Checking out some of the releases from the various parties this month, one thing really struck me as being a problem with the PC scene, which didn't occur for the Amiga or earlier scenes. The PC scene is the only scene which really needs standards to be drawn up and maintained. I don't mean standards like the maximum size of cracked games, a file_id.diz etc. I mean standards in terms of machine specifications and even the dreaded and much debated OS's. The thing about the Amiga scene (I hate to keep going back to the Ami, but it was undoubtedly the best scene) was that everyone's machine was pretty much the same, i.e. an A500. So any scene productions were made to work on A500s. If your demo or intro didn't work on an A500 then it didn't work (period). There were some compatibility problems when the A1200 came out, with the AGA chipset, but they were miniscule in comparison to the compatibility problems faced by our PC scene. For this reason, the scene really really really really... etc. has got to draw up some realistic standards for scene productions!
I've said it was essential in a couple of my previous articles, but it still hasn't happened. Coders should form some kind of coders guild, and likewise for GFXers and trackers. The laws should be laid down in these guilds, and should be strictly adhered to. For example, the standard OS should be Windows... (deep breath, knowing how tiresome this debate is)... because that's the OS on the majority of PCs nowadays. If coders also want to produce LINUX and DOS versions, then fine, but they should primarily produce for Windows. Likewise, a set of standard machine specs should be drawn up, which should be the average PCs specs. Companies do market research on this, so you could use the industry standard, or a standard agreed to by the coders guild/coop. Then, these scene-specs should be advertised in every scene production, and of course updated when the time comes. My suggestion would be a 233mmx, 32 meg ram, 3d card, 2mb video, and Soundblaster. These specs aren't exhorbitant, my own machine is far more powerful than this, but the scene should cater for the average scener.
Of course, this method also places some responsibility in the hands of the scener himself. Why? Well, because if your machine falls below the standard specs for the scene, you'll need to upgrade it in order to ensure you can run the productions. There may be other little problems, such as device incompatibility, but Windows will sort most of these problems out (another reason to use it as standard). It's the only way forward I'm afraid, otherwise the scene will continue to wane in terms of public interest. Half the stuff wont run on most people's machines! That's ludicrus. No wonder there's only a small minority of PC users interested in the PC scene. If you downloaded some demos, and they never worked for you, or they ran shit, then you wouldn't be very bothered about downloading another demo, would you? We need to show some organisation here, and to draw up these standards, that the games industry already have, and stick to them! If people have faster machines, then fine, the productions will run great, but those with the lower machines should also have no problems (I'm not talking about ridiculously low P90s!). It's time to forget about DOS, it's a thing of the past now, we should change with the times. I don't care what you DOS vs Windows debaters say, Windows is more compatible and more commonly used. If sceners stayed with the old way all the time, then we'd all be on the C64 scene, there wouldn't have been an Amiga or PC scene.
I really want to see these suggestions put in place, so top scene-coders get together, organise yourselves and decide on a scene standard. Then all good sceners will adhere to this and we'll have far less problems, and thus a stronger scene. The responsibility falls on all those involved in the scene to stick to the standards and to publicise what the standards are - regardless of whether you agree with them or not.
If we did this, people would know why the stuff wasn't running on their machines and how to correct the problem. Incidentally, if coders/groups wanted to produce stuff for lower than standard specs, there would be no problem with this either, because it would still run on the standard or higher scene spec machines. Drawing up a scene-standard would only be beneficial. Of course, the main problem I can see with this beautiful idea, is that certain twats would always go against the scene-standard, and produce stuff that only runs on their own machine and few others. This is a problem indeed, especially if many groups/coders do it. A possible solution to this problem, which I've thought of, is to have seperate sections on scene-archives. The main section would be the standard-scene-spec (s3) productions, with other stuff that didn't adhere to s3 being put in a seperate section. This would help people to know what would work and what wouldn't, and would also encourage the non-standard makers to agree to s3 productions - thus gradually eliminating the non-s3 stuff, and making incompatability a thing of the past!
Nothing works overnight, all real changes are gradual. If your production adheres to the s.s.s. then you just put a little s3 in your file_id.diz or infofiles. The organisers of scene-archives would have to work a little harder, to change the site, and to update it, as the s3 was updated. Perhaps you could just change the old-main area to 'S3-99' or something similar to show that the productions contained within the area are for the agreed 1999 standards. It makes sense to me, and if a discussion is held regarding this, then I'd like to be a part of it. There are other things to debate, but after some discussion I'm sure that s3 would be a worthwhile endeavor. I'm also sure that after the s3 was agreed upon, groups would use it and support it by placing the 's3' badge on productions. What do you think?