Pleroma

Available today in the US and Canada in paperback and Kindle format β€” my latest book, *Shareware Heroes: The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the Internet*, delves into the 90s indie games scene and the rise of the shareware business model that presaged free-to-play.

I managed to pack in lots of dev stories, biz insights, and meta-narrative into this one. It covers the origins and early work of id Software, Epic (Mega)Games, Apogee/3D Realms, Ambrosia Software, Jeff Minter, and more, along with surprise hits such as Elasto Mania, Snood, Scorched Earth, etc, market failures like Star Quest 1, and quirky games like Grandad and the Quest for the Holey Vest, plus shareware distributors like TUCOWS and Public Brand Software, the UK licenceware and PD scene, the market shifts that happened as the big indie publishers emerged and then left the shareware scene, and more.

If you're wondering if it's worth buying, there's a thoughtful and fun article/review-ish thing over on Eurogamer: https://www.eurogamer.net/the-legacy-of-shareware-is-everywhere

And you can learn more and buy via sharewareheroes.com
Photo of the hardback and paperback editions of Shareware Heroes: The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the internet. Screenshot of the main page at sharewareheroes.com. Includes short and long descriptions of the book plus links to buy the book. Screenshot of the "reviews and praise" page at sharewareheroes.com. It looks like an old DOS program, with reviews in boxes down the left of the page and "where to buy" links as buttons down the right side.

@MossRC @mac84tv RIP Ambrosia

@MossRC Does it also include Trumpet Winsock? :)

@MossRC The book's website is pretty spectacular. πŸ‘

@MossRC Jeff Minter's GDC speech on Space Giraffe where he gets choked up talking about how the people saved him through shareware after the industry had shut him out is one of the best moments you'll ever see in a GDC presentation.

@MossRC I just love the home page, gave back a lot of good memories! So I just had to order! Thanks!

@MossRC ooh, this looks right up my alley! πŸ€“
(+the website is just... πŸ˜™πŸ‘Œ)

@Liquidream I had the best time building that website; it was so much fun tinkering with layouts and colours and other CSS things that could be appropriated to emulate an old-school DOS vibe.

@lordkhan Thank you! I had a lot of fun building that website and tinkering with the design to make it more fun and nostalgic. Hope you enjoy the book!

@GabeMoralesVR I remember hearing/reading about that, but I've never seen it. Will have to dig out the video. It was fascinating reading his letter to fans about why Llamatron was shareware and feeling the sadness and exasperation in it at how the commercial market had changed, knowing everything that's happened for him since.

@schmudde Thank you! I had a wonderful time building that website and tinkering with the design until it felt *just right* to me. I've been meaning to code in a JavaScript screensaver as well, with flying floppy disks or some other thematically-appropriate throwback to the era.

@eloy It does not. I only covered a small amount of non-games shareware software, and most of that was just in setting the scene and establishing how/why games struggled in shareware pre-Apogee.

@ultranurd @mac84tv I'd love to do a book on Ambrosia specifically one day. I wonder sometimes if the market is big enough to justify the work (it'd be a labour of love, but I'd at least need to make *some money*), but it's been encouraging to see even a few years later I get a steady 200-300 people digging into the PAX talk I republished about Ambrosia at https://lifeandtimes.games/episodes/files/pax-aus-19-ambrosia-sw-talk

@MossRC @mac84tv Nice! I heard some of this here and there as a MacAddict subscriber but missed a lot of this story at the time. Put a ton of time into the EV games, including ResEdit modding.

@MossRC Looks great I can’t wait to check it out. Quick note - for me the US Kindle version says it will be released on the 12th and only allows a preorder.

@cognitivegears I'll email my publisher to check if that's correct or if something went wrong on the backend with Amazon.

@MossRC @colincornaby Brings back memories of my Compuserve Navigator days which included me being the β€œunknown author of the Obnoxious Init” mentioned on page 77 of Son of Stupid Mac Tricks by Bob Levitus (https://vintageapple.org/macbooks/pdf/Son_of_Stupid_Mac_Tricks_1991.pdf)

Good times.

@mac84tv @MossRC @ultranurd hey neat to see an article about them! While it being at pax there’s not as much discussion of all their utilities but they were my publisher for iToner *right* after the original iPhone came out. Which did both them and I well until after the second release when Apple finally caught up on making ringtones better

@savaran @mac84tv @ultranurd It'd be interesting to see an article or a list covering all the excellent and popular third-party products that Apple has killed or neutered over the years through system updates that replicated all or most of their features. I can think of several just off the top of my head.

@MossRC The website for this is incredible!!! Although, I feel like the first chapter should be free! πŸ˜‚

@MossRC an era I remember well!

@MossRC just put a pre-order in for the Kindle edition!

@nulleric Thank you for buying them! I'll keep on going as long as there's sufficient market interest for my games and tech history projects.

@MossRC @Lauren_nicole_roth will it be available on Apple Bookstore? This is interesting to me.

