A late-night discussion on Friday reminded me of two of the coolest computer games I’ve played, Pirates! and Scorched Earth. I played Pirates! on our old Commodore 64. My brother and I would actually get up early on a Saturday morning to play, and we even busted out the encyclopedia for a map of the Carribean. Scorched Earth was a more recent PC game with lame graphics where you lobbed all sorts of weapons at other tanks. It was a great multiplayer game, even if you had to gather around a single computer.
After reveling in my old game glory, I decided to go online and see if I could play them again. I found a cool Commodore 64 emulator and was able to find a version of Pirates!, but I haven’t been able to get the game to work. The emulator works and loads the game without a problem (including the cool ‘cracked by’ screen), but I can’t get the game to work. The mouse doesn’t seem to work as a joystick, so I end up with no input to play the game.
I also found a version of Pirates Gold (a quasi-sequel) for the Mac, but I couldn’t get it to even load. There are a few PC versions available, but it sounds like you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get them to work. It’s probably not worth it on my sketchy PC. I did discover that there’s a a true sequel in the works, planned for sometime in late 2004.
My quest for Scorched Earth met with a bit more success. I did find an online version of the game, but it kept locking up on me. I also found a 3D remake, but I got an AppleScript Error (“2004-05-16 21:19:30.269 open No such file: /Applications/X11.asp sh: line 6: open-x11: command not found (127)”). There’s also a PC version of the original available (maybe it is the original?), though I haven’t tried it yet on my PC.
All of this involved an hour or two of Internet searching and fiddling with a few downloads. Net result: a wistful glimpse of the Commodore 64 screen. No old skool video action.
What really makes me wonder is why no one is going after this old video game market and making it easy. If I knew all the right technical stuff, had some patience and some time (and was trying this on a PC instead of a Mac), I could probably find all the cool old games I want. But who has time and energy for that? Somebody out there should do all the work of making these games easily playable — I shouldn’t have to know what an emulator is or think about CPU speed to play Scorched Earth. Make it easy for me and I’ll gladly plunk down some cash to play my old favorites. Retro is so in (is it ever out?), why isn’t someone cashing in on retro video games?
I imagine there’s a few examples (Atari 10-in-1, Namco TV Games, combo N64 & SNES w/ $6 games) but this seems like a wider trend worth exploiting. As long as someone lets me play Pirates! and Scorched Earth without much hassle. And how about F-Zero from SNES, Doom from my early PC days (I remember a plug-in where you could shotgun Barney!), and that racing game I forgot the name of from the original Nintendo?