Tobold's Blog
Thursday, May 15, 2008
 
Playing old games

Some people made the totally justified comment in the DRM discussion that a DRM system could in some circumstances prevent you from reinstalling and playing a game in a couple of years. Yes, that is totally possible, and DRM systems should be designed to to expire, so this doesn't happen. But then the discussion got me thinking about my experiences with reinstalling and playing old games, which was universally bad. I have over a quarter of a century of computer game memories, and the nostalgia is strong, but trying to play an old game again is rarely a success.

The first problem is hardware. My first computers, in that order, were a ZX81, a ZX Spectrum, and an Amiga 2000. They simply don't exist any more, and it would be extremely hard to still find a working machine anywhere. The only way to play old games from these is to run some emulator software on your PC, but even then you can't use the game discs you bought back in the day, but need to find a pirated emulator ROM copy of the game. My first PC games came on 5¼-inch floppies, and it's hard to find a computer with such a drive nowadays. Hey, many new computers don't even have 3½-inch floppy drives any more!

The next problem is operating system and software. Not every DOS game can be made to run under Windows XP, even less Vista. In one hilarious experience I installed an old game once and found that the speed of the game was linked to the clock speed of the CPU. But as a modern CPU is several hundred times faster than an old IBM AT computer, and with the sprites moving hundred times faster over the screen the game was simply unplayable.

Even once you get an old game up and running, you are likely to be disappointed. One time I found my old disks of Master of Magic from Microprose back. Great game, I played it for hundreds of hours. But when reinstalled it, I simply couldn't stand the blocky 2D pixel graphics any more. Even gameplay has evolved over time: why would I want to play the first Civilization when I could play Civ IV? Many great games of the past have more modern equivalents, and even if some remakes go bad, a good number of them are equal in gameplay and better in graphics.

MMORPGs only go 10 years back, and games like Ultima Online or Everquest are still around. Some people even went back to EQ out of nostalgia. But personally I don't think I could play UO or EQ any more, the general quality of MMORPG gameplay and user-friendliness has *much* improved in those 10 years. I'm not going back to naked corpse runs, hell levels, and forced grouping.

My final problem with old games is that there are so many new games, and so little time. Especially with games like World of Warcraft taking up so much of my available computer game time, I simply never get around to go back to the old favorites. So when Van Hemlock said "I don't rent games", I had to admit that me, I do effectively just rent the games I buy. I buy them, install them, play them for a while, uninstall them, and never look back. In most cases that is still not such a bad deal, depending on how many hours of entertainment I got out of the game. And most books or DVDs I own I also read / watched just once. I have physical ownership and the theoretical possibility to reuse all these games, books, and DVDs, but in practice I never do.
Comments:
If you're having problems getting old DOS games to run, there's always virtual machines. Both Microsoft and VMWare have free versions of their software available.

Also, one alternative that you missed is remakes. For example, Star Control 2 got remade into Ur-Quan Masters. The developers not only turned it into a multiplatform game, they also added new music and blending to make the graphics look better in large resolutions.

If you have either an XBox 360 or a Wii, both Microsoft and Nintendo have websites where you can buy old and not-so-old games. For example, the Nintendo store has games for NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Sega Master System, Sega Megadrive and Turbografix available. That takes away the hassle of having to set up emulators and obtaining ROMs.
 
Lots of great memories from my Amiga days! I loved the Cinemaware titles like Defender of the Crown, It Came From the Desert! and the others. Those were the good old days to be sure...
 
I have a similar attitude to old games, but in my case it tends to be that I just get bored when doing something a second time.

For me, the entertainment derives from experiencing something for the first time, and nostalgia is rarely a strong enough motivation for me to play through a second time.

I have the same attitude to books and films, and they age a heck of a lot better than games do. I have occasionally tried to go back and play an older game, and I'm usually discouraged by compatibility issues and archaic graphics/UIs.

3D graphics age particularly badly. Something which Blizzard cleverly mitigated with WoW's art style. I wonder if WoW will be easier on the eye than even AoC in 5 years time?
 
Your theory might work with MMOs that are dead (get no updates). EverQuest is a bad expamle, though. With 14 expansions, regular updates, new graphics and enhanced gameplay, it still makes WoW look like kiddy game. Seriously.
 
I'm not going back to naked corpse runs, hell levels, and forced grouping.

