Protecting Classics and How Video Games are Doing it Wrong
So as someone who enjoys games as both a form of entertainment and an artistic medium I have always had a major frustration with the way the video game industry treats the classics of the medium. Specifically, in many cases games that are considered to be groundbreaking classics are both out of print and only playable on outdated hardware. For example, say someone hears good things about BioShock, gives it a try and absolutely falls in love with the game. He starts reading up on the development process online and discovers that it was a spiritual successor to a game called System Shock 2. Excitedly, he looks into buying System Shock 2, but quickly learns that the only way of acquiring it is spending way too much for a used copy on eBay that is optimized for a decade old operating system.
This is stupid and it hurts games as an art form. If someone wants to watch a classic of film like Casablanca they can pick up a brand new copy on Blu-Ray. If someone wants to read Homer's Odyssey, a text that is thousands of years old, they needn't do anything more than drive to the nearest Barnes & Noble. Decades of classic music are available on iTunes. So why, then, are many classic games so painfully difficult to experience?
Now, there have been steps in recent years to improve this. Services like Steam, GOG, and PSN/XBLA/VirtualConsole have brought a lot of classic games back from obscurity, but there's still a long way to go before we're at the level of accessibility seen in other mediums.
And then, there's the whole other issue of platform exclusives. Now before the angry mob starts to form, yes, I completely understand the reasoning for platform exclusives, and I know that as long as there is more than one different type of box that plays games they will always exist, but my question is, is it really worth it? The Mass Effect series is not only one of my favorite game series, but, in my opinion, is also one of the most rich and compelling science fiction universes ever created. I love Mass Effect and I would love to share it with the people I care about, but anyone who owns a PS3 as their primary, or only, gaming platform will never be able to experience the entirety of that series. For those of us who are Mac users, there's essentially an entire decade of games that are completely inaccessible to us.
Now I know there are a few of you out there who are prepping your "silly Mac user, games are for PCs" argument, but that's the very kind of elitist attitude that perpetuates this whole problem. Art as a means of expression and communication should reach as wide an audience as it possibly can, and to restrict a particular work from millions of people based on the arbitrary reasoning that they supported a different platform stands in opposition to the very nature of art as expression. Again, I point to other mediums; imagine if you could only watch the James Bond movies on Sony TVs or only watch the Star Wars movies on Samsung TVs. Suddenly your having to spend thousands of dollars on multiple TVs just so you can watch all the movies you like or are interested in. That's where video games are at right now. If someone likes Gears of War and Uncharted, well they better pony up for $500 for both consoles. It's stupid, it limits your audience for no good reason, and it restricts the potential for the medium to grow and expand.
Here is another issue: Why History Needs Software Piracy. Please don't actually discuss piracy, just the central point of that article: the medium software is distributed on. Going waaaay back, back to the 1980s when the Commodore 64 - as an example - was in its heyday: all that software was distributed on magnetic media. Magnetic media will eventually randomize itself given enough time. Well, what is that time? About 30 years. So, right now, all those pristine original disks that people may have in their closets? They are all degrading and will eventually - if not already - become non-operative. The other point in the linked article looks at piracy as a "distributed archive of software." Somebody, somewhere, will have the bits so statistically those bits are more likely to survive the ravages of time.
The systems themselves that all that old software ran on are also becoming more rare as time passes. The more popular systems will get emulators written for them and their software transferred onto new mediums to feed those emulators. From a preservation standpoint this, while not ideal, is better than nothing. As a general rule of thumb the host system needs to be 10x more powerful than the emulated system to run in real-time. Although when you increase the accuracy of the emulation that can easily rise to a 50x ratio.
Piracy is an ad-hoc system that is in place and does serve a long term preservation role right now. However, a much better solution would be for an entity such as the Library of Congress - which already has one of every printed book in the USA - also index and store, with media life-spans in mind, software as well.
Honestly, copyright needs to be rewritten for software. Much like cars become antiques faster than anything else, software needs to enter the public domain faster than other IP.
This is a pretty big problem. Emulators only work for so many platforms, and even then the programs themselves are borderline illegal. If they were to remove the legal uncertainty (maybe say that once software is out of production, it can be legally emulated) then I'd be happy to use them.
However, backwards-compatibility is another fine way to keep old games alive. If I'm correct, the PS3 is still able to play PS1 games. I know that Playstation 1's aren't something that everyone has on their shelves, so the PS3's ability to play the old CD-based games ensures that people still have a way to play the classics.
A few months ago, my old GBA died. That would have been terrible, if it weren't for the fact that my old-school DS supports GBA games. However, the new DS systems (DSi, 3DS) completely lack a GBA cartridge slot. My DS ain't gonna live forever, and when it dies, I'm gonna find myself unable to play some of my favorite old games.
Improve piracy laws, implement more backwards-compatibility- I don't care, I just want to be able to play my old games.
I am new to gaming and your thread discusses exactly some of the things, that I have been thinking about lately.
I really would like to play some of the classics, especially if they are from a series of games.
I have purchased some classic games, but the hassles involved, are just not worth the bother. All the problems of downloading the extra files and manually setting things up, is a real pain.
Is it just a matter of money/cost, because I would be prepared to pay extra, for a classic game that is hassle free, bug free and cross platform compatible (Plug and Play). Actually there are not many new games that are simply Plug and Play.
As you explained, updating works for music, films, books and other media, why not games.
When I buy a DVD film, I don't have to download extra files and try endless compatibility settings etc.
QUESTION: Is it actually technically possible to update and publish classic games in a PLUG and PLAY format.
I remember playing Medal of Honor as a kid, and I really want to go back to my Childhood games (Rising Sun, Frontlines, Pacific Assault, Allied Assault, Airbone.) But I can't get ahold of them without ordering online, which takes days, and even then, there's no garuntee they'll play on my 360. Sigh.....
Yes. I have a plug-and-play Atari right under my TV.
Originally Posted by Adamada
That's why I kept the games and the console.
Originally Posted by Seasick
Sorry my question was rather unclear, so I will rephrase it.
QUESTION: Is it actually technically possible to update and publish games in a single Plug and Play format, like DVD films.
Why don't the game makers and publishers use a standard games format.
Global media as it stands now, is a compatibility nightmare, but things are getting better, slowly.
Well, Blu-ray seems to be becoming more popular, but there will always be something better in the future. That's why we no longer have our games on cartridges.
Originally Posted by Adamada