Massive New Steam Update – Follow me for fun times!

I swear to all that is gaming that I have a massive, huge, bigish post on my experiences with the DK2, and what games work the best coming… but in the mean time Steam has just released it’s huge “Discovery” update.

There’s a lot to like with the update, and it goes some way towards what I had wished Steam had done a long time ago – make it a social network for gamers.

In lieu of that, I have been using Google+, but ultimately it’s not the best fit.

Unfortunately, the update doesn’t quite do everything I want (such as being able to tag people as well as games) but it does have nice improvements to your news feed. An area I’m sure most people neglected, but maybe now will give another look.

Most significantly for me, is you can now follow “curators” who can recommend games to you. In fact, your store page now recommends games to you based on a magic algorithm, part of which is which curators you follow.

So my advice: Give me a follow! I’m not even trying to pad my numbers, I just like giving people the low down on the best games, and now you can get it straight to your Steam box.

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/TheGamesPusher#curation

Holy Crapola! Wild West XCOM? That’s a Backin’

Check out this Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1752350052/hard-west

How damn cool does that look? XCOM wildwest, with HOMM overland map? Oh god yes. Just check out that gunfight!

And the mechanics they’re espousing:

The combat is fast. The whole combat encounter takes no more than 5-10 minutes. It’s short, bloody, and decisive. All it takes is one well laid shot. It’s just not that easy to put yourself in the proper position.

No peeling off HPs. HPs represent the ability to withstand a shot or two, alternatively to sustain a powerful blow.

There’s little randomization: you either make good predictions and good decisions to land a kill, or you die. There’s no victory without risk, but it’s a well calculated risk.

BANGBANGBANG! Look at ’em go! I’m a backer. Maybe you should be too?

Last Day Steam Summer Sale

It’s the last day of the Steam Summer Sale, so if there were any deals they’re back and this is your last chance. Here is a list of games that are on special, and if you don’t own them yet – SHAME ON YOU.

(all prices are AUD. Click to jump to Steam.)

Tomb Raider – this was an amazingly good game, now only $5

The Stick of Truth – It lived up to the hype, now $37

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – One of the greatest games ever made for $13. Steam is crazy.

Civ V – the crowning jewel of the Civ series… and that’s saying a lot. $13.50

State of Decay – An amazingly fun, and unique, take a zombie apocalypse. It is a bit rough here and there, but for $5 it’s a bargin.

Banished – An extremely fun and challenging city builder. Nothing like starving a fledging village of outcasts during the winter! $10

Payday 2 – I’ve been getting a LOT of mileage out of this game. Get a crew together for an fantastic co-op experience that has great theme, depth, and RPG-like elements. You’ll get many hrs for your $6

Stanley Parable – I’m not going to try and explain this one… but for $6 you really should try it to see what all the fuss is about.

Batman: Arkham Origins – It was missing a little something-something from the other Arkham games, but it was still worth sinking 22 hrs into. $7.50

Dragon Age: Origins – A good RPG, you’ve probably heard of it. I go against the grain and claim the second was better. I mostly suggest this one now, because the upcoming Inquisitions is looking really good so for $7.50 you could catch up on the “story so far.”

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Just a straight up fun FPS. Captured “Wolfenstein with modern computing technology” really well. A-grade fun here, boys! $40 (expensive, I know, but that IS 50% off.)

Portal 2 – Who would have thought they could improve on the original? Well they did! Play it now. With a friend is a good option too. $5

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – a standard multiplayer FPS with a easy-to-use-hard-to-master melee system. Plenty of fun to be had here for $5.

Are Steam Sales Bad?

So says The Castle Doctrine developer, Jason Rohrer.

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I have to admit, at first I was armed and ready to completely discount this idea. Sales, bad? He makes some points, but I think ultimately he is wrong.

Before I get into that, though, I think that there are several successful strategies possible. For example, the Minecraft/Castle Doctrine pricing model works to a degree: I was keeping an eye on Castle Doctrine, and now he’s saying it is 50% off for the last time ever, I think I’ll add it to my library (possibly never to be played…) (also not really to my library, because it’s not on Steam.)

