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Preserving Worlds: a travelogue through aging but beloved virtual worlds (preservingworlds.net)
86 points by guerrilla 63 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 10 comments



I’ve just watched Episode 5 NeoHabitat (https://means.tv/programs/preservingworlds?cid=1699451), about how a museum revived the game server and it is now possible to play it in a browser, as an alternative to the C64 client. I never played it back in the day, but this documentary seems to give a good overview.

This year I’ve been doing contract maintenance work on the server part of its successor, WorldsAway, which is still running as https://www.vzones.com/

The server is C++ and runs on Solaris 8. I’ve enjoyed going through that old code from around 1996, it was well made. Over the years, changes were tacked on here and there until the server was crashing often, which is why I was hired to work on it. After some clean-up and increasing the capacity of some data structures it is running smoothly again.

Being paid for this gave me the excuse I needed to finally buy a Sun workstation, a used Sun Blade 150 I got for 100 € fully expanded to 2 GB of RAM, and I love it. Had to replace a couple of fans after cleaning up ancient dust blocks. I also put an IDE to SATA adapter with an Intel SSD, but that did not improve compile times: I guess the whole source code fits in RAM so once it’s buffered the disk speed does not matter. It does speed up a lot though when rsync’ing the source tree from my main workstation.


That sounds like an absolute dream job. Good for you! Niches are good.

I think one of the most memorable points in my career was when as a junior was tasked to revive a highly critical production system dependent on a very sick DEC Alpha server in dire need of healing through many different partial backups. Only tangential to what you describe, but I can certainly relate to the joy you felt revivifying an aging piece of software on an old system and succeeding. Yes, I do still dabble in retro computing. :)


As someone who spent a ton of time playing UO, I really wish there had been a way to capture the experience of running various dungeons and hanging out in different towns c. 2000. You can still look around these virtual spaces today, but you'll have no idea how they were actually inhabited by players.


UO ruined other MMOs for me, it allowed too much freedom. In the early days, before trammel/felucca split you could attack anyone and take their gear. It really felt like actions had permanence, and you had an effect in the world.

I think most people look back fondly on UO who played it in its prime, but I don't know whether the state of things today would allow something even close to capturing that feeling.

When WoW came out it felt like the game was some sort of theme park rather than an actual secondary world. I couldn't bring myself to get invested in it like I was with UO.


Funcom's Anarchy Online just had it's 20th anniversary and feels the same way. It's easy to log back in and see the virtual world, but without players inhabiting the space it's missing the context that really caused these virtual spaces to be so significant in my, and I assume many other's, memories.


> … "Anarchy Online" …

Wow. There's a game I haven't heard mentioned in a while. Had no idea it was still around until you mentioned it here.


Could be an interesting series. Love the throwback Web 1.0 styling.

Im a little surprised that WorldsAway wasn’t talked about! Maybe that game was more popular in my mind than it was in reality. From 15-18 I was on there constantly! I still remember getting a $400 phone bill because my compuserve dialup number was local long distance ;(


somewhat related articles about Meridian 59, one of the earliest graphical MMOs as we know them -- it's now open source apparently

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-last...

https://www.vice.com/en/article/qvvj45/how-the-worlds-oldest...


I wonder if Second Life/OpenSim would join this soon


It's right there on that page: https://preservingworlds.net/secondlife.html




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