Preservation and legacy etc

So I’ve been wondering - with the move towards browser-based games and server-side games becoming more and more of a trend in games in general, with all the attendant issues about preserving games for posterity (i.e. pretty much anything with DRM or that requires a corporate server and a net connection cannot be feasibly legally archived) are there any concerns regarding preservation of IF?

I know the IF archive does a wonderful job, but certain new technologies concern me (from an archiving standpoint - I speak as an old man who likes to have physical copies of games usually). Are there any IF systems that would be particularly had to preserve in the future?

(Disclaimer - I’m aware lots of people love Steam and don’t share my dislike of digital gaming and DRM and I have no issue with that)

I don’t think nowadays anyone has any major concern for preservation (backwards compatability is also an issue in most places, though thankfully not IF). Which I find extremely worrying. The emphasis is on “is it playable online?”. The concern over “Can it be downloaded and played offline” seems to be mostly gone.

In my own little way I am fighting this with my online-available collection which should be very comprehensive indeed. It includes the browser-based games I was able to download. It’s a synchronised mirror of the collection in my hard-drive (minus commercial titles) which is backed up in DVDs as well, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon if I can help it.

This is something I worry about, especially with Twine games that are self-hosted by the authors. I don’t have a brilliant idea about how to address it, but had been vaguely thinking this might be a good topic for a future theoryclub discussion; or/also that there might be some way of creating an incentive towards archiving.

(Archiving of commercial games, iOS games, etc., is a whole other ball of wax for which I have no ready solution.)

If it helps, I keep on top of Twine releases - anything on their usenet, or their forum (in the appropriate board), or, or announced here or in PlanetIF, I download. The vast majority of Twine games are playable offline, even more so now that Twine is able to incorporate images into the actual game file.

Embedding external files, of course, is another matter. That content will be lost eventually.

I’m not sure commercial games can be archived. They will eventually either turn Abandonware or be lost in the ether. The purpose of an archive is for everyone to go in and experience it, and by definition you can’t do that with commercial games unless you buy them, turning you into your own one-person archive.

iOS games is even worse - it’s all centralised by Apple in some way, isn’t it? Tied to iTunes, to your device, to all these things. The best you can hope for is that they stay in the iTunes store. I mean, I can get the .ipa files for the iOS games I buy, but I can’t share them, can I?

…can I?

That looks seriously awesome. Nice one. :slight_smile:

I am still very much of the “can I download it and play it if my internet connection goes down” (which it does, a lot) persuasion.

@emshort - Twine in particular is a concern to me for archiving purposes and also for future compatibility.

The zmachine seems to be a de facto standard and is very well known and supported, specially now with parchment implemented in javascript. The same goes to glulx, which is basically a 32-bit extension of it.

Other authoring systems not compiling to it have a harder time. There may be AGT games in the ifarchive, but it’s increasingly difficult to play those and indeed some day may require a full 386 and DOS emulator to run them. Which only goes on to show how right and prophetic were the designers of the zmachine to compile their games for an abstract machine for IF.

Twine games that don’t embed external content are self-contained HTML files, and the only thing that might make them hard to view in the future would be some future compatibility break with JavaScript, HTML or CSS. I think they’re fairly safe. Embedding YouTube content, of course, means your game might be missing that content six months from now, but a lot of Twine pieces are purposefully ephemeral anyway.

You can actually convert them with agt2agx. I think it’s in the Tools and Interpreters section of my collection, along with a windows AGX interpreter.

But in some games this strips away some effects. Still, DosBOX is easy to set up. :wink: And there are so many DOS games, it’s a necessity.

I am reminded of that brilliant game/piece Endling Archive. One never knows what might be missed in the future. True, a lot of Twine games are, as you say, purposefully ephemeral, but who knows what might be relevant at a later time? What might strike a chord in someone later on? And in the end, that general loss, even if it’s meant to be ephemeral - isn’t that a tragedy of its own, that someone’s creation got completely lost in the ether?

You can’t share them now, but please do keep those files around somewhere. In a couple of decades you’ll be helping people set up something like this.

Yeah, to be clear my concern is not “how can we play Twine games in the future?” but “are Twine authors even aware that they could be doing permanent archiving?”

Ah. I had misunderstood that.

I was under the impression they didn’t really care about permanent archiving - well, most of them, anyway. The ones that do - usually the ones doing the technically more complex stuff - seem to provide zipped files to the ifarchive. If it’s lack of awareness, maybe an active twine author could soldier that discussion within the twine community?

I mean, the ones that link to external content clearly don’t care, period. They are happy that their game can be played here and now. That is the sort of mindset I associate with the Twine community, games that can be played in the here and now, no fuss, open your web browser, play it, see the content, don’t worry about anything. Twine is a very immediate tool and it seems to have this effect on authors - as long as it works right here and now, what’s the problem?

I don’t think this is bad, of course. Just quite interesting.

Well, it’s not necessarily a lack of caring as much as a tradeoff. If you want your game to incorporate video, Youtube embedding from Twine is really easy to do, and really accessible, and you know it will work fine on a lot of browsers; to some authors that’s surely worth more than being able to fully control the content and knowing it will still be available in ten years.

And therefore they don’t care about archiving, or at least they don’t care as much as getting the finished product out there. :slight_smile:

You see, I don’t meant “they don’t care” in a negative way. I just mean, literally, that it is not a worry that they have - much as you described. In retrospect, “not caring” is probably not the best choice of words, it has negative connotations. I assure you I didn’t mean any of them; just that it is not something they concern themselves with.

Well, I just mean they might care, they might just not care as much as they care about getting it out there, yeah.

If (basic) Twine output is just an HTML file, then wouldn’t a Waybackmachine scrape of the game be enough to enshrine it into perpetuity?

But they’re not hosted all in the same place, though is a great place to “enshrine”. If they were, yeah, it’d be easy to keep track.

I tend to be on the side of authorial control. It’s easy enough to take down a drunken facebook picture or inappropriate Youtube rap video or ranting blog post that embarrasses you years later, and it should be the same with Twine or any other type of free game. If there’s a way to archive where the author can decide to remove their work, that’s awesome. If it’s somebody else deciding that your work should be permanent, then I’m not so much a fan.

Can’t Twine projects be zipped and uploaded to IFArchive? At least if the author is interested in preserving them.

They can, yeah. I suppose all I’m really suggesting is that it might be nice to do a little bit of outreach/PR and encourage authors to do that, if they’re interested.

This is something I worry about too. I have chatted a bit with Chris Klimas about it. He’s put some information on the Twine site. For example, the wiki front page ( suggests making an IFDB entry and uploading to the IF Archive.

It might be worth talking to the people who run If it included both download and play as default options, that would go a long way.

This is ultimately up to the authors, of course. I too would like to do more outreach, but…

  • On the one hand, the Twine community is looser and more varied than the bunch of us who take the Archive for granted.
  • And this is on purpose. Heterogeneity is a thing for them.
  • But I’d say that our IF community circle largely exists because of the Archive. Our sense of what we do is shaped by having a permanent history to reflect on. Twine users may not be aware of this. Maybe it’s something they’d buy into if they knew.
  • But maybe not. To some extent, there’s a Twine community value of not needing a community to validate their work. (No, this is not self-contradictory.)