Creating a DOS Game in 2018 and Emulating on the Internet Archive's MS-DOS Software Collection


A couple of years ago I found out that Archive.org had support for emulating MS-DOS programs and amazing archivists like Jason Scott were curating the MS-DOS Software Library on the site.

Now, if you've made an MS-DOS game or program of your own, you can upload the program on the site and other DOS enthusiasts will have the ability to use the DOS-based program on the browser. If you had an Internet Archive account, you could upload a ZIP file of the DOS program, fill out some meta data, and you're good to go.


A few weeks after your Internet Archive item goes live, a special bot will play your program and take screenshots for the thumbnails. It's all amazing. I've heard that they also have this feature for C64 and Apple II programs.

I thought it would be pretty interesting to create something that would be immortalized for the site. So I made my own MS-DOS game and called it "DEMO.EXE" so it would fit the canon of my current games. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be. Creating a game for modern PCs was way easier. Soon I was questioning why I was even doing this. I couldn't and didn't want to make a profit from it and one point I felt that I should have just released another game on Steam. I didn't want to take advantage of the the platform either, so I didn't put any outbound links on the page. As for the final product, well... gameplay wasn't the quality I had hoped, but story-wise I thought it was very unique and could stand out from other MS-DOS games.


To give the game some lore and to make it unique, I crafted a story about memory loops and how the game character initially thinks the game is being played in 1993 but realizes that she's been stuck in the game for 25 years. I put in "1993" in the game title screen but it was painfully obvious that this was a game that was created in 2018. In one self-aware scene, the character 'Sara Gentner' even says that "this isn't 1993 anymore" and the entire plot revolved around the fact that you were playing the game on the present day. The publication date used to say September 15, 2018 too. There were no real attempts to make it believable.

Of course, I doubt if any of AppSir's fans would believe anything we put out. Our Youtube channel, Twitter, and Instagram accounts had the AppSir company speaking in-character to how it would speak as the evil corporate villain it is in the games. We have documentaries, articles, and posts about haunted glitches in our games, sentient AI, rivers turning white when we were given the source code to our games, and our use of an extraterrestrial machine called "TriNemesis" to create our games. Anyone and everyone who has heard about AppSir knew that it was all in good fun and part of the meta experience that makes playing our games great.


Eventually, a fellow user put a review on the page pointing out that it was a game from 2018 and not a game from 1993 and had asked me to stop. I understood where that user was coming from but I still thought to keep it up on the site. My reasoning was that the age of the game didn't matter. New games, including DEMO.EXE were also now part of the curated MS-DOS Games Collection. I believed that archiving wasn't just for games that are more than 2 decades old and modern products deserve to be immortalized as they might become lost forever too. 

A week or two later, the same user put a comment on one of our Youtube videos that the same user soon deleted himself. The comment said "the game that you claim to be from 1993 is from 2018. Anybody with 3 brain cells can check and verify this" and I agree with that because I wasn't trying to trick anyone and it was purposely blatantly obvious and was part of the story. With the stuff we were posting about Youtubers getting haunted and ancient alien technology, us claiming that "DEMO.EXE is from 1993 but it's character, which is stuck in the game, is self-aware and knows that it's 2018" would be too ridiculous to believe and I thought everyone would understand what it was. However, that was a miscalculation on my part. He also called us "full of $#!+" and I felt that was a little uncalled for.

I looked at it from that user's perspective. He came across the game, saw the words "obscure MS-DOS Game from 1993" probably somewhere from within the site or in of our social media accounts. Despite story-line purposes, what he saw was that there's a game that someone posted on Archive.org and that someone is pretending that the game is old. When he saw that there were four reviews on the page from people claiming that they remember the game from childhood, he would have thought it wasn't right. In reality, those people were fans of the games and were playing along with the lore and the story-line.

After his deleted Youtube comment, I dug a little deep about the user and found out that he has been an avid user of the Internet Archive site for four years and a patron of other online retro technology museums. He also diligently posts scans of old game manuals and other media on the site and I fully respect that. Once I learned this, I couldn't blame him for his comments.

I understood where he was coming from and why he felt that DEMO.EXE didn't have a place on the Internet Archive. I hope he also eventually sees from our perspective our purpose for making the DOS game, why we felt it belonged in the MS-DOS collections on the site, and that we didn't mean any harm.

Though he was the only person to complain about DEMO.EXE, I appreciated his opinion because the Internet Archive and the retro computer era is something he was very passionate about. How else can he remember the game two weeks after seeing it? In the end, I opted to delete DEMO.EXE. I contacted Jason Scott, Jeff Kaplan, and the Internet Archive Team to ensure it was deleted as soon as possible. Though I faced hurdles making this game and it was something the fans enjoyed, it didn't feel right keeping it on the site if it would upset someone. That is not what I want anyone to feel about my games.

Now, DEMO.EXE is no longer canon to the AppSir Universe. I think some fans will be irked by this, but some movies have had bigger retcons than this and they turned out alright. We'll find a way to make up for this, don't worry. Let us now move on to bigger and better things and leave our old games behind. DEMO.EXE is now where it should be: in the past.

Darius Guerrero

Comments

  1. The way you handled those comments and recognized the other person's perspective is nothing short of admirable. I can certainly respect each decision you made regarding this little game. Keep up the great work. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Can you pls do demo.exe on android i like your videos be good
    Take care

    ReplyDelete

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