World 1-1 Review

World 1-1 Review

World 1-1 is an amazing video game history documentary movie created by the team made up of Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez, two awesome, young but thorough movie makers from Miami. Although World 1-1 automatically might make you think of the world start screen from Super Mario Bros., the film is actually about what I call the rise and fall of the original Atari (I would have probably called the film The Rise and Fall of Atari). The film covers the birth of video games from their origins in scientific labs, onto games being played on what at the time were time-shared supercomputers, to the creation of arcade video game machines, and onto the rise and fall of early video game consoles (video gaming at home).

world 1-1 movie poster

To say the film is thorough would be an understatement although the movie mainly focuses on arcade and console game development. Although I love this film a lot, I can criticize that it barely touches on what was going on in the home computer field, which although Nintendo saved the console gaming market (probably what World 1-2 will be about), home computers also saved video games and people’s interest in electronics and computers with great machines such as the Commodore 64, Atari computers, and later Commodore Amiga (much before IBM clones and DOS become popular).

Getting back to what makes World 1-1 so great, the film has many great interviews with not just most of the important people that worked in Atari and Activision but also many interviews by people who work in Microsoft (and other important companies) and many famous people in the video game world such as arcade specialists and many of what I consider to be experts in video game history. This movie is like entering a time machine and seeing what it was actually like to have worked at Atari. There are many great stories of crazy things that would happen or also recollections describing how many breakthroughs came about. Some of the interviews also talk about the important business decisions that took place both from the managerial perspective and how the engineers and the rest of the employees responded to such decisions. Just like everything in life all things must come to an end and the movie deals with the death of the original Atari corporation in a very classy and dignified manner.

I highly recommend you view the movie as part of what I call some of the best movies and shows in video game, internet, hacker, and computer history such as: Pirates of Silicon Valley, Micro Men, Middle Men, The King of Kong, The Social Network, TRON, Takedown, Silicon Valley, and Halt And Catch Fire. World 1-1 and those shows and movies are what I call to be essential to watch if you a true interest in video game history. Chances are that if you’re reading this you already have such an interest.

You can buy the movie directly from the creators’ website or you can even get it over at Steam.

If I have to give the movie a numerical score I would say it’s a 9.5 out of 10. Stop reading this and go watch it NOW! 🙂

Here is an interview we did with the creators from when they were trying to get the funding for the film:

Here is a further interview we did after it got funded. It talks more about the making of the film:

The Amiga CD32

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What if? The Amiga CD32

I love What if? scenarios. What could have been if things hadn’t gone a bit pear-shaped for a certain company. This particular scenario though surrounds the question, What if the Amiga CD32 had been a success… would we be seeing an Amiga console today? Equal to the PS3 or X-Box?

There’s plenty of debate on the interweb, schools of thought on the future of Commodore and Amiga. I’ve been dipping in and out of some forums recently and there is certainly a lot of passion surrounding this subject. However, my own personal opinion doesn’t seem to fit in with these particular debates. I’ve always dreamt of an Amiga console, a continuation of the CD32, with Commodore backed and developed hardware, chipsets and designs with the same Amiga enthusiasm for gaming, graphics and entertainment.

amiga-cd32

I look all bleary eyed as I imagine the release of the ‘Commodore Amiga *insert awesome console name here*’, the anticipation as to the specs of this new machine, the controllers, the online game play… I’ve pretty much invented this fantasy console already, it has everything that made the Amiga and its successors the gaming giants they were (and still are in my opinion).

I’ve imagined the specs, it rivals the PS3 and X-Box for graphics and online gaming, it has an entertainment centre for playing Blu-ray and downloadable movies, it has the retro back catalogue of Amiga games and software, all in a glorious online archive of classics from the past… sorry, drifted off for a bit there.

In short, I think an Amiga console would have easily fitted in amongst the latest gaming platforms, having an incredible legacy behind it and a gaming archive for it to include in its package, sitting alongside any of the latest games. Somehow (don’t ask me how) this latest Amiga console would also allow people to develop their own Amiga projects, the software played just as big a part in the history of Commodore and Amiga as the games did and it would be awesome to see that included, and of course backed by a genuine and passionate Commodore company.

amiga cd32_back

Now, lets not forget this is a What if? scenario, I like to dream of what could have been, and of course in an ideal world this is where I would have liked the direction of the company to have gone. The reality of course was a lot more complicated and depressing, and currently, at least for the brand we all know and love, it’s not looking much better.

