Updates for Everyone!

It’s like the dream-week for all Strategy gamers. 3 mega-patches for 2 TBS and one RTS. We’re never seeing the sun again

It seems this is the week of the mega-update. Three of my favourite games have been patched with a pretty heavy update which changes quite a lot of things all over the place. First it was Heroes of Newerth, which got to version 2.0 and introduced the Casual Mode (that I played and I really enjoyed) a new LoL-style ((League of Legends, another game that follows the DotA recipe)) online shop where people can buy extra stuff for their game like alternative models and soundpacks, plus the preparation for the new Matchmaking system. Unfortunately this also spurred some controversy when it was revealed that one of the new Sound packs was playing on a steretype of gays. The company behind HoN, S2, tried to play it as if it was nothing of the sort , but unfortunately for them, someone spilled the beans. Not cool S2.

Then it was Elemental: War Of Magic, who’s disastrous launch saw the game bashed in almost all reviews and burned a lot of early buyers. Fortunately, Stardock stayed with it and hired some excellent talent in the form of Kael (the guy who directed/created the awesome Fall from Heaven mod for Civilization IV) and the game has completely reworked its mechanics and interface. Now the patch 1.1 which introduces these changes to the community is out and after a few hours of playing it yesterday, I’m extremely happy to say that the game is starting to shape up to my expectations. The game is infinitelly more playable and enjoyable now and the next two expansions (which I’m going to get for free, as a bonus for buying the game early) are going to just keep building on top of that. If you haven’t yet checked Elemental, now is the time, since if you buy it before the new year, you will get the first expansion for free 😉

And finally today, Civilization V released its own big patch, which promises to make significant changes to the AI and address a lot of the game mechanics that were broken or badly designed since release. The AI changes are nowhere near the stuff that Elemental implemented (such as multi-threading AI, which makes new turns come instantly) but are sure to make the game a bit more interesting to play on anything but the highest difficulties where the computer is cheating its arse off. I haven’t yet tried it out as it just came out, but I’m excited about that as well.

With all these updates, I now just have to replay those games, and given other stuff, such as the recent Humble Indie Bundle 2 which just came out this week as well and provides the best offer ever (hint, hint, buy it the fuck now) and the upcoming Steam Christmas Sale, I don’t think I can afford to leave my hourse, eat or sleep for the next weeks. Good thing I’ve got a vacation coming out. Oh and do pay attention to how many people bought the bundle for GNU/Linux and what they paid on average. It’s as if there’s an untapped market or something… 😉

"To all those people promoting our game for free: Fuck you!"

Stardocks CEO believes all Pirates are thieves, even though they practically help him. I (not-so kindly) disagree.

Stardock Corporation, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

This is basically what the latest post from Stardock’s CEO comes down to when he says the following:

But…but…what about those hundreds of thousands of pirates? Yep. Demigod is heavily pirated. And make no mistake, piracy pisses me off.  If you’re playing a pirated copy right now, if you’re one of those people on Hamachi or GameRanger playing a pirated copy and have been for more than a few days, then you should either buy it or accept that you’re a thief and quit rationalizing it any other way.

Emphasis mine.

So what exactly is pissing Frogboy off? That Piracy helped make his game stunningly famous even before it hit the stores? That file-sharing did free advertisement for Demigod to the scale that it catapulted it to the 3rd place in sales (possibly higher if you count online sales). That Pirates urged each other to actually support Stardock if they can, to promote this kind of initiative?

Frogboy should be on his fucking knees praising Pirates at this point for all the free publicity they gave the title, not simply by the fact that they gave the game to each other to try before it officially hit the stores, but also for the controversy this raised on popular news sources which brought further spotlight to the game.

And this is, in short, the reply: “Fuck you, you’re goddamn thieves! You piss me off!”

So how exactly are pirates thieves Frogboy? Do you subscribe that every downloaded copy is a lost sale? Do you not consider for a second that the people downloading games maybe can’t afford them (so they wouldn’t buy it anyway) but they still do free word-of-mouth publicity for you? Do you consider that perhaps for others the quality of the game does not validate the price but they may still buy it just because they are pirates?

I used to think that Stardock was enlightened enough to figure out that file-sharing is caring, that pirates are, as gamers, on their side. But this latest post makes me reconsider. I’ve become a big supporter of Stardock just because of what (I assumed) their take on Piracy was and as a result I’ve bought every game I wanted to play from them. I will reconsider that as well.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Here's to reaching the "Games for Linux" tipping point

Why the Linux game market is underestimated and what we should do to change it. The recent World of Goo port to Linux is a perfect opportunity.

