PC Gamer

Technology just keeps getting better and better. Our PCs are more powerful and awesome looking than ever, and digital storefronts give us a library of games to purchase and download at a moment's notice. But what about the times we want a nice hit of nostalgia? The times when we want to fire up a classic game from our youth, one of the games that shaped us into gamers in the first place? Too often, these classic games are unavailable for us to play. They're out of print, and if they're not available on Steam or GOG, the only option is digging up a physical boxed copy (which could cost hundreds) and tossing the CD-ROM (or even floppy disk!) in a drive your PC may not even have.

Out of print games can be hard to find. They can be expensive. When HBO made it damn-near impossible to watch Game of Thrones without signing up for premium cable, millions of people turned to piracy. It's the same with out-of-print games. People are going to play them, no matter what—shouldn't there be an easy, legal way to make that happen?

Some publishers and developers appreciate these classic games as much as we do, and are making efforts to bring them to digital storefronts like Steam and GOG. But for every triumphant Grim Fandango Remastered there are a dozen other games have remained lost in limbo, unable to see a digital release for one reason or another. We looked into why.

No One Lives Forever

The saga of No One Lives Forever's resurrection has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Our hopes started high when Night Dive Studios, the team responsible for bringing System Shock 2 and the Wizardry series to GOG and Steam, filed trademark applications for No One Lives Forever, The Operative, A Spy In H.A.R.M.'S Way, and Contract J.A.C.K. last May. The problem was, it was just the trademark—no one was quite sure who held the game's copyright.

No One Lives Forever and its sequel were developed by Monolith, most recently the developers behind Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Monolith is now owned by Warner Bros., so there was a possibility Warner had the copyright. But the first NOLF was published by Fox Interactive, so a share of the rights could have also gone to either 20th Century Fox, or Activision, having merged in 2008 with Vivendi (which acquired Fox Interactive in 2003).

As reported by Kotaku, that copyright ambiguity ended up stonewalling the resurrection attempt.

"We knew from the Monolith connection that Warner Bros had some ownership, not sure exactly what, but at the very least, they were involved with the development of the code," Night Dive's Larry Kuperman told Kotaku. "Remember, the game ran on the LithTech engine. So we started talking with Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. said, 'Well, it wouldn't be possible to do a deal with you because Activision has some ownership of this and we'd have to have them involved in this process.' So we went back to Activision and, [after] numerous correspondence going back and forth, they replied that they thought they might have some rights, but that any records predated digital storage. So we're talking about a contract in a box someplace."

Fox was in a similar situation to Activision, neither quite sure if they had any claim to the series and thus unable to give Night Dive a definitive answer. But then the hammer fell. Night Dive received a "scary letter" from a Warner Bros. attorney saying "they're aware of our filing for trademark, that they had contested that, and that if we went forward, specifically with a new version of No One Lives Forever, without doing a new deal with them, we would be infringing their rights," Kuperman told Kotaku.

Of course, Night Dive had no intention of infringing on Warner's copyright, and was actually hoping to work out a licensing deal. But in early February, Night Dive got a definitive "No" from Warner Bros., saying the company was not looking to either publish the game themselves or partner with anyone at the time.

With that, it seemed Night Dive had reached the end of the road. However, one silver lining still remains. At the end of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, Night Dive sent out a hopeful tweet:

"GDC was exceptional! Not only that but there have been developments in the NOLF story...my life has literally turned into a spy thriller"

When reached for comment, Night Dive Studios' Stephen Kick said they were unable to discuss anything related to No One Lives Forever at the moment, but would keep us in the loop in the event of any developments. It's very little to go on, unfortunately, but at least we can hold out hope that the project isn't totally dead in the water.

Full Throttle

When it comes to PC classics, lists are often dominated by the beloved adventure games built by Lucasfilm Games, LucasArts, and Tim Schafer. But when Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and subsequently shuddered the game-making arm of the studio, the fate of those classic games—and any hope of their seeing a digital re-release—was left uncertain.

The rights to those games, says Greg Rice, a producer at Schafer's current studio Double Fine, shifted to Disney with the Lucasfilm acquisition. However, we've seen a fair bit of movement in getting those games back to life in the past year. In addition to many Star Wars games and some of the Monkey Island series popping up on GOG, a collaboration between Disney Interactive and Double Fine recently saw the remaster and re-release of Grim Fandango, one of the most beloved of the bunch.

