A lack of steam in a machine

Valve’s Steam Machines were launched some seven months ago. They’ve made no impact on the consumers’ habits or to the general scene. The industry expected them to have an impact or challenge the existing consoles, but the reality is, nobody outside hardcore Steam fans gave a damn about them.

Not even their controller has made a huge impact. They’ve sold about a half million Steam controllers according to themselves (which may or may not be an exaggerated number) and the number compared to the amount of Steam’s users is laughably low. The thing is, computer is the king of input devices. You can essentially add any input device you want and even build your own, and then hope for the best the games on Steam support it, and that their anti-piracy system doesn’t screw you over. But that’s the point; PC itself is that Wild West of every thing’s free, but Steam limits the user, and Valve trying to push the Steam controller is an example of further putting that console twist to what essentially is a digital console.

However, are all these controller sold separately? Without a doubt no. This half million sales figure most likely includes sold Steam Machines as well, which would mean that the Machines have probably sold less than a half million in six month’s sales period. There are no exact numbers anywhere, and we’ll most likely never hear any. Valve had partnered with numerous companies from Alienware to NEN to deliver their machines, a thing that caused more confusion to the general public than anything else.

People who already wanted to play console games on a power PC already had their gaming rig build and ready to go, and those who didn’t want to spend few thousands to build a supercomputer were satisfied with the console versions for their own reasons.

The Steam Machine is a physical iteration of a digital games console, and it showed that people aren’t willing to dish out money on yet another machine to play games when they have a computer to run Steam on. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbone sold over a million units on their first day back in 2013. To compare how well those two sold compared to Steam Machine, PS4 had sold 10.2 million units and Xbone 5.5 million in the same passing of time.

Steam Machine has been barely a splash in a puddle, comparable to any other dud console in the game history, especially with Valve’s status. If we’re completely honest, Steam OS is an idea worth jack shit as it supports no standards widely used. Linux is a nice thing but has its own problems, while Windows still rules as the standard OS across the world in most cases, followed and overtaken by Apple’s machines in certain fields. There is no reason for a consumer to move from their standard current setup to a dedicated Steam console. There are no benefits to do so, especially when Steam is free to download.

Steam Machines have nothing to do with PC gaming, much like how the only thing Steam has to do with PC gaming is that it’s a software on PC that functions like a game console. Giving Steam Machines any credit for driving Linux gaming is stupid, as Valve already released a version of Steam catered for Linux users before Steam Machines.

What appeal do the Steam Machines have? I have to ask this, as it seems that everything was against them. They had no exclusive deals that other consoles had as all titles that were offered through it were also available on the Windows Steam. The controller had put off a lot of people due to its general functions, especially in an environment where you can put a goddamn fleshlight into the USB jack and play games by using your hip movement. Their price range is rather on the high-end, starting from around five hundred dollars if their site is to be believed. That puts it automatically above the basic budget the common consumer wants to put into a game console, and both Xbone and PS4 are cheaper. Whatever capabilities the Steam OS is wasted on a  Steam Machine, when you probably have a computer sitting next to your desk.

Steam Machine baffles me. What was the point of it in the end? To make a computer more user-friendly for a console user?  If that was the intention, they’ve underestimated their consumer base in a major way.  A console is just a box to play games on, and without anything special on a particular console (especially in the price range they are in) Steam Machines withered fast. It doesn’t help that after the Steam Machines’ launch, Valve did exactly jack shit with them and their promotion has been worse than the new Ghostbusters’.

The only good thing from all this is the fact that Valve really is intending to push Linux gaming further, but as said, Valve had been pushing that before Steam Machines. Without a doubt they are one of the major reasons why they are doing it now, and perhaps had planned it beforehand. Valve should drop their nigh stupidly manical ideas of pushing a physical iteration of Steam any further or an Operating System dedicated to it, and stick with driving more Linux and OS compatible titles.

The last thing that shows that Valve failed with Steam Machines that there is no buzz about them. There is not discussion on the general level or even news about them. Occasionally you can see news about Xbox or PlayStation, even about the Wii U. People will discuss them and their games. Steam Machines will be a footnote on electronic gaming history alongside Atari Jaguar.

