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Old 08-01-2008, 08:50 PM
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Preview: Play great old computer games with GOG.com

When I first heard about Good Old Games (GOG.com) I was immediately excited about the prospect of a download service that allowed me to find and play the best games of yesteryear. Considering the bargain-bin prices that you can expect from old software it’s hard to go wrong with picking up a classic like Fallout or something you might have missed a few years back.
I had a chance to be in on GOG’s beta testing which basically meant I was given access to the site a few days before everyone else. The site seems largely finalized, but I took the chance to have a sneak peak before the beta period ends.
GOG is somewhat like Valve’s Steam, that is to say it is a video game download service where you can create an account, login in, and buy games. After that you can download them and gain access to them in the future. This means no lost discs and access from any place you have internet. Unlike Steam, GOG is internet-based rather than installing a Steam application you can do everything right through GOG.com. Once you are there, the service is quite similar–you can browse through the games, sort them by genre, rating, developer, etc., and then buy what you want. The fact that these are old games means rather than dropping $50 or so on something new you can get away with spending as little as $5.99 on some or $9.99 on others.

Once my account was created my first trial was going to be Fallout 2. This is actually a game I had back in the day but rarely played because it would not cooperate with my computer. I’m not sure what happened to the discs, but I was very much looking forward to giving it a shot on hardware that would have no problems with something that was released in 1998 (that’s right, ten years ago…). After going through the purchase process (with a redeem code) I started downloading Fallout as a single executable file. The 579MB file came to me in about 12 minutes at around 700KB/s.
Obviously I am not running Windows 95 any more (rather Vista Home Premium) so some recoding and optimization might have been necessary from the GOG staff. Regardless, the game installed and loaded up without issue. At this point I played for some time, over multiple sessions and it worked perfectly–it was just like I had installed Fallout 2 on my computer. No internet connection is needed to play and GOG clearly states that there is no DRM on the game files. Manuals are available through GOG’s site after purchase.
As for GOG’s catalog, it’s limited now but there are a few gems. The top choices for me are Fallout, Fallout 2, and the Descent/Descent 2 package. Past these there are not a lot of very memorable titles but there will be enough to satisfy most people for a few weeks. Computer gamers familiar with the late 90s will no doubt recognize some titles, but ones like Earthworm Jim 3D will be worth buying while many others will be worth looking into, but probably not enough to get you to drop the $6. Given the massive pool of old games it would be great to see this selection expanded. There are considerable licensing issues that go along with this, but as we have seen with Steam, the more games, the more attractive the platform.
So far Good Old Games is looking like it will be a valuable service. Maybe it won’t be someplace you drop hundreds of dollars, but I will certainly be stopping by from time to time and seeing what is available. We know that not all games age well, especially first-person shooters (in my humble opinion), but GOG is starting off pretty strong and if they can keep expanding their titles and scoring some tier one titles it will be a great tool for retro gaming fans.
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