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[article] The six great reasons to share prototypes

PaulSilentin

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Disclaimer: this thread is a signal for discussion about preservation of gaming stuff from another point of view. I have no intent to offend anyone, this is just my own point of view about debatable and controversial topic. I understand that many people disagree with me and that's fine.

Recently I've came across this article and wanted to share my thoughts about it.
Indy the Magical Kid (Shounen Majutsushi) [NES – Cancelled]
Collector Blocks Preservation Of Rare NES RPG

Forest of Illusion said:
When the Indy prototype appeared on auction, the Web’s most visible preservationists called their fans to arms and urgently asked for donations. The game was ticking up in price rapidly, and would only be released to the public if someone won who cared about such matters. They gave it their best shot, but they were massively outbid by an anonymous Japanese collector, who bought the proto SPECIFICALLY to keep it from being saved. To make things worse, the winner of the auction left an anonymous message saying he bought it to stop "copy sales" and dumps. Nice. I'm hope he is happy that he spend 1.5 million yen on a video game just so nobody can dump it. "I will always protect it as a Japanese treasure" is what he says. This is insane.
I don't think that this kind of behavior is exclusively to Japanese people. Furthermore I've seen the exact same behaver from different western game collectors many times over and over again. This anonymous Japanese collector has no obligations to NES community. Nobody should complain or force him to share the ROM publicly. He paid his own money and get his own item. He is not obliged to do anything with that. But... isn't there is something wrong here? Let's make things clear, maybe there is some real reasons to share something like that publicly to the community...

Reason №1 - sudden emergency situations
First of all i sincerely hope that nothing like that ever happen to anyone. I wish that your collection will be always fine and safe. But unfortunately in reality emergency situations may occur.
House Fire Destroys Collection of Over 2,000 Games
John Lewis - facebook
Dalton Cooper said:
John Lewis is an avid collector of video games. He started his collection as a child and continued to collect games for over 20 years. In 2011, his home was burglarized and he lost around 600 of the games that were in his collection. John’s collection ranged from the Atari 2600 to current-generation consoles. In the last two years, he started adding complete-in-box NES and SNES titles, including critically-acclaimed classics like Super Mario RPG, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, and Earthbound. To put John’s unfortunate circumstances into perspective, a complete-in-box copy of Earthbound for the Super Nintendo currently runs for about $850 on eBay.
John Lewis said:
I had a house fire last night. Unfortunately, my game room with 30 systems and over 2000 games did not survive. It is all gone, I have nothing. I'm not asking for anything, just press f to say goodbye. Everything in the house is a loss. Furniture, clothing, appliances, even possibly the dog. There is nothing I can even walk out of there with. When they let me back in, it will only be to recover my dogs body
John Lewis lives in Pioneer, Ohio, you can contact him via facebook for donations if you will.

Reason №2 - nobody lives forever
Whay happen with your game collection after you? Does your relatives will really care about your collection, are you sure about that? Are you living alone? What is the probability that your collection end up in trash pile/landfield/junkyard? Thinking about it is producing sobering effect.
Pyotr Mamonov said:
There is not pockets in the coffin. You'll be left only with that, which was collected inside your soul.
Reason №3 - game companies usually don't care about preservation (Volition devs are rare exception)
Most protos and betas end up in the trash pile after companies closure (dev hardware gets recycle as e-waste). Almost nobody inside the industry cares about game preservation. Companies often produce effort to shut down game preservation comminities activity.

