The US government is considering DMCA exceptions for archived online games after all

    
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You made it sing, all right.

Back in 2015, an exception was made to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow for archival of aging video games that were otherwise inaccessible. This sort of exception needs to be periodically reviewed, it got a review, and no changes were made yet. That’s all very normal. But here’s the part that’s very relevant for fans of MMOs: the government is also considering whether or not that exception applies to online games that have been shut down.

Previously, it was ruled that the exception did not apply to games for which the majority of the data was stored on the hosting company’s servers, but the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment has put forth an argument that archiving these games and making them playable is an important preservation measure. It’s very important stuff if you’d like to hope for some of these older games to be kept around in some form for the future.

Source: Gamasutra
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Noyjitat

This would be nice considering nobody has enough backbone to make an emulator for coh.

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Bývörðæįr mòr Vas´Ðrakken

So many people often have the code and even most of the assets, but it would really fall to the copy right office to a complete first live version of the mmo code base. How many copies of the game do you keep running.

I can see having a video game exhibit that show how American society went from frogger, pong, and pole position to M59, Ashron’s Call and Ever quest. But while the thin clients could be public facing and in essence be player’s home machine connected to a server that could be locked behind glass, as it would show off the steps to get from the end user to server and back. Might it might not be a better idea to emulate the client and server back end for display purposes while allowing people to see what the emulation code looks like and what the actual code it is emulating.

If there is say twenty emulation systems running an mmo version of mane using the code submitted to the copyright office, we would have an exhibit that showed that most of the games growing up for me were really cool box art and askii art in the actual game, that transitioned to very simply primitives. If people could walk and play the game with one side of the screen showing what the game looked like at launch and what the game looked liked when it sunsetted, it would show how the game industry is built on iterations not simply a make easy button.

The copy right office should in theory have a copy of the text or the code of every mmo sold in the united states. that should give you the assets as well, if the textures are only saved as jpeg or psd then converting them to shader code makes more sense so that while we retain the code as where we came from using the shaders to created what it actually looked like gives the most flexibility in letting visitors see how the games looked and felt with out have fifty servers and a thousand arcade machines through the museums.

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Denice J. Cook

I’d love to think this would mean a resurrection for CoX, but I doubt the law will expand to cover dead MMOs. They’re just too complicated, and most of their data too inaccessible by legitimate means.

For example, just because a US law was passed doesn’t mean NCSoft in South Korea would fork over their CoX server images or code. They’d probably just say they don’t have either one, anyway.

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Utakata

/sigh :(

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Schmidt.Capela

So, if I understand it correctly, you are already entitled to breaking the DRM of any out-of-catalog game you legally purchased if it’s needed in order to run the game, and the proposed extension will extend to reverse-engineering the server in order to keep sunsetted online games working. Nice.

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Jeffery Witman

Now the only problem is determining which version of a game gets preserved (or if all of them do). SWG is likely to be a favorite and there’s at least 3 or 4 points at which people would likely want to have it frozen (pre-CU, pre-NGE, pre-Hoth, final end game version). Eventually WoW will have the same issues since people are already pining for Vanilla wow, or WotLK WoW and it’s still going strong.

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jc1993

This probably wouldn’t apply to cases where the parent company claims the game is still active because it shares the same title, despite the players saying that it’s not the same game because an expansion changed it. coughworldofwarcraftcough

But for games that have actually been shut down, this could bring some lost hope.

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Tamanous

Ya I can see that loophole … and it’s total bull crap.

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Melissa McDonald

The day LOTRO shuts down, I will shed many tears. It’s been a part of my 20s. A big part of it, and a big part of my gaming life. Only EverQuest could compare. I think this is valuable, even important, although I realize these are first-world problems.

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Purewitz

I know and understand how you feel. I feel the same way about Star Wars Galaxies, Star Wars: the Old Republic, Star Trek Online, and DC Universe Online. Especially SWG, it was my first MMORPG ever and I played it from 2004 to 2011 (When it got shutdown.). Luckily a week later I had SWTOR to go to, but I never forgot SWG and it was still sad to see it go. Always wish that somehow both Star Wars games could have coexisted, but John Smedley and SOE didn’t want to take the chance. So they didn’t renew their licence with LucasArts. I serenely hope you and other Lord of the Rings fans don’t have to go through the same thing someday. If another Lord of the Rings MMORPG is made. Although its like you said… “first-world problems”.

