DOSGuy is familiar for some of us from our bulletin board. What we do know about him is that he maintains Classic DOS Games website and thats about everything. He's guy who has nearly 200 games offered to download legally and 5 interviews to read. What kind of a person and a thoughs is behind that nick?
Well, i decided to find out since he sayd sure, sounds fun when i asked would he like to get interviewed by me.
So, what we know about you is that you use the nickname "DOSGuy", and you also maintain the Classic DOS Games website, so that gives us permission to assume that you're a huge DOS games fan. Why just DOS games, and who are you behind that nick and website?
I'm a big fan of all computer and video game systems. My first computer was a Vic-20, but all of my games are on cassette tape or cartridges. Then I had a Kaypro 4, but those games were for CP/M on a Z80 processor, or were written in BASIC, referencing an incompatible character set. The Kaypro used the second 128 characters to simulate graphics. The Kaypro 4 also used a 390K floppy disk format that probably isn't FAT-compatible. So the first computer I had that I could easily archive was my first DOS computer, which was a monochrome 286.
Before DOS, all of the games that I played were very simple, and didn't have much in the way of graphics or sound. We got a 486 with a 1 MB SVGA graphics card soon after the 286, and a friend of my mother's gave us a bunch of floppy disks full of games. There were games like Moraff's Blast, Moraff's Revenge, Dangerous Dave, Wheel of Fortune, Major Stryker, and Oh No! More Lemmings. The computer store gave me a copy of Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure and Wolfenstein 3D. I saw a student playing an ASCII game called DND when I was at my mother's college, and asked him to give me a copy. I spent hours playing that game every day, mapping every level. DOS was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
As I mentioned, I'm a console gamer, so I also have thousands of Magnavox Odyssey 1/2, Atari 2600/7800, Intellivision, Colecovision, Vic-20, Commodore 64, TurboGrafx 16, NES, SNES, N64, Game Cube, Game Boy, GBA, Nintendo DS, Sega Master System, Genesis, 32X, Sega CD, Saturn, Game Gear, and PlayStation 1/2 games, but it's not legal to distribute them. The best thing about DOS was shareware! It was possible to try tons of great games for free. My first love was the Moraff games, especially Moraff's Revenge. Then it was Apogee, which gave you a whole episode of each game for free. I played Cosmo, Major Stryker and Wolfenstein 3D until I had mastered them all. I picked up a copy of Epic Pinball on a shareware disk at a localcomputer store, and found out why people were so fond of Epic MegaGames.
There were so many great games, and I wanted to collect and catalogue them all. The problem with the FAT/FAT32/NTFS file systems is that the hierarchy can only be "sorted" one way. When you want to make folders for a hundred games, do you categorize them by publisher, or genre? We can't expect virtual folders until WinFS comes out, whenever that may be. Once I had decided upon a directory structure, knowing the names of the folders still didn't tell me anything about the games. It was obvious to me that the best way to keep track of my games was HTML. I could list my games by any criteria, and create hyperlinks to each one. Since I was making a website anyway, I figured I would put it online.
For the first few weeks the site was hosted in some free webspace from my ISP. I was limited to 20 MB of storage and virtually no bandwidth, so I spread the files across 5 email addresses to give myself 100 MB. I called the site Old DOS Games. I knew that was only a temporary solution, because there wouldn't be enough bandwidth if the site got popular, and I was already out of storage space. I picked an ISP, and I was going to register olddosgames.com as the domain name, which was still available at the time. When I was ready to open my account, someone had just registered the domain! I had to think fast, and it just came to me. The games weren't just old, they were classics! And that's how Classic DOS Games was born.
Who am I behind the nick and the website? I'm a pretty normal guy. There are a number of causes that I'm passionate about, and I have other hobbies. One of the biggest thrills I've had in making a website about DOS games is a side effect of wanting to make sure that everything is legal. One of the first shareware disks I bought was Chopper Commando v2.0 by Mark Currie. I wanted to know if he still accepted paid registration, or if the game could be considered freeware. I searched the net and found his email address, and I asked him about the game. He gave me permission to distribute the game for free, and when I asked him about the source code offer for v2.5 that he mentioned in the Help area, he gave me the source code and let me distribute the unreleased v2.56! To him, Chopper Commando was a little game he made when he was 15. To me, Chopper Commando was a classic game, and I never imagined that I would ever talk to the author. One by one, I contacted authors, and all of them were thrilled that someone remembered their games and wanted to preserve them. My Grade 8 French teacher gave me a copy of Mah Jongg -V-G-A- by Ron Balewski. Not only did I contact him, but he let me distribute the game for free. Maybe it's not the same as getting a letter from a famous athlete or actor or world leader, but these people were my childhood heroes, and it's always fun to talk to them about their old games or, better yet, be contacted by one of them out of the blue. Classic DOS Games has been a very rewarding hobby.
