I've been on a heavy retro kick of late, accentuated by being commissioned for a couple of ye olde PCe gaminge features. Initially, tracking down the out-of-print games I wanted to talk about from abandonware sites or, when all else failed, torrents, was as natural as spotting typos in Kieron's posts. Then a terrible moment of clarity hit me.
I shouldn't be doing this, I realised. Not because of legal or moral unease, but because really I should own these games already. That I'm so dependent on the kindness of law-juggling strangers is a precarious situation at best. One day, giganta-publisher-purge-o-tron #312 may have finally killed those abandonware sites with avaricious fire. One day, those torrents might be seeded no longer. Important games could all but cease to exist. Retrospective features may never be written.
Yes, there's every chance this cull will never happen - Valve, for instance, are steadily growing their retro archive on Steam - but this conveniently also appeals to one of my more lamentable tendencies: obsessively collecting stuff. I am man: hear me compulsively stack things next to each other.
As The Universe's Best PC Gaming Site Run By Four Scruffy Men From Bath, UK, it seems important that we should be able to lay hands on the founding fathers, strongest sons and most compelling oddities of the ol' IBM-compatible whenever we need to, whether for retrospective-writing purposes, to remind ourselves of how incomparably august a gaming platform the PC is, or simply for hiiiilarious out-of-context screenshots.
In my case at least, that isn't even slightly true. Pre-journalism, I traded in most games for the latest flavour of the month, so that's most of my 20th century gaming conspicuously absent. For later games, I do possess a wobbly mountain of laser-etched plastic circles (and a distressing amount of jewel cases that should house plastic circles, but mysteriously do not), but most contain unpatchable/timed-out review code, will-it-won't-it-work 'backups', or are criss-crossed with fatal scarring. They're as inappropriate and impermanent as paying tribute to war veterans with a monument made out of biscuits.
This is why I'm creating The RPSchive: a collection of the most important PC games since records began (or since 386s, anyway). It's also a convenient excuse for a regular retro feature and eventual semi-definitive list of the PC's finest hours. Oddly, there isn't currently much value attached to old PC games - I was dismayed to discover that I'd be lucky to get a tenner for my treasured, still-shrinkwrapped copy of Dungeon Keeper. If and when these games do ever vanish from the interwebs however, their hardcopies may accrue more obscene pricetags. So, now is the time to swoop. Not for our own purposes, you understand - but for the sake of the future. Yes.
At the top of this post is most of the miserably slim row constituting the games in my possession already suited to this purpose - i.e. they're in reasonable (and 100% legal) nick, work properly and aren't at present widely available in shops or over Steam. More are in budget cases or are lacking manuals than I'd like, but it's a start. I'll confer with the rest of the hive-mind later to see what they've got to add - so far, Jim proffers Sim City 2000 and System Shock.
Each fortnight, I wish to extend this back catalogue by one game, purchased for minor monies from ebay or similar - and each fortnight, we want your help deciding which game that shall be.
I have some rules:
- All games are essentially equal; a lesser-known electro-morsel is as eligible as Big Brand Shooter IV, so long as the argument for it is sound. No joke entries though: think of this as concerning games you'd proudly stick in a time capsule for the plant-people of tomorrow to drape their curious tendril-lips over.
- Don't worry about Windows XP/Vista compatibility. DOSbox delights are fine.
- I've gotta be able to realistically purchase it, new or second-hand, full release or budget, for not more than £10 (that's around $20). Arms may be twisted into going higher on occasion, but don't bank on it, unless this place suddenly starts making money at last.
- While it can be in or out of retail print, it can't be available on Steam - we're too confident in the survival of those that are, for a while longer at least. We're not counting Gametap though, as its UK arm so badly lacks the bulging muscle of its beefcake Yanqui kin.
- Ideally but not necessarily, it saw a CD version at some point - floppy disks are do-able in pinch, however.
- Only suggest games from the year mentioned in the post: this time, it's 1993.
Other than that, it's a case of the most convincing argument (whether by eloquence, passion, wit or fact) proffered in the comments thread or emailed to me each fortnight will be the game that I next attempt to hunt down for the RPSchive. The winner's reward? His/her/its comment posted on the main site in a following week, as part of a regular retrospective feature (replete with loving photographs of the game's boxen hardcopy), and the associated happy-dolphins that may spark within his/her/its brain as a result of this reflected glory. There'll be honourable mentions for runners-up too.
To add some sort of structure to it, and to prevent the same games coming up time and again, each RPSchive post will be limited to a specific year (so we'll probably cycle back to the start every four months or so. Unless I've given up/become stricken by eBayian poverty by then). Please, please, please keep your arguments to under 250 words, both to avoid tediously gargantuan comments threads, and so those whose submissions don't win won't feel they've wasted too much time. Oh, and in an attempt to ensure this isn't skewed in favour of more practiced writers, mastery of the language and grammatical correctness will take a distinct backseat to identifying what it is about this game that should earn it a place in this nascent RPSchive.
Let's start with, at random, 1993. Ooh, now there's a year. (The first X-COM is exempt, as a) it's too clear a winner and b) I've already got a copy on the way.) Again, 1993 only: save games from other years for future instalments of the RPSchive.
Go! Help protect the past!