Galactic Wars 1

Preserving Nihon Falcom’s First Game

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As our name shows, we are a group working to preserve games. Our target includes a wide variety of games including arcade games, home video games, PC games etc. This time, we will be showing how we preserve our games using a game from the dawn of PC gaming – “Galactic wars 1”.

■ The History of Nihon Falcom

Nihon Falcom has its base in Tachikawa, Tokyo. It was founded in 1981 as “Computer Land Tachikawa”, a computer shop selling mainly Apple products.  The following year, they produced and sold their first PC game. 1984’s “Dragon Slayer”, 1985’s “Xanadu” and 1987’s “Ys” and “Sorcerian” being big hits of the time established Falcom’s status as a powerful competitor in the world of PC gaming. They are a time-tested company still making popular games such as the “Trails of Cold Steel” titles under “The Legend of Heroes” series.

■ What is “Galactic Wars”?

One of Falcom’s memorable works is “Galactic Wars 1”, a Sci-fi simulation game.

The creator of “Galactic Wars”, Yoshio KIYA, was a regular customer at Computer Land Tachikawa. He was famous later for making the “Dragon Slayer” series. The PC gaming magazines of the time called him the Star Programmer.

“Galactic Wars 1” was a product of Kiya’s hobby, programming. Falcom, a computer shop at the time, decided to publish it. And that was how it debuted. “Galactic Wars” was not the only one, Falcom’s early games were almost exclusively made by their regulars. They only started making their own games when business picked up around 1984.

“Galactic Wars” was written in BASIC. Kiya developed it on an FP-1100 by Casio which was rented to him by Falcom, and so it was sold as a game on FP-1100.  Even though it was later sold on NEC’s PC-8801 and PC-9801, it was ultimately published by a small, obscure shop. Which meant that there was only a limited supply. Because of that, it is almost unseen on second-hand shops and internet auctions, making it very, very rare.

■ Stumbling Upon an Actual Copy

We at the Game Preservation Society had the luck to stumble upon this very, very rare piece. It all started because this author had a chance to come in contact with Mr. Kiya.

Unbelievably, he had a copy of almost every game he made at Falcom, all of them unopened. It seems he only had it for sentimental purposes, but these games are very valuable in terms of preservation

After numerous conversations with Mr. Kiya, we had the opportunity to explain and convince him about the importance of preservation. When we explained how important his collection was, he generously placed an unopened copy of “Galactic Wars 1″(PC-8801 version) in our care, for preservation.

■ Saving Floppy Disk Data

This is the package we received from Mr. Kiya.

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Summer in Japan is hot and humid, which means the first problem we face is “mold”. If there is moisture, the magnetic disk of a floppy disk is a healthy environment for mold. Not only are we unable to read a floppy disk with mold, the disk is also at risk of being damaged.

Opening the package. A nervous moment.

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The floppy disk sleeve and manual that came out looked mold-free and clean at first glance. But under further inspection, we found that there were wrinkles that were a result of water drying off, evidence that they were exposed to moisture.

The floppy disk. This looked to be in good condition at first glance, but look at it from the side we found that it was slightly bent. There was uncertainty that we would be able to read the data. We spun the magnetic disk to check for mold and sure enough, there were some, not large patches, but they were there.

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Before we start preservation, we need to clean off the mold. We dab a special cloth in 100% isopropyl alcohol and wipe off gently the mold.

Once we have wiped the mold off, we check the condition of the disk. For this disk, there are only 40 tracks used, so we read the 41st track and see what happens with the disk, physically.

Fortunately, the magnetic disk was not damaged and did not peel off because of the bend. Since it was perfectly readable, we move on to the preservation phase.

We use KryoFlux for preservation. KryoFlux is a device that can read the source data on floppy disks. It was co-developed by our current president, Joseph REDON, for the preservation of Japan made games.
The floppy disk of “Galactic Wars 1” is already 30 years old, so we could not expect to be able to read it as many times as we needed. It would be ideal if we could save all the data in one reading. But as we proceeded with the process, we found 1 spot that was unreadable and 1 spot which possibly was not read properly.

Galactic Wars Gamepres

The image above shows the surface of the floppy disk, the formatted sectors looks light green and the parts that look a darker green is where the game data is written. Parts of the section that should be dark green appeared to be bluish and could be the cause of problems in the process.

