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28 years after the original release, Prince of Persia continues to be the obsession of a community made up by enthusiasts that never forgot their first, stunning encounter with Jordan Mechner’s platform game. And they are not just freaks like yours truly, who considers PoP his first computer love and that is still trying to beat his own personal record by playing the game every now and then under DOSBox. Nope: here we are talking about developers that are capable, determined and willing to dig the secrets hidden in the code of an ancient software to keep alive a myth that doesn’t fear the effects of obsolescence.
One of the craziest things I have ever heard is that SEGA would like to make films and TV series based on Streets of Rage and Altered Beast. The truth is that video games are just video games and certain titles of the past don’t work well if used for different kinds of entertainment, even though publishers still pretend they don’t understand after all these years of nasty stuff and box office flops. A classic video game can afford getting a mod where objects and bullets grow legs, just to say, but a film about Altered Beast’s beastly transformations will always be a very bad idea.
I already said it in the past and I’m saying here again: on-line video games sicken me, maybe it’s the computing thing I hate the most after cloud, because playing on-line means being at the mercy of digital platforms that can fail miserably in reaching the popularity needed to start a game session. Otherwise, if you are unlucky enough, you download some “free” gaming crap but then you have to pay hard cash even to play a fucking solitaire card game without advertising. The fact that there are sympathetic and interesting communities like the Eve Online one as well doesn’t change much: playing on the Internet is a waste of time, and time is the only true resource that must never be wasted. Ever.
Being a fan of video games of every age and for every platform, yours truly is always open to the idea of buying disks, cartridges or hardware units which have spent more than a season in the houses of strangers. Unlike many of those experiencing the same sickness as me, however, the idea of spending a lot of money for something that someone else treated with no care, cleaning or attention to personal hygiene is rather disgusting to me. In an ideal world retro-new hardware would be always available and affordable, and maybe its sale would be managed by companies a little less rotten to the core than your regular GameStop.
That particular computer passion known as retrocomputing requires to use ancient hardware components unable to support the most recent programs, but this doesn’t mean fans have to feel obliged to exclusively run software dating back to 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. On the contrary: the “scene” of the new releases designed to keep the retro hardware alive with recently produced code provides non-stop announcements - some of them stealing the spotlight, for a bit at least, next to the latest version of Windows 10 or Google Chrome.
The gaming assets of the studios previously known as Interplay are on sale, and that’s a sad news for two reasons: during the Nineties the publisher founded by Brian Fargo put on the market fundamental games like Descent, MDK and Earthworm Jim, and now some malicious actor could take advantage of the sale to get valuable intellectual properties exploiting them in the most cynical way. After all we live in a world where not even Super Mario is exempt from joining the “app” fraud for touch phones, while the most awaited games often turn out to be true scams that are pretty far from the original expectations.
As I had predicted already, piracy is thriving and fighting with us: Denuvo, the anti-tampering technology used together with the worst DRM by the worst gaming corporations, was swallowed by the best code pirates during a Summer that felt bitter for the eponymous Australian company. First came the exploit-based bypasses of DOOM and Tomb Raider, then the CONSPIR4CY super-crew (a partnership between CPY and CODEX) showed the world that the king is naked and that Denuvo got cracked as well. Piracy will live forever, and DRM will still be good for nothing.
Emulation allowed us to preserve a substantial part of the mainstream gaming past, but beyond software replication of known components there still is a gulf full of strange devices shrouded by mysterious fogs. Devices like the proprietary magnetic disk drive for Nintendo 64, for instance, or the prototype of a CD-based SNES console co-developed by Nintendo with Sony. The mists of an unclear past still cloak the copy protection of Sega Saturn CDs, while sometimes they let samples of historically remarkable gaming code or unfinished games emerge.
June 2016 was the month of E3, the Los Angeles fair where the new games soon to arrive are traditionally shown. A place where a lot of good stuff usually comes out, but also (mostly?) guilty for a series of dumb trends for an industry that always succeeds in fooling itself. But this past June was rather important for the Brexit, an event that will substantially affect video games development in the United Kingdom too, and for the celebration of the 11th anniversary of the Nintendo 64 arrival. An historic event as well, all things considered.
Every time I come across a new remake/sequel which includes the original game thanks to some form of emulation, right away I feel the urge to think about what “tricks” lurk within the source code to adapt a retro experience to a modern gaming environment, what open source (or proprietary maybe) emulator has been “assimilated” in the C++ code and more generally what complex “sorcery” brought to a result that’s always extraordinary. After all these years emulation still has many surprises in store, and publishers have started to massively exploit the classics’ commercial appeal on PC and elsewhere.
