How GOG.com Save And Restore Classic Videogames

“Hunting for distribution rights is essentially detective work,” says Marcin Paczyński, Head of Product at GOG. “Rights can repeatedly change hands or be split up between different parties, and it’s our job to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Preservation of old games involves more than just an extra patch. The journey from dusty unplayable relic to polished, cross-platform installer is a minefield of technical and legal obstacles. The team at Good Old Games remain the industry leaders in the restoration of classic PC games, tasked with reverse engineering code written more than 20 years ago, unraveling knotty licensing issues left behind by defunct development studios, and battling lethargy on the part of skeptical publishers. It’s a thrilling and, at times, gruelling process, but – as the GOG team will testify – it never fails to surprise.

Games generally take one of three paths to the GOG storefront. Newer titles are procured by the company’s Business Development team, while small indie releases are often submitted directly by their development studios (Lords of Xulima and Sunless Sea being two such examples). The vast majority of older titles, however, take the third path; whether they’ve climbed the Community Wishlist or are simply a favourite of GOG’s developers, their distribution rights must be hunted down manually. To that end, the legal team scrutinise the storied history of the game’s original development studio, connecting the dots between mergers, buyouts, and bankruptcies, searching for clues as to which publisher or conglomerate to contact.

“On more than one occasion, our community was also extremely helpful in tracking down classic games,” says Paczyński. “A GOGer might know somebody involved with a release, or try a few of their own leads and share anything that they come up with. There’s actually a community thread on our forums dedicated specifically to this sort of thing, and in the past we’ve been able to follow up on these leads to release the games they requested. It’s always awesome to add a game to GOG.com that’s the product of a combined effort between our team and our community.”

Once a deal has been struck with the new rights holders, the team are – in theory – free to update the game’s ancient source code to run on modern systems. There’s one problem, however: in almost all cases, the original code has been lost or deleted.

“Source and game code is an extremely rare commodity for us,” explains Paczyński. “Older titles have often gone through so many different hands that no one knows who has the original code anymore, or it no longer exists in any usable form.” With source files lost forever, the team’s only recourse is to retrofit retail code taken from a boxed copy of the game.

While publishers are occasionally able to supply an archived build, most classics necessitate a scavenger hunt for the best available edition of the title. These are often found among the GOG crew – “it’s probably not a surprise that many of us are collectors!” adds Paczyński – but it’s not uncommon for the team to trawl the web in search of second-hand copies.

Retail code is far less malleable than source code, and restoring a game to its playable state using only a decades-old installation disk is quite a feat of software engineering. In terms of sheer difficulty, the process might be likened to film restoration using only a VHS recording of a television broadcast, the original negatives having been destroyed.

GOG’s engineers must therefore take a creative approach by using customised emulators and wrappers. “We have a great relationship with the team behind DOSBox,” explains Paczyński. “In the past they’ve helped us create custom setups specifically for a particular release – notable examples include Theme Park and Harvester.” It’s not uncommon for these setups to become extraordinarily complex; the team describe wrapping wrappers around wrappers in a kind of ‘Russian Doll’ approach to emulation.

Sometimes the process of digging through old code in old games leads to surprising discoveries, but easter eggs, such as the hidden message discovered inside Dungeon Keeper, are rare. According to the team’s specialists, these discoveries are not the most appealing thing about the job. What makes GOG’s brand of digital archeology fun, they say, is actually the need for creative experimentation. “You can’t just go through the motions,” explains a GOG engineer. “System compatibility tools are a brilliant go-to, but we’ve had to learn to expect the unexpected.”

When prompted to provide examples, dozens of anecdotes are forthcoming. The restoration of Airline Tycoon, for example, required the team to extract the raw language assets from a multilingual Mac version and port them into the English-only PC build they’d received, thereby providing the same experience for all users. Games which once required switching physical CDs call for novel workarounds to eliminate pointless dialogue prompts. One title completely crashed the team’s Cyrillic systems, and required painstaking patch development.

“There are a few games out there that are only playable with community-made fixes and patches nowadays. In several cases, we’ve been able to get in touch with mod creators to implement their select technical fixes into our releases. Whenever we do this, it’s a must for us to get in touch, get their permission first, and offer a token of appreciation as a thank you – and nearly everyone is just happy to help.”

The complexity of the team’s solutions has a knock-on effect on the testing phase. “We sometimes reverse-engineer parts of a game,” says Paczyński, “but messing with the binaries can produce unexpected results and put a lot of strain on our QA, so we do our best to keep things simple.”

This is not always easy. As a gaming platform, the PC is extremely fragmented – developers must account for a diverse range of chipsets, graphics cards, and operating systems. The effects of this variation are exacerbated by the age and inflexibility of the software being restored. The number of unknown variables spirals, making the testing process gruelling, and the bugs wildly unpredictable.

Incompatible with the power of modern systems, older titles can exhibit bizarre behaviour which only becomes apparent during testing. S.T.A.L.K.E.R and Saints Row 2, for example, would go haywire as the frame-rate skyrocketed, resulting in hilarious physics engine malfunctions and even overheated PCs. Carmageddon was plagued by inexplicable crashes, and its tortuous three-month stint in QA still evokes painful memories among GOG’s testers.

“There’s also a lot of work involved in keeping things working post-release,” says Paczyński. “It’s important for us to never simply fire and forget, and with many of our titles being decades old, we constantly have to pay attention to community feedback and monitor new software and hardware changes to eliminate any problems that can, will, and do, come up.”

The final step is to prepare GOG’s famous ‘game goodies’ – digitised copies of supplementary material including manuals, soundtracks, and original artwork.

This practice originates from the service’s early years as Good Old Games. “We wanted gamers to get all the cool stuff they used to receive with boxed editions,” says Paczyński. “Something to look at, browse through, feel the heft – we wanted to recreate that old feeling of ownership.” Many older games, particularly adventures and RPGs, actually relied on these physical add-ins to complete the experience. Manuals frequently included beautifully detailed maps or reams of lore.

This dedication to authenticity can sometimes pose unexpected challenges. The recently released Forgotten Realms titles of the 1980s and early ‘90s, for example, relied on cardboard ‘code wheels’, a primitive form of copy protection which was integrated into the games’ stories. Rather than treat these wheels like DRM and simply eliminate them completely, the team decided to retain the mechanic for the sake of preserving the original experience. Customers therefore receive a printable copy of the code wheel as well as an electronic on-screen version.

Sourcing these materials entails another round of detective work. In addition to their own personal collections, the team frequently turn to eBay and other online marketplaces. Localised auction sites are often used to track down foreign language editions. The best source, however, is the community; collectors, enthusiasts, and fan site webmasters frequently prove to be invaluable allies during a treasure hunt.

“The community will often send us scans of the manuals, maps, or other bonus content. Sometimes we’ll get whole packages mailed to us in the post as well!” laughs Paczyński. “We’ve actually received bonus items and even physical game versions from places like Canada and Germany.” While the process of buying and digitising all these collectibles can be extremely time-consuming, many members of the team share a sense of responsibility when it comes to this aspect of their work.

“There is a strong element of actually preserving game history – digitising and archiving materials that could disappear at any time. Just talking to our Product team, you can tell that it’s really something of a passion project; they collect tons of materials for games that we haven’t released yet (or materials we can’t get the rights to release). “Just in case”, they say, but years from now when all the online links go down, and the printed pages are faded, a digital copy will at least be kept safe somewhere.”

With the legalities settled, available code patched, game goodies digitised and the whole package rigorously tested, the title is ready for its long-awaited rerelease. In many cases, the game will have been out-of-print for literally decades. This perilous journey out of licensing hell and back to legal sale raises questions about the monetary value of older games, the role of unsanctioned emulation, and the threats posed by DRM.

As we’ve seen, the games medium faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to the preservation of its past. The most obvious example is DRM, even the most archaic forms of which can still be insurmountable by game restorationists. Paczyński recalls the German release of KKND, which used an encrypted executable beyond a simple CD check; the team believe this form of copy protection will be impossible to work around.

Worryingly, however, it seems likely that many of the industry’s recent technological advances – even those regarded as ‘pro-consumer’ – will serve only to make the preservation of today’s games harder in the decades to come. Given the inexorable transition from physical media to cloud-based storage, and the now-ubiquitous requirement for a persistent internet connection, it seems likely that modern games will face a whole new set of challenges. Kyle Orland recently explored some of these issues in a great article for Ars Technica.

Another equally-pressing issue is that of our collective attitude toward older games. When the Internet Archive made over 2,500 MS-DOS games freely available to play in web browsers earlier this year, the news was covered with enthusiasm by dozens of major publications. Undoubtedly, it was a remarkable accomplishment – the IA curators used EmDOSBox, a version of the same emulator powering GOG’s classics and which compiles to JavaScript, to preserve these games in a playable state using open web standards.

But, as Dan Whitehead observed on Eurogamer, our collective indifference to the legality of this move demonstrates some of the issues which confront gaming as it grows up as an art form. “The biggest problem that games face as a commercial medium is that there are no ancillary markets and no reliable revenue streams beyond the initial launch,” writes Whitehead. “Compare it to film. There, the cinema release is just the start of a film’s commercial life […] It has what smartly dressed business people call a ‘long tail’, making money for years to come and helping to fund more movies.”

Services like GOG play a vital role in challenging preconceptions about old games and by making classic games commercially-viable once more. There’s a long way still to go, but the more the industry is aware of the challenges faced in the fight to preserve gaming’s heritage, the better.

“The work we do on classic games here at GOG.com is, first and foremost, born from a passion and love for these experiences,” says Paczyński. “Gaming was alive and kicking well before the digital distribution era, and it’s important for us to preserve these decades of an evolving art form in as authentic and accessible a way as possible.”

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155 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Excellent and interesting article. More like this, please!

    • Pazguato says:

      Ditto.

      And eternal thanks to GOG for giving us back that old missed magic.

      • Great Cthulhu says:

        Totally agreed! GOG is one of the best things to happen to gaming this past decade, and it’s great to read more about what they do.

        • jezcentral says:

          And (whisper it) kudos to Microsoft, who have made such backwards compatibility possible (with work from GOG and DOS Box).

    • The_invalid says:

      I concur – this was a bloody fantastic read.

    • MozzerV12 says:

      I share these sentiments. I enjoyed this article and thoroughly appreciate the effort that GOG puts into restoring older titles and I will happily continue to support them for doing this. Over time my GOG shelf will hopefully have all of the old games that I remember playing from the 90’s and early 2000’s.

    • Ginsoakedboy21 says:

      Seconded. Well written, interesting, a little bit thought provoking.

      I’d really like to see someone from GOG have a regular column where they described the beginning to end process on an entire game, up until its release.

    • w0bbl3r says:

      Agreed, very interesting article.
      Not the kind of thing that I would usually read, but being GoG it took my interest.
      I knew it was hard work for them restoring these old games, but it never occurred to me exactly how MUCH hard work, and of course how different that work would be for each game. I never really thought about it that much, but it makes sense, seeing how complicated the PC as a platform is even for modern games.
      GoG are one of the most dedicated sellers out there, I have a lot of respect for what they do. Consider their selling of an old game compared to a similar game being sold on steam, for instance, and the GoG version will be a joy, with lots of nice extras and pretty much guaranteed to work with hardly any problems (mostly), while the steam game will likely not work at all, or have huge problems if it does, and will just have some asshole who has been going around buying the rights to old games that have been forgotten just to release them on steam for easy money (now that steam doesn’t care who or what games are releasing on their store, or what condition they are in), and then forgetting about them.
      I wish the guys behind GoG (and indeed CDPR) all the best, I hope this goes from strength to strength until they can one day start to surpass steam as a platform for selling games and a place for users to keep their games in one place, with the new (currently pretty bad) galaxy client.

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      Indeed, a really lovely article. I learned quite a bit.

    • Frank says:

      Yes, thanks for this, RPS

    • Aetylus says:

      Yup – lovely, unexpected, interesting article.

    • KeyboardSmash says:

      Yep! I just logged in (a rarity) to give my appreciation to this article. Thanks.

    • JFS says:

      This is what I want from RPS! Not MOBAs and AAA console/mainstream gaming news…

    • SuicideKing says:

      Yup, a great read. MOAR I ROAR.

    • Devan says:

      Very good article. It just makes me appreciate more what these guys are doing even though I don’t expect I’ll ever have time to go back to play many retro games.

    • Tom Bennet says:

      Thanks everyone for the kind words, much appreciated!

  2. DrMcCoy says:

    What, no ScummVM love in the article? :(

    • Klarden says:

      Probably because only like 5 games on GOG use ScummVM. Team loves them, though. I think all games using ScummVM on GOG are marked as such in the product description even:)

      • Janichsan says:

        Nah, I think there are more, at least a dozen. For some reason, they don’t state it explicitely for all of them, though.

