Archive for the ‘steam’ Tag

Pointless offers   Leave a comment

Last week, the recently F2P MMO Crimecraft: Bleedout had a special offer on that was typical of special offers on the F2P sections of Steam: join, try it now and you’ll get in-game advances and items for which you normally pay. These offers work because it gives an incentive to try a F2P game out of the bunch that you wouldn’t normally pick up.

I play a few F2P games, I generally aim to be cost-effective when it comes to gaming, a hangover from bygone unemployed days and F2P games give a lot of room to try before cash changes hands. This is good and I generally find the games that I pay into are not ones I feel I need to pay into to get ahead, they are games like League of Legends that end up making pay cash almost as a ‘thank you’ to the developers. That’s the attitude I’ve stuck by, games that feel like they are wrangling cash from me fall by the wayside.

Now, this sort of offer on Steam is great because I can’t download and try every F2P, nor would I want to. My games catalogue is massive on PC alone, not adding in the catalogues of my retro home computer and console gaming or the tabletop gaming I do. I will never run out of what I already have to play unless I moved into my dad’s attic and quit my job and all social contact. Further, I would need to wade through as much rubbish as my current catalogues to find the League of Legendses or Lord of the Rings Onlines. These offers are a great way to tapping the flow, as it were, and offering up the F2P buffet in manageable plate-loads.

The problem is when a game company seems to want more players than it is willing to reasonably support. So this offer on Crimecraft was up until the 29th and I made several attempts to get in there, create a character and play. I download the game via Steam, create my account, login. There are two servers. The first (Exeter) is full and the other has a population of high (Euricho). So I try Euricho first and I’m put in a queue of nearly 700 people. I estimated by the drop rate that it would take me about half an hour to forty-five minutes to get in, so I try later.

Later does not work. The same problem in both servers. They are stretched beyond what they can reasonably support. I don’t mind the game supporting such a limited userbase, it’s ultimately up to the game publishers, but why have a special offer trying to draw more players in when the special offer will only be accessible to a remote portion of those players?

Sure, it will potentially increase the player base and, therefore, income for the game. I tried logging in today and neither server was a problem this time, so it was short-term, but it doesn’t say much for the game’s attitude to its players. Imagine logging on to the game as a loyal player who’d been playing that game before the offer. Suddenly, you cannot play or are forced to wait up to an hour because they want to cram their servers full with potential cash-giving players.

Vogster (the developers) have a more than healthy sized community playing their game for the resources they allot it, unless their servers report false stats about player numbers. If they want to increase their base beyond what they currently have, they need an extra server.

The bigger problem is that this is indicative of some of the bad thinking behind F2P models. Players aren’t there to sell a set product to or build relationships with, they are cash pumps and you fit as many of them as you can in your game. Crimecraft isn’t necessarily advocating this outlook, but it would seem it given they made a drive to get more players than they can support comfortably. People need to be very sceptical of F2P games and I think they really need to know the sorts of business models being used before they feel comfortable investing.

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Team Fortress 2 “Meet the Medic” trailer (PC trailer)   Leave a comment

I saw it coming that they would go free to play a long while ago. They’ve been gearing up to it with the in-game store and the earlier F2P burst on Steam was a precursor. I feel ambivalent about it for the moment, but we’ll see what happens.

Capsized (PC review)   Leave a comment

Developed by: Alientrap Games Inc.
Published by: Alientrap Games Inc.
Out now
Reviewed on: 26th May, 2011.

Presentation: Stunningly beautiful, especially given its independent origins. The graphics display a complex and rich alien world that has been rendered by hand so lovingly that the visuals sometimes make it hard to see the gameplay. The effects and music are likewise really well done and I cannot criticise the immaculate presentation of the game.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere is akin to other indie games centred of a strange alien environment such as CreaVures or Aquaria, except with a much more aggressive approach to dealing with problems. It has an FPS influence in the controls and is a lot more combat-focussed.

Control and Mechanics: A gamepad can be used in a way similar to a dual-stick shooter, but normally a keyboard mouse combination typical of mainstream FPS games is used.

Who should buy this: Those who want a beautiful, well-made and very robust side-scrolling shooter with a lot of gameplay options and game modes. Those who like both FPS and 2D platform games and want some combination of the two. Those who don’t mind sudden increases in difficulty.

Who should avoid it: Those who don’t like the FPS control system. Those who want more innovation in their games. Those who want something that stays more casual.

If I have to give a score: A beautiful, well thought-out game that does nothing new but has everything it takes from elsewhere polished to a sheen and will provide a lot of replay value 3/4.

Review

Capsized is, on one level, the same sort of game as Plain Sight in that it is a good indie game that I don’t think will get continued long-term play. Most people will pick this up and really enjoy it, because it’s a great game, but put it down after a few months of play. It was a shame when this happened to Plain Sight because that was being expanded after release and has nothing to offer casual players except mediocre bots. Capsized has a sizable single-player element that saves it from this unfortunate fate.