Check out another blog post on the CD32 over at Last of Commodore: Amiga CD32, it’s a lot more informative and a lot less fantasy (see above). Thanks for indulging my imagination, until my dreams come true, I’ll be playing on my Amiga 500.

Thanks to Gamester81 for the video review.

The Immortal

 

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The first thing you noticed when playing The Immortal was that you tended to die a lot. ~Dan Epp

The Immortal

The plot of The Immortal revolved around a young magician intercepting a call for help meant for someone else from his master, Mordamir, located deep within a labyrinth.  Since you – as the young apprentice – were the only help available, you set out to rescue Mordamir.  Once there, the young wizard discovered that  things are not as straightforward as they are presented by Mordamir, and many plot twists unfolded.  The dungeon was home to warring clans of goblins and trolls, whom you interacted with throughout the game, mostly through combat, but you could ally somewhat with the Goblin King for quests, information, and treasure.  There were other allies to be found in the game, but not everyone had altruistic reasons for giving you aid.  And there were other creatures living underground that considered you a possible tasty treat, as well as a variety of traps, so it was necessary to stay alert!

 

The Immortal
Anyone have a can of Spider Kilz I can borrow?

Much of the back story was given in the form of dreams that came when the young apprentice slept (on little piles of hay conveniently located throughout the dungeon levels).  The information these dreams contained was absolutely integral to surviving the quest, especially in the final sequence when Mordamir’s young apprentice had to make a choice of which powerful being he must ally with, and thereby end their stalemate.  I don’t recall a game that used this kind of lucid dreaming game mechanic quite as well as The Immortal, though opinions may vary.

 

The Immortal
Having a nap in The Immortal

The first thing you noticed when playing The Immortal was that you tended to die a lot.  Some players forgot they weren’t playing a buff warrior, but a magician’s young apprentice, so they forgot that running headlong into combat isn’t the wisest move for even an experienced wizard.  The trick was to either avoid combat (if you could!) or keep dodging around until your opponent tired themselves out, and then move in for the kill.  Sometimes this was easier to say than to do, however.  To make things more difficult, if your character didn’t die during combat, there were always the myriad traps for him to trigger.  Learning to navigate a room could result in many, many reloads, which is why The Immortal was considered a very difficult game to finish.

 

The Immortal
Successful spore attack in The Immortal

The next thing you noticed while playing The Immortal was the sheer level of violence. The combat screen graphics were fairly detailed for its day, and the level of gore they contained was a little over-the-top, which culminated with Mortal Kombat-style “finishing moves” with similar graphic details, such as decapitations, exploding skulls, eviscerations, and more.  For an early 1990s game, The Immortal was pretty intense.  (Oddly enough, the MS-DOS version wasn’t nearly as bloody as the Apple IIGS or Commodore Amiga versions.  The Nintendo Entertainment System version had much of the gore removed, but the Sega Genesis version might be the goriest of the all.)

 

The Immortal
Under the wizard’s attack in The Immortal

The game played in an isometric perspective, and an argument could be made for claiming The Immortal as the forefather of Diablo in its style.  It certainly taxed the system specs of the day, with particular attention paid to the death scenes (as mentioned above).  Did Blizzard find inspiration for their epic click-fest from memories of playing The Immortal?  Play it and decide for yourself!

