Greetings Reddit!

We are fighting for the right to preserve MMOs for future generations! We're a non-profit video game museum in Oakland, and a group of lawyers from UC Berkeley who have banded together to push for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that would allow institutions, libraries, and museums to rehost dead MMOs internally for preservation purposes.

We've already brought back the first virtual world: Habitat. The NeoHabitat Project is online now, and playable via C64 (or emulator). We'd like to be able to work on preserving more MMOs from the past so that future generations will have a history to learn from, rather than just pictures in books.

We're here to answer your questions about copyright law, video game preservation, and how you can help us ensure our video game heritage is not lost to the ash heaps of history.

How You Can Help (This space will evolve as the AMA goes on)

We will be briefing the Librarian of Congress, petitioning for this exemption at two times: The big one is at 10 AM April 23, 2018, at the UCLA School of Law, Room 1314, and we invite everyone to come support us in the audience (Space will be super limited, first come first serve). A smaller briefing will take place at 11 AM Friday, April 13, in Washington DC, at the James Madison Memorial Building, in the Mumford Room.

Anyone wishing to attend, we ask you to be respectful and basically silent in the room. Having lots of people there to show support could be very helpful, so let's see if we can pack the room and build a huge line to show how important this issue is to us all!

We will be here all day answering questions, but some may be slow due to them coming from a quorum of lawyers.

What is the MADE The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment The world's only all-playable video game museum, the MADE hosts playable exhibits across 30+ systems and over 5000 games. The MADE also hosts free classes to teach kids how to program, events for members of the industry, and meetups for games enthusiasts. On Friday, for example, we have a Smash Bros. Melee tournament at 5 PM, and free programming classes on Saturdays at 10 AM. There's always something going on, so come visit us in Oakland, CA!

Who is AMA'ing

Alex Handy - Founder and Director of the MADE, former editor of Computer Gaming World and Game Developer Magazine - Reddit username vonguard.

Rob Walker– Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley - Reddit username transformative_use2.

Proof

Previous AMA on PCMR

EDIT 6 PM PT Baseball game calls, but moreanswers will be provided after the game's over in a few hours. We'll try to answer ALL questions eventually. Go A's!

EDIT 11 PM-ish PT Back from the game, think I got all the questions that backed up since it started. A's lost... Drinking to relieve the pain. Keep em coming for the next hour or so, then I'll pick up the stragglers in the morning. Aiming for answering 100%.

Edit 2 PM-ish, Following Day Wow, that was a marathon! Think we're done, now. If you have questions, this fellow has an excellent summary of exactly what we're up to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-gN-pvdaaU

Comments: 333 • Responses: 81  • Date: 

Moor_rabbit166 karma

How do you decide which games deserve preservation? Are there attributes like popularity, game mechanics, innovation, etc that effect your selection process?

If copywrite laws were not an issue, where would you start?

vonguard190 karma

Right now, we judge by risk. Habitat was the first, and therefore the oldest MMO, so it was a big, juicy target in grave danger. Second, we judge by feasibility: for Habitat we had the original authors, the original source code, and an original vintage server. If we had been missing even one of these things, I don't think we could have completed the project.

Right now, our next goal is to preserve Neverwinter Nights (1991 version) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neverwinter_Nights_(1991_video_game). This is not the 3D game from the 2000's, but rather a Gold Box style AD&D game played on AOL. This would be a desirable target because Habitat was hosted on a similar service, and we're expecting to be able to get ahold of the original authors.

After that, we'll go by risk and possibility, again. It's the games people have forgotten which are the most at risk. The big names like WoW, Everquest, and Terra will be just fine on their own for many years to come. You've seen that Blizzard has set a date to release vanilla WoW, so we don't consider there to be a preservation problem there at all. Blizzard is GREAT at preservation. You can still play Diablo 2 online.

What we're after are the games that have no corporate backer. That weren't very popular to begin with. That risk being forgotten completely.

Vexing20 karma

City of heroes had some of the best times of my adolescence. So far so one has been able to get a server of the game running and all petitions to nexon go unanswered. If you had any input on this it would be great.

vonguard21 karma

Sadly, outsiders getting servers up is technically illegal. We're going to have to do something about City of Heroes eventually... Everyone asks about it.

OppressedCactus8 karma

I think about that game often. Some of my favorite character customization and so much role playing potential!

vonguard9 karma

I had a gravity beam flying guy. That game was rad.

bluEyedillusion3 karma

I go scrounging around the net a few times a year looking at old City of Heroes wikis and checking to see how the spiritual successors are coming along.

