BIG NEWS: Wing Commander I Source Code Archived! (August 26, 2011)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Thanks to an extremely kind donation from an anonymous former EA/Origin developer, the source code to the PC version of Wing Commander I is now preserved in our offline archive! Because of our agreement with Electronic Arts, we're not allowed to post recovered source code for download--but rest easy knowing that the C files that started it all are being kept safe for future reference. Our offline archive contains material that has been preserved but which can't be posted, including other source code and budget data from several of the games.



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Original update published on August 26, 2011
 
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Death Angel

Rear Admiral
Well, I think it's cool that it get's preserved and won't get lost.

Which brings us to the point why they don't want the code to become public - it's more than 20 years old by now...
 

Oggy

Rear Admiral
I would imagine it is because they are selling WC1 again?
Anyways, awesome that its archived for the future. Having the source code is a pretty big thing.
 

Flashpoint

Rear Admiral
Great and slightly frustrating news.
Great the it is being archived, but frustrating that it is not for the public to look at. It would help immensley with my Wing Commander editor. There's still so many bits in the save files that I don't know what they do.
 

sol_hsa

2nd Lieutenant
We have an interesting legal case here though to which I'd love to hear some answers to.

If you have a published piece of art, it has a certain copyright date and once some time has passed, the artwork becomes public domain (in theory, at least). But here we have some NON-published works of art, namely source code. There are other cases like these too. Will the source code ever enter public domain? What if the company that owns said code doesn't exist anymore? What exactly are the legal ramifications of "abandonware" source code?
 

Darkmage

Vice Admiral

Quite simply, I'd expect the source code will never get released. Not now that EA has figured out they can make money reselling 20-30 year old games on Playstation Network/Xbox Live arcade, and people will keep forking over the money for them :) It's going to go down the same way as Hollywood: next disc format = re-release. Copyright already covers the work for 90+ years after the author's death, and the next time Disney need to extend it they will. The concept of public domain is pretty well dead in political circles. The only groups supporting ending eternal copyright/shortening IP timeframes are non business groups, like the pirate party in Sweden. Sad since the US constitution strictly forbade eternal copyright:


"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

The interests involved have too much money at stake to not defend their positions. It's not that EA are bad people or anything, they're just Joe's doing their jobs and their lawyers are telling them that the best way to make money is to not release stuff like this. Everyone has similar choices they make in their lives. The best we can probably hope for is that EA will either use the source code to patch bugs in the game (dream on). Or that by some miracle someone inside EA decides to take after John Carmack, I won't be holding my breath on that ;) It's sad, but that's the reality.
 

hurleybird

Rear Admiral
The source code isn't the same as the actual game content though. There are tons of old games that have source ports -- quite a few of them on GOG -- that still require the original game files to play. Giving out the source does not mean giving out the game, and could even make the game more attractive for buyers.

In any case, the fact that they let CIC archive the source code in the first place at least shows they are open minded!
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Not now that EA has figured out they can make money reselling 20-30 year old games on Playstation Network/Xbox Live arcade, and people will keep forking over the money for them


Oh man, that would be great.
 

sol_hsa

2nd Lieutenant
The source code isn't the same as the actual game content though. There are tons of old games that have source ports -- quite a few of them on GOG -- that still require the original game files to play. Giving out the source does not mean giving out the game, and could even make the game more attractive for buyers.
Now, the trick is to make the people who are sitting on tons of old game licenses realize this. After I did the Death Rally port, Remedy got the iphone version going, and it's apparently been a pretty successful title.

In any case, the fact that they let CIC archive the source code in the first place at least shows they are open minded!
As far as I understood it, "they" did not "let" CIC do anything, but some anonymous former origin programmer did. So, we're legally deep in the grey area.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
In this case, the source code was provided by a third party. The offline archive was started in the first place, though, so we could work with EA's material that they didn't want made available online (which included the Wing Commander III source and a mess of budget documents).

EA doesn't *have* the source code for most of the old games, though. My big hope in advertising (and eventually creating a finding aid) will be they can contact us should they need it in the future.
 

sol_hsa

2nd Lieutenant
I know of several cases where the company does not have the source code (or other assets), but refuses to answer to any queries regarding the legal rights. In some cases the original design team would want the sources to be released, but through several mergers the rights have ended up in the pocket of someone who doesn't know or care about them, and simply refuses to communicate (possibly fearing loss of something valuable or becoming liable for lawsuits or something).
 

Darkmage

Vice Admiral

Funnily enough one of the uses for old game source that has been popular recently has been HD rereleases of old titles. Like the street fighter 2 Turbo HD remix edition. and Digger HD/Lemmings/Worms on PS3. I think HD remakes of old games have been happening because people don't want to play crufty looking old games on 1080p/720p consoles attached to 1080p HD TVs. Metal Gear Solid is a good example of this. All the early games are available on playstation network but they are still making a HD remake pack, probably because the PS1 copies haven't sold well enough. There are a lot of PS2 franchises undergoing this at the moment, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Tomb Raider, just to name a few. There has been no evidence that EA is interested in doing this however. It's a little surprising since a game like Theme Hospital or Theme Park would be a natural fit/perfect contender for that sort of upgrade.
 

cff

Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi
We have an interesting legal case here though to which I'd love to hear some answers to.
If you have a published piece of art, it has a certain copyright date and once some time has passed, the artwork becomes public domain (in theory, at least). But here we have some NON-published works of art, namely source code.

I don't think there is legally any difference between published pieces of art and unpublished. Its just usually imposible to get unpublished works of art at all so how would you get them into public domain? You cannot for a company to hand out any code, unfinished software, ... as soon as they are out of copyright.
Not that it matters. By the time rights expire the software probably won't run on anything anymore.
 

sol_hsa

2nd Lieutenant
I don't think there is legally any difference between published pieces of art and unpublished.
The copyright year is based on publication. How can you tell it's NN years from publication if there was never a publication?
What about books that are posthumously published? Not really comparable because companies "die" in different ways than people.. and in most cases there are folk who have inherited the unpublished works and thus own the copyright when the work is published, etc..

Not that it matters. By the time rights expire the software probably won't run on anything anymore.
Except for people like me who care about the cultural side of it, and love to tinker with old code to get it run on modern systems.
 

Goliath

Rear Admiral
Good discussion here! Hey Loaf - do you know if the source provided to you was the original DOS version or the Kilrathi Saga port (or maybe both)?
 
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