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Selecting Save On The Games We Make, Part 2
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Selecting Save On The Games We Make, Part 2

March 16, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Indie developers see the digital online marketplace as a method of preservation itself.

Some indie developers feel that since their games were developed on current-generation hardware and are available for purchase via numerous online services, that the threat of losing these games is reduced.

Independent strategy and RPG publisher and developer Paradox Interactive has set a goal to get its back catalogue on over 25 digital download portals the company works with. Paradox also strives to continuously extend the lifespan of its games by providing continuous patches and updates, according to executive vice president Susana Meza Graham:

"You need only to go to our product portfolio to see games released more than five years ago still get patches, updates, and a lot of developer and gamer love. We also support a lot of schools (like UCLA) with copies of our older titles, as we have a network of teachers who use our strategy/history titles in their education programs.

"Of course we hope that our work will be relevant for many years to come, but we also strive to continuously innovate and improve the way we develop games rather than think that they should last for many generations to come."

While Paradox Interactive also stores its gold masters in a safe that protects them from natural disasters and harmful elements, the company has also significantly cut down on print assets for its games by making its game manuals digital.

When Paradox was asked if the industry should work together to help preserve, archive and store games, the company maintains a stance that going into digital distribution provides an adequate amount of preservation:

"With everything moving onto the digital space, I'm not really sure a more coordinated approach is needed, to be honest. These days a lot of old games are making it onto the digital space and thus resurrecting their player base and interest without a massive amount of efforts from the creators," says Graham.

Jasper Koning of Ronimo (Swords & Soldiers) adds, "It would be a shame if we couldn't show our kids what games we grew up with, so I'd say yes. Though I have no idea how. But my hope is that platforms such as Steam will make it easier to keep large amounts of games safe for a long time. Let's hope they keep proper backups."


Adam Saltsman of Semi Secret Software (Canabalt) agrees that the industry should work together and that preservation goes beyond preserving source code, but preserving hardware as well:

"I think preservation of hardware is just as important as preserving the source code, too. Especially for games made before the mid-'90s, all of the artwork was specifically designed for display and consumption on CRTs, which drastically altered the appearance of the pixels. The greatest works from that era knew that they would be displayed on CRTs and were designed to take advantage of the blurring, actual color cell arrangements, and overall brightness.

"For another example, take the sound chip in the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis, if you're in North America). The Mega Drive used a hardware frequency modulation chip to create the distinctive music and sound effects for that system that is almost impossible to perfectly recreate in software. For yet another example, the original NES didn't even output RGB! While an RGB palette could be guesstimated with the use of an oscilloscope and some other laboratory equipment, it still won't be the same as the crazy like chroma-intensity bit system that the hardware actually employed."

With regards to preserving its own games, Saltsman discloses that Semi Secret has its source code "backed up and versioned in multiple locations around the U.S., and those hard drives are backed up as well."

One concern that Saltsman expressed is in regards to its own iOS games and if proprietary compiler and libraries are altered in the future:

"I would be surprised if we had trouble converting or transferring data in the future. The only obstacle I can imagine running into is that even if we maintain our source code, the proprietary Apple compiler and libraries we use are constantly updated and changed. So even if the source code is transferred and preserved perfectly, there's actually not much to be done with it if the correct compiler can't be found. This isn't a terrible worry at the moment, but in as little as five years I think it could become a greater challenge."

Nathan Fouts, president of Mommy's Best Games (Shoot 1UP), utilizes a number of different safeguards in preserving the games his company develops. Fouts compares video game design documents to a camera snapshot from ones personal life experience:

"For a small, independent company such as ours, creation of each game is as much a life experience as it is work project. As time passes, being able to look back on original production materials such as code but especially art, and design drawings is very important. It's almost like looking back at photos of a family trip you've taken years ago... it can be heart-warming and life enriching. I hope all smaller studios everywhere are careful to preserve their life's work."

Christine Hoang of The Behemoth (Castle Crashers) says that while game preservation is not its top priority, it takes pride in the games it develops. The Behemoth does maintain backups of its games at various offsite facilities. Hoang provided the following answer about the industry working closely together in preservation efforts:

"Preservation of video games should be important to anyone who's ever worked on a video game, or loves to play them. How else would future generations understand the history and revolution of video games to truly appreciate them?"

Even though game preservation is important to the indie developers that responded, Jim McGinley of Bigpants suggests that indies face a bigger challenge: "Our main problem is expanding our audience."

Miguel Sternberg of Spooky Squid Games (They Bleed Pixels) feels the same. "Like many indies right now we're most concerned with our future... while it would be great to carefully preserve our games and the materials that went into their creation, obscurity poses a bigger threat than bit-rot."

Sternberg adds that Spooky Squid has no special preservation procedures in place:

"Most of the material is either on the hardware we currently use, or in sketches and notes stored haphazardly around the office."

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

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