I am not an attention glutton who always feels the need to call attention to my blog with each entry I post. Of course I appreciate compliments, praise and criticism, but I don't respond to every post with "Check out my blog, you will find the answer there." While I love the outlet this blog gives me, I do not believe it is the best way to present reference material about DOS games.
I have been inspired by the idea to create and host a website. My fantasy site would have an alphabetical link to a list of games, and each link would send the user to the page about the DOS game listed. Each page would identify the game, give the year of first release, developer & publisher. It would give screenshots of each game for each major mode it supports, 40 Column Color Text, 80 Column Color Text, Monochrome Text, CGA, Hercules Graphics, Amstrad, Tandy, EGA, MCGA/VGA, SVGA and VESA It would give sound clips for the various music in the game, if any. It will give technical specs, including minimum/recommended RAM, input support (joystick, keyboard, mouse), DOS version required (1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 5.0), etc. Also patch downloads would be available and advice on running the games on DOS. Version information would be provided where available.
In some ways, I envision this site as a light version of MobyGames, but unlike MobyGames, I would intend the site to be focused strictly on DOS games (including PC booters). Entries would be limited to only the games and their official expansion packs. I don't intend to give any separate coverage to re-releases, combo packs, shovelware CDs.
Each game would take up a full page and have all its information on one page. Screenshots would be shown in their native resolution (typically 320x200) and can be clicked on to show a 640x400 screenshot using nearest neighbor interpolation. This would have to be set browser by browser.
Typically pngs would only be allowed for screenshots. PNGs compress 8-bit graphics (256 colors or less) very well. They also compress losslessly. Each image can be stored in less than 10K. Few DOS games support 16-bit color graphics. I would see to it that an "incorrect" screenshot would be replaced by a correct one when discovered.
Additionally, music will be stored not as standard wave recordings or the like, instead it will be stored in a format appropriate for the output device. This would have a tremendous savings on bandwidth. General MIDI or MT-32 music will be stored in a .MID file (with accompanying patch file, if necessary), Adlib in .DRO v.2 format. Hopefully, someone would be able to device a simple format for Tandy 3-voice, PC Speaker and Game Blaster music and a simple player that works in DOSBox and on real hardware, regardless of speed (within reason).
One important feature of my site would be a list and search feature. The list feature would show all games that use a certain mode, support a certain device, etc. I would really like my search feature to support boolean search terms so that someone could search the games that, for example, support Adlib but NOT EGA.
The site design would be extremely simple and basic. No fancy stuff like embedded video, wallpapers with large file sizes. Hopefully the site would be so low in bandwidth requirements that it would not need ads, at least not the intrusive kind. It would not be a throwback to bad old ideas like frames, embedded midis or animated gif logos.
Sites I would take visual inspiration from include uncreativelabs.net, minuszerodegrees.net, home.comcast.net/~ervind/index.html, textfiles.com, oldskool.org. While all but one is more or less frozen in time, they have several features I admire :
Simple formatted text on solid color or basic textured backgrounds.
Small pictures and quick loading
Display on any browser
Site scaling to any resolution, not stuck in the center of the screen
One thing I would NOT do is to post box, media or manual scans. First of all, they are comparatively large compared to game screenshots. Second, I do not have many boxes and would not want to take them from another site.
Perhaps the site may progress to a point where directory listings with file dates and checksums for the files off the installation disks will be able to be included. Additionally, to bypass copy protection, a listing of the appropriate programs that can crack the game will also be given.
The main goal of the site is to be hosted on pure DOS-appropriate hardware. This, in my opinion, means a 486 class machine. I believe that Pentium machines are more appropriate to Windows 95. Additionally, I would want the site to be so simple that it could be properly displayed on a DOS-based browser like Arachne.
The site is right now just a fantasy, but I would love to have it get to the point where others can contribute freely like a wiki where moderation is done after the fact, if necessary, and not before.