  3. Duckeenie says:

    A CDP article a day keeps the debtors away…

  4. Navillus Omloc says:

    Great read, GOG have always seemed to have the right attitude but I’ve found that it can be easy to overlook the amount of effort that goes into what they do.

  5. Darth Gangrel says:

    Games that are really old usually makes me scowl, but one of the pics features a nice brown cowl, so I’d like to know what that game is called.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      You mean Harvester? link to gog.com

      It’s a pretty bad game, though, IMHO, only remembered because of its goryness and general fucked-up plot.

      • Kefren says:

        I played it for the first time recently, and really enjoyed it! Reminded me of the first time I played Phantasmagoria, which really sucked me in and filled me with love at what games can do. Harvester started to lose it towards the end (I think I switched to watching a playthrough) but it gave me a number of hours of enjoyment.

  6. Bernardo says:

    Fantastic article. Thanks so much for that! As a historian, I’m totally fascinated by the archival challenges posed by these developments. Funnily enough, most classic archives move toward digitization of physical documents, films and photographs – I wonder when these two developments are going to meet.

    • Player1 says:

      As a games historian myself I completely agree. Also, thanks a lot for this article, it’s a great read.

  7. c-Row says:

    “The biggest problem that games face as a commercial medium is that there are no ancillary markets and no reliable revenue streams beyond the initial launch,” writes Whitehead. “Compare it to film. There, the cinema release is just the start of a film’s commercial life […] It has what smartly dressed business people call a ‘long tail’, making money for years to come and helping to fund more movies.”

    Books have been around for quite a while now and apart from the real big players (e.g. Stephen King, Tolkien etc.) most authors probably make a living from one book to the next, and their output isn’t even reliant on a particular reading setup that might be obsolete or incompatible a few years down the road.

    As for ancillary markets – what about artbooks, soundtracks and memorabilia in general? Those shelves in my home didn’t magically fill themselves over night…

    • Frank says:

      I think art books, soundtracks etc, usually see the vast majority of their sales on initial release. I think he meant ancillary markets in which the product is repackaged at little cost and resold. In video gaming, we do have that on the consoles, where they release unmodified downloadable versions of old games. If game developers can charge streamers (can they?) that would also be an ancillary market in Dan’s sense, I guess, akin to broadcasting of other media.

      • c-Row says:

        But we had this on PCs as well until digital downloads pretty much killed compilations like Play The Games and publishers like Kixx who issued low-priced versions of popular games some time after release, leaving us with Steam sales and Humble Bundles.

        At the end of the day games themselves suffer from the technological advancements and are less and less likely to find a larger audience once they are of a certain age. A 20 year old book doesn’t suffer from outdated graphics unless your imagination sucks.

        • JFS says:

          Absolutely. I remember budget repackagings of basically every game, also “bundles” (game collections/anthologies). That market existed! It’s only that is has gone under in the wake of digital distribution. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, you know?

          Also, HD remakes or Infinity Engine EE games. Even in digital form, the idea still lives, albeit on a smaller scale.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      From what I’ve seen on various authors blogs not really, there’s a few exceptional blockbuster types (in the UK Pratchett and Rawling), and a smallish group that can write full time for a living but most authors have to mix writing and working or treat the writing as a hobby. There’s a good article here; link to antipope.org

  8. slerbal says:

    Excellent article. More like this please! GOG do great work :)

  9. rexx.sabotage says:

    I’d read more like this.

    GOG is love. GOG is life. All praise be unto the GOGBear <3

  10. Frank says:

    Needs saying: the “long tail” refers to a large library, where a significant fraction of revenue comes from a large number of products that aren’t very popular individually, but add up.

    It does not refer to selling over a long period of time. I hope this doesn’t become like “begging the question”

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      Yeah, its literally unbareable

      • median says:

        For all intensive purposes, you are both correct.

        While we are on the topic of grammatical pedantry, isn’t GOG.com singular, not plural? “How GOG.com Saves…”

        Lovely read, Mr. Bennet.

        • Frank says:

          :D

          In my defense, it’s not grammar. The long tail is a concept that Dan misused.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            I was just fixating on the question begging ;) anyway Median clearly misspelled “intensive porpoises”

          • jezcentral says:

            I think it was used correctly. You are right about the “Long tail” retail strategy, but the mathematical use of “Long tail” distribution fits the selling pattern of a single product perfectly, as well. So he didn’t use it wrongly.

        • pepperfez says:

          Treating group names as plural seems to be a Britishism. I mostly see it with sports teams, but I guess it applies elsewhere as well?

    • Devan says:

      @Frank
      I don’t think his use of the term “long tail” is wrong. I work in the game development industry and we use it to describe a product that has a revenue-over-time curve that descends slowly toward the end of the product lifetime. In other words, a product that has a long tail can be financially successful even if it doesn’t make big earnings early on. It will break even eventually and as long as it has a low upkeep cost it will go on to be decently profitable.

      That’s how we use it, anyway.

      • Frank says:

        Ah ok, interesting. I stand corrected.

        I just figured all business-school types (as referenced by Dan) only used terms as seen in business-school books (like that one about “the long tail”).

  11. Be_reasonable says:

    I want to read more about GOG. They are awesome!

  12. Text_Fish says:

    Really interesting read. It’s inspired me to start detectivinating the Ecstatica series, which I’d love to see on GOG.

    • trn says:

      Good luck! I would also love to play these again, I have found them almost impossible to play even using virtual machine.

      • ansionnach says:

        Both Ecstatica games are very playable in DOSBox. There’s very little configuration required. The Windows version of the second one runs in modern versions of Windows with no changes whatsoever. Not that I played that for long last time I dug it up – it’s a terrible game and has very little in common with the first one.

  13. Danda says:

    GOG is really cool, but they still have some blind spots. For example, they lack many localized versions that are actually offered on other storefronts such as DotEmu (which for a time looked like it could become a serious competitor).

    Why is The Last Express English only? Why is there no Spanish audio & text for In Cold Blood, LSL: Magna Cum Laude, Feeble Files, Realms of the Haunting and many others? I even offered to send them some Spanish discs/files, but they were not interested. So maybe they could show some improvement on that front…

    • namad says:

      perhaps the localizations were subcontracted in such a way that the license holder doesn’t actually own them anymore? or maybe gog are just jerks. hard to say.

    • Klarden says:

      You won’t believe how much crap is happening from the legal side of things in game publishing. It’s especially horrible when dealing with RU localisations, because in 95% of cases the rights for the localisation itself lie with different people. But this happens with EFFIGS games too. I’ve seen several releases in FR and DE released with the help of community with huge thanks to the community who helped. I assume, they’d love to accept your help too but simply cannot.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Same thing happens with movies, the dubbing/localization will be done by a different company who own that part of the license (or other legal shite) and its a completely sepreate deal getting them to give over they’re shit.

      This is why some digital remasters of DVDs don;t have certain localization sometimes

      • Klarden says:

        Movies are waaaaay worse in legal terms, actually. Like – with games at least most of them have worlwide release rights with someone, usually the original publisher and/or developer. There are few exceptions, mainly with Asian regions and usually with MMOs due to their subscription model, but still. With movies? Almost no big budget movies can be simply made available everywhere. Even with music it’s not as stupid as with movies :(

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Sometimes the translation right are with the local distributor and if they went bankrupt (like CTO in Italy, they localized a lot of games in italian, sometimes they even dubbed the audio for FMV or games with a lot of recorded audio and cutscenes) or are being pricks about it it’s often next to impossible to obtain them.

    • Dangd says:

      I guess it is related to different rights owners. I’ve sent them two Spanish versions (Sam&Max and The Dig) but they’ve declined UT99 and some others.

  14. namad says:

    you didn’t really cover how gog gets its patches… 90-99% of the gog games I’ve played if you open up the directory and find a patch it’s actually a fan made patch that gog stole and re-released without permission or compensation… rather than any… actual hiring a team of assembly code engineers to reverse engineer and patchfix anything.

    • Klarden says:

      There was only one instance ever of GOG releasing a game with a fan-made patch without approval and it was done due to how rightholder handled things. Game was removed from sale when GOG team learned of this. Dunno where you’re getting your info from.

      • gunny1993 says:

        “90-99% of the gog games I’ve played”

        He’s played 1 game on GoG and is really bad with statistics

    • Lagran says:

      Yes, yes they did:

      “There are a few games out there that are only playable with community-made fixes and patches nowadays. In several cases, we’ve been able to get in touch with mod creators to implement their select technical fixes into our releases. Whenever we do this, it’s a must for us to get in touch, get their permission first, and offer a token of appreciation as a thank you – and nearly everyone is just happy to help.”

  15. YoYoFoSho says:

    Here’s to hoping the GOG gods are secretly granting a many a gamer’s wish and working on bringing all the MechWarrior games back to life. That f2p one is a an unfortunate blight on the series.

    • Klarden says:

      Here’s hoping MechWarrior rights are with someone who is willing to go DRM-free…
      Just checked, it’s Microsoft. Yep…

  16. Freud says:

    Them being curators of old games is something we should be grateful for. It’s not like with consoles where people have the console and the game and it will always work (until I guess there are no TVs that have the right connectors). PC games are in a worse spot since upgrades to operating systems and hardware that are much faster than older generations of hardware tend to break games.

    • Frank says:

      Personally, I think PCs are better in this regard. Keeping dedicated devices and cartridges around is pretty burdensome and embarrassing; most folks end up re-buying games as they’re re-released on the latest console.

      With PCs, at least you can tinker around to get it to work some of the time.

      • ansionnach says:

        I would say that you’re more right than you realise: with vanilla DOSBox you can get the vast majority of games to work. If you really want you can literally boot into DOS and play the games. Most DOSBox configuration files from gog that I’ve inspected leave the cycles at auto, which is often the only thing you may need to adjust to get a game working. Sometimes this should be done with the gog release anyway to get it working perfectly on your machine. All you’ve got to do is use CTRL-F11 and CTRL-F12 to set it to a speed that works very well and change the cycles value in the .conf file. This hardly even qualifies as configuration. PC games are often very speed tolerant so it’s not really a fine-tuning process. A lot of games up to and including the 486 era will run perfectly with cycles set to something like 20,000 or 30,000. Setting it to max will work quite a lot too, although it can introduce sound crackling. One example of a game that’s a little trickier is Lemmings. It actually won’t run if you set the cycles above around 5,500… but since auto defaults it to 3,000 anyway, no configuration is required.

        You could break PC games down roughly in terms of compatibility like this:
        * DOS games: These often run perfectly in DOSBox with no config. Booting into FreeDOS, MS-DOS or whatever is also an option.
        * 16-bit Windows games: Extremely rare, especially if you’re talking about “proper” games that aren’t some sort of card game of desktop distraction. Run fine in non-64-bit versions of Windows or in XP mode for newer systems.
        * Win9x games: Most of these run on modern Windows. Problems here can be if there’s a 16-bit installer, which won’t work on 64-bit (but will work on modern 32-bit) Windows. XP Mode, or some other VM can help here, although often some fan will have created an installer (e.g. Grim Fandango). Many problems with Win9x games can be DirectX-related. Sometimes they aren’t to do with “modern” versions of windows at all, but down to specific hardware. I’ve come across a good few games (e.g. the Windows versions of the first two Broken Swords) that don’t like certain graphics cards. The Broken Swords flicker awfully on my i7 laptop when played with the discrete graphics chip (780M), but work perfectly with the integrated Intel chip. It can often be the case that games don’t run for reasons not associated with the moder version of Windows. Another example of this is the original Windows release of Broken Sword 2 (there was no DOS version). It was really hacked together with a lot of what should have been configurable options hard-coded into the executable. One bug that was never fixed by the developer was that the game simply will not run if you don’t have a CD drive on your system. It crashes out with an messy error referring to a .cpp file (something a user should not see). I fixed this bug in short order when I discovered it.

        So you see: PCs are far better when it comes to compatibility than consoles. I’d wager that I could play many games from as early as 1981 (the PCs release year) on my i7 laptop.

        • Frank says:

          Thanks for the overview, ansionnach, and your comments elsewhere in this thread.

          Does it concern you that, while compatibility with modern hardware may be pretty good right now, it could become worse in the future (as we move to 128-bit or whatever… I’m not a computer scientist)?

          • ansionnach says:

            I suppose an issue for the future is that we don’t quite know what’ll happen when Steam and similar services go under. I bought one game (Bionic Commando: Rearmed) from Direct2Drive and they’re now gone. My game won’t play any more using the D2D executable and I refused to sign up to the new company’s policy. That was a while ago – think it was something to do with GameFly requiring I run their software on my machine to play “their” games. I will not do this. I have a Steam account but don’t use it. Moments of weakness happen but my bought DVD copy of Fallout: New Vegas still sits unplayed seeing as I didn’t notice (or it wasn’t stated) on Amazon that it required Steam. I do know that when these services go under we have absolutely no control over what happens to “our” games. At least with gog you have the game for keeps. For now I’m probably more concerned about deliberately introduced incompatibility and when I buy something digitally I want to be sure I own it and can use if forever… and they can’t change the terms after the sale.

