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My Poor Wallet

Written by Mike Holmes on the 14th of July 2013 at 14:11

The Steam sale is here. I was away on a press trip when it finally landed, so didn't get stuck in straight away, but it wasn't long after sitting down in front of my PC that the first purchase was made.

The Steam summer sale follows similar recent offerings from GOG, Gamersgate, Greenmangaming and more, where hundreds of amazing games get sold at ridiculously low prices. Some might argue that it cheapens a game's overall value when it can bought for next to nothing during certain periods, and persuades people not to purchase things they would at other points during the year. While this is certainly the case, it's also clear that people are far more likely to take a punt on a title when it's only a couple of quid.

I'm not alone in having games on my PC that were bought during the last sale that haven't even been played yet, but that doesn't stop me from abusing my poor wallet, and picking up games in order to try them out. I think it's a positive for developers. They get more people playing their games, and when the dust from a sale has settled a reinvigorated community injects new life into the titles in question.

At the same time I wonder if we're undervaluing titles that we grab at bargainous prices, and after Steam's sales proving themselves to be wildly successful all of the other major online distributors feel the need to follow suit and have promotions of their own. It leads to periods of the gaming calendar that are just uinundated with swarms of cheap games.

There's no way around it, and given how personally excited I am about the sale, I likely wouldnt have it any other way. Right, what's coming up cheap in the next flash sale?

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How Much?!

How Much?!

Written by Mike Holmes on the 18th of June 2013 at 18:41

Trawling through the deals on Steam, as I often I like to do, I stumbled across the early access for Planetary Annihilation. It was noteworthy simply because of the asking price of the game is currently a staggering £67.99.

It wasn't long before I recalled that the game had gone through the Kickstarter process, which in turn led me to discover that this was the price paid by backers for alpha access to the game. The seemingly inordinate price on Steam simply brings it inline with what others have previously paid. But still.

I get the idea behind it. It's an alpha process. It's a chance for people to show their support for a title and a studio, and get involved with a game while it's still being created. Players who invest at this stage will undoubtedly have influence on how the game will eventually turn out, and that will be an attractive proposition for many.

What worries me is the steepness of the price attached to the game. It feels like Uber - who incidentally have drawn a lot of flack from certain quarters for their high pricing - might be taking advantage of fans eager to get hands on with a game that they're looking forward to. Yes fans are getting hands-on sooner, but they're paying a hefty price for the privilege. Some would argue that they're simply paying to be alpha testers, and they're happy to do so, but I'd say that they are adding value to the project through their contribution, and as such elevated costs such as these don't fully reflect the symbiotic relationship between a studio and their early-adopting fans.

It's a tough one to call. The pricing is transparent, and it's not being sold as a finished product. A significant majority of fans will know what they're getting themselves into, and those that don't should probably spend a little more time reading the small print before throwing such large amounts of money at a solitary game.

Planetary Annihilation is currently the most expensive game that you can buy on Steam. With such a hefty price tag, the developers have a responsibility to the gamers that buy their game, making sure that they're well serviced, that the lines of communication are well and truly open, and that criticism is listened to instead of being dismissed. I'm sure that Uber will be doing just this, but it's worth saying nonetheless. Especially when you consider that other games adopting the same model are priced quite differently (Prison Architect, which we've discussed on the site before, is £19.99 for example).

For what it's worth, it looks like a cracking game. Check out the Steam page and watch the trailer to see what it's all about. But even if you're as impressed as I was, think twice before you part with any cash, because it costs a bomb. And because it's still in alpha, nobody has been able to play it properly and judge whether it's worth your time and money. Buying it now would be a leap of faith. If you're fine with that then fair enough...

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Written by Mike Holmes on the 7th of June 2013 at 16:48

It's that time of year again, when I stay at home while the rest of the GR-UK team heads off to the sunshine of L.A. for E3. It's got nothing to do with my fear of flying, honest.

We've got loads of content coming in the next couple of weeks, with reactions landing direct from the conferences and show floor, and with the team getting eyes and hands on the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer.

I'll be here, shackled to my desk, eyes held open with matchsticks, working with colleagues from across the Gamereactor network to keep you all up-to-date with the latest developments as and when they happen. And whilst it might be an exhausting week, it's also going to be an exhilarating one.

On a personal level I'm looking forward to hearing how Destiny is shaping up (that's one game I'd happily get on a plane for), and Watch Dogs is also on my list of things to keep a close eye on in the coming months. Then there's the new consoles...

