Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Ascii Dreams Non-Roguelike Game of the Year

It appears traditional to offer an end of year analysis of the best games of the year in preparation of the famine of the early months of the New Year. Prolific journalists and enthusiastic amateurs will provide well considered advice on which games they played provided the highs and lows, while developers and studios prepare the resolutions for 2009.

You too are being offered the choice of the best at my table – voting for the plenitude that is the 75 roguelikes which saw a release in 2008. Many of you reading this site on a regular basis will note that I also play games in other genres, perhaps skipping over the articles where I have boldy proposed designs and redesigns of what I have played in 2008. Based on these experiences, I would like to like to suggest a game of the year which falls outside the roguelike genre. But I have a confession to make. (With apologies to southern hemisphere readers).

In this grasshopper season rich with autumn’s bounties, I’ve played the ant.

I sit in my lounge, glancing briefly over the PS2 and Game Cube gathering dust under the widescreen LCD - calling it a television, when I’ve watched perhaps five hours of broadcast television all year would be a disservice – and over to the stacks of jewel cases of my gaming collection, stacked high with second hand gems of yesteryear like Half Life: GOTY edition, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Company of Heroes and recent acquisitions, like Spore and...

Well, only Spore.

I noticed, and still contemplate, a distressing trend in my purchases, which has completely changed my buying behaviour this year. I would get a game, open and install the CD once, and play a while. Then I’d have to re-image my laptop – for a variety of reasons, discussed previously – and never touch the game again. The sheer inertia of having to wait for the install, perhaps swapping CD or DVD , disc after disc, then finding and installing all the patches, only to have to repeat the process a few months later, would exhaust me far before the euphoria of actually playing would hit. Not to mention the inconvenience of having to pack for the road, a frequent experience recently.

And so the game would sit discarded in its case – while I played Left4Dead, or Team Fortress 2, or World of Goo, because it was far easier to back the Steam cache up to hard drive, and faster to restore it than install a game from optical media.

To rub salt on the raw wound, a few weeks later, the now forgotten game would arrive on Steam, where I'd be left with the unpleasant choice of repurchasing it, or relying on the sundered shell of its former fragile, imperfect physicality.

So to confess my New Years resolution last year: I swore to only buy games this as they were digitally released.

I cracked, but once. Buying Spore was a calculated risk that Electronic Arts would be unable or unwilling to distribute their tent pole games on a third party platform – one which has just been proved wrong, spectacularly so when you consider the Steam version doesn’t require SecureROM.

Which is why my game of the year is a platform, Steam, not a game.

Because Steam is really the only game in town.


Ian said...


You could have said Gears 2 or somthin'

Jotaf said...

Way to go! I only play indie games that you can just download & play. (Roguelikes fall into that category.) No blockbusters for me. I don't spend any money and 99% of the time it's hassle-free. Now, for another round of Cloudphobia...

Cyranix said...

Steam is the only thing keeping me somewhat up-to-date with major PC/multiplatform releases... though most of my purchases have been Valve products anyway. Aside from that, I only play small indie games and older, tried-and-true PS2 games.

VRBones said...

I've had a rocky relationship with steam. I don't know of any other hardware or software application that has ruined more tournaments than steam. In fact I can't remember one tournament (even at world level) where there has NOT been an issue with steam at some point.

If it weren't for TF2 Beta I'd have never installed steam on my PC.

Problems with steam:
1) Inability to reach the authentication server means you cannot play ANY game.
2) Inability to have the latest patch means you cannot play that game.
3) Patches are required to be completed through steam, which means that if the update servers are down or overloaded you cannot play the game (see 2) or download from another source.
3) Default setting will download and install updates regardless of what you are doing on the PC, even if you're playing the game it's trying to patch.
4) There is no way of throttling the steam updates to allow for background downloading.
5) Re-downloading games is a serious drain on time and download limit (TF2 last week was ~7Gb to download).
6) I'm amazed that you've been getting away with backing up the game cache. Through all the Tourney PCs I've set up I would say that copying the cache works about 30% of the time, and with some internal modification another 50% of the time.

That said, the presence it gives in game, the interconnection of friends and the games they are playing, and the recording of time and achievements are awesome.

Summary: When steam works it's awesome. When it doesn't work it will not let you play games. That's a hard choice for me.

Antoine said...

Poll: Wheehee! I got 5 votes

Andrew Doull said...

VRBones: Not had many problems with it at all - but I'm not playing at a tournament level...

Antoine: You're probably the only person with 3 separate entries on the list. I call foul...