            Regarding hardware incompatibilities… I’m still annoyed that DOS support was stripped out of XP and support for anything other than text mode was removed from that in Vista (I’ll call Vista to 10 “Vista” since they’re quite similar). Other than that, the other annoying thing MS did was not add support for 16-bit Windows in the 64-bit version. I’ve briefly read some explanations stating that it simply isn’t possible but I’d have the feeling that they felt it just wasn’t worth the effort. I’m no sort of “expert” or “wizard”. I can disassemble and hack about enough to remove some basic protections and even fix some bugs, but I only took the notion to do this about two weeks ago. I’m a rank amateur at this. That’s how tricky it is if you have a basic grasp of an assembly language before (I never studied and have never written x86 assembly). What I do know is that the x86 instruction set is available for reference online, which makes finding out what you need to know not too difficult. The loss of 16-bit Windows support wasn’t massive since these OSes weren’t really designed to run fullscreen games and fully utilise your hardware. There were hardly any, anyway. For me, Civ2 2.42 is the holy grail. I would like to be able to do a port of that some time but I think it’s way outside my capacity right now… and it isn’t terribly necessary given that there is a 32-bit port (the multiplayer versions, which I have as well).

            Getting back to the hardware incompatibilities, which I still haven’t addressed (maybe time for bed…), it’s at least nice that the instruction set remains compatible. If you want to you could boot from FreeDOS and you may as well be back in 1981, when it all began. Trouble is that your soundcard doesn’t work because there are no DOS drivers (not that you’d have to worry about this until soundcards actually existed). If there were drivers, they wouldn’t be Adlib or Soundblaster compatible. Emulating this on a PCI card isn’t straightforward, if it’s even possible to get working for the majority of games. There were also some games that were hyper-sensitive to processor speed. If you could get sound, video and chipset drivers for win98 you might be in business, but again the drivers probably don’t exist. The fact that DOSBox gives you better compatibility and it’s easy to use makes efforts here for the really dedicated. I suppose I really don’t know whether I have any hardware concerns when it comes to incompatibility. It’s probably inevitible that they will arise, even if not completely necessary (supporting niche interests that few people care about is not terribly commercially important). I suspect that emulation will always be there to step in. I never played any games with a MIDI card until pretty much the end of the DOS era and you can achieve this in DOSBox very easily. Perhaps some new class of processor that’s vastly superior to anything the x86 could ever hope to be will come along one day and make it all obsolete. Looking back at machines that have passed on, I really wanted to have an Amiga growing up. I’ve often considered buying one but really the retail emulator + BIOS package is a cheaper option that is more compatible than any one piece of hardware. It is interesting to see that there’s still community support out there and even new hardware being made. I think you can get expansion boards that would pretty much make an Amiga 600 the best it could ever hope to be.

  17. ansionnach says:

    1/2:
    Hmm… I was hoping to find out more about what gog actually does in terms of development, but it isn’t very clear from this article. There’s quite a lot of hyperbole (from the author), but most of the direct quotes from gog downplay what they actually do. One example of this hyperbole is:
    “…and restoring a game to its playable state using only a decades-old installation disk is quite a feat of software engineering. ”

    This is patently not true at all in any of the gog games I have (180 in my library). Using DOSBox or a VM to install a game from disk/disc images isn’t a big deal. DOSBox configuration is a snap. Installing official and fan-made patches is easy. Even circumventing the simple CD checks in many old games isn’t rocket science, either. Many of these would have been cracked years ago by someone else. For floppy games, the likes of Rawcopy, Neverlock, Crock, The Patcher and others can unprotect hundreds of games. None of these things even qualify as software engineering, let alone being any class of a software engineering feat.

    Quite a few people seem to think that gog ports software from source or makes significant code changes to get it working. I am unaware of such an example, but would like to know where they did obtain the source code and rebuild it if this has even happened once. The example given here where the language files from the Mac version of Airline Tycoon were used in the PC version is interesting, for example. Did they merely copy the files over or did they have to use some tools to unpack them and repack them in a different format? The latter of these would require some software engineering if the unpacker/repacker hadn’t been written by fans already. I agree that messing too much with the code or binary patching could introduce more bugs than existed in the original release. If gog essentially never engages in any software engineering that would be quite sensible, but it would be nice if people could get a clear picture as to what they do. I don’t think any of the mythology is picked up from what the gog guys say, it’s more people’s imaginations getting the better of them or them simply not understanding how this all works – which is something I think likely afflicts the author in a big way.

    One other objection I have is that I wouldn’t be unqualified in my praise of gog when it comes to game preservation. Many games have been butchered for the gog release – setup executables removed, DOS or Windows executables missing from dual releases. The ScummVM games don’t have any executables – there’s nothing beyond the bare data that ScummVM needs. This isn’t game preservation – some of these games are in an even worse state than when the abandonware scene was the only place they could be sourced. I have the gog versions of the original Broken Sword 1 & 2. All that’s there is the ScummVM versions of the data files. If you can get the DOS and Windows executables they won’t even work with them. Since I have the CD versions I was able to install them myself. When I buy a game in a game preservation mindset I want to be able to play it on the original hardware. To this end I’ve got the DOS/Windows versions of Broken Sword patched and packaged in a single zip file. Working on Broken Sword 2 at the moment. Patching its executable so it can be played from the hard disc without needing to prompt for the user to rename certain data files hard-coded into the executable isn’t exactly straightforward. To my knowledge, nobody has done it seeing as existing (poorly-made) patch effectively ripped out the game’s capacity to load the music and speech from anywhere, even the CDs. None of this is software engineering, it’s just fiddling about with a disassembler and a hex editor. Both Broken Sword games run fine in their original forms in modern Windows and in DOS or DOSBox and it’s a shame that the original CD ISO files are not included by gog for those of us who really want the original experience. My first Broken Sword 2 CD was unusable when I dug it up and the backup was lost so the gog copy I’d bought was no good to me in my search for a replacement.

    • ansionnach says:

      2/2:
      Some other games that are in a sorry state in the gog release are the three Kyrandia ones. Again, these are ScummVM-only. Problem here is that ScummVM doesn’t support 100% of what the games do (e.g. missing title screens). Installing them from the original CDs or floppies and running them in DOSBox is straightforward enough… unless you don’t have the original CDs. With the gog releases you own the games but you cannot play them in their optimal original forms.

      In the original gog release of Fallout (don’t have the recent one) they removed the DOS executables. The CD version has both the DOS and Windows ones.

      In summary, while I agree that gog does decent work in getting games working and probably Herculean work when it comes to obtaining the publishing rights, I don’t really rate it when it comes to game preservation. Their contribution here has been very positive but if they had a strong preservation focus they wouldn’t butcher any of their releases. I’d guess that most of the hard work when it comes to getting the games working is more testing to make sure everything works on so many set-ups than actual software engineering or difficult configuration. I pretty much always extract the CD ISO file where they’ve included it and install and configure the game myself – often with better results (and I’m not saying I’m a genius – this stuff is simple). Maybe I’m wrong about the degree to which actual software engineering is used? Let me know if I am.

      In case there’s any confusion, gog is my favourite place to buy games digitally. I think they’re great and largely doing a smashing job. The points I contend are where I feel people are spreading inaccurate rumours that misrepresent what they actually do and where their strengths lie. Some of this comes down to opinion, but much of it is plain fact.

      • Klarden says:

        Big issue with talking very specific things often lies in the fact, that the rightholders might be unhappy to be represented in a bad way. A such, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of specifics are avoided. Sadly, publishing side of games is usually super heavy on “can’t talk about that” moments.
        Same goes with preserving everything – wouldn’t be surprised if GOG guys (and I know them personally) are usually – “let’s do this and that!” to the rightholder and the rightholder will just say “this yes, this no, this no, this yes”, especially if different versions or different releases somehow used different outsourcing teams and such things, cos that’s another legal issue.
        And about “When I buy a game in a game preservation mindset I want to be able to play it on the original hardware.” – that’s collecting, not preservation. GOG is more about making sure the game works on modern stuff and will work on future stuff, and from the get go – you bought it, you install it and you play it, no need to try and find all the solutions and fixes and “how to make the game work”. For me, it’s more important than if the game will work if I build a 486 PC and try running something there.:)

        • ansionnach says:

          It is preservation. The fact that they remove part of the original game means that it is no longer preserved. If it is preserved it should run on the original hardware. The gog release of the Kyrandia games is missing the title screens because they didn’t include the DOS executables. The gog release of Fallout had removed the DOS executables as well so somebody buying the game planning to emulate it through DOSBox would be out of luck. There was not a separate DOS and Windows release of Fallout – there was one that came with both of them. It’s ironic given the tales in this article about the lengths they go to to source copies of the game that they often end up chucking out quite a few bits of it. I’d guess that they often just download the ISOs from somewhere once they have the rights as that would be quite legal. I really won’t get into Dan Whitehead’s article mentioned here (I already have commented on it). Like it or not, emulation and the abandonware scene has kept a lot of games alive years before companies began to cotton on that they could repackage them in emulators and sell them again. Once the people involved in making the game are no longer earning money from it and those who’ve ended up with the rights don’t care about them, it’s all really just a banking exercise.

          I’m not sure what you mean in the first half of your post. If it’s a possible explanation for the butchered releases it seems to be unlikely speculation to me. From elsewhere I think some gog person stated that the rights holders pretty much leave them to it when it comes to all the support and configuration they need to do. The various ScummVM games come from several different companies and, to my knowledge, none of them include anything other than the bare data files. Since the first two Gabriel Knight games run in DOSBox and include the executables, while the other Sierra games don’t, this seems unlikely to be a publisher stipulation. That leads us to another example: Gabriel Knight 2 is missing its Windows-native version, which runs very well in 32-bit Windows 7. I started out with the gog version on a netbook I have but because performance through DOSBox emulation was patchy I installed the Windows version from the discs. This is the version to use for anyone with a slow enough machine. Gog has removed it from their release. It doesn’t do any harm to those who don’t know what to do with it but it’s very useful for those who do. I would say somebody would be perfectly right to download the original version from… elsewhere… should they find the gog release not up to scratch. Funny though, that somebody who has paid for a licence to play the game may end up downloading it from an abandonware site anyway…

      • LordHoto says:

        What title screens are missing for the Kyrandia games when you are using the ScummVM Version? Do you have any screenshos to prove this?

        • ansionnach says:

          Just went to get my screenshot but it now works. I did update ScummVM recently so it was probably completely my fault. What had happened was that the Virgin and Westwood logos did not display at startup and all you got was some placeholder text for them. This didn’t happen in DOSBox, of course. I still think that the point about not removing the other parts of the games is still relevant since they don’t affect ScummVM, but you have my apologies for the inaccuracy.

          • LordHoto says:

            I doubt updating ScummVM has anything to do with it. There hasn’t been changes to that part in years. A placeholder text seems odd because ScummVM never had that according to my memory.

            You also mentioned other things ScummVM does not support what was possible in the original. Do you have any list of these things? If so, it would be really nice to post them to ScummVM’s bug tracker (link to sourceforge.net).

            It’s arguably a bad thing that GoG does not choose to include everything from the original distribution (i.e. all files from the original floppies/CDs), but that’s really unrelated.

          • ansionnach says:

            I really can’t explain it. I thought I shunted all my gog games into ScummVM 1.6 before I updated to 1.7 but I’ve checked that… and 1.2 and it works now. It wasn’t a matter of missing files before since it worked fine in DOSBox.

            The only specifics I had on Kyrandia were those two title screens (or perhaps that should be the publisher and develpoer’s logo). Other than that I know there are issues already logged. Was surprised when I could not find such an issue ever existing. I have looked through some source code here and there too and as good as ScummVM is you can never be sure it’ll behave 100% like it did in DOS, warts and all.

            If you’re interested I’ll continue to try and re-create it and see exactly what the problem was. I’m very sure I got it in both Kyrandia and Hand of fate. Just in case I could try deleting some files in case this had somehow happened!

          • ansionnach says:

            Got it. Still a considerable mix-up on my part. I don’t see any issues with the second and third game. I saw what I thought was placeholder text when I pointed my ScummVM at the data files. Gog’s configuration eliminates this. It’s not actually placeholder text but extra text. What you see is three grey boxes successively displayed showing you the following text:
            “Westwood Studios”
            “presents”
            “Legend of Kyrandia”

            I haven’t spent a whole load of time trying to configure the game in ScummVM seeing as I use DOSBox.