 

The Immortal - IBM PC - Gameplay Screenshot -5
Under a death attack in The Immortal

 

 

Alien Breed

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Alien Breed

There was a period during the early 90’s when being an Amiga gamer was nearly as great as being a console gamer with regards to arcade-style games (I know, hard to believe – hee hee!), and this was largely thanks to Team 17. Although not founded until 1990 – quite late for an Amiga developer – they made an immediate impact. Their releases were rarely very original but were almost always technically impressive and highly playable. One that remains among their most celebrated works is Alien Breed, an almost legendary overhead run ‘n’ gun blaster. It was reminiscent of many such games before it in concept and also took a good few cues from a certain sci-fi film, but was immediately successful nonetheless. This would indicate that it’s very good but when I gave it a quick try in my younger days I found it annoying and flawed. It’s reputation endures though, so maybe I judged it too quickly and too harshly. I shall now find out…
Alien Breed

The game casts you and an optional second player in the roles of Johnson and Stone, two members of the Inter-Planetary-Corps (IPC), an ‘elite band of tough mercenaries’ whose job it is to clean up the universe’s scum. On their way home from a long mission, they’re ordered to investigate the nearby ‘Intex Space Research Centre 4’ which has stopped responding to messages. This means landing their craft and scoping out the complex on foot, but they may have guests! Sound familiar? Indeed, there was a rather popular movie directed by a certain James Cameron released a few years before Alien Breed which has a very similar premise, and many more things will sound familiar by the end of the review as well, but that’s okay – a lack of innovation or imagination doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of enjoyment! The complex consists of six decks comprised of interconnecting rooms and areas. You have a set objective on each deck which is detailed before you start it. Once it’s complete, you need to find the lift and move to the next.
Alien Breed

You start on the first deck which is a docking bay, and a quick stroll around reveals a tidy, mostly metallic, and eerily quiet gameworld. The action is viewed from directly overhead and you can move freely around the decks in eight directions. There are lots of doors between areas which each require a key to open, and there are various bits and pieces dotted around the stages from barrels right up to active (but grounded) spacecraft, but it doesn’t take long to discover some slightly more dangerous stuff too – namely, the aliens – which look exactly as you would expect the Giger variety of xenomorph to look from above, and there are a lot of them. To help you reduce their numbers you start the game armed with a machine gun but the aliens, once onscreen, gravitate towards you, can move very quickly, and are infinite, so prowling the stages trying to take out every one you encounter will be a never-ending pursuit. Actually, it will end as contact with them depletes your energy quickly!
Alien Breed

Some things that are worth looking for include cash, keys, ammo, and health, all of which can be found laying around on the floor and all of which is necessary to make progress. The cash can be used to buy one of six different weapons (flamethrower, plasma gun, missiles, laser, etc) from the Intex computer terminals you’ll find now and then, all of which have finite ammo. The terminals also offer a map of the stage (which looks dauntingly large and intricate!), various stats and information screens, a game of Pong to kill time, and you can also buy a portable map, extra lives, and more of the stuff you can find on the floor in case you’ve developed a habit of squandering the existing supplies (although since that must also include cash, I guess you’d still be in trouble). They’re in fairly abundant supply though, so careful play should mean you can save your money for the arse-kicking weapons. Which are very much needed!
Alien Breed

Later stages introduce a few new features such as ramps and pools of acid (alien blood?), but most of Alien Breed’s six stages are pretty much the same thing – running around seemingly infinite corridors collecting stuff and shooting up evil creatures! Playing it reminded me several other games, notablyAlien Syndrome and my old favourite, Gauntlet, both of which are very enjoyable but rather repetitive overhead shooters. Team 17’s game should be much inferior to these two classics too. Although playing similarly to them, its visuals vary less than both. With the exception of the final stage, the graphics only change slightly from one mission to the next – usually a slightly different colour scheme, and there are very few different enemy sprites (facehuggers and two different ‘full size’ alien creatures). That said, the attention to detail is great and, along with the largely silent gameplay punctuated only by gunfire, occasional speech, and the screeches of dying aliens, helps create a pretty creepy atmosphere which does a lot to alleviate the repetition.

When I first played this game all those years ago on my trusty A600, I recall my main problem with it being its high difficulty. I remember running out of ammo quickly and having difficulty finding more. Playing it this time was much more enjoyable and leaves me wondering what on earth I was actually doing wrong the first time around! It’s a pretty damn tough game for sure, mainly thanks to the infinite aliens (there’s not even any Gauntlet-style ‘generators’ to stem the flow), but it’s not hugely unfair as I was expecting it to be either, even if you get trapped – you’ll probably often find yourself running away from aliens down a corridor only to find more coming from the other end! They do seem relentless to begin with too, but practise, as well as learning your way around the initially-confusing stages (buy a map!), will see you make steady progress. The first stage eases you in (giggity) and should be completed with minimal hassle but it’s just a ‘practise mode’ really, compared to the rest of the game, which I still can’t finish without cheating, incidentally (and there are a lot of codes too). Alien Breed is still a rather repetitive game but the great atmosphere and addictive action make it one that’s worth spending time on. Especially if you’re a fan of the film it’s (unofficially) based on!

