Clarification about conversions

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Csabo
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Clarification about conversions

#1 Post by Csabo » Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:23 pm

Hi all,

Could someone please clarify the official stance (if there is one) on listing platforms where unofficial conversions exist?

Case in point:
Rebel Planet - The C16/Plus4 port of this game was announced in 2014, but C16/Plus4 is not listed as a platform.
Das Gift - A conversion by The Vulture exists, but C16/Plus4 is listed as a platform.

Should C16/Plus4 be added to Rebel Planet, or be removed from Das Gift? Or maybe since "Das Gift" is freeware/type-in, unofficial conversions can be listed? (Or, perhaps, leave everything as-is because accuracy does not matter? :-))

Finally, just want to double check, I looked around and the site says that new games (which are not listed in the database) should be submitted here: http://solutionarchive.com/submission/ - but that's just a blank form, not as nice as the "Send update" form (which has the fields listed separately). Is that link the only way to add games then?

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Strident
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#2 Post by Strident » Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:39 pm

As far as I understand it, and this is what I personally prefer when adding new information to the database, is that only official conversions should be listed in the platform section. Any unofficial/fan conversions can be mentioned in the notes section.

Unofficial conversions are a particular minefield, especially for a more unfamiliar platform like the Plus/4 which has absolutely loads. So I'm sure any help on flagging up incorrect entries would be most welcome.

The platform section can often be quite confusing, as there is no way of indicating the initial primary platform a game originated on. So I think it's always best to add as much detail to the notes section as we can, so that the site is a useful reference tool for others.

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Re: Clarification about conversions

#3 Post by Alastair » Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:31 pm

Strident wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:39 pm
As far as I understand it, and this is what I personally prefer when adding new information to the database, is that only official conversions should be listed in the platform section. Any unofficial/fan conversions can be mentioned in the notes section.
To the best of my knowledge this remains the policy.

Csabo
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#4 Post by Csabo » Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:49 pm

All right. I guess I'll have to submit a change for "Das Gift".

This is kind of disappointing though. My good friend Lavina wrote a bunch of BASIC adventures, those are listed when one views the C16/Plus4 list of games by platform. A bunch of conversions - which are perfect replicas of the original - are not. In my view, those are the same in terms of being "unofficial" adventure games - you can't buy them in any store, etc. To put in another way; the point of the game-to-platform connection in the database should be to answer this question: "Can I play this game on platform X?" But alas, here it means something else.

Anyway, thanks for the clarification guys!

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Strident
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#5 Post by Strident » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:56 am

Csabo wrote:
Sat Nov 09, 2019 5:49 pm
To put in another way; the point of the game-to-platform connection in the database should be to answer this question: "Can I play this game on platform X?" But alas, here it means something else.
In this case, the aim of the game-to-platform connection is to document what platforms a game has been official released for. Otherwise you could start adding all sorts of random workarounds, emulators and unofficial conversions and swamp the platform entry with so much noise that it becomes useless.

It's just a question of what a site chooses as their focus. Other sites, such as Plus4world document all the text adventures it's *possible* to play on that platform, including unofficial conversions. There's not necessarily a particular need to duplicate that role/function here.

(I believe that unofficial translations, into a language the game was never available in previously, may be regarded differently. As they are in effect creating a brand new game.)

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Garry
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#6 Post by Garry » Sun Nov 10, 2019 5:09 am

This is Jacob's web site and he has the ultimate say. However, I think Strident summed it up well. If it's an "official" conversion, it's listed. If it's an "unofficial" conversion, it's not listed, but unofficial conversions can (and should) be mentioned in notes. This is what I try to do when entering or updating entries.

Unfortunately, this policy does not seem to apply to C64 games. The C64 entries are essentially just a dump of what's on GameBase64 and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of unofficial conversions, especially type-ins. And they don't even give credit to the original games, original game names, original platform or original author.

Personally, I disagree with the CASA policy, because if I'm just searching for what's available on my platform, I won't find it if it's only mentioned in a note. I'd prefer all games to be listed and clarification of history, changes of publishers, dates, name changes, ports, conversions, enhancements and translations to other languages provided in notes.

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Re: Clarification about conversions

#7 Post by Mr Creosote » Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:52 am

So what classifies as originally released platform in case of type-in games?

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Garry
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#8 Post by Garry » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:20 am

So what classifies as originally released platform in case of type-in games?
The version of BASIC that it was originally written in. This is always clearly stated in the book or magazine where it was originally published. For example, if an adventure was published in The Captain 80 book of BASIC adventures, this was clearly written for the TRS-80. A C64 conversion is unofficial, as the code was changed to get it to run on the C64 and it was not officially sanctioned by the publisher.

The Rainbow book of adventures and the three follow-up books were written for the TRS-80 Color Computer, so the CoCo versions are official. Anything else (including all the C64 ports) is unofficial.

