Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

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MrFlibble
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Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by MrFlibble » March 22nd, 2013, 10:13 am

Aethra Chronicles is a DOS shareware fantasy RPG which was supposed to be released via the Scott Miller model (with three episodes, only the first of which would be freely distributable), however for some reason only the first episode ("Volume One") was released.

Now, there's information to suggest that this only episode exists in two forms, the unregistered shareware version and the registered version that supposedly has some extra content/allows to adventure further or something along those lines. Here's what people say about the registered first episode:
aethra wrote:The first episode was released in 1994 (v1.1 in January 1995): The shareware edition was distributed for free and presented the first 1/3rd of the storyline. If you wanted to play the entire game, you could buy the registered edition (for $25) and finish the complete first episode.
(I would pay $25 without hesitation, but the original developer's contact information is lost in the fog-of-time).
(source)

What's more, I've also encountered rumours that at some point, the author of Aethra Chronicles, Michael Lawrence, had released the full registered first episode as freeware via his website, but it had long since been taken down:
wvn897s9b77 wrote:This game was released as freeware by the author (Mike Lawrence) on his own website. The page no longer exists, but I own a copy of the full game somewhere, downloaded from that site. I was looking for his other game "Dungeons of Kairn", but I only found a slightly more updated shareware version that fixed some bugs (like the one that allowed characters to carry more than two weapons).

The site was a obscure one, I only found him through some old MTG judge archives (dating back from around 1998).
(source)

This is quite hard to verify because archive.org only has select snapshots of the sire from that time, and none of them seems to be from the period when the game was distributed (provided that the info on that is not a hoax).

The same user elaborates further:
wvn897s9b77 wrote:It was a long time ago, but as far as I remember, it was hosted at Earthlink.net. I've tried google cache, Earthlink and webarchive, but couldn't find it again. It took me years to find the site. The author, Mike Lawrence (Mike L.) used to be a Magic: The gathering judge around 1997-1998 (at the time of release of the Visions expansion set) and he participated in some old mailing lists of rules/judges. I think WotC has the archives stored somewhere. He had the link to his website on his signature, or maybe he only had his old e-mail account?
(source)

At any rate, the shareware version is available for download:

Shareware v1.0: AETHRA.ZIP
Shareware v1.1: AETHR11A.ZIP, AETHR11B.ZIP
Patch: APATCH.ZIP [not sure what it does, but it's not and update from v1.0 to v1.1]

Before Aethra Chronicles, Michael Lawrence released another role-playing game, called The Dungeons of Kairn, which is also available as shareware: KAIRN12.ZIP [v1.2]

[Edit] The freeware status of Aethra Chronicles is also discussed at the VOGONS Forums, apparently by the same user as I quoted above, but with some other details.

[Edit2] Review of the shareware version

Pixelfck
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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by Pixelfck » August 22nd, 2015, 8:06 am

I can maybe shed some light on the questions you raise on this game.

I've been playing this game for a long time... I first got hold of a shareware version of this game (on a shareware CD, which came with a magazine) around 1996. Then tried to buy a registered copy, but by then all the contact information which came with the game had already gone cold. I later got hold of a copy of the registered version of the game through some university's network of shared files. This copy was the registered edition of version 1.0b of the game (It turns out that this is the very same version that floats around the internet in various archives, zips and installers).

Since then, I've pieced together as much of its history as I could.

First, let's clear up some of the confusion about what was and what was not created:
The game was planned to be a series of three volumes. The first volume 'Celystra's Bane' was made and released; it contained three chapters: 'The Book of Prophecy', 'Gems of Power' and 'Demons Might'. As was typical with shareware games, the first chapter could be freely distributed, with the other two available only to registered users.

The second and third volumes were, unfortunately, never released.

So, how many versions where there?
Well, as var as I've been able to piece together, there have been (at least; 'the patch' indicates 2 other pre-versioning version) 6 released version. The first two releases don't have a version number yet, after that they are numbered 1.0a, 1.0b, 1.0c and 1.1. I'm sure that all those version existed in both a shareware edition and a registered edition, although I'm not sure the registered edition of each of those version was made public (that is, I'm not sure what version were send out to those who paid for it). I've confirmed that the registered edition of at least version 1.0b, 1.0c and 1.1 have been released.

