More and more, as the video game industry matures, we find ourselves talking about game preservation and the disappearing culture of some older games as the original publishers abandon them. Often times leaving the public with no actual legit method for purchasing these old games, copyright law conspires with the situation to also prevent the public itself from clawing back its half of the copyright bargain. The end results are studios and publishers that have enjoyed the fruits of copyright law for a period of time, only for that cultural output to be withheld from the public later on. By any plain reading of American copyright law, that outcome shouldn’t be acceptable.
When it comes to one classic PlayStation 1 title, it seems that one enterprising individual has very much refused to accept this outcome. A fan of the first-party Sony title WipeOut, an exclusive to the PS1, has ported the game such that it can be played in a web browser. And, just to drive the point home, they have essentially dared Sony to do something about it.
“Either let it be, or shut this thing down and get a real remaster going,” he told Sony in a recent blog post (via VGC). Despite the release of the PlayStation Classic, 2017’s Wipeout Omega Collection, and PS Plus adding old PS1 games to PS5 like Twisted Metal, there’s no way to play the original WipeOut on modern consoles and experience the futuristic racer’s incredible soundtrack and neo-Tokyo aesthetic in all their glory. So fans have taken it upon themselves to make the Psygnosis-developed hit accessible on PC.
As Dominic Szablewski details in his post and in a series of videos detailing this labor of love, getting this all to work took a great deal of unraveling in the source code. The whole thing was a mess primarily because every iteration of the game simply had new code layered on top of the last iteration, meaning that there was a lot of onion-peeling to be done to make this all work.
But work it does!
After a lot of detective work and elbow grease, Szablewski managed to resurrect a modified playable version of the game with an uncapped framerate that looks crisp and sounds great. He still recommends two other existing PC ports over his own, WipeOut Phantom Edition and an unnamed project by a user named XProger. However, those don’t come with the original source code, the legality of which he admits is “questionable at best.”
But again, what is the public supposed to do here? The original game simply can’t be bought legitimately and hasn’t been available for some time. Violating copyright law certainly isn’t the right answer, but neither is allowing a publisher to let cultural output go to rot simply because it doesn’t want to do anything about it.
“Sony has demonstrated a lack of interest in the original WipeOut in the past, so my money is on their continuing absence,” Szablewski wrote. “If anyone at Sony is reading this, please consider that you have (in my opinion) two equally good options: either let it be, or shut this thing down and get a real remaster going. I’d love to help!”
Sadly, I’m fairly certain I know how this story will end.