RKS Score: 7/10

The Interview: John Wilson – Zenobi Software

Zenobi Software, the Rochdale Balrog, the Cat and the Cockroach were responsible for over two hundred excellent -nay, classic- ZX Spectrum text-adventures. Oh, yes, and quite a few Atari ST ones too. What’s more, John Wilson -a.k.a. the Balrog- the man behind it all is here to enlighten you and me on how things happened and what the future holds. Read on, hop over to the lovely official Zenobi website, grab a DVD with its rich retro offerings, ask for a freebie and come back here to discuss retro 8-bit interactive fiction. After all Zenobi will feature heavily on this blog for quite some time.

Zenobi Software Visual Medley

Tell us a bit about yourself, oh Balrog. Some info on the cat might be nice too.

Fast approaching my 62nd birthday, I was born in Edinburgh (Scotland) in 1947 and moved to South Wales (Cwmbran) at the age of 12. Lived there for a few years and then moved to North Wales (Flint) before enlisting in the Royal Air Force in 1964. Served in various places… as far apart as Valley (Anglesey) and Seletar (Singapore) before settling down in Rochdale in 1970 where I still live to this day. As for the ‘cat’ that is simply one of my many ‘alter-egos’… now, that is a ‘first’ for you and your readers, as I have never admitted to that before. ‘Cat’ is a good one, unlike ‘Cockroach’ who is an evil, mischievous little sod.

Why -and more importantly, how- did you start Zenobi? Were you all alone in this, erm, adventure of sorts?

Had been unemployed for a number of years and during a ‘careers interview’ I blurted out ‘To run a software house’ in answer to one of their questions. Being me, I decided to stick with that choice and Zenobi Software was formed in 1984/85. Like everything in my life, since I met her, my Ann was with me in this enterprise. Without her help I would never have made the success of Zenobi Software that it was … if it ever was a ‘success’.

And the focus on text-adventures on the ZX Spectrum? How did you decide on that?

Because they were what I was ‘into’ at the time. I had been given a ZX81 by a mate and then ‘upgraded’ to a ZX Spectrum … the only things that seemed reasonable to play on these machines were ‘text adventures’ (the arcade games did not appeal) so those became my passion.
ZX Spectrum

Weren’t you afraid of actually competing against bigger software houses?

I am never afraid of a challenge and to be quite honest I never envisaged myself as being in ‘competition’ with anybody. The whole idea of the project was simply to get MY games out to the general public. Things just got out of hand a touch and grew far bigger than I ever imagined.

You’ve created a fair amount of admittedly brilliant, tough, inspired and generally hilarious adventures. Which ones are you favorites? Was there a certain way your games were designed? I mean, really, where did all this inspiration come from?

Of them all, the original ‘Behind Closed Doors’ has to be my favourite, if only for the fact that it was written, tested and finalised in less than 24 hours. However ALL of them are my ‘children’ and just as in real-life I never choose favourites.

How did you come up with those intricate puzzles?

Pinched all the ideas from ‘real-life’ incidents. All it takes is a little imagination and you can convert anything into an ‘adventure-situation’. Alas, I am very lucky to have the kind of mind that can come up with ‘ideas’ without too much thinking… I used to dream them up as I typed them sometimes.

What about them weird names, settings, loading screens and stories?

They are all part of the twisted mind that I have been blessed with… that and the ability to ‘bend’ things to suit. Give me a ‘topic’ and I can generally sit down and just type out a story (complete with characters, plot, descriptions etc) and do all this as I go along. Much in the same way that I am typing out this interview. No preparation, just ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ as my old Dad would say.

Now, as Zenobi published quite a few games from a variety of authors/designers, could you give us some insight as to how this bit actually worked?