The premise is simple enough: you have crash landed on an alien world with only your space suit and a basic laser gun to protect you from the beautiful, but hostile, environment as you attempt to save your crew mates and search for an escape. The first thing you’ll notice about the game beyond the clichéd premise is the world really is beautiful. It’s hand-drawn and high-resolution, and it really pays off. One criticism I’ve seen in other reviews is that the beautiful green haze of the world makes it harder to see the action as it’s going on, but I’ve found this criticism odd. True, sometimes it is very hard to see where the enemies are, but they are creatures from this alien environment, native to it; your character bumbles in so contrasted to the rest of the world. This strikes me as an intended feature, not a bug and I don’t really fault it for that.

Besides the visuals, the music really does deserve praise too. It has a sense of mystery and wonder to it and the overall effect seems to capture something of the spirit of 16-bit era games from the Amiga. This helps evoke the overall sense of the sublime, but terrifying, experience of a beautiful alien world.

What really counts, though, is gameplay and the game stands solidly there. There is nothing new here, no innovative mechanics, your character moves about to tough-to-reach ledges via tricks like a jetpack or a grappling hook that can also be used to pull obstacles; you are ambushed by enemies and fight them off via a selection of futuristic weapons like short-range, area affect weapons or sniping laser beams.

The main campaign follows through a set of levels about finding and rescuing crew before finding out how to escape. It’s not too interesting a plot, but it serves the function of offering a nail upon which to hang gameplay. The game itself is immensely enjoyable and offers a variety of different challenges and levels for you to traverse.

Beyond that, there are several extra gameplay modes that extend the life of the game. True to the FPS influence, there are multiplayer modes and bot matches as well as others, including single-player modes.

My main criticism of the game comes from the relative simplicity of the enemy AI in this game. Neither the bot matches nor the main game were particularly advanced in their use of AI, alien enemies would often stand there blasting at where I was as I finding a way to sneak attack and the bots didn’t offer any real challenge compared to human opponents. More than that, some traps in the game were just downright unfair and couldn’t be realistically detected before already eating at your life bar. Besides that, there was also the controls which would benefit from compatibility with a wider variety of controllers (but as this is also an Xbox 360 game, it doesn’t surprise me) and to be a bit more responsive.

These are all minor criticisms, though. For the very low price it is being sold at on Steam, this is a solid game that offers a vast, stunning world and more than repays the original investment in fun and may even merit a return for the occasional evening of gaming. A solid shooter platformer with a beautiful visual layout.

Capsized is out now and available on Steam for £5.99

Terraria official trailer   Leave a comment

The popularity of this game is quite immense at the moment. It looks to become another gem of the indie movement.

Posted 23/05/2011 by expandingfrontier in News, Trailer

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Terraria (PC review)   Leave a comment

Developed by: Re-Logic
Published by: Re-Logic
Out now
Reviewed on: 20th May, 2011.

Presentation: Simple 2D sprites very much in the style of early SNES games. The music is more advanced, but still points back to the days of the late 16-bit console war era.

Atmosphere: Very similar to Minecraft in this regard, but with more of an emphasis on dungeon crawling and exploration than on building or crafting. It’s another indie game with a distinct retro feel to it to boot.

Control and Mechanics: Mouse for interaction, keyboard for movement. It’s made more complicated by the fact that, as with Minecraft, you can’t actually bind a mouse button to jump (which I always do in FPS games) as those are reserved for interaction-based functions. I was also disappointed by the lack of mass crafting options (have to repeatedly click to make hundreds of bottles from glass rather than ctrl-click to make ten or something).

UPDATE: Mass crafting has been added in version 1.0.2: simply by holding the right mouse button on the object you wish to craft, it will craft rapidly until you run out of resources.

Who should buy this: Anyone who loved a lot of the building and exploring ethos of Minecraft while lamenting the glacial progress and thin on the ground updates. Anyone who wants more variety and regular updates than Minecraft offered. Those who preferred the exploration and dungeoneering over the building aspects of Minecraft.

Who should avoid it: Those who dislike sandbox-style games. Those who dislike the 2D nature of the game. Those who preferred the ability to create impressive structures in Minecraft over the exploration and dungeoneering.

If I have to give a score: It’s lacking a few things Minecraft has, but it does deliver on many of the things MC should have had ages ago and it promises continual free updates and has a strong spirit of sandbox adventure, building and crafting. I recommend it before Minecraft. 3/4

Review

I really need to start with, despite all the assurances otherwise, I cannot but believe this game is following in Minecraft’s footsteps. I really wish Re-Logic would admit that; not because I believe their game represents any sort of theft, but because I already see in this basic first release of Terraria much more love, attention and a better grasp of game design than I’ve seen from Mojang. A friend of mine once said that Notch wasn’t a real game designer, that he stumbled on a good idea that worked, but didn’t really have the ethic or creativity to make a truly great sandbox game. I don’t really want to start any fires, but I believe he’s right and I also think that Re-Logic do have a much stronger grasp of their game and what they intend to do with it. With that said, this review will effectively take the form of a comparison of these two games.

