I hate DRM in all it’s forms. Even the one-time activation scheme is enough to keep me from buying a new game. Needless to say I’m not a fan of services like Steam or Origin. All my games are purchased DRM-Free from various accommodating E-tailers, one of which is GOG.com. Recently GOG has been reaching out to the Steam demographic by offering new games, pre-releases and even hinting at offering betas. Well, based on GOG board comments, I would say that strategy is working for them.
It seems like every other week some one who just signed up for a GOG account is asking for a Steam-like interface. This results in a lot of fighting between GOG users about the viability of a GOG client. One one side you have gamers claiming that having a client, even if it’s optional, runs counter to the idea of DRM-Free gaming. Others welcome the proposed change as a step towards bringing DRM-Free PC gaming to a larger audience. Myself, I see it as a bit of a mixed bag but will ultimately be a benefit. GOG is always looking for ways to innovate and standout in the digital distribution realm, which I can appreciate. However one of my biggest gripes with services like Steam and Origin, is that I’m required to run a client that I neither need nor want. The Steam client offers me nothing but approval to play a game I already purchased. It is, essentially, useless. So what does a staunch anti-DRM guy like me do about a GOG Client? I do see myself downloading GOG Galaxy, eventually.
The last piece of utility software GOG released was their downloader. As the name implies, the primary purpose of this product is to download files, but it does have some added functionality. It will alert you to new game patches and forum replies. I have the downloader installed on two of my PCs, and I occasionally use it. Most of the time I download games and goodies manually. I only use the downloader for large files or large numbers of simultaneous downloads. When not downloading anything I keep the program closed, so the alert function is irrelevant. It has been stated that when GOG Galaxy launches, support for the GOG downloader will be dropped. If nothing else, I may use the new client in the same limited capacity as I use the current system. The multiplayer matchmaking, social media features and auto patching remain irrelevant to me.
Though not personally interested in the new GOG Galaxy, I am very excited by the possibility. One of the common complaints about PC gaming, coming from console players, is how complicated it can be. For those people having a client to manage their installation, save games and patching is invaluable. Making the PC just as accessible to gamers as consoles is an important step in ensuring that PC gaming gets real attention from developers, not just lazy ports. GOG Galaxy is also including a feature called cross-play, which allows multiplayer games to work across other clients.
So if one gamer bought their game from GOG and another through Steam they can now play together without having to setup some third party matchmaking program. I’m not much of a multiplayer kind of guy, but there have been a few titles that revolve around a single player story with a heavy multiplayer focus that I would have happily purchased. Publishers who put out games like these are not going to be too interested in a distributor that can’t also facilitate matchmaking.
Finally, the GOG Galaxy will support Achievements. In all honesty, I have about as much interest in client level achievements in my games as I do in a cherry flavored steering wheel in my car. In my opinion, they are complete waste of perfectly good lines of code. Now if achievements actually translated into something useful within the game, say bonus damage or experience points, then maybe I’d reconsider. The good news is that no matter how many GOG Achievements someone else accumulates, it doesn’t affect me at all.
Given GOG’s history of periodically handing out free games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of deep discount or free titles offered for players who have completed a certain number of GOG Achievements. That would certainly get people wanting to get in and start using GOG Galaxy. Even though I’d miss out on these offers, I don’t think something like this would bother me. I have already ignored many of GOG’s free games because I either already purchased the game or it simply wasn’t a title I wanted.
So long as I’m not playing while logged into the GOG Galaxy (and I don’t see why I ever would) there is no worry achievements will never invade my game. Anyone interested in playing the meta game of achievement hunting is free to do so without me. Of course I could be totally wrong and GOG Galaxy will turn out to be a complete disaster, but it’s doubtful.
GOG games have no DRM so if the company ever adopts a new policy I don’t like, it’s quite easy to simply take my games and leave. Good customer service is the only thing they can use to compel me to stay. This freedom is what attracted me to GOG in the first place, it’s what keeps me coming back and why, as an advocate of DRM-Free gaming, I’m not overly worried about GOG Galaxy.