I was put in contact with Trevor Longino at GOG.com and want to thank him for taking the time to talk with me.
jdodson: GOG.com releases classic games and gives them a nice fit and finish for release on modern operating systems often times bundles art and soundtracks with the game. As you get the approval from the publisher to release a game do you at times get the source of the original to recompile for games that don’t work in a modern OS?
Trevor: 99.9% of the time, no. We get our games from our employee's private collections, as well as scouring ebay and other similar site for auctions, hunting for original releases. Then we work with that. Some games take more work than others to persuade them that sticking to their original release systems doesn't really pay off to their legacy. The most stubborn ones give our coders an occasional headache, but in most cases we manage to pull it off.
jdodson: Recently there has been a pretty strong push to porting games to Linux with such projects as The Humble Indie Bundle and most recently with Steam. Any plans on supporting Linux in the near future?
Trevor: We put a lot of effort into launching on Mac--it took us more than a year, from start to finish, to carry it off--and we're thrilled how well it's been going for us. Moving to Linux and keeping our high level of customer service and simplicity of use is something that presents challenges for us at the moment--there are many distros and flavors, and picking how to support what, for how long, and where is quite a challenge. So while we've looked into this and are continuing to evaluate it, we haven't found a solution that meets that high standard to our satisfaction yet. Never say never, but--at least for the moment--we're going to say, "not now."
jdodson: I love Age of Empires 2. How hard would it be to make this available on GOG.com? I would love to be able to play this game with my friends again without major game surgery. That said, do you at times approach companies about games you would love to see on GOG.com?
Trevor: We have a community wishlist feature on our site, where you can vote on the games you would like to see in our offer. Age of Empires 2 is currently number 26 on that list, so we can see that there's a pretty high demand for it. We always take what the community has to say into account when deciding which games we should try to acquire for our store. Well, that and our personal favorites, of course. Those tend to be pretty much in sync with what users want, by the way. After all--we're all gamers. We always seek to bring you all the best available titles, so--as long as there aren't any unbeatable legal obstacles in our path--you can assume that all your favorite games will end up on GOG.com eventually. Time truly is on our side.
jdodson: What do you think of the recent news that JJ Abrams will direct Star Wars VII? Do you think JJ will bring back Jar Jar Binks or the Gungans? Personally “Messah not suren of theesa plan.” Don’t get me wrong, JJ is superb but he did Star Trek... I don’t know.
Trevor: Man, I don't know! We're pretty much torn in half about this in the office. There never was much of a conflict between Trek fans and Star Wars fans in GOG.com, so the only controversy here is JJ Abrams himself. I mean, he did more than a decent job bringing us the Star Trek reboot movie, he gave us Fringe, a show that managed to bring us some top-notch science-fiction and actually pull off a finale that wasn't half-bad despite its flaws. Even his Cloverfield turned out to be a fresh breath of air in the monster movie genre. The geek is strong in this one, obviously. Probably even strong enough. But then again--the finale of Lost? Yes, sure, he didn't write it--but he allowed it to happen! Just when you want to say "yes, this guy really knows what he's doing and we can trust him not to break the Star Wars franchise any further", that horrid anti-climax of an otherwise good show comes to mind. Oh well, we'll see.
jdodson: GOG.com now sports an awesome Indie section with games such as “Legend of Grimrock,” “FTL” and Torchlight. It also seems like GOG.com is moving to support more modern games. Do you see a time where GOG.com supports new releases from companies like iD or 2K?
Trevor: We seem to have misplaced our futuregazing goggles :-( That said, we're all about bringing good games to people in need of entertainment, so that doesn't really fall far from our usual agenda. If iD or 2K is willing to sell games in the GOG.com fashion: that is to say, no DRM, Fair Prices, with tons of extra goodies and love for our customers, we'd welcome them on board.
jdodson: What three games would you personally be happy with bringing to GOG.com if nothing was standing in your way?
Trevor: X-Com: UFO Defense, System Shock 2, and Street Rod. Ha! I got you now, haven't I? "What's Street Rod?" I'm not surprised you don't know it. It's an early 1990s game developed by a small Polish studio called California Dreams. What's it about? Think Geoge Lucas' "American Grafitti". Crazy teenagers hanging out in front of diners, pimping-up their rides, and racing each other 1970s style. Sweet thing. We can't locate the rightholders, though.
jdodson: I wonder what GOG.com's response to this very important message is?
Trevor: Why, of course it's:
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you
jdodson: Some of our favorite gaming experiences of the past few years come from the Indie Gaming scene. How do you think Indie Gaming is changing how traditional publishers operate?
Trevor: We see the indie scene as a reflection as what we like to call the golden dawn of game development. Back in the old days game developers couldn’t rely on eye-candy graphics and power of marketing, so they had to compete with each other by the means of original ideas, good story, and solid level design. I see the exact same mechanisms fueling indie game development right now. The indie scene as a whole as a distinct retro vibe to it, as a matter of fact. I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a new renaissance of game design, but it’s safe to say that a lot of good things are happening in the industry and the root of it lies in the past.
jdodson: As GOG.com looks to 2013 I wonder what you guys have on the roadmap you wouldn’t mind sharing?
Trevor: We continue to use the same one each year: bringing good, DRM-free games at fair prices to broader and broader audience. Throwing in some extra goodies and customer love to the package. There's really not much more to it, that I could tell you.
jdodson: GOG.com, Steam and Origin are the big players that come to mind when I think about digital games stores. I wonder how GOG.com looks at Steam and Origin and how you plan on moving forward in the space while drawing a stronger distinction between these other services?
Trevor: Steam is the 800-pound gorilla in the market, and there’s a good reason for that. They weren't the first to come up with the idea of selling games for download, but they were one of the first, and they were better than their competition. They managed to change the expectations of the public and the way people shop for games online. Steam took risks--keeping in mind that Valve was a successful company in its own right, and could afford to experiment in ways that a startup couldn't--and took a key role in shaping the marketplace to what it is today. Many companies, including GOG.com, exist in part because they blazed the trail. But following right behind Steam isn't the way to make successful company. There are a lot of others out there who've tried and who haven't been different enough from Steam to succeed. We're different from them by design, and our strengths lie in that difference. We intend to continue to focus on those strengths--our three core values of DRM-free gaming, fair prices, and customer love--and find ways to bring more content that our audience will love, regardless of its age.
jdodson: Thanks Trevor, I wish GOG.com a really awesome 2013!
If you want to vote on a game to make it to GOG.com, you can do that here: