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Thread: Early PC Shareware

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    Default Early PC Shareware

    Back in the early days of the PC, at least for me, even more interesting than the shelves full of hot new 386 games for $40, was the spinning shelf (or in some cases) table full of little blue floppy disks. For just $3-5 (depending on number of programs) you could take home a playable sampler of some new games.

    Individual programmers just learning their craft, all the way to budding professional companies like Apogee and a little company called id gave us a few levels of gaming goodness, and then, at the end, begged us to spend $20 to get the full versions of their games.

    Commander Keen, Zone 66, Sango Fighter, and Wolfenstein 3D were some of my favorites.

    Do you have any personal favorites. Do you still have any of these discs? Do you still have a computer that can PLAY these discs? Know of a place where these games are available today?

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    Ahhh, I could never forget those days. EGA Trek, Jetpack, the Hugo adventures, Jane of the Jungle...good stuff. When CD drives started to become a bit more mainstream my Dad got this ultimate Shareware collection-3 CDs worth for like $50. TONS of stuff.

    I still play Jetpack from time to time. Windows XP runs it pretty well. For others I have the Connectix Virtual PC but I haven't gotten around to using it on my new PC yet.

    As for getting the software...hmmm. The only place I saw that actively has the old software was a Computer Renaissance in Green Bay on West Mason (if I'm not mistaken) across the street from the Wal-Mart/Sam's Club area.

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    Hmmm...wonder if any of my old MEGA GAMES 101+ Games on 1 cd programs still work...also, 3D Realms still host a lot of the old Apogee titles in their download section...might be worth a look
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    I have a bunch of the old ones around, haven't tried to play them in a while though, Apogee was prominent in a big way back then......Zone66 that was the vertical shmup right?
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheSmirk
    I have a bunch of the old ones around, haven't tried to play them in a while though, Apogee was prominent in a big way back then......Zone66 that was the vertical shmup right?
    If I recall Zone66 was a 360 degree top down shmup. Too bad it can pretty much only run on a 386 (unless this has changed thanks to gaming communities) as it used the processor in special ways that can't be done on newer ones.

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    I'm going to try out Zone 66 tomorrow, I'll let you know how it goes

    I just re-found a game I loved...Capture the Flag...man that is a good game.

    Found it on www.the-underdogs.org

    Any other good sites for finding early shareware titles??
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    My two favorites, by far, were One Must Fall 2097... and Traffic Department 2192 (I might have that number wrong).

    One Must Fall was a 2D fighter where you chose a robot and a pilot. Since the pilot used some direct brain link to control the robot, your choice of pilot determined the stats of your robot... while the robot had some base stats of it's own, as well as it's own special moves. This game is a true classic, and I still consider it the definitive PC fighting game. It had all the aspects that made 2D fighters great, including finishing moves, secret characters, tough bosses, interesting and diverse characters, a surprisingly deep combo system, interactive levels, and even a nicely done "career" mode where you made money from fights and used it to upgrade your robot and buy new ones. The game was also very configurable, so you could change the speed (unfortunately, the game didn't limit it's speed, so trying to run it on your 35THz machine might be tricky), or remove the ability to "juggle" characters and other such things. The only thing I didn't like was that some of the robots weren't balanced very well, so you'd get some robots that simply weren't very useful. Still waiting for a (good) sequel to this game to come out

    Traffic Department was an overhead view shooter. You'd pilot your ship (which was horrendously fast) around the streets of a city in the distant future on a distant planet. You were a fiesty female policeman (well, not really a policeman, but the Traffic Department basically took over the job of enforcing the law it seems) named Velasquez, and the whole game had a continuing storyline of your fight against a gang called the Vultures who were conducting many illegal activities in the city. The storyline took a LOT of twists, which included your character getting abducted and brainwashed, the death of fellow T.D. members, and many other strange turns of events. Not only did it have an engrossing storyline, but the gameplay was simple and fun, and the missions showed a surprising amount of diversity. Sometimes you'd be on search and destroy missions, or you'd have to escort convoys out of town, or you'd have to steal Vulture ships or plant bombs in Vulture hideouts. No one ever seems to remember this game, but it was truly excellent.

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    This is indeed the good stuff, and right where I really began hardcore gaming. If you recall, there was a mailorder catalog by The Software Labs from which these nifty little shareware titles could be purchased (the more disks you bought, the less it was.. something like that.) I spent *hours* inspecting every detail of those things in an effort to pick up only the best games. Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, Jill of the Jungle, Crystal Caves, Sango Fighter, Kiloblaster, Hugo's House of Horrors, Captain Comic, etc etc etc. When I was younger, Christmas morning was never about new console games, but rather what would be in the "giant box of disks." One year, I got 12 different game disks from Software Labs and was absolutely floored. That's probably one of my favorite Christmas morning moments, as sad as it may sound today.

    I was so concerned with protecting these games that I'd immediately make backups once they arrived, and subsequently installed/played from the copies. Two of my friends were into it too, and we'd trade copied disks all recess long. Much like the C64 underworld, the old PC shareware scene flourished that way.

