We see video game content in museums more and more these days, but we rarely get an inside look at why particular things were chosen or how they ended up there. An upcoming exhibit at a Texas museum let us know just how important the exhibit items are.
"Pong to Pokemon: The Evolution of Electronic Gaming" will be coming to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin beginning on July 29, and will trace the contributions of Texas game developers to the ever-growing industry. "Texas is one of the states with the greatest number of game developers in the U.S. and is home to companies that have been at the forefront of the industry for decades," Jenny Peterson, associate curator of Exhibitions at the museum, told Shacknews. "Today, the state ranks third in having the most video game personnel in the nation, accounting for approximately seven percent of total industry employment nationwide. Many of the most successful games ever created were born in Texas, including Doom, Quake, Ultima, Wing Commander, Half-Life, and Borderlands."
John Romero, who co-founded id Software and designed and programmed Doom and Quake, said he has loaned several items to the exhibit, including two hand-drawn maps for Quake, and all the hand-written notes used to create the Doom bible, the official design document for the game. He also added a Doom project CD, something never seen before outside the hallowed halls of id.
Other items Romero loaned to the museum include original sealed copies of Doom and Quake, a Dungeon & Dragons White Box edition, and a 5.25" floppy of Castle Wolfenstein by game programming pioneer Silas Warner, who passed away in 2004.
Romero, who now lives in Ireland and runs Romero Games, said he was a little surprised to find that the items were going to be escorted to the museum by courier, but joked that it was probably the best move. "I wouldn't want any of my stuff to get stolen," he told us via email. "I mean, we’re talking about Texas where you can walk around with an AR-15 just hanging out. Someone could wave that thing around and say, 'Give me all your Romero artifacts!' No, I think maybe guards are probably mandatory."
Peterson said, however, that couriers are standard procedure for items with historical value and high-security objects. "The courier is a museum staff member who oversees the transport, unpacking or repacking, condition reporting, and installation or deinstallation of the artifact(s). Their main purpose is ensuring the safety of artifacts."
But just how valuable are these things? "It’s all marked as invaluable," Romero said. "So, if anyone steals the stuff, I get invaluable money back."
He added that he is most fond of all the Doom notes, because they were made before the Doom Bible was created. "Those haven’t been seen by anyone else before," he said.
Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, who created the Ultima series of games and is now working on Shroud of the Avatar MMO, donated quite a bit of memorabilia as well. "I am and always have been a huge pack rat," he said via email. "I have kept every note, every disk, every bit of hardware or materials I/we have used in making games."
Among the items he will be sharing with the exhibit are a teletype and operational Apple II running Akalabeth, which Garriott designed in 1980. He also has included Ultima in his items, from original artwork of all the covers and illustrations from the Ultima games to the design documents from them as well.
He said he also loaned "non-game items that inspired aspects of the work, though I suspect they may not have room for it."
Among the other developers who have loaned items that will be displayed are Warren Spector, who ran Ion Storm Austin and Junction Point Studios, and is now working on System Shock 3 with OtherSide Entertainment
The exhibit will run through March 18, 2018.
John Keefer posted a new article, Museum Takes Possession of Original Doom Memorabilia Under Armed Guard
Great story, Keef. I'm glad John Romero agreed to contribute some of his artwork. Really cool to see that sort of material outside of id.
Romero seems to understand the value of gaming history (even having a passion for it), without him archiving and later releasing stuff like map/editor sources or certain monster animations for doom/quake at the request of the mod community a lot of things would have been lost.
Its not unheard of that the source code of a game of that time just got lost. I think they had that problem with homeworld.
Barking Dog Studios' (now Rockstar Vancouver) Homeworld: Cataclysm was the one that was lost.
But yeah, it's unfortunately too common. Sometimes you get happy stories where materials are located like Prince of Persia's source being found after about 20 years.
But often it's just gone, the original assets for Kingdom Hearts 1 were lost possibly also the source, both the source for the shipped versions of Silent Hill 2 and 3's were lost, Strife (the idTech1 FPSRPG) lost its source and had to be reverse engineered, Sega has been notoriously bad at archival, and even a Japanese MMO died because of a failure to secure their code. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/114155-Server-Screw-Up-Kills-MMO
Homeworld's source is fine but there was some weirdness with it. There was a private, serious entrants only, source share with teams circa HW2. I assume the privacy was related to Homeworld's integration of closed source middleware like Rad Game Tools' Bink and Miles Sound System, it was probably easier to license teams than it would have been to remove and replace the middleware.
I think only one team made any real progress, they developed a partially working on SDL port that works on Linux and Mac. Due to the licensing and personalities development fizzled over time. It's slightly more open than it once was, but I think it's been dead for at least 5 years.
It's insane to me that level design involves the same kind of little sketches I was doing for D&D in middle school.
"It’s all marked as invaluable," Romero said. "So, if anyone steals the stuff, I get invaluable money back."