloat).

    It makes me wonder if this is why gaming seems to have stagnated in many ways compared to other art forms… because it’s an art form where we keep having to reinvent the wheel because so many new creators never got to see the wheel. It pains me to see an art form that regularly loses sizable chunks of its output from year to year and this isn’t considered a big issue except for some random enthusiasts.

    Imagine something like the Film Registry or the Library of Congress dedicated to preserving video games.

    1. guy says:

      Actually, TV has had this problem. A ton of Dr. Who episodes are lost or semi-lost because the BBC wiped them to free up tapes. I think by now a majority have been partially recovered, but something like seventy are still missing and a number got spliced together from people recording the audio and foreign rebroadcasts without English language audio.

    2. MrGuy says:

      Imagine something like the Film Registry or the Library of Congress dedicated to preserving video games.

      You mean like The Library of Congress?

    3. Andy_Panthro says:

      As well as HoTU, there is Abandonia, which has a large library of old games (and links to GOG, Steam, etc.. where appropriate).

  18. Starker says:

    No country for old games, huh? Thief works on modern systems because someone got hold of the source code — the code that Eidos had lost and still does not care about. At least there will always be hobbyists who care about old games. We’d be much much poorer today if there hadn’t been places like Home of the Underdogs, people who fought to preserve old games and made them work on modern systems.

  19. Starker says:

    As for the games from 2010-2014 that I might want to replay in 10-15 years: Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, Mark of the Ninja, Dishonored, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Shadow Warrior, Bioshock 2, Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, Legend of Grimrock 2, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Witcher 2, Shadowrun: Dragonfall, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Spelunky, Shovel Knight, Bastion, Transistor, Lone Survivor, FTL: Faster Than Light, Hotline Miami, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth… probably forgot some as well.

    1. evileeyore says:

      For me the list is short: Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition, Minecraft ,Total War: Shogun 2, Fallen Enchantress, Organ Trail.

      Maybe Don’t Starve and Adventure Time Card Wars.

      But then there are only a few games every few years that make my “I’ll be playing this game until I die” list. I still play MoM and MoO once a year.

    2. Zekiel says:

      I find the question interesting, but the answer very hard to imagine. What games do I play now from 10-15 years ago? Nothing I can think of. I feel like even beloved games like Baldur’s Gate 2, Half-Life and Planescape Torment don’t hold up that well compared to more modern gameplay and/or UI improvements. So for me the list is more like “games I’d like to be able to play in 10-15 years, but probably wouldn’t actually play”:

      Arkham City
      Gone Home
      Spec Ops: The Line

      But hopefully by 2024 the high points of all these games will have become de riguer on all games, so replaying these will be wholly unnecessary :-)

      1. Richard says:

        Good point.

        I think the only games of that ilk that I actually do play now are Half-Life (the remake), C&C:Red Alert and Freespace 2 (the SCP update).

        And two of those are radically updated.

  20. Kerning Chameleon says:

    Even if you get OSs working in VMs (which are hideously slow, particularly as you get closer to the present day), you still have to deal with the issue of Authentication. Windows XP started doing it with that horrible “Genuine Advantage” nonsense, where either the machine itself or you needs to physically talk to Microsoft to make sure everything is kosher so that it will run past a month. And every Windows version has had some form of this I believe, and I think they’re even worse in some ways.

    So yeah, Shamus’s point about needing “less than legal” methods to get such solutions working still stands, since I doubt anyone at Microsoft will even have the tech to authenticate Windows XP and such anymore in 2025, much less want to.

  21. No One says:

    Don’t forget the games that rely on external networks to play. When the WoW servers shut down, perhaps the biggest game in history will cease to exist.

  22. Smejki says:

    What games I’d want to play in 2025? That depends if some franchizes die out. So this list considers all such games as the Last Mohicans (with asterisk*). I never thought if it that way but this shows that some games are rather formulas which can get better (or worse) and that people will always stick with the best one.
    New Vegas
    Deus Ex HR
    Some *Total War game (Empire probably for still the best naval battles)
    *Arma (3)
    *Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings
    *GTA 5
    Half Life(s)
    Bioshock 1
    The Witcher 2 (and possibly 3, will see)
    Spec Ops: The Line (I probably won’t play it but I never want to lose the chance)
    *RAGE (*lol)
    Dishonored maybe
    Mass Effects maybe
    *Anno 1404
    Some *Elder Scrolls (*which currently means Morrowind)
    *XCOM: Enemy Unknown
    *Cities Skylines (if nothing better comes out in 10 years, this happened with SimCity 4!)
    *Starcraft 2 (no chance of a sequel in 10 years, we are talking about Blizzard here!)
    Maybe some pre-3 Ass. Creed in order run through some old city for 10 minutes, say “Fuck yeah” and uninstall

    … and Fallout 2.

    1. The original Fallout games and Bethsoft games will never die. The former because the fans with programming skills know them inside and out (I think they even run on tablets now), and the latter because you can mod them into sexytime simulators with combat mechanics.

      1. Ahiya says:

        Bethesda games train up programmers with the mod kits. I fully expect to see a functional engine remake for Morrowind (https://openmw.org/en/ is making good progress).

        Skyrim and Oblivion haven’t gotten remakes, but adapting OpenMW to run them is probably feasible down the line somewhere.

  23. Neko says:

    I remember when I updated from DirectX 6 to 7 (or was it 5 to 6?), it broke Ultima IX for me. Something it made assumptions about changed, and now there was Z-fighting everywhere.

    I think Wine is actually doing a pretty good job these days, but the problem is that it’s a moving target; no-one cares that you just got Crysis running, they want you to have Crysis 5 or whatever the most recent version is. It’s not enough to get World of Warcraft running, you have to keep it running even with all the updates – back in WotLK I basically had a better experience via Wine than I did on WinXP, but with Draenor released they removed the plain opengl support, and in 5.0 they did something weird with the installer so now it requries C# for reasons that elude me.

    Anyway, games I will still want to play 10 years from now: Definitely Skyrim (and Morrowind, maybe Oblivion). Dwarf Fortress (maybe the UI will be less painful by then, lol). FTL. Minecraft. Saint’s Row 3? I dunno, much like Borderlands 2, maybe they’ll have some newer version by then that’s just as fun to derp around in.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Well, wine keeps breaking stuff as updates come out, but that’s where PlayOnLinux comes in, makes it easy to manage wine versions.

      And that’s the beauty of FOSS: an update break something? Just check out an earlier rev.