Simple… I was unable to produce enough games (personally) to meet the demand, so decided to use the services of other authors to meet the quota. I spread the word I was on the lookout for new games and they just came flooding in.

In retrospect, which would you say were the finest moments in/of Zenobi?

Getting the first game-review published (‘The Boggit’ in PCW), being awarded ‘Mega-game’ status in Your Sinclair and being voted ‘Best Software House’ (the FIRST time).
Atari St

Why stop after the Atari ST games?

It was no longer a viable proposition to produce NEW games for either the ZX Spectrum or the Atari ST . ‘Sales’ were no longer high enough to warrant the financial outlay and I felt that it was stupid to keep squandering my OWN cash on a losing cause.

Any other platforms you developed for?

Not really, though we did produce ’emulations’ of ALL the original ZX Spectrum titles to suit the Commodore Amiga, Mac, PC, Sam Coupe and QL. Not to mention every form there was of the ZX Spectrum… i.e. Plus D, +3, Tape etc.

Oh, and do you still play games? Any thoughts on their current state?

Nope… my real passion has always been music and these days my spare time is spent listening to that. My CD collection numbers in the ‘tens’ of thousands… you can believe that or not!!

Considering there is a strong Spectrum retro scene, a very lively interactive fiction scene and an obvious revival of the adventure genre, well, what does the future hold? More games? A book per-chance?

None of the above. I still write the odd short-tale, but they are either just for my own amusement (and end up in the desk-drawer) or else they get put on the web-site where they bore everybody to death. Though I have promised myself that one day I will bring the ‘Korat’ tale to its eventual conclusion… if only for my own peace of mind

Finally, you do still feel the Zenobi love, don’t you? Mind you, feel free to add anything else you think would be vaguely appropriate and/or titillating.

The ‘Zenobi Love’ .. just what the f*ck is that? Zenobi Software was a part of my life, is still a part of my life and always will be a part of my life – it has nothing to do with ‘love’ it was (and still is) the ‘driving-force’ behind my existence.It was a dark rainy night and Balrog was slumped over a plate of mince & tatties when there was a gentle ‘tap’ on the kitchen door. “Bloody visitors .. and at this time of night as well!” growled Balrog as he flicked the errant pea(s) back on to his plate and shuffled off in the direction of the knock. “John Wilson ?” enquired the chubby-faced gent stood in the pouring rain. “Come in Tam ..” grinned the Balrog and ushered the gent, and his companion, into the warmth of the kitchen. “How do you know me?” asked the gent. “Saw your picture in PCW when you were awarded the prize for completing ‘The Ket Trilogy’ smiled Balrog, flicking on the switch for the kettle and reaching under the worktop for some cups. “Tea or coffee and how many sugars ??”

So it was that ‘Tartan Tam’ encountered the Balrog for the first time … a true story!!”


Free Stuff: Zophar’s Domain – Home to all Emulators

Zophars Domain logoFree Stuff: Zophar’s Domain – Home to all Emulators

Many of us grew up playing on many different platforms and systems. Whether you were a computer person or a console gamer, it probably has been many years since that was our main gaming platform. Just because we are now playing on modern computers and consoles doesn’t mean that we won’t get the urge to play a classic game from a dead system of our younger days. That’s where emulators come in, and Zophar’s Domain has EVERY emulator you can think of from any platform to any platform.

Zophar’s Domain Logo

Whether you use a Windows PC, a Linux system, BeOS, an Apple, an Amiga, a console, a phone, or a calculator, if there is an emulator for it so that you can run old computer or system like a Commodore 64, a Commodore Amiga, a Sinclair Spectrum, an Atari console or computer, a 3DO console, a Turbo Grafixx 16, arcade (MAME always comes to mind), any Nintendo or Sega system (ZNES and Genecyst always come to my mind when I think of emulators for these), or some rarer ones, Zophar’s Domain will have them if they exist (usually).

As a quick summary, usually when you want to emulate something you need a properly installed emulator and you’ll need a bunch of ROMs (think of them as disk/cartridge images for games/software/etc, depending on the platform). Now, although Zophar’s Domain will give you the emulators you need and you have every right to emulate software that you have already bought before, the legality of sharing ROMs is not as clear. For that reason, you will NOT find ROMs at Zophar’s Domain but it’s really easy to find them, even using google these days or torrents.

