This might be something that I normally leave for a Newsbytes, but given how absurdly slow arcade news has been this month, I think it’s fine to stretch things out with certain items – like this one! Thanks to Arcade Repair Tips for bringing it to my attention.
What makes the games we know and love, tick? The source code. Without that, all of the art, game design, sounds and other things can’t behave the way they need to for everything to work. When it comes to games developed at major corporations, the coders and other designers sign confidentiality agreements that gives the company instead of the individual game maker the rights to the creation. Because of that, it’s rare that such information is made public, particularly in the case of well-known retro titles. But in an internet world, sometimes things find their way into the public domain.
Such is the case with the recent appearance of the source codes for several Midway arcade games from the 80s & the 90s onto the developer repository website known as GitHub. Uploaded by “HistoricalSource,” it is unknown exactly where these came from (from the research I have done so far), but one can find sources for the following games (in addition to various others that aren’t arcade titles):
- WWF Wrestlemania
- Total Carnage
- Smash TV
- Roadkill (Unsure what this is: The original Xbox game or some other name for an earlier Midway title?)
- Revolution X
- Open Ice (This was released as 2-on-2 Open Ice Challenge)
- NBA Jam
- NBA Jam Tournament Edition
- NBA Hangtime
- Cruis’n USA
- Frenzy (Sequel to Berzerk…although neither title was done by Williams/Midway)
- Stargate (Sequel to Defender, not a game of the movie/TV show)
- Robotron 2084
- Williams Sound-ROMs
Looking several pages in, most of the other sources posted are of older MS-DOS games (including stuff like Doom and Prince of Persia), but there are some sources for several arcade ports to the Atari 7800.
Most of these games were done in Assembly (even Cruis’n USA), but I don’t have the knowledge to compile them and check them out.
Of course the big question that is on everyone’s mind is: Where did these come from? As of this moment, I haven’t been able to find that answer, but I would guess that they were either uploaded by an ex-Midway employee who had them laying around, or someone discovered a box of old floppies.
I did reach out to both Eugene Jarvis and George Petro about this, since both of them worked on many of these games; George responded and hadn’t heard about this yet, but did bring up that all Midway employees had signed confidentiality agreements, but such agreements are hard to enforce when the company in question isn’t around anymore.
Will anything come out of this? Perhaps, as it covers both preservation and education angles – although I don’t know how many people these days are studying Assembly (outside of 6502 or Z80 ASM for creating homebrew games on old-school consoles). What do you think about this?