  24. Jyizu says:

    RE:VMs, modern games would most definetly not be able to run in a virtualized enviroment. That is without even taking into consideration hardware specific gimmicks, such as Tomb Raider’s fancy hair physics. Even if you managed to make them run at a reasonable framerate these technologies would most likely be lost forever.

  25. Currently I’m playing through Star Wars: Jedi Academy aka Jedi Knight 3.
    I would not have done so if it was not for the OpenJK project.

    But even with OpenJK the game needs a lot of fiddling about to setup right.
    for example 1920×1080 did not work out of the box here. I had to edit a .cfg file

    Even worse was trying to search for info on the edits I might need as they applied to the original release not the opensourced OpenJK project.

    FOV and HUD and menus etc. are all designed for 4:3 even if its been 2 years since Raven releases the source for Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy the open source community still hasn’t added proper widescreen support.

    They did fix some bugs/issues though.

    But that is not the only problem. There is a odd framerate issue here (it’s not smooth, even with vsync on)

    The textures are really low res, this can be mitigated by a texture mod that replaces a lot of the general terrain and area textures.
    The models themselves are still have a very low polygon count.

    So even with the source code the community (aka the fans themselves) have issues improving the game. (it could be a issue of lack of collaboration I guess)

    Now imagine a company who is only interested in making money, they will never touch the code unless they know they’ll earn some bucks on it.
    (luckily there are a few exceptions out there though)

    Some of the games dating back to like 2000 now are beginning to be a real pain to play. Lack of widescreen support is one issue. You need a lot of hacks or tweaks or mods to make them work.

    Companies like GOG are one of few that ensure that a old game runs “out of the box”, but if GOG does not have the game then you are usually screwed as there are a lot of issues with old games.

    Take KOTOR and KOTOR2 for example. There is no way I’ll ever play those again simply due to the hacking that is needed.
    Heck I could not play KOTOR fullscreen without it crashing/locking up during cutscenes (thanks to BINK video codecs) unless I alt-tabbed out just before a cutscene then alt-tabbed back.

    Aspect ratios are off etc too for Widescreen once you manage to hack that in.
    And playing windows can cause issues as the mouse hitbox for buttons are off (due to the titlebar of the window).

    These issues will get just worse and worse.

    Heck some of the really old games have 16bit installers. Not many may realize it but 16bit is no supported any more (dumped with Vista IIRC).
    If a particular installer happen to work it’s because MicroSoft added special support for a particular installer creator and swap that out with a 32bit one real stealthy like. But those cases are few.

    A lot of the old installers do not work any more. And if special copyprotection is on the CDs the you are probably screwed as the installer may be needed to read from the disc.

    What about in the future? The games made from 2010 and up to now often use online activation.
    How many of those games have a sunset mechanism. The publishers promise to make a patch if the server are shut off but we all know that is bullshit.

    What Raven did with Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy is great, that is the best way to do it. This makes it possible for someone to make (if needed) “port” the game to another engine or replace parts of the engine over time.

    That is, if the game assets are still available in a form that makes them accessible by the opensourced engine.

    Doom, Doom 2, and Doom 3 was opensourced, those games will live on for a very long time due to that.

    All those awesome console games from the last decade and a half? They will all vanish down the road. PS1 emulation was only possibly due to how simple the PS1 was compared to the PS3.

    Modern PC games need Windows 7, DirectX 11, #NET 4.0.something, Games for Windows Live, Whatever Club, Publisher Login.
    How is all that supposed to be reliably emulated when they can’t always work properly when not emulated?

    I worry about the future in this regard, a lot of great games will be forgotten not because people forget them but because they are technologically a pain in the ass to bring forward on new tech.

    It would not be that hard for a guy or two at a publisher or developer to work fulltime on the backcatalog and make sure the games from the 2000s work on machines from the 2010s for example.

    With access to the sourcecode of Monoliths classic Alien vs Predator 2 (best AvP game so far IMO) from 2001 the game code could be improved so it would support modern screen resolutions.

    Widescreen and 1920×1080 support could be added.
    CD checks could be removed.
    Savegames could be saved under “My Games” instead of the install folder of the game.
    Installers could be fixed to work (KOTOR has some issues installing IIRC).
    Turning off file encryption (to allow easy modding) could be done very simply.
    Small tweaks to make modding easier could be done too (if none existed earlier).
    And so on…

    And it would allow re-sellign the game on platforms like GOG and Steam or even directly from the Publisher.

    Heck, send GOG your games sourcecode and they’ll fix up the game so it runs properly for you.

    But with no sourcecode, with the sourcecode stuck in a old filing cabinet or cardboard boxes someplace then that will never happen.

    Luckily today sources are not lots the way it happen with old games, but it might just as well be.
    Take NOLF and NOLF2 for example. The issue there isn’t the source code but the incompetence of those that sit on the rights (or pretend to sit on the rights).

    It’s all messed up out there I tell’ya, it ain’t pretty.

    1. Patrick the PC Pugilist says:

      If i won the lottery I would make another KOTOR. KOTORII was a horrible way to let that title die, it deserved better than that buggy POS. I even have an incredible story completely thought out, and it would be AWESOME.

      All I would need is a graphics engine, some coders, artists, beta testers, accounting, marketing…. You know…people that actually know how to make video games. Unless there’s a windows update that allows people to make space opera video games from Excel.

    2. Ebenzer_Arvigenius says:

      Luckily enough, KOTOR, KOTOR2 and Alien vs. Predator are all available on GoG :-)

      1. Not AvP2 though (by Monolith).

  26. Dev Chand says:

    “Breaking DRM for old games would be a problem.”

    Actually as far as I know, you can legally break the DRM for games that are no longer being widely distributed. There’s a law in USA that allows that.

    But that being said, I do have to agree that more needs to be done to make games more future proof. I still am more optimistic though.

    1. Are you talking about abandonware?

      That’s in a gray area as there are rights holders but nobody enforcing the copyright on the games.

      Now stuff like NOLF does have some “possible” rights holders willing to sue to protect the trademark etc.

      Somebody distributing a crack could become a target just for that reason alone (protecting the brand).

      I’d like to see this US law you are referring to, that is news to me.

      Now providing a tool that applies a patch to te original so that the DRM is disabled/removed is a different matter as you are not distributing the original executable any longer (there is no copyright applicable).

      There is still the issue of the definition of “effective DRM/copy protection” though.
      If the DRM is considered effective then the DMCA can be used against the one that created the patch.
      If the DRM is considered not effective then it’s not an issue.
      But some guy making a patch can not afford the lawyers to prove that a DRM is ineffective.