However, that controller of theirs has still something in it. It’s floating in the ether and pops up in discussion about controllers, but that seems to be it. Still a failure in the end.

Microsoft combining their platforms

For some time now I’ve been expecting Microsoft to return to their native PC market. Gears of War Ultimate Edition is hitting the PC via Windows 10 Store. Similarly, Forza 6’s slimmed down version is getting a release via Win10 store as well.

What does this tell you? This tells you that Microsoft is unifying PC and Xbox One.

The Xbox brand has been less successful than Microsoft wanted it to be. From the very first console, it never dominated the market anywhere to any extend outside the America. The Xbox lost to PS2, the 360 lost to the Wii and Xbox One doesn’t seem to sell anywhere. These have translated into losses very fast, but Microsoft’s vast monetary resources have kept the brand afloat.

Not only that, but the consumer has made clear what sort of OS they prefer. Windows 7 is still the most used OS at 52.34% market share, followed by Win10 and the goddamn WinXP. Nobody liked Windows 8, and it looks like Win10 is gaining foothold because it’s a forced update. It offers something to the hardcore gamers for sure, but that’s a niche audience at best.

UWP, the Universal Windows Platform, aims to run platforms on both PC and Xbox. Seeing how Microsoft is turning Xbox into a gaming machine that can be upgraded in hardware, like almost any PC. Hell, at this point they should do away with the Xbox brand as a console and start selling them as gaming designated PCs. Wouldn’t be the first time somebody has done that either.

On top of that, Microsoft wants to get into the whole Augmented Reality stuff.

It seems they are restructuring themselves harshly, but something doesn’t seem right. They’re not making a clear-cut difference with the console market, but they are teetering on its edge. With the upgradeable hardware they are essentially announcing that their targeted consumer base will be smaller than previously, as most console gamers are not into modifying their hardware in any way.

This weird split won’t push either Xbox side or the PC side if the UWP in the way they are hoping for. Digitally, the UWP acts as one platform, but we always have to remember that there exists a large amount of different hardwares running Win10. For the cross platform to work as intended, all UWP games would need to be tied to the Xbox side of hardware in performance and options. I do not see a scenario where UWP would allow any Xbox game to use the full potential of the PC hardware because Xbox hardware exists.

On top of that, DirectX 12 will be Windows 10 exclusive and that won’t affect anything. Rather, if UWP will utilise it, the Xbox will most likely get an equivalent update to it.

UWP and Win10 Store will function as digital game console, much like how Steam works, and that is what Microsoft will have an uphill battle with. Steam is without a doubt in a monopoly position when it comes to digital platform on PC. Both EA and Ubisoft tried their own thing and failed. GOG is sticking around as a good alternative for older games. Some have expressed the worry that Windows 10 will put games behind a walled garden, forcing people to use certain software to access their games to begin with with always online functionality, but you’d think they already got used to it with Steam.

Xbox as a brand had some root as a console name, and had dedicated fans just like everything else. However, unlike most of Nintendo’s consoles, both SONY and Microsoft were always the hardcore red sea competitors. But now there is an ad floating around with a modified Xbox One claiming that Together we are ONE, and especially mentions how the whole thing goes from the best casual games to a new generation PC gaming. It’s laughable and implies that PC gaming is the hardcore market, which it really is as we’ve discussed previously.While it’s sidestepping the hardcore fallacy, it resorts to casual fallacy with no care in the world.

The Xbox One seems to become a Steam Machine in many ways, an incredibly dumbed down computer for games.

None of this matters if the software they’re offering isn’t  up the task. Microsoft can reorganise the Xbox brand and their PC side as many times as they want to, but without the software to push either one, they will fall flat. Gaming on consoles has always been about one thing and one thing only; games. With Frankenstein’s monster -esque change they’re making won’t benefit the gamers or themselves as long as they intend to mix PC and consoles together.

