The Net Yaroze project started in March 1997 and was Sony’s attempt to allow bedroom coding for the PS1, making it something of a predecessor to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Indie Games. And it worked, because on many months in the UK there was a free full Yaroze game given away with the demo of Official PlayStation Magazine, and some were astoundingly good – almost commercial quality (almost). Sadly it only came to my attention after the fact that Sony closed the official servers and members forum in July 2009, destroying all the archives of what had been created. Worse still, I’ve discovered that dozens of quality games, which never found release on OPM’s demos, have potentially been lost forever. Our only hope to archive this slice of history in its entirety, is if former members happen to have downloaded and still have some of these files... And so I present to you an incomplete list of every Yaroze game ever. Much like Derboo's entry on Korean doujin, we need to expand awareness of this before it vanishes.
The Official PlayStation Magazine with demo was too expensive for me to buy when at high-school, but luckily a friend had a subscription. Every month it became our ritual that he would get his mag, play the demo extensively for a few days while regaling classmates about its content, and then he would lend it to each of us in turn – the main draw of this was never the actual game demos, but the Yaroze games, since if you were lucky you’d have a full game sometimes on par with a NES or even SNES title. Many were also multiplayer! Sometimes the Yaroze wasn't very good, but it was still fun to discuss. I’m told the US never had Yaroze games on its OPM demos, which is a shame since you were really missing out on something awesome.
It’s important to understand the atmosphere of the era, a time a when games were changing rapidly. Previously this kind of bedroom coded content was limited to home computers such as the C64 or Amiga, or perhaps even further back the Famicom with its version of BASIC.
To see homebrew on the leading console was quite exciting. Universities were ordering Yaroze kits to teach game design courses, while teenagers with coding experience could order one for home use. The quoted price was a fairly high barrier to entry (about $750), especially since you also needed a decent PC and internet connection, but I heard reports from more than one person that after sending the cheque and receiving their Yaroze, Sony never bothered to deposit the money, meaning they essentially got to make games for free.
From what I can tell Yaroze members had access to a private server and forum to trade creations as they were being worked on, and when a game was completed, and if it impressed Sony, it was selected for European demo distribution. Not every game made it, and so there were plenty which were exclusive to this private forum. Speaking with former coders it appears to have been a fun little club, with members trying to outdo each other and sometimes sharing assets. For a full list of the OPM demos and their Yaroze contents (plus scans of the demo covers), this website appears comprehensive.
The above is only a fraction of the games which were actually developed though. Several years ago when I first dabbled in Torrents I found a download for a 53-in-1 Yaroze compilation, obviously hacked from what was available. The title proudly proclaims: Fixed by Freefall of Paradox. Considering how several of the games within weren’t on the demos, Freefall must have had access to games which had only been privately distributed. At the time I’d wrongly assumed it contained all Yaroze games.
A few years later I stumbled across another download, this time for 83 games. It contained many missing from the previous collection, but it also lacked three which were previously available: a Legend of Zelda clone, a program titled Goomba Bros which wouldn’t load, and a vertical 2D shmup called Rayfire.
In recent months I contacted some former Yaroze members, and it became evident that even the 83 compilation was missing a lot of games, some of which ended up on the final send-off demo on issue 108 of OPM. After several months of searching and begging, someone finally donated me a copy of this demo, allowing me to compile a reasonable list of all Yaroze games.
Numbers in brackets after the name indicate which issue of OPM they were featured in, though this isn’t 100% comprehensive. The selection of games which repeatedly ended up on demos is strange, since Incredible Coneman isn't that great (it's an extremely slow polygon Pacman clone). Whereas games like Hover Racing (not to be mixed up with Hover Car Racing) don’t appear to have ended up on a demo at all, despite being an extremely competent F-Zero / Wipeout clone. Many games are also not so great, so I’ve put (!!!) next to my favourites in case you’re keen to try some. Not that I want to criticise the users, since managing to complete a game is an tremendous achievment - and for many, this would have been their first major project.
On hacked 83 compilation:
3D Breakout Game
(!!!) Adventure Game (44, 77, 108)
Between The Eyes (42, 87, 92)
Blitter Boy Operation: Monster Hall (40, 42, 92, 108)
Bouncer 2 (supposedly 29 but actually 30, 42, 92, 108)
(!!!) Clone (27, 42, 87, 92)
(!!!) Decaying Orbit (49, 108)
(!!!) Dog Tale (28)
Fatal Fantasy VII
(!!!) Gravitation (34, 42, 86, 92, 108)
(!!!) Haunted Maze (38, 42, 83, 92)
(!!!) Hover Racing (aka: Hover120, different to Hover Car Racing, more like F-Zero)
(!!!) Hover Car Racing (not to be confused with the above; 35, 42, 92)
Incredible Coneman (32, 42, 92)
Invaders From Mars!