      Remember a DRM or copyprotection is only effective until it’s broken, once it’s broken it’s no longer effective. Technically speaking that is.
      In legalese the term “effective” and the DMCA can be used as a legal enforcement regardless how good or bad a DRM is and obviously gets missused.
      They wont go after the pirates because they are faceless, instead they go after modders/nocd/abandonware people as they are easy targets.

      Ever wonder why singleplayer game datafiles are encrypted? It’s not to prevent your from modifying files or cheating (some takes achievements seriously but this is not the reason), it is so they can use the DMCA and similar laws to control their product.
      Modders getting Seize and Desist letters does happen from time to time.

      1. Dev Chand says:

        From Wikipedia:

        “In November 2006 the Library of Congress approved an exemption to the DMCA that permits the cracking of copy protection on software no longer being sold or supported by its copyright holder so that they can be archived and preserved without fear of retribution.[57][58]

        Link 57: http://www.copyright.gov/1201/2006/index.html
        Link 58: http://www.gamespot.com/articles/abandonware-now-legal/1100-6162308/

        1. Shamus says:

          The DMCA is a disgusting law, but credit where it’s due: That’s a pretty good amendment.

        2. Zak McKracken says:

          Oh, that’s nice. So there is still hope for humanity.

          On the other hand: While this is legal for archiving, I would imagine that as soon as you start exhibiting (or distributing, even for free), there may be a company or two who will still sue you for trademark violation or something similar. After all, it’s just the DRM-breaking that is legal, everything else you do may come under legal fire — and just the idea that this could happen (even if it had no chance in court) will likely deter a large number of people from even trying.

          This means there’ll need to be some sort of organisation or movement unafraid to go and create solid case law; only after that, the rest will dare follow. That’ll be a good day…

          1. “legal for archiving” is probably the keyword there?
            If you do it to play it you are not archiving it you are using it. (or so would a lawyer claim against you I’m sure)

            Also that text is probably there to allow the national library to archive it (the US has archived some classic games already have they not?) legally.

            If you are the legal owner of the copy of a game then you can not only archive but play it too.

            The issue though is that these days you no longer buy a copy you more like buy permission to play it (you no longer “own” it’s more like a “lease”).
            If that is the case then you have no bought copy you can archive.

            At least with GOG you do own the copy you buy, so I tip my hat to them for that.

            In Norway (IIRC) the law permits you to make copies for personal use and circumvent copy protection, provided you own the copy obviously (The DVD Jon case).
            Which is why GOG is so awesome, they are a classic retailer only they sell digitally instead, some of the other digital retailers have EULAs with very odd language (you buy a license to play under certain conditions, rather than buying a copy of it).

            GOG has their policies here http://www.gog.com/support/policies
            Take a look at the User Agreement and Privacy Policy they got a “legalese” in the left column and a simplified “English” in the right column.
            I wish more sites would do stuff like that.

            1. Dev Chand says:

              Obviously if you don’t own a product legally you can’t archive or use it, unless you get special permissions of course. That being said, I would think that buying games through Steam, Uplay and what not would count as owning a legal copy of them in the consumer courts. The problem here would be more on how much control the consumer has over the service, and whether the company has the right to lock out consumers out of their products by denying them access to the service. I think they don’t really have the rights to do that, but most people wouldn’t engage them legally unless they get good financial backing from their connections or other organizations. That being said, I doubt Valve or even Ubisoft would like to invite like thousands of lawsuits, which would cost them a lot of money, burn out their legal teams, and affect their public relations severely. Hopefully that keeps them from trying something too bad.

              Honestly, I can’t see someone trying to claim that “using” a piece of software after removing its DRM when it has stopped being in mass circulation is wrong, after all, if you read link 57, you’ll see that the amendment was made specifically to let people use the software product without worrying about the DRM once it’s out of mass circulation and there are no reasonable ways of getting it to work. Archiving something would allow people to access it too.

              1. MadHiro says:

                I haven’t exhaustively read up on this, but from a cursory glance at the cited link in 57…

                “These exemptions went into effect upon publication in the Federal Register on November 27, 2006, and will remain in effect through October 27, 2009.”

                There was a window. It has passed. Draconian garbage-law is back in full effect.

                1. Dev Chand says:

                  They said “through” October 27, 2009, so I think it means it was put to effect from October 27, 2009. They never stated anything about it stopping then. Also, I heard that they extended it to apply indefinitely.

                  1. MadHiro says:

                    That isn’t what through means. In this instance, through means ‘up to and including’, such as in ‘Read pages 10 through 20’ meaning you read the pages 10, 20 and the pages in between, not ‘all pages after 20’.

                    So, before I said I haven’t exhaustively read up on this? That is no longer the case. In researching this further, I’ve come across a wealth of interesting and useful information on the topic. The broad overview is here. A section of the relevant cover-letter from the Librarian on their 2003 exemption list is quoted here. (Added emphasis is mine).

                    “In accordance with section 1201(a)(1) of the copyright law, I am today issuing a final rule that sets out four classes of works that will be subject to exemptions for the next three years from the statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work. This is the second time that I have issued such a rule, which the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires that I do every three years. These exemptions expire after three years, unless proponents prove their case once again. ”

                    Notably, the most recent exemption list which was published in 2012 does not include any provision for old software. The last time that there was an archival exemption for computer programs was the 2006-2009 period. 2009-2012 had exemptions for ‘dongle’ hobbled software, and an exemption for video games ‘exclusively for the good faith testing, investigating and correcting of security flaws’ (whatever that means). The present exemption list focuses on jailbreaking phones, the distribution of films for critical analysis and hardware research, and electronic literary works for the blind.

                    Each exemption list is created ‘de novo’, which means that the prior exemption list is not considered when fashioning the next list. Every three years a new case has to be made and if that case is not made (and is successful) then the exemption doesn’t stand. And looking at the 2009 report in the Federal Register (which was actually published in 2010), in the section under ‘Other Classes Considered, But Not Recommended’ it appears that no one even advocated for archaic software this time out.

                    One of the classes of exempted materials that is consistent is e-books and other electronic literature that exists for the vision impaired. There’s actually a great bit at the end of the 2009 (actually 2010) list where the Librarian (one James H. Billington) reads the Register of Copyrights (one Marybeth Peters) the riot act about how the Register keeps trying to disallow the exemption because no one mounts a defense of it, while the Librarian insists that the process is broken and expecting blind people to have to argue that they get to read e-books every three years is absurd.

                    tl;dr: Video games are not presently exempted. Upset by that? Start preparing a case for the 2018 Exemptions list process (the deadline for the 2015 List was in November).

