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Old 25-05-2013, 05:04 PM   #1
MrFlibble
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Question Post-DOS episode-based shareware distribution

I'm not sure if this is a coincidence or not but the number of games that were released via the classic Scott Miller shareware model - split into complete episodes, the first of which is free to distribute - seems to have declined around the same time as DOS gradually became replaced by Windows as a gaming platform in late nineties. Maybe the advent of the Internet had something to do with that but this is not an issue here.

What I'm interested in is the games that still were released as episodes even in Windows era. It is true that some games and game genres preclude this kind of distribution because of their internal structure (e.g. there is no actual progression form level to a level). But many that could follow this model used limited demo versions instead (if any at all).

The important distinction here as I understand it lies in (a) whether the demo/shareware is marketed as an "episode" and (b) whether said episode can indeed be regarded as a complete, albeit short, game. Additionally, a shareware episode does not have the "hard" limitations which are sometimes present in demo versions, such as the inability to save or load a game (provided this feature is available in the full version), or limited playing time.

This should also be distinguished from the more recent development of episodic video games where all episodes are commercial from the start.

There are of course some early Win3.x games that follow the same model, like Epic Games' Castle of the Winds, Spiderweb Software's Blades of Exile or Fantasoft's Realmz. These however were released in the time when the Apogee model was still widely used.

So far, I can only name a few Windows games that were released in episodes:Some demo versions of games can be also added to this category:I fancy there should be more games like that (I mean the ones released in the shareware episode format), although not as plentiful as in early to mid nineties.
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Old 26-05-2013, 02:54 PM   #2
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Siege of Avalon was released in six downloadable episodes back in the early 2000s.
I think shareware did not disappear but transformed into the DLC system - you can get additional content if you buy them. Actually, I was wondering where did the expansion packs go? Well, fusioned with shareware releasing, they became one and are now called DownLoadable Content.
I'm sure we all remember that it used to be popular back then to sell new maps and content on separate discs for a few dollars cheaper - Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, Quake 2: Juggernaut, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault: Spearhead / Breakthrough. I can only recall MMORPGs to have expansion packs in these years.
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Old 26-05-2013, 04:21 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tracker View Post
Siege of Avalon was released in six downloadable episodes back in the early 2000s.
Thanks for mentioning this, I didn't know about it

Also, I totally forgot that Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project was also released via the Apogee model (which is kind of obvious, not? ), complete with episode titles.

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I think shareware did not disappear but transformed into the DLC system - you can get additional content if you buy them. Actually, I was wondering where did the expansion packs go? Well, fusioned with shareware releasing, they became one and are now called DownLoadable Content.
I don't think that "shareware" and DLC are related directly - rather, they are based off the same concept that you may download a programme (game or other software) and pay for it online, rather than go to a shop and purchase a physical medium with it.

DLC as I understand it does follow the essence of expansion packs. But the Apogee/Scott Miller shareware model was eventually replaced by the more limited demo versions we know today.

The major difference here is that shareware episodes feel like complete games, because they have all the essential features of a full game, up to a boss battle (if such is allowed by game mechanics), and of course a more or less complete story, ending in a cliffhanger.

Sure, as download speeds became higher in the 2000s it was possible to put a more or less substantial portion of the game into a demo, and many demo versions do allow to play the game from the start into the story a bit (much like a "first episode" of the shareware model), but very often they lack the feel of completeness that you have in the classic episodic games from the nineties.
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Old 26-05-2013, 06:41 PM   #4
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Well, I think actually that most of MMO (especially those are following F2P model) works like old "Shareware". You can get "full" game at your fingertips for free - but if you want to progress further, you must to pay.

Also, I think, Telltale and Grimm games was following the same SW model: first episode for free, but everything else is for money. Not now - I checked, and everything is paid now. :/ I dunno why - maybe Steam boosted popularity of the model and companies itself, so they don't need such sort of promotion anymore. Or maybe it was designed as time-limited offers right from the start.
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Old 27-05-2013, 10:24 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiling Spectre View Post
Well, I think actually that most of MMO (especially those are following F2P model) works like old "Shareware". You can get "full" game at your fingertips for free - but if you want to progress further, you must to pay.
That is called freemium. Frankly, I find it of little resemblance to true shareware games of the Scott Miller model, which do not prevent you from actually completing the shareware episode in any way. As someone here said some time ago, those shareware episodes are actually like free games with commercial expansion packs.

If I'm not mistaken, the shareware version of Blades of Exile works in a similar fashion, allowing you to play the first of the three pre-made scenarios that are shipped with the full game. Other Exile games have a single storyline, and you are only allowed to play up to a certain point in the unregistered version.

BTW, I just found something cool:
Please Register This Shareware

It's a rather sizeable collection of shareware nag screens from old games

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Originally Posted by Smiling Spectre View Post
Also, I think, Telltale and Grimm games was following the same SW model: first episode for free, but everything else is for money. Not now - I checked, and everything is paid now. :/ I dunno why - maybe Steam boosted popularity of the model and companies itself, so they don't need such sort of promotion anymore. Or maybe it was designed as time-limited offers right from the start.
I barely know these games, although they seem to be the archetype of modern "episodic gaming". It's quite possible that the free first episodes were just for initial promotion.

As for the "kid of shareware" demo versions of the Age of Kings variety, I also think that the demo of Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom has the entire tutorial campaign, set in the Xia Dynasty (as well as a few scenarios from other campaigns).
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Old 28-05-2013, 04:45 AM   #6
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Would Savage enter your category?

It is an online multiplayer game. The demo features only humans, the full game had two races and the second was a demon-like savage humanoid concentrating on melee.

The irony here is that I always found the game way, way more interesting with only the humans playing on both sides.
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Old 29-05-2013, 12:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagle of Fire View Post
It is an online multiplayer game. The demo features only humans, the full game had two races and the second was a demon-like savage humanoid concentrating on melee.
Does it have a single-player mode (a tutorial mode maybe)? if yes, can it be considered a campaign or anything like that?
The demo description only mentions two maps.

Many demo versions of strategy games (both RTS and TBS) have some sort of extended playability or another, like the option to play randomly generated skirmish maps (e.g. the demo versions of Age of Mythology and Rise of Nations), but this is different from demo or shareware releases that offer a single-player storyline that is packed into a complete episode (by "complete" I mean it has all the distinctive components of a plot).

Curiously, I also vaguely remember some demo of a game that would only allow to play as one of the possible races or factions, which I found more appealing than the other(s). I can't quite remember what that game is though.
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Old 29-05-2013, 03:51 AM   #8
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Gollop's Laser Squad Nemesis was like that.
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Old 30-05-2013, 08:19 PM   #9
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Oh yes, I remember reading about Laser Squad nemesis at this website (which is essentially a modern equivalent of a shareware vendor).
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Old 03-06-2013, 02:12 PM   #10
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Well, maybe some reviews would be a good idea, then?
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