|GOG's Trevor Longino Discusses The Move To Mac|
October 25, 2012 | Justin Ancheta
JA: So you kind of delved into (talking about) your Mac testing setup…can you comment on what kind of machines you’ve got, what it looks like, uh, how big it is?…
TL: “I believe what it is…Because Magda’s our head of product and testing, and I’m sure that when she hears me rattle on about what they have in the test bay she’ll say I got everything incorrect…um, I believe we have eight different computers. We have some MacBook Pros, I know we have one of the new 2012 MacBook Pros with the Retina Display - it’s a performance machine, so if we’ve got a new game like The Witcher 2, for example, which just came out, it is a bit of a beast of a game as far as the hardware requirements, so we had to make sure we had a good enough computer to test, to make sure that our build of it works properly. We also have a couple of MacBook Airs, both older (MacBooks), the white and the black ones from back in the day before they had the newer ones, we have an iMac – one that’s fairly old, and I think that’s a 17-inch, and one that’s fairly new, and a 21-inch. And I think – oh, we also have (a Mac mini) as well although I don’t think it’s used as much for testing as the other units are, and I think that totals up to eight. Our test team is a bit fluid, we have two testers who are dedicated to Mac testing, and then other testers hop on and hop off, depending on what currently needs doing. Obviously as we were getting ready for the Mac launch we had most of the test team making sure that we were testing the heck out of those Mac games – we had all of the systems being used, but on the normal release schedule we won’t have all eight machines being used constantly.”
JA: So how has the response from Mac users looked like so far? Can you comment on the amount of Mac sales you’ve had, or copies you’ve shipped?
TL: “As far as sales, we have–I don’t actually know, because here in America I don’t have ready access to our financial reporting. What I can say is that looking at the website traffic, we have at least three times our usual daily visitors who are Mac users…roughly 300% more now than there was a week before the announcement. We got coverage from everybody…I had the opportunity to meet several Mac guys, I got to meet the team from The Unofficial Apple Weblog, the team from 9 to 5 Mac, someone from the Chicago Sun Times, the Observer, someone from TidBits, I had a chance to meet all of those guys and speak to them in person which was kind of cool. Then we got covered by a whole lot of other sites beyond there, even reaching as wide as TechCrunch who covered us. Which surprised me, as I used to try and get TechCrunch to cover me back when I used to work in PR for Web 2.0 companies, and so seeing them cover us was kind of cool, though a little unexpected. And a wide variety of PC-only sites also covered us saying, “Hey GOG is adding the Mac platform as well.”, so it was definitely nice to see the reaction not just from Mac gamers who were all very glad but more traditional PC outlets – I think PC Gamer talked about it, and Joystiq I know talked about GOG adding Mac games, so it was very good to see a lot of people happy to see this move.”
Other Thoughts on Linux, and the Mac
JA: Given what you’ve seen with the success of the response from a new operating system platform for GOG, do you think that would influence the probability of Linux compatibility on GOG?
TL: “I can’t really comment on whether or not we will end up with Linux games. It’s clearly something we’ve been evaluating, I think some of the responses I have written on the forums, if you’re a forums member – you would say there’s been a lot of thought going into this. And I’m not trying to hide it – we aren’t ready yet to say we’re going to do it because there were a lot of technical hurdles for us to clear with bringing games to the Mac, and there will be more for Linux. Particularly because I see a lot of Linux users say 'You’ll just distribute the tarballs, and we’ll figure it out.' And we could, but we could also say, 'Well, we just sell the DOS EXE’s…figure it out Windows users. Have fun!' – that’s not what we do. And part of what we take pride in is that when you buy a game from us you don’t think, “…And now I’ve got to spend four hours figuring out how to make it work.” (Instead) you think, “I buy it, I download it, I install it, I play it,” it’s that simple. And… for all that there is technically only really one core of Linux there are so many different flavors of distros; there’s Ubuntu, there’s Debian, there’s Arch…we have all of these different varieties and then there’s…does your particular distro of linux accept only open-source drivers, or do you include closed-source drivers? How could we determine which ones we need to support?”
