PlanetSide 2 continues to be a part of my daily gaming routine. It’s a tough game to nail down though, balanced as precariously as it is between FPS and “MMO.” Battlefield 3 is probably the better shooter, and certainly can be paced better, but there are moments in the epic firefights of Ps2 that simply cannot be replicated in any other FPS that I have played.
Flying around in one of the “jets” is how I usually start any play session. Sometimes – more often than I like to admit – I die within a minute of taking off. Since my timer on the jet is 8 minutes long (I spent some Certs to bring it down from 15), I usually try and spawn at some sort of hotspot, hopefully in an already-filled platoon. Sometimes that is enough for the rest of the night. Other times we either win or are pushed back, and it becomes difficult to tell where to go afterwards. If I am more than 5 minutes away from any sort of action, I usually just log off.
I inadvertantly joined an Outfit (aka guild) a few weeks ago during the Double XP weekend. During that time, the coordination resulted in Certs raining from the sky and was pretty awesome. Other times… well. To be quite honest, actual coordinated “fights” in Ps2 are pretty boring. It is like running around in premades in WoW BGs: a lot of time spent rolling over a handful of randoms, while actively avoiding other premades. Capping empty, undefended bases is about the most boring thing you can imagine. At the end of the night, you have “claimed” territory that is fairly irrelevant to your gameplay the next day, barely getting the equivalent of 2-3 kills worth of XP per base. I caught myself thinking “I should have been doing daily quests in WoW instead” the other night.
That’s the macro view. On the micro view, I’m having tons of fun in the actual shooting.
For the longest time, I was stuck in a limbo zone of wanting to buy a new gun, but wanting it to go on sale first. About a week ago I finally buckled down and bought my Engineer (some guns can only be used by certain classes) the Solstice SF, which is basically a slightly-worse default gun… with the possibility of an under-barrel grenade launcher. It cost 700 Station Cash, i.e. $7, or technically $2.33 since all my Station Cash came from a Triple SC day.
I have an extremely hard time justifying purchasing anything in F2P games as I end up second-guessing everything. “Do I really need this gun?” “Remember that one time you threw down money on a F2P/DLC purchase and then quit the game two days later?” “Will I even be playing this game 2-3 weeks from now?” It is kind of a vicious cycle, or perhaps more of a self-filling prophecy – the longer I deny myself fun, the more likely it is that I quit playing. It is not as though I even need to be so miserly with my IRL money, I just derive zero pleasure from spending money on non-deals. It’s why I can have hundreds of dollars in Steam purchases for games I have never played, but waffle for weeks on a cash shop purchase for a game I’ve got 51 hours into and counting. My hesitation is actually even dumber than that, considering the SC was already bought and paid for months ago; why I cannot see the $30 as being a box purchase of Ps2 instead of dollars I can hoard instead is beyond me.
But, yeah. Otherwise, I am having inordinate amounts of fun in the jets, and now sitting on my own engineer’s ammo boxes shooting endless grenades at my foes. Now all SOE has to do is stop releasing patches that drop framerates.
As you may have noted along the sidebar, I am “playing” the original Crysis on and off. The scare-quotes are there because the game itself is borderline unplayable with all the bugs and crashes I have been experiencing. For as much as I love Steam and try to get 100% of my PC gaming through it, I am finding it increasingly asinine how little support Steam offers for the very games it sells. Generally speaking, if the game is more than 5 years old, I don’t even bother trying to install it before checking out the forums first; luckily, most of the first page is usually filled with similar customers in dire need of tech support as all of us stumble in the dark together.
I give games like the original Borderlands a pass – despite needing to download a swath of mods to make it less of a brain-dead console port – because that was how the game was designed. With Crysis though? The goddamn game crashes 100% of the time when you try and change any of the settings. If I alt-tab out of the game, it automatically switches to windowed mode, with no way to go back to full-screen without crashing the game. And it’s buggy even inside the game too; I was stuck for over an hour before I realized that the Objectives not updating was a bug and not me missing some sort of programming trigger (which would still be stupid).
I get that computers are hard, what with all the potential variations in hardware and software. But, seriously, some of this shit needs to be bundled with the download of the game itself.