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Noyjitat

there’s 3 nge servers out there to play on. So swg is always going to be around at this point. swglegends is the best of the 3 and even started adding world bosses and new things to do.

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Bryan Correll

My understanding is that the current law only requires exemptions for those games that have been “lawfully acquired as complete games” that required external server verification and the copyright owners are no longer providing such verifications. So even if it were expanded to include online-only games only those who already owned those games would be able to play under the exemption. And the “complete games” part is probably what online-only game makers use to argue against the exemption, as players never owned the server side code. I frankly would not expect a change in the rules, and if the rules were changed I would expect them to come with heavy restrictions.

Edit: And if the changes are made I wonder how things would fall out with the “Vanilla WoW” crowd who argue the game currently playable isn’t the game they paid for.

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Darthbawl

Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for AC2 to get the treatment is deserves and released to the public.

Yeah yeah, I know. But it’s Friday and I’m trying to think positive! :P

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MesaSage

Great idea. They can also put the servers up on pedestals in the middle of the museum floor where you can witness aging IT people sweating and swearing while they try to keep it running for handfuls of nostalgic players. I’d buy a ticket for that.

This would be a great way to provide for ongoing operation costs in lieu of lockboxes.

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BDJ

((Deleted by mod. Please review the commenting code.))

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

If SWG emulators are any indication of the amount of people that still want to play it, it’s well over 100 ;)

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Blazing Coconut

I wasn’t playing the game at the end, but that’s a really lousy comment to make. CoX was a profitable game by all accounts, with a pretty stable player base. There are lots of games that I never liked, but didn’t want to see them fail, because that’s someone’s home and community. Yes, they’re vocal but I think it’s good that companies might see some effects of shutting down a property, especially one that’s break even or better.

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Leiloni

Yes, they’re vocal but I think it’s good that companies might see some effects of shutting down a property, especially one that’s break even or better.

I have to disagree on that last statement. Companies need to be free to make decisions that are in their best interest so they can stay afloat. The last thing we need is people losing jobs because a few gamers couldn’t move on. Sure it’s sad, but I’d say the freedom to choose how you operate your company is far more important than forcing them to offer a service they no longer desire to offer. That slope can get very slippery very fast.

I’m not sure what exactly archiving entails, but it sounds like a very different scenario than what you’re suggesting. It’s preserving an art vs. punishing companies for doing what they feel is in their best interest. From what I can tell, trying to preserve game files doesn’t really have any major negative effects on the company who owned them. There’s no need for the sorts of “effects” your suggesting.

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Blazing Coconut

I’m not saying that they can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to do so. If the title doesn’t make money, then it’s in their interest to kill it. Both CoX and SWG were break even or better. At that point, it’s not a survival issue, it’s more of a branding or some other issue.

I do believe that causing pain to companies for those kinds of decisions is fine. They made a social contract by providing the game and space for money. There’s no legality for them to continue it, but I would say as long as they have a community supporting it (enough to keep it in the black) then they really should continue to provide for it.

Heck, Champions Online is still around, they just cut off dev support. It’s not that hard to keep something running. So while I see your point for a title that’s a resource drain. I don’t agree when the title recoups its costs.

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Jeffery Witman

I do believe that causing pain to companies for those kinds of decisions is fine. They made a social contract by providing the game and space for money. There’s no legality for them to continue it, but I would say as long as they have a community supporting it (enough to keep it in the black) then they really should continue to provide for it.

This is how it works with any other business. We have a ground in our town that runs restaurants. They’ve opened several good ones over the past decade or so, but each one ends up being closed by the owners with no notice to staff or customers, with people who made reservations or paid for events to be held there left in the lurch.

The first time it didn’t affect them too much. The second time they had terrible attracting and keeping employees that were competent. The third time they can’t even consider opening another place because the general public wants nothing to do with them.

Shoot down an operational game with an active community and you may as well tell potential customers that you don’t care about providing them with what they want.

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TheDonDude

Except that feedback from their customers is a vital way for companies to know which decisions are in their best interest.

Consider how many folks have looked at other NC Soft games and passed over it due to City of Heroes. It’s important that the company be aware of this, as it can make them change their mind in the future.

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Utakata

I think an irony gland just blew in my left pigtail…

“The last thing we need is people losing jobs because a few gamers couldn’t move on.”

The fact was no one was losing jobs over at Paragon Studios until NC pulled the plug on their game. Just saying.