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Posts Tagged ‘Steam’

Gaming: April 2011’s Games

It’s time for each of April’s round-up posts, a quick overview and assessment of all the entertainment I consumed during the month. Having finally been on time enough last month to make goals this is the first proper opportunity to see whether I was able to meet them. This month kicked off with film, then books, and now it’s time for April’s games.

Plenty of room for this month's participants.

Image sources: Trip and some creepers. The Combine came from a personal screenshot.

The image should make it clear that this month has far fewer games to cover. In fact, this is probably the easiest gaming round-up I’ll ever have to make for the blog, short of a theoretical month where I don’t actually play any games. If anything I spent more time gaming in April in any other, just spending that time on, well, one game in particular. Read on:

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Gaming: Project Pile of Shame – Day Five

July 5, 2010 1 comment

The project: To spend two hours playing every console game from this generation that I own but have never touched (the ‘pile of shame’), to see if any of them are worth spending more time with.

As with Deus Ex, today’s entry isn’t on the original list because it’s a PC game, and if I tried to include all the PC games I own but haven’t played the list would be considerably larger (it would be the same if I went back multiple console generations, which is why I limited myself to just this generation). On the fifth day I played:

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

San Andreas

Wikipedia quote: "The game is set in the fictional state of San Andreas, comprising three metropolitan cities, Los Santos, based on Los Angeles, San Fierro, based on San Francisco and Las Venturas, based on Las Vegas, with deserts, rivers, forests and even a mountain separating the cities."

System: PC (also on PS2 and Xbox)

Reason I’ve never played it: I didn’t own it. I wasn’t overly taken with Grand Theft Auto 3 and skipped the series until Grand Theft Auto 4 a generation later (and now will probably skip the series altogether going forward).

Thoughts: I don’t think I like Grand Theft Auto series. I like the idea of the games – the vast open world filled with character, the characters themselves being interesting and going through good arcs and voiced by actors who are at least competent and sometimes pretty good, a ‘sandbox’ playground environment filled with things to do in a game that lasts considerably longer than most other games – but I think I’ll never be in sync with Rockstar’s approach, even though they were the ones who pioneered the entire genre.

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Gaming: Digital Distribution – The Display Issue

It seems likely that at some point the games industry (and media in general) will move to a full digital distribution model, where the games are bought online and immediately downloaded for use and there will be no physical copy. There are all kinds of issues with such systems at the moment – DRM-laden downloads and services that can render games unusable if the authentication servers go down (temporarily through outages or even permanently), lacking the ability to easily transfer from the downloaded system to other systems for viewing, ISPs that limit download speeds or cut off access if you download too heavily, the inability to trade a game when you’re done with it or take it back if you don’t like it, and so on – but something happened recently that got me thinking about one issue in particular: not being able to display your games on a shelf, lacking that tangible evidence of ownership.

I don’t find it to be a big deal personally but for some people it’s considered an important issue (often among the first things they’ll bring up when discussing this topic), a big problem that can’t easily be overcome where digital distribution is concerned. A group of folders on a PC or a list of downloads on a website can’t really compare to shelves full of game cases, can it? The thing that kept making me think of it is the recent UI overhaul Steam underwent. Steam itself is possibly the most successful digital distribution channel so far, not least because it also incorporates an online gaming service that means its users are always within the same programme as the store interface and are immediately alerted to deals and new releases. Games on Steam used to be presented in a fairly basic list that gave you a few pieces of information (update status, metascore, etc.), but with the new beta upgrade there were a couple of display options added, of which my favourite is grid view:

Steam's grid view.

Click the image for a full screenshot.

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Gaming: Dino D-Day

December 5, 2009 1 comment

Logo

The dinosaur above sits innocently on the title screen, offering no hints of how irritating his kind will prove to be.

Available For: PC, on Steam (download from here)

Summary: Sergeant Jack Hardgrave attempts to thwart the Nazi regime’s plans to use dinosaurs to win World War 2.

Thoughts: Dino D-Day is a mod using the Source engine (ie. Valve’s engine, used for everything from Half-Life 2 through to Left 4 Dead 2).  The free mod is being released ahead of the full game, which will be available on Steam next year.  While trying out the mod I made a few comments on Twitter, and I think they’ll make a good basis for my thoughts.

“Trying out the Dino D-Day Source mod, detailing that time in World War 2 when the Nazis unleashed their secret weapon: dinosaurs.”

That about sums it up.  You’re a soldier in the African desert during World War 2, trying to stop the Nazis from unleashing dinosaurs upon the world.  Just imagine how different the world might be today if Hitler had decided to use his dinosaur powers for good.

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Gaming: Left 4 Dead 2 Demo

November 5, 2009 1 comment

L4D201

Wikipedia fact: "Valve was forced to alter their original cover art for the game by the ESRB; the original image showed the little and ring finger of the iconic hand (belonging to Valve artist Andrea Wicklund) torn off in addition to the torn-off thumb, but to appease the ESRB, Valve changed the image so that the fingers were merely bent back instead. The cover was further changed for release in the United Kingdom, as the two-finger sign towards the viewer is considered an insult; the UK cover features the hand facing the opposite direction to avoid this."

Available for: PC on Steam here (the version I played) and Xbox 360 (queue to download here, but it’s exclusive to gold members for a few more days)

Thoughts: I enjoyed the original Left 4 Dead, but it was really quite surprising to find Valve were already working on a sequel for release one year later.  Valve sequels normally take years to even be revealed, let alone released, which raised all sorts of questions about just how much would be recycled from the original and what new features could have been DLC for the first game.  However, L4D2 will release with five campaigns to the original’s four, three new special infected to add to the original six, melee weapons, alternate routes, weather effects controlled by an upgraded Director AI, and several new game modes and extra elements within the campaigns themselves, so it’s easy to see how Valve felt it justified being a full sequel rather than an expansion or DLC.

I went with the PC version because clearing space on my 360 drive is a bit of a pain (Microsoft still stubbornly refuse to send me a transfer cable so I can switch to my 120GB drive), and it actually works fine at low resolutions on my less than spectacular system.  I only ever played the first game on 360 (for the co-op) so playing with keyboard and mouse felt quite different, but in a good way. It felt a bit easier, either because I’m better with a mouse than an analogue stick or because normal difficulty is easier this time around. The 360 version will look better than my PC can manage and have achievements, but that’s not really much of an incentive to pay an extra £10.

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