[In his original three part series, John Andersen polled a variety of companies across the globe to find out about exactly how the history of the game industry and its efforts is being preserved. In this latest installment, he queries indies to find out exactly what they're doing to preserve their history. Where Games go to Sleep: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Selecting Save on the Games we Make: Part 1.]
Part one of Selecting Save On The Games We Make brought forth answers from major game developers and publishers that have been established in the industry since the early 1980s. The overall questions asked were: Does video game preservation matter? How are the games you've developed or published protected and maintained from obsolescence?
When it came to posing the same questions concerning game preservation to more recently established indie game developers, many of them were overall concerned about the industry issue of game preservation, but expressed confidence that the methods of storage they currently utilize are adequate.
Some developers feel that digital distribution is a form of preservation itself. Their stance brought up an entirely new question: Has digital distribution and new storage methods made game preservation easier for new developers?
The 12 indie developers that responded to the game preservation questions were: Bigpants, Dejobaan, Hemisphere Games, Kloonigames, Mommy's Best Games, Paradox Interactive, Playdead, Metanet Software, Ronimo, Semi Secret Games, Spooky Squid Games, and The Behemoth.
"In the cloud" came up numerous times as the preferred method of storage, as Dave Burke of Hemisphere Games (Osmos) points out.
"I'll be honest and say that a formal backup process isn't really on our minds. These days we do everything 'in the cloud', as an implicit part of our sharing process -- in other words, we cache copies of our source assets, code, docs, etc. on remote storage. There's enough redundancy happening, and our offsite storage partners are large enough, that we don't expect to lose track of those materials."
Mare Sheppard of Metanet Software also utilizes cloud storage, but recalls an occasion where a fellow indie developer helped to preserve each other's source code:
Some of those that responded felt that since they have recently established themselves as developers, that transferring and retrieving source code from earlier hardware and software was not applicable to them. None of these companies have had any issues transferring, backing up or retrieving source code from earlier hardware and software, due to the obvious fact that the majority work with modern operating systems and development software.
The Depths to Which I Sink
Jim McGinley points out the specific cloud storage service he'll be using (among many other methods) in preserving the games, such as The Depths to Which I Sink, that his company Bigpants develops:
"All of our digital stuff is backed up on USB drives, and we're migrating current work to Dropbox to protect from big disasters. Our production materials are not stored anywhere special, and likely won't be until we grow larger."
"Thanks to the internet (TCP/IP protocol), USB drives and cloud storage, I believe the greatest threat is not hardware failure or obsolescence. If a new format arrives, it will be connected to the internet, so data can be easily transferred from the old format to the new format. History shows that people are ready and willing to create emulators, so you'll likely be able to use that data.
"Preservation is no longer about the bits, the problem has changed. The three biggest preservation challenges today (unlike 1980/1990) are:
McGinley believes video game preservation is of absolute importance, but pointed out the harsh realities of just what has already been lost in three decades. McGinley recalls his own personal experience of being an avid TRS-80 Model III computer user, an experience which began in 1979 when McGinley's father bought a TRS-80 Model III for their household.
Together, McGinley and his brother learned how to program for the computer and bought games using their allowance. Fast-forward to 2009: McGinley wanted to replay the games he and his brother grew up on, but the TRS-80 Model III had been thrown out long ago.