Scream Machines, or why Digital only is a double edged sword

Let me ask you a question: Did you ever hear, or even play, a roller coaster simulation called Scream Machines? It was developed by Wounded Heart Interactive and first Demo Versions of it where, judging by the file dates, released in 2001, around the time NoLimits was also released to the public for the first time. Judging by the developers website, accessed using the WayBack Machine, the final version was released in 2006. It had graphics similar to what NoLimits offered at the time, it supports a wide variety of coaster models like Standard Sit Down coasters modeled after rides from companies like Arrow or Schwarzkopf, Wooden Coasters, Flying Coasters, Motorbike Coasters, Stand Up Coasters, Suspended and Inverted Coasters and even a Pipeline Coaster, a obscure model that was only ever prototyped by Arrow and build once by Intamin. It supported standard Lift Hills, Launches, Dueling- and Shuttle operating modes and even allowed for multiple Coasters in a single Map. There even seems to be a mode where you can manually operate the Coasters, however I was so far unable to get that one to work. Terrain could be edited while building a Coaster, which is a major improvement over NoLimits with it’s separate programs for doing that, and the Simulator and Editor where the same in general, again improving over NoLimits.

Considering all these features, why is it that Scream Machines is a mere, obscure footnote when it comes to Coaster Simulations and NoLimits is still going strong? Well, NoLimits simply is, and was even at the time, the overall better polished product. When riding a Coaster in Scream Machines transitions, especially for banking, often feel just a bit off and simply feel slightly wrong. It isn’t entirely terribly by any means, for some reason it just doesn’t feel as smooth as it should be. Another thing NoLimits is better at are the finer details, like i.e. brake assemblies. You always know what everything is supposed to be, it sometimes just feels like placeholder assets considering the lack of details and basic shapes used. Don’t get me wrong here, Scream Machines isn’t a broken, unusable mess, I even found some old Forum posts where people discussed if Scream Machines or NoLimits is the better Coaster Simulator.

If you are interested in trying Scream Machines, you can easily do that. Simply search for “Scream Machines game” or “Scream Machines Coaster Simulator” in your preferred search engine and you should easily find a working download for the Shareware Trial version of it, though depending on your operating system it might not work on your computer, it was worked on for the last time about 15 years ago after all. But what if you want the unlocked version of it? Well, you are out of luck then. The official website is offline since at least 2013, if not earlier, and the website that handled the sales doesn’t seem to exist anymore either. To my knowledge no physical release of Scream Machines was ever made. OK, there is no legit way of getting a unlocked copy anymore, what about a Key Generator then? If it was a popular game you might be able to find one, but since we are talking about a obscure, niche Simulator here, it seems that nobody ever cared enough to create one. From my own experience finding a working set of registration data is possible, but very hard to come by.

This is and always will be a risk with digital distribution of media. Yes, choosing a digital distribution was most likely the only reason why Scream Machines could be sold and developed further in the first place, but it’s still sad to see that someone who would be interested in purchasing it doesn’t have any option to do so what so ever. Any media that had a physical release at some point will always have a chance to be still accessible in the future, even if that means you have to track down a used copy and maybe even the hardware required to run it, but it is at least possible. And while Scream Machines isn’t entirely in the realm of lost media yet, the 30 Day Trial is still around after all, it is very close to it. I don’t want to hate on digital media here, I do use Bandcamp to discover new music frequently, I watch Movies and TV Shows on streaming services at least as often as I do on physical media and I use Steam to buy PC games for about a decade now. I can absolutely see the benefits of digital distribution, but I feel the risk of media becoming unavailable from one moment to the next should always be kept in mind.

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