An anonymous reader quotes a report from 404 Media: Historically, video game preservation efforts usually cover two types of games. The most common are very old or “retro” games from the 16-bit era or earlier, which are trapped on cartridges until they’re liberated via downloadable ROMs. The other are games that rely on a live service, like Enter the Matrix’s now unplugged servers or whatever games you can only get by downloading them via Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel, which shut down in 2019. But time keeps marching on and a more recent era of games now needs to be attended to if we still want those games to be accessible: indies from the late aughts to mid twenty-teens. That’s right. Fez, an icon of the era and indie games scene, is now more than a decade old. And while we don’t think of this type of work until we need it, Fez, which most PC players booted on Windows 7 when it first came out, is not going to magically run on your Windows 11 machine today without some maintenance.
The person doing that maintenance, as well as making sure that about 70 of the best known indie games from the same era keep running, is Ethan Lee. He’s not as well known as Fez’s developer Phil Fish, who was also the subject of the documentary Indie Game: The Movie, but this week Lee started publicly marketing the service he’s been quietly providing for over 11 years: maintenance of older games. “The way that I’ve been pitching it is more of like, the boring infrastructure,” he said. “Let’s make sure the current build works, whereas a lot of times, people feel like the only way to bring a game into a new generation is to do a big remaster. That’s cool, but wouldn’t have been cool if Quake II just continued to work between 1997 and now without all the weird stuff in between? That’s sort of why I’ve been very particular about the word maintenance, because it’s a continuous process that starts pretty much from the moment that you ship it.”
As he explains in his pitch to game developers: “the PC catalog alone has grown very large within the last 15 years, and even small independent studios now have an extensive back catalog of titles that players can technically still buy and play today! This does come at a cost, however: The longer a studio exists, the larger their catalog grows, and as a result, the maintenance burden also grows.” Just a few of the other indie games Lee ported include Super Hexagon, Proteus, Rogue Legacy, Dust: An Elysian Tail, TowerFall Ascension, VVVVVV, Transistor, Wizorb, Mercenary Kings, Hacknet, Shenzhen I/O, and Bastion. […] With the PC, people assume that once a game is on Windows, it can live on forever with future versions of Windows. “In reality, what makes a PC so weird is that there’s this big stack of stuff. You have an x86 processor, the current-ish era of like modern graphics processors, and then you have the operating system running on top of that and its various drivers,” Lee said. A change to any one of those layers can make a game run badly, or not at all.