Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
Similar Open Source Projects

In the start of the new millennium video games were in a much different state than they are now. Most of the games I played back then simply do not exist in the same style today and from memory I played the following:

  • Roller Coaster Tycoon
  • Sim Ant
  • Sim Tower
  • Red Alert 2
  • Age of Empires

Every once in awhile I have an urge to play one of these older games and I find quite a selection to pick from of these games. It seems classic games will be reborn from one or many of the following.

Ports

Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings

Lets take Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings - a game released in 1999 that was extremely addicting for real time competition of civilizations. This was in contrast to the growing popular game known as Civilization, which instead worked in turn-based strategy.

The game continued over time with a few more in the series, but the game moved further away from the real basic design to a more highly 3d driven approach. These newer games didn't jive extremely well with the tight knit community that developed around the original. So about 15 years later - an HD version of the original game was released known as Age of Empires 2: HD Edition.

Age of Empires 2: HD Edition

This was sold as "re-imagined" with a selling point of supporting new higher quality assets, supports for Steam as well as multiple monitors. What happened in actuality was a pretty buggy game that continually broke synchronization in multiplayer as well as just crashing to the desktop.

This isn't to say the 1999 year old alternative didn't have its fair share of issues, but the modding community really helped keep that version running. So while this port didn't change the game to an extreme that lost it roots - it wasn't perfect for what the community wanted and easily was looked at as a rushed, poor and lazy port.

Age of Empires 2: Definite Edition

Another 6 years passed and the original game was re-mastered and ported again! This time we got Age of Empires 2: Definite Edition, which was developed by a different group of companies but still published under Xbox. This was the port that people wanted. It took some common complaints about the game that were simply dated with age and tweaked them. Features that were a welcome addition were added, as well making sure the game had the settings that folks wanted to play with the vast combination of video display settings.

So it seemed with the right amount of work - you could port a 20 year old game to newer systems with only slight tweaks to the base and make a successful game.


Re-implementation

OpenRCT2

What we notice at times where a port is never made or heavily delayed sometimes the community steps in to hold the mantle. For this we can look at Roller Coaster Tycoon, which has the popular OpenRCT2 project that re-implements the game in the open source space.

This is a legal and fair re-implementation as the open source copy refuses to run unless it can be pointed to a valid original install to re-use some assets and scenarios. However, this is just a  requirement for large popular open source re-implementation projects as failure to do so can easily result in a DMCA and the project is dead.

OpenRCT2 started around 2014, but what is interesting is a port of the classic game did end up being released officially in 2016 on mobile and 2017 for desktop. So you then have an interesting split of users - those who return to the official port of the game or those who prefer the community driven approach of an open source iteration of the game.

Regardless, we have to look back at the classic game that was written by Chris Sawyer solo writing the game in x86 assembly. Rarely in this day and age do you find a game written at such a low level language without a full development shop.

A lot of Sawyer's games have attracted the attention of re-implementation:

OpenRA

As well as a few games that I also played during that era:

These re-implementations range from better than the official version to a less than preferred buggy experience.


Emulation

Finally, we have the emulation route which just emulates the original environment in order to run the classic original game. There are a bunch of websites that can even preform this emulation all via a web browser.

Take Sim Ant, which we can use DOS Box in order to run directly in Chrome.

Sim Ant - DOS Box

This takes you back to the literal exact game you played 20+ years ago. However, you will quickly realize why games evolved. While great to play for an hour - the game has been dated with the time and it needs the re-implementation or a remaster in order to make the game re-playable.

This continues with games like Sim Tower where you can emulate Windows 3.1 and jump right back into the experience as you remember it.

Sim Tower - Emulation

Another game that is a bit jarring to use movement wise, but you might remember it being much better than it actually feels.


So overall it seems no matter how dated a game gets - it become emulated, re-built or even re-mastered officially.

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