I am a big fan of digital games. In fact, I am having a difficult time remembering the last actually physical game I have purchased. The Greatest Hits version of Final Fantasy XII (still shrink-wrapped)? Or… yeah, probably Fallout 3 for PC – unless Wrath of the Lich King counts, anyway. As you can imagine, I skipped this entire console cycle and plan to continue holding out until I at least see if the Xbox 720 and PS4 are going to be backwards compatible.
At first, my purchasing habits were driven more by pragmatism than anything else. With the exclusion of a ridiculous find of Fallout 1 & 2 bundled for $15 and Planescape: Torment bundled similarly at a Media Play (anyone remember those?), computer games had always seemed stuck in the realm of permanent MSRP or mislabeled bargain bin treasure. Meanwhile, the local used game dealership offered a nice selection of $25 titles that you could eventually turn around sell back for $10 or so. Between the cheaper games and the likelihood of four-player split-screen shenanigans, there really was no contest.
Then… Steam happened. And cable internet. And WoW too.
Over time, I realized I no longer felt the need to “own” my games anymore. Keeping track of all the cartridges and discs started being a chore, and god help you if you misplaced the registration code for a PC game that you still actually had the disc(s) for. If legally all we are buying is a license instead of an actual good, then why could I not play Diablo 2 for a three-month period when I couldn’t find the case? Between that nonsense and how frequently I found myself downloading no-CD cracks for games I bought, it was really just a matter of time until I started eschewing gaming packaging altogether if I could help it.
What brought all this up to me again is that I am moving to a new apartment this week. While rummaging around in long-forgotten closets, I came across my NES and SNES collections; the wave of nostalgia nearly rendered me unconscious. While I did act on the daydream of plugging the consoles back up in college one time, these pieces of electronics haven’t otherwise seen the light of day for almost a decade. Was I really going to pack them up and move them to a closet in the new place? Would my theoretical future child have the slightest bit of interest in daddy’s ancient consoles in 2020′s era of (mobile) games? Hell, would these things still even work?
Holding onto the Chrono Trigger and Super Metroid and Secret of Mana cartridges impacted me more than I thought it would, even as I was cataloging their condition to sell to a website. It is pretty well understood how ownership of a physical good can influence your perception of its value, so that should not have been a surprise to me. However, I could not help but think: in a post-ownership world, is anyone going to feel this way again?
Maybe our kids still will. After all, I never held onto a Mass Effect disc, but still choked up a bit after uninstalling. A digital version isn’t the same as holding onto a piece of plastic that has been in your life for 20 years, but… well, it will likely be easier to play again than any of my N64 games which are permanently MIA.
P.S. The website I am using is DKOldies.com, whose prices seem pretty reasonable. If you know of a better place, by all means let me know – I simply don’t have the interest in playing the eBay game when I could ship everything to a single location
I am not going to talk about gaming today.
The Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, but all I am doing is buying games I am not going to play until months later. I mean, seriously, when am I going to play five Prince of Persia games? For $12.24, the answer is: probably someday at that price. The current routine is one farming circuit in Diablo 3, followed by probably ~2 hours of Battlefield 3, and capped off with a game I am actually trying to finish (Greed Inc). When I finish the latter, I will slot a new one in. Or maybe I will finally tire of one of the first two, and suddenly have 20+ free hours a week to rip through my growing collection.
By the way, it occurred to me that I have inexplicably not reviewed Fallout: New Vegas or Skyrim yet. Although I have plenty of material for both, I hate reviewing things months after I stopped playing them. Ergo, those are back on the table too. Eventually.
Anyway, what I really want to talk about is manga.
Cue exit stage left, if that is not your thing. Although if this isn’t your thing:
…then we can’t be friends anymore.
When I went on the beach vacation earlier this summer, I wanted to some light reading material. Not having a tablet or e-reader, I wondered if my iPod Touch would be enough to read something. Books? Kind of a pain. Manga? Surprisingly well. Rather than go through the hassle of uploading them as pictures and dealing with weird resolutions, I looked around for an app that did that. I found one: Manga Storm.
Like many apps, you can try it for free with an ad bar down at the bottom of the menu screen, or “unlock” it for $3.99 (which I recommend). It basically can search through five separate manga depositories – MangaFox, MangaReader.net, MangaEden, Batoto, and MangaHere – and pull anything in those catalogs for free. You can even download all the chapters, so you can read them later sans WiFi.