                    1. MadHiro that’s some extensive research you did there, thanks.

                      Also…how depressing.

                2. Dev Chand says:

                  Oh and read this. The exception for video games is permanent:


                  “Through 2006”.

              2. Sleeping Dragon says:

                At the same time be aware of the ongoing shift from “games as a product” to “games as a service”. Basically the way the legalities are worded you incresingly aren’t an owner of your copy of the game but rather you are an owner (or even a renter) of a license that allows you to use the provided data. There has been resistance to this transformation but distributors have used this for various things ranging from dodging legal problems with selling software that does not necessarily work on given machines to combating second hand sales (and to prevent people from exercising some of the rights that they would expect to have towards their property).

        3. MadTinkerer says:

          Oh that’s fantastic! Like Shamus said, the DCMA as a whole is disgusting, but at least they anticipated the specific thing we are talking about and patched it up.

        4. Anonymous Apple says:

          IIRC though, the problem with the Library of Congress exemptions to the DMCA are that they expire every three years and have to be explicitly redecided again. So those exemptions have already expired (more than five years ago!), although perhaps they did decide to make the same exemptions more recently.

          An example of this is cell phone unlocking, which lets someone use their cell phone that they own on any carrier they want, even if they bought their phone from a carrier who has added DRM to prevent that phone from being used on another network (this is distressingly common amongst carriers). The Library of Congress had cell phone unlocking as an exemption for a while, but bafflingly let it lapse, I think a few years ago. I’m not sure it was even a deliberate decision. The problem is that DRM is used in more and more things as computers are used in more and more everyday items, and there is simply no way to just make reasonable exemptions to the DMCA as technology progresses, because The Library on Congress doesn’t seem to have the resources to keep up.

          1. MadHiro says:

            Not only didn’t they, it appears that no one even attempted to get them to have a new set of exemptions for games; see my reply(s) above.

  27. Zak McKracken says:

    What games from the last 5 years… wait, I’m playing only very few of those today, and that would be Starcraft II and Guildwars II — the latter is extremely unlikely to survive that long, the former … oh, forced online play … I told them it was a bad idea, but who ever listens to me, ever?

    So: none? Maybe Starcraft will survive that long?

    Oh, but then there are the indie games: World of Goo, Giana Sisters (yay!), maybe Osmos

    The first and last of those three are cross-platform (Have them for Windows and Linux), so I expect them to give a lot fewer troubles than Windows-only games.

  28. AR+ says:

    Your mention of piracy reminds me of something I thought of when I saw a tweet you recently retweeted, about somebody giving money to a dev at their booth for the copy of Shovel Knight they pirated.

    So, what if I just made it a personal policy of buying indie games by pirating them, and then mailing the retail cost directly to the dev? What if we all did that?

    1. Dev Chand says:

      The problem with that idea is that it’s unlikely that most people who pirate would do that. If many people were doing that, then many artists wouldn’t be lobbying so hard for anti piracy laws, rather they would demand that publishers give them a better deal, and there would be lobbies for laws to make sure that artists get a good amount of money.

      1. The use of the phrase “many artists”, do you mean many artist or a few high profile artists (Metallica and so on) ?

        As to getting the game from underground locations and then sending the money to the developers, the idea is nice.
        But why not check if the dev actually have a Buy button or Donate button on their site first.
        And if you donate and can leave a comment with it then say what you donated for just so the dev get some feedback.

        Now retailers like GOG I think should be encouraged so instead of pirating the game and sending the cash to the developer, why not buy it from GOG and thereby support both GOG (they take a percentage) and the developer.

        Some games have publishers as well.
        Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity will be sold through GOG I’m sure, but Paradox is the publisher, so finding a copy elsewhere and sending cash to Obsidian might be nice, it would hurt GOG and Paradox a little.

        Now if Paradox and Obsidian has a deal where Paradox get x% of all profits in return for the marketing they do then it does not matter to Obsidian nor Paradox where the money come from as long as it comes in (if Paradox has a world exclusive at being their publisher for that game).
        In that case only the retailer (i.e. GOG) misses out on the money.

        AFAIK there is no donate button on GOG so the best way to support GOG is to well keep buying from GOG I guess?

        We’ll see what Obsidian will do but my guess is that they’ll link the GOG and Steam pages for their game on their website (plus any other digital retailers).

        I’m all for making sure the developers get as much of the money as possible, but if pirating then sending money to the dev then please make sure that you are not skipping past any other important links. In some cases certain publishers and retailers by directly or indirectly be supporting or involved with the development of the game. And unless their deal with the dev is a percentage deal the they’ll be hurting.
        It is not unusual (for small publishers) to only have a region, or with only certain retailers they work with and their only sales will be through those regions or retailers, so while the devs get money the publisher (or retailers) may get nothing.

        In the case of big publishers I have less compassion. Take poor Obsidian (someone at Obsidian please slap whomever signed that deal on the head, bad deal) and the deal with Bethesda, if they hit a certain metacritic rating they’d get a royalty of sales as a bonus, they missed just barely and got no royalties, so today if you buy Fallout: New Vegas then Obsidian see ZERO of that money, Bethesda takes all of it.
        Fallout: New Vegas (by Obsidian) is way better than Fallout 3 (by Bethesda) so the way they (Obsidian) got screwed on the royalties here is harrowing (a real asshole move by Bethesda there IMO).

        In this case if somebody copy New Vegas without permission (aka pirate) and wish to support the developer then buy Pillars of Eternity instead (or donate to Obsidian, I think they still accept paypal donations).

        1. Dev Chand says:

          I got the impression that a lot of low tier artists, as far as budgets and popularity go, were heavily impacted by piracy. I even noticed that they tended to openly talk about how it was disrupting their potential sales and causing big problems for them to earn revenue. The higher tiered artists do get impacted to a certain extent too, but for them I think the damage wouldn’t be as bad because they usually tend to earn a lot of money and have a lot of backing anyway.

          I agree that the idea of paying artists directly for their products sounds good in theory, and it would be nice if more people did it in a way that was sustainable. But sometimes skipping the official channels means that people involved in the production may not get the money, and this can hurt the entire production process. I’m still open to removing more middlemen if possible.

          1. Well, you can’t force people that do not wish to pay to pay (short of threatening them with jail, and that only works if they actually can afford to pay in the first place).

