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Aaron Giles edifies us with the joys and frustrations of updating SCUMM 28 Mar, 2022 / 12 comments

Remember the turn of the century, when getting the SCUMM games to run properly on Windows was a herculean task? The arrival of ScummVM delivered us to conditional salvation, but many reasonably pondered why LucasArts couldn’t provide an official solution by updating the native interpreters themselves.

Well, they did. Or at least, programmer Aaron Giles did, on the studio’s behalf. The problem is that among these sparkly, XP-compatible exe’s, only a few saw the light of day -- gradually, and without much fanfare.

After quietly throwing two of them onto a Europe-exclusive compilation pack in 2002, LucasArts presumably became too busy cancelling Sam & Max sequels to continue with such re-releases despite being armed with ready-to-go updates that had been handed to them on a silver platter. A few more of Aaron’s updated SCUMM launchers made their way to Steam in 2009, which came across as LucasArts burning off the remnants of a long since suspended initiative presumably codenamed What If We Didn’t Suck.

These days, the SCUMM games are sold on digital storefronts bundled with ScummVM, and the native interpreters, original or updated, don’t get reliably circulated with the data files, which puts a heckuva lot of pressure on your rotting floppies to preserve them. We decided to reach out to Aaron Giles to get his opinions on that dilemma and gain insight on what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the surrealistic insult that is updating a studio’s library only for said studio to indifferently put that work in a drawer.

And let’s be honest: it got the dignity of the drawer only because the dumpster was already filled with Ben Throttle standees.

Our thanks to Aaron Giles for his generosity with his time.

12 Comments

  • Avatar
    Thrik on 31 Mar, 2022, 12:08…
    Super interview. Thank you Aaron… and Jason!
  • Avatar
    elTee on 29 Mar, 2022, 14:50…

    AndywinXp

    elTee

    AndywinXp

    Jason


    The game may have launched, but I don't think that was Aaron's .exe for DOTT. Do you still have the disc handy? There should be a datestamp on the interpeter. Also, a telltale feature of Aaron's version is a right click menu on the title bar which includes such options as a Graphics Smoothing toggle and an About dialog.



    I do have the interpreter backed up here, it definitely presents all the features you mentioned: https://imgur.com/a/fG9UL8C

    A quick disassembly on the exe shows this data string: "2 (Dec 17 2002 00:46:36)", where "2" would be the sub-version of SPU(tm)


    I am so confused. I have the same release and while I can't actually run it on my crappy laptop, the dates of the files are all in the 90s... Is it possible there are two different versions of this release?



    Oh yes, the timestamp of the file itself is dated around 1996, so we've definitely got the same release! The string I posted before was found in the exe data, though


    Okay, wow, thank you - I was really going out of my mind for a moment there. I specifically picked up this release a few years ago to see if it was an updated interpreter like the rest of the entertainment pack, but I never actually tested it! What an idiot I am. Thanks again!!
  • Avatar
    AndywinXp on 29 Mar, 2022, 14:41…

    elTee

    AndywinXp

    Jason


    The game may have launched, but I don't think that was Aaron's .exe for DOTT. Do you still have the disc handy? There should be a datestamp on the interpeter. Also, a telltale feature of Aaron's version is a right click menu on the title bar which includes such options as a Graphics Smoothing toggle and an About dialog.



    I do have the interpreter backed up here, it definitely presents all the features you mentioned: https://imgur.com/a/fG9UL8C

    A quick disassembly on the exe shows this data string: "2 (Dec 17 2002 00:46:36)", where "2" would be the sub-version of SPU(tm)


    I am so confused. I have the same release and while I can't actually run it on my crappy laptop, the dates of the files are all in the 90s... Is it possible there are two different versions of this release?



    Oh yes, the timestamp of the file itself is dated around 1996, so we've definitely got the same release! The string I posted before was found in the exe data, though
  • Avatar
    elTee on 29 Mar, 2022, 14:38…

    AndywinXp

    Jason


    The game may have launched, but I don't think that was Aaron's .exe for DOTT. Do you still have the disc handy? There should be a datestamp on the interpeter. Also, a telltale feature of Aaron's version is a right click menu on the title bar which includes such options as a Graphics Smoothing toggle and an About dialog.