            What is different between the DOSBox and ScummVM versions of (only the first) Kyrandia is that the Westwood logo and the Kyrandia logo swipe in and out and are animated differently when not using ScummVM. The ScummVM version appears far more static. Gog has also configured the first two games (the third one is all digital music, right?) to play FM synth music instead of MIDI. I think I may have seen one of the outstanding issues in ScummVM related to hanging notes with the MT-32 so perhaps the MIDI music did not pass gog testing? I found that crashes occurred very often (all the time) at a particular place in the intro sequences of the first two games when MIDI music was enabled (both GM and MT-32, I think) in DOSBox. I’d probably switch the music to some form of MIDI once I’d seen the intro and then take my chances. Gog can’t ship something like this but once they leave in what’s needed to make the change, those of us who do want the best music can do what we like. Not sure if the MIDI music is better than FM in HoF, though – I think some of the synth instruments sound the right kind of zany, but otherwise the real instruments are better. Anyway, changing to MIDI within ScummVM is something that anyone can do with the gog release. Given that there’s a very obvious difference in the animation of the title screen I’d recommend people do use DOSBox for this game, though. For that, the executables and other files are needed in the gog release.

          • ansionnach says:

            Another item to add to my list of things I think gog could possibly improve on: would be nice if they could somehow negotiate whatever legal alleyways prevent them from being able to include legal MT-32 emulation in their setups. I’m assuming that this is why they often elect for inferior FM music, although there’s no legal barrier when it comes to GM. Should be quite possible to include a free soundfont for that… and even do something similar fot MT-32 provided that the game doen’t use custom instruments that can only be achieved by having the MT-32 ROMs.

          • LordHoto says:

            I don’t quite understand there these boxes are shown? Can you give a screenshot or some exact steps on how to reproduce it? Also with which game version etc.

            The logo animation in Kyrandia 1 is a bit odd, yeah. If you use high cycles in DOSBox you’ll get the same results as in ScummVM. The issue is the game never delays it, so if you play it on (fast) real hardware, it’s the same as in ScummVM. It would be possible to slow this down to mimic slower hardware a bit better.

            Odd, I played Kyrandia 1+2 multiple times using ScummVM and a real MT-32 device and I can’t remember hanging notes being present in years.

            Then again I never had DOSBox crash when using my MT-32 device with it in Kyra1+2 intros.

            I am pretty sure the reason why GoG doesn’t use MIDI is that most people used AdLib and that’s what they are familiar with. Also, Kyra1 only supports MT-32 and virtually nobody has a device. And emulation is out of option because I would be pretty sure it’s not really legal. They could setup Kyra2 to use General MIDI, but that wouldn’t match the style of their Kyra1 option then.

          • ansionnach says:

            Steps to reproduce:

            Prerequisites:
            Kyrandia (gog or CD version), ScummVM (tested in 1.7)

            1. Load up ScummVM and add a game.
            2. Select the Kyrandia DAT1 directory (gog) or the data directory from the CD.
            3. Select “Legend of Kyrandia (CD/DOS/English)” and add the game (no need to change settings).
            4. Start the game.

            Expected result:
            Before the title screen is displayed the screen remains black for a while and three successive grey text boxes appear containing white text:
            “Westwood Studios”
            “presents”
            “Legend of Kyrandia”

            After this the title screen displays but it’s quite static and there’s very little animation.

          • LordHoto says:

            That’s really weird. Is that ScummVM 1.7.0 from GoG or is that from the official ScummVM website?

          • ansionnach says:

            Disappointing that GM is not an option for gog HoF if there’s no risk of crashing in either game. Perhaps they feel that the music you get with any form of MIDI has a high degree of variance? Still, it should be possible to package a free soundfont, even for MT-32, and this would be legal. There’s no need to distribute the original ROMs for this, although it would be nice if they could reach an agreement with Roland.

            Thanks for the feedback about the hanging notes – I’ll see about tweaking my setup so that it works properly. Might be because I’ll try it without using the free BASSMIDI driver for Windows.

          • ansionnach says:

            Sorted out my crash. Was using an old laptop that I’d set up for some young relatives to use. It may be a bit borderline for DOSBox, especially with MIDI turned on. No problems on my own machine with BASSMIDI, although sound effects played through the free MT-32 soundfont I downloaded from Vogons (trees exploding in the intro) are wrong. I suppose this is common where you don’t have a real MT-32. Too bad you can’t select another device for sound effects in DOS. I tried manually changing the config file in a hex editor to force three devices (MT-32 music, SBPro sound, SBPro digital), but without success. I did get great results using the BASSMIDI, the free MT-32 soundfont and ScummVM with Mixed Adlib/MIDI mode selected. Music from the soundfont was great and it gave me OPL sound effects with speech as well. This would be perfectly legal as no MT-32 ROMs are used. Might be worth it for the gog guys to investigate this since they use ScummVM for their release.

          • ansionnach says:

            Was using the official 1.7. Would suspect it would work in many versions… seeing as it’s actually an MT-32 LCD message. Noticed that I no longer got it when I changed MIDI device to that free MT-32 soundfont. I’d suspect the message is presented when the mt32 softsynth code calls ReportHandler::showLCDMessage… so it will only happen if you have the in-built MT-32 emulation enabled and working. DOSBox displays such messages in the console. Just verified this and when playing the game in DOSBox using Munt it pauses to initialise the MT-32 and while you wait the console displays the three messages:
            MT32: LCD-Message: Westwood Studios
            MT-32: LCD-Message: presents
            MT-32: LCD-Message: Legend of Kyrandia

          • LordHoto says:

            That makes sense now. It’s the output of the MT-32 emulator. ScummVM shows this on screen, so you can see them like if you have a real device.

            Anyway, that’s not really a difference to the original. It’s just how ScummVM shows MT-32 messages.

          • ansionnach says:

            Again, my mistake. Tested it with DOSBox on max cycles as well and the Westwood and Kyrandia logos animate in the same way as in ScummVM. Must be processor-sensitive, as you said.

            Too bad about gog using adlib music, though. With soundfonts (no emulation) the first two games would sound much better (adlib SFX selected for the first one). Not sure if there are any custom instruments in Kyrandia but the opening tunes all sound great – better than the emulation sometimes.

    • ansionnach says:

      3/2:
      Why I say money spent at gog is money well spent:
      1. Obtaining the rights to these old games is quite an impressive feat and I assume it costs a lot as well. I certainly don’t understand how this works.
      2. For the love of the games.

      Where I don’t see much value in gog:
      1. While there is a degree of convenience, I think that pre-configuring the games is only an essential service for the computer illiterate. For Windows games, install the games, the official and unofficial patches and you’re done. For DOS games, a lot of gog releases use pretty vanilla DOSBox settings and require almost (or exactly) no changes to the default DOSBox configuration. I’d certainly recommend everyone try tweaking the gog settings for best results. For trickier games that somebody on a DOSBox forum like Vogons hasn’t already posted on, I’m always up for a challenge!
      2. If you already own the game there’s no need to buy it again unless you really love the games. I’ve got the floppy, CD and gog versions of a lot of adventure games!

      • Bugamn says:

        I have no mouth and I must scream was distributed as a DOS program despite being a SCUMM game.

        • ansionnach says:

          That’s good. It would be nice if the original disks/discs be included in digital form with every release so people can buy them and know that they get the raw material they need to do whatever you could do with the originals. They often do include the CD ISO, although it has been renamed to something else (look for a large file called “game.gog” or something similar). When they’ve included this you can mount it yourself and install it as you please, which is great.

          • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

            Christ, I dread to imagine anyone in a near future, asking for a raw image of Myst IV or Space Rangers 2 retail disc copies just for the sake of preserving it or if you’re fancy to try out your ‘fiddling’ skills with Starforce.

            Regarding the case of having a copy of software, runnable on old computers: i think you have any moral (and sometimes legal) ground for downloading it off the Web IF you paid for the game before.
            It’s just not worth it to have original setup files for the majority of the customer base, who mostly don’t care about old hardware

          • ansionnach says:

            With Starforce you’re pretty much out of luck and have to apply some sort of crack (if one even exists for your game), right? I nearly cried trying to get Beyond Divinity to install and play from the hard drive without the disc.

      • FunnyB says:

        A lot of people do not own a floppy drive, or maybe even a cd drive any longer.

        Plus you can’t deny the ease of access a digital copy of a game provides.

        For example, I own the original Deus Ex in CD form. I still bought the GOG version of Deus Ex. Why? Because I wanted a digital copy, so I can run the game without caring about the CD.

        I know there are NO-CD patches, but these are always obtained from…. shady websites, and why should I need to use a crack/NO-CD patch when I can enjoy a nice, legal digital copy.

        And if you think about it, where do you believe the mass market lies?
        In the few enthusiasts who build 486 computers to play decades old games, or in the mass of players who want to enjoy a classic on their top-of-the-line already owned computer?

        • ansionnach says:

          1/2:
          I’ve acknowledged that a sort of convenience exists, I mainly disagree with how overstated the difficulty is to get an old game running. The “feat of software engineering” line in this article really is laughable. To restore a game to its playable state using only a decades-old installation disk… you place the disk (or disc) in the drive and install it exactly as you did twenty or whenever years ago. For floppy games you buy a floppy drive and use that. They even come in handy external USB versions. The 5.25″ ones are trickier but obtaining one isn’t really a feat, and again, not software engineering. Not sure there are any games on gog whose most up-to-date release came on 5.25″ disks, anyway. Perhaps the most obscure kind of PC game is the PC booter. These boot from a disk and run their own custom operating system (or something). They’d be similar to a lot of Amiga games. Even these will run on DOSBox, supposedly (I’ve never played one of these). They may well run on modern machines with no modification provided they’ve been designed to curb their speed. Getting back to the installation, if that doesn’t work in DOSBox there’s always a VM or just booting your modern machine into DOS (very possible), although sound card drivers would be an issue if it was more than just the installation that didn’t work.

          I’d suspect that with the exception of rare non-English versions of games, gog often does not have to go to massive lengths to obtain a copy – perhaps the publisher just gives it to them… or, they simply and legally download the game they own from one of those “evil” abandonware sites that has kept it alive in the absence of publisher interest.

          I don’t believe the mass market lies in people playing the games on a 486. My beautiful machine was thrown out when I emigrated years ago (it was a DX2-66MHz with an AWE32 and Yamaha DB50-XG MIDI daughterboard). I play them all on my i7 laptop seeing as I don’t have the room for anything else. To be honest, the degree of compatibility DOSBox gives you (especially with the MIDI music boards, Gravis Ultrasound and some exotic video standards like Tandy and Hercules), means it’s one of the better ways of running old games, even if you have a 486. My assertion that the games should run on original hardware is more because this would be a side-effect of not butchering the release and removing the bits that would allow people to do so if they like. For those running the games on modern PCs, such as me, the shame of such a release is that you’re missing an important part of what could let you experience it in its original form (even if it is through emulation). Sometimes the missing pieces are what you need to configure and play the game in a superior form to what gog has given you. Other than the convenience not being a major one, another reason I say it’s far from necessary to run out and buy a game again on gog is that there’s no legal necessity. If one of your original CDs is knackered, obtaining a copy of the disc online should be perfectly legal. All of that said, I have still re-bought many games on gog, even though I own the original (working) floppy and CD versions… and think that installing these myself will always produce superior results. I want to support gog and often buy a game I really love again anyway. It just isn’t necessary to stay legal.

        • ansionnach says:

          2/2:
          Lastly: nocd patches. These are far from illegal when you own the game. I’ve always installed my games to hard disc and patched them so there’s no copy protection from the days of the floppy through to today. A site like Megagames is far from the darkest corner of the internet. There’s hardly anything wrong with getting your patch from there so you can play your perfectly legal copy without being harassed. Gog employs a nice work-around for DOS games in that its configuration files often mount the CD virtually so the game thinks it’s there (no crack required). DOSBox supports floppy and CD swapping, although I don’t know of any gog games that you need to do this with. I’m sure they’d avoid this as a priority as it’s an added pain. Most Windows games can be played using CD or DVD emulation as well for those who have some sort of allergy to using nocd patches (Starforce games like Beyond Divinity might be an exception here). Anyway, what’s the difference between applying the patch yourself and paying gog to download it from Megagames and apply it for you?!? Again, convenience is the only real answer. It is more convenient, but unlike what’s suggested in this article, doing the work yourself is not difficult at all. There seems to be a pretty widely-believed assumption that the majority of Win9x games simply won’t run on modern Windows. This is not the case. The most difficult Windows games to run on modern machines are the 16-bit ones, designed for Windows 3.1 and earlier. Civilisation II 2.42 (the best version – there was a 32-bit port, but it had more aggressive AI) and the Sierra Windows games are examples, as is Indiana Jones and his Desktop Adventures, Chip’s Challenge (and the other MS Entertainment Pack games). These should run fine on 32-bit modern windows, however. For those with 64-bit OSes there’s XP mode or installing Windows 3.1 in DOSBox (very easy – probably only tricky bit is obtaining a legitimate copy if you don’t already have one… but the hardest part here is how much people are charging for it on ebay!). XP Mode works in later versions of Windows if you extract the VM from the installer and run it yourself. It’ll even run on any other OS that runs VMWare or similar if you convert it. You’d probably need to own a copy of Windows (or perhaps just Win7) for this to be legal, however. Not a problem for me since I run Windows 7 Professional. I also have several copies of Win3.1 on floppy and have that installed in DOSBox as well.