            There is a finite amount of money and there is too much to spend it on these days.
            “potential” sales is weird to talk about, without a time machine and two tries there is no way of knowing if one would affect the other. One can only speculate.

            If piracy increases by 25% while sales does not move at all. Then that shows a certain issue (one needs to attract more customers).

            If both piracy and sales have a similar increase (or decrease) then that is fine it means reach/sales varies by popularity as expected.

            If piracy drops by 25% but sales are stead or piracy is steady but sales climbs then whatever you are doing is the right thing to do, keep doing it.

            I’m pretty sure that hiring a proper consultant to help the marketing department that knows this stuff would net more profit than any DRM scheme ever would.

            And for small artists, sure I understand, I am one myself. But if 10 copies are sold and 20 copies are pirated (how the heck would one track that worldwide on all torrent sites? Not to mention the private sharing going on in closed networks) I’m under no illusion that those 20 people would have bought a copy if I used DRM.
            If lucky maybe 1 or 2 would but I might also piss off 2-3 customers in the process.
            With a change in marketing or even just appealing to the pirates (donation button? swag on the site? something!) then I might end up with 5 or 10 new customers.
            A customer letting a friend play the game, should I treat both or just one of them as a pirate, and will just one or both get upset in the process?

            When competing against thousands of mobile and Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter games, piracy is the least of your issue.
            If you manage to have your voice heard in all the mess then you should be doing well enough to not be bothered by pirates (other than therm being there).

            If you are small enough to be hurt by piracy then you are also small enough that you must focus 100% of your time on the customers.

            Shamus’ Good Robot will have a huge fight on its hands, not with piracy (but sure piracy will happen there too eventually) but to crawl out of the huge see of crap that is out there and be noticed.

            I see the benefit of crowdfunded efforts. Obsidian will for example use the earnings from Pillars of Eternity to fund the expansion for the game as the game itself is already fully funded and paid for.

            There have been cases where a developer have crowdfunded half the budget (and investors provided the other half) as a quick way to gauge interest and to show numbers to investors.

  29. Bropocalypse says:

    I don’t think that they will be gone for good. Anyone determined enough will have the resources to collect them, at least. At worst playing present games will be something of a niche, but I am fairly confident that we’ll see somebody work up a solution. Hell, even Microsoft might see the value in selling Windows 7 again specifically for that purpose!

  30. RCN says:

    Geez, thanks Shamus, I really needed something to make my week even more shitty and bleak after seeing my country being overrun with protests begging FOR our military dictatorship back (it’s a long, sad and at places horrifying story…)

    Oh, and you want me to even think up the games I WON’T be able to play in 10 years? It’s the gift that never stops giving! Goodbye, Supreme Commander. Goodbye, Sins of a Solar Empire. Goodbye, Might & Magic X. It’s been a good run…

    1. Add Blade Runner The Game by Westwood.
      It uses 3D pre-rendered/pre-painted backgrounds etc. and realtime Voxel 3D characters.
      Westwood did things that Intel at the time said was not possible.
      When we told Intel that we were doing a 640×480, 65,000 color game that emulates true color, with a 16-bit Z-buffer and six channel CD-quality audio, they said you can’t””the PCI bus can’t support it…we hadn’t even mentioned the 750,000 polygons for the characters yet.

      I suggested this game to GOG years ago (as I’m sure others have done), but there’s nothing.
      I’m sure it’s lost in legal limbo somewhere (Westwood no longer exists).
      Imagine what could be done with access to the source (by GOG for example), the voxel pixel density could be increased and maybe the screen could be scaled up.

      By using Wikipedia I can say that either Interplay Entertainment or EA holds the rights to Westwoods Blade Runner game.

      Interplay Entertainment got the rights to all Virgin Interactive games/titles, but EA bought Westwood Studios.

      So if the publisher at the time in 1997 held the rights to the game/title then it’s Interplay Entertainment that holds it now, which is good news I guess as they do have some of the game catalog on GOG.

      But if it was the game developers (Westwood) that sat on the rights in 1997 then it’s probably EA that sit on those rights today.
      And they are not normally GOG friendly are they?

      It’s really freaking weird with cases like this. The code is out there somewhere (usually), the original/raw assets are out there usually (take the Homeword Remake for example).
      And somebody do sit on the rights for the game/title.

      So why that somebody have no interest in making some nice money for very little effort is beyond me. Heck there are at least two companies out there that base their business on making old games available to the current customers (GOG being one, and there is a developer out there whos name eludes me that does fix/remake classics).

      So the only thing a rights holder need to do is hand over the source/assets and say “if you get this to work go for it and send us back xx% of the profits”, that simple (or so it should be).

      *grumble grumble*

  31. Oh, wait. Hold the phone. All of our favorite games will be available decades from now! How do I know this? It’s simple:

    It’ll be cheaper to keep all those old games running on future systems and platforms than it will be to find other things for all of us to do in our “Retirement Capsules,” which they’ll seal us in when we’re no longer fit to serve our robot overlords.

    So no worries!

    1. Rack says:

      But when you’re in the capsule what motivation do they have to keep power running to it?

      1. That’s irrelevant as they’ll need working copies to at least lure you inside.

        The whole “dump the pods in a ditch with the door welded shut” is a separate issue, one I hope I’ll be too senile to worry about when the time comes to confront it.

  32. Zaxares says:

    The other possibility is that games will go through what movies are going through now. Endless remakes of “classic” games. In fact, it’s kind of already happening. Nintendo, Sega et al have already been releasing remastered versions of games from the NES, Master System and arcade eras. So kids from the future will still play the same games we did as kids, but a different version of them.

  33. Thomas says:

    I wouldn’t exactly say that consoles have a worse problem. Sure the only way to play yesterdays games is to own yesterday’s hardware -but yeah, that’s exactly what people do.

    Think of how many people own SNES’ and play on them right now. It’s the same with the PS2 and all the rest. There were millions of these things and people are less likely to throw them away than they are a computer which doesn’t work properly.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yes, the SNES and the PS2 are still around, but I’m saying that the same is not likely to be true of the PS3 and XBox 360. Odd hardware + complex design + high rate of failure = hardware extinction.

      Sure, maybe a handful of old machines will survive, but having museum pieces isn’t the same as having a viable retro culture. If I decide I want to show my grandkids Halo or Gears of War, I’m not going to be able to do it, even though I’ll be able to show them Tetris and Doom.

      1. Dev Chand says:

        Good thing the PS4 and Xbox One are more like mid range computers, huh? Atleast that should make them easier to emulate in theory.