I will put it bluntly, I would recommend this before I recommend Minecraft to someone.  Not because I think Minecraft is a bad game, I love the game, it’s just I burnt out on it very quickly. I bought it during the alpha phase and it was cheap, lots of fun and had the promise of free content updates. Nothing much got added but then the beta rolled around and…

… Nothing much got added. Not only that, but I got this sense that Notch got a bit greedy. For people buying during the beta, there was no longer the promise that all future content would be free. Not that they were missing out on much, because now the full game appears to rolling up in a few months and very little has changed from that game I played in mid-2010.

My rant about Minecraft could fill an article itself, but I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about Terraria. It’s just hard to talk about it without drawing the inevitable comparisons that are there to make. What essentially makes Terraria a better game at this point is the fact that I believe Re-Logic on the point of free content updates.

But why is it such an important thing to get content updates? Well, it helps keep the game feeling fresh and alive. Sure, I can build my own town in Minecraft, but where are the people to populate it? Terraria has an NPC system in place already and that can easily be expanded to add more people later. I started building a vast underground fortress in Minecraft but gave up when I released I couldn’t give any real function to all but a few of the hundreds of rooms I had planned. Sure, Minecraft has dungeon crawling within it, but where are the boss monsters or the secrets? Terraria’s 2D nature does make building more limited and if Notch really knuckled down then Minecraft could really become a great game beyond what Terraria could achieve, but he won’t and it won’t. Terraria could fall into this pattern too, and if so I would recant a lot of this, but Minecraft has already fallen foul of that.

Either way, the game starts you out at the dawn of day one on a generated world with a guide NPC to give you the basics, some basic tools (no tool degradation or chopping trees with you bare hands) and leaves you to it. You need to chop wood and/or mine you get the resources together for a shelter and weapons and quickly because, while the day produces the passive but still dangerous slimes, the night has zombies and demons that actively hunt you. Already, the Minecraft influence is clear, but as your power and village expands, you attract people who perform a variety of roles in your growing community. There are a few already and the game’s currency remains limited in usefulness but that is set to expand as more updates are released.

Terraria places a greater emphasis on dungeon raids and there are several styles of dungeons, each with their own tricks and traps. There are things like the deep hell areas that have special items and a wide range of interesting monsters to discover or the spreading corruption that produces abstract, demonic entities with names like the Eater of Worlds. Compare this, if you will, to Minecraft’s relatively empty and useless Nether that is always promised expanded usefulness but never gets more than minor alterations.

What Minecraft definitely has that Terraria cannot do is intrinsic to the medium of the game. Building monuments and great buildings in Minecraft is so much better because you have the extra dimension with which to work. I found a tower was all I really needed in Terraria because zombies never jumped up to the next floor to get me or my citizens when they broke the doors down (a rare event caused by the presence of a blood moon) and a set of houses alongside each other didn’t really work as well in the 2D format or even look as nice as my central tower.

That’s certainly why Terraria simply has less potential than Minecraft, it could never achieve what Minecraft could have done in the right hands, but it has so much more variety in terms of dungeon crawling and crafting. It even has a magic system which is something completely absent from Minecraft. It does generate smaller worlds but allows you to transfer characters from world to world in order to increase the variety. If you loved Minecraft for the exploration and discovery, you’ll find this game excels at those.

Overall, I would recommend this game to most people interested in the genre before Minecraft because of this increased variety in these areas. If someone wanted building and creating impressive structures, Minecraft does beat Terraria, but doesn’t compete with what some other games have to offer. Besides that, the updates on Terraria may surprise me with what the game is actually capable of achieving, but I would be happy with just increased content.

Terraria is out now and available via Steam for £5.99

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

* Valve Corporation have released beta authoring tools for Portal 2.

* Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games argues that the free-to-play model is the future of PC gaming.

* Cthulhu Saves the World has been approved for Steam release, the creators are hoping for a May release.

* GoG.com have announced a weekend long sale on Activision-themed RPGs, including the Vampire: the Masquerade games.

* Opponents of piracy are pushing a new US Bill to combat piracy. It won’t work, I’m sure.

* The US Navy have taken the fight against Somali pirates online in an MMO, something it’s been building since 2009.

* Valve announced that it has no plans for a Source Engine 2, preferring incremental changes in patches to massive engine shifts.

* Brink has vanished from the UK Steam storm, but Bethesda have been fairly tight-lipped beyond that they are looking into the issue.

* Ars Technica’s Opposable Thumbs looks at the future of the Halo franchise after the release of the Defiant maps.

* After the devastation of the PSN and SOE, Sony Online’s downtime should be only a few more days.

* Also in MMO news, NCSoft has announced that Lineage’s Western servers will be shut down on the 29th June. No new accounts can be created and remaining time will be refunded.

Brink launch trailer (PC preview)   Leave a comment

Looks good, but I’m uncertain of the long-lasting appeal.