The kind of news you would like to read more often: Nosgoth, the umpteenth worthless free multiplayer game which dirtied the memory of the Blood Omen/Legacy of Kain saga with its mere existence, finally died this past April. No fan with a sane mind will miss it. News you always enjoy reading: an arcade prototype starring Beavis and Butt-Head was reanimated, hoping that sooner or later it will end up on MAME’s supported games list. News you would never want to read: GameFront servers went off-line, bringing 20 years of mods, patches, utilities and much more with them. Enough with this server death toll!
It’s 2016 and yours truly still likes to purchase his computer games on disc, a habit luckily still alive thanks to new releases of recent titles like SUPERHOT and the classics re-releases like the Revolution Software anniversary box. For me digital delivery services (excluding GOG.com) are the absolute evil, a lair of fake reviews and bits aimlessly gathered together with no “ownership” given to the buyer. Obviously I understand, the big shots of the gaming business would like to sell only digital files because they make more money. They can all go to hell anyway.
In the bizzarre world of video games there are very, very different kinds of developers. If you are lucky you end up dealing with a product made by someone that doesn’t fuck with you with over-discounted prices, or with an independent team that worked passionately and hopes to at least recover the money spent on development. If you are not so lucky, you are forced to waste money, time and mental energies on some obscene shit like the latest manifestation of Godus - the most recent digital dung defecated by Peter Molyneux which doesn’t spare new bad surprises every now and then. Luckily we have the indies, the honest ones at least.
Rather than taking a vacation from writing code and reverse engineering the chips inside old gaming machines, emulator developers use the hottest period of the year to release updates for some of most significant projects in the modern emulation scene. During the last three months new versions of ScummVM and Dolphin arrived, while a project seemingly started to absorb all the emulators in the world presents an important innovation regarding one of the most beloved consoles from Nintendo.
After their well-deserved moment of glory which lasted from 1981 to 1995, command line-based operating systems for PC better known as “DOS” (Disk Operating System) should be extinct by now. And yet DOS, and particularly Microsoft’s MS-DOS and the open source projects directly inspired to it, still is a market niche populated by extremely peculiar usage scenarios, old users and enthusiasts that have no intention to quit the command line for good.
Guilty late for the three holiday months with no new posts, Sir Arthur is pleased to report the release of a new version of the Computer hardware poster made by Sonic84/Jeff Grisso: the first release was posted by the artist/designer on the DeviantArt community seven years ago, and it was created to collect in a single chart the plethora of interfaces, sockets and slots belonging to modern computers’ rich history. The newest version starts from the previous one and makes the collection substantially more solid and useful to browse.
A lot of time has passed since I wrote something about politics on these pages, and likely quite a lot of time will pass before a thoughtful post about topics that I view as worthy of attention, in the long run. For now, disgust wins over interest and I prefer to use my time for other things. However I feel obliged to write down a remark for Matteo Renzi, Italy’s current Prime Minister who makes us feel ashamed before the world as much and even more than that other awful character that came before him.
Since its official debut on the market, nearly a year ago, Windows 10 has become the main discussion topic of the entire computer business. Many reported Microsoft’s inclination to cause troubles or even real damages to users with the company’s new policy about cloud computing, mandatory updates and free offers you cannot refuse, but for me Windows 10 suffers from a fundamental issue that’s even more difficult to ignore. The entire “Windows as a service” concept is utter nonsense, and if Microsoft has taken this path I don’t think I will be able to follow it.
Once in a while someone comes out with an apocalyptic prediction that seems destined to turn into reality, like Bird Sister and the others from the 3DM Chinese crew that talk about “uncrackable” DRM technologies two years from now. A PC gaming market with no pirate releases, that from my standpoint means a PC market with no future at all. Bullshit. The future is full of piracy and free games, as much as it is highly unlikely for the virtual reality of expensive helmets by Oculus and company to become something more of a dusty curiosity to exhibit for relatives on Christmas. Really: what kind of self-destructive idiot would put an uncomfortable helmet on to relax with video games?
By ending a wait that lasted almost two years, the developers of ScummVM announced the arrival of a new version for the virtual machine preferred by graphic adventure fans: also known as “Lost with Sherlock”, ScummVM 1.8.0 is hailed as one of the most hefty releases ever prepared by the team with the addition of many games and game engines, the substantial update of graphics and sound sub-systems and the availability of new conversions for minor platforms.