During the first days of April, anniversaries for two genuine pieces of the operating systems’ history took place, two different evolutionary lines of what should have been a single product born from the partnership between two giants of the PC industry. IBM OS/2 and Microsoft Windows 3.1 were initially destined to be merged in the graphical interface-based operating system by Big Blue, afterward history went in a different way and OS/2 sunk while the competing OS turned into the dominant platform on the market.
From the mist of the video gaming past a genre thought extinct returns, thanks to a title provided with “an oldschool heart but a modern execution“: the genre is the grid-based dungeon crawlers one, the game which brings it to the present is Legend of Grimrock made by Finnish developer Almost Human. LoG has been released starting from April 11 on the software house site, Steam and on GOG.com, and in this last case the release is particularly important because it matches the renewal of the gaming digital delivery “alternative” service for PC.
Born from the ashes of the deceased FreeDO project, 4DO is an emulator of the historical 3DO console released under an open source license. 4DO aim is to improve on the already remarkable accuracy level of the FreeDO main core by adding new features, bringing bugfixes and making the software compatible with more games from the actually-not-so-large library of titles published for the 3DO.
Even though it has partially overcome its original mission to be the cornerstone of legal retrogaming on PC, GOG.com (formerly Good Old Games) continues to delight old gamers’ taste (and even the new ones tired of the usual FPSes or the dumb casual games for smartphones) by releasing true gems of the past equipped with compatibility fixes for the latest Windows OSes. During the last days the digital store has practically ran wild in that regard delivering the first two chapters of the Thief series and announcing the coming of the historical Full Motion Video horrors made by Trilobyte.
More than two months after version 1.4.0 came out, ScummVM is now updated with release 1.4.1 (code name “Subwoofer”). The new version of the virtual machine for adventurers and retrogaming lovers is depicted by developers as a “maintenance only” one and it is mostly designed to fix several bugs found in the previous release, even though ScummVM 1.4.1 does bring some of the new features introduced afterward.
The latest weeks have probably been among the most turbulent ones in the brief history of Good Old Games: the retrogaming store has caused controversy, released “new” classic titles of the PC gaming past and has preannounced an important novelty for the product type that will soon be available on its virtual shelves. The digital delivery service created by the Polish publisher CD Projekt is in a sense victim of its own success, and of the ample trust granted by its users as an alternative channel for on-line videogame purchases.
What follows is a report for a long series of news occurred in the emulation world during the last period, and by “last period” I mean the latest months before the beginning of the new year at least. For this reason, in some cases I can’t exactly talk about “news”, but it felt right to me to emphasize them considering that these are already established advancements that will be the foundations on which to build the future ones. After all emulation is an ever-evolving world, and I want to start over to tell its progressing without losing too much important things along the way
Followers of the VOGONS board and DOSBox official forum are already aware of this: one of the forthcoming versions of the best PC-with-DOS emulator out there should include a very important architectural novelty, ie the software implementation of the historical Voodoo Graphics chipset created by 3dfx Interactive in the Nineties. “Kekko”, the programmer working on the project with the aid of the DOSBox crew and the coding-capable VOGONS users, says that his aim is the complete and faithful emulation of SST-1, the first Voodoo chipset marketed in 1996 inside the first 3D graphics accelerated cards on the PC.
Despite it offers a service aimed at a very selected public of video games fans, in the latest weeks Good Old Games has been the most discussed topic on-line. “GOG.com simply cannot remain in its current form“, an unexpected message on the retrogaming store homepage stated, and many believed that the service had shut down for financial issues or who knows what. The truth was, it was discovered some days later, that the GOG.com management had decided to close the long beta phase of the site with a shocking marketing stunt.
The ambitious target set by Musopen founder has been reached and widely exceeded: Aaron Dunn succeeded in collecting more than 68,000 dollars for his project of freeing the great symphonies, a project that needed 11,000 dollars to be covered and that became extremely popular during the last two weeks leading to the aforementioned outstanding result. Dunn thanks the many who supported his idea and promises further initiatives with the same aim: give classical music back to the public domain.