I swore off Mmos after WoW but id come back for a taste of CoH or similar again. I miss the diverse RP, the amazing community and the diversity of characters. There was a hero and villain for everything you can think of. I made a lot of friends in that game.

vonguard2 karma

Y'all need to organize. There seem to be a lot of you. You can do this without money, a group, or anything. I bet if you staged some kind of mass protests, they'd bring the game back somehow.

We'll see what we can do... We have worked miracles before, but that doesn't mean we can do it every time...

rainmcmanis6 karma

Please revive/save Everquest Online Adventures.

vonguard2 karma

We'll see what we can do.

PlNG5 karma

Are MUDS in your scope?

vonguard5 karma

Sure! We should be hosting more MUDs. We could use some online help with this. #made in freenode is our IRC channel.

nametemplate2 karma

Please bring back the galactic war for total annihilation. That was epic.

vonguard2 karma

This is actually a great idea. The Bone Yard was Bone Dog's first online service, right?

nametemplate2 karma

As far as I know

Edit: cave dog

vonguard2 karma

Correct. Cave Dog. I should poke Chris Taylor...

n3Rvz-9 karma

I mean... maybe they are forgotten for a reason? I mean I'm down with any excuse to go against copyright laws but why preserve games that no one wants to play?

vonguard51 karma

We don't get to choose what the future finds important.

csh_blue_eyes56 karma

Are any of the companies who own the old IP's fighting this very much? Like in the hopes that they'll resurrect a dead franchise later for profit?

Where is the most resistance coming from and how can we push against it if we are, say, NOT able to be in LA or DC for those upcoming hearings?

vonguard93 karma

Currently, our greatest opposition comes from the ESA, with the RIAA and MPAA writing letters of support. The ESA feels that we are enabling people to pirate WoW, and sadly seems to have absolutely no concept of the actual technology involved in bringing back a dead MMO.

Our real concern isn't with the companies that still exist today, however. We need this exemption for games that no longer have a corporation behind them: maybe the developer went bankrupt, or the publisher was bought by a company that was bought by a company that was bought by a company, etc.

We don't like the idea of not preserving something simply because the IP rights associated with it are murky and unknown. There will be other comments in here explaining how you can write us a letter of support, so keep your eyes open.

csh_blue_eyes25 karma

Thanks for clarifying! Follow up: how then should we regular Joes and Janes get in contact with the ESA and politely ask them to "back off"? Will you be sending around petition-type things?

vonguard33 karma

There was a period where comments were open to the public, but that has closed. We don't want people being mean to the ESA, and their whole reason for being is to handle legal issues like this. They're always going to be strictly against copyright loosening, as that's their job. It's like being angry at a snake for being venomous: that's what they do.

A better tactic is contacting game companies to let them know how much you miss their old games. Supporting companies that do the right thing is another good tactic. Microsoft released almost the entire Xbox catalog on Xbox One, complete with online play being brought back. They're the poster child for doing this right.

Blizzard is also spectacular at preservation. They still have Warcraft 3 online, Diablo 2 online, they made Starcraft available for free before they reissued it... they get it. Support them.

Other companies aren't so good about this. Nintendo locks its history in a vault. EA is a bit better than you probably think: its old PC games are all supported online by GameRanger, which is a spectacular free service. If you let companies know they have a game you want to play, but cannot anymore, they may listen. This is why Vanilla WoW is a thing: people made it clear they wanted Vanilla WoW.

carnoworky16 karma

It's like being angry at a snake for being venomous: that's what they do.

An apt analogy. :P

Unfortunately, even telling the company you want to play a relatively unknown game is likely to get no answer or a "screw off" kind of answer. I don't remember the particulars, but one of the struggles the developers of the Earth and Beyond emulator faced was that EA wanted a ton of money for the source code. It was a game that was cut off about two years after launch because EA is EA, and it took the emulator developers something like 7-8 years before even putting up an alpha test of their server emulator. If I remember right, a lot of that time was spent trying to reverse engineer how the client communicates with the server.

For now, those guys have done a remarkable job of getting the game into a similar state to the game in 2004. Somehow, they keep meeting donation goals for keeping their server up and running. Sadly, the source code for their server is closed and from what I've seen there isn't a whole lot of ongoing development anymore. I don't know how long they'll be able to keep the server up. I hope that they'll release their source code if they do end up having to shut down their server, but this is yet another game in danger of being lost forever if they don't.

vonguard16 karma

Earth and Beyond is a game we've hoped to preserve for years. At least now we know EA still has the source, so thanks for that! I know that doesn't sound like much, but that's like having half a health bar just from the start: a lot to work with at some point down the road. Some day. This work takes years.

losian7 karma

I really can't wish more enough support to you guys. Old games should never die just because the company that hosted them has completely moved on..