With Manny Calavera finally making a triumphant return, it made us wonder about other LucasArts games, namely the dystopian biker adventure Full Throttle. When asked if he had any plans for bringing Full Throttle back as well, Tim Schafer responded in about as Tim Schafer a way as possible: "Maybe! As long as you buy five copies of Grim!"

When reached for comment, Disney Interactive's SVP & Head of Games Chris Heatherly gave the following comment:

"Longtime fans and new players keep telling us that they want to play classic Disney and Lucasfilm games. Even though technology and gaming platforms continue to evolve, the characters and stories of these classic titles has endured. From our collaboration with Double Fine to launch Grim Fandango Remastered to the lineup of games like TRON 2.0, Toy Story 3, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and Star Wars: X-Wing series that we offer through digital store fronts, our portfolio reflects continued interest in classic titles across Disney brands. As long as there are passionate gamers looking to play our games, we ll continue to look for new partnerships and distribution platforms that are good for our business."

In other words, so long as there's interest in classic games, Disney isn't going to ignore its extensive back-catalog of fantastic games.

X-Wing and TIE Fighter CD-ROMs

When Disney shut down LucasArts, all hope of seeing any of the company's classic franchises revived digitally seemed slim to none. But thanks to a collaboration between Good Old Games and Disney Interactive, many Lucasfilm games have finally made their digital debut.

Among them, one of the most celebrated is the Star Wars X-Wing series of space combat games, including Star Wars: X-Wing, TIE Fighter, X-Wing Alliance, and X-Wing vs TIE Fighter. But with this victory came a disturbance in the force. The versions of X-Wing and TIE Fighter that launched on GOG did not include the collector's edition CD-ROM versions of those games. The CD-ROM editions run at a higher resolution than the original DOS floppy releases and retain their iMuse soundtracks.

We don't know why these collectors edition versions of X-Wing and TIE Fighter have been left out of the games' digital release. GOG failed to return our request for comment, and a representative from Disney Interactive declined to comment specifically on the Star Wars games issue. Unfortunately, that leaves us little to go on. It seems like Disney is satisfied with the status of the X-Wing games' release—we doubt they'll be revisiting the CD-ROM issue any time soon.

Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island

Like Full Throttle, the beloved Monkey Island series' fate was left unsure when Disney shuttered LucasArts—that is, the games in the series yet to be digitally released. The first two games in the series, The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, received Special Edition remakes in 2009 and 2010 by LucasArts before the Disney acquisition. But the next two games, Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island, never received such treatment.

Meanwhile, a fifth game in the series, Tales of Monkey Island, was released by Telltale Games in 2009. We reached out to Telltale and Disney to see if either company had any plans to bring the third and fourth games to digital storefronts. Telltale failed to return comment, while Disney gave the same non-committal answer we received when asking about Full Throttle and the X-Wing CD-ROM games:

"As long as there are passionate gamers looking to play our games, we ll continue to look for new partnerships and distribution platforms that are good for our business."

Like Full Throttle, this answer is better than nothing. Disney is aware of the power of its back catalog, and so long as the games sell, there's no reason we won't see the company continue to dig into it.

Black and White 1 + 2

Say what you will about Peter Molyneux, the Black and White games were fun. Maybe the sequel didn't quite deliver on all the promises Molyneux made about it at the time, but in retrospect, you know exactly what you're getting into. So why can't we play it on our new hardware?

The Black and White series was created by Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2006, namely for the Fable brand. Molyneux left Lionhead/Microsoft in 2012 to form his own studio, 22cans, and focus on developing small titles: so far, Curiosity and Godus. When reached for comment, a 22cans representative said Molyneux was unable to speak about any efforts to revive the Black and White games. (Though he's reportedly stopped conducting interviews on any subject, as of earlier this year.)

Microsoft is at least somewhat interested in bringing classic Lionhead games back, inasmuch as the company released a Fable Trilogy bundle earlier this year. So what about Black and White?

According to a Microsoft representative, the Black and White IP didn't come over with the Lionhead acquisition, and still lies with EA, who originally published the game. Unfortunately, that's where the trail goes cold, as EA did not respond to our request for comment on this story.

Black and White was a popular game, though, so it's entirely possible that the gears are turning within EA to make it available again. Especially considering the sorry state of Molyneux's latest god-game, Godus, we personally think a Black and White revival would be an opportune move.

SWAT 4

A spinoff of the Police Quest series, SWAT 4 was developed by Irrational Games and published by Vivendi Universal and Sierra Entertainment.

