Important pieces of video game history are lost all the time by the very companies that create them. And with every piece of misplaced or destroyed hardware, source code or design document, the games industry loses a little piece of itself.
In the third part of his Gamasutra series
titled Where Games Go To Sleep: The Game Preservation Crisis, John Andersen contacted video game companies to see what they're doing to preserve their own history.
Ken Lobb of Microsoft Game Studios revealed how the company utilizes special departments to store all game software and hardware. Multiple copies of each game published by Microsoft (making up source code and production materials) are stored in humidity- and temperature-controlled environments in both onsite and offsite locations.
Microsoft has plans to transfer games published prior to the year 2000, (stored on older media) to a more reliable storage solution.
Lobb said, "The source code and all the materials used to build the products for the games released after 2000 are already stored on highly reliable present-day storage media, in secure, temperature & humidity controlled locations."
"Retrieving the source code and even rebuilding the games is a part of our comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) program," Lobb added.
Many of the tools used to preserve Microsoft Game Studio source code were developed within the company. Microsoft is open to provide "general guidance" on its best practices for source code preservation to video game-related industry organizations, while making it clear that it would not be able to share "specific encryption/decryption algorithms."
Marc Franklin, public relations director of Nintendo, highlighted in a statement how its legacy has played an important part in its present-day game releases: "Our games reach back decades and star dozens of characters who are still going strong today. Plus some of these older games introduced genres, styles, and technological breakthroughs that are now commonplace."
"As we highlight in our Iwata Asks [interview] series, Nintendo keeps a wealth of materials related to its past games, up to and including even original design sketches and documents. Preserving these games lets us reintroduce them to new players while giving older gamers a chance to relive their glory days."
Sony Computer Entertainment of America disclosed how both its IT and QA groups each play a role in archiving game source code and assets developed internally, continually transferring data to current storage media. Sony's storage management and methods vary per region. Archiving externally developed game titles also varies depending on contracts.
Sony Computer Entertainment did outline three specific challenges of archiving completed products, challenges it will face as hardware and production software changes stating:
-We need to find a way to archive PC hardware and software products that have hardware keys. BIOS expiry can cause problems with long-term storage of PC hardware and by inference development tools. We need to assess how we can maintain or reflash BIOS revisions for older chipsets. EPROMs often expire within 10 years or so.
-Legacy music and video source materials may be in file versions that require specific hardware (cards or other peripherals) which are no longer available. We need to identify how media companies that manage archives deal with this.
-Devkits and hardware tools need to be stored alongside game data in a secure disaster-proof physical location.
For more fascinating insight from other game makers on what Andersen calls the "game preservation crisis," read the full Gamasutra feature
, available now.