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Old December 13th, 2011, 08:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default On the morality of abandonware

I have no idea if this topic is appropriate here or worthy of being locked. If it's locked I won't be offended.

I've been thinking about downloading/playing an abandonware game. This game came out in the late 90s and was a huge hit. I've never played. It's since been abandoned by it's developer apparently. I've looked on Amazon ($300), Steam, Direct2Drive, Gog.com and Google. Aside from Amazon, I found one other place selling it for $60 and another place selling it for $90. I'm obviously not going to pay those prices for a 10 year old game and these were all from 3rd party sellers. I went to the developer site looking for some place to give them my money and all they've got there is patches for the game. Support ended nearly a decade ago.

So, I'm left in a quandry. I want to play this game. There's no question that the publisher owns the rights to that game. Neither they nor anyone else is currently trying to make any money off the game. There's no support for the game so if I had a copy today and called them today for support they'd tell me to go pound sand.

Now, copyright is one of those things that, legally, only applies if it's enforced. You can actually lose your copyright if you don't enforce it. So, I can either not play the game (boo!) or download the game someplace without paying for it which is technically illegal, but I'm not sure if it's immoral or not as there is no way to give anyone money for the game. If the publisher/developer or anyone out there was still trying to make money on the game I'd absolutely pay them for it. But no one is. Is it immoral to pirate abandoned games when there is no one out there actually trying to profit from them?

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Old December 13th, 2011, 09:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hmm... *I* am not morally opposed to that. I'd say go for it. I bought my brother a game on amazon that we used to play as kids and I felt a bit ripped off by it. The publisher doesn't sell it, and the disk wasn't even the 'original' disk (it was like a re-packaging).

I'll admit that I have downloaded a few abandoned games in my past, I don't feel 'morally' against it, but, I mean, morals are very subjective... A very interesting question that you've raised - I must say.

I guess really the only one to make money off of this situation would be the potential seller, but paying *that* much for such an old game seems a bit crazy.

Publicly: Don't do it.
Personally: Don't get caught.
also, any chance you'll tell us what game it is? Very curious now... I hope it's Oregon Trail, loved that game.


Also, I was just thinking, if it's a rather popular game, is there any chance that the source will be released or a legal download will be made available (free)...(IE: bethesda released Arena and Daggerfall for free).
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Old December 13th, 2011, 10:10 PM   #3 (permalink)
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If the developer doesnt get a penny why should distributors who are just are a medium be paid !! 300$ is highway robbery !! . You can donate some money to the developer as a sign of good faith if you can ,if he exists ..

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Old December 15th, 2011, 08:28 AM   #4 (permalink)
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The game I was looking at is the original Black and White. The sequel and some of the expansion packs can be found fairly easily, but not the original. The developer has moved on to the Fable franchise apparently. You can't buy the game from them. You can't buy the game from a distributor. There's no question Lionhead owns the copyright, but they're not making any attempts to profit from it. If they were, I'd either give them a reasonable amount of money or do without. But they're not. It's kind of like they've written a book and it's now locked in a library and no one is allowed to read it.
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Old December 15th, 2011, 11:39 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Publicly: Don't do it.
Personally: Don't get caught.
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Old December 15th, 2011, 09:25 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The game I was looking at is the original Black and White. The sequel and some of the expansion packs can be found fairly easily, but not the original. The developer has moved on to the Fable franchise apparently. You can't buy the game from them. You can't buy the game from a distributor. There's no question Lionhead owns the copyright, but they're not making any attempts to profit from it. If they were, I'd either give them a reasonable amount of money or do without. But they're not. It's kind of like they've written a book and it's now locked in a library and no one is allowed to read it.
Ahh I was looking into that game this summer. My comp can't handle new games (even semi-new games really), and that was one that caught my fancy.
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Old December 16th, 2011, 05:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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The original game was published in 2001 so it's a 10 year old game we're talking about. To me something is abandoned when the developer stops supporting/selling it. That is certainly the case in this situation.
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Old December 17th, 2011, 12:08 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The original game was published in 2001 so it's a 10 year old game we're talking about. To me something is abandoned when the developer stops supporting/selling it. That is certainly the case in this situation.
I think with your definition of abandonware, then it's fair game. Though, that may not hold up if the law was somehow involved....

