Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Rescuing my Arcade Games

LanePainter - one of a series of Windows arcade games by Doug RossA couple of nights ago, I powered on an old Dell laptop (circa '96) I had laying around. It started Windows 95 just fine and I quickly realized that it had a series of five Windows arcade games I'd developed then as freeware/shareware products. I'd only distributed one of the games (CutOut, a Qix knock-off, which was one of the top game downloads on AOL), but all five were pretty good (if I may say so myself, and I guess I just did).

Well, I wanted to play them. And my kids, who'd grown up playing them, also begged to have them installed on their laptop. Thus began my journey, nay saga, to rescue my arcade games from an old, dying laptop.

Try 1: Flooooopy

The laptop had an integrated 3.5" floppy drive. I stuck a blank disk in and tried to copy. Error: device not ready. Tried another one. Same error. And another, with the same result. The floppy drive was working, but misaligned. I'm not exactly your prototypical hardware guru, so I decided to punt on the floppy route.

Try 2: Email

No problem, I'll just establish a dialup connection (I've always retained my AT&T Worldnet account from '94 - and am still proud of my three-letter email address In fact, I daresay my address is one of the shortest around. But perhaps I digress (ya think?).

Grabbed all of my AT&T account info from another machine and established a new dialup connection. Hooked up an old Hayes 56K external modem I had laying around. Got dialtone, dialed, connected. Oh sh*t, user-name and password rejected. Disconnect.

Try 3: Email, again

I tried every dialup connection option available and finally got a good connection to WorldNet going. I have no explanation for the series of authentication failures (the account info was the same throughout). Anyhow, I'll just fire up a browser, go to web-mail and email myself the ZIP file of games.

Hmmm, problem. Only Netscape Navigator 3 is installed on this antique. I fire it up anyway and see if AT&T's web-mail site will come up. Ugh... it can't seem to resolve the AT&T domain name. On another machine, I resolve the IP address of the site, and try the raw IP in the antiquated browser. Nothing. No response. I open up a DOS window and ping the site. I'm able to get raw IP packets through (so I know the IP stack is functional), but for some reason the browser won't connect.

Just for the heck of it, I check its settings to see if a proxy had been configured back in the day. Nada. All settings look good.

Try 4: FTP

Okay, maybe a browser isn't the best approach. Besides, I don't think Navigator 3 would even survive a brush with the latest DHTML and Javascript, so maybe it's just as well.

FTP! I open up a command-line FTP session with a server. Connects fine. Then I submit a command to upload the ZIP in binary with hash characters on, so I can see progress. After a few minutes of frozen nothingness, I cancel that out.

Try 5: FTP, again

Thinking I might have a memory issue -- meaning lack of memory, after all, this is an old box and just running Navigator is probably taxing it -- I shut everything down except the command window. Fire up FTP again. Ahhh, that's better, I'm able to upload the ZIP file at a blistering 28K baud. Saaahweeeeet. Argh! After about half of it is uploaded, the FTP just drops. Stops dead. And several retries don't do any better.


So I managed to grab half of the ZIP file. A quick injection of pkzipfix cured the ZIP file enough to salvage the game binaries, but not the source. Maybe I'll try the process again later, after I grow a little more hair back out. Anyhow, here's the full suite of arcade games.

Game name Similar arcade game
CutOut QIX - fill in the blank space while avoiding nasties
LanePainter Pac*Man - paint all lanes without slamming into traffic
MazeKing Nothing - try to solve the maze without getting eaten
RobotHunter Space Invaders - same general game play
WallSmasher Breakout - similar game play to Breakout 2

Feel free to email me for distribution details :-). A screen-shot of LanePainter, above, should only whet your appetite!

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