One of the main reasons I set-up this blog was to highlight independently-produced videogames of the ’80s and ’90s. At the time these games were (somewhat innaccurately) called “Public Domain” or “PD” software and, because no-one really had the internet until the mid 1990s, they were usually distributed through mail-order PD libraries. You’d chose the games (or disk compilations of games) you wanted, send money to cover copying, post and packaging and they’d mail them to you. I’ve still got a few of mine for the Amiga complete with shiny stickers with the name of the PD house on them and everything. As well as freeware games, there were also “shareware” titles which were either demo versions of full games that the player needed to “register” (ie pay) for to obtain a full version or full versions with a polite request from the programmer asking for cash if you liked his/her game.
This whole way of spreading games is something that simply doesn’t exist any more – not only the distribution companies who catalogued and distributed this stuff but the whole legal passing-onto-a-friend and sharing way these games were treated. Me and my friends even used to put-together our own homemade compilations of these games, not unlike mixtapes, with custom menus and everything.
The games themselves, as you can probably imagine, varied wildly in quality. Some were near-commercial in terms of gameplay, coding and even graphics; indeed there were a lot of games available for free that were far better than certain commercial titles asking £25 of consumers. On the other hand, there was an awful, awful lot of utter shit. The gaming magazines of the time usually did PD sections so you were often informed about some of the stuff but, when buying from a PD house, a lot of it was a case of putting your hand into the lucky dip and hoping you unwrapped a diamond or at least a nice die-cast car and didn’t find a huge dog-egg under all that tissue paper.
Anyway, being an Amiga owner back in the day my knowledge of this type of software is limited to what was released on the Amiga. As you can imagine, very little of this software was ported across to other systems and the vast majority of indie sofware available for any one platform was exclusive. So, instead of diving into Amiga indie titles from the period (a few of which I’ve covered already) I decided to try and find some PD games for the Amiga’s main rival, the Atari ST. Alas, not knowing much about Atari’s grey slab I didn’t know where to start but fortunately Atari ST fan and reviewer of dodgy Chinese copies of popular games consoles Dr Ashen has suggested a list of games to me and so I’ve decided to write-up some articles about some of these games. Expect them to start showing-up in the next few days.
Tags: indie games