The Computer & Video Games book of adventure by Keith Campbell has listings in four dialects of BASIC for four different platforms, so there are four official versions. Anything else is unofficial.

The Exploring adventures on the xxx series of books by Peter Gerrard were each written for a different platform, so each of these is official. Anything else is unofficial.

SoftSide magazine would publish an adventure for the Apple II, Atari 400/800 or TRS-80, but they would sometimes provide a conversion for the other platforms in a later issue. These conversions are clearly official. Anything else is unofficial.

There are times when the "officialness" is uncertain. For example, Games Computing and Computer Gamer magazines would often provide conversion notes for other platforms. It was up to the user to do the conversion. Are these conversions official or unofficial?

What about public domain, freeware and shareware games. These were often written for a particular system (AGT, GAGS, LADS, TADS etc.), then ported to another system by another author. In many cases, they were enhanced. I would see these as unofficial, but the database is full of these unofficial conversions. I note a lot of Z-code games that have been converted to run on a C64. This is not just a case of running a Z-code data file with a C64 Z-code interpreter. As this was not sanctioned by the original author, these are unofficial.

And what about Willie Crowther's ADVENT, the original adventure? This was unofficially enhanced by Don Woods, yet this unofficial enhancement is regarded as the all-time classic that started the whole adventure genre. And what about all the unofficial ports, conversions and further enhancements of ADVENT, both commercial and non-commercial? The database is full of them. Should these all be deleted because they're unofficial and we all need to go out and buy a mainframe with a FORTRAN compiler in order to play the original official version? (This is theoretically possible now that the source code has been recovered.)

Can you see how absurd all this official vs unofficial business is? I just want to know what adventures are available for my preferred platform(s), but I'm also interested in the history of a game - which publishers published which versions for which platforms on which dates. The database doesn't allow me to see that unless someone has been nice enough to do the research and write some notes. I try my best to do that and I know others do too, so thank you to those people who take the time and effort to do it, but it sure would be nice if the database supported a full history of all versions of any given game.

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Re: Clarification about conversions

#9 Post by Alastair » Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:38 pm

Garry wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 5:09 am
Unfortunately, this policy does not seem to apply to C64 games. The C64 entries are essentially just a dump of what's on GameBase64 and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of unofficial conversions, especially type-ins. And they don't even give credit to the original games, original game names, original platform or original author.
The policy should apply to C64 games, but as Jacob noted in another thread:
Jacob wrote:Unofficial conversions remain a headache. I'm sure that I can be blamed for a large share of these myself because I've used Gamebase as a resource for C64 games, and they seem to feature a large no. of games based on TRS-80 and Atari games from US magazines. However, some of these magazines would feature instructions on how to get a game to run on other platforms, and I don't have the time to track down each and every issue to look this up.
I have a feeling that in the years since Jacob posted the above some progress has been made in updating the C64 entries though no doubt much more work is required. As always, and we probably don't say this often enough, we thank everyone who has taken the time and effort to track down information to correct any entry in the database.

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Garry
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#10 Post by Garry » Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:07 am

And when I get back to the C64 one of these days, I'll do my little bit to help with the cleanup.

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Strident
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#11 Post by Strident » Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:28 pm

We are, of course, limited by the existing structure of the database.

Were you to design a reference source for text adventures, from the ground up (rather than a solutions site), then you would create a system so that each version of the game could be listed on the game page with the relevant year of publication, publisher, format and authoring tool used. With a system like that you could flag conversions/ports that were unofficial.

But, even with the existing database structure, CASA is still one of the best reference tools for text adventures out there. It's been invaluable to me and I use it daily. I'm so grateful that Jacob and the rest of the site team are motivated enough to keep it running.

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Re: Clarification about conversions

#12 Post by Gunness » Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:59 pm

Hi Csabo,
It's always nice to hear a different point of view. Thanks, everybody, for weighing in so far :)
Csabo wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:23 pm
Could someone please clarify the official stance (if there is one) on listing platforms where unofficial conversions exist?
...
Should C16/Plus4 be added to Rebel Planet, or be removed from Das Gift? Or maybe since "Das Gift" is freeware/type-in, unofficial conversions can be listed? (Or, perhaps, leave everything as-is because accuracy does not matter? :-))
Yes, there is an official stance. And yes, accuracy matters. Which, incidentally, is why I'm not happy with listing unofficial conversions other than in the Notes section.