          • FunnyB says:

            “If one of your original CDs is knackered, obtaining a copy of the disc online should be perfectly legal.”

            Yes, but is it? That is the question, isn’t it?
            Of course it should be, I can agree to that.

            And it’s easy to turn most of your arguments around.
            You want GOG to provide the original copies, so that you can place it into DOSBOX and play it emulated.
            But GOG already supplies it with DOSBOX. So, you only miss out on the “enjoyment” of setting things up yourself.

            “Anyway, what’s the difference between applying the patch yourself and paying gog to download it from Megagames and apply it for you?!?”

            Regarding downloading patches from Megagames, who’s to say that is what GOG does? Do you work at GOG? Do you know this for a fact?

            And for that matter, if you buy a game on GOG, you know that the copy you get in fact is legal and the copy works straight out of the box, without the necessity of visiting, at best, shady sites on the internet (where you might be sujected to malware if unlucky).

          • ansionnach says:

            If my arguments are easily turned around then why not do it?

            Is it legal to obtain a backup copy of a game you already own? I’ve read that the UK recently introduced a law to make it illegal for you to make backups of your own stuff. Barring something bizarre like this I say that yes, it is perfectly legal. I do not live in the UK and I think the law was only changed this year. I haven’t read too much about it since it doesn’t concern me but perhaps it has been or will be addressed at some point.

            Gog not including the original versions isn’t just about enjoying the setup (although this can be fun) – it’s that they have actually removed part of the game for no good reason and that this can detract from the actual experience (again, I point to the absence of the title screens in the Kyrandia games and the absence of the DOS version of Fallout for non-Windows users as an example). Why remove these files seeing as those who are clueless will never know they’re there? They’re only useful to people who need them. I bought Gabriel Knight 2 from gog and it only included the DOS version. I wanted to play it on a netbook while travelling but it wasn’t powerful to emulate through DOSBox. That machine runs win7 32-bit, which would run the Windows version of the game perfectly seeing as all it needs is a 486!

            I don’t claim that gog gets its cracks from anywhere in particular. It would make a lot of sense to use what’s already freely-available and works rather than reinvent the wheel and risk introducing new bugs. This is a point that makes sense from asoftware engineering perspective. The point here is that gog cracks the games. Finding and using a working cracks yourself stands is also legal. If you already own a legitimate copy of the game you can get the game to the same state that gog would legally and for free with very little effort. Again, I don’t deny that there is convenience in what gog does. Other than paying for the right to distribute the games this is arguably their main service and what you pay them for. I do dispute the significance of that inconvenience. Many people seem to think it’s some sort of Herculean task (read this article and many of the comments, for example). It simply isn’t.

          • ansionnach says:

            Here’s some homework for you: as I said I’ve little interest in the UK backup law. If it is indeed illegal to make backup copies of your own software is it then illegal to download the game from gog and copy that? In this case, would it be legal to download twenty copies directly from gog but somehow illegal to make one copy yourself? Silly stuff, I hope none of it is actually true!

          • El_Emmental says:

            ( 1/2 )

            “If one of your original CDs is knackered, obtaining a copy of the disc online should be perfectly legal.”

            It “should” be legal, but in real life it isn’t. You purchased a licence that only works with the provided physical support (floppy disk, CD, DVD, BR, online account on a specific DD platform). That licence does not grant you the right to obtain an illegal copy (= with its protection but distributed without authorization, or even worse = with its protection removed).

            “All of that said, I have still re-bought many games on gog, even though I own the original (working) floppy and CD versions… and think that installing these myself will always produce superior results. I want to support gog and often buy a game I really love again anyway. It just isn’t necessary to stay legal.”

            It isn’t legal if you download an iso or use a crack. The only legal right your purchase on gog is using the version as provided by gog. It doesn’t grant you any legal rights over iso copies or cracks. You stay legal if you use the support (physical or digital) tied to your licence, without altering its DRM system.

            “These are far from illegal when you own the game. I’ve always installed my games to hard disc and patched them so there’s no copy protection from the days of the floppy through to today. A site like Megagames is far from the darkest corner of the internet. There’s hardly anything wrong with getting your patch from there so you can play your perfectly legal copy without being harassed.”

            There’s hardly anything wrong in terms of legitimacy, but in terms of legality: nope, still illegal. You purchase a licence that only works with a certain copy. Like when you buy a copy on Steam using the Steamworks DRM, it only works with the Steam client authentication (either online or with the Offline mode) – it doesn’t give you the right for the same game on Origin or on retail discs or on streaming services like OnLive or on consoles. End-user licences are extremely restrictive (when they aren’t it’s expressively mentioned in the text, like when they grant you the right for a Steam *and* a GoG/DRM-free copy).

            Regarding Megagames, they were not always properly checking their files and the ads there were regularly either leading to malware infected websites or directly embedding malicious code. It may have changed over the years (“fixing” since 1998!) but it is not a website I would recommend to normal users.

            “Is it legal to obtain a backup copy of a game you already own?”

            It depends on your country (well, the applicable law in your situation, which is going to be your country most of the time since you’re the defendant), the type of software and the type of licence.

            Some countries established some sort of rights to a backup copy rather recently, but most of the time it is restricted to the professional sector (for the sake of allowing a business to keep running without having to rely too much on the software rights-holders).

            Then, there is another obstacle: in these legal system, your right to a backup copy doesn’t imply a right to remove or circumvent a DRM system. Rights-holders are only asked to provide a way to make (yourself) or obtain (from them) a backup copy, but it doesn’t allow you (the user) to break the DRM system in place.

            Note: a single ruling in 2014 in New York (USA) said that removing a DRM system that was no longer functional (users couldn’t transfer their DRM files to new devices because the online store was shut down) was not automatically an infringement (it could result in an infringement), so providing the instructions on how to do it wasn’t illegal per se. We have yet to see a similar ruling again, especially in a situation that isn’t solely about preserving the rights of the consumers to continue enjoying their ebook licences when the DRM system no longer works as initially provided.

            ” The point here is that gog cracks the games. Finding and using a working cracks yourself stands is also legal.”

            GoG cracks the games, with the legal authorization of the rights-holders. Finding a working crack is not always illegal (depending on where you live), but using a crack is illegal in practically all legal systems (then it’s up for the judicial system there to enforce that or not).

            ( 1/2 )

          • El_Emmental says:

            ( 2/2 )

            “If you already own a legitimate copy of the game you can get the game to the same state that gog would legally and for free with very little effort.

            Again, I don’t deny that there is convenience in what gog does. Other than paying for the right to distribute the games this is arguably their main service and what you pay them for. I do dispute the significance of that inconvenience. Many people seem to think it’s some sort of Herculean task (read this article and many of the comments, for example). It simply isn’t.”

            Your own definition of what constitutes “very little effort” is highly subjective:

            1) A lot of people do not have the basic troubleshooting skills needed for handling old softwares. If they face a problem that is actually caused by an inadequate cycle setting, they will not have the capacity to identify that problem and find the solution.

            2) A lot of people do not have the time to acquire basic troubleshooting skills needed for handling old softwares. Jobs, family, other hobbies – especially true for people over 30 years old (which is the main audience of old titles).

            3) A lot of people do not have the the knowledge nor the time to learn how to hunt down and find available, working and safe download links of old games. Actually very little people know the best “abandonware” places.

            4) A lot of people do not have the knowledge nor the time to learn about the current legal risks related to pirating old video games. Which is basically: still illegal but very unlikely to be brought to courts, and even less likely to result in a guilty verdict.

            For all these reasons people prefer to pay 5 or 10 bucks to GoG and go on their merry way toward the gameplay experience, rather than spend hours on search engines, websites and forums, to learn about what is known as the “abandonware” scene. Hundreds of thousands of people never joined the abandonware communities (for all the reasons listed above) but are now playing old games again because of services like GoG, who’s trying to provide an easy, foolproof, game experience.

            That’s why GoG can say they’re working for the preservation of video game history – they’re like museums people can visit for a small fee and enjoy without having to do any additional extra work. Meanwhile, “abandonware” websites are like storage rooms filled with old salvaged items and archaeological gems, only accessible to scholars and the few hobbyists who know how to get a visitor pass there.

            For “most” games GoG didn’t have to do much work themselves (thanks to Dosbox, ScummVM and the likes), but what they provide isn’t raw technical engineering: they provide a quality assurance for the experience. If you buy a game on GoG, and for some reasons (OS, odd CPU instructions, new GPU architecture) it doesn’t work or has serious issues, GoG will dedicate their devs to fix it or will issue refunds. That’s what they call software engineering: they supervise and try to foolproof hundreds of different softwares for thousands of different rigs.

            The “abandonware” scene did that too, but they never guaranteed any result: if recent AMD video cards couldn’t run a game or rendering mode, well you’re shit out of luck until one of the main dev finds some free time to troubleshoot and fix it, *if* the problem is considered important enough for the project – simply because the donations just never cover the development. The whole point of GoG is to provide a solid legal situation *and* fund the QA (and the hosting cost).

            On that final point, I personally think GoG isn’t pushing out that much fixes – but I don’t really know how many games they’re currently maintaining and how much money is left for hiring devs, so any definite statement on that would just be speculations.

          • ansionnach says:

            The legality of backups varies per jurisdiction and may sometimes be unclear (awaiting a court case to test). I’ll leave it to everyone to find out what the case is in their country and perhaps lobby their lawmakers for more sensible laws if they completely forbid personal backups.

            I think you may have misread some of my posts when it comes to the legality of obtaining backups where yours have expired and applying cracks. Here, I am talking about a situation where you already own the game. Where you hold a licence allowing you to play the original CD version of the game you should be able to obtain exactly what you hold the licence for (so: obtain the exact same ISO for CD2 to replace the backup you lost if you can find it). If you don’t already own the game buy it on gog or elsewhere. As you say, getting the gog version specifically licenses you to play that version, not another. With these and other points you seem to have picked up somewhere that I’m advocating people go to abandonware sites and download games. All I’m really saying applies directly to the exact licence you hold: by buying the game you don’t own the game (as in the creative work), but you do have the legal right to play exactly what you bought.

            You’re going to have to go into more detail about your assertion that it’s illegal to use a crack in practically all legal systems (there are a lot of those). I would suspect that it’s illegal to do so in the process of pirating games. Where the licence specifically forbids the licencee to circumvent copy protection on a game they legitimately own, that may require a legal test to prove sound. In practical terms, circumventing the protection is a matter of changing a few operations in the executable to either always jump or never jump after a certain test. It’s changing a few bytes. Where it is a legal grey area, who in their right mind is going to risk an expensive legal case to prosecute a paying customer who isn’t pirating and sharing the game after they have removed the protection?

            Where you state that my estimation of the effort required to get games running is highly subjective, I’d point out that I made those comments in the context of the article, which suggested that it was quite a feat of software engineering, even likening it to film restoration. As I’ve stated many times, this is patently untrue and betrays the author’s cluelessness as to what exactly is involved. Aside from that, the effort involved is still minimal enough and not beyond the capacity of anyone to learn in short order. I’ve never denied that there is some convenience in the gog-packaged games, and am not trying to say people should never buy them (I own quite a few myself). I am merely disputing an inaccurate picture of just how difficult this is.

          • El_Emmental says:

            ( 1/3 )

            “Where you hold a licence allowing you to play the original CD version of the game you should be able to obtain exactly what you hold the licence for (so: obtain the exact same ISO for CD2 to replace the backup you lost if you can find it).”

            Unless it’s expressively authorized by the license agreement, you actually can’t because you are not granted the right to obtain or copy the support (the game’s files) yourself.

            The B2B professional sector usually authorize this to make software deployment possible on a large-scale, so a company can copy the installer on 5 000 CDs/USB thumbs or put it on their server repository, then the rights-holders only worry about each install (on a workstation) having its own license.

            The point there, is that the risk of allowing widespread piracy (by allowing unrestricted support sharing) is outbalanced (in the case of B2B business) by the deployment constraints and the financial risk (for companies) if the rights-holders catch them pirating their software, because companies are much more solvent: there is always something to seize or liquidate.

            With the average Joe/Jane, rights-holders practically never allow their users to handle the support because they know it makes piracy much easier (by making it much harder to close down websites hosting thousands of ISOs, including the latest releases – they could argue they’re only “backup” websites and that it’s only the users that should be held accountable and sued), while suing individual users (if they end up pirating rather than simply making a backup copy) is extremely expensive, incredibly terrible for PR, and very unlikely to pay for itself (most of their users don’t have much money).