You sound like a man who does everything with passion. You just listed a bunch of computers and games with very accurate details of when, how and where.
The games and computers you listed are something special in every way to you, I or many others can imagine. I got strong a feeling about you as a man for whom DOS games are not just games, they are small treasures of past times. I guess I have the right feeling here?
Have you really contacted the author(s) of every game on your site?
Yes, I do think of DOS games as treasures to be preserved. When I found out that Windows 95 was going to be a standalone operating system, instead of an extension to DOS like Windows 3.1, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to play my DOS games any more. Windows 95 still had a DOS mode, but the ability to boot into DOS disappeared by Windows ME, and DOS was gone by Windows XP. I felt like I needed to save the games before they disappeared.
I haven't contacted every author. Most of the games on the site were published by Apogee, Epic MegaGames or MoraffWare. I've contacted Joe Siegler of Apogee, who has been really amazing. He found some old versions of a few of their games, and even contacted the developer of one game to get another version I was missing. He's been releasing Apogee's discontinued games as freeware, and he always emails me whenever a new game becomes free to distribute. I follow their website very closely, so I usually notice! I spoke to Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein of Epic, who were both very helpful. Steve Moraff is a hard man to contact, though. I've spoken to several people from Software Diversions, the company that distributes Moraff's games, asking for them to pass my messages to him, but he has never contacted me. Like I said, his games were my first love, so I really hope to hear from him some day.
Looking at the navigation bar on my website right now, I can see that all of the games on my site were published by only 29 companies, or by independent authors. I've spoken to Adam Pedersen of Adept Software, interviewed Nels Anderson of Arcanum Computing, spoken to BlueMoon Computing and Richard Carr of Carr Software, been contacted by the author of Arcade Volleyball (Compute! Publications), failed to get a response from Digital Workshop, been contacted by Game Crafters, spoken to Mike Voss of Moonlite Software and Dave Snyder of MVP Software, interviewed Owen Thomas of ORT Software, spoken to someone who spoke to Pop Software on my behalf, spoken to Richard Lang and Psion Software, and Clay Hellman of Psycon Software, am in the process of interviewing a fellow from Revolution Games, contacted Softdisk Publishing and William Soleau of Soleau Software, spoken to Sverx and Mark Batchelor of Summit Software, and been contacted by John Reder of Tactical Neuronics. I've interviewed John Passfield, who has developed games that were released by a number of publishers. Among independent authors, I'm still trying to find Kevin Bales, but I've spoken to Mark Currie, interviewed Ken Silverman, spoken to Ron Balewski,and left a message on the answering machine of a Doug Ross, but I don't know if he was the right guy because he never called back. Paul T. Dawson's articles and posts about POV-Ray can still be found on the internet up to a few years ago, but every email address I've found for him is dead. He seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. He made some of my favourite educational games, so I'd love to hear from him someday. I recently contacted Maciej Miasik of xLand Software, who helped me negotiate the release of the entire Epic Puzzle Pack as freeware, and even compiled a copy of the never released shareware version of Adventures of Robbo. I also spoke to Infocom's legal department and got them to confirm that the Zork Trilogy isn't freeware. I may have missed someone in that list, but yes, I've contacted a lot of the authors of games on my site. Some of them have liberated games, some have sent me source code, some have granted interviews, and some have refused to be interviewed.
Sorry for using a bad word, but that seems like a hell of a lot of contacts. It must have been a huge amount of work, as a hobby to go through all of that? Naturally passion for something you love can make you fly.
Now when you look back in time, let's say in the days you started Classic DOS Games website, and you compare your expectations then with what has happened, what kind of feelings does it give you? If you should now see as far in future, what will Classic DOS Games be then? What do you hope it will be then?
The site is almost two years old now, so I've really only contacted a few people per month. Usually I can find people by email, but I've had to phone a few people to get email addresses for them. I have a great long distance plan!