I'm really worried we're going to have a sort of 'extinction' once all the online-serviced-forced games of today's era become no longer profitable.. then what? Older games you often at least could play offline/single player, but what about stuff today that has to phone home when there's nothing to phone home to? The only choice, ironically, even for those who purchased the game.. will be to crack it.

vonguard5 karma

This is exactly what we are trying to prevent. We actually got a DMCA exemption for cracking consoles for this reason. It was renewed in this recent petition. I believe you are now allowed to crack a game that phones home if the servers are offline. Museums can even crack consoles for this purpose, but civilians cannot.

OfficiousBrick35 karma

First off: thank you all for taking this on. I am a doctoral student in digital studies at a US research university and have watched this problem develop from the margins. Many of us in higher ed are frustrated that this endeavor has received so little attention and we ourselves are relatively limited in what we can accomplish. Without interest from our administration and no resources to invest in procuring and curating physical artifacts, we've taken to live-streaming games to preserve the experience. What obstacles and considerations are there in this? What else can be accomplished through universities to contribute? Are there grants available to fund archiving projects?

With regard to MMOs, I'm personally intrigued by the Star Wars Galaxies project and the collaborative reverse engineering that's being conducted to reconstruct the initial SWG experience. Is this a viable model or are they on borrowed time?

Thanks so much for your work to preserve this cultural institution!

vonguard27 karma

Hey, sorry, they're not ignoring the question, just figuring out the best response. You get 3 lawyers together to answer one question, it takes time.

_CommanderKeen_27 karma

As a librarian interested in MMO games as digital social spaces, have you any thoughts on not only preserving the game space itself, but also potential historical events that occur within the game space? (ie. recording online events, actions of notable users, online movements, basically anything future historians would be interested in)

vonguard19 karma

There's a great paper on this: Preserving Virtual Worlds. https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/17097

If we are Yin, this is Yang. This paper talks about every nook and cranny, and how they would be saved. Very academic. We're much more rubber-to-road, focusing on getting the game back up and running, but this other work is just as important. YouTube is a good resource for saving events, but it's still only a 40% save, or so: video is always less desirable than actual hands-on gameplay, we feel.

Thrabalen25 karma

I saw that you mentioned NWN from AOL, that really takes me back, long live Lord Nasher! But the game that concerns me isn't a forgotten game, it's a game held hostage: City of Heroes. I know you said that you're not as concerned with existing companies, but also that I am not alone in my love for that game. For those who don't know of its history: NCSoft, the company behind the game, decided to pull it because it was only popular in certain markets. They have, thus far, resisted all means for others to resurrect the game, much to the consternation of its legion of fans. Is there any chance this game will ever see the light of day again?

vonguard23 karma

We hear a lot about City of Heroes. I really think they should just relaunch the game. It's probably the one we hear most asked for. I can go down and bother them sometime this year and see what the deal is. Who knows, maybe they'd let us bring it back internally, but I doubt it. The issue is that it's a modern-style game, so the IP associated with it is somewhat enticing, and would possibly draw players from other games. That's generally a deal killer for these companies. If we did get our exemption, it'd only allow us to bring the game back online inside our four walls, but that would be better than losing it entirely. I feel like this same dichotomy existed in tabletop RPG's in the 80's: AD&D was popular, but the super hero tabletops, like Champions, popped up, vanished, and remained quiet cult favorites for years because the books could be resold. A shame that can't happen here.

Still, who knows, some day we could be able to save this one. It's definitely on the wish list, but not necessarily on the possible list.

praetorblue10 karma

Just to add my voice to the many people you hear this from, my biggest gaming regret is that I can't login to City of Heroes any longer. I play many many other games, but I just wasn't done with that one yet and they pulled the plug. Drives me crazy they don't just keep one server running or let some other company host it. If they wanted to sell the rights to host your own server, I'd pony up a fair deal. Really any way to get it back :)

vonguard3 karma

We get a lot of requests for City of Heroes. Not sure what we can do, but we hear y'all and have taken note.

transformative_use25 karma

A great thing about the exemption is that it applies not just to the MADE, but to any library, museum, or archive. We hope that other museums will join the MADE so that more games are preserved and more people in more places can see them.

vonguard5 karma

Yeah, everyone should start a video game museum. They should be in every city!

OfficiousBrick3 karma

It would be wonderful if this were the case. When toying with the idea to start a platform archive here at UWM, we ran into issues of space, and security. Funding, of course, is also the big issue: to obtain platform hardware and backups for parts is prohibitively expensive. Have independent collectors and dealers affected these prices?

vonguard9 karma

Yeah, the collectors market is nuts these days, with very high prices.

The MADE is 100% built on stuff people have donated. We didn't start out and say "We need to be a big time professional, super organized space with this console, that computer, that game..."