“The way Steam approached it was Steam said, “We have our (supported) version of Ubuntu. If you use our (supported) version of Ubuntu, you will be able to play our games, otherwise we’re not supporting it.” And that’s a kind of a very…authoritarian way to say that Linux gaming has to work. At GOG we’re a little more…we’re I guess open minded, a little more hippie freaks of gaming. You should be allowed to game your way, that’s part of why we went on the Mac, because GOG gaming on the Mac has always been a hard thing to figure out, and now we’re making it easier. On Linux, it’s figuring out how we can easily solve the technical problems to a point where can still make money doing it, because that’s important obviously. We don’t support a platform out of charity, we do it because we’re a business. Linux is a small market. The Mac is also a small market, but the Mac is also less fragmented. So, I don’t doubt that we would see a lot of support from the Linux community. And they would–just like you see on the Humble Bundle, the Linux community tends to pay the most for the games they buy. I don’t doubt they would be very motivated if we bring Linux games to GOG, but for the moment we can’t say we’re going to simply because there are challenges to providing that user experience we want, and we haven’t figured out the best way to solve them yet.
JA: …because I’m sure you’re aware that on the Wishlist, right now, I think (the request for Linux Compatibility on GOG) is like 7200 votes, I mean, it’s one of top ones up there apart from System Shock 2…in addition, do you have any other additional comments to offer on the availability of expansions for EA games?
TL: “I’m not part of (Business Development) or Product, so I don’t know if anything’s come of any of that. I would think they would let me know if we have the EA expansions and if we can add them in. Because it's obviously something of a sore point with some of our community members, and it’s something that…if we could get them signed and added on, and I sincerely hope that we will get that done, we would. Because I loved the heck out of Alpha Centauri, and I have never played the expansion for it. So if we ever get the expansion, you better believe I’ll be getting a copy of Alpha Centauri and playing it just to see what was available there. That goes for me and all of our users as well.”
JA: What kind of comments do you have on the state of Mac gaming, of the Mac gaming market as it is now, of Steam, the Humble Bundles being a major factor, and the Mac App Store…do you have any general comments or thoughts on that?
TL: “We saw a real opportunity in the status of Mac gaming, and it was part of why we decided to move into Mac gaming. There isn’t really a DRM-free gaming store for Mac users. When you buy a game from the App Store, when you buy a game from Steam, you’re still bound up in that DRM. So you don’t have the freedom of – so for example, at the demo units we had at MacTech, we had six MacBook Pros set up, and I had GOG installers for the seven games I was showcasing on a flash drive and just copied them all to each computer, and they ran, because there’s no DRM, no authentication, nothing. That kind of convenience for a gamer doesn’t really exist, of course you could get from the Humble Bundle your game, but it’s not a regular store per se, because every month or two months you go buy these particular games, and if you don’t like them then, sorry come back next time. Yes, there’s the Humble Store, but it’s hardly a big portion of what the Humble Bundle guys are known for.
“So we are looking to say, is there a place in the market where we can serve here? And I do think, when I’ve been speaking to Mac users at the MacTech conference, (and) I’m speaking to other people, either via email or via Skype, the opportunity that we’re presenting here of opening up the Mac gaming marketplace a little bit and saying here are great games, both old and new, games that you can own, not games that you have to wonder, “I’m on the airplane, did I remember to setup Steam offline mode? No? I guess I can’t play my games then, sorry.” That kind of flexibility for gamers, is new and…GOG has been influential in changing the state of DRM-free gaming on PC.
