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The Top 10 Shareware Games of All Time
May 22, 2001 | Chris Barylick

Through the years, the Macintosh platform has been been privy to some amazing shareware games. These "try before you buy" games have provided hours of entertainment to the thousands that stumbled across them via the Internet or copied them from a friend’s hard drive.

In the world of shareware video games, a game is usually given away in a limited capacity (for example, the first few levels of a game to whet the player’s appetite), over the Internet for people to download and play. Users decide whether or not they want to pay for a complete version of the program, some sending along registration fees to obtain the full version of the software. (Of course, that doesn't mean that every game on the Internet has a shareware fee associated with them. Many authors release their games as "freeware", meaning that the author is providing the game free of charge.) Prices for shareware games vary between a few dollars to as much as $20 per copy depending on the game and the company/person behind it.

The registration fees mean everything to the programmers responsible for these games, these people and their companies making all of their money from the registration fees users send them. Successful players in the Macintosh shareware industry such as Ambrosia and Freeverse software are small companies have been extremely successful in providing shareware games for the Mac.

The ten shareware games covered in this article (the tip of the iceberg for great Macintosh shareware) show what a few determined authors can do when they put their minds to create something great.

Escape Velocity
Escape Velocity is one of the main reasons my dirty dish pile has become a now-sentient object it is (it pays half the rent). Escape Velocity is Ambrosia Software’s big hit from 1996 and one of the most popular shareware games ever to hit the Macintosh platform.

The plot is simple and fun: your character is a down-at-heels space trader starting out with a small shuttle, no weapons and only a little cargo space to transport goods with. From this point on, you must raise money via trading goods, gambling, talking with people and raising funds to upgrade your shuttle and weapons all the while maintaining your reputation throughout the galaxy. Or you can choose to not play by the rules at all since Escape Velocity’s storyline is set within the middle of a galactic revolution against the tyrannical Confederation. The rebels need help and offer large rewards to anyone willing to assist them…

This is just one of the dozens of ways Escape Velocity’s storyline twists and turns, something that made the game incredibly popular. When it came time to take a more aggressive stance against your enemies (such as in escort missions, flat-out combat or conquering planets to earn tribute), the game was never short on options. Dozens of weapons, defenses and upgrades were available for purchase in the game’s planet-based trading posts along with entirely new ships and the ability to steal the ships of your defeated enemies.


Archives  Features  The Top 10 Shareware Games of All Time