I don't think you have to worry about it 'morally' though. I wouldn't. If the dev doesn't care enough about it to sell it....
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Old December 18th, 2011, 01:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I think with your definition of abandonware, then it's fair game. Though, that may not hold up if the law was somehow involved....

I don't think you have to worry about it 'morally' though. I wouldn't. If the dev doesn't care enough about it to sell it....
Wouldn't hold up for a second legally. The developer still owns the copyright for like 50-100 years.
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Old December 18th, 2011, 02:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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As someone who is firmly against piracy.. I really don't see the harm.

The law has no baring on morality. The law should be moral, that doesn't mean it is.

In this case the company who made/produced the game is no longer profiting.

we really need to change our piracy laws as a whole and introduce reason/rationality to the whole issue.
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Old December 18th, 2011, 03:14 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Can you post the name of the and dev/publisher name? If you are really interested in doing the right thing, perhaps I can track down the dev.
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Old December 18th, 2011, 09:54 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I believe it is Lionhead... I could be wrong, but I wanna say that was the dev. It was the original black and white game.

Must say, this is one of my favorite threads. I love the juxtaposition between laws and morals - how - in theory - they should be similar, but in practice there are not.
That whole 'steal bread, feed your family' thing.
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Old December 19th, 2011, 09:05 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Yep. It's Lionhead. And it's the original Black and White. You can buy the sequel and some of the expansion packs on Amazon and other places for under $20. I don't find that unreasonable. The original seems to not be available. Apparently the dev has abandoned it in favor of the Fable franchise. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. The dev certainly has no obligation to continue developing the game. Thing is I can now no longer get my hands on a legal copy. Lionhead still owns the copyright. No question about it. But they are no longer seeking to make money from that copyright. Seems to be no question about that either. I can't say I blame them really. You have finite resources. It doesn't make sense to dedicate those resources to supporting/developing a game/program that is 10 years old.
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Old December 19th, 2011, 02:36 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by A.Nonymous View Post
Yep. It's Lionhead. And it's the original Black and White. You can buy the sequel and some of the expansion packs on Amazon and other places for under $20. I don't find that unreasonable. The original seems to not be available. Apparently the dev has abandoned it in favor of the Fable franchise. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. The dev certainly has no obligation to continue developing the game. Thing is I can now no longer get my hands on a legal copy. Lionhead still owns the copyright. No question about it. But they are no longer seeking to make money from that copyright. Seems to be no question about that either. I can't say I blame them really. You have finite resources. It doesn't make sense to dedicate those resources to supporting/developing a game/program that is 10 years old.
Well then . . . if the dev is still active (you mentioned the Fable franchise) then drop him a note. Just because something is abandoned does not means it is open season.
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Old December 19th, 2011, 04:31 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Tried that. They referred me to the XBox forums (they've been bought out by Microsoft and their latest releases are all for XBox). The user forums seem to be of limited help. They're basically dead. Fable is the franchise they're putting all their resources toward. This is what I hate about abandonware games.
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Old December 19th, 2011, 10:45 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Ouch, you even tried to contact the dev. I'd say my decision would be made up by now
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Old January 12th, 2012, 10:19 AM   #17 (permalink)
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To OP:

I bought this game when it was originally released. I should still have the disk in storage, and possibly the manual as well (I have a couple boxes of old games in storage).

If you are interested, I'll see if I can find it this weekend. I'd be happy to send it your way for a reasonable price (mainly just to cover the effort of finding and shipping it)
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Old January 12th, 2012, 09:10 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I would download that without qualms. The developer isn't making money out of it, and its only the developers I care of supporting, not the middlemen.

