Good Old Games Doesn't Have a Perfect Record

It's pretty much a given that when you go back into gaming's past and try to play the old stuff, you're likely to run into trouble.  Backwards compatibility is the bane of many programmers and always threatens to be incomplete as hardware and software change.
 
I keep this in mind during my struggles with Good Old Games.  Some of the problems stem from our having bought a low-end, substitute monitor to replace are better-performing but deceased LCD model.  Pretty much everything that worked on this machine worked on the latter, but the former monitor has given me no end of gaming headaches.
 
On top of that, despite many of the games I'm trying to play being made before my current DirectX version, programmers often force the backwards compatibility software to emulate DirectX calls that aren't even in the game, messing things up for those of us who won't (or like me, can't) update their DirectX without making things explode.  I suspect that may be part of the reason that other people can all but complete Sanitarium with a minimum of hiccups, while I and a bunch of others have to stutter-step-save every few seconds to avoid the inevitable crash (and now I can't advance any more, no matter what I do).
 
Games from the high-end DOS era have been uniformly great for me.  Despite some speed tweaking issues that made the cursor flicker at different rates depending on what screen you were on, World of Xeen was dynamite through the rightly lauded DOSBox.  But stuff that came out around the Windows 9x era have all kinds of crazy compatibility issues with just about any machine.
 
This would be expected, but since I'm paying GOG.com money to give me a working game, I guess it's easier for me to feel disappointed when they're surprised by the complaints when the games don't work.  I imagine they don't have the resources of most game outlets, and I still respect what they're doing, but until they come out with a decent fix for Sanitarium I'm going to hold off on buying stuff I know is from that especially rocky Win 9x subset of games, and I'd suggest that you be very cautious, yourselves. 

7 Comments
8 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

It's pretty much a given that when you go back into gaming's past and try to play the old stuff, you're likely to run into trouble.  Backwards compatibility is the bane of many programmers and always threatens to be incomplete as hardware and software change.
 
I keep this in mind during my struggles with Good Old Games.  Some of the problems stem from our having bought a low-end, substitute monitor to replace are better-performing but deceased LCD model.  Pretty much everything that worked on this machine worked on the latter, but the former monitor has given me no end of gaming headaches.
 
On top of that, despite many of the games I'm trying to play being made before my current DirectX version, programmers often force the backwards compatibility software to emulate DirectX calls that aren't even in the game, messing things up for those of us who won't (or like me, can't) update their DirectX without making things explode.  I suspect that may be part of the reason that other people can all but complete Sanitarium with a minimum of hiccups, while I and a bunch of others have to stutter-step-save every few seconds to avoid the inevitable crash (and now I can't advance any more, no matter what I do).
 
Games from the high-end DOS era have been uniformly great for me.  Despite some speed tweaking issues that made the cursor flicker at different rates depending on what screen you were on, World of Xeen was dynamite through the rightly lauded DOSBox.  But stuff that came out around the Windows 9x era have all kinds of crazy compatibility issues with just about any machine.
 
This would be expected, but since I'm paying GOG.com money to give me a working game, I guess it's easier for me to feel disappointed when they're surprised by the complaints when the games don't work.  I imagine they don't have the resources of most game outlets, and I still respect what they're doing, but until they come out with a decent fix for Sanitarium I'm going to hold off on buying stuff I know is from that especially rocky Win 9x subset of games, and I'd suggest that you be very cautious, yourselves. 

Edited by Geno

Games have compatibility issues even upon release, it's not really fair to judge the service if a 10-20 year old game doesn't work on your modern platform. GoG is a distributor, the job of compatibility falls on the developers, just as a defective product bought at a brick and mortar store falls on the manufacturer and not the retailer of that product. Obviously at this point even the role of the developer is absent as it's not their responsibility to maintain their games on all platforms for decades. It sucks that you have compatibility issues, but like you said, this is almost to be expected. 

Posted by Von

Regarding Sanitarium, did you try the alternative .exe and in windowed mode?

Edited by Al3xand3r

Eh, I don't understand why you can't update your directx? What windows are you running? Something before XP/2000? I also don't see why changing monitor would cause any trouble whatsoever, other than possibly running in lower resolution or with a lesser response time. GoG rocks :-)

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Geno:
 
You pretty much go through exactly what I'm saying, except I got that game to work before in my mispent youth on pretty much the same platform, and now it doesn't.  My only caveat was  that you have to watch out for compatibility issues especially with that era of games.
 
@Von:
 
Thanks for that suggestion, but yeah, I already tried it.
 
@Al3xand3r:
 
Running XP, and the graphics card won't work past a certain DirectX, but that game worked fine before on a nearly identical system.  My suspicion is that the fixes they've done to make it work for more modern computers may have cut this older one out of the loop.
 
So, I'd rather warn people who think they can just dive in and have it work like a well-tested piece of software, than tout GOG without reservation, as I felt I'd done in all my prior posts about them.
 
GOG still rocks on the whole in my view, but it doesn't mean I'm not still bummed about it.
Posted by ArbitraryWater

Let me guess, Might and Magic VI fits into this category as well? Sorry to keep hammering on it, but that game is worth taking a look at.

Posted by vidiot

I perceive a future that has users trying to find ways to maintain and preserve old games. We already have it to some extent, an example could be the likes of ScummVM. Backward compatibility is something that we need to never loose sight on and I only see temporary, sporadic initiative from larger game companies to support it.

Edited by ahoodedfigure
@vidiot: Yeah, I agree.  It's not like books, where they exist a lot longer (we still keep finding scraps in the garbage of ancient civilizations).  Data is pretty fragile when you think about it; it takes effort to keep it around, and it takes more effort to make sure computers of the future can still talk to software of the past.  A lot of games that were sort of overlooked can actually inform the new generation of game design, too.  I keep finding good ideas in my explorations of retro stuff that I think could be applied today with cool effect, especially with our increased processing power and better software tools.  But in order to experience the old stuff we have to maintain some line to the past.  
 
@ArbitraryWater:
Actually, I don't mind at all :)  The grim spectre of Sandro still hovers over me every time I decide to install something.  "maybe you should try that MM VI fix, woooo!"  he says.
 
My main goal right now is to find some way to transfer data between our two computers, since one of them is remote but a much better platform, and the other is connected to the net and has a bunch of space, but is giving me no end of headaches.  It's either going to be one of those data key things (but the 32 gig one I saw at the store in our remote frontier town is going for a hundred dollars, which to me seems ridiculous), or try to rig up a straight data port, which I did once a long time ago and it worked ok, but took some doing.