I thought I would have had more games on the site by now, but last year I was very busy with work. 2006 was a very slow year for the site. I'm trying to do better in 2007. I've been surprised by how many authors were willing to release their games as freeware, but maybe it shouldn't be that surprising. Once people stop paying for the games, the authors are usually happy to reward their fans by making their games free. Big companies usually have legal departments that tell them to never release anything for free, just in case they want to sell it again, or remake it for a new platform. It's hard to get a response from some companies, but smaller shareware operations are usually very friendly, and happy to help the site in any way they can.
The future is hard to predict. An attainable goal for the site is to add a hundred games and do a few interviews every year. I'm not trying to change the world, after all. But the dream is that software companies around the world would suddenly decide that if they are no longer willing to sell a game, they should give it away, and suddenly thousands of great games would be liberated. There are a lot of great shareware games where the full version can no longer be purchased, and there are thousands of commercial games that can't be played at all. The point of my website is to give people access to DOS games. I just want companies to either sell their classic games, or give them away. A discontinued game doesn't earn any revenues, and it doesn't win any fan loyalty. If I could dream the best possible future for Classic DOS Games, it would be a future where all the great games that you can no longer buy could be legally downloaded from my website.
Would you say that replies (negative or positive) could be categorized by game type? For example, would all your worst replies (if any, neglect included) come from makers of RPG games, for example? Is there a pattern that's forming from these game makers somehow that you noticed?
Maybe I overstated the negative response. Of all of the people who've replied to my emails, one person said he wasn't interested in doing an interview, and one person would only do one by phone, which won't work for me until I can figure out a way to record the conversation. I'm not going to scribble down a 1000+ word interview while I talk on the phone! Besides which, the answers lead to new questions, so there's usually a second or third round of questions after the initial interview. Another fellow said that he would do an interview, but didn't answer my questions and hasn't responded to anything I've written to him since. I hope he's still alive.
A few large companies have failed to respond in any meaningful way. Like, maybe two or three. I asked one company if they still held the rights to some games they sold more than a decade ago and asked if they were still being sold, or could be distributed as freeware. Their legal department replied that they still held the copyright and told me not to resell their games. Well of course I wasn't going to charge money for their games! I just wanted to know if I could give them away, or if they still sold them, or if they're just going to lock them away and prevent anyone from ever playing them again. I wrote them a few more times, but never got an answer.
There's no special genre for these companies. Basically, if you're a multi-billion dollar corporation, you don't really care about games that you haven't sold in ten years.
If you could choose any person to interview, who would he/she be, and why?
Steve Moraff, because he made many of the best games ever. I'd also like to talk to Adam Pedersen about Jetpack.
And if you could add any DOS game you don't yet have in your website downloads, which would it be, and why?
That's a tough call. There are so many great games that I can't legally distribute right now. I think a lot of people would like Kroz and Zork, because they're classics. I was always very fond of Gobliiins and Gobliins 2. I played Syndicate a lot when I first got my SoundBlaster 16, and I was excited about getting Under a Killing Moon, because it featured cinematic cut-scenes, and the first-person gameplay looked real. I loved When Two Worlds War, although my 486 DX 33 wasn't fast enough to run it at full speed, and I spent a lot of time playing Detroit. And who didn't spend hours playing SimCity and SimCity 2000?
If you think about the differences between DOS games back in the 80s or early 90s, and modern day games in modern OS environments, what is missing, and what is better than back then?
Today's games are immersive. The first time I played Mario 64, I was blown away. The third dimension does add something valuable to the gaming experience. Controllers have more buttons so that you can have more control over your character, which makes a game more interactive, and also more complex. When I play Hocus Pocus, the worlds are easy to explore because they're two-dimensional, and the only controls are the direction keys, and Control and Spacebar to jump and shoot. In other words, it's simple. The objective is straightforward, the graphics are still beautiful, and the music is excellent. It has all of the core things that make a game fun.
Another game that stands out is Jetpack. There are an amazing variety of obstacles, enemies, and terrains. There's also an extremely simple editor so that you can make your own levels. It appeals to our sense of creativity. The worlds are imaginative and fun.