Instead, we started by getting a space, putting our collective collections in it, and seeing what we could do from there. Everything has worked out along the way. A console dies, someone shows up with one to donate. You'd be shocked how many people still have this stuff in their garage or closet, and how happy their spouses are when they get rid of it by donating it to us.

Biggest hurdle for starting a museum is getting the non-profit status. Everything else is wide open because this is a new thing: there are no guidelines other than "Make it playable."

Naeydil14 karma

You've mentioned that this involves petioning the Librarian of Congress, is that all getting this exemption requires? What has the process been up until now and how can those of us not in DC or CA best help?

vonguard8 karma

Lawyers are working on this one too, sit tight.

Wheredoesthetoastgo210 karma

Are you familiar with Ross Scott of Accursed Farms and his series Dead Game News?

vonguard5 karma

No, but lemme go Google that up.

xmakina3 karma

Wow, he references you guys a ton, I'm honestly shocked you two aren't already very close partners!

vonguard2 karma

He should reach out to us! Not sure how to get ahold of him.

achennupati9 karma

Wow, this is really cool. Thanks for doing this AMA

What inspired you to do this, and why did you start fighting for the preservation of these games?

vonguard12 karma

The MADE's goal is to preserve our digital heritage in a playable form. We've been doing this type of work for years: check out our YouTube channel, for example.

In 2013, I met with Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar, creators of LucasFilm Games' Habitat, the first virtual world. While looking for a way to display the game, or to build an exhibit around it for GDC that year, Chip handed me the source code, kind of as a joke, like "Here, see what you can do with this!"

The source was written in PL/1 and runs on Stratus VOS, an ancient OS more like Multics than UNIX. Still, I am not one to shy away from a difficult preservation challenge, and I set about gathering the people and resources needed to get the game back online. The secret was having Chip and Randy to lead the whole project and do the lion's share of the work, though.

Here we are 4 years later, and that work is mostly done. It's time to go on to the next MMO. Since no other formal institution is doing this work in the open (lots of grey area MMO relaunches exist in the community), we felt it was time to help others do this work too. It took us 4 years to bring back Habitat, and it's a C64 game that uses 2400 baud and 64kb of RAM. Bringing back a more modern MMO would be even more difficult, I am sure. Therefore, we need all the help we can get.

casualsax8 karma

Cool cause and project, thanks for bringing it to our attention. I've two questions:

  • MMOs are obviously complex. When you're working on re-implementing a game, I'd imagine that some changes must be made to get them kicking again. How do you determine which flaws need to be fixed and which are essential to the game's experience?

  • A major problem with recreating some of these worlds is that they were intended to be inhabited by swarms of online residents. How do you plan on coping with the lack of a large player base? From lacking an in-game economy, to minimal PvP, to lacking that feel of being in a buzzing virtual city, it seems like even if you can host these games the actual experience will be drastically different.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer questions!

vonguard6 karma

It's much less academic than simply choosing what to re-implement. We've come across original bugs, turned-off features, and other issues along the way. What we did with Habitat was: we preserved the source code as it was originally, then we forked off the neohabitat project. Neohabitat will never be the same as the original, and we're not necessarily trying to be a perfect copy. There are a number of features the original never implemented that have been turned back on in neohabitat.

While we'd prefer to have a game that was exactly the same, it's just not possible for many reasons. We had to port Habitat to JavaScript, for example, and the original QLink service it ran on is basically a black box to us. So, while Habitat is not 100% original, it's about 95% original. That's infinitely better than 0% original, which is what it was when it was offline.

Habitat has bots! We know we can never get the place swarming, but we've added bots to fill in some holes. Again, having a somewhat empty space is not perfect, but it does get the game to 90%/95% of the original experience, which we feel is spectacular.

RadiantFur7 karma

Has it been hard to do?

vonguard10 karma

Yes.

OfficiousBrick6 karma

Curious if you could share the legal justification for preserving MMOs. I get the socio-cultural value of these artifacts but I'd love to hear your perspective. Also, what differences and similarities exist (if any) between the fights to preserve games and to preserve software in general?

vonguard10 karma

The legal justification comes from the fact that these games were made available to their fans, then due to lack of financial incentives, were shut down. These games were a part of people's lives, and the companies that make them usually don't spend any time on them once they are shut down: they move onto the next game.

Because technology moves so fast, an MMO made 20 years ago is almost entirely without financial motivations: it's too old and people won't pay to play it. Therefore, companies are not incentivized to preserve or make these games available, as its a cost center.

Yet these games still have cultural importance, and if we wish the players 100 years from now to know about the history of this industry, it must be preserved in a playable fashion. MMOs are the most at risk of becoming completely unplayable once taken offline, and therefore, we feel its important to have an exemption before these important aspects of our history are lost forever.