Actually, Strident and Alastair summed it up pretty well in their respective posts. But let's start off with the site's FAQ:
"We only list official versions. Ie. if someone hacked the C64 code for some game and made it run on the Oric, we won't list the Oric because the game wasn't intended to run on it. Unofficial version might get a mention in the Notes section of the game entry.
Of course, we're wrong on lots of occasions so feel free to submit info if you know something that we don't." (emphasis mine).
I didn't say anywhere that we're infallible. That doesn't mean that we don't care about accuracy, but that we're at the mercy of the information we can find in the amount of time we have for the job. To my knowledge we don't have any dedicated C16 experts, so I'm happy to see your input :)
This is kind of disappointing though. My good friend Lavina wrote a bunch of BASIC adventures, those are listed when one views the C16/Plus4 list of games by platform. A bunch of conversions - which are perfect replicas of the original - are not. In my view, those are the same in terms of being "unofficial" adventure games - you can't buy them in any store, etc. To put in another way; the point of the game-to-platform connection in the database should be to answer this question: "Can I play this game on platform X?"
That's certainly one possible purpose - but as Strident said:
"In this case, the aim of the game-to-platform connection is to document what platforms a game has been official released for. Otherwise you could start adding all sorts of random workarounds, emulators and unofficial conversions and swamp the platform entry with so much noise that it becomes useless."

So the question we're trying to answer is: "Did the author of the game intend (or sanction) this game to run on platform X?". In the case of commercial games, that's relatively easy. In the case of BASIC listings, that's a huge challenge. Ideally we could have an unofficial conversion subset of tags, but unless someone comes along and programs that, it's not going to happen. I realise that it's not an ideal situation, as there are a lot of excellent unofficial conversions out there.
Garry wrote:Unfortunately, this policy does not seem to apply to C64 games. The C64 entries are essentially just a dump of what's on GameBase64 and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of unofficial conversions, especially type-ins. And they don't even give credit to the original games, original game names, original platform or original author.
A bit of history - and perspective - is needed here. Back when CASA 2.0 launched, featuring author information, platforms, systems etc., there weren't a lot of hands available. Mr. Creosote and Dave had done all the coding, but actually filling out the database was up to me. So filling out the ~1,800 C64 entries and 2,000+ Spectrum entries was going to take a long time, so when I got the chance to get a head start by receiving the data from Gamebase64 and World of Spectrum, I said yes and thank you as I didn't know if or when anyone would want to help with the work.
But again, I'm happy to remove wrong entries and update author info etc.

Oh, and to go back to your starting point. C16 should not be listed for Rebel Planet. Neither for Das Gift.

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Re: Clarification about conversions

#13 Post by Mr Creosote » Mon Nov 11, 2019 9:42 pm

Strident wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:28 pm
We are, of course, limited by the existing structure of the database.

Were you to design a reference source for text adventures, from the ground up (rather than a solutions site), then you would create a system so that each version of the game could be listed on the game page with the relevant year of publication, publisher, format and authoring tool used. With a system like that you could flag conversions/ports that were unofficial.
I reserve my doubts you would actually do that ;) I find it unlikely that this is just an issue of programming resources or database design. That amount of work would be feasible. Maintaining the massively increased data to fill such a "perfect resource", on the other hand, seems like a Herculian task.

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Strident
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Re: Clarification about conversions

#14 Post by Strident » Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:31 pm

Mr Creosote wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 9:42 pm
I reserve my doubts you would actually do that ;) I find it unlikely that this is just an issue of programming resources or database design. That amount of work would be feasible. Maintaining the massively increased data to fill such a "perfect resource", on the other hand, seems like a Herculian task.
You can of course "reserve your doubts"... but I am extremely active when it comes to updating and adding to the existing database. But, yes, that would be a huge amount of work... with the hundreds of changes I've made in the past barely even scratching the surface... even if that's the sort of information that I just end up putting in the notes section anyway. Certainly it would need a whole collection of similarly active and motivated users to do the work to justify the programming changes.

And, as I've said earlier in the thread, I find CASA to be a useful resource that I *do* use pretty much every day, as it is. I think those sorts of publishers/versions/release dates cataloguing is probably best left to the sites concentrating on specific formats.

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Re: Clarification about conversions

#15 Post by Csabo » Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:33 am

Gunness wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:59 pm
"Did the author of the game intend (or sanction) this game to run on platform X?"
Hmm, from the way you phrased this, I would say determining that is nearly impossible (unless you know the author personally :-) ). Case in point; when I converted those three, I included a screenshot with the news announcement that showed C16/Plus4 is officially listed as a platform. (See here.) With that proof, I could very well argue that the author did intend the game to run on that platform.

Eh, anyway, I appreciate the replies and I do understand your point(s). I'm happy to abide by this. To reiterate, my wish would be that when someone ends up on CASA, and views a list of games available on the C16/Plus4 platform, they get an accurate list. By accurate, I mean "these are the adventure games I can play if I have this machine." That's clearly not the goal of this site though. Only we (Plus/4 World) do Plus/4 stuff right :twisted:

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