So far the best options have been Blizzard who release their games for both Windows and Mac in the same box and Steam which gives you the Mac version with no extra charge if you already bought the game. Of course then you have to deal with Steam which is a whole new topic on its own. With GoG I now get the same benefits of paying once and getting it for both operationg systems, as it should be. Even though conventional wisdom portraits Macs as closed systems where everything needs to be blessed by Apple, it’s quite the opposite, OS X is very open, there is no activation DRM as with Windows, you can install software from anywhere, apps from the Mac App Store are DRM free (unless the developer wants DRM) and most independent developers (not games, applications, there is a very strong shareware scene on the Mac) release their software without DRM. Mac users do care about that sort of thing. The recent introduction of Gatekeeper has some people concerned about where things are headed but for now OS X is anything but a walled garden.
Originally Boxer was just DOSBox on autopilot. The idea was that you would take a game and wrap it up in a single file, a gamebox, which contains the game, the files from the disc (or an image of the disc) and the DOSBox settings. Then you could just double-click it and the game would load up. That’s still what Boxer does except it has been rewritten from the groud up to look, feel and work like a Mac application. A lot of thought and care went into making the interface non-intrusive but still powerful enough. It’s great how you can change DOSBox settings on the fly through the interface while the game is running. You can imports discs and disc images, you have Rolant MT32 emulation (or support for a real one), different filtering modes, volume control, speed settings, joystick support, fast-forwarding… Just go to Boxer’s website and take a look. I recommend reading through some of the blog posts to get an idea of how much thought is behind it all. You can even import games from GoG and Boxer will pick up the DOSBox setting for you, no tweaking needed.
That said, it appears there is still a large number of users who don’t know about Boxer. One user wrote that he plays DOS games in DOSBox on Windows in a virtual machine on OS X. I’m surprisd that it even works. GoG wraps up their DOS games in a standalone Boxer app (with the real Boxer the gameboxes just contain the data, but the main app is Boxer, whith GoG each game has its own copy of Boxer) which is great for people who don’t know about DOS emulations or just don’t care. GoG are quite open about using Boxer, so it might even draw attention to the Boxer project. Another really nice touch is that with Boxer you can put the documentation into the gamebox and it will appear in the help menu of the application. GoG put the manuals in there, really cool.
All that said they managed to mess things up somehow. As I said before, a lot of effort was put into the interface to have many options available to the users without interfering (if you want to see an example on how not to do it Google Image “dapplegrey mac”). The idea is that most of the time the user does not care about settings but when he does the settings should be one or two clicks away. GoG just ripped all that out and replaced it with nothing. This shouldn’t bother anyone since GoG games are already preconfigured, but sometimes I want to change the sound card settings, the CPU speed, install an unofficial patch or just open the config application to change keybindings. With Boxer if I launch the game while holding the alt key I get to the DOS promt and I can launch any application from a nice list at the bottom of the window. With GoG I always get to the game. That might be fine in some cases, but when the key mapping tool is an external application I’m screwed. I just don’t get why they had to remove these options, Boxer was already perfect as it was. You might say that having too many options migh confuse users, but it’s not like they have to touch any of them, especially since they don’t stick out at all. In the case of key rebinding this might actually backfire because users might get frustrated at the default controls (which can be very bad for DOS games). The good thing is that you can just get the gamebox out of the port, throw the rest away and play using Boxer just as before.
These are actual Mac ports, all the non-DOS games, except for the original Witcher, are native. This depends on the game itself, some ports are done with care, some games are already written with multiplatform support in mind (mostly indy games) and some are outsourced to other companies. The Witcher 2 is one of those outsourced ports and it is supposedly… not good at all compared to the Windows version running on the same machine. I can’t test it for myself because not even the Windows version would run on my graphics card, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Bad native ports are a plague on the Mac and it seems no one really feels responsible for fixing them. Unreal Tournament 2004 cannot load total conversion mods like Alien Swarm though the ingame interface, it has to be launched via Unix Terminal (don’t ask me how people figured the Terminal commands out) and Epic never bothered fixing the issue. Torchlight will crash with some mods because of case-sensitivity and the only thing Runic bothered to do was tell everyone that they cannot be bothered with fixing what essentially keeps their mediocre game afloat (I’m talking about mods). According to Mac App Store comments the ports of King’s Bounty: The Legend and Armored Princess are both unplayable because of invisible units on Nvidia cards. How can *that* go through quality control?
I don’t want to sound like some snob, but if I am willing to pay over a thousand Euros for a computer chances are I do care about quality products and service. When Blizzard didn’t patch Diablo II to use Intel code and stopped working on OS X 10.7 I was OK with it since the game was already over a decade old at that point (plus I can still play the Windows version in Wine, runs just as well, if not better). I didn’t like it but I could understand it (although the point could be made that when Apple switched to Intel Diablo II was not yet a decade old). But when you have problems present since launch and just keep ignoring user complaints or tell them that “there are no plans” then fuck you, you’re not seeing penny from me. I know this leads to the chicken and egg problem: If people are not buying Mac ports then why should companies get invested in them and if companies are not invested in them then why should people buy them? Still, these aren’t the days of PowerPC processors, today any Mac can run Windows. Even if you have to buy Windows the money saved from not buying the expensive Mac version will quickly make up for it. Porting companies need to give us good reasons to buy their stuff, they don’t have the old monopoly anymore.