I see this becoming another failure in Microsoft’s ventures. Zune failed, Microsoft phones failed, Microsoft’s tablets have been failing and now their consoles have failed and are being turned into third-rate PCs. The only reason Microsoft is still around is what made them big in the first place; Windows. The OS installation base is still large and Office is still largely a standard, but with their misadventures and constant screw-ups they are doing their hardest to fuck this monopoly up.

More Steam consoles coming your way

Recently Valve Corp. put out news concerning a portable Steam machine. No, not a laptop, but a handheld console.

What a console is has been through a change as of late, and Steam isn’t the only one that’s to be credited with this. All the account systems we have now have effectively become the consoles themselves. While this is a change from physical to digital, the core function hasn’t changed.

To recount, a console is essentially physical DRM. Unlike some PC DRM that are highly invasive and might even destroy the users’ HDD. Consoles have pretty much always been about plug-n-play, thou we can argue about Pong consoles. That simple function of having the game in, either built-in or as a cartridge, and have it there the moment you turn the machine on. That is the core difference between a console and a PC. This dynamic has changed, for better or worse.

With the upcoming Nintendo NX, we have seen signs that there could be a unified account system across Nintendo platforms, akin to how PSN is shared between Vita, PSP, PS3 and PS4, or how Microsoft accounts can be shared across all MS machines. With the constant increase in digital nature of the games, the physical machine has lost most of its meaning, especially now that PS4 and XBone are very similar in design and build.

Valve’s Steam was a bit ahead of this all, providing this sort of digital game console before stepping in with the hardware business. It’s very strange to see Valve Corp. to push out multiple versions of their Steam machines. At the moment, their most expensive machine variant goes for $4 999,99 while the lowest goes for $449. That’s strange, very strange. If Valve wanted to hit the same consumer group that the Big Three are competing for, this sort of multiple machine approach feels very strange indeed. It’s understandable why to offer a digital game console on PCs, as it streamlines the usability but doesn’t magically make it PC gaming. The machine, with it being slowly but surely being turned into a mere notion, is irrelevant now. It wouldn’t be for PC gamers, who would want to modify and tweak their games to the absolute maximum possibilities and beyond, but with Steam even these so-called PC games have gone with the console route and made everything simple. It’s the plug-n-play mentality, and calling that PC gaming would be demeaning what it is.

Steam OS is another example of this change, as it quite literally turns your PC into a game console. You’ll be losing all the benefits PC gaming used to have with Steam, and with an OS the last remnants of PC gaming are almost completely lost. The only things that Steam allows the consumer to do that resembles PC gaming are options that are not found on consoles, eg. higher resolution and additional effects. These games are still tied down to the system, just like console games are.

PC gaming isn’t getting the same games as consoles and having them on better specs. Hardware race used to be a big part of PC gaming, but not anymore. There’s still those who masturbate over getting that extra frame per second over someone else, but that’s practically meaningless in comparison to actual PC gaming, where the hardware race was to actually get the game run properly. PC gaming wasn’t plug-n-play, it wasn’t necessarily easy. That’s an atmosphere that PC game is in the end. Whereas arcades were all about the reflexes and split second decisions, the PC was a thinking man’s realm. The main reason why UItima always sucked on consoles was because it’s a PC game series. It wasn’t just developed for PCs, it was designed and its core lays with the PC way of thinking. You find all the best Western RPGs on PCs, because they’re text heavy, adventures, designed to blazed through in a relatively slow pace. With consoles being in the middle between arcade and PC, they could’ve been a healthy balance between the two. The Legend of Zelda, the first properly popular Action RPG got that genre coined because it functioned like an RPG with its relatively slow overall pace but with the need to be able to manoeuvre properly in arcade like action. While most people think PC RPGs in terms of levels and numbers, these levels and numbers have been streamlined in Zelda to be simply represented with hearts, pieces of the Triforce and equipment.

In Japan this was represented in Visual Novels and their own adventure games and simulators, where the text and menu heavy games ran rampart. The occasional action game you saw was either clunky or horribly choppy to the point of almost impossible to play properly.

With PC gaming almost completely lost due to consoles becoming dumbed down PCs and the games getting mixed, it’s not surprising to see a generation or two thinking that PC gaming is just playing games on PC, which is dumbing and tamping it down to lowest common extreme.

