Shareware Heroes takes readers on a journey through a critical yet long overlooked chapter in video game history: the rise and eventual fall of the shareware model.
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 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. This is the story of the games and developers who relied on nascent networking technologies combined with word-of-mouth marketing in an era before social media.
Building on deep archival research and featuring interviews with creators, developers and other heroes of the shareware age, Richard Moss – author of The Secret History of Mac Gaming– once again brings to light a forgotten but all too important era of game development.
Richard Moss is an award-winning writer, journalist, and historian. He's written extensively about the history and culture of videogames for around two dozen leading games and technology publications, including Ars Technica, Gamasutra, Edge, Eurogamer, Mac|Life, Polygon, Rock Paper Shotgun, Vice Motherboard, and many others.
Richard is also the author of The Secret History of Mac Gaming, which tells the story of the little community of game developers and players who broke new boundaries and made the Mac a special place for games in the 1980s and '90s — even as the rest of the world forgot it. And he produces the narrative podcasts Ludiphilia, which shares stories related to how and why people play, and The Life & Times of Video Games, which offers documentary-style episodes on moments and people from games history.
He lives in Melbourne, Australia, in a house ruled by a bengal cat named Max.
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21st October 2022Shareware Heroes media coverage, US launch plans, PAX panel, and more
Sorry about the long delay between updates. I wanted to allow some time for books to get out into your hands before I shared anything more, and then I spent most of September being sick (food poisoning and then a severe cold I caught from my daughter).
The book came out in the UK in late August, and I believe it started going to backers 2-3 weeks beforehand. I've heard about a few…
29th July 2022At the finish line
I'm sure most of you have already seen that the ebook is now available for backers to download, and you may have also received a notification that we'd gone to press.
Well, we're actually done with printing. The book is finished! My author copies are in the mail, and if you backed at a physical tier then your hardback should be shipped very soon. And if you opted for a signed copy you'll have one…
16th June 2022Getting ready for printing, and other stuff
We're now coming to the end of the slow-and-steady production phase where things take lots of time to check and get right. As I understand it, the book is done, but for a few final checks, and it'll be heading off to the printers very soon.
In the meantime, I'll have a few other things I need to get done. I need to record the audiobook I promised you as a stretch goal, which I'll be…
2nd May 2022Edging our way closer to publication
Since the last update, I've gone through the first proofs document and requested various tweaks — mostly swapping one image out for another or moving an image to a different place (designers have a weird thing where they like to put an image several or more pages before it's actually relevant to the text, just because it looks good there).
I've also picked out images for the colour plate section…
17th March 2022March update - first proofs
Earlier this month I received the completed first proofs for Shareware Heroes. This is the name used for the first full draft of a book's layout and design, with placeholders for things that will be dropped in later (like acknowledgements and index and, in our case, supporter lists).
It's an exciting moment in the publishing process, as this is when everyone involved gets a first look at the book…
27th January 2022Final cover reveal!
Last month when I told you about the book's final title (Shareware Heroes: The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the internet) I promised we'd reveal a new cover to go with it in the new year.
Well, here we go; below you'll find a render of the book's final cover, which I think is brilliant. I've also attached a fun little video reveal Unbound made to this post. Then toward the end…
24th December 2021December update (we have a new book subtitle!)
I don't have a lot to share for this end-of-year update, but the news is good:
First up, not long after I published last month's update my editor at Unbound came to me with a proposal they'd cooked up internally for a change to the book's subtitle. Before I tell you what that is, let's step back a moment for context. The original subtitle I'd come up with was Independent Game Development at the…
14th November 2021November update
Sorry I missed the update last month. I was busy with lots of things — a Shareware Heroes copyedit review, podcast stuff, Secret History of Mac Gaming Expanded Edition launch prep, FPS documentary work, freelance editing work on somebody else's book, and preparing for the impending arrival of my first child — and never found the time to write something out for you.
Since my last update I've gone through the notes, comments, corrections, and suggestions from the development editor. I made loads of revisions that improved the flow and clarity of the manuscript, and at the editor…
12th July 2021July update (editing news!)
I got the development edit back on Friday, and the feedback is tremendously-upbeat. Here's a snippet:
I'd been hoping it was a strong manuscript, but I knew when I submitted that I was too close to it to be able to judge for myself — so to get this praise back from a stranger (via my editor at Unbound) is a great relief for me, and I suspect also encouraging news for all of you.
1st June 2021June update
Hi all, sorry I missed last month's update. There wasn't much to talk about, so I had planned on discussing more of my research findings or methods, but I never quite got around to figuring out exactly what to share.
This is very much the quiet phase of the process. We have an editor looking the manuscript over at the moment and I'm told that the current prospective publish date is August 2022…
14th April 2021April update (manuscript finished)
Good news, everybody! The manuscript's done. I submitted it to Unbound just before Easter, then took a week off to rest and do whatever (read: watch TV, go hiking, and build a Nanoblock sailing ship) because I worked on all-but-two days through February and March.