Konami lost the source code for Silent Hill 2 and 3 resulting in HD Collection’s poor quality
Tomm Hulett said:
We got all the source code that Konami had on file – which it turns out wasn’t the final release version of the games. So during debug we didn’t just have to deal with the expected ‘porting’ bugs, but also had to squash some bugs that the original team obviously removed prior to release, but we’d never seen before. A lot of assets such as textures and sound had to be taken out of the compiled game, and that brings with it a host of unique issues, especially taken on top of the tricky coding workarounds at play in the original games. We certainly had our hands full.
Reason №4 - physical media may die in any time (HDD in dev hardware may fail in any time)

Many game collectors prefer to not make copies of CD and DVD protos they have because of their own principles. As Borman said - many protos were written in a simple cheapest media. Without proper backup maintenance someday you may end up with non-readable only copy of proto on CD that now is a complete useless pile of plastic even if your storage conditions are perfect.
An important note to Video Game Sellers and Buyers
slackur said:
But when I learned about this problem, I checked my several hundred discs between Sega CD, Turbo CD, Saturn, and even Dreamcast games and found DOZENS had this problem. Several expensive games I owned were mint- except when held to the light I could see one or more little white dots that proved my game had damage. Some of these I went back to play after not touching for years and found they now would occasionally lock up or not play at all. I had a few FACTORY SEALED games that I opened and found the same thing. It has been a nerve-shattering nightmare for a collector like me.
But the problem was just getting started. I realized that I bought disc rotted games from everywhere in the country- it wasn't local or just a regional issue, like the north or New England states. Even imports were suspect: I have a copy of the PC-Engine Rondo of Blood Castlevania that is now laced with a small star-pattern of disc-rot that at best makes it skip the music, and at worst occasionally keeps it from loading. That was a Christmas gift from my parents when it was NEW!
I'm getting so sick of this problem, and no one seems to realize how big of a deal it really is. If you have a few hundred Sega CD, Turbo CD, Saturn, or even older PC CD-Rom games, and you look long enough, you likely have at least a few disc rot damaged games.
Recordable discs don't last as long, in part because of the organic dye used to record the bytes onto discs, which Youket says is vulnerable to degradation—particularly in the case of recordable DVDs, which have higher levels of light sensitivity, making them more susceptible to failure. Additionally, she says the way a recordable disc is burned is a major factor in defining its lifespan—a poorly recorded disc tends to wear out more quickly.
Reason №5 - people from the game preservation community may know more than you do about specific game
Sometimes prototype can be unplayable without specific modification of the game code.
Sometimes prototype can have a security dongle protection, that may not easy to disable without external help.
It's can be hard to properly recover some content without extended guide of how to do it.
Prototype may have hidden inaccessible areas or hidden futures that only may be found by a few talanted guys.
Single man usually can't handle all complicated structured research of the some games himself, so help is needed.

Reason №6 - releasing protos publicly may inspire other collectors to share more stuff
Other collectors will see that it is possible to gain more significant benefits from releasing it, than keeping secretly and locked. In result of that you may gain access to more content than before. Creating a friendly atmosphere of mutual sharing is far better way, than creating endless discussions consisting of emotional drama because of unfair competition of other collectors.

Short FAQ
Q: If i release something i will get legal issues immediately with a lot of bad consequences
Sometimes it may happen. But directly depends of the release date and specific publisher policy individually. Safe way is - no releases of current generation (4 years old +) or two generations older from the current as rules says. If you still worry, you can always take opportunity to release it anonymously in alternative place.

Q: If i release something, this item will lose a lot of it's value. I will lose my money.
Yes. Your item may loss a lot in value. Most likely you will not restore the full value of a loss through donations. That comes down to what is important for you and how selfish you are. Sooner or later there is high chance that someone else will run into same kind of prototype from alternative source and possibly release it publicly without you. And you can't stop other people from doing actions with stuff that they now own. You lose something at start but in the same time you'll gain a chance of receiving back much more bigger benefits than money.

Q: i was thinking about releasing something, but some angry kids started to insult me, demanding as if i owed them something
Nobody should force you to share something without you good will. It is your own item and only you will decide what to do with it. Share something is not a necessity. It's must be a decision based on your own conclusion, regardless of someone else opinion. But always make a note that someone else may have similar content with a different worldview.