So the points I agree with: Yes, tricking players into buying something they don’t want is a bit anti-ethical. However, most sales folk wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Marketing is practically built around the idea. (Basic premise of marketing: create a need, then fill the need. Note they CREATE it first. For example, shampoo will talk about “damaged hair strands” and then go on to say how their brand fixes that. You’re not supposed to realise that damaged hair strands isn’t really a thing. i.e. they trick you into buying something you don’t want.)

However, no-one feels burned by this. People pick the games up super cheap, knowing full-well they MAY NOT PLAY IT. They buy it for that price, JUST IN CASE THEY DO PLAY IT. For $5? Sure, I’ll take the risk. I’m paying for the possibility of playing should the mood strike me. Best-case scenario: I play an excellent game for very cheap; worst-case scenario: I throw away $5. Honestly, something I can live with.

If I bought a game, full-price, and then it later went on sale I also wouldn’t feel burned. I paid for the privilege of getting it early. And I’d be fine with that. I knew if I just waited 6 months it’d likely be on sale, but NO WAY I’m waiting that long for a game I’m hanging out for. Even if it DOES go on sale, for the first 12 months it’s usually barely 25%. And how does that make me feel? Not bad at all. I’ve probably played and dropped the game by the time it comes on sale. I don’t feel burned at all. In fact, if I really liked the game (e.g. Tomb Raider) every time it goes on sale, I tell my friends: You should get this game!

Now, I have to admit, the frequent sales have definitely changed my buying habits. I now only buy 3 or 4 full-priced games a year and unless it was something I was really hanging out for, I do feel pretty ripped off. A perfect example is Splinter Cell: Blacklist. I loved Conviction, but didn’t like some of the stuff I was hearing about Blacklist. I hummed and harred, but after watching a few videos decided to take the plunge. For a game I wasn’t pumped about, paying a full $80 for it was pretty painful. All the worse because the game was pretty average, not great.

On balance, I’d estimate I spend about the same amount on games per year but, I don’t pirate any more (much easier to just wait for a sale) and I buy less full-price games and tons more cut-price games and games on special.

Also, one final point: I never bought Minecraft in part because of the rising price model. I was always on the fence about the game, and the longer I delayed the more expensive it got. It never got to the point of “OMG so costly” but it passed the point where I was willing to pick it up “just to try” a fair while back… the sort of scenario where I might have picked it up if I saw it on special. But that isn’t going to happen. So I never got it.

So, in summary:

  • I don’t think sales hurt long-term income at all and gives your community a regular injection of a new players.
  • I do think it cannibalizes your launch week community a little bit, but for the most part these losses wouldn’t have been people who were pumped for your game anyway. I think it’s a minor sacrifice.
  • I think in the long run, regular sales would ultimately bring in more money and more players – particularly when you consider that it’s the guys that pick it up on special who then get their friends to buy it full-price (I cannot count how many times I’ve done this (both as the sales-person and the full-price purchaser.))
  • I think that other sales methods (such as the open and up-front rising price model) will work fine as well. In fact, it might depend on the sort of game (games that are grass-roots and grow over time might benefit more from this model, while games with lots of hype benefit more from Steam Sales.)
  • There are some people who will feel “burned” by the rising price model.

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The background for this pic: The dev just added the ability to arm your wife with a shotgun, so when the robber comes knocking, she can blow him away – and/or hit the panic button and… release the hound. Did I mention the “robber” is another player?

Having said my piece, The Castle Doctrine is only $8 right now, and seems like a fascinating idea. So I have grabbed it “just in case.”

It’s fortunate I came across this article when I did, because it is NOT going to be on Steam, and will go up to $16 very soon. Those two things combined probably would have meant I would not have made the purchase.

It seems like Jason has a unique mind: it shows in his game design. But I think his desire to be unique is hurting his bottom line.

Batman: Arkham Origins. More of the Same, And That’s a Good Thing

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The previous Arkham series of Batman games have been stunningly good. So, really, to succeed, all Arkham Origins  had to do was avoid rocking the boat too much – and that’s exactly what it did.

