I've often wondered just how "classic" games are re-released for a modern home console. Like, the process that actually goes into digging up the old code. So it was awesome today to get some answers on the subject!
Sony's European blog has outlined just what needs to happen to turn a classic PS1 game into a downloadable PlayStation Network title. While the process will of course differ between this and say, PC or NES games — meaning it's hardly a universal guide — it's still an interesting read!
Seems rather than being stored on some master mainframe, PS1 games are actually kept on a disc, and that's what is used to transfer the code. Just like using old film when re-mastering a movie. Getting hold of the 1s and 0s is, however, the easy part. The hard part comes when lawyers get involved.
Sony's legal team has to "check there are no issues with any of the content in the game being under an expired license, or any confusion over ownership of the publishing rights" before a game can be cleared for release on the PSN. While that may sound like a simple procedure, consider how many games have made use of licensed soundtracks, or licensed vehicles, or licensed sporting teams.
While those licenses may have been applicable back in the 1990s, things may have changed by now, with companies merging, going out of business or simply changing the way they handle licensed content. So if a license that was cool to use in 1997 is no longer cool in 2011, there's a problem, and in many cases that can mean long delays. For example, Sony says some games have been awaiting legal clearance since 2007 or, worse, the game can never be re-released.
Another problem old games can run into is quality assurance, or QA. Whether present in the original code or popping up when tested as a downloadable game, if there are serious bugs in a classic title, that can be a serious issue, because unlike in-progress games, these older titles are finished, their developers in many cases aren't around and most (if not all) of the development tools needed to fix them aren't readily available any more.
That said, these issues aren't that common, and most games selected for re-issue are made available for download with little hassle. If you'd like to read the full report, including why some games are harder to re-release in Europe than in the US, head to the link below.
PSone Classics: Where We All Stand [PlayStation]