I'm by now pretty sure that the only registered edition available on the internet is a much redistributed copy of a single person's registered edition, a version 1.0b. As also mentioned on the source page you quote your first quote from, this version contains a crippled last dungeon. Given the nature of the flaw, one might speculate that it is intentional; maybe as an early edition of frustrating those who played pirated copies? Or maybe it is just coincidence.

Then, the big question: is it Freeware?
I do not believe so. I've seen the claim on both mobygames.com and the Vogons website, but it is just that: an unverifiable claim. What's more, the registered edition of the final released version of the game (v1.1) is not available on the internet, which does not support the claim of Freeware if you ask me.

It can definitely be labelled as completely abandoned by its creator though (which does not void its copyright). So far, nobody seems to have been able to track down Michael Lawrence. Which is a shame really; I would love to ask him some questions about this great game (and pay the well deserved registration fee).

If you want to know more, please send me a P.M.

Cheers,
Pixelfck

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MrFlibble
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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by MrFlibble » August 22nd, 2015, 11:52 am

Pixelfck, thank you for sharing this information, and welcome to the forums!

developertn
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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by developertn » September 4th, 2015, 11:27 pm

Hey. I have 30 more minutes to my anniversary as a programmer and figured I download to check out others' works. It seems there's some problem corrupt files or rather. :) :oops:

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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by MrFlibble » September 5th, 2015, 10:55 am

Hey, you're right, the gamers.org download link didn't work for whichever reason. I fixed that. Thanks for reporting.

I've also quickly checked the game itself, and surprisingly it does not work in DOSBox SVN Daum. However, both v1.0 and v1.1 work fine in vanilla DOSBox v0.74 and the EmuCR SVN build.

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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by developertn » September 5th, 2015, 11:37 am

I tried the 1.1 and it seems cool. Not sure if I unpacked it right since I could find the second disk. However text combat seems like a cool concept. Thanks for the

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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by Pixelfck » September 21st, 2015, 12:43 pm

I've (finally) published most of the information I have on this game as website:
http://netsilik.nl/Aethra/.

I'm sure it is not complete and would be happy to receive any comments or additional information.

Cheers,
Pixelfck

developertn
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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by developertn » September 21st, 2015, 9:03 pm

Jesus! My mother and I met someone with the last name of Lawrence. I'll have to see if I can check this out the next chance I get. Thx.

Honours to my real dad Nguyen Binh Thuy for being a helicopter pilot who is at peace with my real mother Huong Thi Vu who is also at peace for the rest of our lives.

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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by developertn » September 21st, 2015, 9:18 pm

God, Jesus Christ, is number one!hehe
Jesus Christ!hehe

Bless God, then bless my real mom Huong Thi Vu#!!

Honours to my real dad Nguyen Binh Thuy!!!!!
Honours to my real mom Huong Thi Vu!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love to my real sisters: Nguyen Khoa Thi, Nguyen Khoa Thuyen.

Okay I've just checked out the first download shareware and it is a good one. It all installed right with sound too. Great work to Michael W. Lawrence and crew. A little scary with the monster however. :D

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MrFlibble
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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by MrFlibble » September 22nd, 2015, 1:20 pm

Pixelfck wrote:I've (finally) published most of the information I have on this game as website:
http://netsilik.nl/Aethra/.
Thank you!
developertn wrote:Okay I've just checked out the first download shareware and it is a good one. It all installed right with sound too.
Glad to hear that the game installed and works fine for you!

However, could you please put the "information" part of your messages first and the honours part after it? Otherwise you may be confusing your readers.

developertn
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Re: Aethra Chronicles: Freeware?

Post by developertn » September 22nd, 2015, 2:58 pm

God, Jesus Christ, is number one.
Jesus Christ!

I will try to keep that in mind for you.

Bless God, then my real mom Huong Thi Vu; they both taught me to be kind and giving when I have extra to spare.

Honours to my real dad Nguyen Binh Thuy; without him, I am sure I would never have become a programmer. I remember wasting my life away. Then one day in my real dad (Nguyen Binh Thuy) absence, the only way I could make it up to him is to go through with his "last words for me". He said if you can't be a Engineer, then if it is the last thing you do be a programmer who is in demand.

Honours to my real mom Huong Thi Vu; without her, I am sure I would not be kind to others. It is because of her that I give other games a chance. In fact, I have decided to keep this game on 1 DVD even though it is only under 24 MB. After all, DOS games do not take up much room.

Thank you to CLASSICDOSGAMES community.

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