One more game that deserves honourable mention is Scorched Earth. When I was in high school, four or more of us would spend lunch hour crowded around the only computer with a colour monitor, and nuke the crap out of each other for as many rounds as we could. It's particularly fun when there are wraparound walls, or bouncy walls with a lot of open space, so that you can wipe out the entire screen with Death's Head. I remember a round when only two people were left, and one of them had lost his shield. The other fellow had no guidance, so he launched a Nuke or a Baby Nuke at him to be sure that it hit him. The wind slowed it down enough that it fell short, and the blast radius was inching towards his victim, but stopped just in time. This caused a wild chorus of "Ohhhhh!"s from everyone, because the lucky survivor had guidance and would now win the round. A second later, a meteor fell from the sky and destroyed him, leaving a really huge crater. We laughed until our sides hurt. This is a game from 1991, but you could play with up to 10 human and computer players. It had 256 colour graphics, and you can control almost every variable, from environment and weather conditions to economics to physics to weaponry. It was a simple little game that a room full of people could play in a few minutes per round, at a time when most console games were for one or two players, and it brought a lot of people immeasurable joy. What's the secret to making a game fun? Make it simple enough and expandable enough that nearly a dozen people can play at the same time, and give them the means to kill each other. Tanks, go-karts, whatever.
What's missing in games today? If you like 3D, nothing really. Games have better graphics and sound, they're more immersive and interactive, and some of them are a lot of fun. The difference is that games today might be fun, but DOS games *had* to be fun! You can sell a lot of games by having the most impressive engine, or the most incredible graphics. In the days of DOS, a game wouldn't sell unless it was fun.
The one thing that a retro gamer misses most, though, is the platformer genre. Once consoles and computers were capable of 3D, the market for 2D dried up. A generation that was raised on Super Mario Bros. and Duke Nukem wants to play two-dimensional sidescrolling games again. How do I know? Look at any cell phone and see what they're playing. People don't play 2D games because of the hardware limitations of their handheld computers. Those limitations make it acceptable to market 2D games to a very grateful customer base.
Besides your website, there is nice pack of other websites that focus on DOS games. What kind of relationship you have with the people behind those sites? Are you rivals or friends?
Most of the large DOS game sites that I'm aware of are full of illegal downloads, which they call "abandonware". To me, abandonware is when a company abandons its rights to a game, which means that the rights are released into the public domain. Most websites call a game abandonware when it's discontinued, meaning that the copyright holder no longer sells the game, and therefore isn't exercising its rights to the game, so there's no harm in stealing it. Wrong!
First of all, it's illegal. The copyright doesn't expire just because a game is no longer for sale. Second, the webmasters assume that any game that's old is abandoned. I've seen full versions of Apogee games on abandonware sites, even though Apogee still sells the games on their website. They can't even claim "no harm, no foul", because they are stealing revenue from Apogee! I believe in archiving games, which is why my basement is full of hundreds of DOS games that I bought at thrift stores and garage sales. If I ever get an Amiga, I'm going to make bit-perfect copies of every single one of them. I'm 100% in favour of archiving games, but I cannot condone illegally distributing them. I'm still young, and I take good care of myself, so if the copyright holders never relinquish their rights to these games, I may outlive the copyright on them. Until the copyright holder creates a freeware license, abandons the game to the public domain, or the copyright expires, I will not put any of them on my website.
There are a number of DOS game sites that exclusively list legal downloads, and I wish them well. I don't make any money off the website, so it's not like we're competing with each other. In fact, I don't have any ads on my website because I hate websites that have ads. I depend entirely on donations, and the site always takes a loss.
If I may say so, I don't think that any other DOS game site is as good as mine. I decided that if I was going to make a DOS game site, it would have to be the best. Many websites have more games than I do, but I pride myself on the accuracy of the information on my site. I archive every version of every game, and I list the date of each release whenever I can. There's a very good DOS games site that I visit sometimes, but it only has the latest version of each game. Often it will list a game as being released in 1995 because that's when v4.0 came out, whereas my site correctly lists it as being released in 1991, because I have v1.0. I'll catch up to other websites in game count eventually, but they'll have to do a *lot* of research to catch up to me in quality.
One other key difference is that I only list games that meet a certain level of quality. I consider all of my games "great games". There's a DOS game site that I visit sometimes that lists the most popular, and the least popular games on the site. People are rating these games 1.5 out of 10! Some of the games aren't even "classic", having been written in 2005 as someone's high school assignment. I made a DOS game for a high school assignment that could be played as Snakes for one player, or SNAFU for two players. I can honestly say that I have never seen a better SNAFU game for DOS. It's not on my website, though! Why? Because it's not a classic DOS game!
But it's not just that some of their games are new. I've chosen not to include new games, but it's fine if other websites want to include recent creations. I just don't see the point of listing bad games. People used to compile CDs full of freeware and shareware, aiming for quantity at any cost. They could say that the CD had 10,000 games on it, even though 90% of them weren't worth playing. It was called "shovelware". Some of the games on my site are frustrating, and you won't like all of them, but they are all professional quality.