"The IP holder for SWAT4 was Sierra who was part of Vivendi at the time," SWAT 4 designer Paul Hellquist told PC Gamer. "Vivendi then sold off all of their interactive stuff and Sierra disappeared. I m not sure where the IP ownership ended up. Activision has started up a Sierra label again, but I don t know if they just got the rights to use the name or if they also got the IPs."

When reached for comment, an Activision representative said the company's legal department was unable to devote resources into seeing if the company had a claim over the SWAT 4 IP. Given that Activision's legal team couldn't even be bothered to look into the issue, it doesn't seem like a SWAT 4 resurrection is very high on the company's list of priorities. Major bummer.

System Shock

System Shock was developed by the now-defunct Looking Glass Studios—known for spawning the Thief series as well as, spiritually, Deus Ex, BioShock, and many others—and was published and distributed by Origin Systems and Electronic Arts.

When Looking Glass folded, the rights to the System Shock went up in air, caught between an insurance company that acquired Looking Glass's assets, and Electronic Arts. But while while System Shock 2 made its digital debut in 2013 thanks to Night Dive Studios tracking down those rights, the first game in the series has not received the same treatment.

When reached for comment, System Shock producer Warren Spector said that EA owns the rights to System Shock, as far as he knows. But that's where his knowledge of the situation ends, as EA hasn't kept him in the loop of any plans they may or may not have for the property. EA did not respond to our request for comment.

So what are the chances we'll see System Shock on GOG or Steam? EA made a deal with GOG to bring a large swath of its back catalog to the service in 2011, including the Looking Glass games Ultima Underworld 1 and 2. But the deal's announcement made particular note that it did not include System Shock, so it's hard to say if we'll ever see the classic sci-fi shooter revived.

Closing thoughts

Digging into dead or forgotten IPs is tough work. These games came from an era when big-name publishing was the only model for success. Even though many of the games on this list were made by small, dedicated studios, they still relied on companies like EA to get to market. But as studios were swallowed or shut down, the rights of their beloved games often got lost in the shuffle.

It's unfortunate that so many of them are still lost today simply due to the apathy of the rights-holder. The good news is that it's not all apathy. Many companies don't even realize they have a claim to some forgotten franchise, or that people would even be interested in those games' revival. Sometimes all it takes is the right person at the right time, maybe speaking up in a meeting, or asking about a licensing deal. Many of the developers I spoke to were thrilled to hear that people were still interested in playing their games. Keep asking, and maybe we'll eventually get what we want.

Correction: Disney originally attributed its comment on Full Throttle to Todd Dubester, which was incorrect—the current version of this article contains the corrected attribution.

Community Announcements - Saleck
Night Dive Studios brings you a game made by Allen Trivette and Lee Williams. Spirits of Xanadu, an exploration / adventure game heavily inspired by, among other notable influences, System Shock 2.

Product Description:
"At the farthest edge of the explored universe, the research ship Xanadu slumbers in orbit around a mysterious planet. Her systems remain active but there has been no message from her crew for months. Now a lone operative has been sent to wake the Xanadu and bring her home to Earth.

Spirits of Xanadu is an atmospheric exploration game set aboard a deserted starship in an alternate 1980s. It draws inspiration from classic sci-fi films and games to create an immersive and highly interactive environment, featuring puzzles and FPS elements in the service of a unique and layered plot.

Notable influences include System Shock, Deus Ex, Tarkovsky's Solaris, and 2001: A Space Odyssey."

If you like System Shock 2, we think you will like what the team has to offer with Spirits of Xanadu.

Available Now on Steam for Windows, Mac and Linux.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/312230/
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Even a few years ago, the idea of getting to watch assorted Looking Glass and Irrational alumni play and talk through revered sci-fi immersive sim System Shock 2 sounded like an absurd fantasy. Twitch and Twitter, whatever else they might be throwing at the world, have broken down so many barriers. For instance: two of hours of System Shock 2, with live commentary provided by the likes of BioShock’s Ken Levine, Gone Home’s Steve Gaynor and Ultima Underworld’s Paul Neurath (not to mention all the other landmark games those guys worked on). … [visit site to read more]

Community Announcements - Saleck
Hello everyone,

A new update for System Shock 2 is available for Windows and Linux. Mac will follow in the coming days.