            But I understand where you’re coming from – it should always be possible to make backups of the support you absolutely *need* to use your licenses, you should be able to get a new support if your original support is lost or destroyed (issue of negligence put aside). There is no doubt the legitimacy of such right to backup support is evident.

            However, it remains against the contract between the user and the rights-holder, and unauthorized use of a proprietary software is considered piracy, which is then considered illegal by practically all legal systems in the world.

            It is unfair for the users, but it isn’t just ignorance or malevolence from the rights-holders – they have their own constraints and risks to manage, including widespread online piracy. Now, they certainly handle these things terribly most of the time – there is a serious need for better legal/contractual systems – but it isn’t something that can be fixed that easily, especially given the billions of dollars relying on the existing (flawed) systems.

            ( 1/3 )

          • El_Emmental says:

            ( 2/3 )

            “You’re going to have to go into more detail about your assertion that it’s illegal to use a crack in practically all legal systems (there are a lot of those). I would suspect that it’s illegal to do so in the process of pirating games. Where the licence specifically forbids the licencee to circumvent copy protection on a game they legitimately own, that may require a legal test to prove sound. “

            I don’t think I can fit an entire section of a reference book or some law school semester there (character count limit seems to be around 3k :C)(your request remains valid and very interesting – I’m definitely going to document that). Still, the cases we saw in the US and Europe (who tend to dictate how copyright and piracy should be dealt with, through organizations like the WTO who pressure smaller nations into signing treaties and “agreements” if they don’t want to be singled out/isolated) showed the charges did not took into account the intent of the user (understandable given it’s very difficult to determine the actual intent of a user), using a crack is still treated like breaking into a private property.

            But if you crack a software solely to make it work, because you can not benefit from your legit license with the provided support, the judge is more likely to drop the case or reduce it down to a small fine – like if you broke into a private property to hide from a storm (illegal per se, but circumstances allows the court to make an exception). Still, if the user didn’t get in touch with the software tech support first (or tried to find shelter elsewhere/rang the bell, for the break-in analogy), it might get the court to make it less justifiable to crack it, especially if the tech support had potential solutions to the user’s problems.

            It’s very difficult for the court to find the right balance in these cases, because as a user you are not authorized to crack a proprietary software, the court can not say it’s legal to do that (the implications would be insane). But they can’t send to jail someone for legitimately fixing a problematic situation (has a license but does not get the software running).

            So we end up with a situation like that 2014 case with the closed ebook shop: judge says it’s okay to provide instructions on how to crack a DRM (affecting ebook files) *in that very specific case*, because the DRM servers no longer allow the users to transfer their ebooks to new devices and such restriction is *so* abusive/preventing the users from enjoying their licenses, that it makes cracking the DRM tolerable. That’s an incredibly new approach to DRM and cracking, still fresh out of the oven: it’s far from being the consensus.

            ( 2/3 )

          • El_Emmental says:

            ( 3/3 )

            PS: if cracking was legal, and would only become illegal when cracking to pirate, it would be up for the rights-holders to prove that the user is cracking it to pirate it.

            First because forcing users to prove they’re not pirating would go against the presumption of innocence: random users would have to prove they’re not pirating it to simply carry on with their life. Proving *anything* cost an awful lot of time, stress and money. That’s the main reason why recent laws are extremely terrible on that front, allowing rights-holders to build up cases with subpar evidences (bunch of IP addresses logs, seriously).

            Second because proving piracy means proving the user did not have a valid license when he/she cracked the software. With the Internet and IT technology, good luck proving anything without deploying drastic measures (seizing all devices and computers simultaneously to scan through them (big privacy issue btw), detaining the suspects, forcing resellers (including the ones abroad…) to testify in courts).

            Anyone could receive a letter summoning them to court, go on eBay with a proxy or wifi hotspot, buy a key there, BOOM license acquired. Rights-holders will then need to prove that the user claim – having that license for several months before being caught cracking the software – is false. Can a court expect/ask all citizens to keep track of all their software licenses, with proof of purchases? Nope. Also, resellers abroad can easily lie/falsify the date of the transaction (re-reseller selling older transactions would also be a booming market to get out of lawsuits).

            So until we build a better system, the courts still consider cracking an illegal act, unless the user can provide enough evidences showing that their specific cracking was legitimate (= legit reason and intent), inevitable (= they tried other legal methods) and didn’t cause any harm to the rights-holders (= no damage).

            On the software engineering note, we do not have any in-depth details on the fixes they implemented, but from the other comment (about the loading bar) also mentioning using wrappers over wrappers, it seems to me that they are not twiddling their thumbs – “wrapping” up releases for ages old software, to work on so many different rigs, is quite a feat.

            I said highly subjective because you could say “this and that” are software engineering, then a programmer working on a deeper level would laugh at it and say “c’mon, that’s nothing! I did that when I was in highschool, that’s no engineering” and they would be right from their POV.

            The definition of the expression itself is disputed (countless definitions of software engineering are floating around), it’s got several subdisciplines: everything and nothing can be software engineering depending on one’s definition of it.

            Tweaking DosBox and using line-command wrappers is piss easy if you’ve been doing that for 10 years, does it mean it’s no longer worthy of being called “engineering”? Does it mean it’s actually simple for the average user? The fact that it seems or feel easy for a given person doesn’t mean it isn’t a feat.

            Now regarding the author of the article and the readership of RPS, it’s no Wrapper Central or Low-Level Lab (nb: imaginary websites)(or Stack Overflow if we’re going with real ones). There might be a few programmers among the readers, but the vast majority of the people here *at best* know how to google for a community patch and follow the instructions (nb: everyone is specialized in their own set of skills). Using the term software engineering in that context is not as inaccurate as it is for your POV.

            Also, there is a significant difference between the technical difficulty of a task (that any dedicated passionate can achieve, given the time) and the operational difficulty of integrating such technical difficulties into a business operation.

          • El_Emmental says:

            (ha crickey, the lack of preview mode or edit is quite annoying)

            If it is unreadable for you, here’s a non-italicized copy of the final bit of the comment:

            “…it seems to me that they are not twiddling their thumbs – “wrapping” up releases for ages old software, to work on so many different rigs, is quite a feat.

            I said highly subjective because you could say “this and that” are software engineering, then a programmer working on a deeper level would laugh at it and say “c’mon, that’s nothing! I did that when I was in highschool, that’s no engineering” and they would be right from their POV.

            The definition of the expression itself is disputed (countless definitions of software engineering are floating around), it’s got several subdisciplines: everything and nothing can be software engineering depending on one’s definition of it.

            Tweaking DosBox and using line-command wrappers is piss easy if you’ve been doing that for 10 years, does it mean it’s no longer worthy of being called “engineering”? Does it mean it’s actually simple for the average user? The fact that it seems or feel easy for a given person doesn’t mean it isn’t a feat.

            Now regarding the author of the article and the readership of RPS, it’s no Wrapper Central or Low-Level Lab (nb: imaginary websites)(or Stack Overflow if we’re going with real ones). There might be a few programmers among the readers, but the vast majority of the people here *at best* know how to google for a community patch and follow the instructions (nb: everyone is specialized in their own set of skills). Using the term software engineering in that context is not as inaccurate as it is for your POV.

            Also, there is a significant difference between the technical difficulty of a task (that any dedicated passionate can achieve, given the time) and the operational difficulty of integrating such technical difficulties into a business operation.”

          • ansionnach says:

            Thanks for the reply. Really appreciate all the effort you’ve gone to. Limiting the discussion to Europe and the US, you might be surprised to hear that it sounds fair enough to me. Companies are allowed to protect themselves while indivisual users who are not pirating should(?) have nothing to fear (but do everything at their own risk). If people who are not pirating start to be prosecuted en-masse then there would certainly need to be changes.

            Funny, but even though we seem to agree that it makes sense that a user obtain a backup (I’d contest again that what the licence says may not stand up in court), the place they may obtain the backup from would almost certainly be breaking the law in a big way by allowing for all and anyone to download. File sharing is completely out and even a legitimate user would end up doing this to an extent depending on the method used.

            Again, I have to disagree with you when it comes to the software engineering question. It does not take ten years to work out how to configure DOSBox. I may have a software engineering background but I’ve been able to learn how to do all of these things from before I had any technical background. Without even having access to the internet. For the average Joe, whether they can do this or not really depends on whether they have the time to read some guides. From scratch it might take anything from a few hours to a few days to learn what’d be needed to do pretty much everything. It mainly depends on their familiarity with DOS, which isn’t software engineering.

            It sounds like what gog commonly does is binary patching, whether to crack executables of jump over buggy code. This is the same skillset as a cracker. In this case I think it could be described as software engineering, especially since quite a lot of such knowledge may be needed, or needed to be learned to succeed. My beef about the article’s definition of software engineering was that it described the basic installation of a game in DOS as software engineering when it is not. It is done in exactly the same way as the day the game was released and comes nowhere close to film restoration, as stated.

          • El_Emmental says:

            Thanks for your replies, it’s a real pleasure to discuss these topics so peacefully :)

            Regarding the software engineering bit, I gotta agree the article might have been a little too generous regarding the usual work done on old games – it’s not as difficult to do as film restoration (risky chemistry, colorimetry, digitizing and editing hours of damaged sound and video – certainly marvelous projects to work on) and DOSBox is not really impenetrable, most people can eventually figure out how to use the main settings.

            PS: looking at the author, his professional background might have influenced the tone of the article (being a marketing/SEO consultant). A rather surprising (or not… :P) addition to RPS.

          • ansionnach says:

            It’s been a real pleasure. I don’t want to speculate on why the film restoration claim was made. I find it easier to concede in a discussion as I’m more than happy to do so when I’m mistaken or someone points out something I may not have been aware of or considered fully… but it’s been a real struggle to accurately state what I think of that claim without being insulting. I’ve probably been both insulting and understated quite how astonishing I find it! I’d certainly suggest that other writers both do and present evidence of their research into DOSBox configuration when discussing this topic. Download DOSBox, dig out some of their old CD of floppy images and do a few installs without changing the default DOSBox settings. Most important thing is not to take the heresay about what the gog guys do to heart – it certainly isn’t them spreading it.

            I’ve had a disagreement with Mobygames over their categorisation of releases. They list every DOS game gog release as having been released on Windows and the other platforms. In this case, I can see room for argument, but I still consider it more correct to state that such gog releases are re-releases of the DOS game and aren’t Windows-native (as this is the case). Mobygames isn’t under the illusion that gog is actually porting the games as some others are (not the author here, I must say), but the degree of absolute hogwash out there isn’t something that deserves a helping hand.

  18. Sin Vega says:

    Man, seriously, why does nobody ever give credit to Home of the Underdogs? GOG were directly inspired by them and made their break by piggybacking off the community there, but because everyone’s scared of idiot publishers and archaic laws, the work they did just gets ignored. It’s not right.

    • Klarden says:

      What. Underdogs was a great “abandonware” website. Far from the only one, but one of the best. Abandonware is a very grey area, usually considered illegal, thing. GOG is a completely different kind of service, something that becomes pretty obvious if you read the article.

      • Sin Vega says:

        I am well aware of what gog is, and what hotu was. Pretending there’s no link between them is ridiculous, and “save and restore classic videogames” is exactly what abandonware, and particularly HOTU was about.

        This is pretty much exactly the attitude I’m talking about. The snotty idea that shops are wonderful but people doing the exact same thing to preserve a culture instead of squeezing money out of it are, ooh, well I won’t say they’re criminals but I’ll sneeringly imply it, sure. Please. It’s 2015, it’s utterly pathetic that we still think like this.

        • ansionnach says:

          You’re dead right, sir/madam: HotU has done more for the preservation of games than gog or any commercial operation. Most of these games were abandoned completely. If gog hadn’t approached the publishers they still would be. Since the developers likely no longer make money from these games, it’s all a banking exercise.

          What HotU did was curate. Underdogs is an incredible lady and deserves massive credit. There have been many abandonware sites, but few have poured so much of themselves into them, few have demonstrated their love for the games by putting their bodies on the line, playing them and reviewing so bloody many of them. How many reviews were/are on HotU. Not all written by Underdogs herself, but so many are it really is unbelievable. Underdogs was the obvious precursor to gog because the site sourced legitimate copies of games and linked to where you could buy them before putting up downloads.

          Go to gog and you’ll find it hard to tell the difference between the top dogs and the real dogs. As I said before, if they cared about preservation, they would preserve – and seeing as they don’t necessarily do this – a lot – I must assume that it’s not a high priority. Curation is not very high up the list on gog – they don’t write reviews and their users rate everything unrealistically high. There are too many shite old games that get strong reviews because they were the first game somebody played… and they haven’t played it since they were twelve. You really don’t know. A good way of effectively using gog is to look up the review and rating on the remnants of Underdogs before you buy.