In a recent report we saw that the most played games on Steam are Valve based. This is very similar in where those who own Xbone mostly favour games close to Microsoft’s own brand, and similar fashion follows with Nintendo and SONY as well. As much as people would hate the idea, there’s four big console companies out there, Valve being included with the Big Three.

The Portable Steam machine is… a machine to play Valve games on the go without having to resort lugging your laptop with you, essentially. I’m not a fan of the preliminary design we’ve seen, but then again the whole idea of having to use a dual-stick controls is a turn off. That’s actually a good example of a way how PC was adapted to consoles. It’s an inferior method of control despite consoles allowing whatever type controller you wanted to buy and use. The NES was a bastion of controller selections and there’s a very good reason MadCatz has a negative rap to its name, despite producing high-end arcade sticks as of late

The change from having consoles gone to digital realm is something that consumers need to get used to. That is one reason PC gaming barely exists, and you can thank Valve’s Steam for that.

Steam refunds brings out the Neelix in devs

Last year I talked about how Puppygamer, an indie developer, managed to distance themselves from their consumers by basically calling them worthless, blaming them on their own misfortune and on loss of monetary gain. They even call customers as ants. The post really is an ugly bit of text to read, and while it is true that Valve has managed to drop value in gaming by selling games for a nickel instead of at proper price, it’s also a fact that there are games that are barely worth that nickel. You’d better just save it to use in your favourite arcade machine.

With Steam now allowing refunds, fucking finally if I may say so, the consumers are able to voice their distaste for any low end product that does not deliver as promised and/or advertised. Steam has changed their practices before due to European laws before, as they had to change from costumer purchasing games  to subscribing to them. If you were purchasing a game from Steam, you should have every right to resell it or demand refunds.

The only real way to keep customers from demanding a refund is to make a product that they want to keep, a product that delivers as promised. If it does more, then it would be better. Apparently, some indie developers who work with Valve to release their products on Steam seem to have risen against the idea of refunds, like Puppygamer. At the moment, Puppygamer’s twitter seems to be on fire. Qwiboo is another. This applies to some other, but the common thing is that there now exists a group of game developers that are hurting from Steam refunds. There is also another group of developers that are not experiencing any notable decline in sales since refund policy’s implementation, like Running With Scissors.

And that’s how it exactly as it should be.

The customer is a force to be reckoned with. If a customer is an ant, then we’re all living in a colony. You don’t like ants when they’re attacking you, biting and stinging you. You may be able to sit on top of the ant hive and take all the pain, but unless you’re paid for doing that, it’s better just to leave the ants alone. Otherwise you make suddenly find yourself losing  million dollar ad revenues.

A market is all about competition. You either make competent product or you will lose. Any and all companies that have been releasing products via Steam have been able to enjoy a free ride of never giving two damns about refunds. Now that customers are able to request their money back for products that essentially have wasted their time and put them into more entertaining pieces, they’re feeling the heat. Either you compete, or you drop out. I would not pay any money for a five minute game, and it seems that Steam is full of small indie titles that offer very low value in entertainment and time.

Customer satisfaction is incredibly important. To strand off from games for a moment, there’s one franchise with a stark contrast how the customers’ opinions were and handled. In both Star Trek Deep Space 9 and ST Voyager there are two side characters that were made more or less to ease the viewer into the world; Quark and Neelix respectively. Both characters were met with criticism and displeasure, as most viewers saw both of them annoying. They didn’t do their job and were hindering both shows’ success. Both series’ writers’ went The audience seems to hate out breakthrough characters, and while the DS9 staff asked what was wrong with their writing and how they could fix it, the Voyager staff asked what the hell was wrong with the audience. Quark was then soon naturally written to become far less annoying and incredibly well balanced support cast member to a point I would directly argue that he was a main character and the show could not have been as well received as it was. Neelix on the other hand stayed as an annoying idiot and practically lost every and all worth as a member of the Voyager crew by fucking things up as the series went on and couldn’t even offer guidance through space he claimed to have knowledge off. Rather than removing him from the show, the writers decided to remove Neelix’s competent and interesting ex-girlfriend. It was a middle finger to the viewers and series overall.