October 2 and 3 are red-flag days for Italian retrogaming fans: in those days Monza will host the fourth edition of Video Games History, “the landmark event for retrogaming and more generally video games fans“. Organized by GamesCollection in partnership with retro-stores, associations, hardware manufacturers and games developers, the exhibition will be held in the Lombard city Urban Center and will provide the opportunity to go back to the past of video games without ignoring to glance at the present and the future of the medium.
File sharing platforms abuse by malicious code is a fashionable habit since years now. A malware usually just checks if the infected machine hosts a peer-to-peer software, but the W32.Changeup worm detected by Symantec (among the others) goes beyond and rather than searching for a P2P tool it installs its own “private” eMule copy to replicate itself. The malware is noteworthy for its ability to “assist” downloading and spreading of additional computer threats.
It’s one of the most debated issues within the PC world together with the digital downloads’ true weight: how much is the computer video games market worth, what financial results does the PC gaming hardware gain compared to the - seemingly much healthier - major home consoles one? The reply comes from the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA), the publishers and producers non-profit organization “dedicated to driving the worldwide growth of PC gaming” which details heavy numbers and proclaims: the computer definitely is the largest, most widespread and financially important gaming platform out there.
How much are digital downloads worth within the PC video games market? According to a recent report by NPD Group, in 2009 digital delivery of commercial products would have taken 48% of the overall marketplace in North America. NPD says that the 44.8 million games sold the past year would split in 21.3 millions in digital format and 23.5 millions on optical disks. The market research firm depicts a situation where on-line distribution of videogaming products would be on par with traditional retailers, positioning itself as the only business capable of putting back in shape the PC video games market.
July has been a noteworthy month for fans of the not so trivial arts of multiboot and hard disk data encryption, which have been able to profit by the release of updated versions for two of the best utility software out there: NeoSmart Technologies released version 2.0(.1) of the EasyBCD advanced bootloader, while the so called TrueCrypt Developers Association brought to 7 the version number of its powerful, open source encryption software.
Soon another technology that in the past years dominated the always-changing universe of computer hardware will bite the dust. That’s the decision by Intel, the merciless executioner of standards which the company itself imposes on the market and that in the upcoming months will rule the end of official support for the PCI bus. Developed by the Californian chipmaker in 1993, the PCI Local Bus standard has been implemented on all the motherboards for x86 and compatible platforms until 2004, the year when it passed on the baton to the younger and faster PCI Express technology.
The month of June started with a bad news for all the Windows systems power users and personalizations fans: X-Setup Pro, a long-history tweaking software with unique features, reached the end of its lifetime. Because of its financial problems, the company behind X-Setup interrupted the program’s development giving away the latest version with a serial code useful for its registration.
Two recently announced videogaming-focused initiatives handle interactive entertainment from opposite but complementary points of view. The first one, pretentiously defined Game Nation by its sponsoring company, aims at making a theme park of video games for videogamers, while the second one is Italy-driven and as much ambitious considering that its promoters want to create no less than “the first European museum of video games”.
Some technologies are really die hard, but they can be celebrated in due time when they finally become history. It happened by chance that the twenty-second day of May 2010 fell the anniversary of two fundamental tech products, considered as milestones within their field so much that there is a “before” and an “after” their appearance on the market. And both products have no need for introduction, being no less than the first “star” of the video games history and the first Windows version to be successful among the vast user base of “IBM and compatible” PCs.
Computer threats are continuously evolving, and there is who would even pretend that they did the leap from the machine to man by infecting RFID microchips installed under the skin. But even though they remain a “simple” IT issue, some malicious codes are a problem difficult to tackle because of their inherent complexity and an intelligent design capable of constantly putting security companies under pressure. A remarkable “intelligent” threat is for instance Sality, the new generation file virus that according to Symantec has practically turned into an “all-in-one” malware incorporating botnet-alike functionalities as well.