Man, I wish there was a game that had those again. Even EQ has gotten rid of them.

The 3 install limit isn't just about playing old games. Say you buy a game, install it, then your PC crashes and you have to reformat the HD (or buy a new one) and start from scratch, you re-install the game, then Christmas happens and you decide to treat yourself to a new PC, install the game again... that's 3, you are done. No more installs without calling customer service and getting them to fix the key. They would be better off either teaming up with Steam to release the game, or inventing a Steam-like system for the DRM.
 
I think people forget how clunky a lot of old games were.

I used to play Diablo with my friend for hours and hours, but there were so many things about the game that used to annoy the hell out of me; eg long loading screens, the distance Wirt was from the rest of the town, the junk that Wirt used to try and sell me, town portals or rather the lack of them, no bank, and so on.
Nowadays I wouldn't tolerate those imperfections.
 
Having produced about 30 titles for Amiga, ST, Spectrum Amstrad and C64 I looked at my old games to verify the difference to todays gameplay.

What helps visual quality is to play them in windowed mode. To do this make an alias of the original exe, click properties and change the attributes right there. There you can also modify EMS and other memory settings old DOS games needed.
 
While I would love to re-install Bard's Tale and play through it, just for the heck of it, I no longer have a 5 1/2" disk drive to install it with :) (yes, i still have my disks). Besides, even if I could get the thing running, it would probably look like a Picasso painting on my 23" widescreen. So, while I have fond memories of playing it, it wouldn't really be the same experience for me.
 
You know you're right I have a copy of the first Master of Orion and it doesn't run on any modern day computer. Luckily I found a hacked version of it a while ago and it seems to still work on XP. The graphics are horrible but I still find it fun to play.

The problem is that even if you're just using a pirated version to play an old game you own, you're still liable under the DMCA. Any form of DRM on a game pretty much means that you can't claim fair use if your going around the protection scheme. This is the main reason companies want DRM on their games even if they know it doesn't really fight piracy.
 
I must admit, a lot of it is nostalgia on my part - I have fond memories of those old titles, and do enjoy reliving them. I'm 32, and have been gaming since the Spectrum days, so perhaps this fuss isn't such an issue for younger gamers :) I also had a quite frugal upbringing - a computer game was a thing that was meant to last me a long time. I have my own pocket money now, but old habits die hard!

DOSBox is great for that, and it's mostly the more recent, yet still fairly old titles, of the Win95-Win2000 era that give me the most troubles. I do accept that a game of that era simply *can't* work on my current PC anymore, even without deliberate mucking about by the publisher on top.

Old games are primitive, of course, but in my own case, I find that part of the charm - living history in many cases. Quiet subjective, I agree.


Having thought about all this some more, I think it's not the online verification type of thing itself that is the most annoying; Steam, etc.

It's the more offline (*cough*SecureROM*cough*) stuff that winds me up more, where there often isn't a legitimate way to get the thing working again when it goes wrong.
 
The 3 install limit isn't just about playing old games. Say you buy a game, install it, then your PC crashes and you have to reformat the HD (or buy a new one) and start from scratch, you re-install the game, then Christmas happens and you decide to treat yourself to a new PC, install the game again... that's 3, you are done. No more installs without calling customer service and getting them to fix the key. They would be better off either teaming up with Steam to release the game, or inventing a Steam-like system for the DRM.

Amen

I over the last 6 months had the bad luck to have two bad sticks of memory. A pretty rare thing But I had to wipe and reinstall everything twice because of a flakey stick of memory and then a power surge that took out the second stick.

down to one install If I had that game. A lot of things look good on paper till real life hits. And Most of my friends and my teenagers friends ask my opinion on stuff like this. Pretty much the same for every techie and hard core gamer out there I'd bet. After having my system compromised over sony's BS move I'm dead set against any of it. I've yet to see any documented benefit that exceeds the cost to do it.

Just remember the music industry has died 3 times now according to thier own predictions about piracy.
 
And most books or DVDs I own I also read / watched just once. I have physical ownership and the theoretical possibility to reuse all these games, books, and DVDs, but in practice I never do.

In regards to these other media types, I use my local libraries for all my new book reading and even for some dvd movie watching.

In the early 90's I bought nearly all of the books I read in highschool. Few of them I have read a second time and now that I'm married with a house and kids, many of those books are in boxes in the basement.