Puppygamers is an example of a developer who is doing the Neelix. Instead of looking at their product and wondering how the hell they could fix this shit, they are looking at everybody else and blaming them for their shortcomings. When you enter the any market as a provider, be prepared to cater to make money. You can make that trophy product you want, the shining example your ideal product, but don’t expect it to be successful. It’s most likely going to be something the consumer doesn’t want.  It’s a harsh truth, but unless you are able to cater to the consumer, you shouldn’t expect much gain.

If Puppygamer was any sort of developer that mattered on the larger scale, this would be some sort of PR fiasco right here. As an independent developer, which isn’t the case when they are partnered with Valve Corporation, they have little to no effect on anything. They are just a decent example how any group of people who are hate how a system is enforcing further competition and allows the ants, the consumers, to have ways to voice their displeasure. Consumer reviews are all good and give some idea how games are, but ultimately they don’t offer the thing actually testing the game does. As most developers don’t offers demos anymore because it takes away from the sales, the only thing the consumer on Steam can do is demand refunds when the products ends up being shit after all.

Perhaps the developers should continue to offer demos to consumers. Then they would not need to report loss of sales when consumers decide not to waste their time with the full product.

Will the current model for mods pay out like companies want them to?

The Internet has gone a bit loco with the whole Steam and mods thing going on. For those who have happened to miss what’s going on, Steam has mods for sale.

For a long line PC gamer, that may sound absolutely horrible.

While I agree with that notion, it’s never that simple when it comes to money. Mods have been more often than not been there from the community for the community. In some cases a mod or similar has been deemed good enough by the original product owner to see the day of light in commercial form, and it’s not too rare to see unlicensed mods to see the day of light on disc. Sometimes from Chinese selling free mods, but that’s another matter as a whole.

However, I also agree that a provider has the right to apply a price to their product, and thus request a payment in exchange for their effort. As an idea, Steam allowing or encouraging the sales of mods doesn’t sound too bad. Enforcing however is laughable at best, and seeing how the modder doesn’t actually benefit from the mods to the same degree as Valve and the original product owners do. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

This, however, is nothing new when it comes to Steam and Valve runs it. All the sales and such have been degrading the small developers position for some time, indie or not. People buy hundreds upon hundreds of games for just few dollars from various sales and bundles, making the games’ value essentially worthless. A developer has little to no control over the pricetag of their product. For a small developer, getting a dollar from a game that should sell at least at twenty dollars is not a punch to the gut, it’s knife stab with some skewing to go with it.

Steam at one point seemed to get every single console game ported to it. Big companies with large libraries from their almost thirty years of existence, or more, can do quick and cheap conversions to Steam and have that low price. The occasional big name then will rake in some bucks at the full price, and then it’ll go into sale. After this the company barely will even note the revenue it might bring in. Much like how children are criticised to want instant gratification nowadays, it could be argued that these companies are the exact same. Only the first few weeks matter, then forget it. Wait for the next five years or more until you get a new game for the series. Push out some DLC that was made during the production and all that, so you can rake in some more money, perhaps put a microtransaction element to fully abuse the consumer’s enthusiasm.

There is a group of people who have seen this as a last straw and are quitting Steam. All I really want to know is why are they quitting at this point, as this is the environment they helped to built.

Steam, as a whole, is unnecessary. Has always been, more or less. Why do we have Steam, the digital video game console on PC? PC used to be a free platform in the sense that anyone could produce something and put it on sale. Now it seems it has to be on Steam, or otherwise it will be doomed. Or at least that’s what the company and the most fanatic users want you to believe. In reality, Steam did nothing to make Minecraft a success it is. In Japan, where PC market is more or less solely for the otaku pandering porn games and visual novels, some franchises have stricken gold outside Steam, both before and after its arrival.

The whole selling mods thing seems more like a way to outsource actual content of a game like Skyrim to the consumers themselves. If a game sees high amounts of mods that add content to the game, why should the developer do any additional content themselves? The modders at Steam also need to make hundreds of dollars before they see any money from their work, and it seems it is Bethesda that rakes in the bucks.

