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max attacks! (1996) @MaxKriegerVG
, 20 tweets, 11 min read Read on Twitter
Since video game preservation has been a hot topic lately, I think it's time for me to tell a tale of mine.

Let me tell you about the Pioneer LaserActive, one of the most unique game consoles ever made, and how it's likely only years away from disappearing forever.
By the early 90's, Pioneer controlled the Laserdisc format, an ANALOG (important) video disc with near-DVD quality.

During that era, the CD-ROM multimedia boom was in full swing. Pioneer wanted to enter the fray, and a new, advanced Laserdisc - the LD-ROM - was their way in.
Laserdisc had existed since the 70s, but Pioneer had since updated the standard to include a DIGITAL sector of the disc, meant for CD-quality audio.

Then, someone asked the important question - why don't we store program data in that sector instead? - and the LD-ROM was born.
Laserdisc games (like Dragon's Lair) had existed before the LD-ROM. They, however, relied on separate ROM cartridges to hold their data.

The LD-ROM simplified things, essentially being a game CD plus up to 60 mins of analog video per side - a powerful format indeed.
Now, all that was needed was a console to play them on.

Enter the CLD-A100 "Laseractive" player.

This GARGANTUAN machine did not use its own game hardware, but instead relied on swappable expansion modules, called PACs, which utilized Sega Mega Drive or NEC PC Engine hardware.
Each PAC, a box roughly the size of a hardcover novel that loaded into the Laseractive player via a front slot, had its own spec for CD-based games.

So, two LD-ROM game formats were created - Mega-LD (named for the Sega Mega CD), and the LD-ROM² (named for the PC Engine CD-ROM²)
The premise was simple - most Laseractive games used sprites generated by the game hardware, overlayed on top of full-motion Laserdisc video backgrounds. This resulted in some GORGEOUS rail shooters, racing games, etc. - genres that fit the linear nature of the format well.
This unique combination is the reason why the Laseractive is an "endangered species" when it comes to preservation.

The odds that an emulator and game backup method will be created in time to save the Laseractive's whole library - or maybe any of it at all - are low. Here's why:
#1: The LD-ROM Format

The analogue-digital hybrid nature of LD-ROMs make them a pain to dump. Arcade LD games simply had their ROM carts dumped, and the LD video digitized. Simple.

LD-ROMs hold their data on the disc, and there are no PC Laserdisc drives to read that data from.
#2: Dying Hardware

The aging, complex Laseractive players are steadily failing, and there are fewer and fewer Laserdisc repair techs left to fix them.

The PACs use the same SME capacitors as hardware like the Sega Nomad, which are vulnerable to bursting/irreversible corrosion.
#3: Disc Rot/Warping

The Laserdisc, like all disc-based media, is vulnerable to "disc rot" oxidization.

Due to their size, LDs can ALSO warp, much like LPs. Some collectors likely store their LaserActive games improperly, which could lead to irreversible warping/accelerated rot
#4: Rarity

The Laseractive, due to its prohibitive price tag and niche media, was a rare console to begin with, let alone in 2018.

Due to high prices commanded by rarity, Laseractive collectors are frequently against backing up the discs, fearing a loss on their investments.
#5: Disinterest

Most games preservation is "rogue", done with piracy in mind. Thus, the more popular/beloved a game was, the more likely it was to be backed up. This has left more obscure consoles, like the Laseractive, with few/no game backups and underdeveloped emulators.
I know all of this because I spent years of my life advocating for Laseractive preservation. As a college student (2011 - 2015), I ran laseractive.wordpress.com, a site founded to create as many LaserActive "longplay" videos as possible and spur interest in preservation/emulation.
Efforts seemingly paid off, with interest brewing over at the SpritesMind homebrew forum. One user had developed a Mega-LD dumping process using custom hardware, and dumped the data (no video) from one disc, Space Berserker.

Then, one day, he vanished.

gendev.spritesmind.net/forum/viewtopi…
This is the point I wanted to make.

You may not know it, but sometimes, the preservation of ENTIRE CHAPTERS of game history comes down to one hobbyist, one homebrew developer, doing it in their spare time.

They can stop/vanish at anytime. So much knowledge hangs by a thread.
We need to do better. Better than some college kid (me) who read about an incredible obscure console, dumped a bunch of money on one, and made a bunch of videos with a capture card. Better than relying on piracy to carry us. We need institutions, professional archival.
Because the industry has sat on their hands, or even quashed guerilla preservation efforts in the name of protecting their IP, tragedies like this are ever closer to happening.

All I hope is that all the efforts to help save the Laseractive don't end up in vain.
should tweet this as an addendum: none of this was meant as a slight against anyone mentioned! quite the opposite - hobbyists sometimes just stop/vanish because have lives and the burden of preservation shouldn't be on them!
UPDATE: good news and a happy ending to this thread!!

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