I don't see the point of putting them on a bookshelf to take up space as some type of trophy of stuff I have read. I hardly have time enough now to read all of the new books I would like to read while fitting in time for other forms of leisure and non-leisure activities...

I love most of the books and wouldn't throw them away, and after my kids grow up more ,(and either read them or indicate they have no desire to read them), will I give them away.

When my kids are old enough they may want to read them, but in hindsight I wish I had just checked out those books from the library and not spent my high school money on them in the first place.

In regards to this topic when I was younger I was more willing to buy stuff to "make it mine", but now I am more willing to rent or borrow stuff because if the content takes too long to get through, I am likely to not finish it.

If a game, book or movie doesn't grab my interest by half way through I don't spend the time to finish them anymore.

I don't pirate software. I sadly still buy pc titles because I don't have any other option. I just buy less.

I'd pay $5 / month for access to a subscription gaming site where I could play one game at a time as I wish.
 
I've got to admit, the more I read here, the more I realize that you're definitely living in Europe.

Europe has a pretty weird view on personal liberties, and concedes a lot in the name of governance.

You make good points. Who is going to play an old game? Since it's old, who cares that the company could be out of business and your game is no longer working?

However, this is flawed. In the states (and I admit, it's been compromised as of late, but it's still a central tenant), the saying is it's better to free 100 guilty men than to imprison 1 innocent man.

The parallel is, while you may not be playing these games in 10,15,20 years, SOMEONE will. Since there is ONE person out there, you have to make sure they are going to be able to play it.

Also, DRM that phones home? What else is it getting out of me and my computer? I can't play a game without an internet connection? I bought the game and yet the publisher thinks I am a thief? I BOUGHT the game, I should use it as I see fit (within bounds of not distributing it illegally).

You have to assume people are innocent, not assume they are criminals. That's why people have issues with DRM.
 
If you have no interest in reading books or watching DVDs again, they must not have been that good. I find that I have a book shelf with a number of one time reads, but I also have a fair number of books I have read several times, and will go back to them again. The great ones are like that, and the "graphics" of the imagination never get dated. :P

Seriously though, you make a good point, about games. I tried installing Outlaws the other day, just to watch the animation intro (I love the Lucas Arts games from that era) but it just didn't work. The game played fine, but the animation, which played out the great story, was all a mess.

One of the main reasons I like to buy collectors editions is that I have a physical keep sake to feed my nostalgia. I probably will not play Baldur's Gate again, but I love to listen to the soundtrack CD and page through the thick instruction manual now and then. Artbooks are wonderful too. I still have my old Final Fantasy 1 box, and an accompanying Nintendo Power with Amano artwork, highlighting that fantastic game.
 
I nice solution for those PC games that you are finished with and dont know what to do with would be to trade them on one of the game trading sites.

I've been trading games online for years and recently started an account with Goozex.com (seems like a well organized site so far - check it out for details). Not sure about good trading sites for you European folks though.

To me, trading games is just simpler than selling them on ebay.
 
I have found that some fond memories of games are best left as fond memories. It’s both disappointing and a bit hysterical to go back and play a game you once loved. Technical challenges can be overcome, but I have always found that after all the trouble I go through, all I really seem to accomplish is to taint the memory of something I once enjoyed. Once the “omg I can’t believe” feeling passes, all I am left with is disappointment.
 
Europe has a pretty weird view on personal liberties, and concedes a lot in the name of governance.

I am a US citizen and strongly believe in the protection of privacy and I personally view DRM as a perfectly valid and reasonable way for a company to protect copyright. The central issue at the heart of DRM is not privacy, it’s ownership. If you put a fence up around your house to keep people out, then you are doing so to protect your property. Intellectual property owners have the same rights to protect their property from intrusion or theft. Putting up that fence is not going to stop everyone, but it will deter many and it’s your legal right to be able to protect that property.

Just like it is your legal right to choose not to buy services from fence builders. Saying that you take issue with it because you think it is bad customer service is one thing, saying that it’s a violation of your civil liberties is simply inaccurate.

When you purchase a game, music or other piece of intellectual property , you are not buying the thing itself – only the right to use the thing. The creator still owns the thing and you are conditionally being allowed it’s USE by the creator. If, as one of the terms of USE, the creator decides that he needs you to verify that you are a legal user, then that is also his legal right. Likewise, if the usage rights that you purchased were in perpetuity (forever and ever) then they would be legally obligated to continue to provide you usage as long as you didn’t violate any terms. You may not have much of a legal recourse to pursue that action, but you run that risk with anything that provides a lifetime expiration.