World of Goo: Fisty's Bog
Image by kartooner via Flickr

It’s been a classic argument in the GNU/Linux VS Windows debates that people don’t switch to the former because there are no games for it. And there are no games for GNU/Linux because developers don’t think there’s a market for it to justify the cost. And there’s no market to justify the cost because gamers don’t switch to it.

It’s a vicious cycle from which it’s extremely difficult to get out of. To do that, it would need one side to do the first step. Either gamers need to switch and start being vocal on wanting their games native for their OS (ie platform agnostic) or game developers need to show good faith and port or code their games for it from the get go and then see that the effort was worth it.

Well, To my delight, It seems that some developers did decide to attempt the later. The lately popular World of Goo has finally been ported to GNU/Linux. This is exciting news and the kind of thing that gamers on linux need to show support for if we want to provide incentive for this kind of thing to continue. The developers at the moment are curious about the results of this move and I’d like to think we won’t disappoint.

To tell the truth I haven’t played the game but I certainly have heard a lot about it. It seems to involve very innovative gameplay and I was tempted to purchase it through steam. One thing stopped me of course, which was the fact that I would have to boot my whole computer if I wanted to enjoy it.

This is, incidentally, something that happens quite often and affects my game purchase decisions. I’ve ended up only purchasing:

  • Games that are very cheap and I don’t feel like wasting a lot of money If I don’t play them until the next time I happen to boot into windows
  • Games that I really, really, really want to play. The ones that I’ve known for months that I would be playing when they came out. Needless to say those are few and far between.
  • Games that run natively on my OS of choice. It goes without saying that I do not get much of those but when I do, I don’t lose the chance to purchase them and thus have something to do play when bored without the annoying reboot. Case in point: I’ve already bough both the On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness episodes and I will continue buying them in the future, because they are fun, cheap and most importantly, play natively.

The one thing that annoys me even more on this issue is how much resistance windows users display on this. It’s as if when game companies have a platform agnostic code then they are afraid that the performance on windows will drop. I honestly don’t know where this hostility comes from but it generally translates into mouthfuls of FUD and negativity on any kind of suggestion.

Incidentally very recently I had just such a discussion in a Demigod forum thread (one of the games that I really really want to play). The discussion started simply on the fact that Steam is and the Source engine are probably going to be ported to GNU/Linux and an appeal to Stardock ((One of the most progressive publishers and one that I believe can be more positive to this idea)) and Impulse to do the same. There were a lot of good suggestions and arguments on both sides and the very positive thing that Stardock devs actually took part and put forth their thoughts. For example:

As a part-time linux user myself, I’ve come to accept the fact that linux is not destined to be a gaming OS.  Until either developers abandon DirectX, or someone figures out a 100% painless DX port for linux, you won’t see a big move on linux games.  Why?  Because transitioning from a DX based engine to an OGL one is not in the least bit trivial.  iD can do it because I believe their games are done in OpenGL to begin with, so getting it to run on Linux is a much simpler task for them (by comparison).  UnrealEngine is built for both DX and OGL.

To get developers porting games to linux, there has to be a guarantee on the return on investment.  If it takes 1 full time developer a year to port some game, then that game has to at least sell enough copies to cover the cost.  To make it actually worth the time though it would have to make a lot more money than the cost to develop, otherwise it’s a better value to have that developer work on the Windows version which is a better financial bet.

The platform needs a few big-name champions to make it viable, but in a market where a big-name game can cost in the millions of dollars to develop, that’s a risk not many companies are generally willing to take.

In the end of course, Stardock wasn’t convinced. I was nevertheless surprised at the amount of negativity displayed by simple users, occasionaly without any obvious reasoning other than that they didn’t like GNU/Linux.

One of my main arguments in this thread was that the GNU/Linux gaming market is severely under-estimated at every turn. I truly believe that there are enough of us who not only are gamers but are willing to support those who extend a hand. And now is the time to put our money where our mouths are. Purchasing the World of Goo in non-trivial number will not only show its developers that it’s worth coding their future games for our OS as well, but it will certainly turn the heads of other publishers if they smell that there is a potential market once the WoG guys speak about the (hopefully positive) results.

To get Games for Linux (no TM yet) we need to reach a tipping point, either on the side of Gamers which will convince the Publishers that there is a market, or on the side of Publishers which will allow enough gamers to try the OS out without much gaming withdrawal. Lets hope that the results for the WoG experiment will be another small push towards that point.

Now go and read what Helios has to say about this. You also get a nice interview with the developers about the challenges they faced on the port (technical or not), as well as a little bonus offer 😉

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]