So… fire up a good emulator and relive part of your childhood once again! Either click the name Zophar’s Domain above or click here. If you’re too lazy to install an emulator on whatever it is you use or are worried of the legality of it, you can always go to our arcade section and play an emulator directly from Obsolete Gamer.

Music for the Sharp X68000 computer from Japan

Music for the Sharp X68000

When we had the Commodore Amiga, Japan had the Sharp X68000 computer. Most hardcore computer enthusiasts know how the c64 and Amiga had a huge underground scene where it came to music, graphics, and warez but the X68k had its own in Japan.

If you want to read about the specifications and want to know the history of the computer click here. The specs are very similar to a high end Amiga.

Last year while looking around on youtube I found the channel of SH2ARP, which has a ton of hardcore techno music that they wrote in the demoscene for the X68k.

A lot of the music sounds like music by artists like Prodigy but then again so did a lot of techno/industrial Amiga music. I must say I’m very impressed by how hardcore it does sound even with it using old samples. Most of this music will blow your speakers and your mind, and that’s great 😀

So… let’s get to it!

One of my favorites,
Song: GENOCIDE by hally & Utabi

This one was kind of weird,
Song: DEEPXPEED by Speeeed Hysteria

A neat tribal song,
Song: ノチモニトクニモラ by Utabi

You gotta love classic Acid tunes especially with a chippy feel to them,
Song: ’88 ACID REVIVAL by MACK

This one sounds like speed jungle to me,
Song: KICKTOOO by FAAST TYKOON

This one just made my brain implode,
Song: prototype 990826-xpd-04x by FAAST TYKOON

Now this is more like it,
Song: Tekkno is HardCore by MACK

This one gets really good near the middle,
Song: KICKPRESSURE by FAAST TYKOON

This one just gave me a headache,
Song: Be Invoked by hally

Chaos,
Song: prototype 980202-028-at by satori

One of the most melodic songs from his channel,
Song: demo-5 by Utabi

I could totally see this playing at a match in an Unreal Tournament game,
Song: Summer Carnival ’96 by hally

Here is one of the first songs I found and one of the ones that made me want to write this article,
Song: Pyrotek Medley by hizmi

Totally awesome for a good rave,
Song: 無双太鼓 by hizmi

My favorite song from all of these,
Song: Rave 2151 by hizmi

This sounds like really aggressive trance,
Song: Razor Destroyer by hizmi

Chaotic yet really innovative,
Song: Ratsback2 – Saitone Remix / 鉄コン筋クリートremix by Saitone

Reminds me of old arcade game music but on crack,
Song: Neo X Rally Ver. 0.8 by Saitone

This is the kind of music that robots love,
Song: metazaxxxiremix (remixed by Saitone) by coova & lilil

This one takes the sound capabilities of the machine to the limit,
Song: Yorumachi by coova

Catchy,
Song: Skeng (Version) by quarta330

***

Okay, so it’s a bit different from Amiga demoscene stuff and some of you are saying what the fuck but hey it’s great on its own as well.

About the Software Preservation Society (SPS)

Software Preservation Society logo
Software Preservation Society logo

About the Software Preservation Society (SPS)

SPS is a privately funded association of art collectors and computer enthusiasts striving for the preservation of computer art, namely computer games.

Art is an important cultural asset. Thousands of museums and archives all over the world preserve and restore pictures, books, movies and audio recordings and information in general for generations to come. To accomplish their assignment, national libraries are backed by law which, varying from country to country, forces production companies to deliver copies of publications, books, audio recordings and movies to the archives for long term preservation. It seems that as of today, nobody has ever thought or actively cared about the true, unmodified and verified preservation of computer games. Without any action taken, time will run out, very quickly.

Unlike games from the 1970s (delivered on solid state ROM-modules) and games from and after the mid-1990s (delivered on optical media like CD-ROMs and DVDs which are supposed to last for decades), computer games from the 1980s and early 1990s were delivered on magnetic media like tapes or floppy disks and are now at the brink of extinction.