One website that I have a close relationship with is Liberated Games. They only list former commercial games that have been confirmed as freeware or public domain, and they display the license to prove it. They actively contact copyright holders to ask them to make their games free. We share a common goal, and I often post in their forums. In addition to DOS games, they'll also list games for Windows, Linux, or any other operating system.
I've mentioned large game sites, but for people like me, some of the most useful sites focus on a single game, series, publisher or genre. They make themselves the expert on that particular area. For instance, if I ever want to know anything about Doom, there's a website that has absolutely everything related to Doom. Shareware releases, patches,everything. There's a website that has probably every text adventure and interactive fiction game ever. I'm going to use your website as a reference for ASCII games to add any great games that I'm missing. Websites with a narrow focus are really important. It's almost impossible to be an expert at everything, but anyone can become an expert at a specific area of gaming.
As the world's largest repository of information, the internet is possibly the greatest invention of all time. If that's true, then archiving the entire history of the world wide web may be the greatest service of all time, which is what archive.org's Wayback Machine does. I often find an URL for an ISP-hosted home page, or otherwise defunct website, in the documentation for classic games. The site is usually dead, so I use archive.org to see what it looked like in order to find contact information and get old version numbers, and find out what the zip files were called so that I can look for them elsewhere. Unfortunately, only text and images are archived, not downloads. The story would end there if not for one website.
Basically, my site could not exist without cd.textfiles.com. That site, I am not kidding, is the greatest website of all time. They've uploaded hundreds of shareware and freeware compilation CDs, archiving thousands of games, utilities, applications, and anything else you can imagine. It's shovelware paradise. The quote on the first page explains it perfectly. "Who knew that the companies looking for a quick buck through the late 1980's and early 1990's with "Shovelware" CDs would become the unwitting archivists of the BBS age? No one did, but here we are, looking back, muttering thanks to these souless (sic) con artists as we plunder the very data they themselves took from a time now past."
Their data, of course, isn't categorized and catalogued like my site. You can't just go to the site and browse through games by publisher or genre, find specific version numbers, purchasing information or declaration of freeware status, links to the author's website, or read in-depth reviews. cd.textfiles.com is a library. If you're willing to search it, you can find almost anything.
There are very few websites that I trust to take my downloads from. I have to be sure that every zip file is unaltered, meaning that no files are missing, have been added, no config files have been altered, the version number or copyright information hasn't been hacked or hex-edited in, and no saved games or high scores are present, which is almost impossible to guarantee on other websites. Each file has to be exactly the way the publisher released it, and free from viruses, malware, or corruption. To be sure, some of the zip files on the shovelware CDs have been altered. Sometimes the BBS guy would play a round of the game, then re-zip the file before uploading it to his BBS. Perhaps he or she played the game in order to write the file_id.diz description. So some of the zip files will have high scores or saved games, or add an advertisement for their BBS into the archive. The wonderful thing about cd.textfiles.com is that, having so many sources, I can usually find several copies of each version of each game, and I compare them to make sure that I have an unaltered original. True research requires the citation of multiple sources. Some of the CDs only contain altered archives, so I've learned which CDs are trustworthy and reliable sources of unaltered zip files. cd.textfiles.com is one of the few websites that I trust as a source of downloads for my site. Without them, I would be able to offer the most recent version of most games with confidence by taking them from the publisher's website, but I wouldn't be able to archive entire version histories, which is what sets my site apart as a preservationist and archival society.
Like any library or museum, they don't even know what hidden gems they have in their archives. I found multiple copies of Major Stryker v1.3 on their site, a version which Apogee claimed was never released. My discovery changed the official Apogee FAQ. If you know what you're looking for, you can find incredible things.
I think I speak for many of our visitors when I say that it was pleasure to have this interview, since the theme of our sites are pretty close to each other.
I wish the best for you and for your site. Personally I'm going to closely follow what happens on your site.
Now as the last question, what's the next cool thing we can wait to happen at Classic DOS Games? Some cool game or interview perhaps? To close, I would like to ask is there something big to wait to anticipate on your site? Give us something.
An interview is coming, and I'm expecting three games to be released as freeware by their authors, and I'm going to make it possible to search for games by other criteria than just publisher and genre.
Thank you very much for the interview, and keep up the great work on your website.
Interviewer E.K.Virtanen; moc.liamg|dlrowiicsa#moc.liamg|dlrowiicsa