          Gog does deserve the credit it deserves – and really put its money where its mouth was when it came to actually obtaining publishing rights. What they do is essentially use DOSBox, ScummVM and some other emulators – the work of other people – to get the games going. As they’ve underlined when quoted (and the author here isn’t letting his imagination run rampant), they don’t really go out and write code – they take a lot of stuff others have done and made available for free, package it up and sell it. If your view of life is that that’s inherently better than previous, longer-lived efforts at game preservation merely because it’s legal then… I really don’t know. I don’t know the answer but would like to find out how much gog (and other companies that use emulation or other free resources to make money) contributes back to the emulation community. For those other than gog (the console makers), they’ve essentially attacked this community and made it as difficult as they could for this kind of fan preservation of gaming to exist… and then they turn around and make money from it when they realise they can. It’s all their legal right, of course, but I’d like to see them take preservation seriously and give back all the same.

          In summary, I like gog for what it is, but even in its current sorry state, Underdogs is still far better.

          • El_Emmental says:

            Without legal backing, everything hundreds of people built over the years can be demolished by a single court order. Huge database of reviews? Community-made patches? Rare versions? Rare games? It only takes one lawsuit to have everything gone.

            The point of GoG is to legitimize and give a concrete commercial value to gaming history for the VG industry, to build a solid niche of old gaming – to not just have the last 2 years of AAA as a gaming choice for everyone (but a handful of DosBox tinkerers).

            You say GoG and the likes makes “money off the scene”, but the rights-holders (who make the most cash, GoG only gets paid a fraction, for their server + QA) are making money off their own work that they fully legally own. Their own work that are constantly being used without any monetary compensation by thousands of people (using ROMs/ISOs) thanks to the scene.

            The scene can build tools to handle dump ROMs/BIOS, the scene can provide ROMs and ISOs (on separate websites/forums), despite both of these things violating the rights-holders’ rights. In return the rights-holders borrow these tools to monetize their games on their shops, boo fucking hoo what a bunch of thieves.

            As long as rights-holders aren’t chasing every ROMs/ISOs repositories and emulation tools to bury the operators under fine and jail sentences*, let them use these tools.

            * Because they could do that very easily: it doesn’t take a genius to find all major platforms, where they are hosted and who owns the website, and sue them to hell using the shitty copyright laws and treaties, or bury them under an avalanche of DMCA takedown requests. Doesn’t matter if the website isn’t making a profit, practically all courts will grant insane compensations.

            PS: if you remove the legal part of the equation, sure it’s fine and dandy but good luck finding any investors for your video game project. Crowdfunding is a detail – it’s barely able to fund a handful of remakes of non-crowdfunded big productions, only serving as an additional bullet point for external investors for all the other projects.

          • ansionnach says:

            HotU is currently only a review database and no longer offers game downloads (unless they’re hidden away – I’m there for the reviews).

            Yes, gog did put its money where its mouth was. Scary thing to do involving a lot of risk. Full credit to them for that.

            In terms of who gets compensated for what, the rights holders own the rights, gog owns all the configuration work they do and the scene owns the emulators they make. Sad for the scene that they released their work under GPL if the likes of DOSBox and ScummVM aren’t getting a dime. Technically, it really is their fault (if I ever released something similar I’d go with a licence that meant I got money if the software was used commercially). It would still be interesting to know whether gog does provide support for the ScummVM and DOSBox communities, other than them seeing a possible rise in donations due to increased awareness. If they do, what exactly do they give back?

            I don’t think the bit about ROM dumpers being used by rights owners is necessarily what I was talking about – I was more talking about DOSBox, ScummVM or some other emulator that is used.

        • Klarden says:

          Interestingly enough, your attitude is also discussed in this article.

          • ansionnach says:

            It’s an article weak on facts and wildly inaccurate in its imaginings. You seem to be also possessed of quite an imagination if you are assuming I advocate piracy, which I do not.

          • Klarden says:

            Wasn’t a reply to you, ansionnach, nor was it about advocating piracy. There is a difference between being an all out “screw legal side” and just indifference about if it’s legal or not. Both can be harmful or not having any effect in different cases.

          • ansionnach says:

            You have my apologies for my part in the mix-up.

        • Cinek says:

          I am well aware of what gog is, and what hotu was. Pretending there’s no link between them is ridiculous,” – pretending that GOG was directly inspired by them and them only or that they are “piggybacking” is even more ridiculous.

          • ansionnach says:

            While not a reply to what I’ve said, I’ll throw in my two cents. I’m sure that gog wasn’t solely inspired by HotU. It’s extremely likely that they were aware of the site’s existence. It really was the premier abandonware site that sourced legal copies of games for you where they were available. Short of buying the rights to the games, they did everything gog does and more. I don’t read from what Sin Vega said that he or she means HotU was the sole inspiration for gog. Whether intentional or not, this wreaks of straw man to me.

            I strongly disagree that “pretending” gog is piggybacking off the abandonware scene is even more ridiculous. Perhaps we’ll never know, but some gog games may even have been originally downloaded from an abandonware site. Regardless of whether this has ever happened, I contend that gog is piggybacking off the scene. Emulators like DOSBox, ScummVM and the various console ones were developed and (largely) released for free by dedicated people. They are not illegal unless they include copyrighted BIOS ROMs or similar. These can be dumped from your original hardware as can the software from whatever medium it came on. Once you own a the originals, obtaining a backup copy of exactly the same thing from elsewhere should be fine in jurisdictions where you are entitled to a backup of your software. Gog and anyone else who makes money off the scene should in some way put something back. Those who cover their eyes, block their ears (having two sets of hands) and state that gog and the console makers are well within their legal rights to live like parasites off the “vile” emulation scene… well… hopefully nobody is actually doing this. I’d be fairly sure gog must give something back given how enthusiastic everyone is about them. I’d certainly be interested in finding out. The console makers deserve more criticism, considering they often hounded emulator developers wherever they could (e.g. Sony versus Bleem!).

          • El_Emmental says:

            “…state that gog and the console makers are well within their legal rights to live like parasites off the “vile” emulation scene…”

            Christ, like if the emulation scene wasn’t taking what isn’t theirs to live off the work of developers and publishers (who invested large amount of money in these projects). Without these games there wouldn’t be any emulation scene at all.

            The rights-holders tolerated people were infringing on their legal rights for years (very few of them were arsehole enough to harass abandonware websites), now they’re using their legal rights again without harassing abandonware/emulation communities (I haven’t heard of any waves of lawsuits lately), and omg what a bunch of parasites because they’re using free (as in freedom) tools whose goal was and still is making these games playable.

            I too think they should give back to the emulation projects but saying they’re parasite is complete bollocks, it’s acting like if these free software were actually proprietary ones “free for people I like, proprietary for people I dislike”, while pretending the rights-holders’ legal rights to their games just disappeared overnight. GoG/rights-holders using DosBox for free is as grey as abandonware websites hosting ROMs tools allowing people to run old pirated ROMs.

            I know the abandonware veterans are still mad at GoG for what they did – which is putting an end to the pro-piracy argument “but I can’t get it legally anymore!” – but come on, it’s even easier these days to get ISOs/ROMs, rights-holders no longer have a commercial reason to harass semi-private abandonware repositories, and now we have more people getting into ancient gaming. Abandonware only survived throughout the years because it wasn’t about the money, please don’t make it about that simply because there’s a store out there for legal copies.

          • Sin Vega says:

            I know the abandonware veterans are still mad at GoG for what they did

            Most of us are in fact very very glad that gog finally did what we’d asked the industry to do for 15+ years, which is precisely why so many still work with gog behind the scenes. Not only did it prove us right and give many people unprecedented access to old games, but it caused every other distributor to follow suit, and was a major factor in kicking off the indie golden age we’ve witnessed in the last 6 years.

            From an archiving and curation perspective, gog can be criticised to some degree (and it is certainly true that the user reviews are almost entirely worthless, but that’s not exactly gog’s fault, and to review games themselves would be at odds with their function as a distributor), sure, but they’re vastly better than most of the industry.

          • ansionnach says:

            @El_Emmental: I meant that gog and others should contribute directly back to the emulation projects that they use (when I said the emulation scene, I meant that literally – not those pirating the games, be they under the banner of abandonware or whatever). You seem to agree on this. It is free software, so they don’t have to do it. I also don’t have to re-buy the next bunch of games I’m delighted to see on gog.

            I don’t think saying they are parasites is bollocks, though: a parasite is something that lives off someone else and doesn’t give back. Anyone who makes money from free software without giving anything back could reasonably be classed as such, especially if the whole enterprise couldn’t exist without the emulator. The question really is whether any one is enough of an ass to actually do this? Again, if there’s no money they’re breaking no laws provided they supply the source code with GPL software. It really is the fault of the project… but making money was probably never on their minds. In future perhaps there’ll be a free, except for commercial use licence applied more often?

        • Emeraude says:

          Yeah there’s something I find utterly repulsive in how the – freely given – conservation work of those people done out of sheer love can be used – or at least profited on – by the very same commercial entities that made their work harder, and while still keeping the social stigma attached to what they’ve been doing.

          “Thanks for all the fish, but keep to your own pool please.”

          @El_Emmental
          Without legal backing, everything hundreds of people built over the years can be demolished by a single court order. Huge database of reviews? Community-made patches? Rare versions? Rare games? It only takes one lawsuit to have everything gone.

          The point of GoG is to legitimize and give a concrete commercial value to gaming history for the VG industry.>/i>

          Or, you k now, they could rework the archaic law so that it stopped being a problem ?

          I see your Post Scriptum, but why remove it altogether when you can amend it ? And even then… I’m not convinced it would kill the content production industries outright.

          • El_Emmental says:

            “Or, you know, they could rework the archaic law so that it stopped being a problem ?”

            Do we have activists working all year rounds in countless countries to reform and change the copyright systems? Yep, it’s being worked on since the mid 90s. A tiny handful of courts/judges are starting to listen.

            Does it mean we should stop making video games and stop valuing old ones until a new system arise? I don’t think so, especially since history showed us that legal systems always lagged behind societies and economies: you have to demonstrate an existing legal system is not efficient enough for the economy or society to have it changed.

            Want fair use to cover more stuff? Start using it for these additional stuff, build a niche economy/culture (a component of society) with it: sampling, mixtapes, remixes.

            Want the proprietary software system to change? Build a free software culture and economy. Eventually the old system will be forced to change or disappear. Cf. Linux-based systems, open source development, software services.

            GoG wants old games to be played and playable long after release. They contribute to the existing culture of old gaming by setting a tangible and visible platform dedicated to it, and also build an economy that includes rights-holders. One crucial point: it has to be DRM-free.

            Why is it so important? Well, if rights-holders want to remain economically and culturally relevant, they now *have* to go DRM-free (at least after the initial release window), they now *have* to plan the removal of their DRMs before implementing them, they now *have* to rethink their perception of piracy and digital rights management. It will now make sense for them to only pay for DRM solutions that are modular and only temporary. That’s a major victory for the preservation of old games.

            And that’s the only reason why rights-holders would EVER rethink their stance on DRMs: basic IP/brand management that now includes post-release long-term profits and niche PR maintenance.

            Ideally, one day (maybe it already happened), EA/Activision products management executives will draw a business plan schematic on the board that includes at the end of the main commercial cycle:
            “- …
            – Removal of DRM
            – re-Release on old gaming distribution platforms.
            NB: keep source code available for possible fixes, self-funded with % of sales”

            And during transactions or M&A, one day they may (also) raise that question:
            “uh, regarding the old catalog, do we have the publishing rights for the re-release and the source code? Just so we can keep these series alive without too much troubles – we don’t want the value of these IPs to go down if we can’t manage to release some new titles (for these series) in the next 5 years”

            Such changes will only occur if there is a credible economy backing up a solid culture of old gaming.

            “I see your Post Scriptum, but why remove it altogether when you can amend it ? And even then… I’m not convinced it would kill the content production industries outright.”

            Amending takes ages. Copyright is under heavy criticism for decades, and so far it’s still getting worse. That doesn’t stop thousands of people from fighting for a reform of the copyright system, while also creating other systems (copyleft licenses).

            Still, where do investors feel secure enough to put their millions of dollars? The copyright system. There’s progress on the copyleft front, but it’s far from enough to give sufficient credibility to a call to abandon the copyright system altogether.

            And content production wouldn’t stop to exist – you don’t need money and rights to create culture – but the industry of it would certainly stop existing, until we either go back to the old copyright (sigh) *or* find a better alternative that actually work at funding content production.

            Until we see enough content producers making a living and enough profits to produce more (or better) content with a new system, there won’t be a switch.

            The whole point of GoG is to prove to investors that preserving old games (by fixing them and stripping them of any DRMs) does work, even if it goes against the logic behind the current copyright system. The goal is to show that there is an actual return-on-investment there, that it is economically viable to rethink copyright and DRMs.

