On the occasion of SourceForge.net’s project of the month award granted to DOSBox, I asked the crew behind the best PC/DOS emulator out there to reply to some questions about the project. The developers were busy with the last works on the new version of the emulator, thus the interview was changed to include some DOSBox 0.73 related features and finally in the past days the crew was kind enough to send me back the replies I was seeking for. There is no Big Scoop (tm) here nor I was asking for one, but I hope the conversation is an interesting reading anyway.
Even though the last works on the code have been slowed down by some last hour bugs, around the end of May the DOSBox developers have kept their word by releasing the new version of the best PC/DOS emulator out there. After almost two years since the previous official main release, DOSBox 0.73 comes to improve the already remarkable compatibility level of PC retrogamers’ preferred virtual machine and introduces a lot of new stuff in practically every aspect of the emulation.
DOSBox, the emulator designed to run DOS games on modern operating systems (and not necessarily on a PC), has been chosen as project of the month for May 2009 on the open source platform SourceForge.net. It’s the latest award granted to a software that “simply does what it is supposed to do“, as the authors state, and that after having summed up more than 10 millions downloads is ready for an update awaited since almost two years.
Apparently spring affected the ScummVM coders in a positive manner, because after a waiting of six months between release 0.12.0 and the 0.13.0 one only two months more were enough to see a new version coming, namely the 0.13.1 one available on the official servers since a few days. The short period intervened since the previous release justifies the lack of new supported games, as this time the focus is bugs correction and the improvement of consoles and portable platforms versions.
The phoenix of abandonware hasn’t had the time to rise again from its ashes, that it has soon split in two separate parts with no communication between them. The efforts of the community gathered around the discussion group Home of the Underdogs Revival Project have actually led first to houtd.org and, some weeks later, to homeoftheunderdogs.net. Both sites claim to be the “official” home of the new Home of the Underdogs, and plan to pursue its “mission” in different ways, rather difficult to conciliate in a unitary approach.
Yeah I know, it’s an old new, but considering that we are talking about a text adventure dating back to 28 years ago a few months more or less aren’t of so much difference. Moreover Zork isn’t only ready to return on the web with a permanent on-line multiplayer adventure but also on ScummVM, adventurers’ preferred virtual machine that recently grew rich with part of the videogaming universe ascribable to the mythologic adventure created in the mists of time by four MIT hackers.
Like the legendary bird rises again from its ashes, the most important site of abandonware recently sunk into the oblivion of disconnection is preparing to return to life thanks to the joined efforts of enthusiasts and experts and with consent of its original caretaker, which announces the start of the revival project and apologizes for having been absent so much time to let such a precious resource for classic videogaming die from starvation.
The classics, by definition, never go out of fashion, let alone if they are the graphic adventures of past decades. And the preferred tool of true adventurers is ScummVM, a software that works as an interpreter between data files of such adventures and modern operating systems. After 6 months since the release of version 0.12.0, in these days developers have delivered a new main release of the virtual machine, which includes novelties both for the interface and supported games.
Home of the Underdogs is dead, long live to vintage videogaming. It’s unlikely that memorial words will be wasted in the IT industry for the occasion, nevertheless the event is worth highlighting: founded by the Thai woman Sarinee Achavanuntakul in September 1998, HotU eventually became the largest historic videogames archive (mostly) for DOS and Windows platforms, representing one of the major landfall points of the phenomenon at the boundary between illegality and collective cognizance better known as abandonware.
If there’s something that the new digital store Good Old Games has clearly emphasized is the fact that retrogaming can become a business, but at its heart there must necessarily be the passion and the commitment of hobbyists able to feed that business with their coding and software engineering efforts. Without projects amateurish in shape but extremely sophisticated in essence like DOSBox and ScummVM, to say it frankly, probably GOG.com would have never opened.
Though they belong to a genre already considered defunct and inadequate for the mainstream videogames market years by now, adventure games have a glorious past, a past that deserves to be remembered and of course replayed. At the center of a good part of this effort of collective memory there is ScummVM, the already quoted virtual machine which acts like an interface between the feelings and the puzzles from the good old times and the modern operating systems.
Maybe it isn’t correct to use expressions like “the Sony failure”, “the death of PlayStation platform” and others on the same model, but the numbers released by market research experts and by NPD Group in particular surely outline a more and more discouraging situation for the market adventure of PS3, continuously highlight the mistakes and the inability of Sony Computer Entertainment into innovating the videogaming market as in the past years and set off even more the clamorous success of Microsoft and Nintendo branded home consoles.
A few weeks after the announcement of the private beta program broadening, the Good Old Games folks are officially stating the public opening of the site in these hours. The retrogaming digital store is now ready to receive the orphans of the good ol’ games and who struggles in the abandonware and the incompatibilities between old software and new OSes, hoping that the economic results will be enough to attract new publishers willing to a embrace the peculiar business model chosen by the CD Projekt guys.
UPDATE: A lucky user writing from the USA has received via mail the invite code that GOG.com has granted me. Happy retrogaming to him, to me and everyone enjoys the experience
Dunno why (yet), but the beta of Good Old Games, the digital store of retrogaming that would like to become a point of reference for the peculiar audience to which it refers, isn’t closed yet. Not so bad, anyway, personally I’ll profit to continue to test the service, buy some old classic that I still haven’t played and more generally devote myself to my preferred activity after sex. That is retrogaming
A month after the announcement of the Good Old Games beta broadening, the CD Projekt folks have finally sent to me the access code for the retrogaming store, the digital delivery portal that would like to become a reference point for gamers with a folk memory to protect and above all the desire to replay the good old times of the former videogaming. Waiting for the store’s public opening and to spend some money for the first purchases, in the next paragraphs I’ll begin to report some preliminary considerations drawn from the brief “tasting” sessions of what GOG has currently to offer.
Sony Computer Entertainment chairman Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai would like to sell 150 millions of PlayStation 3 in ten years, but even that wouldn’t be enough to recover from the astounding cost of the 3 billions of dollars lost for the console. It has been said not by a Nintendo fanboy but by the Sony Corporation Chief Executive Officer Sir Howard Stringer, who has frankly admitted with the press that PS3 is and will be a product at a loss for the coming years yet.
UPDATE: on the DOSBox official homepage Qbix writes that, “after careful studying the statistics“, the date in which downloads summed up the 10 millions amount has been determined in July 21. Because of this the contest with the CD edition of Dune as a prize is still valid, and the winner selected “randomly” from the 4 people that guessed the date will be contacted shortly to receive it.
That’s an important goal achieved by “the x86 emulator with DOS“: DOSBox has passed over the crucial amount of 10 millions downloads, including all the supported platforms’ versions. As stated on the official forum hosted on VOGONS, the stats on SourceForge.net (the delivery platform that hosts the emulator) of the 17th of August have scored 10,025,792 downloads, and now DOSBox is the 43rd of the 50 most downloaded FOSS projects.
Good news from the Good Old Games project, the on-line store that plans to change the retrogaming phenomenon into a business of DRM-free digital downloads. The message sent me via e-mail in these days talks about a success beyond the expectations for the closed beta program, therefore it has been decided to extend to anyone the opportunity to test the system.
The Polish producer/publisher CD Projekt have had the nice idea of focusing two great trends of the PC gamers community, the one majority (digital delivery) and the other marginal (retrogaming) to build up a new business, that should turn real for the next September under the appearances of GOG.com, acronym meaning for Good Old Games.