Salem’s Fire #37:  Empty the Dustbin


Good things have a way of repeating themselves. Star Wars came back, new and improved (according to some) after several years. Various seventies and eighties era bands make absolute-final-last-ever-never-ever-coming-back-ever goodbye world tour after goodbye tour. Great songs never go away, they just get dressed up and sung by new artists.

And so it is with great games, or, I should say, should be. I am not talking about sequels here, but rereleases. Take a good older game, say, Tetris. Now, rewrite it to perform well on modern systems with newer technology, improve the audio and visuals to take advantage of new capabilities, and release it all over again. Not as Tetris 2, but Tetris. Same game, different era. So far, this kind of thing has not happened too much. And that is unfortunate.

There are a number of great games that very few people play anymore simply because they cannot get the silly thing to run well on new computers. For example, anyone who runs Apple?s OS X is forever denied the pleasure of classic Diablo. Unless they play it in Classic mode (ie: OS 9), they cannot enjoy the greatest dungeon crawl of them all. Likewise, I have tried to play Lords of the Realm 2 on my Win XP Pro machine. Does not work so well, even in compatibility mode. LotR 2 was a great game, but technology moved on and now it sits idle in my stack of game disks.

Surely, somewhere, there is a company who cares about the great games of the past who would be able to buy the rights to some of these old classics and update their coding to run on newer systems. Grab a pile of games that no one buys anymore, update them, and slap twenty of them on a disk and sell it for ten bucks. I think there would be a market. Myst came back from the dead a few years ago, and the newly updated version is now a fixture on many a game store shelf. There are several games that deserve the same chance at revival, deserve to be shared with the legions of new gamers who are totally unaware that Return to Castle Wolfenstein is actually a sequel. Too many games that are still very enjoyable are being forgotten. For instance, how many play Warcraft 3? A ton of people, of course. Warcraft 2? Less than 3, but it is safe to say that most gamers have at least heard of Warcraft 2. Now, how many even know the full title to the original Warcraft, let alone have played it? And yet, just a few years ago, it was not hard to find people who thought that Warcraft: Orcs and Humans was a better game than Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness. The original is lost in time, and five years from now a new wave of gamers will be wondering why Reign of Chaos has a 3 in front of it.

And it gets worse. There were rumors last summer that with Longhorn, to be released by Microsoft as the next version of Windows sometime between 2005 and 2009, backwards compatibility would go the way of the dodo. In other words, if software is not rewritten for Longhorn, it may not run at all. Translation: Diablo 2, gone from new computers. Half-Life, ditto. Unreal Tournament? History. Quake will be legend of the past. Black and White will not run. Of course, Microsoft may throw compatibility modes in, or they may not be planning on cutting backwards compatibility at all (though many experts think the move is long overdue). But the threat remains. Apple did it, and very successfully. Backwards compatibility on Unix/Linux machines is a hit and miss affair, though improving, and those operating systems are more popular with each passing day. There is no reason Microsoft could not cut off Windows 9X software from running on a Longhorn machine. There is no reason that they could not send Diablo to the dustbin of doom for good.

And there is no reason these older but still great games should not be played either. I only arrived on the gaming scene in the very late nineties. No doubt gamers who have been around longer than I are able to list many more excellent titles that deserve a home in any game library. I have read through several hall of fame style lists of great games from the past decades, and I am always surprised how many I have never heard of before. Likewise, it is surprising how many times the article notes that this particular game flat will not run on new computers. It is unfortunate that no company is willing to rescue the ancient wonders and keep them playable.

Of course, I have to give Blizzard credit. Blizzard has taken the lead in moving their golden oldies onto new platforms where they can be played and enjoyed all over again. The Gameboy Advance, outdated dinosaur of a device though it is, now is the proud platform of the Lost Vikings. Can Wolfenstein 3D be far behind? Mines of Moria? Apple Cider Spider?

Maybe some of these are destined to be great games that fade away, just as some great bands really do die out, and some great songs really are forgotten. Perhaps the original Lords of the Realm will fade into trivia, and Diablo will become nothing more than the father of a series and savior of a genre. Perhaps.

Then again, everyone needs just one more goodbye tour.


Disclaimer: Salem?s Fire was written by Luke Blaize during 2002-2004, and hosted by Diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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