For the record, I do pirate games. Even recent ones. Because I am in a third world country, we usually get games here very late, or not at all. So if the games aren't in the major game stores here and they have no idea when they will get it, then off to torrent it is. Its not my fault, they're forcing me to do so anyway. I try to pay when I can, simply because the official installers are way better and get support including update patches. But if they leave me no choice, what moral qualms should I even think of?
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Old January 16th, 2012, 03:12 PM   #19 (permalink)
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So if the games aren't in the major game stores here and they have no idea when they will get it, then off to torrent it is. Its not my fault, they're forcing me to do so anyway.
That's a completely different issue. No one is "forcing" you - you could simply either wait for release in your locale, or pre-order it online from elsewhere if you were that desperate to play it rather than deprive the developers of the reward for their work. The issue here is a decade-old game, long out of both production and support, that the developer no longer even acknowledges.
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Old January 16th, 2012, 03:21 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Tried that. They referred me to the XBox forums (they've been bought out by Microsoft and their latest releases are all for XBox). The user forums seem to be of limited help. They're basically dead. Fable is the franchise they're putting all their resources toward. This is what I hate about abandonware games.
If I understand you correctly, the software is owned by Microsoft? If that is the case, welcome to Federal Court; a happy place where you might get crushed and your body dragged through the streets of Redmond as a warning to others.
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Old January 16th, 2012, 03:24 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Bottom line: if the game is long gone and the developers still own the rights to the game, nobody should try to get it for free. Forget that developers ignore you. Forget that it is old. All you need to remember is it is not your property.

For all you know, some large company owns the game even though they do not promote it, care about it, or support it.
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Old January 16th, 2012, 04:47 PM   #22 (permalink)
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If I understand you correctly, the software is owned by Microsoft? If that is the case, welcome to Federal Court; a happy place where you might get crushed and your body dragged through the streets of Redmond as a warning to others.
Yes. The game was developed by Lionhead Studios who were then purchased/eaten up by MS way back in '05. Since then, they've put all their effort towards developing/promoting the Fable franchise and have long since ended support for Black and White. They still host forums where users will help you out, but that's about it.

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Bottom line: if the game is long gone and the developers still own the rights to the game, nobody should try to get it for free. Forget that developers ignore you. Forget that it is old. All you need to remember is it is not your property.

For all you know, some large company owns the game even though they do not promote it, care about it, or support it.
This is the problem with abandonware.

1. A lot of times who owns the game is unclear. The developer may have gone out of business or been eaten up 14 times (though that's not the cas here).

2. Many times the developer either doesn't care to protect the game or doesn't actively try to prevent piracy of the game because it's so old. They're making no money off it so they have no motivation to protect it and instead promote their current releases. Property rights are one of those things that are only valuable when someone protects them.

It's like taking a book and sticking it in the library and locking the door. The author owns that book. But there's still demand for it. If you break into the library to read the book, you're committing a crime. Yet there is a book you want to read sitting on the shelf. The author is not interested in selling you a copy. You wave money in his face and they're un-phased. You really want to read that book, but the author isn't interested in taking your money, and it's illegal to steal it. Hence the frustration.

If Lionhead just put the game out with no support for $2-3 I'd pay for it. I think a lot of people would pay for various abandonware games under those terms.
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Old January 16th, 2012, 05:16 PM   #23 (permalink)
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And for every user who lost two or three bucks on something that wouldn't run, they'd demand a refund. Regardless of warnings during purchase. Two or three bucks wouldn't handle the grief and hassle.

It's gone. It no longer exists. You've spent far more than a few bucks worth of your time trying to make it so, but it's not happening. Sorry, but it just is what it what is.

You can't always get what you want.
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Old January 16th, 2012, 06:39 PM   #24 (permalink)
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And for every user who lost two or three bucks on something that wouldn't run, they'd demand a refund. Regardless of warnings during purchase. Two or three bucks wouldn't handle the grief and hassle.

It's gone. It no longer exists. You've spent far more than a few bucks worth of your time trying to make it so, but it's not happening. Sorry, but it just is what it what is.

