in-game joining, Spectre, 1991

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The Nameless Player
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in-game joining, Spectre, 1991

Postby The Nameless Player » Sun Apr 19, 2015 04:54 am

Blood2 supports joining a game already in-progress, but does Blood? As far as I know, the answer is no, the number of network players in Blood is chosen at launch time and only ever decreases when players leave.

Apparently in-game joining was something of a lost technology for a few years.

This morning I was looking at Spectre by Peninsula Gameworks. Originally released in 1991, Spectre was one of the first LAN games, and it still works in DOSBox with Novell NetBIOS.

I happened to play Spectre against some guy exactly once, many years ago, and my memory of it is fuzzy. So today I was trying to understand how the Net Play lobby works, until I realized, it doesn't work. The first player to launch creates a session, other players simply join the session already in-progress, and they can leave and come back whenever. As usual for a peer-to-peer game, the scoreboard tends to go out of sync fairly easily, but unusually in hindsight, the scores are resynchronized when players pick up ammo.

Slightly ahead of its time for a time, Spectre wasn't very popular for several reasons. It started out as an exclusive Mac game, and it was ported to DOS around the same time as Doom was released. Spectre was marketed toward wealthy alcoholics[*] who could afford to buy multiple copies to run on expensive high-end Macintosh computers, network play required unique serial numbers, and at $79.95 for a two-user LAN pack, Spectre was not cheap. Meanwhile, Doom was widely pirated, easily networked, and used to demo cheap IBM PC clones at Radio Shack.

[*] ( "If you want to throw a network party during your next Friday afternoon beer bash, send in the offer card you'll find enclosed in the product packaging. It provides information on how to obtain a Network Party Pak." )

Despite the promise that copy-protection has been officially eliminated, Spectre/PC still occasionally complains of a duplicate serial number.

I wish draconian copy-protection hadn't discouraged people from playing Spectre, because it was fun, that one time I played it.

Edit: And then there's NetWars, developed in 1989 and released by Novell in 1993 as part of Novell DOS 7. NetWars is a four-player game using IPX broadcast, and players can join at any time. Naturally it works with DOSBox IPX.

Since NetWars and Spectre use broadcast packets for all communication, they share the same technical trait for which Doom was banned on large networks. Broadcast is bad for a practical reason as well: only one game session can exist on a LAN for as far as a broadcast can reach. If two groups of people wanted to play different game types at the same time, they would be out of luck.

Of course broadcast makes no difference today, because everybody plays using unicast tunnels, and nobody plays anyway.

Edit again: Just got the original Mac version of Spectre to run in Basilisk II, with considerable difficulty.

It's possible to join and to leave a game in progress, but two players are initially needed to start a game session, the blue team was originally the white team, and the white team drives white heavy tanks.

(Networking is shockingly broken in Basilisk II, but I was able to hack together an AppleTalk network over a UDP tunnel between two emulators by hardcoding their EtherTalk addresses and using local loopback instead of broadcast. I'd say without installing drivers or setting up a VPN, the easiest way to connect two Basilisk II emulators over the Internet would be to paste the public IP addresses of both machines into the source code and recompile, which is not exactly convenient. I ended up using a UDP tunnel because I couldn't make AppleTalk ARP work at all even after installing drivers and setting up a VPN.)

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