Friday, July 11, 2014

SOG (Save Our Games)

I have been rummaging through my collection of old PC games over the past several months (or so).  I have quite a few; some that I've NEVER even installed, let alone played.  Ever.  But what if I want to?  You cannot (unfortunately) simply slap-in an old "Pre-Windows 2000" game and install it on a modern operating system (OS).  Go ahead - try.  Some "might" install, but most will not because you're version of Windows* is something completely different than what the game is expecting.  Oh sure, there are some work-a-rounds that might actually let you install some of the games, but then try and run them.  Not only are newer OSs an issue, but so are newer video cards and drivers.  Even though your latest and greatest video card is miles higher than the minimum requirements of the game, more often than not, it pukes.  Or at the very least, the game looks worse than it did running on your old PC.  Some of the older driver technology is simply no longer supported and few (if any) video card manufacturers bother to provide backwards compatible drivers for their newer hardware (which is a shame, really).

So what's one to do?  Well, you could build an old computer, using older motherboards, CPUs, and video cards - if you can find the parts and/or find your old OS to run it.  (I do actually HAVE my older hardware and OSs - and equally importantly, I know where they are.)  And I suppose you could get some type of OS manager software (like the old System Commander) to install multiple OSs on a single older computer.  But most of us don't - or won't - probably because we're inherently lazy and that can be a lot of work.

Ah, but then along came "virtualization" - where you could install a virtual machine on your modern hardware and then install the older OS on the virtual machine.  By golly, that DOES sound like a solution, doesn't it?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, you can do that.  But (and it's a big "but" [not to be confused with "a big butt"]) most virtual video hardware (that I have found, anyway) does NOT support "Direct Draw 3D" for OSs older than Windows XP.  I have seen some "experimental" support of Windows 2000, but none for Windows 95/98/98SE (which is what the bulk of my old games were made to run on).

Now, my question has always been, "Why, oh why, would you not build the virtual video hardware to be able to use the full functionality of the older video drivers?  Why?"  I have never gotten a good answer.  Yes, I have gotten answers (like "not meant for that", "use this software work-around", etc.), but they ignore the fundamental essence of the question.

But if you don't want to mess around with vitualization and all the various, inevitable tweaks that you would have to do to make the game run properly (or at least, playable), there are other solutions.

Ignoring "Steam" (because I think their system is incredibly intrusive and I refuse to use it; I'm not even going to provide you a link for them), there is a lesser known company that seems to be working with many game manufacturers and distributors to provide DRM-free games that you can buy, download, install on (at least a more) modern hardware and OS system, and play.  No 'dedicated old OS box' is required; no 'virtualization' is required; no 'internet verification system' is required (though you do need the internet to buy and download the games); and no DRM systems (like "put the game CD in the player to run") to mess with.

"GOG" stands for "Good Old Games" and they've been around a while.  And they also seem to be expanding, because not only can you find old games, you can find some newer ones, as well.  They have over 700 titles to choose from; some famous, others I've never heard of.  You should check them out.

Or not.  Up to you.

*Yes, yes - I know about Apple.  But let's face facts:  "Windows" is the more popular OS choice, by far.  So all you Apple-ites can go suck on a lemon...or an apple, if you prefer.  Next thing, you'll try and tell me about the TI-994A, Commodore 64 (or 128; let's agree to skip over the VIC-20, shall we?), Amiga (also by Commodore), Radio Shack TRS-80, Timex Sinclair, IBM PCjr, and others.  IRRELEVANT!!

But if it makes you feel any better, does have some Mac games, too.  {OOPS - that might be a spoiler, if you scrolled down to read the asterisk before reading the rest of the post.  So be it.}


  1. Not sure if you mentioned this in your blog or not, I'm not very technical so I probably missed it, but I use DOSBox for all of my old games and they work as well as they did way back. They even have the same old bugs and errors that they were released with! Cool stuff.

  2. Wow 10 bucks for Might & Magic III! Nice site, but wow, $10? Hard to argue whether it is a fair price, where else can you find it at all? But still.

    It looks like all the games are either 9.99 or 19.99. Seems like a lot for something that you can still occasionally find for a dollar or two in a discount bin. But I guess these versions actually work (on a 64-bit machine too?), and probably come with all documentation.

    So, probably a fair value even if one that strikes me as surprising.

  3. They have sales all the time. So the trick is to see the titles you want, then wait for them to go on sale. For instance, they just recently had a summer sales special that allowed one to purchase *ALL* the D&D games they had (all the Baldur's Gate series, both Neverwinter Nights and NWN 2 complete packages [included all the expansions], Icewind Dale series...) for about $25.

    They also have 'package' deals - NWN complete and NWN2 complete goes for about $30 (when NOT on sale) individually, but $25 when bought together (and not on sale).

    Their newer titles (like Witcher 3) are more, of course (the pre-sale price for Witcher 3 is about $54), but some of the older titles usually go for between $5 and $10, when NOT on sale. There are some people who buy games on that they already have for back-up purposes.

    But best of all - all their games are DMR-free. I like that.

  4. Yeah, I've looked into DOSBox (and Bochs) and if you read the 'fine' print, their video drivers say "no direct draw" support. And you still have to tweak things like slowing down the CPU speed to get thing to run correctly. But it is another type of virtualization (and no, I didn't specificaaly mention DOSBox, VMWare, VirtualBox [to name but a few], or any other specific virtualization platforms - of which there are several.

  5. Yeah, a few months ago I was sent a link to the site about a sale, had bunches and bunches and bunches for 60-80% off. I was looking at getting something like 28 titles (and expansions, and sequels, and add-ons) for under $50.

    ...Unfortunately, they're based somewhere in Europe, and I only had a US-only card, and no time to put it into PayPal. I'm still whimpering.

    But yeah, once you sign up you can get emails from them about sales, and they frequently put neat stuff up for free.