From a preservation point of view, tapes and floppy disks are a nightmare for several reasons:

1. Tapes and floppy disks constantly degrade, in two ways. First is the physical degradation of the orientation of the metal particles which form the magnetic field and store the data. This process is slow, and given the fact that the data is encoded digitally, it may be too late to do anything when reading errors occur. Reading errors happen when it has become difficult to decide if a particular bit is 0 or 1. Preservation should occur before it becomes a gamble to get a good read.

2. Second is the chemical degradation. The metal particles bound to the plastic platter of a floppy disk or the surface of a tape can come off the surface. In fact, in most cases the bonding will simply fall apart after years of temperature changes, moisture and other issues of improper storage. Record companies struggle with this problem when remastering old recordings and have developed a process called baking where the original master tape is actually put in an oven to rebind the coating to the transport material. After baking, playback is a one try only process because the media will fall apart after passing the playback head of the machine. While similar to the original is sufficient for analogue material, even a single misinterpreted bit in the digital world means instant failure.

3. While no user can actually press industry standard vinyl recordings, CDs or DVDs at home (recordable media can be spotted by simply looking at it), tapes and floppies can actually be written and modified with consumer-grade equipment. It takes a lot of expertise to distinguish a professionally replicated medium from a home made copy. Even if a disk was produced by a commercial replicator, it does not necessarily mean that disk is still authentic and appropriate for preservation. Apart from a game possibly being copied over the original (as we have seen many times to “fix” a broken disk), many games themselves persist some kind of save state or high score, thus changing or erasing data that was available on the disk in the first place. As soon as the disk has been modified in any way, the authenticity of that copy is put into serious doubt.

SPS has successfully mastered these challenges and developed software and hardware technology to deal with the problems arising during the preservation process. Founded by computer expert and preservation pioneer István Fábián in 2001 as CAPS (the Classic Amiga Preservation Society), our highly specialized team has more than nine years of field experience. SPS members have not only been involved in playing games on the machines which are regarded retro today, but were programmers and designers also responsible for some of the games and programs available on these platforms.

While our original disk imaging tools (working on e.g. a standard Amiga 1200 with a compact flash adapter) are still good and easy to use, we are currently moving on to a completely self-contained floppy controller “KryoFlux” developed by SPS that works with any modern PC via an USB connection. This does not only speed up imaging of disks, but also enables physical media restoration of any title preserved so far.

Preservation at SPS usually is a two step process. Contributors from all over the world can help imaging disks with our unique technology. At SPS, our experts then use the Softpres Analyser to investigate the disk structure and create an IPF (Interchangeable Preservation Format) file. Scripting allows a flexible, even game-specific, way of representing data when read by a tool, or when rewritten to disk. Often rather different methods are required to represent various disk formats or copy protection methods when intended to be read by e.g. an emulator or to be written back when restoring an original disk. Due to the high quality of the preservation technology, IPFs have become the de facto standard demanded by Amiga users when looking for unmodified images true to the original.

While disks themselves are the problem that needs to be addressed quickly while they are still readable, SPS is also striving for complete archival of manuals and boxes in the form of physical products as well as digital scans. As of today, SPS has digitally archived about 3000 games produced for the Commodore Amiga, but now also supports other computer platforms like Atari ST, CPC, Spectrum and the Acorn Archimedes, to name just a few. Complete support for other platforms, like the C64 (which is a real challenge due to a second “computer” built straight into the floppy drive) is in the works, but disk imaging of such material already works today. It is only a question of manpower when the data imaged will be ready for presentation in dedicated IPF files. Again, this is a race against time to protect gems of yesterday from fading into oblivion.

For more information visit http://www.softpres.org/

Contact the Software Preservation Society:

Softpres.org Germany
Christian Bartsch
email: cb@softpres.org

Softpres.org UK
Kieron Wilkinson
email: kieron@softpres.org

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If you want to see part of this article you can do so at SPS’s facebook page. If you want to see how their analyser software works view this facebook page. If you want to follow them through facebook click here to go to their fan page.

We must help in order to ensure that many games and programs we enjoyed in the past get preserved for generations in the future.

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