So far The Witcher is the only game using Wineskin for its port, I tried some walking and combat in the first area, seems to work pretty well; people have always had trouble with missing health and mana bars and weird lines appearing, but this looks fine, it’s great to have someone else do the work for me. I assume you are familiar with what Wine is. I’ll still write it down for the readers who don’t know, though. Wine lets you run Windows software on Linux, OS X, BSD and Solaris. However, Wine is not an emulator, it doesn’t pretend to be a machine on its own, instead it translates the Windows commands on the fly and allows for performance close to what you would get on Windows. Of course Wine is still heavily in development and not everything runs equally well. Some software doesn’t run at all, some runs poorly, some runs decently, some great and some even better than on Windows (those are of course very rare).
One problem with Wine is that what works for one game can break another. Wineskin solves that problem by creating Wine wrappers, standalone applications of which each one contains its own Wine environment with its own version and tweaks. It’s very similar to what Cider does, except Cider is proprietary and used for many commercial releases that aren’t native (in fact Cider is based on an old version of Wine). Wineskin is how I run almost all of my Windows games, each port can be tweaked on its own until it runs well. With some games one would never guess that they aren’t on the proper OS. Unfortunately there are still some I need to boot up Windows for, but their number is decreasing. Check out Wineskin’s website here:
Wine and Cider ports are usually frowened upon and seen as lazy by the company, but personally if I have the choice between a Wine port and no port at all I’ll take the Wine port any day. Not so much with Cider though, it’s proprietary, so when it breaks and no one feels responsible it’s worthless, with Wineskin at least i can still update the wrapper or change the engine myself. In fact the OS X 10.8.2 update broke Wine, but the issue was fixed within a day and after a quick update all my selfmade ports ran fine again. However, companies pick Cider because it supports proprietary DRM which Wine cannot due to its open nature, many PC games need No-CD cracks to work (which doesn’t really matter to me since I crack all my PC games anyway, I see no reason to have to keep the disc in when i bought the game legitimately).
One thing that GoG could do that would *really* set them apart from other distributors would be if they used Wineskin to port games that don’t have a working Mac version anymore or never had one to begin with. Imagine being able to play Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale on Mac exclusively from GoG! All the Infinity Engine games run flawlessly, which is even more than I can say about Windows, so that would be very little effort. After all, if they bother going through hoops to get old Windows classics to run on Windows 7, why not do the same thing for OS X (where it is feasible)? Of course I don’t really expect this to ever happen because then GoG would have to be able to provide proper support for those ports. With The Witcher at least they have the source available.
It’s interesting to see really butthurt users though. You’d think the idea of getting more financial support for GoG would be seen as a good thing because everyone will profit from it, but it seems that Apple has a very polarizing effect on some people. Do you have any idea why that would be?
OK, this might seems trivial but it’s a pretty big deal for me. Downloading large files via the browser is a real pain and you cannot pause them. The downloader is pretty nice, the interface is as minimalistic as it gets, pausing and resuming works instantly (unlike Steam which takes forever to stop a download or starts downloading stuff all of the sudden) and it just gets the job done. The lack of tooltips is kind of weird, but it doesn’t really matter. It supports the OS X notifications, that’s really nice. I’m glad they didn’t just take JDownloader and change a few things, they went the extra mile to make a nice native application.
Ugh, a physics-based indy puzzle-platformer. That’s three things I dislike. Physics-based usually stands for floaty controls, indy stands for “we have no talent so we will market ourselves as indy to sell to the artsy types” and puzzle-platformers pick one machanic, make a bunch off “puzzles” that require no thought and call it a day. I could be wrong, but I’m going to trust my gut instinct on this one.
TotalBiscuit made a WTF is… video about it, just watch it. It’s nice to see a platformer with ambition, but it doesn’t help when it is one of those awful modern platformers. The graphics are fancy and get in your way, the game picks one gimmicky mechanic and bases everything around it, you have checkpoints after almost every screen and every platform the developers don’t want you on is covered with spikes. No, thanks.
You know, I used to like Point&Click adventure games, but I can’t stand them anymore. They don’t have any replay value, most of the time the character moves like a slug and once you’ve played one you’ve played them all, just click on everything in sight and then try out everything you have in your inventory. Deponia seems like the posterchild for this.
I “bought” it and then I buried it among the other hidden free games, just doesn’t seem like I’d want to play it anytime soon, especially since I bought Unreal Torunament 2004 not long ago. Personal opinion aside this is really great, the free games need variety badly. When I registered on GoG all they had for free were the adventures. It’s been only recently that they added Tyrian and then the Worlds of Ultima. Having a shooter among the freebies is a great addition.
