Good Old Games Give Good Old Answers

By Alec Meer on July 12th, 2008 at 11:32 am.

We briefly mentioned Good Old Games yesterday, but if you’ve not heard of it then… well, suffice to say, if you’re the kind of fellow who reads this site regularly, then GoG’s mooted catalogue of classic game downloads is going to make you a very excited wee PCophile.

The retrocentric digi-store, offering DRM-free, cheapie downloads of the likes of Fallout, Sacrifice and Operation Flashpoint, isn’t starting up until September, but we thought we’d better chuck a few questions about the site’s origins and intentions at the folks behind it – CD Projekt, who you’re probably most familiar with for last year’s divisive RPG The Witcher. Now, they’re potential saviours of olden games…

AO is Adam Oldakowski, GoG’s Managing Director, and TO is Tom Ohle, VP of PR & Marketing. The bits in bold are me. Of course I don’t actually speak in bold, but I sure wish I did.

To what extent will games be re-coded to work with XP and Vista? Or will you just not carry a game if it requires a lot of work on that front? I can’t help but think of Terror From The Deep on Steam, where the official line is that the time and cost and making it play nice with Vista was deemed not worth it….

AO: We don’t have access to the games’ source code, so we can’t really re-code them. We work hard to make sure all the games run on Windows XP and Vista – that’s both 32-bit and 64-bit systems – and we try to optimize them at the installation stage so that the game install works for each user configuration. If we happen on a game that doesn’t work, we’ll see what we can do; I hope that we never have to make that decision. All of the games we have right now work on our test systems.

So you’re launching in September with some Fallout games, the month before Fallout 3 is released. Coincidence or canniness?

AO: Purely coincidence, but such a nice coincidence isn’t it?

TO: I’d love to claim it was all a stroke of marketing genius… but I’d be lying, and that’s not something marketing people do. I think it should be good timing for us – lots of people will be looking to get into the series, and we’re perfectly happy to stand up and give them that opportunity.

Is the appearance of Interplay games on GoG related to Interplay’s recent announcement that they’re planning on a comeback?

TO: You’d have to ask Interplay about that; I think it’s really just indicative of an increase in activity for the company. We’re thrilled to have those games, though – I can’t think of many other publishers we’d rather have onboard for the site launch. Fallout, Freespace, MDK… lots of great stuff there.

Tell us more about the no-DRM thing. Are the games really, truly 100% DRM free, or will they still rely on a login?

AO: The games will be 100% DRM-free. No internet connection required to authorize the games to make them work. You will, of course, need a login on our website to buy the game and then download it, but that’s it. Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted as gamers – some trust, more freedom? We’re confident that people will support us and help us bring more and more DRM-free games to GOG.

Has the no-DRM route hampered what games you’ve been able to get at all?

AO: Yes, it’s certainly not made it any easier, but as we’re going for the older games it’s been easier to discuss the options. Now that the announcement has gone out and we can show publishers the fantastic reaction we’ve received so far, it should help us open doors to more content.

Do you have a sense of the size of the audience for this breed of game? That front-page image you’ve got, with Sacrifice, Fallout, Giants, Freespace etc is a powerful one indeed for a certain type of PC gamer – but are there enough of those around to make GoG a huge success?

AO: They’re great games and you don’t have to be a hardcore old-school gamer to really appreciate them,; further, they’re low priced, cheaper than some casual games with a lot of great gameplay.

We’ve been creating a sort of stereotype for our “target audience” but you have to remember that these games were really good at the time they were launched, and there’s a whole new generation of gamers that haven’t had a chance to experience these games. Now with the onset of all the casual games and the various spin-offs, there’s still a feeling that gamers want more, something that they can only describe by recalling one of those good old games.

Similarly, seems you’re really playing up the Old thing, in terms of both the games and the gamers. Are you fairly convinced younger gamers just won’t be interested?

TO: Eh, it’s just a nice easy marketing message to work with, saying that we old people (please note: I’m not that old) can’t play these new strange console whatnots. As Adam mentioned, I think there’s still a sizeable audience that hasn’t experienced Freespace 2 or Sacrifice – or even some of the newer games like Operation Flashpoint – and the opportunity to revisit these classics without paying a ton of money is a great incentive for those people. Personally, I just immediately latched on to the site as a great way for long-time PC gamers to scratch that nostalgic itch; but the truth is that there are a lot of different reasons people might want to play these games – not just to revisit their childhood (or college years, or whatever, depending on how old you really are).

Are you confident you could compete with Steam and Gametap if they suddenly upped their retro content?

AO: I’m not sure if it’s just about increasing the amount of retro content on a site; with both of those services, you have to use a launcher to play the games. Our games are DRM-free, need no launcher, don’t need an internet connection and are dirt cheap.