My final word count was around 73,000 words, spread across 14 chapters (I previously stated there'd be 15, but I merged two of them…
7th March 2021March update
Hey folks, it's time for one final writing progress report:
I'm not quite done yet, but I'm inside the final 10,000 words now — most chapters are 90-95% done, with only a few still well short of completion — and I expect there'll be a finished draft in about a week's time (~5-8 days, based on the trends of the past month). It'll then take another week or two after that to revise and polish the…
10th February 2021February update
I wanted to give you an update on how things are going, but I'm too deep in the writing process right now to come up with some interesting big-picture insights or cool research findings, so I'll keep this one brief:
Writing is coming along well, though still some way from done. I've now written eight or nine chapters (out of 15-16 total) to completion or near-completion, and have a…
1st January 2021Happy New Year! Here are a few neat research findings
Happy New Year from down here in Australia, where I'm spending my first day of 2021 writing a chapter about several shareware games from the early 90s.
I didn't progress as far as I'd hoped on writing in December, but I now at least have words on the page for every chapter, four of which are nearing (or already at) a point of completion, and interviews wrapped up with five more people than a month…
28th November 2020Writing and research update
I hope you're doing well as we enter the weirdest holiday season that I think I can remember.
Now that I've been working more consistently on the book for a while, I wanted to give you an update on where things are at, how it's been going, and what's still to do:
Let's start with the research side. Books like this are enormously research-heavy. They involve laboriously poring over…
9th July 2020Kickstarter finished and funded! Next steps...
First off, big thanks to everyone here for helping to make this campaign such a resounding success...eventually. It took a long time to get here, but the Kickstarter to make up the shortfall in funding finished yesterday and it managed to hit the heights of 182% funded and 515 backers.
That success means we were able to hit two stretch goals: I will record an audiobook version, which…
17th June 2020Sharing some research findings
(Cross-posting this from Kickstarter, where things are going great — 88% funded with 22 days to go! Which means we're at approximately 95% funded overall.)
We're almost there! Just a little more and we'll be funded.
In the meantime, I thought it'd be nice to share a few cool things I've found in my research and interviews so far.
I've been talking to people across a broad spectrum of roles…
8th June 2020An announcement, and an update
First off, I'd like to apologise for the lack of updates — though the truth is, sadly, there wasn't really anything to update. Before I get into that, an announcement:
Shareware Heroes is now on Kickstarter; if you've supported the book on Unbound, you don't need to support it again. The Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing attempt to raise the remainder of our funding goal, so it'd be helpful if you…
18th January 2019New Year 2019 update, and we need a big push
I hope you had a good end to your 2018. I know it's been a while since my last update, but I've not stopped working on the book and I'm trying now to get some real momentum going again on this crowdfunding campaign. For that I'll need your help, but first here's a little encouragement to bolster your enthusiasm.
I'm actively tracking down more of the people I'd…
12th October 2018Still trucking along...
I've had a super-busy past month of freelancing, and am still going to be flat-out with non-book work through to the end of this month, but I wanted to give you a quick update on how things are progressing.
On the funding side, we're steadily rising — albeit at a much slower rate than I'd like. I hope to get that accelerating towards the end of this month and all through November, as…
14th September 201822% funded! Also, tell me about Amiga shareware games
Thanks to everyone who's pledged and/or helped to spread the word about the book so far. We've rolled on past the 20% milestone and as I write this are sitting at 22%, which is a solid start. I'd love to see us pass 30% by this time next week, so please keep on bugging your friends to hop on board.
31st August 2018Welcome! Here's some more detail to get us started
Hi! Thanks for being here. For this first update, I thought it'd be good to go over how this campaign and this updates blog are going to work, as well as to tell you a bit about the direction I'm coming from with this book project. And also to lay out the different ways you can help out.
For those of you unfamiliar with Unbound, here's a quick primer:
Hi, just backed this, looks great. Will you be featuring Llamasoft in the book?
Yes, definitely. I hope to interview Jeff Minter about his shareware games and his/Llamasoft's part in the Amiga/Atari ST shareware scene. (And if for some reason he declines, I'll still be able to leverage old interviews he's done with others.)
Hi Richard, I note that you're going to be writing about Epic (Mega) Games. Will you be writing about Potomac Computer Systems and ZZT?
Yes, of course! They're essential to the story. I'll be going in-depth on those early days of Epic, including the time before it was actually called Epic. Also looking to include a bit of stuff about the ZZT community and its most notable people/worlds/mods/etc.
Hope this will still happen... let's rush! ;-)
Definitely still going to happen, whether with Unbound as we planned (and on that note, we're looking at our options for how we might get the rest of the funding) or through some other means like self-publishing — either way, it'll just take a bit longer than we'd hoped.
Hello - My book was shipped but has not arrived yet. It has been in USPS possession since August 17. Where do I go for help?
Hi Clay, We're sorry to hear that. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org who will try to help get it released. Best wishes, Lena