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          It won’t make them easier to emulate (They’re more complex than ever), but they will be easier to make a backwards-compatible machine for (There’s basically no reason at this point for the PS5 and XBoxTwo to be significantly architecturally different than the PS4 and XboxOne. Hell, PS4 and XboxOne are pretty architecturally similar in the first place).

          1. Provided the online checks/servers are still working for the PS4 when the PS6 is released.

            There is also the issue of the ROM. It is not legal to distribute the ROM of a console, and AFAIK nocon sole maker sell their roms either.
            So while you may legally own the games and even the right to make private copies, you have no rights to the ROM/OS of the consoles.

            So hello world of pirates and torrent sits and dodgy forums as you try to emulate your old console.

        2. “in theory” you will need to use cracked/hacked ROMS/OS and pirated copies of the game as the always on/game encryption etc prevents you from using your original discs or downloads.

          At some point MicroSoft and Sony etc. will shut down the support services for their old consoles.
          PS1 had no internet, PS2 did not rely on it but the PS3 and PS4 do rely on the internet a lot.

          You also have the situation that certain games are cracked for a certain ROM/OS only, and that other games need a minimum version of a ROM/OS to work.
          So you will end up with a bunch of different PS3 emulators installs to be able to play your games.

          The regular gamer will have no clue to do any of this stuff. They’ll just give up and if they find their old PS3 game in the PS5’s online game catalog they’ll be happy but otherwise think nothing else of it.
          They won’t spend days or weeks trying to get it to run on their PC in a emulator.

          And even if they do and it’s buggy (or look worse than they remember) they are not gonna go online to search forums where somebody asks the same problem they have and find that the last post in the thread says: “nvm fxd it!!11”

          It’s a chicken and egg situation.
          Nobody takes their old game catalog seriously enough (there is also some effort needed to dig up the source and who has the rights), who the heck wants to play a game from 1997 right?

          And if not for GOG then folks would have no clue you could actually get a refurbished copy of that old game you loved.

          If people have no clue then there is no demand, no demand and nobody take their old game catalog seriously.

      2. Never say never. I doubt you would have lent much credence to the idea that you’d someday be able to play any Nintendo game of any vintage running an emulator on a cell phone. I’m sure some group out there would take it as a point of pride to get whatever console is still unconquered to be emulated on as much hardware as they can manage.

        Besides, most of the games you’d want to show your grandkids would be ones you’d just want to complain about. “Look, the plot makes no sense! This collection mechanic serves no pur– put down those dang VR helmets when I’m talking to you!” :)

      3. evileeyore says:

        Bah, who cares about consoles, only the Glorious PC Master Race matters…

        1. Patrick the PC Pugilist says:

          I would fight you for such comments. Like…seriously….

          Not so much because I have such strong opinions on game hardware, my preferred platform changes with game type, but just because I like fighting.

          Would you care to exchange face punches?

          1. evileeyore says:

            I donno man… you’re a Pugilist whereas I’m a Lazy Dude.

            Unless Pugilist no longer means “Professional Boxer” and now means “Pug Loving Guy”.

  34. RTBones says:

    Things I think I think…

    I think what you will see is a trend similar to what we have now – remastered ‘classics’ – where games will be rebuilt with the hardware/software of the day in mind.

    I think this will sadly mean the loss of some games due to IP/copyright issues and not technical ones – which will make the geeks of the world sad.

    I think we’ll likely lose any game that has to constantly connect to a server of any kind for activation/authorization/DRM.

    I think we’ll lose most (though not all) games that rely on more than one DRM scheme (for example, Rockstar Social Club and Steam).

    As to the games I’d want to play – x3, Minecraft, Skyrim/Morrowind, FO:NV, XCom, Pharaoh all come to mind.

    1. Ironically those who suffer the least of with the DRM/Rockstar Social Club, Steam, Origin stuff are the pirates.

      I have in the past, and sometimes do now when I buy a game to look if there is a crack/nocd or similar available if the stuff tied into the game is annoying enough.

      I played GTA IV with a crack because the signing in to what was it, Windows Games for Windows, RockStar Social Club and gawd I think there was a third thing too just drove me insane at one point (the login failed).

      I got a GTA V PC pre-order, but I’m dreading what the signing stuff will be this time.
      I’m hoping there is a Offline mode or something, if not then I’ll have to wait to play until a crack is released.

      It shouldn’t have to be this way but this is the devs/publishers own fault, I want to double click that icon and stare at the main game menu.

      I do not want to login to Something something, then watch 5-6 non-skippable logos and then hit play/continue and have to login to Something other.

      Also, non-skipable intro logos, why is this still a thing? At the very least only show them the very first time, flag a “logoseen=true” somewhere please. OR let me toggle the display of them in the options darnit.

      A Offline mode and a toggle intros in the game options menu someplace and two major annoyances of modern games are fixed, and they should be so easy to do too.

  35. Phantos says:

    Emulation will save us all.

    That said, I think the last few years in games are something we can afford to lose to the mists of time.

  36. MrGuy says:

    re: DRM killing older games, I wonder if something like the “legalize jailbreaking!” movement (phone jailbreaking in the US has gone in and out of legality over the past few years) will come to video games for DRM that the publishers have revoked.

    In theory, the same issues apply – something you own that you want to be able to use in a legal way, even if the vendor who sold it to you doesn’t want it used in that way. Could we ever see a legalized DRM cracking specifically for cases where the publishers have abandoned providing any legitimate way to play the game you paid for?

  37. Patrick the PC Pugilist says:

    I actually just went out and bought FO3:NV and played it again for a few months. I don’t think that game gets enough credit. If you can get past the obvious mistakes (See:random crashes) and ridiculous landscape design, it really is a well designed and structured game. There’s not to many other games I would be willing to play again after so many years.

    Except Nethack. There’s always time for killing that mealy-faced, petulant, ass-grabbing jagoff Wizard of effin Yendor.

    1. “just went out and bought FO3:NV”

      Sad thing is, Obsidian (the dev of FO3:NV) get nothing of that money (since their metactritic score was too low), Bethesda takes all that money instead even Obsidian’s percentage.

      If you like the game then (if you have not already) maybe get Pillars of Eternity (or use paypal to donate to Obsidian).