The really popular stuff like One Piece and Naruto cannot be accessed for some reason, but a ton of other quality manga can. My recent history includes:
- Berserk (current to Ch. 330)
- Gantz (current to Ch. 367)
- Chobits (complete)
- GTO (complete)
- Nausicaa (complete)
- Sekirei (current to Ch. 132)
- Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, e.g. YKK (complete)
By the way, if you never heard of YKK, I recommend it. It follows the deeply serene adventures of an android in the most relaxing post-apocalyptic setting I have ever seen. There is no violence or real drama, but it was pretty effective at evoking feelings of future-nostalgia. One of my favorite sections was this one:
I bring all this up for several reasons, but the biggest is as a means of soliciting manga recommendations. Do you guys have any? As my history list earlier hopefully demonstrates, I am fairly open-minded when it comes to the medium. All I am looking for is at least two of the following:
- Interesting plot.
- Good artwork.
Manga like Sekirei skews towards the ecchi side of things, but I have zero problems with that. The end-goal is filling in those empty minutes while waiting for a BF3 map to load or for me to get tired enough to actually sleep. Ordinary, or extraordinary; slice-of-life, or epic magnum opus; new, or old; juvenile high school comedy, or Grave of the Fireflies. I want them all, if they meet 2 of the 3 criteria. Or maybe even just one… I’m running out of Angry Birds: Rio levels and I’ll be damned if I go back to Tiny Tower.
P.S. Feel free to send an email (check the About page for the address) with your recommendations if you fear a comment will harm your gaming geek cred.
In case you haven’t seen them yet, there are a bunch of sales going on this weekend.
There is a fledgling new indie game marketplace called Because We May. Until June 1st, all of the games up there are 50% off or better. Those include:
- World of Goo ($2.99)
- Osmos ($2.99)
- The Binding of Isaac ($1.99)
- Psychonauts ($4.99)
- Q.U.B.E. ($7.49)
- Cthulhu Saves the World & Breath of Death VII Double Pack ($1.49)
- Dungeon Defenders ($7.49)
EA finally got (one of) the memo(s) about why Origin is terrible compared to Steam, and now all (four) Origin games are 50% off. This includes:
- Mass Effect 3 ($29.99 but see below)
- Battlefield 3 ($29.99)
- BF3: Back to Karkand DLC ($7.49)
Amazon is also a place where sales occur:
- Syndicate ($17.99)
- Total War: Shogun 2 ($7.49)
- Mass Effect 3 ($25.99)
- Saints Row the Third ($16.49)
- Mirror’s Edge ($4.99)
Finally, Steam appears to be selling EVE for $6.80 again. Still not pulling the trigger just yet.
The games on my plate at the moment:
- Tribes: Ascend
- Battlefield 3
- Diablo 3 (just purchased)
- Greed Corp
- plus about 6-8 other Steam purchases
Since I had already spent D3′s launch date at the beach, I was toying with the idea of waiting for a Dealzon deal to pop up before throwing down. However, most of the old WoW crew are already into Nightmare and there gets to be a point beyond which we may as well be playing two different games. Sure, they could roll alts or bring their mains in to one-shot everything, but… yeah. It is just not the same.
As someone who prefers playing one game exclusively until completion and then washing my hands of it, my present situation is quite vexing. I keep thinking that this is a better problem than the opposite: ala my SNES childhood days in which I wrung Zelda: A Link to the Past dry with 30+ run-throughs because new games only existed on Christmas, Easter, and my birthday. Then again, given the trends I outlined in my last post, I have little doubt that enough gaming entertainment exists right now to last the rest of my lifetime.
And, oh hey, the Thief trilogy is on sale. Let me just compulsively buy that like the little digital hoarder I am. There, stacked up neatly next to the four untouched Splinter Cell games and seventeen copies of the morning edition of the 1971 New York Times newspaper.
One day at a time. One day at a time.
Today, Kotaku reposted an earlier article from Rock, Paper, Shotgun entitled “Do We Own Our Steam Games?” which was the inspiration for yesterday’s post. The example scenario that makes up half the article is not exactly the most flattering, as it involves a Russian gamer who, quote, “[...] openly admits that he’s gifted games to people in exchange for money, to help them get them cheaper.”