Another issue is that mods are not the most reliable thing in the world. They will be broken by other mods, they will be broken by game updates and simple incompatible details in folders or other trivial things. What then when a game gets updated and a mod you purchased doesn’t work anymore? The modder is not liable to update the mod in any way, even if it would be decent ethics. Now that the mod is tied to a shop system like Steam, no other party can just take it and make it work with or without the original modder. I’m sure there is some sort of unwritten code with PC modders, something like honour among thieves sort of thing.

While I missed the whole golden age of modding scenes with consoles and arcade games, I’m no stranger in scrounging the Internet for rumoured mods and applying them. I remember the small crusade I had to do for a total conversion UC Gundam mod for Homeworld 2. I doubt there exists any downloads for that anymore, unless they actually managed to roll out that 3.0 or similar version. That poses another issue for the mod store; you are unable to get any license contradicting mods there of any kind. I doubt you could beforehand, but the point stands. You wouldn’t find something like that UC Gundam conversion on Steam, because the modder didn’t own any legal rights. But then again, it’s not uncommon to hear Cease and Desists letters arriving to modders’ mail boxes. It seems that current license holders are far too eager to protect their IP

It’s a harsh reality, but companies have rights to their products and they will take any chance to maximise their profits even when it is at the expense of the more enthusiastic consumers. While I can understand that, this really is a short term thing and will only create revenue on the short term, if at all, the real question is if they should do things like this at all. On the long run it is better to keep your customers happy and have a steady stream rather than sudden arguable spikes and then low income when the hype is gone and people have gone. Satisfied customer is returning customer, and lately it seems less and less customers come out satisfied.

The dynamics between the consumer and modder will decide whether or not the current situation is acceptable.

Devaluation of a product

Lately I’ve been checking the PC game section on my local stores. It is hard to find any good physical releases of games nowadays as bulk of them require Steam linking, but here and there I might find a game that doesn’t require the digital console. If this is the case, then the game wants me to use Origin or uPlay, which are essentially the exact same thing from another company.

The main reason, outside it being a digital video game console on a PC, is that it devaluates the products, i.e. games. I was linked to Puppygames’ developer blog that outlines one developer’s struggles to make money with his products. It would appear, at least according to this developer, is that the games they develop and get publish on Steam do not make money, that a game that should go for $20 fetches only $1. This is problematic albeit understandable. Steam is an environment where there is no trouble of finding games. There are people who sit on hundreds, perhaps even on thousands, of games and never really play them. They hoard them simply because they are cheap and come in bundles. Putting $5 into five games doesn’t seem to be so bad, but the reality is that those games most likely should fetch more.

The situation is further stricken down by the Humble Bundles or whatever they are called nowadays. The model they have drop the value of the products further as the customer can freely decide the price he pays. Naturally, the more you pay the more games you get.

This is disastrous for the industry. The value of the product plummeting means that the developer gains less from their work, which then is reflected on the further quality of the products. The dynamics of electronic game industry, both on PC and on consoles, has changed so that it is not enough to sell high number of units of software or hardware; it is the profit that is gained. SONY announced that ten million units of PS4’s have been sold thus far, but in modern dynamics that means nothing if we aren’t told how much profit these consoles have brought in. In console market the consoles have never been the thing to bring in profits anyway, that has been the job for the software. In SONY’s case it’s apparent their wholesome profit is less than the numbers would suggest, as PSN+ seems to give games away free all the time as well as drop prices even further than what they normally drop.

The industry has become an insane economy, where we’re offered high amount of products for basically nothing. The market is being oversaturated by titles that can’t sell alone.

Then again, the quality of these titles is highly questionable as it is.

If you check the devblog, you notice that their attitude towards the customer is as follows; we’re worth $1 for them in current market. That is, to put it simply, the wrong way to see things. The customer has no value limit. We are the lifeline of those who serve us. It is their products that have no value, and this is something many developers have a hard time to accept; the job you have done is worthless. In this developer’s case, Puppygames, we see that they are basically a dime in the dozen developer. Every game they have put out fall into the gray mass of faux-pixel graphics and mediocre gameplay. It’s actually hard to distinguish the illustrations from their games from each other as they look the same. Their games look like something I would try out in an arcade for 20 cents, and then move onto the game next to it because it has done the same thing but better. It’s absurd to think that a product should fetch certain price despite its quality, and I can clearly see why these games need to be put together in order to actually sell.