We removed the disk and cleaned it of mold, again, and repeat the process. The section that was unstable the last time showed the same result so we concluded that it had been read properly.

However, the part that could not be read the last time also showed the same error. It could be that mold wasn’t the reason after all and the disk is just damaged. We remained hopeful and cleaned it for the third time and repeated the process.

And the result of our third try is…….

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Success!

The part that was bluish in the previous image had been turned dark green. All of us at the scene were filled with excitement and relief.

With that, the preservation of “Galactic Wars 1” had been a success. Once the data has been preserved, it is available as a disc image to play on emulators.

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This game is set around the planet “M23” of the Galactic Alliance which is under attack by the Third Empire. Players are in control of the alpha fleet which is charged to protect the planet. The difficulty can be set from 1 to 3. The player commands scout ships from the planet (PLANET-M23) and 2 ships (FALCON and UNICON), a total of 3 scout ships, to search for enemy ships. The command phase has a time limit. A clock with just one hand measures this. Once the hand has made one round around the clock time is up. Commands have to be completed within this time so there is a certain element of real-time strategy in it.  This is something in common with “Dragon Slayer” which came after. The fleet and scout ships can be controlled by direction (24 directions on a 360-degree surface) and speed (1~50). If any of them encounter enemy ships, battle will commence using predetermined attacking and defending ships’ stats. The player clears the game by destroying 3 ships. The game required strategic decisions in a semi-realtime environment, and by standards of the time, it was considered “playable”.

By the way, “Galactic Wars 1” deletes part of its booting sequence upon starting the game and rewrites it when you start gameplay. What this means is that if you don’t follow proper procedures after booting the game, the data will be lost forever. This is thought to be an anti-piracy trap and a pretty “evil” one at that. Because of this, even if we had a used copy of “Galactic Wars 1”, we have no guarantee that the data is intact. So it is vitally important that we found an unopened package.

■ Preserving the Jacket and Manual

We don’t only preserve the data on the floppy disk. The jacket and the manual are also subjects of preservation. So the next step is to digitally scan the jacket and manual.

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While doing this, if the paper is not completely flat, there will be space between the surface of the scanner and the paper, making the quality of the scan less than ideal. To prevent this, we remove the jacket from the box and file it while stretching it out flat.

The actual scanning process only starts after over 6 months. Compared to 6 months before, the bent paper will be almost completely flat.
We then prepare to do the scanning. Firstly, to prevent any dust from getting onto the scanning surface, we use a special cleaning kit to clean the surrounding area, as well as the scanning surface. If we use auto-correcting functions of the scanner, we might get unexpected distortions in the resulting data, so all these functions are disabled to get a completely raw image of the jacket.  To ease the process of repairing the image after digitization, the resolution is set to 800dpi.

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We place a ruler beside the scanning surface where the jacket is positioned for scanning. By doing this we can get a measurement of the scanned image. We also use a grey-colored board for the background of the image. Grey because it has minimal interference on the colors The board also has a dedicated calibrated color palette which tells us if the color on the original image has faded.

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We use Photoshop to mend the image, Any damage or dust on the image is removed. We were lucky this time because the jacket had minimal damage so large-scale mending was needed. In cases where that is needed, such as when the jacket is torn or severely faded, we need to prepare several copies.

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The result is this.

The original paper that it was printed on was orange, so the image itself is black and white.
Back in the days, Falcom used different kinds of paper (in color or otherwise) for different computer models. So the FP-1100 version and PC-9801 versions might have different packaging colors.
What this means is if we print the image on the same paper, we can recreate the jacket.

■ Ending Comments

With this, we are very lucky to be able to preserve a piece of very rare software.

Members the Game Preservation Society have contributed a lot to our collection of games, but even so, there are many valuable games that we do not possess. As they all require a lot of work to successfully preserve, and we only have limited manpower, our progress is very slow.  If anyone out there is interested in preserving this part of Japanese culture, please do consider working with us. Every little help is appreciated.

Our organization will always be working towards preserving all games.

Game Preservation Society, Takeshi KANAZAWA
Translated by Ming TEE

*Package and game images belong to the original copyright holder.

