Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Oil Change", Windows '95, 1996.

Warning: yes, it's an ad post; no, not from a comic book; no, it's not about a game, just game-related utility software.

Recently I made a stink talking about how it was my daughter's birthday and the occasion was too special for me to spend time writing about old video game ads. Well, today is Father's Day, so the pendulum has swung the other way and today I get to explore a topic of interest to me in even greater self-indulgence than I usually demonstrate here, unapologetically falling outside our customary scope.

I CONTROL YOUR PC
For I Am The Master Of Outdated Games

I DARE YOU!
Take Back Control With Oil Change

Outdated games can lead to ghastly computer crashes, mutated graphics, and wretched sounds. I am the master of these diabolic disruptions. The only thing that can ruin the reign I hold over your PC is Oil Change from CyberMedia. Oil Change automatically updates over 400 games for your PC, leaving your games running smoother, faster, better. I despise that! Oil Change updates everything from the latest versions of software, shareware, and hardware drivers, to helpful game hints, tips, and cheats. I dare you to take back control! Stop by your local store to pick up a full copy of Oil Change, or visit the CyberMedia web site at www.cybermedia.com/phantom to download a free trial version.

The choice is yours -- Oil Change, or me.

This is awesome. This clown (the printed url, ha ha, still semi-active, suggests he's some kind of phantom) thinks he's the master of outdated games, but I subscribe to at least a dozen bloggers who are guaranteed to eat him for breakfast.

A little research suggests that CyberMedia (could there exist a more '90s company name?) was gobbled up by McAfee (this product's website still exists, but all links take you to McAfee), but that this product continued keeping old programs relatively up-to-date for at least a few years, updating drivers and plug-ins as needed. The list of products supported is impressive: some of the companies still exist, but many of them already seem like fond old memories as of 1996! Lotus, Wordperfect, Stac, Broderbund, Berkeley Systems, Prodigy, Delrina, Spinnaker, Hercules video displays, Turtle Beach sound cards... perhaps theirs would be the programs held on to by people who feel that an automotive analogy would be the most appropriate one for computer maintenance. Maybe the same sorts of people who would buy software (apparently on an annual subscription basis) as the result of a dare from a fictitious character in an advertisement.

Some reviews for the product are still out there, hilariously of-their-time:

[Y]ou can purchase and download the software directly from CyberMedia's Web site. It's a 3.1MB file, so grab a snack and be prepared for a 25-minute download
Of course, the main thrust of the product was to keep applications going through hardware and environment upgrades, sometimes seemingly impossible in an era when the "DOS ain't done 'til Lotus won't run" myth was plausible. But it is interested to see the bone extended to gamers also; admittedly at the time we weren't so much aware that gameplay fun wouldn't just scale endlessly as computer capabilities did, and by the time MS-DOS functionality was more-or-less borked, it wouldn't have occurred to many of us to blow the dust off the boxes and go back to the beloved floppies of our youth anyhow. Then we got SCUMMVM in '01 and DOSBox in '02. (Ironically, this very generation of Windows -- '95, '98, '00 -- is very difficult to get our games to run under on contemporary machines. By the time I found a boxed copy of Starship Titanic, I no longer had a computer capable of running it -- my new computer was just too good. But where was Oil Change to help me then?) (Alley Cat, on the other hand, from 1984, not only still runs but doesn't even have timing issues!)

I am a bit curious as to why the Master of Outdated Games (and gee, that's a value-loaded adjective: not just the chronological "old" or the cherished "classic" but the actually deprecated "outdated") takes such sadistic glee in interfering with the presentation of old programs. If you were master of a domain, wouldn't you want it to reflect well on your orderly rule? Well, he despises that. This ghoul seems to take delight in their brokenness. I know, I've never quite gotten the psychology of advertising either.