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Vintage Bits: How G.O.G. Rescued the Classic Forgotten Realms Computer Games

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Pool of Radiance SSI Gold Box-smallLast year I signed up at GOG.com, the digital video game distribution platform, because they had great deals on classic RPGs. I’m not kidding — this site requires some serious self control. I got Starflight & Starflight 2 for just $2.99, Planescape: Torment for $3.99, Wizardry 6 & 7 for $2.99, and Baldur’s Gate for $3.99. Best of all, they did all the hard work of converting the games to run on modern versions of Windows, so I could stop fussing around with DOSBox and my Amiga emulator. GOG is owned by CD Projekt, a Polish company that also owns CD Projekt RED, the developer behind the popular Witcher games.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to discover they were now offering a package deal on my all-time favorite computer role playing games — SSI’s Pool of Radiance and its various sequels, the so-called Gold Box games. I bought a package of eight games for $9.99 (and I swear I’m going to play them soon. All of ’em!) But I hadn’t realized the amazing story behind GOG’s new offering — that in order to secure these classic games, the company had to navigate a legal ownership maze to obtain the rights, before they could begin the hard work of converting them for modern platforms. Dan Griliopoulos at PC Gamer posted an excellent article yesterday exploring just what was involved:

With the trail running cold, GOG tracked down SSI’s original President and founder, Joel Billings. “As a huge fan of D&D he was willing to help walk us through a detailed history behind SSI mergers and narrow the search down to two potential candidates: Mattel, or Gores Technology Group (who had acquired The Learning Company). The latter was a hit. We had found the actual rights owners to the Forgotten Realms games, and after several more months of negotiations, they agreed to sell them to us outright.”

GOG managed to recover thirteen games this way. They are: the party-based RPG Pool of Radiance; its sequels Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades and Pools of Darkness; C&C creators Westwood’s minigame RPG Hillsfar; the RPG construction kit Unlimited Adventures; Westwood’s first-person Eye of the Beholder Trilogy; the roguelike FPS Dungeon Hack; the two Savage Frontier games; and the Ultima Underworld-like Underdark exploration game Menzoberranzan.

Then they had the not-so-small matter of getting all thirteen running and bug-free for modern systems including Windows 10. Considering these were huge games — and not bug free in their release versions — that’s a massive task that the GOG team has been working on since April.

Read the complete article at PC Gamer — and check out the amazing and fast-growing library of old games at GOG.com.

16 Comments »

  1. I loved those gold box games, but I can’t imagine playing them again.

    I had a hard enough time trying to play Baldur’s Gate for the ipad.

    Those games really did not age well at all.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - August 27, 2015 3:28 pm

  2. Ah! Sorry to hear that.

    Maybe you’re right. But I don’t know. I still had a blast playing STARFLIGHT, and that’s a lot older than POOL OF RADIANCE.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 27, 2015 3:33 pm

  3. Baldur’s Gate plays well on the PC in the updated version. I cannot imagine trying those controls on a tablet. Then again, I can’t see playing Company of Heroes on a tablet either, or Diablo III, or Witcher.

    As for the Gold Box games, I’ve purchased them and will likely introduce them to my daughters this weekend. They like Sonic and Link, but wonder why old Atari games are so hard.

    Comment by ChristianLindke - August 27, 2015 7:43 pm

  4. These games are still really playable. Hopefully GOG did away with having to check page x in the manual for stuff. That said, I think not having a print manual will still hurt when playing these games. I’m sure they included it digitally, but there’s nothing like having the book laid open beside you.

    Comment by CMR - August 27, 2015 9:39 pm

  5. Ah, wait, I thought something was missing. Where are the Krynn games?

    Comment by CMR - August 27, 2015 10:00 pm

  6. Pool of Radiance was a favorite game for me on the Commodore 64. I’m tempted to buy these out of nostalgia, but I’m too busy playing Wasteland 2 and making a dent to my to-read pile.

    Comment by NOLAbert - August 27, 2015 11:14 pm

  7. > Ah, wait, I thought something was missing. Where are the Krynn games?

