Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby drummyfish » 17 Jun 2019, 18:29

Not sure if it's been done already, but since there are tons and tons of quality ancient abandonware, what if we tried to buy some of these games for the libre game community?

I think some of you will say these games have been written in Pascal in times when words like "code quality" didn't even exist, and that is true. Still, I think it would be worth it, because:

- Just the assets alone would be very valuable for developing new games.
- The game could be played by people who simply refuse to touch proprietary games, even if the code is ugly.
- Even if a complete rewrite or refactor was difficult, bug fixes and simple mods (like higher-res) would be much easily done with the source and the rights to collaborate on it.
- In the same manner just making the project compile and run natively (vs e.g. Dosbox) would be much less effort than developing a whole new game from scratch.
- With it being the possibility, some people would probably still likely find it a challenge and enjoyment to clean up the code. People enjoy all kinds of things you don't.
- People freeing their old games would send a generally positive message and encourage free culture. You've abandoned your project? Give it to the people and see what they create of it.
- With the legals rights to share and the source available it would be much easier to archive the game, share it on websites etc.
- The source, even if ugly, can be a good piece of history to study by the hackers. See e.g. what gold has been found in ID SW engines.

First step would have to be research -- finding the games. We'd need to find games developed ideally by only one or two people, because all developers would have to agree on freeing the game. This is thankfully the case with a lot of old games. Then we'd need to somehow organize this, vote for which games we'd want to buy, pool the money etc.

We'd need to decide what amount of money to pay the devs. I think we shouldn't negotiate, since it would be other people's money. We could either offer some fixed price per game, or e.g. make a rule, such as 100x the release price.

I'd bet we'd find a few good people who'd release the games for free just because they're fans of free SW and see the interest :-)

Now let me say I am not doing this, I am not the kind of person who does crowdfundig campaigns, or any projects involving people. I'd be glad if someone felt inspired to do this instead. I would try to contribute of course.

Any ideas? Potential games? Let's just talk about this.
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby Julius » 17 Jun 2019, 22:49

Has been tried a few times already with some limited success... but surprisingly often the ownership seems to be highly complicated and hard to track down.
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby drummyfish » 17 Jun 2019, 23:38

Well, I imagine back then a lot of people didn't care about copyright that much and did things like creating textures from random non-free photos on the Internet, so that actually might be a problem as well. It could have been fair use, but they couldn't be made free.

I know about quite many individual games that were re-released this way, but not about any campaign that would try to free a bigger number of games. It might be a nice hobby though, like collecting stamps, just with games ;)
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby Lyberta » 18 Jun 2019, 00:52

How about starting with GPL coded games:

DOOM,
DOOM 2,
DOOM 3,
Quake,
Quake 2,
Quake 3.

Having to pirate those assets is inconvenient.
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby acme_pjz » 18 Jun 2019, 04:12

I propose a potential game: Dweep (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dweep and https://archive.org/details/DweepGold_201504). It is a 2d puzzle game, old yet interesting. The company developing it, Dexterity, was closed in 2006.

I had even made a GPL clone of it using VB6 named MyDweep: https://gitee.com/acmepjz/mydweep (note that it used non-free media of the original game unauthorized, so the repository is hosted in a country where DMCA doesn't apply.)

PS: There are some other interesting games developed by Dexterity, for example Fitznik and Fitznik II.
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby drummyfish » 18 Jun 2019, 21:26

@Lyberta that would be the holy grail -- the Doom and Quake IP is still hugely alive and new games keep coming out, so it's completely out of question. We need something that's dead.

Pirating games isn't a problem, the problem is we can't create free derivative works.

@acme_pjz thank, will check!

Even if we don't go full in on a crowdfunding campaign, maybe we can just find a few games like that and drop a mail to the devs if they'd be so kind to free the game. Some people just do it for the greater good.
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby XGenGamer » 20 Jun 2019, 11:25

Strictly speaking in law, the copyright still subsists in the abandonware.

The software developer had simply abandoned the development of the software but not necessarily given up on its copyright.

The law is one thing, the reality is another.

Abandonware are invariably treated as though they are in the public domain.

The developers invariably have no existing connection with their abandonware and often cannot be contactable. For that reason, even infringement of any kind are extremely rare to be followed up by the developer — the whole idea of abandoning them.

Read the Wikipedia article in the link closely. It explains the whole legality in a pretty good and accurate way.
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby fluffrabbit » 20 Jun 2019, 11:52

I think that's a very narrow-minded view of the law. Disclaimer: I'm an American and I'm not an expert on abandonware, also IANAL.

In terms of common law, abandonware is closer to shareware or freeware. It is non-free in our strict OSS sense of things, but it is free in a way that would be defensible in criminal law.

In civil law, a company re-asserting its rights would make a game not abandonware, thereby changing the game's common law status and changing the defense from abandonware to fair use. However, a lawsuit against an abandonware site would never make it to court if the judge saw that the site exercised due dilligence.

Also, anyone who claims anything is PD but can't back it up is full of BS. People don't precisely treat abandonware as public domain, they just don't know anything about copyright, OR they use the IP in a way that is defensible without necessarily explicating the legal basis.
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Re: Crowdfund freeing old abandonware games?

Postby Jastiv » 20 Jun 2019, 20:00

I've actually seen a lot of games that have the source either re coded from scratch, or released to the public, but they still only link with non-free assets. Maybe it would be better to mostly work on replacing assets. I can already think of a couple games off the top of my head that fit this qualification.
1.) Heroes of Might and Magic 2 (has been remade as free software, with the exception of the AI that has a non-commercial clause)
2.) Ultima 7 (the exult project) (if the text and assets (including the writing) could be replaced it could be completely free software)
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