Archiving Test Cases
Problem to be explored: It is important that we support multiple approaches to the preservation of complex works, taking into account both emulation and migration strategies, and considering different objects of preservation, from the software bit-stream to the player experience. How will the software, digital assets, and content that form the basis of virtual worlds be collected and preserved? Given the nature of virtual worlds as interactive spaces, how will the activities of players/readers (including their activities as content creators) be captured? To examine these issues in a real-world setting, the project will attempt to ingest both early examples and later examples of interactive fiction and computer games into existing institutional repositories using the schema developed in Phase 2.
There are two basic strategies for preserving complex works: emulation and migration. With respect to virtual worlds, emulation requires the simulation of the original operating system and environment for which the game was originally designed, using contemporary hardware and software, while migration requires one to translate digital objects, relationships, and behaviors into an alternative hardware- and software-dependent format, in order to free it from the constraint of having to exist within the environment for which it was originally designed. With respect to the activities of players/readers within these worlds, both emulation and migration might allow “replaying” a game or a reading. Emulation may provide a more exact replication of the original experience and also preserves the original format of the work, preserving our knowledge of design techniques of the period; migration may have a greater likelihood of insuring long-term access. Each approach involves compromises and costs, and part of the purpose of this set of experiments would be to understand what those are, and which might be acceptable under what circumstances.
Proposed activities and deliverables
Based on the METS metadata wrapper development and X-Lit work done in connection with the ELO, the project will archive a selection of early interactive fiction and early games from the Stanford University, University of Maryland and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign collections using existing institutional repositories (dependent on resolution of IP and technical issues). Archiving activities will consist of bitstream-level preservation in a metadata wrapper, and a commitment by the owning institution to support long-term curation of the resources. We expect that the approaches developed here for preservation of interactive fiction and games will have wider applications to other forms of interactive content.
In addition to preserving bits and representation information, the project will investigate more complex approaches to preservation. This will include examining issues surrounding the preservation of later interactive multi-player game environments using the Linden Lab Second Life virtual world as a case study.
Specific tasks and activities are expected to include:
- identification of the types of preservation problems posed by the representative case set;
- surveys of existing taxonomies for documenting games, game behavior and interactive fiction behavior;
- analysis of examples of game-play data (such as server-side transaction logs) in order to better understand the role such content could play in preserving the virtual world cultural record;
- research into emulation and migration strategies currently in use;
- consideration of where metadata comes from, how it might be auto-generated, and implications for developer workflow to support preservation.