          • ansionnach says:

            Again, great stuff. Building an eventual DRM-free release into the standard lifecycle of games would remove one of the major barriers to them remaining playable in the future. Thinking long-term might also mean that multiplayer games that don’t necessarily have to be tied to a certain server might include private server or LAN options. Not big into multiplayer games but it seems that the old host your own game approach isn’t so common these days (or am I wrong?). I used to maintain a local server for one of the earlier MMORPGs, writing some custom code here and there and modifying the executable if necessary to let you do new things in the world. Don’t have an interest in this type of game at all any more but it would be nice if the server code made its way into the community when the game goes offline for good.

          • El_Emmental says:

            Great point there ansionnach, I completely forgot about the multiplayer games! It is indeed vital to have the source code for the servers (masterserver for matchmaking, dedicated server for hosting games).

            That’s not part of the core mission of GoG from what I saw, but it seems GoG’s Galaxy is going to also support multiplayer gaming (working as a masterserver connecting players with the Direct IP method).

          • ansionnach says:

            Haven’t used Galaxy as I don’t like running software in the background on my machine. Probably handy for people who like updates to be handled transparently (if that’s what it does?). It kind of scared me initially that it might be a sign that gog could turn into another Steam – but they’ve proven that their hearts are in the right place. I’m sure they know that they jettison their main selling-point if they become a steam-alike as well!

            Galaxy is a sign that gog is interested in filling all the gaps when it comes to old games so who knows what the future has in store? Running Everquest or UO servers (if UO ever dies!) wouldn’t be something I’d see them interested in but some sort of gamespy-like matchmaking service might. I’d be fairly certain that they may well fulfil the shopping list of improvements I think they could currently make (MIDI as an option in their configurator and including all of each game’s files). Depends on whether enough others agree so I’m not likely to shut up about it!

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      Re: HotU: my thoughts exactly while reading the article.
      It’s a nice article, but it borders on gushing.
      I actually have an excellent opinion of GOG — digging out the legal rights is hard and crucial work, tinkering with games so that they work out of the box for the user is very useful, and I am convinced the team is as committed and passionate as they are pictured in the article.
      It is only a pity that the question of game preservation is not put in a wider perspective, and that abandonware (especially its place in the end of the 90s to the late 2000s) is a topic that is apparently so controversial that no serious journalism piece wants to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

  19. Phasma Felis says:

    I love articles like this, and it’s totally appropriate to illustrate them with assorted screenshots, but it would be really great if you would caption those screenshots so I know what the heck game I’m looking at.

  20. Premium User Badge

    Cross says:

    I want to say thanks for the undoubtedly painstaking amount of work that went into making this article. It was a great read for my morning tea, and i would love to see my supporter money pushed towards more content like this.

  21. Scandalon says:

    I want to know more about their relationship with DosBox, specifically if they ever donate back to it. (In my ideal world, it would be a percentage of everything sold that uses it…)

    • ansionnach says:

      I agree. While DOSBox development is progressing, the latest stable release (0.74) was over five years ago. It’ll only get trickier to support those more contrary games… and the amount of testing required to avoid introducing regression issues with already-supported titles must be a nightmare. Gog must have some notion of how time-consuming this amount of testing and support can be, seeing as it’s (likely) a lot of what they do. DOSBox could probably do with as much support as it can get.

      Seeing as DOSBox is licensed under GPL, the only legal requirement gog is under is to supply the source code with the games. This is done (it’s zipped up somewhere in the install directory). It isn’t done for the ScummVM game I just checked and it’s also GPL. Not sure what the issue is but I’ll make no assumption that what gog is doing here is either correct or incorrect. If supplying the source code (or not) is all that gog does to give back to the community then I’ll be slower to reach for my wallet in future. I currently have 15% of all the gog games in my library, most of them being re-buys. I own quite a few other games available on gog that I haven’t re-bought through them. This figure was much higher two years ago. Anyway, let’s have some clarification.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Wowbagger says:

    Alas I’m still waiting for my favourite old game to be done. Dark omen please GOG! Although I’m chuffed that they have Chaos Gate now.

  23. Goodtwist says:

    What a great piece!

    Here, have my fedora!

  24. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    It’s easy to forget that while PC is backwards compatible with old games in theory – it definitely beats having to re-buy for every hardware generation, if available at all, on consoles – in practice it is often not so simple…

    I agree with others here the importance of abandonware to digital preservation should not be underestimated, but in bringing classics back legally and reminding publishers of the value of their back-catalogue GOG are doing important work. I’m willing to bet that without the popularity of their site, we wouldn’t have had virtual console, xbox classics and similar services either.

    Been using the site since it was just a couple of Interplay games and have only expanded my collection since, both with old favourites and games I missed out on when they were new.

    Keep up the good work!

    • ansionnach says:

      Well said. I think that Sega deserve some kudos here as well. They sold some Mega Drive games on the Dreamcast with an emulator. It wasn’t a great one (sound was poor enough); think they developed it themselves. They also supported Bleem! by being open to making Bleemcast! possible. Sure, in this case it suited them to throw the cat among the pigeons, but they must hav been among the first to demonstrate that there’s money to be made from old titles. Since then, they’ve continued as they started and there are various compilations of Sega games available both in physical form and on Steam.

      • pepperfez says:

        It’s a shame that unofficial emulators still provide a better, more flexible experience.

        • ansionnach says:

          You really should have seen the official Mega Drive emulator that Sega made for the Dreamcast. They never realeased many games with it, probably because compatibility was low. Going on how bad the music was, it didn’t quite deserve to be used commercially. Genecyst and KGen98 were way better back in ’97 and ’98 respectively.

  25. Kefren says:

    I really enjoyed this article, many thanks! I have as many games on GOG as Steam, and when the game is available on both I get the GOG version. I don’t use their client GOG Galaxy generally, preferring to just download the exe from the website and install, but as long as I can do that I’ll be happy. I am also glad DRM was covered, since DRM is oen of my pet hates (hence writing about it fairly often on my blog!) Anyway, it’s nice to have articles about a good company and their behind-the-scenes processes, it makes a change from ones about individual games (much as I love those too!)

    • ansionnach says:

      You just reminded me of one annoyance about a particular gog game: Neverwinter Nights is not fully DRM-free. To play multiplayer you still need a key and this does not come with the game when you buy it – you have to request one by emailing them. I’m not sure if the problem here is that the protection is difficult to remove or that it just hasn’t been done and released for free by someone else already, but it certainly means you can’t buy one copy on gog and have a party.

      Still that’s the only game I’m aware of that isn’t DRM-free. I like having my games installed on my hard disc so I can run them with no hassle… and I’d arrange for this to happen myself should I get a game that isn’t DRM-free. To me it’s insulting that those who pirate them can get an objectively better product.

      • FunnyB says:

        “…but it certainly means you can’t buy one copy on gog and have a party.”

        So you are advocating piracy and want the publishers/developers to be denied sales?

        Of course DRM-free games are what we as consumers should always ask for, but here you are clearly stating that if you could, you would buy 1 copy and distribute it.

        • ansionnach says:

          No that’s not what I’m saying. I play NWN with my sister and I bought her a copy of the game as well. I know how to curcumvent the protection if I want to but I haven’t. I wanted to support gog and believe in paying for my games. If you mean to continue with this sort of spurious character attack, consider yourself already ignored.

          • FunnyB says:

            I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I thank you for our discussion, and bow out from it as well.

          • ansionnach says:

            I sometimes wonder if curiosity killed the cat was just made up to condition people not to be inquisitive. Anyway, I am and have seen your post. No hard feelings.

        • pepperfez says:

          The idea that everyone at a party should have to bring their own copy of the evening’s entertainment — and that this should be enforced in the entertainment’s design — is a very recent, very wacky one.

          • ansionnach says:

            It’s kind of funny, alright. Thought it was nicely ironic that by failing to fully remove the DRM in NWN, gog probably increased their profits. I’m not suggesting that this was their motive for the inaction but it’s something that gog and other DRM-haters, myself included, should contemplate now and again: people do rip off games a lot and DRM does work. Finding the balance is difficult and escalation between the cracking scene and DRM designers lead to people losing sight of their own humanity and Starforce being born (my silly exaggeration there). Perhaps some form of DRM that merely puts off the body of people who’ll only do it if it’s not terribly complicated to circumvent? Even though I don’t like Steam, I’d say that providing a service that people value should keep them coming back. Gog does this as well but without the DRM and a lot of people (myself included) rebuy games there.

  26. Bundin says:

    Best read in weeks on this site, more of these in-depth articles would be very welcome. While I love GoG, Steam tends to win out (when games are available on both) because of convenience…

    • pepperfez says:

      I find myself making the opposite choice for the same reason. To me, waiting for Steam updates before I can play a game feels like a personal insult. I’m hoping that GOG Galaxy eventually offers the features of the Steam client when I want them and buggers off the rest of the time.

  27. harcalion says:

    As one who did some reverse engineering for the update of a game already on GOG and with the NDA expired, I would like to tell what takes GOG to release a game from the technical side.
    This was the effort to remove a bug present in the original game, not some difficulty introduced by the release as a digital title.
    The bug in question was the animation of a progress bar in a loading screen that got stuck and caused the next scene in the game to be a blank screen (a bit like the Unity bug in Gone Home, if you have experienced that).
    Without source code, I identified the bug to be a locked DirectX thread that prevented the next scene to be rendered. Knowing that I tried two approaches:
    – One was hooking to the code that handles calls to DirectX and clear the lock. This was feasible but time consuming and required a binary wrapper for the game so, in the end, I passed to approach #2.
    – Overwrite the assembler code in memory with a noop instruction to avoid the jump (identifying this instruction without source code or debugging symbols was as fun as you can imagine) to the block that animated the progress bar and caused the lock. Then write the modified binary to disk and incorporate this modified binary to the game distribution. This worked and passed GOG testing, :).

    This little update (to eliminate a bug present in the original game!) required about 40 hours of work. That’s the level of care GOG give to games. Of course, this was not “preserving” as I have read in the comments. We altered the game, even removing a beautiful animation (debatable) of a progress bar, to “run better on more systems”. And that is a good thing.

    • ansionnach says:

      Good work. If you are quoting me when referring to comments about preservation, if what I haven’t already written isn’t clear enough I’ll state that my main gripe is where gog removes parts of games that need not be removed to get them working. Your example is one in which the aim is to get the games running on more systems. By removing executables from releases, gog is making the games run on fewer systems (again, DOS version of Fallout not included for non-Windows users to emulate it).

      From an absolute preservation perspective it would still be nice to have images of the original media, or even just versions of the original, unmodified files. I keep these in games I patch myself.

  28. acheron says:

    Agreed this was a great article. Had no idea how much technical effort* the GOG guys went through to get some of the games working.

    * (as opposed to the legal effort of tracking down rights holders, not to dismiss that part of it!)

  29. GernauMorat says:

    Excelent read. More of these kind of articles, less LOL

  30. Sly-Lupin says:

    “The biggest problem that games face as a commercial medium is that there are no ancillary markets and no reliable revenue streams beyond the initial launch.”

    That was (partly) true 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago, but today? Absolutely not.

    Games have -tons- of ancillary markets and much better longevity now than ever before. Those initial sales matter less and less with each new day. EG porting games from one platform to another (the MS-DOS classic “King of Dragon Pass,” for example, found itself one of the better-rated mobile games last year for iOS and Android, and was even ported to Steam)… Nihon Falcom’s “Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky” game was a critical success on the PSP, but by porting the game to Steam years later they managed to rake in more than 100,000 sales… older games can easily be remastered (or with more difficulty, remade) as we have seen with Rise of Nations, Grim Fandango, various Final Fantasies, Wild Arms ACF, etc., etc., etc.

    And in terms of longevity, the digital marketplace means less competition for shelf space, and sales and word-of-mouth make it possible to maintain visibility indefinitely. The reason why InXile Entertainment still exists, for example, and was able to become the the Kickstarter Darling that it is today, is due almost entirely to sales of their back-catalog on Steam and Android/iOS platforms–specifically the 2001(?) Bard’s Tale game.

    • Emeraude says:

      Well, the digital marketplace may mean less competition for shelf space, but it also means shelf space is infinitely expanding.

      It’s never been easier to get on the shelf, and harder to get noticed and find your audience while there.

  31. AyeBraine says:

    Thank you! This is what I perceive as journalism (being a journalist myself): an answer to a question that _actually_ plagued the reader’s mind while never quite surfacing. At least for me, the question of how GOG works with its titles was always such a quandary. And now I really feel how GOG’s staff feels, because I, too, like this kind of projects, treating my and other people’s work as meaningful and striving to work out the kinks to make it presentable again and shine. Only I do this with facts and trivia, and good people at GOG do it with actual classics.

    The article, though pleasantly brief and concise, answers a lot of these questions and many more that I didn’t even think of. Thanks again!