Falcom Donation

A Donation of Documents About the Golden Age of Falcom

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The company that has continuously produced high-quality games since the age of microcomputer – Nihon Falcom Corporation has made a donation of a dead stock of floppy disks used for user support to us.

Opening the treasure box

Digging the carefully packed artifacts

The disks we received included Ys, which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. The total number of disks we received is 262.  These disks were backups that were distributed to users who could not play the games they bought because their copy was defective or bugged. Which means that all the titles in the collection are completely bug-free copies. Also, they are all unused and clean copies without user saves.

Replacement floppy disks (early “Ys”)

Precious materials in fine condition

The Nihon Falcom Corporation style meant not only producing quality games but also a high regard for the company’s history. The condition of the collection we received reflects this philosophy. The 262 floppy disks we received will be preserved in our archive room as an important part of Falcom’s history livening up Japanese gaming.

Checking the surface of the disk for mold

Dedicated container for 5.25″ disks

Our archive room is specially designed to maintain temperature and humidity and to reject any source of damage from sunlight and magnetism. To prevent the degradation of the documents, we use a specially designed container, jointly designed with Archival Conservation & Enclosures Co., Ltd., so that the documents are confidently passed down to the next generation in good condition. Furthermore, to prevent the complete loss of data due to degradation, we will use specialized equipment to digitize the data in the floppy disks. These 2 steps are made to prevent the loss of documents in our care.

Registration of every disk with a QR code

Climate controlled archive room (Tokyo)

This donation is a very meaningful one to us. Nihon Falcom Corporation, one of the creators of what we aim to preserve, has placed their trust in us by giving us their documents. We will work even harder to increase the documents in our care, whether it is for one more, or for a day longer.

We are preparing our archive room for public viewing. We are constantly working hard to build an archive that can contribute to students of gaming history and creators alike, but we still lack the people and resources. To open our archive room to the public, which houses over 10,000 80s~90s PC games, we need your help and support. Please do help us if you like our work.

* Those interested in pledging contributions may do so here. *

Game Preservation Society, Joseph REDON

Photos, Nicolas DATICHE (http://nicolasdatiche.com/)

ゲーム保存協会 Game Preservation Society

The Holy Grail of Humming Bird Soft Successfully Preserved

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Being someone who owns fewer than fifty PC games and barely knows how to modify hardware or even code in BASIC, I owe the opportunity to write this article largely to our president Joseph, with whom I connected with through Humming Bird Soft’s adventure games.

I absolutely adore games and want to make sure that they are lovingly preserved for posterity. On that note, I would like to present this article in commemoration of the Game Preservation Society’s successful preservation of Recapture, a game released by Humming Bird Soft for the FM-7 series systems.

■ About Humming Bird Soft

At the mention of Humming Bird Soft, some readers might remember games like Record of Lodoss War or something older like Laplace’s Demon. They are absolutely right, but in addition to that, Humming Bird Soft was also the first company in Japan to produce adventure games with a certain level of quality. The first of these was a 5-inch disk for the FM-8, titled The Palms (priced at 11,000 yen at the time).

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Before The Palms, adventure games mainly took place in locked-room scenarios, like in Mystery House by Microcabin (a Japanese clone of the famous Mystery House by Sierra Online). The Palms gave the genre a different take by presenting a game world that expanded outwards, from the neighborhood reminiscent of the Shonan Beaches, to the ocean, to Smoopa, the underwater city. In addition, it was in color, which was groundbreaking at the time. Sales commenced during January of 1983, when the market for PC games was still young, and The Palms raised the bar high for domestically produced games.

■ Recapture

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Recapture was released in 1984 as the first title of the Humming Bird – Another Venture #1 series (9,800 yen, reduced to 5,800 yen in 1985). True to the spirit of being “Another Venture,” it went in a different direction from the fantasy settings of previous Humming Bird Soft games.

The protagonist, a researcher at Fly Pharmaceuticals, is a young man who is putting all he has into a “100% Perfect Male Contraceptive” (according to the manual). He succeeds and creates the male contraceptive “Kondoh-Muyo” (literally “condomless”). However, rival company Mosquito Pharmaceuticals will not take this lying down and steals the research files from our protagonist while he is out drunk while celebrating. What is our protagonist to do? The press conference is today at 4:30 p.m., and if he does not return by then, it will spell the end of Fly Pharmaceuticals. Thus the story begins where you as the protagonist have to RECAPTURE the missing files. This prologue is included in the manual in comic-book style; give it a read if you get a chance!

