a short discussion of why the petition may fail…

a new game for my blog:
i’m going to start putting up movie quotes here and the challenge is this: can you identify the quote without using the internet to find the answer?
post answers in comments if you want.
i’ll be posting the answer next time i blog (normally the next day).

today’s movie quote:
“he’s big and he plays football and he’ll kick the shit out of you!”

still reminding you to go sign the abandonware petition over HERE if you haven’t done so already (and if you agree of course).
i see another +/- 200 signatures have been added since yesterday.

now the possible problems with the petition:
there are two major hiccups and a few niggling issues that companies have with releasing their old games as abandonwares.

firstly there’s the call that abandonwares will help create brand awareness and bolster brand loyalty, except: many old games were not created with today’s hardware or operating systems in mind. this can lead to major errors in the games (timing issues going crazy and crashes for wierd reasons etc…). companies believe this would reflect badly on them and actually harm their brand name. of course they could solve this problem by doing a little development and updating the game to a windows interface, but this then costs them time and money that could be spent on something new.

the other major problem involves trademarks. trademarks need to be actively defended (unlike copyrights) or else they can be weakened and lost. now most characters and themes in a game are trademarked. companies like to keep their trademarks just in case they want to make another sequel (very likely if there’s a sudden cult following for a game that results from releasing a series as abandonware). but the companies fear that by releasing the game into the public domain it’ll weaken their trademarks and they could lose them.

the companies would also like to keep some games in reserve so that they can make future “bundle packs” more appealing by providing older titles with newer titles. eg: sierra’s space quest or liesure suit larry collections that include all the quests and occasionally some additional extras like laffer utilities. (i’d love to get these collections. esp the larry set)

there are a couple of other issues like distribution (free vs small fee. support vs no support. release into public domain vs make super cheap but responsible. etc) and packaging (manuals vs pdfs. boxes vs download only. etc).
basically they don’t want to waste money on it but don’t want it to have bad repercusions. easy solution: don’t support or release it at all, just concentrate on new games.

there are many arguments supporting abandonwares. the best one i’ve read recently goes a little something like this:
if you want me to pay for a game in 2006 that was originally released in 1996 then i expect the same level of support now that i would have had then. the problem is that companies rarely support games past a year or two and a lot of old development houses have long since dissapeared, making support nigh impossible.

another arguement is about availability:
if you’re going to maintian a copyright on an old title then make it available for purchase or release it so that someone else can make it available. many programmers who actually made the game say that they’d prefer people to download abandonwares and play them (piracy basically) as opposed to having their games being forgotten about.

the actual creators of the old games are 99% likely to have moved on and are no longer at the development house. is it fair that companies should still be collecting money for their work when the actual creators are no longer being paid for it?
this brings up an interesting question (moonflake had me thinking about it): why is it that developers don’t get royalties? authors and singers get royalties and are basically doing the same thing: creating a piece of work for a publisher to release and make cash with. i think it has something to do with development houses, the number of people working on the project, and the contracts involved… but i don’t actually know.

i am firmly in the “abandonwares are good” camp.
maybe its because i grew up with dos (all the way from about 3 to 6.22… and i still have my 6.22 install disks).
maybe its because i grew up with many of these old games and i’m biased by nostalgia.
maybe its because i realise that the old games may not run properly on today’s systems and know the work-arounds.
maybe its because i know how to use dosbox and scummvm.
maybe its because i have a pIII 800 in today’s p4 world.
i’m certainly not claiming “all information should be free!” screw that cyber-hippy crap.
i just think that there’s a lot out there and if the companies aren’t going to do something with it then its just selfish of them to not make it available to people who appreciate it.
if they actually have legit plans for it then i can see their viewpoint, but there are titles out there that companies aquired through buyouts and they don’t even know or remember that they own the copyright on that title (if they even remember the existance of it).
sometimes they don’t even hold a copy of the titles they own and that’s just wrong.
its kind of like this choose your own adventure:
page 1:
you find you have a chocolate muffin that you don’t plan to eat. you’ve had your full of all sorts of interesting, new muffins and this one just isn’t doing it for you. then someone comes along and say: “ooh! i love chocolate muffins. are you going to eat that?”
do you:

  • say “yes!” and then watch it slowly rot away, becoming useless to everyone? turn to page 222.
  • say “no, but you can’t have it anyway.” ? turn to page 365.
  • say “now that i know you want it, yes!” then sell it at a reduced price? turn to page 104.
  • say “no, you can have it since you love it so much… but i’m not responsible if you don’t like it or if you start to choke on it.” ? turn to page 7.

page 7: you support abandonwares, releasing your muffin free for people to enjoy. ladies love you, men love you, you have your pick. you’re invited to all the cool parties and have loads of friends. people think you’re great and buy all your latest muffins at full price. you are the muffin man/woman!
well done: you win the game with the best ending and, um, did i mention abandonwares make me hot?

page 104: not a bad move. if the price is right then you’ll find a happy medium where almost everyone is happy, except you’ve got to remember that now you have to support the muffin and be responsible if the muffin doesn’t work on new systems…

  • if you’re not happy supporting the muffin then maybe you should reconsider your viewpoint: go back to page 1.
  • if you’re happy to support the muffin then well done, you win the game with the second-best ending.

page 222: you’re an asshole. maybe you should reconsider your viewpoint. go back to page 1!

page 365: you’re a real asshole and people hate you and your company. maybe you should reconsider your viewpoint. go back to page 1!

and now something boring:
previous post corrections:
as schpat brought to my attention, the current sa president has not been to jail. i had my information mixed up. his father was jailed and he was always under threat of being jailed, but served no actual time.
also: it has not been confirmed that nelson mandela’s daughter helped get snoop released. when asked for a comment she said she did not want to talk about it, and when the police in UK were asked for comment they said: “you’ll need to talk to foreign affairs about that.”
so draw your own conclusions…


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