Conclusion: based on these six reasons - sharing protos publicly isn't good for you wallet, but more often brings benefits for game preservation community (and for you too as being a part of it) and helps to save important pieces of history, preventing loss and oblivion, that can happen. Sharing important stuff is thoughtful, reasoned and adult action based on deep understanding of situation we all have. It means acting with understanding of all negative and positive consequences of this action for you and for the community. I'd also like to take opportunity to deeply thank all of those who understand that and make releases of stuff available for a wide audience.

For the ending i wanted to highlight some quotes from the story behind RE 1.5 builds:
The 15-year hunt for Resident Evil 1.5
Alzaire shared some important pieces of knowledge with The Curator, including how to access certain walled-off rooms using the game's debug menu, as well as translations for item descriptions and dialogue. Unfortunately, when the subject of him possibly releasing the game to the public came up, hopes were dashed. The Curator demanded $10,000 for the privilege. The talks broke down.
Mustering all of their financial strength, forum users came together and raise the $10,000 requested by The Curator. He promptly refused the offer, demanding "a healthy sum" for what he now believed was a priceless piece of gaming history. The Curator then listed 1.5 on eBay for an eye-watering $125,000, and any chance at an amicable agreement was lost.
In early 2011, The Curator confirmed what many fans had suspected: the original copy had finally succumbed to disc rot and the only copy left was sitting on his computer's hard drive. In response, Alzaire formed a delegation of seven or eight high-ranking 1.5 experts from the various forums. These people had, by this point, spent well over a decade searching for the game. Pooling their funds together and employing a take it or leave it approach, they finally negotiated a deal. A sum of $8000 was agreed upon and a few weeks later, in April 2011, a disc arrived on Alzaire's doorstep.
Richard Mandel, who would later go on to write a book about the hunt for 1.5, describes what happened next as "a decision that still makes the average video gamer scratch their head". It's decided 1.5 will not release to the fans. Instead, Alzaire and his associates would keep their acquisition for themselves.
At the time, anyone who had their hands on a copy of any version of 1.5 was essentially sitting on a goldmine. If someone were to acquire and release a build to the public, it would severely reduce the value of everyone else's copy. By keeping their acquisition a secret, Alzaire, Gemini and Team IGAS were proving to those other collectors they could be trusted.
Alzaire dedicated his entire adult life to this search, became the world's foremost expert in a particular field, but found himself compelled to leave his baby in the hands of someone else because of how unwieldy it had become. In many ways Alzaire deserves to be the hero of this story. But as in Resident Evil, in real life things rarely work out nicely.
During all the turmoil, an eBay auction popped up. It contains a collection of console gaming relics, including a PS2 test kit, some obscure old games, and... yes, a disc purporting to be a copy of Resident Evil 1.5.
What Mandel had stumbled upon was indeed a legit copy of the game. He knew what he had to do. On 4th June 2013, Mandel won the eBay auction with a $2025 bid for a copy of the most coveted horror game ever cancelled. Much to the chagrin of Team IGAS, he released the game into the hands of other 'purists' and the rest, as many a hack journalist has written before, is history.
Capcom is still holding out on a practically finished build of the game. "They still have that final (80 per cent) build of 1.5 on hand," he says. "I'm also fairly certain none of it will ever see the light of day, unless Capcom Japan wants it to or there's an internal leak, and the odds of that happening are quite low."
"For treasure is what you make of it, and treasure always attracts the bad as well as the good."
Good Luck everyone, i hope my thoughts will make a signal to rethinking about important things that concern many of us.
 

pool7

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Q: If i release something, this item will lose a lot of it's value. I will lose my money.
...
Truth is, for rare items the seller dictates the price of the item, whether we like it or not. In addition to this, collectors usually want the physical item in their collection, so any public release will not reduce the value for them, or other collectors looking to buy the item.
Also, time passes, new people get interest in old games/items, meaning sellers will bring up the price of the item.
 