You can't always get what you want.
True. It's just frustrating to want to give someone your money and they refuse to take it.
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Old January 16th, 2012, 09:46 PM   #25 (permalink)
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You can't always get what you want.
You meant that like the song right? In my head, that line was sung.
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Old January 17th, 2012, 01:00 AM   #26 (permalink)
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This reminds me of what happened with the Fallout series. It was potentially dead like B&W there was a mobile version being created. The rights to the game ended up with Bethesda and they decided to make a new version and shut down the mobile version completely. Just because a game is no longer supported doesn't mean it is dead, if a new version of B&W goes in the works (even if it on a different platform) I am sure Lionshead will not appreciate people running pirated copies of the game
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Old January 17th, 2012, 09:05 PM   #27 (permalink)
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^ Luckily Fallout series (old) was released by Interplay as a collection! Best $16 I ever spent! Put way more than 20 hours into Fallout 2, and if I didn't get so into it, I'd have just as much in Tactics (unfortunately, I get too worked up with it, carefully plotting my every move... takes too long lol).
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Old January 18th, 2012, 08:27 AM   #28 (permalink)
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That's a completely different issue. No one is "forcing" you - you could simply either wait for release in your locale, or pre-order it online from elsewhere if you were that desperate to play it rather than deprive the developers of the reward for their work. The issue here is a decade-old game, long out of both production and support, that the developer no longer even acknowledges.
That's not feasible in my case. Some shops here just tell me they won't get it because it seems not enough demand (a lot of new games have higher spec'd units in mind and there aren't many of those here), while others just plain never heard of the game.

And no, pre-order is not an option here because e-bay and similar sites don't deliver here. Heck even the biggest bank in our country doesn't support paypal.

Generally, I wait for 6mos to a year to see if shops will stock it, if not, then go ahead.

As to the OP's case, I reiterate, if the developer isn't making money of the game, I'd torrent that without waiting.
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Old January 18th, 2012, 09:04 AM   #29 (permalink)
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I find it difficult to believe that it is impossible to order a game online somewhere and have it shipped to you. You're telling me if you wanted Skyrim or Batman Arkham City, there is no way at all for you to legally purchase those games?
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Old January 18th, 2012, 09:06 AM   #30 (permalink)
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This reminds me of what happened with the Fallout series. It was potentially dead like B&W there was a mobile version being created. The rights to the game ended up with Bethesda and they decided to make a new version and shut down the mobile version completely. Just because a game is no longer supported doesn't mean it is dead, if a new version of B&W goes in the works (even if it on a different platform) I am sure Lionshead will not appreciate people running pirated copies of the game
Would they care if it was the original B&W? I mean does Maxis care right now if you pirate the Sims? They've got the Sims 3 and the Sims Medieval out now. The original Sims is archaic (although you can probably still purchase it legally so the point is kind of moot in that case). They'd care if you pirate Sims 3 or Sims Medieval and they should. But they're not making money or supporting the Sims at the moment.
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Old January 18th, 2012, 10:36 AM   #31 (permalink)
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I find it difficult to believe that it is impossible to order a game online somewhere and have it shipped to you. You're telling me if you wanted Skyrim or Batman Arkham City, there is no way at all for you to legally purchase those games?
There are legal ways, but ways which are very limited. For example, yes there are a few online order sites that deliver here, but I need to use a credit card. Problem is, to get a credit card here, i need to have a bond equivalent to somewhere between $2000-$3000 in the bank, separate from my own savings account, which being a med student at the moment I can't afford. The only remaining way at the moment is to find someone coming back from overseas and ask him/her to get one for me. However none of my acquaintances or relatives are coming back in the near future.

I got Skyrim, but so far haven't found Arkham City nor AC: Revelations in stores at the moment. So far they tell me they don't know yet if they will stock it.

All in all its more trouble for me to get a new game here than to torrent it. I do however try buy it as soon as its available (which can be anywhere between 3months to a year after release, I actually have never found a legit copy of Crysis 1 here, ever). After all, if I torrent it I don't get patches and other stuff for games like Starcraft and Skyrim.

For some of my friends who live outside of the capital, they torrent it because its more expensive to travel to the store than the game itself. Heck there are cities here with more than 200k in population but has never seen a Starbucks branch, let alone an updated game store.