Xbox One has come under a lot of scrutiny in the last few weeks, after a slightly underwhelming unveiling with focus on television and sports over gaming. Now's the chance for Microsoft to really show what their next-gen console is capable of. I'm intrigued more than anything, to see if they can dig themselves out of the hole they've gotten themselves into.

Then there's the PS4. It'll be interesting to see what they show, and what features they confirm. And, of course, I can't wait to see what the console actually looks like. I'm expecting lots of great looking games for both consoles, and like lots of people, I'm still mulling over which way to jump when it comes to parting with my cash at the year's end.

There's going to be lots of news emerging in the next few days. We'll work hard to keep on top of it all, so keep checking, Facebook and Twitter, where we'll be sharing everything that crosses our desks and screens. It's going to be a busy week, but a good one. See you on the other side.

Daylight Robbery

Daylight Robbery

Written by Mike Holmes on the 1st of April 2013 at 16:53

I occasionally like to dabble in Day Z. When I can get the bleeding thing to work, that is.

The other day I logged in and onto a server where my friends regularly play, looking to participate in a bit of co-op zombie killing. However, when I arrived the mood was a sombre one.

The base camp where I spawned has recently been a hive of activity, full of resources ready to be used in combating the undead threat, but as I landed in the persistent world I was greeted to an unexpected sight. There was nothing there.

Everything had been stolen.

Except for a handful of tents, there was nothing left in the camp. Between the hours of 2am the night before, and midday the same day - from when one player logged off and another logged in, a group of thieving opportunists had cleaned out my friends' stash of of virtual gear.

I'm talking about hours and hours of accumulated equipment. Vehicles, weapons, medical supplies, food, and random junk that had been collected by a team of dedicated friends over an extended period of time.

I felt sorry for them, I really did. I'd not participated in any of collecting, but I had been welcomed into their ranks, given ammo and medical aid when required, and they'd helped me out of more than a couple of scrapes.

But it did reaffirm for me the reason I don't play the game all that often - it's a harsh experience, but increasingly for all the wrong reasons: the human players are far more annoying than their undead counterparts.

I relish the solo survival aspect of the game. Sneaking past other players in the dead of night, deciding whether to move against them or stay in cover. Avoiding the undead whether via stealth or panic induced sprinting. Scavenging for resources. Knowing that the end is always just around the corner, and that the only thing separating me from death is my wits and a hefty dash of good fortune.

But throw too many comfortable players into the mix and the game becomes unbalanced, and for me, much less enjoyable. It becomes more about worrying whether your stuff is safe, rather than the primeval fear of being stalked by an irrepressible enemy. Interactions with other players should inform the player-driven narrative, not dominate it. If I want to shoot at other players, for my money, there are far better options out there.

That said, if I want to hide in the bushes whilst the undead shuffle past in droves, if I want to feel hunted in a dangerous world, there still aren't many better alternatives to Day Z out there at the moment. And for that reason, I'll keep it installed on my PC.

Crysis of Conscience

Crysis of Conscience

Written by Mike Holmes on the 22nd of February 2013 at 17:13

What a load of patronising nonsense. Just scroll down and check out the attached picture. Ashley whats-her-face from the Pussycat-whats-their-names sporting a Nanosuit. Sure, a pretty girl in a cosplay isn't something new, but to call that news, to issue press releases announcing some pop star covered from head to toe in makeup - isn't that just a little bit insulting.

I'm not going to bang on about this too long, but it needs mentioning, as more and more often we gamers are being represented by this kind of nonsense, with it regularly appearing in the mainstream media. With publishers happy to flirt with the mainstream via this sensationalist claptrap, it's easy to see why the tabloid reader's perception of gamers is such a negative one, and why from time to time most of us have to defend our hobby to people who call it "sad" or "for losers".

There's so much of this kind of stuff flying around at the moment, and in truth we don't always help ourselves. Luckily games that revel in titillation are on the decline, but nonsense like Dead or Alive 5 - where the breasts belonging to the female fighters are the stars of the show - demonstrates that there's still appetite for that kind of content, even if that market is ever dwindling. Thankfully it's just not enough to sell a game based on the physics of breasts anymore.

At the end of the day people can play what they want, when they want. It's a free world after all. But when games like Crysis 3 are publicised in this manner, it really irks. It ties us to a stereotypical image, one that I'm keen to see left in the past. Not least because it objectifies women, and will likely infuriate gamers with both sets of chromosomes. Shame that EA couldn't think of a better way of advertising their stunning game, because as far as I'm concerned this type of stunt is just plain ugly.