Tyree_Cooper

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I am baffled at the info that Konami had lost the final code of Silent Hill 2 and 3.

Yet where I worked, at some point our backup space was full and they wouldn't give me more unless I got rid of old pre-final codes. So I had to delete most of the non final files even though they might have come in handy in the future, to analyse old bugs for example.

So I'm not surprised, all the companies I've been to NEVER kept a proper folder with all versions, if they did it was a complete mess with non logical filenames and versioning. Best way to make mistakes and best way to make sure future employees will NEVER be able to find they way through your shit.
(no they were not top tier game developers... i guess those had certain standards at least)
 

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Yes, indeed. I was a bit hesitant to share a build of a game at first (not posted yet), but I realized it is much better off if it is in the public space and not just with me since, God forbid when I die, it gets lost...

I like game prototypes / betas just as much as other incomplete versions of works (music especially) since it gives you, the user, more of a perspective / idea on what the creation process was. They're a great learning resource...
 

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I won't ever beg or demand anything from anyone, but I am eternally grateful to people like drx and Laurent who shares games that have grail-like status since many years. There's many others, of course, but their names came of the top of my head.
 

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right, backup asap is better, no one know how the disc life
but share disc / rare data , some time painful...
there have few case to share how is pain for me

I share my XDK alpha recover disc long time ago, 2001 jan to may ,for DVT jun to AUG and last rare 5933, final I start sell / share photo , I will got 1/3 message ( it leak or I have download)

dump my PSVITA prototype util FW0.99 to internal guys, final I put it util to sell , I got message ( it have dumped ) , wtf !

share ps2 early toolchain , final ppl keep asking any more and more ( but they did not told why need it/ what project going on....)

I have DreamCast SoulCalibur 80% ver , 10 years old I price ask , ppl message it will leak soon by some one, final today still no one , I put sell it , got same message again , it pain some ppl keep use it will leak hammer to seller...

there is part only ........

I am not hammer the save prototype topic, just share the feeling why many people still not going share or stop share ...

of coz with out painful case , there also got alot good internet friend , and some become real life friend , send / exchange stuff for free :)
 
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Most of what you talk about can be avoided with some planning. First of all, everything should be backed up, multiple times. 3-2-1 rule, minimum. If that fails, then you have greater problems to worry about in the world than a bunch of video games.

Many of us also have wills or at least some sort of written agreement to ensure things aren't loss with death.

Game devs care more than you think, it just isn't always as easy as you think to preserve things long term. Most people here have a handful of prototypes. A game company produces more data in one game today than any of us will ever see. We are picking up the scraps.

Access can be given without leaking.

And just as aside, you may inspire more people to leak, but it also inspires a certain amount of negativity regardless of what you do. I could leak everything tomorrow, and still have death threats for the weeks to follow.

Age of a game doesn't matter. Some of the most trouble Ive gotten into has been for Nintendo 64 prototypes. It's up to you to decide what risk you are willing to take. All it takes is one to go poorly. See what happens if you come forward with a prototype of, say, Grand Theft Auto 3. For me, it means risking a stable job doing something I love, which is preserving history.

Price is a huge deal. Preservation isn't cheap, you can't trust the internet to preserve everything. Preservation is an active process, one that doesn't end with the act of backing up. It is a lifelong (plus) commitment. That costs money too. I've spent more on storage in the past two years than most people have on vacations and other fun things (and I haven't bought anything for my personal collection either). But unless it is Earthbound or some hugely desirable title, the value goes down, you just can't argue against that. Look at MAME, they have a dumping group that pools together money for arcade prototypes. The prototype community, particularly those who want to pay for games, is far smaller than you could imagine, and often struggles to come together.

Ultimately we are picking up the pieces of history, but a lot of history is still out of reach. Working with developers will benefit us far beyond what a handful of prototypes will, particularly when you think about more modern content that is only going to get more locked down. Be a friend to developers, and hopefully we can be in the right places at the right time to not just preserve a piece of a company's history, but all of it.