  38. Purple Library Guy says:

    People will play them on Wine. I already have at least one game that doesn’t want to play on current Windows but runs fine in Wine. Yes, the glitchiness of Wine shows that the problem is difficult, but the fair degree of success of Wine shows that it is more or less soluble. And it keeps getting better.
    As to the legal problems, that will all be fine once the revolution comes! ;)

  39. What I don’t get is . . . why does it matter? Some forms are simply ephemeral. Everything doesn’t gain value from being preserved forever–it may, in fact, cheapen it. Games are not timeless–they are inevitably tied to a certain time period, a certain architecture. You may want to cling to them, but it is their nature to bloom and die. You will never again be the person who played them for the first time, in the circumstances when you played them.

    1. Robyrt says:

      True, I can never go back, but I want to be able to introduce others to my favorite things. If I want my cousin to read a book for the first time, or listen to an album, there are a lot of easily available analog and digital methods to get it into her hands.

      If I want her to play Demon’s Souls, I have to find a working PS3, hope that Sony and From Software haven’t pulled the plug on the servers, and hope the mandatory software updates don’t break anything.

    2. MadTinkerer says:

      Some forms are simply ephemeral. Everything doesn't gain value from being preserved forever”“it may, in fact, cheapen it. Movies are not timeless”“they are inevitably tied to a certain time period, a certain film format. You may want to cling to them, but it is their nature to bloom and die. You will never again be the person who saw The Lord of The Rings trilogy for the first time, in the circumstances when you first saw it.

      And in five years, if you didn’t keep your old laptop, you will be able to see an almost-perfect emulated version of the LotR trilogy thanks to GoG, but neither you nor any of your children will ever be able to see the Hobbit movies. And no one will ever be able to watch all of the Avengers movies on the same device. And no one will ever have a complete working copy of all of the Harry Potter films. And while Episode I and II can work thanks to hackers, the entire second half of Revenge of the Sith was stored on a server which no longer exists, so the Star Wars series will never be complete again.

      While the first three films are lost to time, we do know what an Indiana Jones movie is like thanks to the source code for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull being found in the bottom of George Lucas’ closet. So at least we can still enjoy an Indiana Jones movie today.

      No big loss. Some forms are simply ephemeral.

      1. JRT says:

        Your sarcasm aside towards Ms. Snow, I think you miss the point she was making.

        There are certain entertainment forms that can’t be preserved or have to be preserved in a “secondary mode”. Film and recorded media can last decades, print centuries with proper care. But we can’t preserve the experience like vaudeville, broadway, and other elements. Events like Woodstock or Live Aid can only be preserved through secondary methods, like the filming of them.

        Games are complex enough that the secondary method (Let’s Plays, for instance) will probably be the way to preserve them–even if you can emulate some types of games, others like Team Fortress 2 or World of Warcraft can’t be done realistically that way. And in many cases, especially the first ones, are a bit primitive and less appealing, much like primitive special effects in early movies wouldn’t fly with new releases.

        The games that will survive will be the ones that get ported based on popularity and/or quality. Look how many games are re-released. True, some will slip through the cracks, but if it’s considered a classic, it will likely be re-released for a cheap price. You should not expect to be able to play your DOS based game on most computers today, but if it was popular enough and had enough enthusiasts, it will likely be ported and you’ll pay again for it, much like people replaced Vinyl with CDs and then digital downloads. Sure, some will slip through the cracks, but that’s the same with music and movies–not everything in the catalog will make it.

        But this gets to part of the philosophy of preservation as well. The things that will get preserved will be the cream of the crop, either the most popular or the most “artistic” ones. As time passes, generations gravitate towards stuff closer to their time period. Outside of TCM or channels that specialize in this, for instance, when was the last time you saw a movie or TV show on a regular cable network that was released before the 1970s. People don’t spend a lot of time delving back decades for their entertainment. And it will continue as time passes. Think about this, in 2100, most average folks will think of the 1900s and probably will know only learn about 5 pop acts–Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presely, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson.

        “True, I can never go back, but I want to be able to introduce others to my favorite things.”

        But that’s not really for them so much as you. You want to preserve your favorite things for the new generation, but that’s not so much serving them as it is serving your own ego. I don’t mean this in a hostile way at all, so I don’t mean it in a mean way, but when we talk about preserving video games, most people are thinking this way–they want their favorite stuff to survive. But, the fact remains is that the next generations will likely have their own things that mean the most to them, and your stuff may not be a priority. When I was younger I used to worry about my favorite entertainments not lasting forever, but now that I’m older, I have more perspective and when you think of the fact that nations and civilizations don’t last more than a few centuries on average, we should just be lucky that our favorite entertainments still exist and if they don’t, appreciate the memories we have.

        Don’t get me wrong, I do think that preserving a video game’s code and experience is a valid gold for historical purposes. But for the most part video games are a “low art”, popcorn-flick stuff that’s for simple entertainment and not oscar quality things that will last decades or centuries into time. And that’s okay.

    3. True.

      But in some cases the source is out there + original/raw assets in much higher quality then the consumer tech at the time could enjoy.

      Doing minor updates to the code (to support 1080p 2160p 3840p etc) and making high res textures out of the original assets, dropp lossy compression of artwork and audio and music and you can get a better looking game than it originally was.
      Heck a modern system can play old games (if the games can run) with full framerate with vsync on and anti-aliasing on, all the bells and whistles.

      Some old games are still playable/look good.

      There are however cases where the old game has low quality assets or is designed in such a away that there is little point playing at anything higher than 640×480 at 256 colors, assuming a modern PC and monitor can even display that.

      I’ve found new lease of life on many games. Recently it was Jedi Academy but only because of the OpenJK project and because of some improved textures somebody made as the original exe had some issues last I played and the textures are really bland/ugly by what I’m used to today.

      With a proper system in place by devs/publishers then old games could be migrated forward (as far as possible) allowing a very long retail tail for almost no cost.

      A texture in a game that is 1024×1024 pixels may have originated from a 4096×4096 for example.
      The music may be MP3 at 128kbit that originate from 24bit lossless wavs.
      The voice acting may be 64kbit Ogg Vorbis but originates from 24bit lossless wavs.

      The original game may only be 1GB in size but a “High Res” re-release could be 4GB-8GB for example and tweaked to run on Windows 7 and later.

      A game ten years later could be “re-compiled” with it’s original assets and get another 5-10 years life for almost no cost/effort.

      It’s also a great way to gauge interest in a old game/IP (to ponder if a full remake or reboot would be worth it).

      Lucasarts did this with Monkey Island, they did what the guys behind Homeworld did, a actual full Remaster.