OfficiousBrick4 karma

Absolutely - in academic circles, there's no shortage of justification and the amount of anthropological, psychological, sociological, etc. etc . research that can be undertaken in these spaces is incredible. So much has already been done but as you know, we were hardly able to scratch the surfaces of these platforms before they disappeared.

Wondering if any MUDs, MOOs, or the like are also on the radar? I imagine that many of them still exist in some form or another. Just curious.

vonguard3 karma

Happy to preserve MUDs. None have been suggested. Seems like a giant pool to pick from, might require a bit of research to identify those at risk.

PinkySlayer2 karma

What is a MUD and a MOO?

vonguard3 karma

Multi User Dungeon, and MUD Objecet Oriented... Text-based online RPGs. Basically WoW, but all text.

deathtoferenginar5 karma

Any work with open source projects like WINE or DOSbox to ensure that your work doesn't still go to hell in a hand basket, even if you succeed?

Windows rather likes to break stuff.

vonguard6 karma

Neohabitat runs on C64. There are emulators for many platforms, and that's how most people access the game. I'm sure we'll use DOSbox in the future. Maybe not WINE, as we're not even considering any Windows MMOs, yet. Too many that predate Windows need to be saved first.

Maybe someday, Asheron's Call... Maybe. That might require WINE.

deathtoferenginar2 karma

Well, I started off at 5 programming on an Apple, but sounds like many of these were before even my time.

So - understood.

That said, I have seen (and can't remember, honestly) a few games eat crap and die after the servers went down.

Any chance of flogging some of those folk to at least open up their server-side code?

vonguard2 karma

We're always after source code. Its the holy grail here!

deathtoferenginar5 karma

Can't stop the signal, Mal - there's a damned Morrowind engine rewritten from scratch on Linux.

Works better than the original, IMO.

... Sometimes you don't even need that!

vonguard3 karma

Sure, but having the original source code means seeing the original processes and decisions made by the developers. Source code is so important to preserve for future generations, and yet its often lost, or kept locked away somewhere.

CodyyMichael5 karma

when you host an mmo, do you plan to make it widely available online once again or only available in your museum, to make it an exhibit?

vonguard11 karma

Our exemption is specifically allowing us to make it playable only inside the museum. This is the compromise we must make in order to gain the exemption this first time. In the future, we may be able to expand the exemption to allow us to host games that can be accessed outside the MADE.

With Habitat, we got the permissions from the original rights holders, and thus, we're able to make the game playable online from around the world. People are in the game right now, in fact. The exemption is designed to allow us to save something that's just about to vanish, so while having to restrict access to the museum only is not ideal, it's better than losing a game entirely.

HerrXRDS3 karma

Here you can experience Eve Online, it has more than 20 thousands exploitable systems. Back in the day, over 1 million people were playing this game. Since it was introduced to our museum 30 years ago, there are rumors that on one occasion players actually managed to find each other and get into a PvP fight.

vonguard4 karma

Hey, that's a lot better than "Here, you can see pictures and movies of Eve Online, a game no one has seen or played in 30 years. We have interviews with players who can tell you what it was like to play the game."

BrandeX4 karma

Is there any possibility that such "Abandonware" type software could be hosted on servers in a country where distribution and use was not illegal? Does such a country exist? If so servers could be setup for any dead online game, or any normal abandonware game for free download, if it doesn't violate local laws. Countries would have to decide on their own whether to IP block such a service in another country.

vonguard3 karma

Ah yes, data havens. Do these still exist? I miss Sealand.

Ross_Scott4 karma

Due to the increasing number of online-only games that require a central server coming out today (Destiny, The Division, Overwatch, Titanfall, etc.), do you have any plans of how to go about preservation of present and future titles if this exemption is won? Alternately, do you have any plans for older online-only games where no server emulators exist? While legal barriers are one obstacle, technical barriers could arguably be a larger one.

vonguard5 karma

Hi Ross, everyone says we should talk!

Games like Overwatch and The Division don't have an open server architecture, so they'd be tough to save, but some day, they'll be on our list. Legal barriers continue to be in place for these games, but our previous exemption from 2015 should cover us bringing them back online internally for preservation purposes.

Long story short: If Destiny goes offline, we could have an internal server at the museum but not allow the internet to connect to it. We could push it though. It's a murky area.

jabberwockxeno4 karma

Firstly, I have the utmost respect for what you guys are doing.

But exemptions are just that: Exemptions: And they must be re-authorized every 3 years: Have you guys thought at all about the long term pathway for this stuff? Making actual amendments to the DMCA and copyright law? Obviously, that's something that would require a massive amount of push and support behind it from multiple organziations as well as legislators, but fundamentally, that's where this all needs to lead to in the end.

Where do you see copyright reform efforts for games, as well as film and other mediums; say, 10, 20, 50, or even 100 years down the line from now? What do you think the biggest obstacles might be?