That leads us to another question; Why are they putting their games on sale in a place that they know will only drop the value of their games? If they truly are an indie developer, then they should also have an indie release. Independent, as the word is. As they now are, Puppygames is very dependent on Steam and whatever bundle they sell their games in. There are other outlets for these games, like GOG or even selling them via their own system. Hell, offer to sell your game on a disc for people who wish to have a physical copy.

This developer’s attitude is not a healthy one. It is an understandable backslash from the frustrating market they are in. However, the customer can’t be faulted for using the market to its fullest extent for his own benefit. This regulated devaluation of products is done by the industry itself and developers should realize how twisted it has become. Giving their games practically free is not good business. Making your games worth one dollar willingly is nobody else’s but the industry’s fault. It has been a conscious decision to not make profit.

Then again, much like during the Second Video Game Crash of the 80’s, there are so many games out there that people don’t even want to buy for a dollar. The same applied to the First Crash at the end of the 1970’s, which only Atari managed to survive.

The indie developer fallacy has gone too far nowadays anyway, where most developers don’t even code their engines anymore. For example, more than 50% of Spelunky’s code has been written by somebody else than the developer himself. This is far from being independent. Much like from developers that are not ‘indie,’ I would expect them to code their own games from bottom up. It is very disheartening to see the same engines used over and over in modern games. Often there are points that you could even see how the games act similarly because of the engine. Indie developer automatically create a power structure with anyone they associate with in developing and releasing their games. Valve Corporation seems to dictate prices and some releases, and thus has a large control over the indie developers they work with. They both influence and control the developer to some extent, which in turn causes the developer to do compromises. Insomnia has few good points on the indie fallacy, and rather than referring their contents while juxtaposing with mine, I’d recommend reading them afterwards.

I would also address another point in Puppygames’ blog. Phil Fish is used as an example of a developer who made his mind clear on the customers and the industry. I think he made a game that sold reasonably well for a time, but that’s beside the point. The point is that he put himself into a position of a rock star where there was no such position. Even if you’re one person in a company, that company needs to be your face. The customer, especially in the internet era, doesn’t need to see your face or hear you. If you position yourself in a place where you are easy to be shot down, and give valid reasons to be shot, don’t be surprised when you find yourself riddled with bullet holes.

The comparison between Fish having large amounts of money and the customer cleaning floors is also a good example how delusional worldview these people have. If I would working a restaurant and cleaning the floors when Fish steps in, of course I would call him sir. That is the proper etiquette. However, when I am purchasing his product he would be obligated to follow the exact same line of customer service as I would. It is often a two way street, and one person you service can often be a person who will be serving you somewhere else. Pissing off possible customer anywhere is far from a good idea.

Then again, cleaning restaurant floors is far more valuable work than developing a video game in the grand scheme of things. It’s sad to see this frustration and anger being directed in wrong way.

Puppygames also have forgotten the Rules 1 and 2.

Steam tags going haywire, or showing proper characteristics?

Valve has allowed interesting transparency with Steam with the use of user generated tags with the software their system provides. This gives a lot of freedom to the customer to voice their mind to the publishers through the tags. Unsurprisingly, these tags have become abused as of late. Assassin’s Creed Unity and Far Cry 4 have been tagged with some seriously harsh tags, such as Don’t Preorder, remember watchdogs and Uplay warning. I understand the last of these, as nobody wants to use Uplay. Then again, it’s just another layer of DRM on top of Steam itself, so it can be argued that the point is moot. I don’t really know who would want to preorder digital games, it’s not like it is possible to run out of digital goods. Artificially limiting the amount the distributor is willing to give out in digital products nothing short of stupid and strange. Watch-underscore-dogs is understandable, as the whole issue of keeping the better looks stashed away shows how little the industry thinks of PC nowadays and further shows how forcefully mixed and confused PC and console markets are.

