By Richard Moss
The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the internet
Publication date: August 2022Support this project
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How the golden age of shareware subverted, shook up, and reshaped the video game industry, and kept independent game development alive.
As commercial game distribution professionalised in the 1980s, independent creators with scant resources or contacts were squeezed out of the market. But not entirely. New technologies and marketing/distribution concepts were creating a hidden games publishing market. One that operated by different rules and that, at least for the first several years, had no powerful giants.
It was a land of opportunity and promise and a glimpse of the digital-first future. And for some indie game developers, it was home. This is the story of the games and game developers who relied on nascent networking technologies combined with word of mouth marketing in an era before social media.
Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet takes readers on a journey, from the beginnings of the shareware model in the early 1980s, the origins of the concept, even the name itself, and the rise of shareware's major players – the likes of id Software, Apogee, and Epic MegaGames – through to the significance of shareware for the ‘forgotten’ systems – the Mac, Atari ST, Amiga – when commercial game publishers turned away from them.
This book also charts the emergence of commercial shareware distributors like Educorp and the BBS/newsgroup sharing culture. And it explores how shareware developers plugged gaps in the video gaming market by creating games in niche and neglected genres like vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-ups (e.g. Raptor and Tyrian) or racing games (e.g. Wacky Wheels and Skunny Kart) or RPGs (God of Thunder and Realmz), until finally, as the video game market again grew and shifted, and major publishers took control, how the shareware system faded into the background and fell from memory.
Featuring numerous interviews with creators, developers and early shareware heroes, Richard Moss, author of The Secret History of Mac Gaming, once again brings to light a forgotten era of game development. Shareware Heroes is a comprehensive, meticulously researched exploration of an important and too-long overlooked chapter in video game history.
- Approximately 360 pages
- Royal hardback with head and tail bands
- Two colour plate sections featuring glossy photographs and screenshots
- Includes a bookmark, high quality printing and internal design
*Book designs and cover are for illustrative purpose and may differ to final design. Text shown in page design is placeholder.