However, this is flawed. In the states (and I admit, it's been compromised as of late, but it's still a central tenant), the saying is it's better to free 100 guilty men than to imprison 1 innocent man.

Umm. That is a REALLY bad analogy. That’s the fundamental reasoning behind burden of proof, not some parallel to a company needing to always provide a service because they promised a lifetime membership and failed to deliver. Ironically, the burden of proof in that type of case would fall on you to prove they failed to continue to provide that lifetime membership.
 
sid67, your zealous belief in Imaginary Property does not change the nature of the universe. If any other company in any other industry treated their paying customers the way software companies do, they'd be run out of business in short order.

Take books for example. They are covered by copyright law and have been around for a very long time. While they cannot be copied as easily as digital media, don't be fooled, pirates can knock off a digitally scanned copy very, very quickly. If buying a book required you to call the publisher every time you reorganized your bookshelf in order to "prove" you were a legit owner, people would be outraged and I can guarantee that publisher would not last very long.

So then, why do we give software companies a free ride when it comes to protecting their financial interests? ...When it directly conflicts with the interests of a paying customer. ...When it's shown to be hugely ineffective in actually preventing piracy.

What exactly are you gaining when you turn over your freedom to a software company in the name of digital restrictions? Do you get a cheaper product because there is less piracy in the world? (I haven't seen prices do anything but increase.) Do you get product that works better than the pirated version? (All signs point to "no".) The gaming company gets something, but what does the customer get?

Stardock has got this 100% right: They reward their paying customers by giving them access to new content and cool stuff. The paying customer gets a higher quality product than the pirate. That's a real incentive for a gamer to buy it, similar to "Collector's Edition" boxes. Adding DRM only gives customers a reason *not* to buy it.
 
P.S. "Burden of Proof" arguments are a logical fallacy. You might want to try a different approach when attempting to make a point.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof_(logical_fallacy)
 
@ Fester: You need to re-read my last comment. Particularly the part where I said that “it is your legal right to choose not to buy services” and “bad customer service is one thing, saying that it’s a violation of your civil liberties is simply inaccurate.”

I’m not arguing that DRM is good business or smart business or the economically wise decision. I’m saying that it’s not a violation of any of YOUR civil liberties or rights that they choose to protect their property (real or imagined). As I said, the central issue is OWNERSHIP and by that measure, protecting what they own by using DRM is a perfectly acceptable LEGAL option that violates none of your LEGAL rights as a consumer.

Explain to me how you are giving up your freedom or privacy by CHOOSING to purchase usage rights to copyrighted material. You make that choice with your wallet when you make the decision to enter into that agreement. You might not like the agreement, but you knowingly enter into that relationship and are not coerced or fraudulently led into the arrangement.

As the creator of that content it is well within my rights to put terms of use things that I own. If I won’t sell you my book unless you stand naked while dancing like a chicken, then that is my prerogative as that’s book’s owner. Likewise, you don’t have to subject yourself to my terms if you find them unreasonable.

NOW – let me ask you – how many books am I going to sell to naked dancing chickens? Not very many. That’s really the point you are making, Fester. That it’s unfair to customers and you don’t like it. However, that’s not a violation of your civil liberties – it just sucks. And if you really really don’t like it, then don’t purchase the right to use products that include DRM.
 
Tobold, you went back 15 years for your Master of Magic example. But, what if EA implodes in a year or two? What if EA decides to turn off the validation servers for your game 18 months after shipping the game because version 2 is on the shelves?

I know I've loaded games from a couple years ago...
* especially when there doesn't seem like anything good is coming out for a few months or worth the $50, time to grab a game I didn't quite finish...
* an expansion pack / ships (1 install & uninstall a year or two ago, 1 install to play the expansion)...
* had a 2 hour discussion at work about how cool X game was (Civ4, WoW, etc.)
* or a recent classic showed itself to be a better game when something new in the same genre failed to ignite my interest (Pirates of the Burning Sea vs. Sid Meier's Pirates! 2004).

It's not just really old games, it's relatively recent games from the last couple years that could be blocked from installing / playing based on the whims / good nature of EA.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool