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ptd magazine june
08 10 12
the ptd calendar Why Retro?
Special guest editor Peter Berger introduces our annual retro edition our favorite pirate plugs readers into events on the digital high seas
table of contents
34 38 42
the case for abandonware 10 rem werewolves & wanderers the ptd guide to emulation
where do games go when they die, and is it legal to ressurect them again? one man's fondest memories hidden in lines of code
news read by a pirate
what's happening this month, including our weekly online meetups we pay our respects to a novelty of gaming history our executive editor sets off in search of adventure, excitement, and a video arcade a ballad of the cracks, hisses and clicks of yesteryear
saving video game history one rom at a time multiplayer delight in an era before ethernet in a generation of million dollar marketing hype, is more really better? can one man overcome his fear of the letter x to win the game? a rebuttal
a quarter in denver
give me more, give me less
listening to programs load
night of the killer x's
love's labour's lost ... and found
A story of one woman's love for video games coming full circle
waltzing for dreamers
of dreams, realizations and the video game culture
next month in PTD
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BORING Lorien Faulkner Executive Editor PK Hufford Managing Editor Damian Allen Contributing Editor Peter Berger Contributing Editor William Everett Contributing Editor Troy Goodfellow Contributing Editor Thord Hedengren Contributing Editor Jesse Merritt Contributing Editor Chris Pickering Contributing Editor Jennifer Reed Contributing Editor Lesley Smith Contributing Editor You Contributing Editor
pg 6 ptd magazine june
Executive Editor: Lorien Faulkner Managing Editor: PK Hufford Copy Editor: Salmon Mufﬁn News Editor: PK Hufford
Contributors: Nat Lanza Meredyth Didier Dmitri Salcedo David Craddock Scott Krol Paul Mazaitis
Advertising Inquires: 1 (970) 672-4008 advertise.PTD@ empireconsolidated.com
PTD MAGAZINE VOLUME 3, ISSUE 6
PTD Magazine, or its parent company Empire Consolidated, llc., does not claim any copyright in the screenshots found in this issue. Copyright in all screenshots contained in this publication are owned by their respective companies or copyright holders. Entire contents
copyright 2005-2007, PTD Magazine. All rights reserved; reproduction in whole or part without permission is prohibited. PTD Magazine is a trademark of Empire Consolidated, llc. Products named in these pages are trade names, or trademarks, of their respective companies.
FEATURE “We need to do an issue focusing on retrogaming.” That was me, in a Dave and Busters’ in Bethesda, Maryland, at PTD’s annual staff meeting. I had come prepared, with a 10 minute Keynote presentation explaining who the target market was for such an issue, why it made sense from an editorial perspective, and how retrogaming (seemingly a non sequitur) actually tapped into the underlying reason that people read about games. “You’re right!” said Lorien, our Executive Editor. “Let’s do it.” “Don’t dismiss the idea so quickly, Lorien. I really think this could be...wait, what?” And that was that. This left me with at least two problems. The ﬁrst was actually putting the issue together, but the second was that I had put all this effort into this awesome Keynote, and now I had no reason to give it. Luckily, there is still someone to whom the Retro issue needs to be explained... you, the PTD reader. Speaking for myself, there are two reasons that I read game magazines. The ﬁrst is purely functional. “I’m thinking about buying this new game, and I want to know if it’s any good.” The second, more nebulous, reason is that I love games and love reading about games. In practice, the great majority of my game reading is for this second reason. Sure, I occasionally want to know if I should shell out $50 for Bladehunt: Deathspank 2: The Revenge, but more often than not, I just read game magazines, web sites, and weblogs recreational. I believe this is true for most people. To take just one obvious example, every time I give a game a bad review, I get innumerable comments from fans of the game about how I am a “talentless homosexual toad-licker” or some similar insult. In most cases, these people have already bought the game, and they certainly have already decided they liked it. They’re reading articles about it not for advice but as pure recreation. Yet when
ptd magazine june
you look at the game writing available on the Internet and on the newsstand, with a few notable exceptions, nearly all of it is purely functional. “The new Mario game is out! 5 out of 5 stars.” I think we can do better, and I hope this issue is proof. I chose retrogaming as a focus for several reasons. First, I believe that the gamer who reads about games is truly literate. This means that they can understand the idea of games as a medium rather than as a product. I also believe that gamers who read about games are, generally, older than gamers who don’t. This means they are interested in the history of the medium. Lastly, I believe that gamers who read about games believe that games matter and are an integral part of their life. The marching order for our writers in this issue was to avoid “review-style” articles. Instead of writing about games per se, we wanted to capture that elusive element that makes us love games. “Don’t just tell me about this old game you loved,” was the message, “tell me why you loved it. Make me understand why it matters.” This is our goal: to use retrogaming as a lens through which we can explore the question of why games matter. Despite Lorien’s enthusiastic embrace of the concept, there is no avoiding the fact that this issue is an experiment and a risk. I think the risk has been worth it, because I’m proud of the writing that has gone into this issue. Which brings me to a simple pitch to you: if you like the writing in this issue, if you want to see more of it, if you like the idea of exploring our past to enlighten our present, then this would be a great time to subscribe to PTD Magazine. Let us know you subscribed because of the Retro issue. If you like what you read, let us know that you want more.pb
Tagged: retro, experiment
ptd magazine june
listening to programs load
On a desk in my house is a cassette tape. On one side of the tape is the ﬁrst half of Frank Zappa’s album Joe’s Garage. On the other side of the tape is screeching, metallic static that sounds not unlike Lou Reed’s album Metal Machine Music. It’s a computer program, speciﬁcally a game called Madness and the Minotaur for the TRS-80 Color Computer. It was a text adventure game that used words to describe an alluring and dangerous labyrinth. It was a game of the mind. There is a dissonance between what computers are and how we talk about them. Programmers talk of the abstractions underlying the devices, the symbolic logic, the “ones and zeros”. Users, however, talk about the functions of the device. Today, when more than ever we are using computers as communication devices, many of us think of them as a portal to someplace else. A computer functions as a hole on your desk through which you can see a different world. We see this new world through a physical device made of plastic, sand, and sheet metal. Its fan quietly hums. Like a new car, it smells of plastic wrap and ozone. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, when the idea of a store-bought personal computer was new, manufacturers indulged designers’ fancies, creating a plethora of designs that would look at home in a wood-paneled room. The Atari 800, for example, looked like a station wagon for the Star Trek set. However, it is the non-visual attributes, the sounds, of these old consumer electronics that loom largest in my memory.
Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufﬁciently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As a 10 year old boy, that’s how I viewed these machines. It was much different than using a modern game console. To load a program on a computer was not simply to put in a cartridge and press a button. It was to perform ritual magic, and this ritual magic had its own sound. First, I cleared the screen of all distracting inﬂuences. I placed my offering and incantation, in the form of a cassette tape, in the tape drive. Then, I spoke the word of power: CLOADM, mysterious and gnostic (ﬂashback to 8th grade when I, brandishing a copy of the Apple Disc II Reference Manual, asked my poor English teacher to explain what “aexpr” meant). Pressing play on the tape player, the sound began: ﬁrst, the crow-like call of the tape leader, krrrrrrREEEE, krrrrrr-REEEE, followed by the rusty iron static of the program data, a hurdygurdy droning continuing for minutes. All the time, I sat silent, almost meditative, anticipating the load screen of the game (or the cursed I/O ERROR, indicative of a failure to have performed the ritual properly, requiring a return to the beginning). After the game was successfully loaded, I was in the world of the game. However, no matter how good the game was, it was less electric to me than the anticipation of loading it. I’ve played Madness and the Minotaur on modern PCs, via emulation. It lacks something. I miss those opening sounds.