    Today, I have a dedicated "class DOS box" that I put together - an old Pentium 75 MHz running nothing but DOS 6.0 and pre-1996 PC games. I have stacks of the original disks, both 3.5 and 5.25. The only things I'm missing are all the catalogs I collected as a kid that have since been lost. *Those* were my glory days of gaming... give me a floppy with Commander Keen on it anyday over the latest and greatest polygonal garbage
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    Shareware is how I dsicvoered Doom, RoTT, Apogee's Raptor (I think that was the name of their top-down shump) and others!
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    My gaming diet from the late 80's to mid 90's was almost entirely shareware games. The Apogee titles were probably the best designed, but the one that sticks with me is CORNCOB 3D.

    Anyone else play it? It was a crazy air combat flight simulator that made up in originality what it lacked in graphics. The premise was of a WWII-era alien invasion, and featured some really abstract objectives and lots of surprises. At one point you wound up on a planet with less gravity, and if you weren't careful you could fly right out to space! Every level was unexpected.

    I still don't know why it's called CORNCOB.
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    Wow, I do remember Corncob 3D. I remember never knowing exactly how to play, thinking I was lucky to get the plane off the ground, and then not really knowing what to do except land.

    I do know that something happened to my disk, and it never worked again afte the one time I actually got a mission to work correctly...

    Here ya go...

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    The local software store got quite a bit of money from me, selling that outrageously priced shareware. Things were much better after I got access to a modem.

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    What about Captain Comic, Estellar goose (i don´t know if that was the exactly name), Jazz Jackrabbit or Doom????

    Matías

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    Doom was good, although I preferred Wolf 3-D. The demo disc for Quake I only bought because I heard Nine Inch Nails did the music for it...that was right at the end of the shareware era...and I was moving on to console demo discs (Playstation Picks ruled!!)

    I could never get Jazz Jackrabbit to work

    As a side question...was the Commander Keen game released for the Game Boy any good?? Meaning close in style and playability to the shaeware version??
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    It's not Estellar Goose, it's StarGoose. That was one great shmup!

    Underdogs has it available for download...you need to use Moslo or something on it, though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scooterb23
    Doom was good, although I preferred Wolf 3-D. The demo disc for Quake I only bought because I heard Nine Inch Nails did the music for it...that was right at the end of the shareware era...and I was moving on to console demo discs (Playstation Picks ruled!!)
    The Quake demo! I remember when that came out. I and a co worker made sure our store got a box of that. And why did we do this? Our house tech has a crack as you could buy the full version of Quake and unlock it and other ID classics on the CD! Needless to say, our demos sold out but at cost as all the employees bought them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by calthaer
    It's not Estellar Goose, it's StarGoose. That was one great shmup!

    Underdogs has it available for download...you need to use Moslo or something on it, though.
    Thanks!!!

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    Oops I didn't see the question in the post above mine, either - so let me say that the GBC version of Commander Keen is *not* worth getting at all. I have it, and while it looks like Keen, it doesn't at all play like Keen. I haven't played it in quite some time, but for whatever reason (I think largely due to the small screen and the fact that they made the game run quite a bit faster), it was a lot more difficult. Too easy to die, and with no saves (and no real way to continue once all your lives / continues are used up) it's just way too difficult to be fun, IMO.

    Don't bother; just play the originals.
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    RESURRECTION


    Found a stack of these Software Labs originals, including Corncob 3-D and 8 others. This was one of the top links I could come up with on google. This is a common occurrence- DP posts provide the most useful information on something obscure.

    This is a great post.

    I don't keep classic PC stuff in general, was planning to put these on eBay.



    Quote Originally Posted by ClubNinja View Post
    This is indeed the good stuff, and right where I really began hardcore gaming. If you recall, there was a mailorder catalog by The Software Labs from which these nifty little shareware titles could be purchased (the more disks you bought, the less it was.. something like that.) I spent *hours* inspecting every detail of those things in an effort to pick up only the best games. Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, Jill of the Jungle, Crystal Caves, Sango Fighter, Kiloblaster, Hugo's House of Horrors, Captain Comic, etc etc etc. When I was younger, Christmas morning was never about new console games, but rather what would be in the "giant box of disks." One year, I got 12 different game disks from Software Labs and was absolutely floored. That's probably one of my favorite Christmas morning moments, as sad as it may sound today.

    I was so concerned with protecting these games that I'd immediately make backups once they arrived, and subsequently installed/played from the copies. Two of my friends were into it too, and we'd trade copied disks all recess long. Much like the C64 underworld, the old PC shareware scene flourished that way.

    Today, I have a dedicated "class DOS box" that I put together - an old Pentium 75 MHz running nothing but DOS 6.0 and pre-1996 PC games. I have stacks of the original disks, both 3.5 and 5.25. The only things I'm missing are all the catalogs I collected as a kid that have since been lost. *Those* were my glory days of gaming... give me a floppy with Commander Keen on it anyday over the latest and greatest polygonal garbage

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    Found this great interview with one of the main guys for The Software Labs as well:

    Link to TSL Shareware interview.

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