(!!!) Katapila (107)
Laydion Limit Breaker
(!!!) Magic Forest
Mah Jongg (39, 42, 79, 88, 92)
Net Yaroze Intro
Opera Of Destruction (48, 77)
One on One
Pandora's Box (45, 77)
Ping Ping (107)
(!!!) Psychon (37, 42, 92)
Pushy 11b (37, 42, 87, 92, 108)
(!!!) Robot Ron (82, 86, 108)
(!!!) Rocks 'n' Gems (33, 42, 77, 82, 86, 91, 92)
Sam The Boulder Man
Second Offence Demo
Snowball Fight (77, 108)
Sound 2 Light
Super Bub (43, 77, 81, 91, 108)
Super Ramp Skater
TankX (49, 108)
(!!!) Terra Incognita (31, 42, 88, 92)
(!!!) Time Slip (48, 106, 108)
Total Soccer (41, 42, 83, 86, 92, 108)
Tunnel Demo (26)
(!!!) Ver.T (awesome 2D shmup)
Video Poker Simulator (46)
Yaroze Rally (77)
Exclusive to older 53 compilation:
Rayfire (2D shmup)
Super Goomba Bros (doesn’t work)
Zelda (a simple Zelda port/clone)
Games on OPM Demo 108
(!!!) INVS (also OPM 88)
(!!!) Samsaric Asymptote
Yarozians (also OPM 82)
DX1 (hori shmup by Marc Lambert)
Kamix+ (previously Tetixx)
Pssst (OPM 77)
Sandstorm (Omar Metwally)
Stars Wars (beat-em-up by Marc Lambert)
Surf Game (OPM 77, 91)
Tokui Waza (Omar Metwally)
Tokui Waza 2
Track N No Field (Steven Lewis)
Yakata (aka: Super Mansion, released 18/4/97, by ~hecpsx / Sato)
And these are just the games which I know exist but aren't available, the number which I don't know about is theoretically infinite. Do you know of a Yaroze game which exists but isn't on this list? Post in the comments!
As you can see there are at least 20 games which cannot be played. These definitely existed, since there are clips of them on Youtube, and I’ve managed to find archived TXT files pertaining to their distribution on the private Yaroze forum. The most annoying omission for me is Yakata, aka Super Mansion, since it appears to be a polygonal Resident Evil clone, without the combat. It looks great anyway, and it was distributed among members, since I managed to find an internet archive of the accompanying text file for the game, complete with instructions for loading it on Yaroze hardware. But not the game itself!
So here is my plea. The world of Net Yaroze is on the brink of being forgotten and lost forever. Sony closed all archives of it. Universities in recent years have been selling off their Yaroze equipment complete with all discs. Few websites talk about it and those that did are now dead – a lot of stuff I had to get via the Wayback machine! And despite the valiant efforts of hackers, there are still titles not included in the compilations. Beyond the tragedy of losing unique data, is the sad fact that we’re not praising or discussing what it represented. People criticise Sony for so much, and yet here they were, allowing anyone to create games for their leading hardware. Sure it was limited compared to the official dev kit, but it was something.
If you’re a Yaroze coder and you’ve got the games in the missing list, talk about them. Take screen grabs. Archive them online. Talk about the games not on the list! Let the world know about them. Even if you’re a curious bystander to all this, play some of the games. Write about them. Make blog entries. Preserve the knowledge online. I’ve started by compiling a list, so make use of it, expand it, add to it, help it to grow (at the very least somebody add it to Wikipedia, because their page as per usual Wikipedia standards, is woefully inadequate).
Save the Yaroze.
I had considered writing a major HG101 article on every Yaroze game, with three screens for each and a mini-review, since there exists nothing like that currently, but seeing this huge list, and the many titles I’m missing, I don’t think I’ll be able to do this. It’s just way too much for one man.
I did find a series of forum topics attempting this, but it seems to have pattered out before completion (only 5 of 8 parts were completed) and for the most part lacked images. Sadly, the author is also extremely and unnecessarily negative – he appears to hate Yaroze with extreme prejudice, and so I’m not going to link to his AVGN-style ramblings. Yes, a lot of games are bad, but a lot are awesome and have some great ideas.
For those who’ve never experienced the Yaroze, I recommend it. The hacked compilations are online, hosted by Megaupload, and work fine on a chipped PS1 and reasonably well via emulator after some plugin tweaking. It’s now perhaps not as easy to appreciate their low-budget charms as it was back in 1999, but some of them are still worthwhile. Terra Incognita plays like a 3D Landstalker clone and is all kinds of awesome – it’s also now available for iPad for like a dollar. Haunted Maze is something I’d pay $6 for on PSN today it is so good (make sure to use an analogue controller!). Timeslip I’d also pay for - it’s the best time travel game ever made, and I’m not BSing (it’s now been ported to XBLIG and I highly recommend everyone check out at least the trial version - they even updated the visuals!). Samsaric Asymptote has a weird name but is a super cool retro shooter. Decaying Orbit takes planet landing to an all new level, while Down is more addictive than it should be (all you do is drop down a tunnel avoiding the descending spiked ceiling, but damn, it works!).
For more info check out Yaroze Scene:
It’s a dead website, but the owner kindly links to the Wayback archived version of it, with many of the images still available.
I should add... If any hackers feel capable, I'm willing to provide the files for the games missing from the 83 compilation (that is from the 53 compilation and 108 demo) in order to create a new and definitive compilation. They seem to be stored in a mixture of EXE and FPC file formats. In an ideal world we would be able to find the games from the rather large MISSING list, and create the ultimate compilation containing absolutely everything.