TO: Right. We really aren’t trying to compete with those guys, or really any other digital distribution service. We have our unique offering, and they have various things that set them apart, as well; I still have Steam and GameTap on my gaming PC, and will continue to use them even when GOG.com has launched.

Have you looked at rescuing games caught in a limbo state by the closure of their publisher/developer at all? And what about stuff like System Shock 2, where publishers are jealously refusing budget releases?

AO: System Shock 2 would be a great title to add to GOG.com and I hope that one day we’ll have it. Rescuing games, I think, is a costly business; we hope to go after these types of games soon but for now we’re trying to concentrate on launching a great site with great DRM-free games that work on all the supported systems. We’re talking to a number of publishers right now, and hopefully everything will snowball a bit – more publishers signed on means more interest from gamers, which in turn should generate more interest from publishers.

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61 Comments »

  1. SwiftRanger says:

    Nice idea, I hope they’re not limiting themselves to the classics, there are a lot of ‘good old games’ which never caught on with the public or the press but that are still worth playing.

  2. Gnarl says:

    So what kind of DRM are they going to use then? I couldn’t get a clear impression from the interview.

    Also that line about marketing people not lying should be in the Tao Te Ching.

  3. Alec Meer says:

    Erm. “The games will be 100% DRM-free” seems about as clear an impression as one could get.

  4. Alex McLarty says:

    Sounds excellent.

    I wonder why they have a Mac like monitor and the standard Mac desktop background on that picture at the bottom? Could it be for Mac support? NOPE!

  5. Mark-P says:

    This is such a good approach and a fantastic game line up. I wish them great success and I’m tempted by a couple of those that I don’t own.

  6. Heliocentric says:

    A cousin to stardock/impulse then, i know i’ll buy sac again (my third copy ever) and if they get MDK working on xp that’ll do just fine by me too.

    But really, a digital version of smooth running system shock 2 would be hot, especially playing online co-op over a service like hamachi but just built into a common infrastructure..

  7. MetalCircus says:

    Sorry to be a dundahead but what’s DRM?

  8. Kadayi says:

    Digital Rights Management

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management

    Basically an anti-piracy measure

  9. cliffski says:

    digital rights management, a system to prevent piracy by making sure you can’t easily copy the game or upload it on to some dodgy website.

  10. Josh says:

    Awesome interview. Just the sort of information I wanted to see. If the service turns out to be as good as it sounds, I will easily spend hundreds of dollars on it.

    I’m gonna need both Crusader games, Wing Commander: Privateer, Bioforge and Terra Nova running on XP64, though!

    Uh…to start.

  11. SuperNashwan says:

    Digital Rights Management, ie copy protection.

  12. Chris Evans says:

    Great interview, answers a lot of questions I myself had. I think Good Old Games is going to be a breath of fresh air to go alongside Impulse in the digi distribution industry. Just hope that they can get enough publishers on board to make it a big success. I just fear the lack of DRM will turn off a lot of publishers =[

  13. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    If CD Projekt, as a company, had an orifice, I would violate it in as lovingly a way as I possibly could. By that I mean its great someone is doing this. now…. to obtain a credit card by the time they open shop….

  14. MasterBoo says:

    Sacrifice for 10$ max. Such a low price for the best game ever made.

  15. Al3xand3r says:

    Stardock’s games have no DRM either and they’re pretty succesful and keep growing.. If anything, these guys claim some of the same things… No drm, no launcher, no etc. It was kind of a cop out the interview didn’t mention Impulse, instead just Steam and Gametap, so he had an easy way out of that particular question by just saying the same things Stardock would have said if you replaced “old games” with “indie games” for example.

    He’d have to come up with something very different if he had to respond to something like “what if Impulse also adds retro games” instead of just Steam and Gametap which do those things differently.

    There was still no talk about the fact Freespace 2 is freely available (on non-torrent websites)… Will they try to shut down the places that offer it now they have the publishing rights? Will they just not care or hope people don’t notice or what?

    Anyway if they will offer games as recent as the original Operation Flashpoint then I guess it could be the non gaming PC’s or laptop’s place to get games that they know will run on their systems rather than just an “old games” gateway.

  16. Theory says:

    The launch press release said they had access to source code, now this interview says they don’t. What’s going on?

  17. Optimaximal says:

    FreeSpace 1 & 2 will always be free, regardless of what CD Projekt now do, because all the original versions have a line in the EULA that effectively allow the game to be given away, providing its not for profit.
    Its no wonder Interplay died when their legal eagles never spotted stuff like that.

  18. Erlend M says:

    TO: I’d love to claim it was all a stroke of marketing genius… but I’d be lying, and that’s not something marketing people do.