Something I am increasingly worried about is efforts to assign "cultural" copyrights to indigenous groups. Many progressive organizations that otherwise would be on board with copyright reform seem to be supporting efforts to granting pepertual copyrights to vauge concepts and design themes that originated in native american and other "traditional" cultures, which, as somebody who very much wants to see games and media featuring those cultures, worries me. Do you have any thoughts on that?

vonguard3 karma

This is our second exemption. We renewed the last one already: for cracking games that had online validation for single player, but no longer have servers online. It's a never ending battle.

Copyright is kinda broken. It lasts forever, right now. In 100 years, we may have lost decades of stuff, if things continue. American culture suffers from having a wall around its history. Maybe we don't need Mickey Mouse to be open copyright, but certainly there are a lot of books and movies that should be by now.

On your last thing, never heard of this happening. No real opinion on it.

bluemarlinblue4 karma

Love this idea, curious about “Kids” MMOs such as the recently closed Club Penguin. I know a lot of people who have grown up on games like them and were impacted emotionally when they heard of their closers. Are you after storing them as well?

vonguard3 karma

We'd love to save Club Penguin, but it was a big property... Maybe some day.

LanceKing22004 karma

Have you put any thought into something like preserving an earlier build of an MMO that can no longer be played?

Specifically I'm interested in Final Fantasy XIV. For those that don't know, the original game launched in 2010, and was a complete disaster, but was a unique and interesting game. Square Enix updated the game, but also developed a 2.0 version behind the scenes called "a realm reborn". When ARR launched (in 2014?) it totally replaced the original, which is no longer playable in any form.

vonguard2 karma

That's not on our agenda. Someone else asked this below. It's something to be considered, but since there are so many other MMOs that need to be saved, we'd like to get to them first... and we'll never get to all of them...

SqueakyDoIphin3 karma

Most games nowadays require mandatory connections to online, centralized servers in order to play, even if you’re playing alone (think Diablo 3, where not logging in meant not even seeing the main menu, although the game was largely single player). When these servers get shut down, the game dies forever (Club Penguin, Battleforge, Darkspore), even though all it would take from devs to revive a game is an extremely small patch.

This problem persists far beyond MMOs, and pervades almost all of modern gaming. Does your organization have any plans to try to protect/revive server-requiring games as a whole, and, if not, what is something that an internationally group of dedicated people can do to try and protect games from dying?

vonguard2 karma

We got a previous exemption to the DMCA 3 years ago for this exact scenario: Single player games that require online validation to play can now be cracked legally if the validation servers go offline forever.

AhrimanX3 karma

Any chance of reviving/preserving The Matrix Online?

vonguard3 karma

Another one we'll want to do some day, but it's fairly modern... we're starting back in 1986 and moving forward... Next stop, 1991...

PDaniel19903 karma

A prominent Youtuber and video game historian named Ross Scott is very passionate about what you're doing. Have you talked to him?

vonguard2 karma

We'd love to chat with him.

Sierra3313 karma

Will you be able to bring back Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes/Villains?

What can we do to help make it possible?

vonguard3 karma

Lots of people ask for these. We'll have to look into them.

switcheveryday3 karma

Would these archived games be free to play?

How would you go about attempting to pursue archiving a dead MMO that hasn't been on for years, like Star Wars Galaxies?

vonguard4 karma

These games would be playable inside the museum. You'd still have to pay admission, but all the games are free after that: no quarters or anything.

For Star Wars Galaxies, I'd have to sit down with the original rights holders all the way from developer to publisher, and try to get the source code from one of them. We'd work to get their permission and help, and if we didn't get it, we'd likely have to wait until something changed: decades had passed, or someone found the source code, or someone approached us from the original development team who wanted to preserve the game in some way.

Generally, without the original source code, the job of bringing a game back is quite difficult, from a preservation perspective. There'd still be plenty of opportunity for the public to just relaunch the game with a remake, but for Galaxies, that'd be tricky and illegal as the law stands now.

Jantra3 karma

Hello, and thank you for doing this AMA!

Do you take suggestions for MMOs to save? I saw a question about MUDs but you had no suggestions, so I would LOVE to give you a suggestion for an MMO and a MUD!

MMO - Shadowbane. I found this to be a very unique MMO in the form of their races and PVP and this is coming from someone who has been playing MMOs her entire life!

(Since Ultima Online is still going, which I would say is THE MMO to preserve!)

MUD - Clandestine - 1997 birthdate and has had thousands of players over the years, since being played, a little, by people to this day over 20 years later!

Thank you for doing this work... as someone who has loved MMOs her whole life, who was there the day Lord British was PKed in his own throne room, this is the kind of work I could definitely get behind!

vonguard3 karma

We absolutely take suggestions! Keep em coming!

