CD-ROM Compilation Search Engine

Set Side B often verges into adjacent tech areas, especially for older software, especially when those areas happen to contain a lot of games. This is just a note that the always-great Jason Scott of the Internet Archive has a great post about Discmaster, which is hosted at the IA, and is a search engine into the contents of a bunch of old CD-ROM file compilations. Many of these were shareware collections put out by companies like Walnut Creek, intended in the age immediately before the internet to put out collections of shareware, but sometimes bundling freeware, or libre-free software.

The error, presented in class Web Gray and Times New-Roman.

Some of these files are very hard to find on the wider internet. When I visited Discmaster myself it was down for an upgrade (it’s a bad sign when your filesystem runs out of inodes) but I look forward to scouring its archives often in the future!

DiscMaster (Internet Archive)

David Wonn’s Game Glitches

We’ve been feeling a yen for the Old Web here lately, where someone with a particular area of interest and the time and effort to tell the world about it could create a site that could attract hundreds of readers, and become the hub of discussion around that topic.

The internet seems to have largely left the era of the personal obsessive website behind, in favor of videos and social media. I find this a huge tragedy, as the flat HTML page is still a very useful method of communication. Straight static HTML doesn’t rely on backing scripts or content management engines so there’s a lot less to break, and there’s a much smaller attack service for nefarious entities. (If one wanted to make a site like that there are even tools to help you out, like the Python package Jekyll.)

David Wonn’s glitch site is legendary in speedrunning circles, having been mentioned in various Youtube videos as the source of some prominent tricks. (One of them is this video on Mario Kart 64 tracks that have not yet been broken.)

The last update mentions having trouble with Yahoo’s hosting. The site has several dead links to Geocities sites, and I believe it was one of the sites lost in the Geocities Shutdown, part of Yahoo’s long, slow deterioration. The current version is a mirror hosted by kontek.net, which also maintains several other vintage gaming sites. Thank frog for them!

Why did it stop updating? Well it had a good run; it lasted eight years, and anyone’s allowed to move on from their old interests. I’ve said before of other sites and it applies to this one as well, it’s a miracle that it persists, and I hope that it lasts a thousand years.

David Wonn’s Unique Video Game Glitches

Oldweb: GameSurge

You may believe this or not as you please, but I actually don’t have much use for nostalgia. Some reminiscing about what once was is okay, but it’s very easy to take it too far, and verge off into ridiculous things like, say, claiming that casting a woman as the lead in a movie in a freakishly popular sci-fi film franchise is somehow retroactively ruining your childhood. We have no truck with that.

Zalman certainly got their money’s worth from that sponsored review on the front page, it’s probably been there for 19 years.

But we do try to recognize when things really were better. Not to devolve into the kinds of rhetoric our cave-dwelling co-blogger uses, the internet is easily seen to be in a less useful, less interesting state these days. Where it was once easy to Google up a plethora of simple freeware tools for most purposes, now rampant SEO and adverse purposes has made finding even simple tutorials for most computing tasks a maze of scams, farmed content, and even bots. When you do find something, more than likely it’s in the form of a YouTube video. A world of bloggers has largely been superseded, or at least made difficult to find by Google’s accursed algorithms and by social media and Stack Overflow, and a universe of fansites is being pushed into obscurity by Wikipedia’s sleezy cousin Fandom.com. And whatever you thought about the AIM/Yahoo/MSN instant messaging triumvirate, at least they didn’t lock off substantial content from the wider internet within a constellation of Discord servers.

I won’t claim that the older internet was better in every way (anyone remember ubiquitous pop-up ads?) but the lost hopefulness of it is tragic. Set Side B, in its way, hopes to rekindle some of that.

A contributing factor to the decay of the web is the cost in maintaining server space and connectivity. If you want to keep something up, someone has to pay money to run the internet connection, to store the site, and to pay your service provider for an IP address and the registrar for a domain name. Even fairly big sites like our dear departed ancestor GameSetWatch have vanished from the living web, now findable only by wandering the dim shadowlands of the Wayback Machine, and it’s foolish to think that even that will be around forever.

GameSetWatch was backed by UBM Media, now owned by an entity with the perfectly dystopian name Informa. You’d think they would have the pockets to preserve such a fondly remembered part of their legacy, but no.

“Ahead of the Game”

This is what makes me so pleased that GameSurge survives. I found it, like I did the subject of Monday’s post on the Interton VC 4000, by perusing the results of alternative search engine Wiby, which prioritizes sites with simple designs, on the grounds that they’re more likely to have interesting content. I’m not sure such an approach will scale with popularity, as it seems just as vulnerable to SEO optimizing as Google’s current mobile-friendly regime, but for now at least I’m finding it useful.

GameSurge is not an up-to-the-moment gaming news site. In fact, GameSurge currently hosts an article enthusing about the upcoming Dreamcast game Eternal Arcadia. As near as I can tell, not a byte has changed on the site since around 2005, and that’s just a late updating column. They don’t even acknowledge the existence of the Playstation 2.

And yet, it survives. Someone is still paying the bills. Someone still cares enough to keep the domain name up. It remains, frozen in amber, as it was back in pre-Gamecube days. The site doesn’t even have a favicon. It’s beautiful.

And like all beautiful things, it’s doomed. No one is going to resurrect this site and inhabit it again with new content. If they did, they’d have to change its design to convince Google to give it rank, which would ruin the charm. Whoever keeps it going, they will eventually give up pretending it’s a living thing and turn off the life support. When the lights go out it’ll be a sad day, but not an unexpected one.

So please, enjoy its old-school design sensibilities while you still can. Read their PC gaming strategy guides from the year 2000, and their arcade guides too. Take about two minutes to read their crappy review of Sonic Adventure. Check out their interviews with old PC industry figures, which may actually be a useful resource. There’s also the “Game Guy” column by Mike Walker, which seems to have survived for a while after the demise of the main site; its last article went up in 2005. And peruse its reviews of PC titles like Baldur’s Gate and Black & White.

And when you’re done, why not load up on much more recent gaming news from 1up.com and Joystiq? Geez, with such terrific site names I’m amazed no one’s bought them up and fleshed them out anew. Wait. I’m someone! I could do it! Let me make a call…. Hello? Engadget? I hear you have this domain name you might want to unload. I’ve got… um, 36 cents. Hello? Hello?

Did World War III ever get released? (checks) It did! And it’s on Steam! Cool?