ptd magazine june
The sounds of old home computers are not merely from the cassette. The Apple II disk drive, for example, had such a distinctive sound that sometimes it seemed alive. It would synchronize itself by trying to seek under track 0, which made the heads clatter and buzz like the entryway of an old apartment building. When a disk went bad, you’d hear an ominous periodic click. That was the sound of losing days of effort. Nostalgia for its own sake is poison. At least some of the fondness I have for these sounds is simply the regressive urge to return to a seemingly simpler time. Despite this there are, I think, some real losses beyond the inevitability of aging that can be mourned. In losing the clatters and buzzes and clicks and clucks of the old computers, we’ve lost a certain insight. For all their complexity, it is easy to forget that although computers are like magic, they are not magic. They are machines, just as surely as an inclined plane or a screw is a machine. A cassette deck, if not exactly trivial, is at least understandable. The mechanical melodies of the early computers were an invitation. “If you can ﬁgure out how we work”, they seemed to promise, “then surely you can ﬁgure out how the rest of the computer works as well.” The sounds – the mechanical sounds – of the old computers are rapidly fading from our consciousness, replaced by nothing more than the subtle hiss of a cooling fan, and the sounds of music and movies blaring from the machine’s speakers. The invitations now are different
ones: invitations to consume or, if we’re ambitious, to create. I fear that the invitation to explore the guts of the machine, to dive into the inner world of an elegant mechanical device, is no longer extended. There will always be some who will hear the call and will respond. For me, though, it was easier to hear that call in the beautiful and strange screeching that began each descent into the labyrinth of the mind.pb
Tagged: retro, tape deck
ptd magazine june
FEATURE The day we brought home the Atari 2600 was a day of many ﬁrsts for me. It was, for example, the ﬁrst time my parents told me to lie. As we piled out of our brick-red AMC, Mom mentioned casually, “So if someone asks, we got it as a gift. We’re behind on the rent, and if the landlord found out we spent money on this, well…” Once Dad gave the landlord-all-clear signal, Mom yanked the giant black and orange box out of the trunk and sprinted across our apartment complex courtyard with Dad leading the way. Keeping pace behind them, my sister and I found this behavior glamorous, as if we were a family of international spies. For years before the Atari arrived, I simply stared at the grocery’s arcade games, watching attract sequences while Mom shopped. Quarterless and too short to reach anything, I’d stand there imagining what it would be like to man the controls. I thought that I would be pretty good if I would ever get the chance to play. Despite all my expectations, Missile Command proved that I was terrible at video games. This was intensely frustrating. Perhaps it was because of the feeling that lives were at stake. Watching the last of my cities explode in nuclear holocaust ﬁlled me with a righteous anger so strong I actually let out a bloodcurdling yell. My parents were visibly taken aback at my reaction; they had never seen me so angry. For hours I kept playing, kept failing, and kept getting more frustrated.
pg 16 ptd magazine june
Waltzing's For Dreamers
“Maybe you should take a break,” said Mom. I glared back at her red-faced with teary, bleary eyes. I had waited so long for this. I was supposed to be good at this. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t stop playing, and Mom didn’t stop me. There wasn’t much glitz in growing up poor, but when our parents occasionally splurged there was an exhilarating joy to the irresponsibility, a rare feeling of freedom. Fortunately, the spree of buying an Atari opened a future path to cheap entertainment. For a modest sum, a single game occupied us for weeks at a time. Missile Command and Super Breakout alone entertained my sister and me for an entire summer. After the video game crash, my parents raided the bargain bin at Sears and bought up a bunch of games for ﬁve bucks each. Over the next year, they smartly rationed them out of a hidden box in the hall closet for birthdays and Christmas. Times got tougher for us later. We had more trouble making rent, got kicked out, and ended up across town at another apartment building. The whole process inevitably repeated itself every year and a half or so. There were no allowances for long stretches of time, but lucky for us we had the dependable Atari. You might be forced to leave all your friends and attend a different school in a few months, but your old buddy Yars’ Revenge would make the trip with you. Maybe you had played it a hundred times by then, but at least they couldn’t take that away. The frequent moves meant leaving old playmates and trying to get new ones, but video games allow you to ﬁnd fast friends at any school. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor if you were a gamer. You had Pitfall II, and they had Star Raiders. If neither of you had played the other’s game, you were probably going to be pals soon. Thinking back, having games helped soothe a lot of problems, even if those problems were caused by the lack of money to afford things like game systems in the ﬁrst place. There’s a snake eating its tail in that logic somewhere, but after years of not understanding why my parents recklessly spent money on us at times, I ﬁnally ﬁgured it out. One frosty morning I was standing in line for the Wii idly chatting with the guy next to me. He had already lined up eight times elsewhere to ﬁnd the system for his young nephews with no luck so far, and I commended him on being a dedicated uncle. “Well, I know it’s just a toy, a material thing,” he admitted, “but they need fun in life, fun and imagination. It’s where their dreams come from.” It seemed overly-dramatic to me at the time, but now I know the man was right. We needed dreams. Maybe we even needed them just a little bit more than the other kids. So I’d like to say something here that I’m not sure I ever actually said: Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks for risking half the rent on a dream machine all those years ago. It was worth it.ds
Tagged: retro, dreams
ptd magazine june
The case for abandonware
1993 was an important year in my career as a PC gamer. Sure, Doom was released, and it was great and all, but for me, the year 1993 will always be synonymous with one of the best computer games I’ve ever played, Event Horizon Software’s Veil of Darkness. Using an isometric view similar to Blizzard’s Diablo games, Veil of Darkness was an adventure game that had the player’s avatar fulﬁlling a prophecy in order to escape from a valley ruled by a vampire named Kairn. The combat was in real-time, and solving the prophecy required puzzle solving skills that had me tracking down a werewolf, solving murder mysteries, and returning beloved items to souls still trapped on the mortal plane. It was a great game and remains a personal favorite to this day. Then, in 1996, my family moved. Being a true gamer, when we arrived at our new home, I opted to leave all other belongings in complete disarray while I worked tirelessly to get my PC up and running. As I rooted through boxes of games, I came across the Veil of Darkness box and got a hankering to reinstall it and give Kairn another run for his money. The problem was, I couldn’t ﬁnd the disks. I searched through every box, dumping clothes, school supplies, photo albums, and of course, video game paraphernalia all over the ﬂoor. The instruction manual turned up but no diskettes.