I'll offer a word of advice that should go for everyone: patience. Whether a game leaks today, or leaks 10 years from now, or further, just hold on. Be kind to people, offer advise, not demands. People have their reasons, whatever they may be, but immediately jumping at them is the wrong move. I don't demand people do this or that, I can only offer advice on best practices.

On the topic of why preserving source code is hard, Ill share something I posted on a different forum the other day:
Because preservation is hard. Preserving source code is only part of it. You need the assets to go with it, tools, you need the dependencies, sometimes you need specific hardware or dongles, and then you need the knowledge to make it make sense.

The fact is, few companies have archivists working at them. Some do, particularly nowadays, but few do. It needs to be someone's job to preserve, it's not just something you do in a day. Writing documentation is hard too. And to top it all off, it changes often, sometimes multiple times a day. No one is going to take their time and make every change to a document as they go along, especially when it isn't something that they are even sure will work.

Even if you have literally everything, from the source, the assets, the tools, the knowledge in the form of documents, etc, it still isn't easy. It can be a multi-year project to revive a single game by a talented team.

And then, lets say you did that all once. Preservation is a lifelong problem. It doesn't stop, which is something the movie industry has found out real quickly after they did so much digitization. Who is going to keep migrating formats? Who is going to ensure that a bit hasn't flipped?

And what happens when the person doing all that leaves? Who is going to follow up next? And if the studio moves, who is staying on top of making sure that data makes it out properly? I can tell you from experience, the answer usually is no one, and I've occasionally gotten lucky to save things from the literal trash.

Finally, what happens when the studio shuts down? Many companies that seemed as if it would be impossible to lose have gone away. Are the assets being bought by another company? If so, look above for all the challenges that come even if they have data. If not, where does it go?

Then there are elements that are nearly impossible to preserve, APIs and libraries that only exist on servers that you only pay for access to. When they go, you are stuck having to rebuild something from scratch, and then the question is have you made something new, or is that preservation?

I'm lucky enough to be a curator at The Strong National Museum of Play, but I can tell you first hand that game preservation is difficult. It is our job to try to predict what someone today, and what someone possibly 100 years in the future wants to not only play but research and learn from. Even when a company as an archivist or even a team devoted to preservation, data is lost. Historians do their best to fill in the blanks of lost information regardless of the trade or industry, gaming is no different.
 

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yes, your point is right ~
 

Tongara

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Q: If i release something i will get legal issues immediately with a lot of bad consequences
Sometimes it may happen. But directly depends of the release date and specific publisher policy individually. Safe way is - no releases of current generation (4 years old +) or two generations older from the current as rules says. If you still worry, you can always take opportunity to release it anonymously in alternative place.
Ya know, this part kinda rubs me the wrong way...
Encouraging people who may have huge legal/life consequences to just "LOL RELEASE IT ANYWAY, EVEN IF ANON!!!1" seems like a step backwards to me, and people reading that may 100% decide never to release stuff based on such careless attitudes such as this one.

I know that probably isn't how you meant it to come across, but I don't think "consequences be damned!" and "it will probably be alright" is a good position to take. Their livelihood honestly matters more than us having new prototypes.

Other than that, it's not too bad of a post, although it could use a bit more of a caring attitude at times to the people rather than what they own.
 

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Nice read.

I cannot fathom the buy and horde mentality. Not passing judgement, but I don’t get it in the least. I’ve released everything I’ve acquired, dumped games to MAME that had no dumps, and shared every rare disc I have with anyone who needed it.

I’ve got an undumped arcade disc coming from Japan. When it arrives it’ll get dumped and uploaded for MAME and anyone else who wants it.

I’ve gotten so close to making deals on treasures hidden away only to have the owner back out at the end or double the asking price. I mean what’s the end goal...die with it??
 

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Great article, thanks for the info.

