|Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 - Qbix |
|DOSBox is the first-ever second-time winner of "Project of the Month"!
We gave an IRC interview.
|Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 - Qbix |
|GOG.com have started their holiday sale!
And on top of that, they have (for 48 hours)
DUKE NUKEM 3D for free!
It's a piece of gaming history. If you have never played it: "What are you waiting for ? Christmas ?"^
^One of my favourite one-liners in the game.
|Sunday, October 21st, 2012 - Qbix |
|Saturday, May 28th, 2011 - Qbix |
|Monday, January 10th, 2011 - Qbix |
|Several companies are using DOSBox to re-release old DOS games. GOG.com, a digital distribution website dedicated to old games, is one of the major users of our program; we sat down for a chat with Pawel (GOG.com technical department), Lukasz (public relations) and Guillaume (manager):
What made you decide to use DOSBox, instead of creating your own?
Pawel: Before we launched GOG.com, we did think about creating our own software for emulating DOS environment under Windows, unfortunately time was crucial here and we decided to use DOSBox instead. Having our own software would have its advantages, but then DOSBox is an acclaimed and the best working DOS emulator out there, with hundreds of thousands (or even millions) users who test it on different hardware. In short these were the reasons we decided to use DOSBox, can’t complain we did that.
Do you receive a lot of support requests for the third party products you use (DOSBox/ScummVM)?
Pawel: Actually we don’t see many support tickets concerning technical problems with games that run on DOSBox or ScummVM. Using DOSBox and ScummVM makes our life easier, as usually those emulators work miracles with DOS based games. This allows us focusing on games with problems which can't be solved by those two programs.
For the games that use these OS's (DOS, 3.1, 9x, XP) which are the hardest to make compatible? Do you have any plans for 16bit Windows games?
Pawel: Windows 95, early days – programmers tend to use old DOS-like technique, not quite compatible with Windows 95 standard. Therefore Windows 95 is the hardest. Windows 3.1 is a different story – as it’s mainly 16bit platform, we cannot use those games – since Windows XP/Vista/7 64bit editions cannot run them at all. We’re trying to get 32bit copies or rewrite the header to be compatible with 32bit systems, which is pretty difficult and time consuming. But luckily for us, Windows 3.1 (16bit) games usually come with a little brother - DOS based version of the game and then we can use it with DOSBox :)
Can you describe the process GOG.com takes from talking to the publisher to the point of putting the game up on the GOG.com webpage?
Lukasz: That’s a long, work and time consuming process which I wouldn’t describe as interesting, but maybe I’m the only one ;). At the very beginning our business development guy did a research which games are the most wanted by the GOG users (that data was pretty easy to get as every second or third email we got was a game request and it still is that way :)). After he had the long, long, very long list of good, old games ready he had to figure out who owns the rights to those games. And as you probably know this can be tricky as lots of publishers and developers have bankrupted, been bought by other companies, sold rights to their games to other companies, etc., so it’s really hell of a work to find the right people to talk to about those old games.
Contacting the owners of the games starts another stage in acquiring titles which includes presenting the offer, negotiating the conditions and agreeing on legal terms. And with our approach to DRM this can be tricky as in many cases we have to convince the rights owners that selling their products without any kind of copy protection is a good idea and it doesn’t mean they will get pirated. This stage also includes negotiating prices of the games, shares of revenue, etc. When everything is clear the agreement goes to the legal department where it can get stuck for weeks. In many cases that’s the most time consuming stage in the whole process and it’s for sure the most boring one ;).
When everyone agrees on everything the fun part begins - the whole team gets the list of games that were signed and we go all excited and reminiscent the old days when we played those titles. Programmers get their hands on masters to optimize them to run on Win XP/Vista/7 (what they do with those is a question to Pawel), product team starts working on game pages, additional materials, etc., while the design team prepares all the graphics. Us, PR team, we work on a plan how to create some buzz around those games without pissing off our community by another site closedown. And that’s how the process looks like, in short, so the release of a game which is seen by our users is the last stage of a very long and laborious process.
Newer versions of windows all introduce new security features like UAC, Virtual Store/Register. Do you often run into problems with that?
Pawel: Yes, UAC is really pain in the a... Our games are being checked prior to install and with UAC enabled on some 1+gb games can take a LOT of time before you can install your game. Same goes with extra security with Program Files folder on newer systems, MS applied some restriction to anything that can or cannot be saved into that folder. Some old games can and have problems with that. Surprisingly Registry is quite OK, no problems so far.
What would like to see different in DOSBox?
Pawel: Some things:
- automatic cd switching mechanism (attach several ISOs to one drive letter and allow DOSBox to handle that)
- more sound cards emulation (like sb awe 32)
- 3dfx glide support (power vr as well)
- more memory for graphic card
- built-in NetBIOS
- Windows 3.1 emulation/support ;)
GOG.com provides a complete one package for the users. Are there plans to include the original installation media for collectors?
Pawel: You mean including original game alongside with our installer? I don’t think so, it might stand against our agreements with publisher, not mentioning that it might cost extra for the users as well. we’re providing a full-package meaning the game being "remastered" to work on modern systems, so we don’t see a good reason to provide people with unnecessary files.
Do you have any interesting experiences when approaching companies to put games on GOG.com that you want to share with us?
Guillaume(who dressed as a french monk for a GOG.com PR event): Hmmm... I have no crazy funny anecdote to share I am afraid, my apologies for being “the boring director” kind of guy :) Let me find something interesting to tell you instead.
