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Unity Saving Acclaim's Summer Heat Beach Volleyball

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Hello, I recently learned that rights to Acclaim video games are being auctioned. After several weeks into the auction, no one has made a bid for Summer Heat Beach Vollayball. I am interested in acquiring this game, porting it to the PC platform, and releasing the code under open source license. I have experience in 3D graphics on several systems. I ported my 3D dance animation program to Sony's consumer developer kit, Net Yaroze, so I have had some exposure to console development. Before I bid on Summer Heat Vollayball, I need to find out what the nature of the code is likely to be. Is there anyone in your community that could tell me roughly what would be involved in porting this Play Station 2 game? Thanks in advance for your time David

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1) Are they selling the source code and source assets at all?

To me, that list reads like they're only selling the rights to *publish* and *re-publish* the existing titles on their original platforms. From that my impression is you won't get /any/ source code or assets, only the gold master and a contract of ownership.

Before bidding, contact them to ensure (at least):

a. the publishing rights include the right to port and publish on other platforms.

b. those rights include any licensed assets/IP; for example if you bought the publishing rights to "Bubble Bobble", how does Acclaim's license with Taito who own the Bubble Bobble IP fit in; likewise with the other license; Likewise with any product placement references in Summer Heat Beach Volleyball; Likewise with any licensed music.

c. the publishing rights include ownership of the source code and source assets, and all of it, including any middleware used.

d. the publishing rights include all worldwide territories, particularly North America and Europe.

e. the publishing rights include the right to publish for the original platform. For example, Sony might not legally allow you to re-publish the PS2 version again unless you yourself are a Sony licensed publisher - the rights to a game are unlikely to give you the all rights of Acclaim...

f. that the *complete* source code, *original* source assets, *complete* tool pipeline (and source code), *complete* build environment, and converted assets are intact and supplied with the deal; preferably you should get a period of due dilligence to check that for yourself.

2) If I were in your shoes, I'd seriously hire an IP specialist lawyer with games industry experience to go through those contracts with a fine toothcomb - otherwise you could very easily be left with a worthless piece of paper and a hole in your pocket!

I worked at Acclaim (at the Manchester, UK studio) at the time it went down, trust me, the legal dealings and relationships between the various studios, the publishing division, and the subsiduaries is complicated and a legal minefield (for example: many of the studios were previously independent developers that Acclaim bought, so the rights to some things may have reverted to original owners now Acclaim is gone).

3) At best, you'll get a bunch of CDs/DVDs/tapes/HDDs with:
a. a full backup of the source control tree for the project at the time of gold master, with labels/branches for each territory release and each milestone.

b. a full backup of the asset tree in whatever version control system they were using.

c. the game design document and technical design document.

d. a full backup of the build machine (or the machine itself) from the day the project ended. If you don't have this, expect at least a few weeks of trying to recreate the exact build environment - workarounds for compiler bugs, interoperability between tools etc is a nightmare if you don't have that archive.

e. all proprietary tools *with* source code. Otherwise you'll have a lot of fun reverse engineering custom **studio (and even game) specific** file formats and the like.

f. clean, modular commented and documented source code.

4) At worst you'll get:

a. the assets in final converted format

b. badly commented source code to the game itself with last minute crunch time "fixes" and no source code to the engine or any of the tools (executable and library/archive files to the engine if you're lucky).

5) As for porting to the PC:

a. if the original game was ever cross-platform at any part of its development, then much of the engine should have been abstracted suitably that re-writing the renderer and other core tech for PC will be all that's required coding wise.

b. if the original game was only ever single platform, there's a danger that techniques used for things like the graphics engine were very PS2 specific. Even worse, you may find VU math code and even hardware register pokes scattered through game code itself.

c. some understanding of the PS2 architechture would be advisable before attempting a port. For example, you might very likely see code reading and writing directly from a memory address around 0x70000000; do you know what's so magic about that address?. And documentation for VU microcode would be an essential for porting the graphics engine.

d. the biggest initial hurdle will be getting the code to compile for a target other than PS2. Expect to have to write PC stubs for every PS2 engine function that isn't a library call.

e. the next biggest hurdle is sussing out the inputs and outputs of all of those stubbed functions (assuming it wasn't cross platform); bearing in mind that many of them may hit PS2 hardware registers directly to start things like DMA transfers and IOP programs going.
You'll really need to be able to understand what the functions are doing to be able to write PC equivilents. To do that, you *will* need the developer documentation for the PS2, and ideally a PS2 devkit to run the code on to see what the code does in practice; a PS2 Linux kit /might/ be enough.

f. PS2 is little endian, as is PC, so much of the file format code will at least still work. But texture files will have been converted to PS2-native formats. If you have the source assets, re-do the loading code and use something like DXT for textures; otherwise you'll have to write something to convert format.

g. console games usually do "in-place" loading where a block of data is read off disk and used at the point where it's loaded rather than "converted". So you won't find "CreateTexture" type calls, just a load, some pointer fixups and use in place.

h. I could write a book on cross platform development and porting here. But I don't have the time. [wink] Besides, someone else already has:

6) In general: be sure you're not biting off more than you can chew & make sure you know exactly what you're getting before you pay a dime.

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Thanks for your reply. The auction house was a bit vague last week when I asked about what's included. They mentioned getting about getting 400 boxes of 'stuff' in the next few days. I suspect they might not know how to sort out all of the related components.

Before I asked them more detailed questions, I figured I should determine if this project was over my head. It sounds like it might be.


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What I would do with those rights: develop a 1:1 clone for mobile phones and then offer the publishing rights and game to publishers. Rereleases of arcade classics are mostly a big success on java phones.

My god, the highest bid so far for the rights to 'Bubble Bobble' is $5,100. That's a fraction of what a java cell phone version of that game could earn you.

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