EDIT: Just to make a point, if I want to order Arkham City for example, I need to seperate from almost $3000 in cash. The bond will stay in the bank untouched as long as my credit card is active, so lets say I give a $2000 bond which I will basically probably never see again. Then I have to pay for both shipping and the game itself. That's just robbery in my book, especially when I waited for Starcraft 2 for example. It just cost me $50 and around 3 month delay.
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Old January 18th, 2012, 12:30 PM   #32 (permalink)
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What country are you in? Just curious.
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Old January 18th, 2012, 10:14 PM   #33 (permalink)
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What country are you in? Just curious.
Philippines. Though its been about a month spent playing Skyrim last I checked if Arkham or AC: Revelations was available. LOL. I'll probably be checking again at the end of March, since I really can't play much due to school at the moment. But generally, games don't get released here at release date, and depending on demand, delay can reach up to a year. Mostly really the problem with buying legit games for me comes from that stupid bond my bank asks if I want to get a credit card.

EDIT: Now that I think about it though, the main difficulty comes from the stores themselves not really doing very well. While there are many rather well off families here, the majority of the population can't even afford to have a decent PC for gaming at home, and resort to playing in PC rental stores, who also don't really provide much decent rigs. My school use laptop outstrips the rental PCs performance by a mile, let alone if I compare them to my desktop at home. Outside school (my friends in school have similar dilemma, so we usually get out legit games near Christmas when relatives are coming home, and we torrent the rest of the year unless we find a legit copy), where I have some acquaintances in the neighborhood, or in church, some of them like puke rainbows when they see my laptop. Heck they don't even sell 4GB RAM sticks here, you'd have to order from overseas to even get one, so its not possible for many people to go over 4GB RAM (using a couple of 2GB sticks).

The most popular games here are like 5 year old games or more recent ones but less demanding on resources, generally Warcraft, DoTA, AC2, LoL, Ragnarok, HoN, the like. And gaming in general is frowned upon here.

Games like Portal 2, Crysis, SC2, Skyrim, Arkham aren't very popular mainly because the mainstream population either don't have a PC, or their PCs aren powerful enough to run it. Those who have money to buy powerful PCs on the otherhand, don't game much. My parents don't believe in credit cards since it creates debt, and as a student I still can't afford one LOL.

Lets just say for every 10 persons here, 4 don't own a PC, 4 does have PCs but arent powerful enough to run such more recent games, and the last 2 are pulling their hair out in annoyance why they can't find the games they want here.
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Old January 21st, 2012, 02:08 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Here's how the moral compass spins in my head on the topic of Abandonware: Can you pay the developer? Yes? Then do so. No? Then download. Nobody's been sued for downloading games yet. They've done it on music, on movies, and adult film. And software, but mostly business-to-business and foreign countries, as opposed to individuals.

If you buy it from a third party, you're not buying it from the developer. The people who made the game aren't getting paid. There is no moral superiority in buying secondhand over pirating. The only difference is, the latter shafts people who have no right to profit from the sale. Oh, they have the right to try under the first sale doctrine, but they can't hit you up for costing them business, because they wanted $300 for a game they paid $10 for.

I have played the original Black & White. It's not very good. Then again, you and me may disagree on what makes a game good. It's Peter Molyneux, so you know it's made of hype and broken promises. Don't get me wrong, I respect the guy as a dev, but what he says and what his customers get are quite a far cry from one another, and, while they're fun at times, the Fable games are terrible games. They're beat-em-up games dressed up as RPGs, and they, Fable 2 in particular, seem to be marketed to children, but they have some very mature themes. Look, I'm a pretty open guy, but a game where your dog can dig up a condom, you can have a spouse of either gender in each town, and have unprotected sex (or protected, if you have a condom) with a partner of either gender should not have an art style that looks like a Disney movie. It just feels weird all around. Make it look more like Oblivion if you want adult themes. But enough about what I think about Lionhead and Molyneux.

