In Praise of Good Old Games

It all started a few years back when I bought a new notebook computer, one without a disk drive, as is becoming more and more the fashion these days. I had a sudden hankering to play Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, my favourite ever turn-based computer strategy game. I did not fancy carrying around an external disk drive just so I could play a very old game that used its disk as a security measure. (You could not play at all without the CD in your computer’s drive.)

I can’t remember how I found myself at Good Old Games but I found a copy of AoW: SM there for download and at a very reasonable price. The basic idea of the site was a bit like Steam, except without the DRM and mostly concentrating on good, old fashioned games. (I know — the name is a bit of a giveaway, isn’t it?) Essentially you buy a game on the site and you can download it to any computer you own, back it up to disk or USB stick, whatever you like. There are no restrictions.

It was great. Age of Wonders downloaded just fine and my armies were soon dispatched in search of Shadow Demons to slay. And that was it for me and GOG.com for a few years. I had got what I wanted at a fair price and I was on my way. I was mainly a Mac user at the time and I kind of had the idea that I would download some older games and run them on Parallels Desktop because their system requirements were low enough to run even on a Windows virtual machine. I never got round it.

The year before last my son Daniel, knowing how much I liked the first Witcher game, got me Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings for Xmas. I was  busy, what with the new baby and all, so it took me a few months to get round to installing it. When I did, it was an utter disaster. The game needed a massive amount of patching and simply refused to install the required patches. Nothing I did seemed to solve the problem.

Going online in search of a solution I came across an interesting item. CD Projekt, the makers of The Witcher were also the owners of Good Old Games. They had made available an online backup of Witcher 2 at the site. All you needed to do was type in your game code and you could download away. It seemed too good to be true but off I went. Lo and behold not only was it true, but the version of the game on the site was the latest iteration with all the patches preinstalled. In keeping with Good Old Games philosophy it had no DRM either.

Let me repeat that. It had no DRM. This was a top tier big budget game and it was available for download without any form of copy protection to anyone who had paid for it. In a day and age where big game developers seem to be tripping over each other to load new forms of DRM onto their work, here was a studio who seemed to value the convenience of their customers. A little Googling revealed that CD Projekt had a history of troubles with DRM and had just decided to abandon it altogether on their site. God bless them.

I was impressed by this. I was impressed by the site as well this time around. It was a real nostalgia fest. There were games dating back to Septerra Core—a PC based Japanese RPG clone from the 90s that I had fond memories of—to Heroes of Might and Magic. There were all the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games I never got to play the first time around all without DRM and modified to run on modern machines.

There were games I owned such as Neverwinter Nights. I bought it to play on my DVD driveless machines. There were hundreds of games, many of them classics. Their graphics may not be  ninja-tastic but their game play is great. A lot of them are in styles that have gone out of fashion but which I enjoy (turn-based strategy games for example).  During some of GOG’s many sales they can be had for next to nothing. I found myself buying up more than a few and playing them. The value for money is immense.

Nowadays a few indie developers are making their work available on GOG. Some of the games such as Driftmoon are in genres I really like. Anyway, I have rambled on here, when all I really meant to say was that if you have any interest in good, old-fashioned games you should take a look at the site.

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Comments

  1. I have a feeling I never should have clicked on that link…! I’m not sure my schedule can afford me having access to so many great games for so little money right now. 😉

  2. I daren’t click on that link, not until I have more time and funds. I was hoping you could recommend some turn based strategy games though, for when that time comes? I’ve never been able to find many around, and that trickle has slowly dwindled to pretty much nothing.

    • You’ve probably heard of most of the ones I would recommend mate. All of the Age of Wonders series, particularly 2 and Shadow Magic. Heroes of Might Magic 3, of course. All of the Combat Mission games if you like World War 2 stuff. There’s a new one available for the iPhone called Combat Mission Touch. There’s a whole bunch of Sid Maier games on GOG which are great. I could go on but it’s late here and I need to go to bed. The big news is that Triumph Studios, who did Age of Wonders are planning on launching AoW 3 later this year. You can find out more here– http://www.ageofwonders.com/aow3live/about-the-game/. Hope that helps :).

      • I’d not heard of Age of Wonders, so I’ll be having a look at that.

        If you like WW2 games yourself Allied General is an excellent game based on it. Despite the name it gives the opportunity to play on either side for individual missions.

  3. GOG.com is superb – I got back into Master of Magic and Master of Orion 2 thanks to that site. (Master of Magic was pretty much all I did for most of 1996.) I particularly like that most of the games come with the bundled soundtracks. I bought a bunch of games I haven’t played simply so I could get the soundtracks.

