The Ninth Circle #31: Missing Legacy


I particularly enjoyed reading your feedback on my previous Ninth Circle column. After admitting that my favourite games of last year were older games, I had half-expected a bunch of “get with the program” emails, telling me which modern games I should have been playing. Instead, I received a number of emails where you detailed which older games you are still playing, too.

It’s not that I don’t play newer games, it’s just that I don’t usually do it at home. It’s at the baang that I experience the latest games, which means that most of the recent titles I have played are FPS games. These are well suited to the baang environment (which is why they are available there), and you don’t need to play them for 30 hours to get the most out of them. You also don’t need extended playing sessions to feel you have achieved anything. This also means that I play modern games exclusively with other people. It’s rare for me to sit alone playing any non-strategy game.

It takes a strategy game to keep me in front of the computer at home. My parents bought me Call of Duty for Christmas (mum is a keen FPS and D2 player). I still haven’t reached the Russian missions. It’s not that the single player is bad, I’d just rather play the game with friends. Since strategy games are about all I play at home, and because good examples of the genre have such great longevity, few of the games I play at home are actually new.

Your feedback told me that I am not alone here.

Many of you are also playing games that can barely be found in the bargain bins these days. Games (and saved games) are lovingly transferred from one system to the next. Howls of anguish greet any incompatibility with modern systems. Those of us who play like this struggle against the system, against the very platform we are using. The PC is not kind to its own legacy games.

Older games can run at ludicrous speeds on modern systems. Sometimes you get lucky, as a previously sluggish game comes to life. Its just as well I enjoy turn-based strategy games so much, as these tend to be only positively affected by system speed increases, but you never know. More often beloved titles of the past become an unplayable blur. Ultima 7 and Transport Tycoon are two of my examples; I’m sure you have your own examples of this.

My PC games collection includes a number of such casualties. Dust-covered CD cases sit on my shelves. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to play them again. The double whammy here is that PCs just don’t last that long. Parts wear our, and it quickly becomes difficult to find replacements. I recently spent the week-end phoning shop after shop looking for a replacement power unit after a power surge blew my last one. I finally found a place after many calls that all ended with “sorry, we don’t have that in stock, but I can order one for you…” Once I found a place with one, I brought my computer along, open and ready for the exchange. “Whoa, haven’t seen one of those in a long time,” said the tech guy, looking at my machine’s innards. “They’re pretty good though, I’ve got one at home.” I mean, my system is three years old! It’s good enough to play many of the games coming out, Call of Duty runs fine, for example. But my system is old, replacement bits are getting harder to find- not impossible, but I know it’s time will soon be up. Soon I’ll be doing the system replacement thing, and seeing which of my games will be playable on the new box.

What I need is a PC emulator for my PC. An odd situation to be in, though as I sit here typing this it occurs to me that something might be out there if I would just take the time to look. PCs show their roots as a disposable business tool in that they just don’t last that long. I still have the Commodore 64 my parents bought me in 1988. It runs fine, though the monitor has seen better days. I’m on my third PC since 1996, and will soon be on my fourth. Legacy gaming is easy on one hand- I can download almost any Commodore 64 game I care to replay, but how much attention is being paid to PC games that no longer run on their own platform?

Remakes are one answer; though not the one I’m looking for here. The recent Prince of Persia game did a great job at capturing the spirit of the original, just as Fallout captured the spirit of its predecessor, Wasteland, a game I still play from time to time. This is the right way to do a remake too, make a game that evoked the original, but present a game made for today’s systems.

What I’m looking for is just the ability to play games 5 years old or more on my PC. I’d love to spend time playing Transport Tycoon again, to name just one game. Just as there is a demand for older games from the Atari and Commodore systems, surely there is still great interest in older PC games. A remake is not the only answer here. If any of you have experiences with trying to get your new PC to run older PC games, I’d like to hear about them.


The Ninth Circle was written from 2002-2006, by David Kay, and with 58 installments it was the longest running column in Diabloii.net’s history. The Ninth Circle covered computer gaming, RPGs, fantasy novels, the gamer’s life, and other related issues. Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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