I sat down at my computer, my heart trying to thump its way right out of my chest as I activated my dial-up Internet connection and nervously typed in ‘abandonware’ in Yahoo!’s search engine. “This is okay, right?“ I thought to myself. “After all, I bought the game. I’ve got the box and the instructions sitting right next to me. Yeah, this is ﬁne. Perfectly legal.” Right? That’s quite a tricky question. Abandonware, deﬁned by most as software no longer available for purchase, is as sticky a legal area as that of emulation. There are those--mostly game publishers--who feel that downloading any abandonware is illegal. Law states that a game is under copyright for 95 years after its release, and since no video game has existed for anything close to 95 years yet, downloading abandonware is illegal, plain and simple. However, another argument states that there are those who download old games not because they don’t want to pay for them; they see abandonware as a great way to uphold the rich history of video gaming. I ﬁnd truth in both arguments, and while I ﬁnd myself leaning toward the latter belief, let’s be honest. I didn’t give a darn about gaming history while I was downloading Veil of Darkness. All I wanted was to be able to play a game I had already bought.
ptd magazine june
The preservation of gaming history is a compelling argument, though. I understand reticence from developers and publishers. After all, just because something is hard to ﬁnd doesn’t mean it can’t be purchased. There are many gamers out there who cry “abandonware” simply because they’ve found a product they don’t want to pay for. I believe game developers should be paid for the entertainment they provide. Services such as GameTap offer subscriptionbased services that allow gamers to play hundreds of games from a wide range of systems for small monthly or yearly fees. The Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, and compilations from companies such as Capcom allow popular series such as Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mega Man to be experienced by those who fondly remember them and want to share them with others. While there are plenty of old games still for sale, however, there are hundreds more that are not. Should genre-deﬁning titles such as Day of the Tentacle or Dune 2 be forgotten just because newer, more advanced games have sprung up in their place? No. There is an entire generation of gamers that have grown up thinking that video gaming began and ended with Halo. Nothing against Bungie or the success they’ve enjoyed, but while the Halo series is very good, it’s by no
means seminal to anyone who knows the history of the ﬁrst-person-shooter genre. Titles such as Catacombs 3D deserve respect, especially for budding game designers who should strive to know as much about the history of their ﬁeld as possible. Also what about lesser known titles, such as Veil of Darkness? The game wasn’t popular by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t care. I bought it on a whim because it was relatively cheap, and I fell in love with the game. Shouldn’t other gamers have a chance to play lesser known games that happened to be overwhelmed by other, bigger name titles? I personally think so. If not for abandonware, I might never have been able to ﬁnd a copy of Veil of Darkness. I didn’t feel I should have to pay for it again as I had honestly already paid the publisher the price they asked once. More importantly, it was a piece of gaming history that was and is important to me as a gamer. Video and computer game history should be preserved. If more companies would realize that their past works will one day all but disappear, maybe most--not all, but most--would realize that their work is better suited as a piece of history instead of as a forgotten relic.dc
Tagged: retro, abandonware
next month //
Features: Gamer girls Video Game Violence, After the Dust Settles Hot Dog King RIP3 Can Nintendo Survive Outside of the Party? Innovation versus Stagnation: Popular Franchises that Need an Overhaul No Place like Home? Reviews: Super Paper Mario Mario Party 8 MLB 07: The Show Guitar Hero II Forza Motorsport 2 Spiderman 3 Pokemon Diamond/Pearl Cake Mania Sam & Max Episode 6 Shadowrun Oblivion : Shivering Isle Subscribe to PTD today if you're not getting your free monthly digest, you're missing out. Signing up takes less than a minute, and its all totally free. visit ptdmagazine.com to subscribe today! CONTRIBUTERS WANTED We're always looking for contributers interested in being published in ptd magazine. if you've got a knack for writing, or even just want to try your hand at a review or two, drop by our website for more information. visit ptdmagazine.com to learn more!
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ptd magazine june
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