■ The Treasure Trove of Accessories

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For PC games in 1984, it was standard practice to have a slightly well-designed box and a simple manual, but for Recapture, there was an elaborate set with a Dali-esque package, a comic-styled manual, a case resembling a medicine package, and a piece of cardboard with “This is cardboard” written on it. Perhaps they were emulating Infocom, which had various accessories included with the text adventure games they published for Apple and others. Hudson Soft even included soil in their package for Dark Focus: The Case of the Bunnygirl Murder (1986).

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Recapture Accessories

■ The Story

To avoid spoiling the game by revealing too many details, I’ll just introduce each area briefly with a few screenshots.

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This is Fly Pharmaceuticals, where the player works. It’s fun to proceed through the game, as it’s not weighed down by too much text. Your first destinations are the accounting department and the lab. Commands like F***, BAKA (idiot) and AHO (fool) which aren’t normally functional in such games will show you a game over screen with a special scene. It’s well-worth trying out!

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If you take the employee bus, you’ll get to Ohatsu station. Once you get off, you’ll encounter a street hawker trying to get you to visit a “pink salon” (brothel). While Humming Bird Soft had been producing tasteful games up until that point, one of the distinctive features of Recapture is that it doesn’t shy away from lewdness throughout the game. This street also has a drugstore and department store. If you’re not skilled at finding a great bargain, you might have a hard time ahead.

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Taking a train from Ohatsu station enables you to get to Tokube station. What do you know! There’s a Humming Bird shop on the street staffed by a single employee. This game has a rich selection of functional commands, if you key in “LOOK HUMMINGBIRD” in front of the discount shop, you will get some information about the second game in the Another Venture series. There’s a lot available for sale on this street, and you can get some stuff through conversing with NPCs. It’s starting to feel more like an adventure game!

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Next is Chikamatsu station, the station closest to Mosquito Pharmaceuticals. There’s two ways to get in, if you’ve cleared the game before with one method, give the other method a go! (One method is in the hint book but is quite hard to decipher.)

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This is the second floor of Mosquito Pharmaceuticals. The two main goals of this area are to get a staff ID card and to RECAPTURE your missing files. The first goal of getting the staff ID requires some puzzle solving. Your actions regarding something passing across the meeting room is the key.

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The third floor and the stairwell comprise the later half of Mosquito Pharmaceuticals. It’s time to use the items you bought outside Tokube Station! Beware, as the file in the lab is fake, but without it, you won’t be able to get the real one (which is called the HONTO-FILE, or “real file”).

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After you’ve RECAPTURED your file, it’s not the end yet. You’ll still need to deliver it to your manager at Fly Pharmaceuticals. However, Humming Bird adventure games aren’t so easy! If you take the wrong mode of transportation, it’s Game Over. The street hawker from before (remember him?) is also back to block your way. This is your last test of wits; have a look at the items you have and solve the puzzle!

■ Hint Book

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The Recapture Hint Book, which appears when you key in “HINT” during the game (18 pages, 1,000 yen, sold separately), has been obtained by the Game Preservation Society. It presents the story from beginning to end with the same style as the manual, and will help you clear the game without any problems

Recapture is a command-line adventure game, a genre which enjoyed extremely brief popularity from 1983-1984. Command-line games meant that the player needed to key in what to do and how to do it, using Katakana or English. In addition, functional keywords were limited, so most people have probably experienced a cold reply like, “You can’t do this.”

On the other hand, after being stuck forever on a particular scene, finding the right keyword and watching the scenes and story unfold smoothly from there is like a drug. You can’t get this from multiple-choice text adventures. It’s a lost genre.

In addition to Recapture, our Society aims to preserve all existing games, including those that have been lost to history. I hope that anyone who can will lend a hand.

Game Preservation Society, Takayuki KOMABAYASHI
Translated by Ming TEE, edited by Devin MONNENS

*Package and game images belong to the original copyright holder.

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