AGFV: The Best and Worst “Forward Thinking” Game Companies

For this month’s installment of AGFV I thought we’d cover the five best and five worst game companies for getting their older games working. Some games have life even after twenty years, and some won’t work on the next or even their own OS.

I considered a lot of factors when compiling this list; continued support, ease of installation, whether emulation is required, 16-bit installers, broadness of graphics cards/methods supported.

The Best:

5: Valve – Say what you will about Steam, Valves’s game distribution platform, it’s a great service for games like Half Life and its ilk. While games on Steam are not gaurunteed to continue running on all new OS’s, the support structure seems to be there for you to invest with confidence. I also have the stand-alone GOTY edition of Half-Life which installs without problems.

4: Interplay – It’s worth noting that Win 95 games are the kiss of death in forward compatibility and Interplay has several that install in compatibility mode WITHOUT patches (Fallout and Freespace). It’s DOS back catalog installs well in DOSBox, and they have many of the best known series (Freespace, Descent, Fallout, The Bard’s Tale). (Notable exceptions: Giants: Citizen Kabuto was buggy to begin with and remains so, and the floppy edition of Star Trek: Judgment Rites will not install without replacing the extracting program)

3: iD/Raven Software – Doom, Quake and Commander Keen are all emulatable in DOSBox or other third-party enhancement projects (Doomsday, Dark Places). The Win95 distro of Doom still installs and runs well on new systems. Most games that are Quake 3 powered run on Win 7 without modification (Elite Force Series for instance).

2: Sierra (DOS-era) – Also known as the “Quest” Era, Sierra’s adventure games work both in DOSBox and ScummVM. Many have been repackaged and sold with automatic DOSBox compatibility so they install and run on Win XP/7 without modification. Some copy protection in their games requires you to download copies of the original manuals, but these are widely available.

1: Blizzard (pre-2003) – It’s worth noting that Starcraft (the original) is still one of the most widely played games in some circles. Warcraft 3 which came out 9 years ago still sells in stores (as does Starcraft). Even older titles like the original Warcraft or Diablo can be installed as is or emulated in DOSBox. Newer tactics toward online registration have changed how their newer games will move forward, but their back catalog is among the easiest to install and get playing.

The Worst:

5: Nintendo – Yeah okay, I know I’m not a console gamer to begin with, but it’s worth noting that you can’t play a Nintendo game from 20 years ago without repurchasing it. All the games listed in the best category can be installed or emulated using original media.

4: Cyan – MYST and Riven specifically. Some editions of MYST were designed for Win 3.1 only and can’t be run even in Win 95. Those that were designed for 95 use old editions of QuickTime. Riven’s five disc edition can be recombined into one (though I haven’t tried it), but even a conventional installation from the 10th anniversary set on Win 7 does not work. CYAN’s secret, new editions. You can buy MYST and Riven on GOG and they install and run just fine. You can even buy MYST on the iPad (but again repurchasing is not the same).

3: Remedy – The sound libraries for Max Payne have to be recompiled to get them to run in Vista/Win7. Even my XP installation did not work quite correctly (I had to hit the Windows button and click back in to get the menu). Maybe a victim of focusing on console versions first.

2: LucasArts – Where do I begin? Maybe with all the crappy Win 9.x Star Wars games. LucasArts installers from this period are 16-bit and have never been updated for 64-bit systems. The graphics cards supported are very narrow and its a crapshoot as to whether a newer system can interpret them (interestingly had a lot better luck with integrated graphics cards than real ones). The GrimE engine has only recently been emulated sufficiently to be playable and even some Scumm titles (Enhanced Monkey Island 1) require more than a basic level of skill to get running.

1: Simon and Schuster Interactive – They make games? Yeah, a lot of crappy Star Trek titles mostly. What’s unfortunate about Simon and Schuster is that many of these products are interesting (the TNG Technical Manual is one of my favorites but can only be run in emulated Win 3.1!). Again these suffer from using strange 3D techniques tested on only a few graphics cards, or using old versions of QuickTime. Even DOS era games have weird copy protection that requires a very specific configuration (otherwise Spock yells at you for piracy). (Notable Exception: DS9 The Fallen based on the Unreal 1.5 engine. Great game even today)

Tried to get any of these games running yourself? Like to see a game guide on some of the tougher ones?

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Filed under AGFV, Round-Ups, Trube On Tech, Uncategorized

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