Proposal for DOS game package format

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Malvineous
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Re: Proposal for DOS game package format

Post by Malvineous » December 21st, 2015, 7:20 am

Yes I agree - trying to keep archivists happy while making games easy to play are two very different goals, so there will always be some drawback if a single proposal tries to cater for both.

I think a lot of people do not understand the purpose of the proposal - I posted about it at the DOSBox forum and was accused of trying to assist with game piracy - so I think the only solution is to implement it myself so that people can see for themselves how it will work. That of course takes time, so it is something that I would still like to do, but have to fit in with all my other projects!

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MrFlibble
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Re: Proposal for DOS game package format

Post by MrFlibble » December 23rd, 2015, 6:30 am

Malvineous wrote:was accused of trying to assist with game piracy
How could this be related to your proposal?

BTW, I did not think about this before, but your system probably will face competition from DOSBox frontend maintainers. I don't use any but IIRC there re several projects that are aimed at greater availability of DOS games to users not familiar with how the DOS prompt works.

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Malvineous
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Re: Proposal for DOS game package format

Post by Malvineous » December 24th, 2015, 3:17 am

Like I said, I don't think people understand what the proposal is for. I guess it would make it easier to distribute games, so if people choose to distribute registered versions then it would make that easier. But that's not the goal and it doesn't matter what you do, if you make anything easier then you also make it easier for those who choose to do the wrong thing.

I would like to think that DOSBox frontend maintainers would support the format, because it includes extra things like categories, icons and screenshots that only frontends could use. You would never see these if you used the command line. And there's nothing stopping these games from being imported into frontends (or games exported from a frontend into the .dos format) so I would hope that frontend maintainers would not feel threatened by the idea.

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MrFlibble
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Re: Proposal for DOS game package format

Post by MrFlibble » December 24th, 2015, 6:30 am

BTW, I just wanted to ask, you frequently mention collections and collectors who would benefit from a unified system. Granted I've never owned large game libraries myself, and even those of demo/shareware/freeware games are more or less manageable by simply arranging them in folders. I know that there are things like semantic file systems the tell the truth, I've always imagined a DOS game collection as just a GAMES directory on the HDD where all the games are installed (and of course all the associated physical media lying somewhere in boxes :)).

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Malvineous
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Re: Proposal for DOS game package format

Post by Malvineous » December 25th, 2015, 5:43 am

For most people this would probably work fine - perhaps not so many people have the same needs as me. But I find a GAMES directory works well for games you know and play all the time, but it starts to have problems when people ask you to look at many different games you are not so familiar with, and when you want to have multiple versions of the same game available, e.g. the shareware, registered and freeware versions.

As one example, there are at least two different Halloween Harry shareware releases which have different content (taken from registered episodes 1 and 3), and the game data files are in a different format (one version is compressed and one isn't). Then there is the freeware version which contains all the episodes. Then there is the registered version which is the same as the freeware, except it also contains a music jukebox (studio.exe). So if you have the need to access these different versions you have to have folders that are multiple levels deep, which for me makes it less clear which versions of which games are available.

Personally I like the idea of having each version of each game in a single file, so you don't need to navigate in and out of folders looking for things, they are all there in one big list.

If you start to consider the hundreds of different Commander Keen mods, all based on the same episode of Commander Keen, then to me it can become somewhat confusing using just a filesystem to organise things, which is what led me onto the proposal.

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Re: Proposal for DOS game package format

Post by NY00123 » December 25th, 2015, 1:59 pm

I think that I can see a point of yours here. I also have a directory with various "installations" of games - mostly for DOS, and when I want to have multiple versions, modifications and/or some other related files, I often use subdirectories, with no specific rule for the way things are organized.

It feels at times it would be nicer if there were a way to make things more simple to sort out, but this at least works.

Obviously, there is a more general problem here, not necessarily related to gaming at all: Are folders sufficient for organizing data?

Maybe what you're looking for is file tagging; Not necessarily as an alternative to directories, but in addition to them. Each original game/mod/tool/other archive's structure can remain as-is, while the tags can be used for quicker/simpler navigation.

Also, regarding the idea of supporting game modifications, I'm wondering if it's still better to do so on a game-by-game basic (e.g., using separate custom launchers). Reason is, different games have different needs. For instance, while not necessarily working well, I think that the Doom games for DOS let you mix multiple PWADs together, as the lumps are named. This won't work so well with Duke Nukem 3D ART data, since each ART file can have 256 distinct tile with a hardcoded range of tile numbers (e.g., TILES001.ART for tiles no. 256-511). The situation is even worse for Wolfenstein 3D. A lot of Wolf3D mods available today are standalone, but if any mod requires some EXE, then hardcoded chunk numbers are used for almost any kind of resource.

Then again, for the case of running each modification (a whole TC, a single user map, etc.) on its own, things may be simpler to manage.

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Re: Proposal for DOS game package format

Post by MrFlibble » December 26th, 2015, 5:37 am

Malvineous wrote:As one example, there are at least two different Halloween Harry shareware releases which have different content (taken from registered episodes 1 and 3), and the game data files are in a different format (one version is compressed and one isn't). Then there is the freeware version which contains all the episodes. Then there is the registered version which is the same as the freeware, except it also contains a music jukebox (studio.exe). So if you have the need to access these different versions you have to have folders that are multiple levels deep, which for me makes it less clear which versions of which games are available.
I can tell you that once I started collecting demo/shareware stuff, I also experimented with different ways of organizing files and folders. Obviously you can arrange files into folders by genre, publisher, developer or distribution method, as well as other parameters (e.g. video mode). Whatever you choose, there are two problems with this. The first one is that you will inevitable get a large collection of items (files or folders) that is hard to navigate and manage. Your suggestion to have a single file for everything will probably also result in a single folder with lots of files, requiring a frontend to be effective.

The same happens to the file/folder organization, because of the second problem I wanted to mention: each folder can only be assigned a single parameter. It's either genre or distribution method, publisher or developer. Parameters can only be combined by duplicating folders, which is not useful. The only solution for this that I know of are semantic file systems.

All that said, I'm starting to think that the good old concept of a library catalogue is probably the simplest solution to tackle this. It does not require any specific software to function (you can get all info into a text file, although a spreadsheet will probably be more effective), and you can assign as many keywords and other parameters that simplify search as necessary. Indeed, using the spreadsheet format you can quickly sort your collection by any of the desired criteria, such as genre, publisher, distribution method etc. And you can just insert the address of each item within your storage system into such a database as well, simplifying the search.

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