For me, collecting is sharing. I don't understand why anyone would hoard information away from the public, it seems counter-productive. It's a big shame :c
 

Borman

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Depends on what you want to do with life. Hoarding to many people here just means they won't upload online, as if that is the only solution. I've offered plenty of people the chance to play stuff that I have in my collection, despite not leaking it. Especially since my goal for over a decade was to preserve games professionally, now I do that. I haven't seen anyone offering to replace my salary or pay the legal bills for losing my job. My collection will be going to my place of employment, which will give it a chance for 570,000 people to enjoy it in a year (estimated to be 1 million in a few years)
 

Damien

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My collection will be going to my place of employment, which will give it a chance for 570,000 people to enjoy it in a year (estimated to be 1 million in a few years)
This is amazing of you to do, but even then people seem to think donating it to a museum, aka the right people to do this think they'll never see it. Quite often I hear people bickering saying donating it to The Strong, Frank's group etc will mean it's lost but it's simply not true.

Donating/giving it to a museum means everybody can enjoy as long as it's legal to do. Even a museum still has a legal responsibility to a developer.

Uploading it online is still not perfect, just look at AG there's many things lost still till this day. Some bits are found but even then bits are still lost.

Reason №4 - physical media may die in any time (HDD in dev hardware may fail in any time)
This happens more often than you think, I've had three disks dead on arrival, and we had this huge loss before:
 

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My issue with the “museums” donation is all museums show maybe 10% of their total collection to the public. The storage rooms are filled to the brim with donations that sit on shelves, preserved and catalogued but never experienced.

Not experienced = as good as lost, in my opinion.

I’ve had groups ask me point blank to donate my rare M2 discs and associated hardware to them. When I ask what the plan for it is I get nothing other than “preservation”

Sure if you were going to take the hardware on the road (and on loan) and let people play, I’d be into that! But the “give us this expensive item for preservation...” yeah no thanks

You are all invited to my place in Chicago if you ever want to play every 3DO M2 game (minus two) that ever existed. That’s my preservation :) (plus all the dumps)
 

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We serve over 90 researchers every year at the museum, including through research fellowships where we pay people to come to the museum. We setup nearly anything that people want to play if it is safe to do so, and we allow people to similarly look at just about anything in the archives, including source code. Unlike some places, we allow just about anyone to come and do research, provided they give us a few weeks notice to prepare. That means in addition the the usual scholars, we also get YouTubers coming and experiencing things that they can't play anywhere else.

That's why we focus so much on having original hardware, we want people to experience it as it should be played for as long as the hardware allows it.
 

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We serve over 90 researchers every year at the museum, including through research fellowships where we pay people to come to the museum. We setup nearly anything that people want to play if it is safe to do so, and we allow people to similarly look at just about anything in the archives, including source code. Unlike some places, we allow just about anyone to come and do research, provided they give us a few weeks notice to prepare. That means in addition the the usual scholars, we also get YouTubers coming and experiencing things that they can't play anywhere else.

That's why we focus so much on having original hardware, we want people to experience it as it should be played for as long as the hardware allows it.
That sounds like a very interesting concept!
Does the museum have a list of everything they have that people can potentially research/play, or is it on more of a "ask and we'll check if we have it" basis?
 

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Appreciate the response and info~
 

Awbacon

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We serve over 90 researchers every year at the museum, including through research fellowships where we pay people to come to the museum. We setup nearly anything that people want to play if it is safe to do so, and we allow people to similarly look at just about anything in the archives, including source code. Unlike some places, we allow just about anyone to come and do research, provided they give us a few weeks notice to prepare. That means in addition the the usual scholars, we also get YouTubers coming and experiencing things that they can't play anywhere else.

That's why we focus so much on having original hardware, we want people to experience it as it should be played for as long as the hardware allows it.
See this makes sense! I’ve gotten contacted by groups that I know are just squirreling stuff away like the warehouse in indiana Jones and the Ark of the Covenant lol
 
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