The v2.43 patch, which was provided by "Le Corbeau", contains the following fixes:

  • Fixed various smaller issues that could potentially affect stability
  • Fixed light radius from dynamic lights on other objects so it matches light radius on terrain (instead of infinite)
  • Fixed (or at least reduced) issue where on rare occasions it could turn AIs invulnerable and non-collidable after loading or level transition (fix may not apply to existing savegames where this already happened)
  • Fixed bug with archive extraction failure not being detected properly in FMSel, at least for archives with unsupported compression method (like old zips using "Implode")
  • Fixed some bugs in FMSel with localization, paths containing umlauts and other special characters, and added OGG to WAV conversion option
    fixed DML parsing bug with link IDs
  • Fixed bug with "d3d_disp_enable_atoc 1" on nVidia where it ended up using SSAA (if available) instead of ATOC
  • Fixed bug where filtering was applied to even pixel scaled UI in DX9 on most resolutions even when it shouldn't have
  • Added subtitle support
  • Added support for mission DMLs to include so called fingerprints, data that can link a DML to a particular mission (because mission filenames are often the same for different OMs/FMs)
  • Added support for mission DMLs to be bundled in dbmods subdirectories
  • Added support for DMLs to request additional OSMs and to reference objects by name
  • Removed GOG EULA.txt

Don't like the update? You can roll back to v2.42 by going into the game's properties and, in the Betas tab, choosing v2.42 from the Dropdown list. That will rollback your installation of System Shock 2 to the version that was on Steam previously.

Enjoy!
PC Gamer

A quick search through the archives reveals that we're yet to write about System Shock Infinite 2.0. Let's do something about that, before we get the hose again. It's a System Shock 2 mod billed as an unofficial sequel to Irrational's late-'90s classic. It recently relaunched with the 2.0 moniker, and is currently in beta ahead of the full release.

A "Beta 8" update has just been released, and it brings rebalanced difficulty through an optional "2015 Mode". The name is a clear parallel of Bioshock Infinite's 1999 Mode. Where that increased the difificulty, this, in the mod-maker's own words, "[tones] down challenges and quirks of the combat system."

System Shock Infinite 2.0 offers multiple storylines that the player can choose by summoning them through a "tear in protoreality". It's a neat concept, playing off both System Shock and Bioshock Infinite, and provides a neat way to extend your time on the Von Braun.

As the mod team explains:

"System Shock Infinite 2.0 is currently in beta phase and includes 10 new levels set in Cyberspace, with 4 storylines to unlock, new characters and cinematics. ... Keep an eye out for the final version, coming soon!"

For more info, and to download System Shock Infinite 2.0, head to its ModDB page.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Rich Stanton)

The contemporary big-budget FPS has a few different strains: blood-n-guts military settings a la Call of Duty, open-world environments like Far Cry, and high-concept dystopias. Outside of open-world most of these styles were first codified in the 1990s, and FPS games then and now share an enormous amount: primarily a core mechanic of shooting many hundreds of enemies in the face over and over again, as well as crossover in areas like structure, goal-chaining, and narrative delivery. FPS games, in other words, have for a long time been constructed on resilient and proven principles. And many of them come from Looking Glass Studios.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Around me is a burgeoning empire of steel.

Happy birthday, SHODAN! The puckish AI with delusions of godhood turned 20 on Monday (as did System Shock, I guess), and would be flattered by what some are doing to celebrate and glorify her. Firstly, a group of System Shock’s creators got together to stream the Looking Glass classic and gas about the dear old gal and their game. If watching isn’t enough, (another) project aiming to remake System Shock has appeared, and it’s looking pretty good so far.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Hallo, Marie!

Which would win in a fight: System Shock 2 or BioShock Infinite? Oh these petty arguments and spewings of bile come round every so often thanks to the weird compulsion to rank and rate everything in the gameosphere. Let’s be lovers, not fighters. What would happen if System Shock 2 and Binfinite loved each other very much and wanted to share that love with the world? That’s a better question. And it has an answer: System Shock Infinite.

The SS2 mod continues the game’s story in a very Binfinite-y way, dabbling in time loops and reality tears, and even joins you with Marie Delacroix as a companion of sorts.

… [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 50% on System Shock 2!*

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Craig Pearson)

How could we forget?

Just a few years ago, people were begging for the System Shock 2 legal situation to be resolved. It wasn’t a technical problem, but a legal death trap of rights that entangled its feet, keeping it just out of grasp as we all reached out to save it. And then it was suddenly in our hands, and we could all have the game on the digital distribution platform of our choosing. With that resolved, it seemed that the story of System Shock 2 was over. But wait *shocking twist music*, like a hand shooting out of a grave, there’s one final moment for SS2 to surprise us: a new update that lands it on Linux. It is available right now on Steam.

… [visit site to read more]

...

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