    I do have the interpreter backed up here, it definitely presents all the features you mentioned: https://imgur.com/a/fG9UL8C

    A quick disassembly on the exe shows this data string: "2 (Dec 17 2002 00:46:36)", where "2" would be the sub-version of SPU(tm)


    I am so confused. I have the same release and while I can't actually run it on my crappy laptop, the dates of the files are all in the 90s... Is it possible there are two different versions of this release?

  • Avatar
    Jason on 29 Mar, 2022, 14:21…
    Thanks for the screenshots, and you're right -- that's the real deal. I'll update the article. These random international releases, I tell ya...
  • Avatar
    AndywinXp on 29 Mar, 2022, 13:56…

    Jason


    The game may have launched, but I don't think that was Aaron's .exe for DOTT. Do you still have the disc handy? There should be a datestamp on the interpeter. Also, a telltale feature of Aaron's version is a right click menu on the title bar which includes such options as a Graphics Smoothing toggle and an About dialog.



    I do have the interpreter backed up here, it definitely presents all the features you mentioned: https://imgur.com/a/fG9UL8C

    A quick disassembly on the exe shows this data string: "2 (Dec 17 2002 00:46:36)", where "2" would be the sub-version of SPU(tm)

  • Avatar
    Jason on 29 Mar, 2022, 13:11…

    AndywinXp

    Jason

    AndywinXp

    One interesting tidbit is that DOTT, FT actally have been available for a period of time in Europe (I have them, in fact)



    I am definitely unfamiliar with Aaron's DOTT interpreter being seen in the wild. Do you remember which release this was?



    It was a combo disk which included both DOTT and S&M (this one); unfortunately I don't recall Maniac Mansion ever being playable in that disc :-(



    The game may have launched, but I don't think that was Aaron's .exe for DOTT. Do you still have the disc handy? There should be a datestamp on the interpeter. Also, a telltale feature of Aaron's version is a right click menu on the title bar which includes such options as a Graphics Smoothing toggle and an About dialog.
  • Avatar
    AndywinXp on 29 Mar, 2022, 12:24…

    Jason

    AndywinXp

    One interesting tidbit is that DOTT, FT actally have been available for a period of time in Europe (I have them, in fact)



    I am definitely unfamiliar with Aaron's DOTT interpreter being seen in the wild. Do you remember which release this was?



    It was a combo disk which included both DOTT and S&M (this one); unfortunately I don't recall Maniac Mansion ever being playable in that disc :-(

  • Avatar
    Jason on 29 Mar, 2022, 10:27…

    AndywinXp

    One interesting tidbit is that DOTT, FT actally have been available for a period of time in Europe (I have them, in fact)



    I am definitely unfamiliar with Aaron's DOTT interpreter being seen in the wild. Do you remember which release this was?
  • Avatar
    AndywinXp on 29 Mar, 2022, 07:15…
    Great interview!

    IMUSE on COMI (and Dig and FT) has been 1:1 faithful to the original for almost a year now; just download the daily builds :-)

    One interesting tidbit is that DOTT, FT actally have been available for a period of time in Europe (I have them, in fact), so the only unreleased exes as of now are:
    - Maniac Mansion
    - Zak
    - MI1
    - MI2

    Well... Fate of atlantis actually was compiled using MI2 version of SPUTM, so just replace ATLANTIS.001 with MONKEY2.001 (albeit under the former fake name) and there you go. Native MI2 on Windows, albeit with copy protection activated :-P
  • Avatar
    Jason on 28 Mar, 2022, 23:06…

    Huz

    Great interview! Time for us to speculate wildly about what DREAMM stands for.




    Devastatingly Ravishing Emulation Alternative for Maniac Mansion?
  • Avatar
    Huz on 28 Mar, 2022, 22:58…
    Great interview! Time for us to speculate wildly about what DREAMM stands for.

    I played Sam and Max Hit the Road late last year using the "new" exe from 2002 and I didn't even have to think about it - I clicked on it, it ran. There can't be many games approaching their fourth decade of existence that you can say that for. Thanks, Aaron! And thanks Microsoft, I guess.

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