Good old games is a games download service that allows gamers to buy older titles, especially those which may be a bit difficult to find without trawling the depths of eBay. Like all the best download services, its titles are free of DRM, which means that they aren’t suddenly going to break on you should the company go bust, or if you decide to reformat your computer. Quite nicely, they also promise everything will be XP and Vista compatible, something that can be a bit troublesome for older titles.
A few months ago I though this sounded quite snazzy, so signed myself up for the beta. Today I got access, so thought I’d give things a whirl. As a favour to their beta users, GOG are doing a buy one get one free offer on the first order, Sign-up was quick and easy, and didn’t seem to require too much in the way of information. Unfortunately it did decide to send my password and security question to my E-mail, a questionable security practise. I’ll E-mail them on this one.
I had a bit of trouble with establishing a secure connection, but that seemed to be due to OpenDNS. It seems to cause problems on secure sites if some of the page content is hosted at an invalid domain.
Payment allows visa or Mastercard only, which means those without a credit card are possibly out of luck. I’d try my debit card, but I’d prefer the added security of a credit card on an unfamiliar website. So can’t say if delta is also accepted. However they claim that they are adding more cards shortly, so I assume this limitation won’t last long.
On purchase of Sacrifice at the bargain price of $5.99 (About £3) the game was added to my account page for downloading when I saw fit. The account page also provides links to forums, articles and additional downloads.It also gives me the opportunity to rate the game and review it. The articles address technical issues with the game, such as the requirement to run the installer as administrator on Windows Vista.
The downloads for the game include the manual, reference card, desktops and avatars. The game itself downloads as a single exe, and the 562.6MB file is downloading hovered around 140kB/s-160kB/s, it looks like it will take about an hour.
While thats happening I’ll talk about the rest of the service. Much like Steam, GOG provides forums for all the games available on its service, as well as a General Discussion forum which currently contains mainly feedback and feature requests.
The website provides a nice console, listing games you own, providing download links as well as links to relevant support articles and forums. According to GOG purchased games will be available for download forever, which should sound like a no-brainier, but some download services fail to provide this. The website also encourages you to make backups to CD, something I’ll do as I don’t fancy re-downloading half a gig regularly.
Unlike something like Steam, the service doesn’t require any background tasks. This will please many people and hopefully means that games installs will be virtually identical to the CD versions, only without a CD requirement.
Interestingly the license covers any number of PCs/laptops in the same household. In practise of course many people will do this anyway, but its nice that they allow it implicitly.
Now onto the the most important aspect, the catalogue. GOG promises to add new releases each Tuesday, which should ensure a constant flow of games. Currently it just hosts titles from Codemasters’ and Interplay’s back catalogues. This includes among them classics such as Fallout 1 and 2, Sacrifice, Giants: Citizen Kabuto and MDK, all at $5.99. There are also a few $9.99 titles thrown into the mix. Currently they only have 34 titles listed, and a few of those are flagged as ‘coming soon.’ Notably key Interplay titles like Baldur’s gate aren’t present, I suppose Atari’s continued interest in the D&D license, or Bioware’s cavorting with EA, may be holding this one back. However the forums are full of requests so we’ll see what happens.
The developers currently seem to be fairly active on the forums, but this is may be just due to the beta period.
With the download done, we are on to installation. As suggested, I’ll install as administrator.
Hmm, bit of a slow start here, but its a huge file and the problem could be with Vista’s paranoid security. Still, we are in to a customised installer. Seems to be very easy to use, if you don’t want to charge the default installation directory it is installed and launched in three clicks.
Game works first time, and adds itself to the vista games manager, uhh, twice, once with a shiny icon, and another time with downloaded box art. The shiny icon has links to the manual etc, and the box-art icon appears to be the version Vista ads automatically. The game appears to be fully patched.
So overall the process was extraordinarily simple, and doesn’t have any unnecessary gubbins to get in the way. One downer is that they don’t provide an automatic update tool, but seeing as these games are pretty ancient I expect they are as patched as they are going to get.
Currently the selection is a touch limited, as are the payment options. However, it is still early days, and GOG already show intentions of addressing both these problems. I hope early sales will be sufficient to encourage other publishers to join the fray. The low prices means that I’ll certainly be using the service in future, to catch up on missed titles and to fill in gaps between modern releases. The benefit of not requiring the CD, of having everything patched up and easy to use, and having it all only a few clicks away, makes GOG an attractive alternative to scouring eBay and the pre-owned bins, and charity shops.
Good Old Games can be found at http://www.gog.com/ and is currently in beta phase.