Monday, June 22, 2009


I realize that it has been awhile (ten days) since I last made a post, but I have an excuse! Ah, who am I kidding? I got lazy this last week and spent the weekend celebrating my birthday. I had a small little get-together with my college roommate and my Dad. We didn't do much but the home cooked meals were a nice reprieve from the processed foods I usually resolve myself to consume. Anyway, that all is neither here nor there: let's get started with the review.

For this review I shall review a game retailing service, Good Old Games, or GOG, specializes in, you guessed it, good old games. The inventory on GOG's website is older titles that are generally hard to find on store shelves anymore, with some of their titles dating back to the early '90s. However, GOG definition of "old" is debatable; some of the games on the site are from 2005 & 2006, not quite "old" if you ask me but I'm not really complaining. In fact, having new titles on the site just strengthens it. That's because GOG has three and only three price points: $9.99, $5.99, and free. So games that once cost upwards of $40 are now only ten bucks. As if the low cost wasn't enough, all the games on GOG are DRM-free and XP/Vista compatible (presumably Windows 7 will be added to the list, when it launches, as well).

The site has quite a catalog and they are continuing to add titles, sometimes they list the games as "coming soon" but other times they surprise you with new games out of the blue. They also have a fairly good genre representation in their catalog (with racing and sports games being the exception). When viewing the list of games on their site, you can filter listings by genre, rating, price, as well as the original publisher and developer. The list can also be sorted alphabetically, by rating, or by the date it was added to GOG. Additional sort options that would be helpful would be price (although you could just open different windows/tabs for each price point by filtering on them) and the original release date, though these are not necessary or even critical options.

Additional features on the site are a rather standard support system that allows you to select the problem game from a list of the games you own and a general description of the problem along with a space for a subject and message, file attachments, and a place to attach a DxDiag report or manually type in your system configuration. Perhaps one of the most interesting and useful features on the site is the community section: bulletin boards separated by the series of games their about. The community is pretty friendly and if the games you own on GOG have any good mods their will usually be a stickied thread that will tell you about them.

Out of all the features on the site, the best feature is the purchase and downloading system. It goes without saying that this service is present (otherwise what would be the point of the site) but it really seems well-designed and easy to use. After purchasing a game, it appears in the list of games on your account page. From there, you can download the game using your web browser, or add the title to a download queue. GOG has released a small downloading app (using Adobe AIR) that will then download the game and has the ability to pause and restart downloads. Not only is the downloading easy but you are not limited on how often you can download your games, nor do you have to download them within a certain amount of time after purchase; when you buy a game you will always (as long as GOG is in business) be able to download that game.

Among the many other joys of GOG is the extras that usually come along with each game. Most games include separate downloads for manuals, wallpaper, forum avatars, artwork packs, and, my favorite, soundtracks. Perhaps the best example of these goodies would be the original Fallout. The game comes with the manual, an artwork pack, two avatar packs, two soundtracks (in-game and original), the design bible, a reference card, and two wallpaper packs.

However, the service is not without flaws. Perhaps the biggest flaw that I see with the service is that the ratings of the games are almost always skewed toward five stars (out of a possible five). I am not accusing GOG of doctoring the ratings for the games, the phenomenon is most likely caused by people buying games they're already interested in and rating them highly. When I'm shopping this requires me to check a different site for reviews. This isn't really a problem that the GOG staff can address (otherwise they would rightfully be accused of rigging the ratings) but it is something that potential shoppers should be aware of. Also, like most online retailers, GOG emails order summaries after a purchase has been made. However, these summaries do not currently list any discounts that were applied (from weekend sales for instance). So if you look at the summary a few months or years later you may be wondering why two $10 games totaled $15.

The flaws that GOG has are very minuscule and, as the service is still only in Beta, will most likely be fixed in the near future. The service, as a whole, is one of the easiest and cheapest out there. The lack of DRM gives the service a big plus. You can download and install the games you own on as many computers as you like. Plus, the selection on the site is pretty good. All in all, I would heartily recommend GOG to any fellow gamer.

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