    • I’ll check theose out, Jonathan. Back in 96 I was so broke I could not afford them — the joys of setting up a small business.

      I’ve got the soundtracks of a bunch of GOG games installed on my Mac for music to write to. Often they’re pretty appropriate for the sort of stuff I write and there’s no lyrics to distract me :).

      As an aside and with a bit of synchronicity with Davide’s comment, I am getting back into tinkering with Linux after a bit of a layoff, and I bought your Ubuntu Beginners Guide last night. Looking forward to reading it.

      • Thanks! I hope the book is useful.

        I run a bunch of Ubuntu servers for clients, but I tend to bounce back and forth for using Ubuntu for writing. I wrote all of GHOST IN THE STORM and THE UBUNTU DESKTOP BEGINNER’S GUIDE in LibreOffice 3 in Ubuntu, but right now I’m trying Windows 8 and Office 2013 to get a feel for it. I like writing in LibreOffice more, but I think the Track Changes feature in Office 2013 is better.

        If you’re giving Ubuntu another try I’d stick with 12.04 LTS – I thought 12.10 was a bit half-baked, but the short-term support versions usually are.

        • Thanks Jonathan. Not tried Windows 8 yet but I am tempted just because the reaction has been so mixed. The people who hate it, really hate it and the people who like it really like it. Word 2010 on Windows is an awesome word processor. Word 2013 is supposed to be even better.

          I go through phases every couple of years where I just need to shake things up with my work environment for a bit and I think I am on the verge of one of those now. I’m going to stick an SSD in my old Travelmate and install 12.04 on it at the weekend. I am toying with writing and releasing the next Kormak book entirely from within Linux just to see whether I can. To tell the truth, I already know I can– I want to know whether I will be comfortable with it or whether it will be a slog. I’ll probably blog about it!

  4. Willing to try Linux on one of my spare PCs, I installed Ubuntu and started exploring the available applications/games. So far I found 2 free, awesome, addictive games (available for Windows too) : The Battle for Wesnoth (turn based strategy game) and Pingus (lemmings with penguins). I believe that there’s plenty of free or cheap games around that should just be given a try. While our eyes might be spoiled by commercial games, I find that the story, design and music in those indie games are often as good as $30 games (sometimes even better).

    • By coincidence, I was just updating Ubuntu on one of my old machines last night, Davide. I have Wesnoth installed and I am hoping to review it on this blog at some point.

  5. Chris Peall says:

    Oh no, now I want to run through the whole of the Baldurs Gate series again (can I remember the field with the hidden Ankheg Armour I wonder)!

    Ironic that it will be you fault I won’t finish Angel of Fire by the end of the weekend!

    • I am planning on doing all of the Baldur’s Gate series followed by Icewind Dale at some point. I never got a chance to do them first time round and I have heard so many good things about them. And as long as you finish Angel of Fire, I won’t mind, mate :).

      • Chris Peall says:

        Hah, I will; I have a stack of books waiting to be read! Loving AoF by the way. I was armoured crew many years ago and reading about old number ten’s lads is quite fun.

        You’ll love the BG series, possibly some of the finest of pc games ever; such a great balance of story and game play.

        When you get to playing them look out for a cultivated field in BG1 in the earlier part of the game, there’s a decent set of armour burried there that will serve you well!

        • I’ll bear that in mind, Chris. I’ve already installed BG on my machine along with the mods that bring the graphics engine up to BG2 standard. Now I just need to finish AoW again and meet a few deadlines.

          And thanks for the kind words about AoF.

  6. Haha, I wish my father would be happy if I offered him The Witcher 2! Say, have you put thought into playing Dark Souls? I think you might enjoy the tense and dreary ambiance, as well as the ponderous combat. The story is told in a way that leaves a lot open to interpretation, but sprinkles hints liberally across the levels. Just be weary of the multiplayer assholes! If you do try it out, remember: you’ll only get a 1st playthrough once, so don’t spoil yourself with wikis for things besides poorly explained mechanics.

    • I haven’t tried Dark Souls but I’ll keep my eyes open for it. Right now I plan to finish playing Age of Wonders then do a complete run through of the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights games then do the Witcher and Witcher 2. This will probably keep me busy for several years!

  7. Jon Tee says:

    Dangerous site – I ended up buying five games after looking for Dungeon Keeper 2 (including both MOO and MOO2 which may have been excessive). Also spotted Eador but ended up with the new version via Steam (interesting game – a bit HoMM-esque).

    • Hey Jon, I picked up the original Eador a while back but have not actually played it yet. I really like turn-based games and I was curious as to what a Russian one would be like :).

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