Shareware Heroes

By Richard Moss

The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the internet

Monday, 8 June 2020

An 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'd share it around in your circles.

If it succeeds, all Unbound backers and Kickstarter backers will receive a copy of the book (as soon as it's done!) and whatever other rewards they paid for. If it fails, the Unbound campaign and all existing pledges will be cancelled.

Now, an update on the book itself

It's nowhere near where I thought it'd be at this point. I've still not written much, and I still have a few dozen or more people I'd like to interview.

My motivations took a big hit last year when my attempts to bolster support failed to materialise much upward movement at all — just a few percent nearer to the funding goal, if I recall correctly. As a result, I shifted most of my non-freelance energies to my podcast and to my wedding (or things related to my wedding).

Every so often I'd bug Unbound about either trying a Kickstarter or killing the campaign, or I'd halfheartedly turn to Twitter to share a bit of trivia or a neat new finding that I hoped would somehow spur some new support (it rarely did). But not much happened. The project was stalled.

Around two months ago, a large portion of my freelance writing work evaporated. Which sucks, but the silver lining is that it was just the push I needed to go from thinking "it'd really be nice if I could spend more time on Shareware Heroes" to actually spending more time on the project.

And as I got back into planning and organising and research and interviewing, I pushed again for a one-last-try-to-get-this-funded Kickstarter campaign — because I don't like that you've all been left hanging, and I want some clarity over what my end-product will be.

So progress has been slow, but it's accelerating, and I have real momentum and motivation behind me again — motivation that's independent to the campaign, I might add, which means if the Kickstarter fails then I'll still be chugging along merrily towards my destination (only with an altered path before me, as campaign failure means either finding a new publisher or going solo).

To ensure that I keep this newfound energy going, I've also changed my approach a little. I had previously been trying to do my interviews in a semi-chronological order — to work my way through people who made shareware games in the 1980s, then into people in the early 90s and onto the mid-90s and so on. I thought it'd help me build a clearer picture of how the shareware scene evolved, year after year. Now I think it's more important that I just keep gaining knowledge — so I've swapped to a more slipshod approach of just following my whims and chasing down the many threads of history without care for where they'll fit in the overarching narrative. (Here's a fun thing I was looking through last week: the top products, sorted by income and by quantity, on shareware payments processor Kagi in the late '90s.)

Also, a request: if you made shareware games, at any point in time, no matter how well they sold or how well-known they became, I'd love to hear from you. Please email me on and tell me your story; tell me what being a shareware author meant to you.

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Mathieu Giannotta
 Mathieu Giannotta says:

It's great to see the project reinvigorated. Looks like the Kickstart campaign is a success. Congratulations! Looking forward to the finished project.

posted 17th June 2020

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