“We’ve been part of that charge, that says you need to have games DRM-free. I’m always happy when I see some other company is saying, 'You know what, we’re going to hop on the bandwagon and say our games are DRM-free as well.' But GOG has been a part of it, whether or not it’s been a huge part or not I can’t really say. I would like to see those of us in the Mac gaming market also having the ability to say, “You know, Apple, I can get my music DRM-free from you through iTunes. Why can’t I get my games DRM-free through the App Store?” I think these are valuable discussions, one I’d love to see people start to ask when they appreciate the flexibility and convenience of what someone like GOG offers compared to what you get through another service. And in general, Mac gaming…I think will become more important in the market, simply because I’m looking at the people who own Macs in general. They seem to be professionals; they seem to be 25 (years old) and up. And I think, as a game developer, just how console exclusives aren’t really a smart way to go because you’re limiting your audience, as a game developer I think limiting your OS is also not the best of decisions. Particularly because I’m seeing that there’s a really passionate group of Mac gamers. There were a lot of people who I met at MacTech who were like, “Video games? Why would I buy those?” But there are also a lot of people who are like, “Oh man! I remember Syndicate! It would be great to play that game again.” So, just like in the PC market you’ve got both scopes of people, that Mac has that same availability of the market, and more and more people are buying Macs. I think more and more people will be playing games on them as well.”
Marooned on a Desert Island, with a TiE Fighter for company…
JA: “So do you have any Desert Island Games (like Desert Island Discs)? If you were marooned on an island, had any platform you wanted, and you could get any kind of…let’s say, five games you wanted, which games would they be?”
TL: “Stranded on a desert island? Five games? Hmm…well, let’s suppose that all of the issues of getting them to run have been worked out?
JA: “Oh yeah, yeah.”
Ok, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries is one of my favorite games, but it is a bear to get working on modern Windows. Jagged Alliance 2 is another phenomenal game - but then my question is, if I take Jagged Alliance 2, do I want to take X-Com as well, or not? Because those are the pinnacle of squad-based tactical games, and I’m not sure – that’s a tough pick – I’m not sure which one is better. Ah, that’s a tough one. I think…I’d have to flip a coin, that’s what it’d come down to, because I wouldn’t be able to make my mind up about those either way.
JA: “It’s a hard choice, yeah.”
TL: If I had to pick a squad-based one, we’ll say it was Jagged Alliance 2, simply because GOG sells it and I’m trying to show my company loyalty here. I would want a really good space-sim, because if I got MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, then I’ve got the joystick. So I need a good space-sim, and my choice would be TiE Fighter or Wing Commander: Prophecy–“
JA: “Really? Not FreeSpace 2!?”
TL: “…yeah, you see FreeSpace 2 didn’t do it for me as much – I think, I think I’d have to go with TiE Fighter, because FreeSpace has a mission on it, I just can’t pass it on the hardest difficulty level, I get swarmed with missiles and die, every time, just die. It seems ruinously unfair, and I’m angry at it! So TiE Fighter, has even on the hardest difficulty level – now of course I haven’t played the game in…eight years, I’m pretty sure it’d school me now, but back when I was playing it, even on the hardest difficulty modes, every mission felt finishable. So there’s a mech-sim, tactical strategy, there’s the space-sim…um, I’d probably go with a good RPG, maybe if I could fudge the rules a bit, Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 together using one of the mods, and finally I’d want a good strategy game. I’d pick something possibly like Alpha Centauri.”
JA: “I loved TiE Fighter because of the TiE Defender…flying the TiE Defender, I just felt like I had the whole universe at my fingertips, nothing could stand in my way.”
TL: “I oddly, on both X-Wing and on TiE Fighter, I took a perverse enjoyment in flying the slow ships. I liked the Y-Wing, I liked the TiE Bomber, I even God help me, liked the Imperial Gunship which was a crappy thing to like, but I seemed to just enjoy the challenges of flying a rock with no loveable characteristics at all, seemed amusing to me.
JA: “I thought the gunship wasn’t bad, but there was that other advanced gunship…it was that ship that had nothing but rockets on it. Just pure missiles, and I found that really strange to fly.”
TL: “The Gunboat! It’s a slow agonizing brick, but it was kinda fun to have, I think it was 32 proton torpedos.”
JA: “Yeah…it seemed kind of overkill to destroy just one fighter with a proton torpedo.”
TL: “Yeah…but why use a flyswatter when a sledgehammer can do?”