      For the old farts it’s nostalgia heaven, for the new crowd it’s a “new” game with a existing community (which is rare), walkthroughs and hints and tips already exists and so on.

    4. Purple Library Guy says:

      I don’t really see the logic of that. Speaking as a guy who rediscovered a couple of old games and had a blast with them, I don’t see what I would have gained by failing to do that. I wasn’t the guy who played them the first time and loved them any more. Instead, I was the guy who played them the second time and loved them. What’s wrong with that?
      I suppose in the bigger picture it doesn’t matter, but we’re talking about computer games here. In the bigger picture it doesn’t matter if the whole concept disappears tomorrow and we have no computer games past, present or future. Yet I think few of us are eager to follow that line of thought.

      You can talk about things being inherently ephemeral, but for one thing that’s promoting an “is” to an “ought” and for another I don’t see that there is any nature to appeal to in the realm of software.

  40. MadTinkerer says:

    It’s even worse for mods, by the way. You’d think that the Source Engine wouldn’t change enough to break mods especially when Valve is made out of modders turned pro and they’ve put so much effort into trying to continue support for old mods, but a lot of pre-Orange Box source engine mods now just won’t work even if they did work in 2007.

    It’s so bad Valve stopped updating HL2DM and forked it so that HL2DM just uses an old version of Source even though every other Valve-published Source game still gets updated periodically.

    There are also some games in my Steam list that just won’t work with my current laptop (Win 7) and must be run on XP or Vista. I’m pretty sure all of these are a combination of driver issues and the fact that no one can update the games to the new drivers anymore. Some of the companies aren’t around anymore.

  41. BTW Shamus. Mozilla is doing some Oculus stuff. not sure if you’ve seen this yet: http://mozvr.com/

  42. Ben Cranks says:

    Late to the comment party but let me pipe up here on VMs, they’re not gonna help. The issue is that the host heypervisor relies on s/w in the VM to provide stubs to the hosted O/S that place hold for the actual device. These stubs (VMWare calls theirs the vmwaretools) are not produced with or tested on old O/S and are certainly not tested against old versions of DirectX.

    ‘VMs for everybody’ is one of the most tired and trite answers to just about every problem I encounter in IT these days. I work as a pre-sales guy for an OEM and part of my responsibility is to work on virtualised workstations using the nvidia K1 and K2 parts, allow me to assure you the issues you raise are real and not going away any time soon. Worse there is no incentive for VMWare or Xen or MS to spend time and money making their software packages work on old unsupported O/S.

    Preservation will fall on the fans as it always does and for a lot of these games that will mean preserving the O/S, the drivers, the APIs and the hardware they all run on (as we know that DX11 cards can’t run DX 6.0 code for example).

    1. Another issue with VM images is that the VM “Player” may not support old VM images.

      And I do not see GOG bundling VirtualBox or VMWare Player with the image anytime soon.
      Then there is the issue of old images and old VMs, do you VM the VM then?

      I’ve said it a few times in the comments here already but only access to the sourcecode and the original assets can assure the game is properly preserved.

      I have not made a game yet, but if/when I do I will make sure that along with a copy of the game is also all the assets and source code and any dev notes and this will be preserved. If not in the digital archives of the National Library in Norway then maybe at The Internet Archive instead.

      A game company could release the sourcecode and assets for a game under a “CC BY NC” license for example, and sell the original game as a zip file. That way a mod community or similar could point people to the official site to buy the ZIP with the original game and then run a community installer that “patches” the zip to a updated engine and assets.

      Or even work with the dev/community, letting customers buy the game at the developer site and then be given access to the community improved release (and the community behind the improved release get a % of the sum.)

      There are plenty of ways to solve this. But as the NOLF situation showed, the high suits has a poor grasp on reality as always.

      MicroSoft has so many thunks (it’s a thing) in their system to handle compatibility with old games and programs, anything from live fixing installers so 16bit code is replace with 32bit to emulating certain behaviors.
      To some degree Windows is a selective emulator.

      “incentive for VMWare or Xen or MS to spend time and money making their software packages work”

      Yeah, that’s the core issue there, not just for these guys, but for any publisher/developer.

      One tidbit about um, Windows 7 and later (maybe Vista too), there is a software DX system there that Windows can fall back to, in theory it would allow DX support on systems with no DX graphics card, assuming you have the CPU.
      In that respect old games (10 years from now) may just be ok if run inside Windows 7 which runs in a VM.
      (I think the entire of DX11 is supported this way)

      Some of the issues with certain VMs is how limited the fake hardware they have is. In one case here fairly simple OpenGL stuff fails to render and just shows a white window in VirtualBox, but in VMWare it looks fine, presumable because VMWare has something extra added to handle the OpenGL extensions used.

  43. I’ve ranted enough about preservation so I’ll shut up by linking to this:

    Batman Swings Into Wolfenstein 3D With New Mod

    Which led me to see if Wolfenstein 3D was still available, and it is on steam and there are improved engines available on the net like ECWolf that will load the original game datafiles, the engines are based on the original games source code (that was released by id Software way back).

  44. Oh shoot. One last thing.


    The Internet Archive have about 2500 DOS games available.
    They run inside a Javascript port of DOSBox (using asm.js) this means it runs at about 50% the speed of native DOSBox but for these old games that’s not a real issue.

    Best played using Firefox (they are the guys behind asm.js) but Chrome (and thus Opera) should have pretty good performance too (IE might lag a bit behind).

    1. Dev Chand says:

      Yup, I think the Internet Archive is our best hope at keeping and showcasing games once they get old at this point. They’re doing a good job too. Some games were taken out of that library because they were on GOG or Steam, but that’s fine.

  45. Volatar says:

    I find it interesting that you mentioned Crackdown in particular at the end of your article. One of the first open world shooters on the PS3/360/Wii generation of consoles. It certainly was a big deal at the time. I played it at a friends house and enjoyed it.

    But just recently I picked up a 360 of my own from a pawn shop (my console last gen was the Wii), along with copies of several games including Crackdown.

    Man, that games does NOT hold up. Sure the graphics are dated but that’s not a problem IMO. They look better than GTA 4 on the same system to be honest. Really, it’s the controls that get me. They had not figured out how to properly do either open world games, or shooters on the new generation, and the game really suffers for it. You aren’t so much shooting as hitting the lock on button and holding down fire on your assault rifle until the enemy falls over. Then you hit the lock on button again, whipping you around to the next enemy. Repeat.

    After about the halfway point I gave up playing by the games rules and ground out the rest of the jumping xp and started area skipping to the objectives.

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