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Where Games Go To Sleep: The Game Preservation Crisis, Part 3
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Where Games Go To Sleep: The Game Preservation Crisis, Part 3


March 10, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

Developers and publishers from Japan also affirmed the importance of storing their game data and production materials in disaster proof locations. Jaleco highlighted fundamental points of protecting their game data in locations that are safe from fire, natural disasters, dangerous climates and other security threats. Jaleco, as well as Taito, ensure that its operations meet ISO standards. (Jaleco specifically mentioned they meet the ISO27001 standard.)

Taito stated that preserving its video games is "vitally important", and that it follows a "protection" and "foster" policy. By "protection" it intends to guard its games against copyright infringement, and by "foster" the company wishes to build up what it calls a "sound video game culture". Taito views preservation and "protection" as the same, which encompasses rereleasing its games onto console compilations and mobile platforms as well as other non-traditional platforms and media.

Taito disclosed that no preservation policy ever existed in the "early video game age": "We have problems for the recouping the game data and their proper preservation."

Taito does, however, maintain that for its arcade games in particular, it keeps the hardware itself together with the ROM and printed circuit boards.

Taito also admits that even though it utilizes diagrams and other engineering materials that are needed for extended user/customer support, many of their video game promotional materials have been lost over time.

Just as Taito disclosed that no such preservation policies existed early in its company history, Former Capcom producer Ben Judd emphasized this very point, as he learned that many Japanese video game publishers did not institute storage and preservation procedures until the early 1990s:

"Capcom does have a procedure for preserving their code. However, these procedures, like many other Japanese publishers, were not instituted until around the 16 bit days. I have actually seen massive stacks of dot-matrix printer paper that contained game code on them.

"On a side note, I've heard of incidents of old game ROMs from other publishers that have disappeared and are forever lost. I was quite surprised to initially hear this, but I was even more shocked when I found out that it is quite common for code for a lot of big name 8-bit titles from other publishers to be gone," says Judd.

Irem is one Japanese developer that openly admits they have no intact source code from games developed and published in the 1980s. Irem expressed concerns that even the game ROMs themselves are in danger:

"Although we keep almost all ROMs from 1980s, some of the hardware for these ROMs is broken down. Since the hardware has been drastically changed, it is very hard to repair the hardware (not only are the parts missing but also the repair engineer is missing)," comments Kenta Sakai of Irem Software Engineering.


A JAMMA PCB held in storage at the Tokyo offices of Mitchell Corporation of the 1991 arcade game Drift Out. Originally developed by Visco, Drift Out was formerly distributed by Visco sales agent Mitchell Corporation.

Namco Bandai Games, Sega, Mitchell Corporation (along with Capcom and Irem) were among the other Japanese video game developers that also responded to this questionnaire. Each company shared the belief that preservation of its games is important, and stated that they have transferred many of their older game titles to present-day storage media, and store them in safe, secure, climate-controlled environments.

Digital Leisure, Intellivision, Throwback, and Gearbox Software were among the North American developers that discussed the challenges of maintaining their games while dealing with numerous technical challenges.

Digital Leisure, in handling the laserdisc format of games including Dragon's Lair and Mad Dog McCree had to intricately put their games back together using a number of different sources, as Digitial Leisure's supervising producer Paul Gold explains:

"Much of the original code source code for our classic IP like Dragon's Lair and Mad Dog McCree was either lost or not accessible due to obsolescence of the media it was stored on. We worked with a variety of people and fans of the series to properly piece back together how the original games played to create arcade authentic versions of the games.

"However, the source code for these titles isn't as relevant, as the actual video which no matter the format can be transferred in a digital world with ease. Dirk the Daring doesn't need a normal map or a vertex shader to thrill audiences like he did in the '80s."

Not only was Digital Leisure dealing with source code, it also had to produce an HD re-master of the Dragon's Lair animation using original negatives retrieved from film vaults for new rereleases of the game. The efforts that Digital Leisure put forth in the remastering and preservation process have ensured that future developers and publisher could reuse the material:

"When we decided that the Dragon's Lair series would be a great title to remaster for HD formats, we contacted Don Bluth Films who, like most studios, had been storing the original negative in a film vault for over 20 years. The negative hadn't been handled since 1983 and was in such a delicate state that we decided it would be best to create an all new inter-positive from the master, so should someone wish to release it in the latest format of the day 20 years from now -- they can.

"It was also incredibly important that the color for each of the games was properly corrected so there were no inconsistencies. In fact upon release of the HD version, fans could not believe how rich the colors really were, as the video looked better than what was originally on the arcade machine!"

Gold also discloses that Digital Leisure has been unable to obtain the rights to rerelease other laserdisc games due both to the fact the original source material no longer exists, and ownership rights of other material are unknown.


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