For example, many companies do not have their original master copies anymore. We at GOG often have to find those artifacts by ourselves, either by buying games over Ebay and other auction websites, or simply by using the archives of our own staff, who affectionately kept those at their grandma’s place or more simply in their messy cupboards :) The same rule applies (even more) to the free goodies we are bundling every game on GOG with. Finding artworks for Space Quest 1-2-3 was far from being a sinecure for example, but nothing is impossible for our product manager!
How often do you encounter games that you cannot get to work and what are the plans for those games? Do you put them on the bottom of the list and come back to them later or are there plans to try to get the source code, etc?
Pawel: We got several games ‘on hold’ due to irreparable errors or too costly to fix. But when we approach similar problem in a game we’re currently working on, we might go back to the title we’ve postponed and try to fix it in a similar way – if it works, then we have another game to release :)
How many people work at GOG.com?
Lukasz: Well, actually something like 20+, but zylion looks better.
Which game, of which you never heard before it appeared on GOG.com, did surprise you?
Pawel: I heard of most of games we’re releasing, lots of them played years ago. But cannot say all of them. Let’s say 80% heard of and 40% played.
Lukasz: I heard of most of the older games we have, like the ones from 90’s as I didn’t have a PC gaming rig that would run games released after 2001. So I’m mainly excited about those really old games, but I have to say I really enjoyed playing Evil Genius, SpellForce, Freedom Force and now I’m going through Neverwinter Nights.
How hard is it to convince publishers to sell their games on GOG.com?
Guillaume: Well, it is all about keeping on building up your credibility in the end. Back in 2007 - one year before the official launch of GOG - it was really tough to convince rights owners to go the DRM-free way.
There were concerns about piracy mostly, which was quite paradoxical when one bears in mind that those old PC classics had unfortunately already been pirated heavily. Put a DRM on a title that was initially released without any and all you will achieve is triggering the users’ wrath i.e. encouraging them to... pirate those games even more! Therefore, we took the time to meet some key players of the industry and explain them that the best way to revive back-catalogue content was 1. to make the whole experience hassle-free for the end user (no DRM, full Windows compatibility, 2 SRPs for the whole planet, unlimited re-downloads) and 2. put much heart and efforts into the products themselves, by preparing exclusive free goodies (wallpapers, soundtracks, manuals and many other!) for our users, as well as doing some interviews with some legendary folks from the golden PC era.
Basically, cultivating ease of use, passion and nostalgia is the most appropriate method to give a well-deserved second youth to PC classics. We eventually managed to convince Interplay to take part in the GOG adventure... and then many others followed (40+ publishers and developers gave us their children... I mean... their beloved games so far :)
Every new key partner announced on GOG is basically one more step towards convincing the few remaining skeptical ones. The massive licensing deal we signed recently with Atari-Hasbro for some major D&D RPG games (Baldur’s Gate anyone? :) allowed us to go back to some key publishers with some heavy arguments on the plate and we are working hard to sign some major titles in 2011. Rights owners need to be shown that our model is working fine, not causing any harm and most important, that it can help them monetize some products that got forgotten in their attics while millions of people have been expecting their comeback for ages. Being only 2 years old, I think GOG quite achieved that so far.
What kind of experience can an user expect at your store?
Lukasz: We do our best to offer the best experience possible in digital distribution from the very beginning to the end. When you create an account on GOG you’ll get automatically 4 free games: Beneath a Steel Sky, Tyrian 2000, Lure of the Temptress and TeenAgent. We build up our games catalogue with new releases every week, so you can expect huge, more than 300 titles strong and growing selection of all-time PC classics for reasonable price. What’s more is that we treat each game individually and try to make every release as complete as possible - that’s why games sold at GOG are almost like collector’s editions with official expansions, wallpapers, game guides, soundtracks, artworks and more for free with every game. Our motto is to bring the best value for the best price.
Because we want to keep the experience user-friendly and hassle free all our games are totally DRM-free, meaning you don’t have to worry about registration, online activations, limited number of installations, etc. You buy the game and it’s basically yours, you can back it up on an external HDD, install it on all computers you own, burn it to a CD or play without being on-line all the time.
We know there are still things to be improved, like more features in the community section, and it’s all planned for the next GOG updates, but I can confidently say we provide one of the best experiences in digital distribution of games.
How do you try to beat piracy when there is no DRM?
Guillaume: As I mentioned earlier in this interview, the best way to beat piracy is to believe in your model full-heartedly and go beyond the typical fears from our modern mainstream society :)
Let me go against our values for a while for the sake of providing readers with a clear example (disclaimer: the below description is the exact opposite of what we are doing at GOG :)
Let’s assume (for a while only please, yikes!) that all the products on GOG have a DRM in place, need an Internet connection to be played, have different prices across territories (9.99 EUR vs 9.99 USD anyone? :), are not remastered for any windows operating system (you just get the data files and there you go) and have no free goodies bundled with them (it is too time and resources-consuming for us at GOG you know... Business is about selling only in the end, so no room for free stuff!).
Do you want to buy my products or are you likely to consider some illegal routes to satisfy your nostalgic gaming appetite? I think we all know the answer to be honest :)
The titles we have on GOG have already suffered a lot (when they got initially released) from piracy, so the best way to stop this process is to deliver a passionate, genuine and hassle-free experience to the users. I often think that GOG is some kind of fair trade business, whereby we took commitments towards the industry by instigating a valuable rewarding model for the users, who in exchange thank us by sticking to those values as they fully realize this is the one and only condition to make the experience sustainable.
When our partners ask whether we believe our fair model can really prevent games from being pirated, I always share the same fact with them: many abandonware websites took down the products we started distributing on GOG.com and decided to become our affiliates instead. I think this example perfectly embodies what we’ve managed to achieve so far: GOG will not change the world, but we can change mentalities at least.
We would like to thank Pawel, Lukasz and Guillaume for their time.