Dust off your giant noisy keyboard and fire up your VGA because a new version of solitaire is about to drop for MS-DOS.
No, you didn’t mistakenly click on a blog post from 1991.
Launched and funded last week on Kickstarter, SHENZHEN SOLITAIRE is a throwback to vintage computing’s favorite time-wasters like Microsoft Solitaire and FreeCell. Releasing on a 3.5 floppy disk that should run on any 386-era PC, the game won’t work on modern PCs that lack floppy disk drives.
What would possess someone to release a game for a 36 year-old operating system?
Well, the project makes a little more sense considering Zachtronics developed it. The noted indie developer is known for a niche of puzzle games like SpaceChem and Infinifactory aimed at people who code.
“We make a lot of games about fictional computer architectures, and our ideas for them come from real life,” said Zach Barth, SHENZHEN SOLITAIRE‘s creator, over the phone.
For Barth, porting SHENZHEN SOLITAIRE, a mini-game from his programming game SHENZHEN I/O, to archaic computer architecture was a source of artistic inspiration—a spiritual journey, if you will. The Beatles went to India, but Barth bought a 386 from a local thrift store and learned how to program on it.
Bringing his Mahjong-inspired game of cards to its natural home environment wasn’t easy. It was necessary to write some of the code in assembly language, the low-level code that languages like C are built upon.
To better understand what he was getting into, Barth consulted Michael Abrash’s Graphics Programming Black Book, a tome published in 1997 on old graphics and assembly language.
“This is what it must be like for people who play our puzzle games,” he quipped. “Nobody is making them for me, so this is the next best thing.”
The only difference is his puzzle is giving nerds the solitaire revival they’ve been waiting for since the late 90s. With 18 days to go, the project has already doubled its meager funding goal of $200.