I really hope this doesn’t become a regular thing. Pay what you want is what crappy indy devs do when they send their games to the Humble Bundle to die, not something I’d expect to see done on GoG. Just before this promo they had the same thing going on with the Divinity series. True, I bought it (and I’m actually playing Divinity now, it’s not just collecting dust), but it feels just wrong. Those 75% off sales Steam does are already crushing the value of games, this is even more extreme. I don’t think I’ll buy this bundle, some of the games I already own and for the others I wouldn’t have the time for anyway, so paying any amount would be too expensive when I don’t get to play anything of it.
As I said above, it wouldn’t run on my graphics card and I don’t plan on replacing my machine anytime soon, it was way too expensive to be just discarded because of one game. I haven’t looked much into the second game, but I’ve already seen some Hollywood disease in the promo material such as quicktime events or interrupting a fight just to play some piece of dialogue. I hate that sort of stuff. Of course it could be that it wasn’t representative of the final product, but I don’t really care to do any research when I can’t play it anyway. I will have a better coputer some day, if it still holds up by that time I’ll play it then, if it doesn’t then it wouldn’t have been worth playing today either.
I don’t really care about making mods, but being able to get more content into your game is always a good thing. Too many companies try to prevent modding because then they couldn’t sell their mappacks and skinpacks. We’ve got “console” gamers who buy any shit to thank for this. The original Witcher had a modding tools as well, but I only played one mod so far. CD Projekt even took some mods and released them along with a patch for everyone, that was cool.
I had no idea this would be based on a Pen&Paper system. I don’t really know what to think, we have hardly any information sbout the project. Being Pen&Paper based is already a good thing because they are drawing their inspiration from an actual game and trying to please players of that game, not to impress Hollywood. Is that the reason why the Dungeons&Dragons RPGs feel so fun as well? Even Neverwinter Nights 2, which was just setting the AI on autopilot and watching, felt more like a game than most other modern games.
Just so readers know, the formatting errors in the emails come from copying and pasting it into the blog. No matter how I correct it, the blog changes the spacing on its own. It is most annoying, and I haven’t found a way to get around it in all this time. Even when corrected, once it is ‘saved’ it changes the spacing on its own.This is a very informative email on the ‘Mac side’ of the tracks. Thank you for writing it.
As for why Apple computers are so polarizing for PC gamers, I think it is as simple that so many people cannot afford them. There are very good reasons for a PC gamer to stick with a custom built Windows machine, but everyone has different needs for their computer. They may think the GoG move for Mac is taking away a move to Linux or something.
What GoG’s plans are for Mac versions of all the DOS games is interesting and should be asked. I imagine that releasing fifty games at once for a platform was decided to be ‘enough’ in case of a disaster occurring. I’m thinking once they see everything going smoothly, they’ll promptly add the rest.
I’m not so bothered by the Interplay deal as I see it as a more of a one time thing for GoG. I think they are legitimately trying to figure out ways to get their users excited. They already have an uphill battle being DRM free and various legal hurdles to add new old games. The easiest old games to add are already up. I think the new ones are going to be much tougher especially with all these digital stores opening up everywhere. I think much of GoG’s actions are not chosen by what they want to do but what they can get publishers to agree. Interplay was willing to do a big sale so GoG took it.
I’ll probably get the Interplay deal. I’m a PC gamer junkie, and I’m interested in ALL the games there (even VR Soccer). I think this comes from my Commodore 64 days where I would have boxes and boxes full of floppy disks of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of games. The way how I am able to play all these games is because I do not watch TV or sports (so all my TV time is game time), and I am not married. No chores, no dealing with kids or wifey. At times, habits change, but I enjoy thinning out a herd of games to just a handful I know that I will play over and over again (e.g. Master of Orion). I see GoG as not only giving access to old games but giving another shot to old games that aren’t on people’s ‘best game ever list’. There’s a herd mentality on the message forums, and I find some gems by exploring games myself.
I fashion myself as a sort of wine club person but with games. You know those wine clubs where the person goes in, drinks a sip of various wines and spits it into a cup just to try out different ‘flavors’, I think the same can be done with games. To this day, I get a thrill of doing something like playing through the entire NES game library and just marveling at the programming differences and evolutions, the little touches of the past, that differentiate the games from the years and with company to company. (On modern consoles, I can’t get the feeling because everyone uses ‘kits’ so all the games feel the same.)
The Interplay deal costs $35. I consider that ‘low risk’ compared to buying any one $60 Industry game. And at least with the Interplay deal, you’re definitely getting some great stuff with the Fallouts, the Descents, the MDKs, the Earthworm Jims, etc. There are worse ways to spend money.
All these GoG games are making me want to get a little netbook so I can play Master of Magic at the breakfast table. But who knows? Is it worth going Mac? Or to put in another way, since Macs are all integrated, is it worth it more to get a Mac laptop than a Mac ‘desktop’ computer?