I really loved Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City  just improved on it in every way. By comparison, Origins  takes very small strides but even so, it has a few nice additions and the story is surprisingly engaging.

Anyone that has sunk the hours I have into Arkham City  will be able to immediately pick up Origins. This plays to its strengths – all the same moves are there and even the gadgets are practically identical. Where in City  it was Mr. Freeze’s ice grenade, in Origins  it’s a glue grenade that Batman picks up. They do the same thing.

Yes there are one or two additional gadgets for his arsenal but they are acquired in such a way that it’s not too jarring to realise that he doesn’t have them in City  or Asylum.

Some tweaks have been done to the combat system. Broadly speaking they have nerfed flowing combos and put more emphasis on counters. In City  it quickly became the best tactic to get a bit of a combo going, and flow from mook to mook, simply avoiding any hits. The counter button, the Arkham series’ signature, really fell by the way-side. Origins  brings that back by making it much harder to flow out of the path of an incoming attack. I quite like being forced to counter more often, but it’s not to everyone’s taste.

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There’s some new animations and, much like the story-line, you may consider the whole game worthwhile just for these tweaks to the same formula. It’s certainly a nice addition, but, honestly, if you’re not prepared to play Arkham City  again with new animations and a fresh story-line, this won’t be the game for you.

About that new story-line… it really is great. At about the three-quarter mark I felt it was the best an Arkham game had delivered yet. I soon realised that this game isn’t really about Batman’s origins, but about his enemy’s and once I realised that, all of the plot pieces fell into place like a clever jig-jaw. I like it when it does that. Unfortunately, the last quarter fell pretty flat, whereas by comparison, in Arkham City  the climax was quite stunning. So which is better? It’s hard to say, but I think I will remember the first half of Origins  just as long as the climax of City.

If you’re paying attention, the game also does some very clever tie-ins for comic fans. I’m not the most fastidious Batman  reader but even I pick up on a clear homage to Bane and Batman when I see one.

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Compared to Arkham City, Arkham Origins  looks the same, plays the same, feels the same and is, basically, just as much fun as its predecessor. If, like me, you wish you could have got some more story out of City  then Arkham Origins  delivers. If, like many, you feel you’ve already played this game and you are wondering why you should fork over another chunk of change for a full-price game, well… that’s a fair comment that’s hard to respond to.

The multiplayer is probably fun. I wouldn’t know. I tried to get into a few games but it never successfully connected. That’s not a good start. There are quite thorough video tutorials to teach you about the unique aspects of the 3-way arenas but after watching them all, I was not inspired to keep trying to connect to games. The offerings didn’t seem horrible but they did seem like fairly lack-luster 3rd-person shooters with some Batman action tacked on. And the Batman from the campaign clearly doesn’t play like the one in multiplayer. I’m pretty sure I would have left the whole experience pretty disappointed, had I been able to make it into a game.

I have to ask myself the question: If they’re finally going to deliver multiplayer – why oh why did they not do co-op instead? The game is practically screaming for some classic Batman and Robin action. (Or any other team-up you can to imagine.) Oh well, maybe for the original developer’s next adventure I’ll get my wish.

PS: Did you know they got rid of Games for Windows Live? Yay! No more intrusive overlay and forced integration. For online components, you now need a WBID but this is far less intrusive and simply involves a one-time username and password.

I’m ‘Eh’ on Steam’s Hardware, but the Controller Looks Interesting

I’m ‘Eh’ on Steam’s Hardware, but the Controller Looks Interesting

One of my biggest complaints about console gaming is that it has to be done in your living room. Apparently, a lot of people really like that. I guess I’m weird.

So as much as I love Steam, the idea of a “Steam Machine” (basically Steam in the living room) and a “Steam OS” (basically Linux – how many games are there on Linux, again?) does not really excite me. At all. *yawn*

The controller they’re talking about though… I’m interested if for no other reason than it is innovative and different. Ooohhh! I sometimes even use a controller! How interesting.