Abandonware, old games and oldies
|25 אוקטובר 2004|
Interview with Cold Hand, co-worker of Lost Treasures, the French abandonware community
The aim of this interview is to introduce the world of abandonware and to provide a starting point for those who want to launch into this adventure. We want to thank Cold Hand for answering our questions, with all his experience and knwowledge on the abandonware matters.
Note : This article was written originally in French.
The abandonware consists in proposing software for free which are not distrbuted any more by their owners or of which the copyrights were no longer defended. In other words, all software that can't be bought any more, can be considered as an abandonware. Old games are not always abandonwares. For example, Tomb raider - Lara Croft, Starcraft or Diablo are old but still distributed. The opinion of publishers on this issue is variable. Some of them totally agree (like the French firm Lankhor which gave us the right to put online all of its games, Bethesda who let us distribute Daggerfall), but some of them totally disagree (like LucasArt which required to take out all of its games, threatening us with legal proceedings). Most of the companies, doesn't reply to our emails, some of them has been bought many times by other firms, some of them disapeared and the copyrights of many games have been lost in time.
| Pépère : Could you briefly explain what is abandonware?|
To be clear, it's totally unlawful. For the law, it's the same things to download Wolfenstein 3D or Doom 3. Once again, our purpose is not to make lose money to anybody but to save a game which is intended to disappear in a few years!
| Pépère : Is it legal to download and play to an old game on his PC?|
In the same way, it is illegal to propose abandonwares online. Despite, we have never been taken into legal action by a game editor, for the simply reason that we immediatly take out the games when it is asked to us. This the price we must pay to survive.
Even if the abandonware is considered as piracy by the law, abandonware websites are not hiding, unlike the "Warez" websites which "move" to survive. You can easily find the reference websites by searching with google.
We don't know many things about net surfers who play those games (the old games can be found mainly on internet). Nevertheless, after many years spent in the French community of the abandonware, I can say that there is not a unic profile of the "abandongamer". There is of course the 30 years old people who played those games when they were young, but there is also younger people who only saw their brothers playing Doom, Monkey Island and Might & Magic. Surprisingly, some of the players are more than 50 years old, nostalgic people who have seen to the rise of the modern computers. And to finish with, 10 years ago, abandonware was a matter of computer specialists who spent hours to make an old game work on a modern and powerful PC, but with the developement of the community, it has become easier to use those games, and non specialists are more and more numerous.
| Pépère : Who is the typical player of abandonwares and old games?|
It seems that old games have something else, a "soul", that modern games don't have. Obviously, the fact that they are free is important in their success.
We must distinguish the collectioner and the abandongamer : The lastest will have fun with an old game, a memorie, play again to Sam & Max, Ultima Underworld, but after a few weeks, he deletes the game from his hard disk.
| Pépère : Are there collectioners of old games?|
The collectioner, collects and store as many games as possible, and more important, in original version. In other words, the compressed file is not enough, he needs the manual, the game case. And even if this phenomenon remains rather marginal, it is increasing, for example the biddings we once find on e-Bay where somebody proposed a complete set of thousands original games for 50,000$! One of the webmasters of LTF, RyF, probably has the largest collection of old games in France, for all kind of support (console and computer).
Pépère : The success of oldies is due to the nostalgy or to a come back to the core entertainement?
|First of all, I want to deny the idea of simplicity which is generally associated to old games. The graphism technical limitation, has developped the creativity of game creators, on the scenario, humor or exciting action. In my opinion, this is the cause of the come back of many players to the first games.
In some fields, the recent games are of course greater than old ones (In FPS games, PainKiller is certainly better than Wolfenstein 3D, Flight Simulator 2000 is obviously better than the version 2, etc...). Those kind of old games is mainly interesting for the nostalgy and the memories it recalls to us.
Nevertheless, my opinion is that the current video games are short in inventivity, and the abandonware is here to fulfill this empty space.
Flight Simulator 4
Abandonware includes all softwares (not only games) that was running on PC. For the arcade or console games, we talk about emulation.
| Pépère : What kind of old games we can play and how to do so?|
Until now, to play to abandonwares was quite difficult. The modern PC has increased capacity, but the games which was running on a 33MHz computer, nowadays don't work on a powerful 1GHz Pentium. When Windows 9x and 2000 appeared, the DOS, the old heart of the PC, on which games were running, disappeared.
Some passionate players developped solutions to play on modern computers. Some of them created boot floppies like the Shinobi's one, that allows to boot one's PC as we were doing it 10 years ago. Others developped new DOS, like the FreeDOS.
And then, the DOSBox is born, multi-platform (MacOs, WinXP, Unix) emulator of old PC, which allows to play the main part of old games! Despite, some games still doesn't work and need an old PC to be played...
Important note : It's not advised to change the parameters of a PC to try to make work an abandonware. In the doubtn you should ask an advise on on of the numerous forums of the abandonware comunity.
Learn more about abandonware : the-underdogs (THE international reference, contains nearly all), abandonware-france (The french communauty website, from which you can reach nearly everything), freeoldies (both French and English games), definition.abandonware (a French website dedicated to the definition of the abandonware).
Concerning emulation, several years ago, it was an actual challenge to make them work, nowadays, each of us can make them simply work : intall the emulator, launch it, load the game (that you download as an unic file called the ROM). The main emulators are ZSNES (Super Nintendo emulator), MAME (arcade emulator) or WinUAE (Amiga emulator).
Learn more about emulation : French emulation portal, English emulation portal.
Note : Abandonwares and emulation games must be free. The reliable websites dosn't hide themselves, and the webmasters can be easily contacted. Our aim is to share our passion, not make money.
| Pépère : What are your favourite oldies ?|
Pépère : Can you foresee the future of the abandonware? Is it posssible to lost in time some old games sourcecodes one day? Are they some important projects to save and store those games?
|Hmmm... not easy. I would say the two first "Secret of the Monkey Island" are really beautiful (even if they aren't abandonware because of LucasArt), Doom 1 and 2 are good too... But there is also the unavoidable Lemmings, the magnificent Prince of Persia, TIE Fighter, the incredible Sim City 2000. There are so many!!||
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|With the developement of anti-piracy laws on the net, the abandonware will have to change, to get its own status, if it wants to survive. Unfortunately, game editors don't seem to be ready to talk about this, and prefer see their old masterpieces die rather than distribute them for free...
Anyway, the main part of sourcecodes has already been lost! Some of the game creators, more clever than others, has delivered their sourcecodes in the public domain, which has permit to the games to survive! ID softawre, for example, has put online the sourcecodes of Doom and Quake. Many fans were able to build projects to improve those games, like DoomGL that brings some youth and technical improvement (transparency, halo effects, etc...).
The only project I know for now is the "Old On!" association of which the aim is the safeguard of the video game landscape. It is now recognized byt the official authorities since its founder has been invited to the French National Library for a meeting on the subject. I do believe that we can change things with such organisms.
Doom - ID Software
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