    CMR,

    Good catch. The Dragonlance games — including the RPGS, DRAGONSTRIKE, SHADOW SORCERER, and the wargame, WAR OF THE LANCE — reside with (presumably) whoever owns the Dragonlance license. After WotC bought TSR, they sold off the computer licenses for D&D, and the rights quickly fragmented. That’s why it was such a hard slog for GOG to track them down.

    I’m just as interested in who owns:

    Dark Sun: Shattered Lands
    Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager
    Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession
    Ravenloft: Stone Prophet
    Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace
    Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse

    There’s a complete list of D&D computer games at Wikipedia, which I found very useful. But beware… it’s VERY long list!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dungeons_%26_Dragons_video_games

    Comment by John ONeill - August 27, 2015 11:15 pm

  8. > As for the Gold Box games, I’ve purchased them and will likely introduce them to my daughters this weekend.

    Christian,

    Let us know what they think! I’m always curious if these games will have any appeal to a new generation.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 27, 2015 11:23 pm

  9. > I’m tempted to buy these out of nostalgia, but I’m too busy playing
    > Wasteland 2 and making a dent to my to-read pile.

    Yeah, I know what you mean. The Gold Box games required a serious time commitment, and no mistake. I only ever finished two (POOL OF RADIANCE and SECRET OF THE SILVER BLADES).

    Comment by John ONeill - August 27, 2015 11:24 pm

  10. I’d also be interested in Dark Sun and Al-Qadim — those were my two favorites TSR campaign settings, I think.

    But I have many, many books, and probably another 50-60 hours of Witcher 3, so they don’t have to rush on my account.

    Comment by Joe H. - August 27, 2015 11:52 pm

  11. Loved them on the old amber screen XT. Also keen to see how well they aged, and to actually finish them! I think I replayed COAB a number of times and never quite finished. Ha still remember a tip from dragon magazine on how to game the characters experience.

    Comment by Tiberius - August 28, 2015 1:16 am

  12. > I’d also be interested in Dark Sun and Al-Qadim — those were my two favorites TSR campaign settings, I think.

    Not sure we can expect them from GOG any time soon, Joe. I expect the rights to DARK SUN and AL-QADIM are held up for a reason. Maybe someone is doing a re-launch?

    In fact, while the FORGOTTEN REALMS games have been packaged and re-packaged many times since the 90s, the Dark Sun and Al-Qadim games were only collected one time that I know of, in the early 90s in THREE WORLDS OF ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS:

    https://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Three-Worlds-of-Advanced-Dungeons-and-Dragons.jpg

    (This is a pretty rare set, btw. It’s not even listed in the Wikipedia page D&D game page.)

    Comment by John ONeill - August 28, 2015 12:23 pm

  13. > I think I replayed COAB a number of times and never quite finished.

    Tony,

    I didn’t like CURE OF THE AZURE BONDS nearly as much as POOL OF RADIANCE. You were stuck on one adventure path. Maybe the same was true of POOL, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like you could wander all over.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 28, 2015 12:25 pm

  14. Points for name-dropping Temple of Apshai. If there’s any CRPG out there most deserving of a reboot, it’s the Apshai series — though like many games, I’m sure the rights are forever consigned to the vaults of the slaadi lords of Limbo.

    Comment by Jackson Kuhl - September 19, 2016 2:19 pm

  15. Jackson — I never played Temple of Apshai, but I bet I would have liked it. I spent a lot of money tracking down an unopened copy for my collection a few years back.

    I’m not sure many of the recent reboots — even of fairly recent games, like Icewind Dale — have been very successful. So I don’t expect there will be too many RPG reboots in our future, sadly.

    Comment by John ONeill - September 19, 2016 4:21 pm

  16. Jackson – I mentioned ‘Temple’ and ‘Upper Reaches’ this week here at Black Gate. I still remember mapping out every single room of both games on graph paper as I literally crawled through the dungeon.

    I even played Gateway to Apshai on my Atari. It was very different from the earlier games (sort of real time combat vs. turn based), but it was still fun. I think that’s the one that had the deadly mamba snake.

    https://www.blackgate.com/2016/09/19/the-public-life-of-sherlock-holmes-rpging-is-story-telling/

    Comment by Bob Byrne - September 20, 2016 7:33 am


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