So, we’ve managed ten years of this humble little site. We’ve never been quite as productive as the ideal I hold in my head, but we have in total churned out a lot of reviews of PC games from the past. I hope you’ve found our writing to be useful and interesting.

Anyway tho, Rik will have his own comments to mark the anniversary, but for now I’ll just remark on what the passage of a decade has meant for us as retro gamers. Some of this is our internal existential analysis, the rest a general comment on retro gaming.

Firstly, always hanging over us is the question, what are we classing as retro in the first place. Our criteria has generally (but not rigidly) become “1990 to 5-ish years ago”. As it stands today, that’s half the total span of PC gaming, and the fraction will always increase. It starts in the days where VGA graphics and sound-cards were only just coming into force, and ends in the kind of 3D graphics that are light years ahead of that, even if a bit dated compared to modern games.

That’s a very broad range. We’re now writing about “oldies” that would have looked astoundingly futuristic to our 2001 selves. Seriously, go remind yourself of the leaps from Wolfenstein 3D to Doom 3. Is a site based on anything not modern the same as a retro-gaming site? I do sometimes wonder if we need to narrow our focus. But to what, exactly? What would our cut-off year be? Tied to some particular development in technology, like the rise of 3D cards? Or just stick down an arbitrary year?

Also, even we nerds both only spend a certain amount of time a week gaming. And we don’t want to dedicate all of that to games over a decade old. We’ve never claimed to be solely interested in VGA games to the exclusion of more modern material. The way we do it now, we can write about a decent proportion of the games we play. Right now if we said, say “pre 2000 only”, the cut in output would be unacceptable.

There’s another, related matter: do retro- reviews themselves become dated? Is a 5-years-on retrospective on a game the same as 15-years-on? I think some of our reviews could stand more or less indefinitely. For example I don’t see our opinions on old point and click adventures being any different in 2020. However, what about say shooters or racing games? Although, re-visiting stuff we’ve already covered could get onerous, and would just further cut into new content. I might redo the likes of Descent one day, but I’m certainly not about to ask Rik to revisit anything.

All that aside, there are some other key changes in the retro gaming experience, that have occurred since I first bashed this site together. Which can be summarised as, “we’ve never had it so good”.

The first would be, for playing those genuinely old oldies, DOSBOX. When we first started, MS-DOS games were frequently a pain to run. You sometimes had to drop into DOS mode, then go fiddle with memory configurations. If you had already moved to windows 2000 or XP, you didn’t even have that option unless you got into dual booting. I recall with Lemmings 2 just giving up and playing the Atari ST version on an emulator.

What we needed really was an old-PC emulator. Which nowadays, is the service DOSBOX provides, making our lives so much easier. Even better, it’s an emulation of an idealised DOS PC – one that takes care of all the memory management and hardware divers. So unlike the bad old days, you don’t have to prat around with config.sys trying to free up 20k of conventional memory without losing the mouse.

The other key factor to arise is digital distribution, making many oldies easier to find. Where we used to have to tell you to go look on ebay, or rummage around the bargain bins or your local gaming store, we can frequently now give you just a link. We are of course huge fans of Good Old Games, which has an ever-growing range of 90s-to-early-00s material. Other services like Steam have some good choices, too.

Of course, this also means we’re less frequently pointing readers at Abandonware sites to find a download. Now, I don’t want to look like I’m shunning them too hard. (what’s left of them anyway – I get the impression there are less active sites than there used to be, and definitely less of a sense of community). We started off pretty much as a satellite to the Abandonware scene, providing reading material to inform peoples’ decisions as to what to download. We might not even exist if not inspired by it.

On the other, Abandonware is a concept that in an ideal world shouldn’t have to exist – these games would be available by legitimate means. Which is exactly what’s now gradually happening. I guess Abandonware sites have to move with the times – the better ones seem to be offering reviews of their own, supplementary materials like game music etc, and linking to GoG where possible. They’ll still have a role in providing games released as freeware, and also the really obscure titles that remain abandoned.

So. If I was launching a site based on writing about old PC games today, it could well be somewhat different. More of a focus on what you can get via GOG etc. But I don’t have any real radical changes in mind right now. Plenty of improvements we could make in the details, I guess. That can wait for another post.