    I LOVE this guy!

  19. Al3xand3r says:

    @Theory
    “I’d be lying, and that’s not something marketing people do”

    I guess it’s clear the man is delusional so you can expect some inconsistencies in his statements.

    Edit: Bah beat me to it.

  20. Bitkari says:

    Hopefully this will be as good at it seems! I can’t wait.

  21. Gnarl says:

    DRM-free? Didn’t see it, they can’t have mentioned it very much. Thanks.

  22. Okami says:

    Yay! At last I can get Sacrifice again. And Giants. Ok, so I own both games, but they’re in the cellar and it’s dark and wet down there and I really don’t like going there at all. I guess some rats have allready stolen the games anyway and are now becoming super rats (who will one day enslave us all) mutated by the sheer awesomness radiated by these two games…

  23. gnome says:

    So sensible and nice. Really nice. Like a truly nice thing.

  24. jamuel scones says:

    These seem to mostly be old Interplay games. I think somebody picked up a job lot of redistribution rights……

  25. MarvintheParanoidAndroid says:

    @Gnarl:

    “…offering DRM-free, cheapie downloads…”
    “…the no-DRM thing.”
    “Are the games really, truly 100% DRM free…”
    “The games will be 100% DRM-free.”
    “…more and more DRM-free games…”
    “…the no-DRM route…”

    Clearer? :P

  26. Ohle says:

    ANy previous mentions of source-code access were merely my misunderstanding — I try to be as technically minded as I can be, but ultimate the difference between access to “masters” and “source code” eluded me until yesterday.

    As for the non-mention of Impulse… hmm, well I’ve actually mentioned Impulse in previous interviews, so it’s certainly not a slight at Stardock. After all, I spent the last three years doing PR for them before I moved to CDP. :)

    Glad you guys are, for the most part, excited about GOG. We’ve already gotten more interest from certain publishers since the announcement — it’ll be pretty important for us to show them that gamers will use the site… the no-DRM thing is a bit scary to some.

    Edit: almost forgot… for the Freespace 2 thing. My understanding was that the game itself wasn’t available freely online — just the source code (which, yes, ultimately means someone could feasibly compile the game exe). Regardless, we absolutely won’t start shutting down the open source movement — that would just be stupid and sort of goes against our whole mantra.

  27. Jae Armstrong says:

    Freespace isn’t just free, it was properly opened sourced. :/

    Also, I tried reinstalling Sacrifice the other day and got this wierd graphic glitch, a flickering bar all along the top of the screen. Appears on all resolutions and forcing vsync doesn’t help. Lastest (well, last) patch doesn’t help.

    I have a 8800GX, and I know that those are buggy with Infinity Engine games, but I thought that was 2D compositing only? Help?

  28. Kieron Gillen says:

    Gnarl: I think everyone’s having sarcasm-recognition failing today. You win.

    KG

  29. Alec Meer says:

    Gnarl – sorry, hadn’t realised the sarcasm. I blame a) a massive hangover and b) being a bit over-sensitive to folk commenting without fully reading our posts. I almost clawed my own eyes out after some of the comments in the Pyro achievement server post…

  30. Al3xand3r says:

    Ohle, I wasn’t implying Stardock were mistreated or something. I was talking about this particular question:

    “Are you confident you could compete with Steam and Gametap if they suddenly upped their retro content?”

    The response from AO was about the ease of use, the DRM and launcher things. I was saying the response would have to be different if the question was like this instead:

    “Are you confident you could compete with Steam and Impulse if they suddenly upped their retro content?”

    AO specifically couldn’t have just talked about having no DRM and the launcher requirements because Impulse is like that also. That’s all I was saying.

  31. bobince says:

    Old games, properly patched to work on new OS? Great! No copy protection? GREAT.

    But, US-only or worldwide?

  32. Optimaximal says:

    Freespace isn’t just free, it was properly opened sourced. :/

    I know, I was editing my post and the WordPress edit-script decided I fail. :(

    I was going to say that the only thing GoG could reasonably do is try and get the rights to the actual assets Volition created and try to sell them as a cheap mission pack, since the FS2 engine as it exists now isn’t anything like the original in either design or structure.
    That said, how would the community react to suddenly being told ‘you can’t bundle that in the SCP anymore’?

  33. Will Tomas says:

    Back from the days when games came in big ol’ cardboard boxes, and had proper packaging and proper manuals – none of this DVD case nonsense. They were determined to dominate your shelf space. And they did.

  34. cctoide says:

    Heh… funny that this should pop up just now, when I’ve finally decided to get and play through the Fallout series since I’ve been hearing so much about them. About two hours or so into Fallout now.