Jantra3 karma

Thank you and keep up the fantastic work, all of you!

vonguard3 karma

Thanks! There are hundreds of MMOs out there that need saving.

MNCPA3 karma

How many bananas are too many bananas?

vonguard3 karma

I suppose so many that you can't carry them all in two hands.

SwedishSanta3 karma

I played this game called Allods Online 10 years ago. It reminded me a little bit the art of WoW but it was much more polished and the art was so crisp. Even the sound effects were impressive. I remember entering a forest and heard the wind and I got confused if I left the window open because it sounded so incredibly realistic. Can you recall playing/ seeing that game? if yes, maybe you can answer these questions: Is it worth preserving? what properties does Allods have that makes it worth preserving?

vonguard3 karma

We don't get to choose what's worth preserving, as the future is where those decisions are made. It seems like Allods would be worth saving, but again, we're working forward from 1986. Long way to go first.

BloodySteel3 karma

How do you plan to preserved a MMO that has many version that completely transform how the game is supposed to play. And how do you decide which version do you keep?

An example would be how renewal patch for Ragnarok Online completely throws balancing out the window and it's very unpopular among the community.

vonguard2 karma

This is a hugely difficult questions. It's outside of the scope of our work, here. Revisions would be great to preserve, but for now, we're just hoping to save something, anything at all.

BloodySteel3 karma

I understand that what you are undertaking is pretty massive in terms of scale. Might I suggest if some games have multiple revisions, perhaps you can put it to a community vote to see which one they prefer to priotize?

vonguard2 karma

If it comes to that, that's a good idea.

nox_63 karma

this will probably get buried but i would love to work with you guys. a nonprofit promoting video games / digital media is my dream. any chance youre hiring lol?

vonguard2 karma

Well, we're taking volunteers! #made on Freenode, or you can email [email protected]

lmabear3 karma

What about older renditions of a dead MMO?

The specific example would be a "Pre-CU" Star Wars Galaxies. Maybe the best MMO ever made IMO.

vonguard3 karma

This is addressed elsewhere in this thread.

vonguard2 karma

Common question, answered a few times elsewhere in this AMA.

losian3 karma

This would be the best goddan thing EVER.

Nothing makes me more sad in gaming than all the games that people will not get to play. This is why I consider emulation not just important but downright vital. Where should pixel-style graphics be without the emulation presence prior to the big indie boom? What about MMO emulation projects for dead MMOs, people just never get to play them ever again? People who bought and supported them end up with nothing?

Entertainment should be preserved, especially once it is beyond the scope of profit. There's no money being lost or taken, so let people check out some of the crazy older stuff they missed out on.

I wish you guys the fuckin' best, this sort of thing is important to gaming.

vonguard4 karma

Epic Mega Games did a great thing in releasing Paragon and its assets to the public, and by polishing the assets beforehand. We need more of this.

metagravedom3 karma

  1. So what if the rights of a dead MMO are belong to someone else that wants to bring back the MMO? it seems kind of unfair to side step copyright law to obtain rights to a "dead" MMO and then have it hosted via a library if someone has already purchased those rights and plans to remake, remaster, or reintroduce the game back into the world.

  2. also will this library be monetized in any way by the player base? that seems like you would be stealing someones product and then making money off of that product.

  3. How will this library be funded and what games do you intend to obtain? games like Ultima online, Everquest, Starwars Galaxies? some of those games are still running today and particularly star wars has a very tight hold on their license. how to you plan on combating that from a legal standpoint, it is their IP and I don't see how you or anyone can claim rights to it without paying for the license.

  4. How do you plan to use the in game micro-transactions? almost all MMO's have them in some state or fashion, are you going to reintroduce those items back into the game without transactions?

vonguard3 karma

1: If someone was going to bring a game back, we'd have no interest in it. The state of MMO preservation is like a burning city, and we only have time to save one or two buildings. If someone else is saving a building already, we'll ignore it.

2: Museums monetize from admission sales. Games would only be playable from inside the museum, not outside.

3: Again, we have no interest in preserving games others are working to preserve. Habitat is from 1986. We're working forward from there at a rate of one game every 4 years or more. Galaxies, Ultima Online, Everquest, these games are not at risk, as plenty of people care about them, remember them, want them saved. It's the games no one talks about that need our attention.

4: We have yet to undertake saving a game with microtransactions. likely, we'd just turn everything on for free, but who knows?

Oni-Zero3 karma

Is there any chance that online games put down due poor performance be blocked from preserving by their original owners? I'm talking about Gunslinger Stratos which apparently SE put down due not being able to improve how the game worked, i'm even aware how GS animation was another financial dissaster, is there anything SE wins by putting as much effort as possible to block any attempt to restore the server?

vonguard2 karma

We feel game companies hurt themselves by crushing fan-led efforts without addressing the fans' underlying concerns. Blizzard did this properly, with Vanilla WoW.