@MossRC It's funny, as an adult 37 years old, who grew up with Shareware way back in the late 80's when we got compuserve, how much that whole entire era of software hippies had an enormous impact on my entire world view. I believe in copyleft and FOSS and all those kinds of distribution models, precisely because I was raised with shareware and gnu. I can't say enough how much the mentality Yak demonstrates in the video became my own, and I'm grateful for shareware for doing that to me.

@MossRC Case in point, I've been working on an independent game, and part of my release plan is to purposefully seed pirated copies of my game into the usual spots, because A) I truly believe those aren't lost sales, B) If my game is worth playing anyways, it'll happen eventually, and C) I can gain goodwill and actually benefit from people promoting my stuff for me, i.e. turning piracy into guerilla marketing. I think you need to believe in shareware to try something risky like that.

@cognitivegears Does the Kindle version show as available for you now? I haven't heard back from my publisher yet about what was going on with the delayed Kindle release, but hoping it's all good now.

@airadam Excellent! I hope you enjoy it. (And is the Kindle edition available for you now? Or if not, what date are you seeing for release? I've been hearing about some weird regional variations from people and my publisher hasn't responded to my question about it yet.)

@woolie @Lauren_nicole_roth Good question. I presume you've searched and it isn't there now? I'll see if I can find out from my publisher if it'll be appearing there at any point. In the meantime, though, you can always buy a DRM-free ePub and PDF version from https://unbound.com/books/shareware-heroes/ and import it into the Apple Books app.
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@MossRC @Lauren_nicole_roth thank you, acquired.

@GabeMoralesVR Good luck with it. I remember reading some years back about a dev having great success with a similar strategy of seeding a pirated copy of their game on Bittorrent to boost interest and awareness in it. There was also the fun story of another game with an unbeatable monster that would doggedly pursue any players who downloaded a pirated copy, so there's plenty of precedent for this kind of thing working.

@woolie @Lauren_nicole_roth Great. Happy reading!

@MossRC I've been reading it (slowly...the only speed at which I read) and it is fabulous. I grew up at the very tip of the tail end of shareware, so it's fascinating learning about all the history, the different shareware models, and all that.
It's a good book.

@MossRC Sorry I just saw this. It does show up now, and bought. Thanks!

@cognitivegears Good! I'm glad that's sorted. I asked my publisher and apparently the Kindle version should have been available months ago β€” there was some weird Amazon glitch. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the book!

@lunarloony Thank you! That's great to hear. I missed a lot of the shareware stuff in my book when growing up, too, partly due to age (born in 87) but mostly down to having been Mac-only until my older brother got a Win3.1 laptop in the mid-90s. It was fascinating to dig into all of the earlier history during my research phase.

@MossRC My childhood was an IBM Aptiva 2144 (think it had a 486DX2?) and a CD-ROM with a few shareware games on it. Most of my days were spent playing through the first episode of Jazz Jackrabbit over and over. That's pretty much the extent of my shareware experience!

@lunarloony That's a pretty good shareware game to get stuck with. I can relate, though β€” until we got dial-up internet around 1997-98, my shareware gaming experience was limited to the first episode of The Adventures of Robbo and the same eight or nine unregistered Mac games that I played over and over. (Then once we had internet I got my hands on a bunch more Mac-exclusive shareware as well as the first episode of Quake and a few commercial demos that I played on repeat.)

@MossRC I've just finished reading this boom today and really enjoyed it! It took me down memory lane, running shareware on our home Amstrad PC with the CGA graphics and 5.25" floppies in the late 80s/early 90s, and being too young and broke to register anything! In my older age and gainfully employed, I like to send an author some money for a job well done πŸ™‚ Excellent job on the book, thoroughly researched and a fascinating read for those who remember the eras described πŸ‘πŸΏ

@airadam Wonderful! I'm delighted you enjoyed it. What were your favourite shareware games back in the day?

@MossRC I certainly enjoyed Wolfenstein and Doom, but Duke Nukem 3D was an absolute game-changer with the interactivity of environments and ability to cleverly use weapons!

@airadam Duke3D was so cool. I remember my friend was really excited about being able to tip the strippers, but I was more impressed by the light switches and pool table and destructible walls.

Are you following the FPSDOC project I'm part of? We're including a big segment on Duke3D in there with some great material from Jon St John about voicing Duke, as well as a bunch of devs who both did and didn't work on it discussing how amazing the design and presentation was.

@MossRC This looks, and sounds, amazing. Thank you, Richard.

I was a Mac addict (and long-time subscriber to that magazine) during the years you write about. I remember them well.

@granthuhn Thanks! You'll probably love my Mac gaming book, then, and enjoy the Mac-related stories scattered through Shareware Heroes.

It's a career highlight for me that I got to freelance for Mac|Life (I was too late to get in before the name change) for five or so years before it shut down. Wonderful magazine in its MacAddict heyday.