Oh hey, did somebody say Fallout? For what it's worth, probably not much, but Bethesda won the lawsuit against Interplay. Surprise surprise, Interplay sold the franchise and wanted to renege on Bethesda. Stupid move. Anyway, Bethesda won full rights (I wanna say custody) to the franchise, including the first two come 2013. I'm thinking maybe Fallout 1 and 2 come to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, as well as re-released on Steam with some bonus content and, if we're lucky, some HD textures. I'm not talking about redoing them in the Fallout 3/New Vegas engine, but they could put a fresh coat of polish on them, just so they look good on HD monitors and TVs. I've played both Fallout 1/2 on XP and Win7, never actually finished either, and they take some work.

Also, check Good Old Games (GoG) for B&W and the Fallouts, if you haven't already. Their releases Just Work in XP/Vista/Win7. Maybe shoot them an email, see if they can work with Lionhead on a re-release of B&W. Most of what they sell are old games.
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Old January 22nd, 2012, 09:41 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Nice, I was following the Beth v. interplay suite for quite a while, then stopped (around the time my F2 character got stuck).

I can't imagine that those games would be too fun on consoles, I guess I'm just used to the mouse on this issue
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Old February 9th, 2012, 10:12 AM   #36 (permalink)
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as well as re-released on Steam with some bonus content and, if we're lucky, some HD textures. I'm not talking about redoing them in the Fallout 3/New Vegas engine, but they could put a fresh coat of polish on them, just so they look good on HD monitors and TVs. I've played both Fallout 1/2 on XP and Win7, never actually finished either, and they take some work.

Also, check Good Old Games (GoG) for B&W and the Fallouts, if you haven't already. Their releases Just Work in XP/Vista/Win7. Maybe shoot them an email, see if they can work with Lionhead on a re-release of B&W. Most of what they sell are old games.
There is a high resolution patch for fallout 1 and 2 makes both the game looks great on modern displays the 2D art looks fantastic in high resolution. Its pixel based like windows desktop so the higher you set it the more you see onscreen at once given the original was only running at 640x480 running at modern pc resolutions you get a huge zoomed out overview of the maps vs the claustrophobic default view. Text and ui also scale down in size so its harder to read the text but you can also set it to a lower resolution then your native resolution if its to small still looks alot better and infact I had to at one point during fallout 1 as setting it to my native rez 1920x1200 broke one of the essential quest in fallout 1 when your in the sewer my character couldn't walk to the edge where you find the water chip. Also for fallout 2 the restoration mod besides fixing bugs left in the game adds alot of new content(6 whole new locations as well as new quest,characters, and items in existing locations) that was supposed to be in the game but interplay didn't have time to complete so they left it out.

Fallout 1 high Resolution mod
Fallout 2 High Resolution mod
Fallout 2 restoration mod
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Old February 9th, 2012, 10:26 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Now as for the original question I agree with the sentiment that old games that have gone out of print and aren't available for purchase for a reasonable price online and the only option is overpriced new copies/secondhand copies that won't benefit the original devs I don't see much shame in downloading it through other means. If the game ever gets released on gog and you enjoyed it then you can buy it to from there show your support will only cost $10 at the most.
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Old February 10th, 2012, 01:55 AM   #38 (permalink)
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So I went back to the PC store and they had a big ass poster of AC Revelations! Cool! But they still don't have stock, good think I still have a couple of months before summer here to wait for a legit copy (school takes up to much time). Unfair distribution of games in Third World countries actually do increase the levels of piracy.
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Old February 10th, 2012, 04:26 AM   #39 (permalink)
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So I went back to the PC store and they had a big ass poster of AC Revelations! Cool! But they still don't have stock, good think I still have a couple of months before summer here to wait for a legit copy (school takes up to much time). Unfair distribution of games in Third World countries actually do increase the levels of piracy.
Even in here in the U.S stores have very limited selection of PC games and are those they do carry are usually overpriced. So I just buy all my PC games digitally on steam or a physical copy on amazon. Of course here its much easier to pay online here even without a bank account or credit card you can buy prepaid visa giftcards for $25-$100 to buy games online with which is what I used to do when I was younger. If all I had was retail stores to rely on it would be hard to get all PC games I want besides the most mainstream ones and alot of games would be impossible to get since there download only.

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