At the end of the day, people bring back MMOs in the underground scene because they love the games. They're not easy to relaunch, aren't profitable (or they'd still be online) and are often bringing undue legal ramifications on those that help the efforts.

We just want a fair path to preserving these games when there's no other avenue.

codered4343 karma

I totally support this! I love and always have loved the idea of properly preserving video games and certain media for future generations.

I'm curious though: You say these will be in a playable format, but how will the "Massive" part of "MMO" come into effect? Are you planning to have several people playing at once, or a pseudo single player experience?

vonguard2 karma

We haven't solved that problem, but in Habitat, we have built bots, and a bot framework.

DevilMayCare893 karma

Would Earth and Beyond ever be a possibility?

vonguard3 karma

Definitely a great target.

FREETHOUGHTSOPEN3 karma

What about Crowns Of Power?

vonguard2 karma

Good one.

MoS033 karma

Like with Vanilla WoW, are you interested in preserving earlier iterations of currently public games? I'm looking, specifically, at Final Fantasy 11 Online.

They instituted a level cap increase a number of years ago, and fundamentally changed the game.

vonguard3 karma

This is sort of the meta-question we have yet to answer. We're starting with just preserving games that are offline, for now. Maybe in the future something like this could be arranged, but we'd prefer to perform such an undertaking with the help of the original rights holders. I don't think there is a need for an exemption to protect earlier revisions of a game, especially because it would be so hard to explain and argue for.

Barchigo2 karma

Could you resurrect zombiepandemic?

it was a 2d, point n click,pbbg,open world,turn based mmo but it shutdown in 2015. It was a really good game.

I guess the only thing it did was push the boundaries of a typical browser mmo as it was literally open world even the sewers and subways were explorable. Its really good.

It is the only point n click open world mmo of its kind of point n click.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ML4mTe44U1w

vonguard2 karma

We'll have to throw it on the list...

goldgibbon2 karma

I'm all for hosting an old MMO or game if you get written permission from the copyright holder. But wouldn't it be bad to allow people to do it without permission from the copyright holder? What am I missing? Like, even if it's old and not online anymore, someone still owns the copyright, right?

vonguard2 karma

The exemption is for museums, libraries, and universities to run internal servers, inaccessible outside their walls.

Picadae2 karma

Many MMOs require a massive time commitment to unlock the majority of the game content, including locations, quests, etc,

What is your philosophy on how to allow users to fully experience a game as players did when a single visit is probably only enough to get through the beginning tutorial?

vonguard2 karma

We're not sure yet. Habitat has been our experiment. It currently has been expanded to include a second-screen experience, which will explain what the player is encountering as they play the game in a web browser, according to their in-game user name. It's a neat way to document things, but we really don't know how we'll do that yet. Primarily, we feel it is important to save something. Right now, nothing beyond stories, pictures, and scattered YouTube videos are being saved for some games.

Doidlewok2 karma

First off, I really enjoyed the MADE when I visited it early last year. If you're in the area, it's worth checking out.

What are going to be the biggest challenges to preserve online multiplayer games like Rainbow Six: Siege? Is copyright a bigger issue or will technology be a bigger issue as time goes on?

vonguard2 karma

Technology is the biggest challenge, always. There is zero chance of ever having a technology problem solved by a phone call to a chief legal council at some company. It took us 4 years to bring back Habitat, at that's an ancient game that runs in 64kb of RAM.

psxpetey2 karma

You gonna pay for the servers?

vonguard2 karma

This exemption only includes locally hosted games inside the museum, but inside our doors, yes. We already pay for Habitat's servers.

infered52 karma

For games that were specialty created, where do you plan on obtaining the source files for hosting the game? Are you going to visit the devs and find a backup? How does this kind of thing work?

vonguard3 karma

Exactly. We try to work with the original rights holders and developers. One of the reasons we want to preserve these games is to preserve the stories behind them, and the work done by countless thousands of people. These games do not exist in a vacuum, people created them, and their stories are a part of these things.

Acelian2 karma

This is an incredible idea, would the games be available internationally?

vonguard2 karma

Games would only be avaiable to play inside the museum. However, when everything goes right and we're allowed to put games online (if an original IP holder gives us permission), we'd put the game online for the whole world. Neohabitat.org is accessible from anywhere.

forava72 karma

did you guys have neopets or runescape?

vonguard2 karma

Runescape is still alive. Neopets is definitely an interesting idea.

shyguy2562 karma

Any chance we could ever see Star Wars Galaxies back?

vonguard2 karma

A lot of people want this one.