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It’s now possible to play early ‘90s CD-ROM games via ScummVM

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Project Starship’s frog cops out in force.

The ScummVM community has just made the early CD-ROM gaming era more accessible. For five years, multiple people have worked on making Macromedia Director games playable on modern hardware, and today, that work is done.

Director was a critical component of early CD games that failed to scale up as Windows advanced (and as software like QuickTime fell by the wayside). But playing Spaceship Warlock or the bizarre Japanese art piece Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong Nou is now possible on current hardware—without the use of specific emulators.

Time travel and killer robots at their most '90s.

Time travel and killer robots at their most ’90s.

Librarian, historian, and game archivist Phil Salvador, who runs The Obscuritory, tweeted about the project on Tuesday. “In many cases, the classic games you can purchase on platforms like GOG.com are being run through an emulator like DOSBox or ScummVM,” Salvador told Ars. “But because Director games use features of their operating systems like Windows 3.1 or external plugins like QuickTime, there’s been no clean, easy way to re-release those [games] on the commercial marketplace. As the ScummVM team continues to improve support for Director, there’s a good chance we could see some of these games on the market again.”

Beyond coding issues, CD-ROM games frequently used copyrighted music or art. Because so many of the games’ original publishers and developers shuttered over the past three decades, the legal hurdles standing in the way of re-releases might prove insurmountable. But that doesn’t mean the original hard copies stopped working for gamers looking to legally play their old software. Now there’s a means, even in a modern Windows/Mac environment.

Footage from the 1993 video game L-Zone.

Salvador is clearly enthusiastic about old games. Regarding Spaceship Warlock, Salvador wrote, “It’s the sort of game where you can order a drink at the bar, and the designers programmed in hundreds of possible options, just in case somebody tried to order Frangelico.”

This project isn’t only about games, though. “Director was used for so many things besides games, like digital magazines, educational programs, and experimental art like Laurie Anderson’s Puppet Motel,” wrote Salvador. “As ScummVM keeps improving support for Director, more of this software will be easier to run as well. This could have a big impact on software preservation beyond just games.”

The ScummVM team is trying to get later Director-based games to work as well. One Director-3 game, L-Zone, is already fully supported.



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