In other words, some Steam games are cheaper in Russia, so you could call this guy up, have him buy LIMBO for the equivalent of $0.50 instead of $9.99, have him gift the game to you, and then you give him $3 or buy him a beer or whatever in exchange. Of course, regional price differences sometimes work the other way too. For example, Deus Ex: Human Revolution costs $29.99 in the US, but €49.99 in Europe… the equivalent of $66.36, or an increase of 121.27%.
That sort of thing will get you banned, of course.
It was around this time in the comments that someone named “iteyoidar” dropped this gem:
Funny how when it comes to globalization, when it’s games devs and publishers dodging domestic laws and getting cheap shit in other countries, it’s just business, but when it’s the consumer using the same thing to their advantage to buy cheap media, it’s “fraud” and “cheating” and they’re all scum.
Yeah. Yeah. Is there a particularly good reason why we tolerate price discrimination on identical, digital goods? Other than, of course, that companies wouldn’t like it?
I get that standards of living are different, that you can’t ask for $15/month in China when the average person makes $20.27 a day, and so on. But as a consumer, why should I care? Spare me the “holistic” crap of feeding game devs and races to the bottom, because obviously that shit only works one-way when it comes to outsourcing jobs. Why is it okay to presume a business has a right to profit, but a consumer lacks the equivalent? Because that hurts businesses?
Oh. Oh, I see.
The people that can pay more should pay more, eh? Where have I heard that before?
How important is it for you to own your movies and books and videogames?
I am one of those people who fills with righteous indignation on hearing stories about how EA or Steam can (allegedly) ban people from playing the games they paid for based on what they did on the forums. And yet I endeavor to only buy games on Steam – if there is no Steam version and its not an MMO, it doesn’t exist to me. The last console I owned was a PS2.
As I was reflecting on this seeming dissonance, I glanced over at my bookshelf. And what I saw were a lot of DVDs I had not touched in nearly a decade (or more), and unlikely to touch ever again.
What I realized I wanted was:
- the ability to play a game, watch a movie, or read a book.
- the ability to do so again, at some later date, without paying again.
- paying a discounted price for the loss of ownership.
To be clear, by “ownership” I am referring to my ability to resell or gift the item.
My Steam library is sitting at 205 games. There are exactly two titles out of those 205 that I paid full MSRP for, and they were Fallout: New Vegas and Portal 2. At $40, Skyrim was the next highest amount of money I was willing to pony up for the Steam service for an individual game since I first downloaded the client with the Orange Box.
So when people ask that “what if Steam shuts down?” question, a large part of it is moot: there is no scenario in which I’d miss Singularity or KOTOR or Far Cry. I might want the possibility of booting up Portal or Half Life 2 (like when Episode 3 comes out, cough) years down the line, but in all likelihood they would share the same fate as my pristine copies of Xenogears, the Tenchu series, and FF7-FFX in indefinite shelving purgatory.
As you may or may not be aware, there was a minor kerfuffle surrounding Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The gist is that Amalur is an EA-published single-player RPG with an Online Pass that unlocks Day 1 DLC, which is like a triple-word score on the Scrabble board of controversy. The thread on the forums ballooned to 48 pages of indignation, Curt Schilling (CEO and some baseball guy) responded in an eminently reasonable manner, and now the thread is about three times as big.
The irony in all of this is that this particular incident is not that big a deal. However, it touches on so many things that ARE a big deal, that it becomes something that should be a big deal. Specifically, the demonization of used game sales, which has came up before in an unfortunate Penny Arcade post back in August 2010. Later on in the Amalur thread, Curt Schilling laid out the issue:
Herein is the dilema no one wants to talk about right? We CANNOT in ANY WAY cater to people that buy used games exclusively right? We see ZERO revenue. Now as a consumer you may care nothing about that, and that is absolutely your right and we respect that.
However we are a business, we have 400 people, every single one of them is awesome, but I just can’t get them to work for free, so we need to make money to pay them, to make more awesome games.
Now the issue is the straddler, there are people like me, never ever bought a used game in my life, or pirated one, and never will, and people that ONLY buy used because they don’t have the means to buy new or whatever, but they have their reasons, agree with them or not it’s not relevent.