    I’m going to assume the only reason I don’t hear more “water chip” jokes is because the game is so damn old.

  35. MetalCircus says:

    There’s a load of water chip jokes in Fallout 2, one being that you stumble upon a vault that had a whole shipment full of water chips that was acctually intended for your vault in Fallout 1 ;)

    Speaking of boxes, Will Tomas, I still have my original boxed copy of Fallout 2, sitting on the shelf beside me. Ahh good times!

  36. Dolphan says:

    Hmm, already played most of the games mentioned, but I never played Sacrifice despite liking the demo a lot way back when, and God knows what happened to my copy of Giants, so this may well be due a look.

  37. cliffski says:

    Ohle, are you guys interested in featuring indie games too?

  38. Derek K. says:

    If they can get the X-Coms, I will have their babies. Mainly, it’s the “guarenteed to work on XP and Vista” bit – I have the X-Com installs, but mucking with Dosbox and the like annoys me. I’ll *happily* pay $10 per to get them with working installers and playable.

  39. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Freespace 2 actually might not be free; the engine is OS but when you install it the EULA that it copies to your computer does not have the “you can share this game with anyone” clause.

  40. Matthew Gallant says:

    You have to figure that a service aimed at the video game long tail was going to come along eventually, but I’m thrilled to see that they’re dedicated to doing it right the first time (no DRM, reasonable prices.) If they keep up this way, they’ll definitely have my business.

  41. malkav11 says:

    Man. I really want this to work, but nothing about this interview has made me any more convinced that it will. Not having source-level access to the games suggests that they won’t really be able to do very much to fix the myriad incompatibilities and glitches that attend running older games on newer systems. And it also sounds like publishers aren’t exactly lining up around the block to take part…and for something like this to be truly exciting to me, it would need to be my one-stop source for excellent older games. That genuine digital archive that I’ve always wanted for gaming history. Or at the very least be a source for games that I haven’t been able to get hold of at a reasonable price – there’s been tons of cheapie releases of the Fallout games (which I already own, some multiple times), Freespace 2 is open-source and freely distributed, Sacrifice came with my video card, and I picked up Giants for $5 or so back in the day. MDK was part of a dual-jewel $10 release that I got for more like $5.

    Mind you, I may well spring for a couple things on GOG just to have that readily downloaded source for posterity, but that’s really not something I’ve craved, it’s just handy.

  42. Pantsman says:

    My fingers are crossed for Planescape: Torment.

  43. Frymaster says:

    >Yay! At last I can get Sacrifice again. And Giants. Ok, so I own both
    >games, but they’re in the cellar and it’s dark and wet down there and I
    >really don’t like going there at all. I guess some rats have allready
    >stolen the games anyway and are now becoming super rats (who will
    >one day enslave us all) mutated by the sheer awesomness radiated
    >by these two games…

    This is exactly why I ended up buying DoW three times (the last time was on steam), and all the unreal games apart from the latest twice (bought the complete pack on steam)

    I do wonder why steam validate-on-launch is still being used (unless it’s a fig-leaf for the nervous third-party providers) as I am under the impression it’s easier than average to remove…

    My only issue with this new service is I am getting a deeper antipathy to registering new user accounts as I get older. So having to remember yet another set of details to reinstall games I’d bought with that service annoys me more than it should (It’s not like they don’t have a legit reason for you to need to prove who you are).

    Sometimes I wish MS had suceeded in an internet monopoly, then we could all use MSN logins for everything. (And then I wake up screaming)

  44. Frosty840 says:

    Seeing as I bought all those games at release (okay, not the driving ones. But the others) I am, understandably, I think, somwhat ambivalent about this announcement.

    I won’t be buying new copies of these games just because they’re on sale again…

  45. RichPowers says:

    I have a huge collection of old games and would repurchase a few of them if they’d work flawlessly on XP and/or Vista.

  46. Robin says:

    This is a very cool idea and I’ll be watching with interest to see how well it does.

    I’d really like to see a Criterion-esque games label, that put together definitive versions of notable titles. So you’d get a version of the game that played nicely on modern systems, along with early versions, addons, mods, interviews with the developers, concept art, essays, contemporary reviews, save games, etc. There’s already people making ‘unofficial’ packages like this on torrent sites, but it would be nice to have them preserved legitimately.

  47. xagarath says:

    I alreayd own most of the games they’re showing so far that;d interest me, but this is an excellent idea generally.
    Especially since it’s supporting Sacrifice and Giants.

  48. Erlam says:

    I believe this site will prove that games have gone downhill. Those games absolutely shatter anything I’ve played in the last few years.

  49. Theory says:

    The difference between access to “masters” and “source code” eluded me until yesterday.

    So what is the difference? :P

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