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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 4 of 4

Ichiro Lambe of Dejobaan wants the industry to work together, but suspects it won't, for these three reasons:

  • "Doom's always at our doorstep! (The concept of doom, not the game.) Game developers rarely have the luxury of anything but a focus on developing new stuff.
  • "Technology moves ahead; old source isn't useful, and often isn't even readable with what we have now. What do I do with a cassette tape for a TI 99/4A?
  • "Sometimes old code's just embarrassing."

"Dejobaan's been going strong since 1999, but I've been working on games for most of my life. I'd like to go back through everything I created during the '80s, but I suspect all the Atari 800 floppies are all mush by now. I co-wrote a BBS door game in the late '80s, and was later able to unearth some of its documentation and source code online -- you look back, and realize how fun this all was."

He shared with Gamasutra some developer notes and script for a MUD that are now useless. You can find them in the full version of his response here.

"That's a script that'll run on no system that exists today", says Lambe, "And even if it did, how can you replicate an experience that required dozens of people to play? It'd be like walking through a ghost town. Outside of a text capture, how can we even retain that experience?"

Lambe does emphasize how much older games have provided an inspiration to modern games, one that allows many indie developers to maintain a reasonable budget without spending millions:

"I'd love for the industry to make this standard practice (working together to preserve games) -- there's life in old concepts, old approaches to development, and old mechanics. Hell, consider the whole retro 'pixel art' aesthetic -- it's important, because it allows small studios to create something aesthetically wonderful without spending $20M on art. If we just focused on what was fresh and new, we wouldn't have that."

There are also the very personal stories that developers receive from gamers. When asked if preservation is overall important to Dejobaan Games, Lambe recalls an email from a game player that brought to light the importance his work had for one individual:

"For example, years ago, we received an email about our first game, a puzzle title called MarbleZone. Your goal there was to flip paths around to allow colored marbles to reach a destination. Logic game. A woman who had previously suffered neurological damage wrote us to mention that she was using it to 'wake up the parts of her brain that were sleeping.' This sticks with me.

"When it's 3 AM, and you've been through what seems like an infinite period of crunch, it's easy to forget that there are actual people who are going to be playing our games. These experiences help us remember."

There are those who believe that preservation is unnecessary for developers, because the fan community will take care of it.

"Regarding obsolescence, again this is something we don't specifically consider. Our games will likely continue to run on future generations of hardware as the hardcore folks in the community emulate behavior of existing hardware, etc. And in the collective memory of the internet, there will likely always be videos or playable downloads available on someone's machine somewhere," says Dave Burke of Hemisphere Games.

Crayon Physics Deluxe

Petri Purho of Kloonigames has an even bolder approach in that he would allow his games to go open source in the future:

"We'll use source control that will hopefully last for a decade at least. The real solution to preservation in my opinion is open sourcing it. That's the only way to make sure a game lasts beyond the lifetime of a company. The good thing about video games is that most of the assets are digital. But that's also the biggest problem in preserving them. It's far easier to wipe out a hard drive than it is to throw away a mobunch of film cans.

"My plan is to open source my games after a certain amount of time has passed. That way I'm crowd sourcing the preservation of the work I've done, because I know I'm going to be too lazy to properly preserve the games I've created."

Combined with natural disasters, environmental dangers, technical issues, legal matters, and recreating online worlds that once existed on servers shut down long ago -- among so many other issues -- in the end there is another threat that will always exist, one that has been in existence for years: People actually caring about video game preservation, and taking the steps to save what they make.

Even though there is the safe haven of cloud storage and the option to create multiple backups, the act of not selecting save and not placing important game development artifacts in safe storage is still a threat. As Warren Spector of developer Junction Point previously emphasized in part one, it will be the human element of indifference that poses the biggest threat to video game preservation.

"Most people making games see what they do as ephemeral, as not worthy of preservation," Spector stated in part one of this feature.

Finally, Denmark indie developer Playdead, creator of Limbo, initially presented its game preservation stance in a single, terse statement, saying:

"We don't have anything clever to contribute, except a) we don't actively do anything to preserve anything and b) we hope someone does."

Shortly after the release of this statement, Dino Patti, the CEO of Playdead, clarified the studio's position on preservation. He revealed that Playdead is now talking with the Danish Royal Library about officially preserving Limbo.

Author's note: The four questions posed to the indie developers in this part and their complete answers are available as a downloadable document here.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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