The straddler does both, he buys new and used, he turns in used to buy new, and that new game could be ours right? How do we handle that? How does the industry handle that? Industry? That’s the huge challenge.
I want to talk to the executives out at EA and other game companies for a moment. Are you guys listening? Get ready to write this down:
A used game sale is a guaranteed new game sale at a lower price point.
Don’t you see? These people are ready and willing to give you money, and YOU ARE NOT LETTING THEM. No one is buying used games because used is better; used games are universally worse, with possibly scratched disks, missing manuals, missing cases, and so on.¹ No one is buying used games to specifically deny money to the developers; otherwise they would simply pirate it. People buy used games because they are otherwise being priced out of the market (which includes people who don’t feel a game is worth full MSRP).
I understand it’s EA or whoever’s right to set their merchandize at whatever price point they like. I have doubts that $59.99 is the precise intersection of Demand and Supply, but whatever. My point here is that used game sales is literal demand that is being filled by other people expressly because you refuse to accept any less than an arbitrary amount. The idea of Online Passes is to get something back from the secondary market, right? Instead of selling $10 Online Passes, how about, I dunno, dropping the price of the game by $10?
Maybe the Online Pass thing makes them more money. If a game is resold ten times, that is potentially $100, right? But if that game was resold for $40 ten times, that means EA could have sold TEN NEW COPIES AT $40. Gamestop could sell used copies at $35, sure, and maybe no game company one wants to get into such a race to the bottom. But at that point, I would hope that EA and friends would get on the right side of incentives instead of the wrong.
Because here’s the thing: this is all about the continual erosion of Consumer Surplus. When you buy a brand new game for $59.99, the ability for you to sell that game to Gamestop for $20 when you are done with it is Consumer Surplus. It is value, whether you explicitly exercise it or not. We can imagine a world where used games somehow don’t exist in any form.² In such a world, you have LOST $20 worth of value and have likely received NOTHING in return – probably LESS than nothing, if the mechanism that prevented used games inconveniences legitimate customers the same way DRM harms actual customers. This is the reason DLC (especially Day 1 DLC) is troubling, the reason Cash Shops are troubling, the reason being forced to go online and register offline, single-player RPGs is troubling: all of these things are signs of Consumer Surplus extraction.
Remember back, say, 20 years ago? When a game company only received greater profit by ensuring they put out quality products? Those days are long gone. It is no longer about generating more sales, but from extracting more dollars from the sales that ARE made. Whoever came up with the phrase “value-added services” is a goddamn Doublespeak genius. Instead of simply getting those extra costume options, we pay for them. Instead of getting free map packs, we pay for them. Instead of being able to earn Sparkleponies and Disco Lions, we pay for them. This incentivizes game designers to have us pay more for less, instead of pay less for more.
The Kingdoms of Amalur controversy is not that big a deal in the scheme of things. Indeed, when you put it in the context of pre-order bonuses and Collector’s Edition items, it’s hard to see 38 Studios “giving away” DLC as particularly nefarious. Lesser evil is still evil though, and I can’t help but wonder whether in a different age those seven quests would have been included in the game, or in a free patch later on. Or as a poster in the Amalur thread said:
Is it just me or does that PR statement just admit that they develope DLC at the same one as the game, or in non moron speak, the game you’re paying 60 bucks for is having parts removed so you could buy then later.
AHow incredibly fucking nice of them to give Us the entire game up front, oh wait, they just admired to holding that back.. What else did they pull out? What other content did they strip from the title to bilk us for later?
Looks like $20-30 GOTY edition it is.why would I pay full price when I can’t trust or believe I’ll actually get the full….Fucking…. Game?
¹ Remember when games came with cloth maps and game posters? I still have the two game posters that came packaged in the FF6 box. Those sure as hell didn’t show up with your used game copy.
² Just look at Steam: no used game sales. Of course, you should also look at Steam because they are on the right side of consumer incentives. In return for DRM and no resale of games, we get hassle-free DRM, truly ludicrous sales (consumer surplus!), automatic game updates, amazingly fast downloads, integrated community, and the ability to manage a library of titles without worrying about CDs or CD keys. Compare that to the typical ham-fisted Ubisoft or EA implementation of DRM.