Of course, the tags contain childish additions to boot. Tags like peasantry, casual and Kawaii are the closest thing you get of useless shit throw on the Internet for the mentioned games. They don’t support the claim the PC games should have; furthermore they undermine the little weight the developers put on negative customer feedback nowadays.

While the users, yours include, have an issue with modern Ubisoft titles and their forced Uplay, the way this dissatisfaction should be brought out in a far more constructive manner rather slamming stupid shit in the tags. As always, hitting Ubisoft where it hurts most is most effective. Refusal to purchase their products and spreading the information around is the best way to tackle their current game handling.

Granted, the whole tag function appears to be in some sort of beta stage and not wholly finished, and this sort of event just shows how a freeform system needs certain level of administration to weed out all the bullshit tags out. I am sure things will be changed when the final version of the tag system rolls out, but part of me does enjoy seeing things going like this to rather large extent. If Valve would care about the users, they would find a golden middle between the demands of the developers and the customers.

I wouldn’t mind if they’d favour the customer a bit more in their choice, whatever it is in the end.

It’s a good question whether or not PC is seen as a worthwhile system by Ubisoft. The thing is, both Assassin’s Creed Unity and far Cry 4 are, at their very core, PC games. If PC was the platform they would develop these games from the ground up, and only for PC, these products would eclipse their brethren. Of course, when console games are developed with the same mindset and the machines’ strengths are played out, the results should be something akin to the first Rayman in both success and popularity. Then again, perhaps Rayman is not the best example, as it was developed for Atari Jaguar.

I don’t really remember a time when Ubisoft’s PC games were not panned. It’s expected from Ubisoft to have a horrible PC port of their PC game on a console.

The current state of Steam tags is really interesting in another way as well. At this moment, they allow the users to add the very things they see describing the games most accurately in both negative and positive tones. A negative tag for one can be a positive to another, like No multiplayer.

It is expected that the developers want to control the tags they’re given. This is very foolish, in a manner of speaking, as it would also mean that honest interaction between the customers as well as the developers would be prevented. Tagging a game with something like Low FPS might be seen as a negative tag from the developers’ perspective, but it’s their damn fault such that tag is related to their games. Tags could be seen as one of the methods to do slightly invasive customer research, as the companies would see what sort of tags the customers value over others if done well.

It would be highly damaging if Ubisoft would come out and claim that these tags damage the image of their product. The thing is that of course it does; the customer decide the image of your product in the long run. Customers are fickle beings, especially on the Internet, especially in a place like Steam, and putting extra effort to meet their wants and needs are things that would need some attention.

In a perfect world, a good game would receive no bad tags but we know that’s not going to happen. We should also question if the tag system would need more emphasize on adding positive or negative views. For example, a tag could have plus and minus relations to a game. How this system would work in all actuality is a whole another issue, but it’s an interesting thing that might work if well designed. Could be a training exercise for future, I guess.

It will be interesting to see how Ubisoft will reply to these user made tags. I doubt that they will make any official statements and almost everything will be done behind the scenes. While I support the curtain between the provider and the customer, Valve’s transparency with the tags will pose some problems to the developers rather than Valve itself. It’s an interesting, and most likely unintentional, feature which can either give the developers a lot possibilities or fire back like as it has with Ubisoft.

Actually, screw that. Allow the users to put whatever tags they want and vote which tags describe the games most. Have few thousand people voting on Awful controls for a game as the most appropriate tag and let the developer sweat a bit. Perhaps this way the customer could put some pressure on the developers.

STEAM is a console after all

Funny thing that I compared STEAM to a console not too long ago, and now they’re actually making into a physical console. It’s just like so many consoles thus far; a dumbed down PC. I’m just dumbfounded, but I guess moving from being a digital game console to physical isn’t that big of a deal.

The question is; why would Valve want to step deeper into the Red Ocean where competition is at its highest when they had a good chunk of PC customers in their grasp?

STEAM is a video game console

The most prevailing argument with digital form of games is that they’re the same game, just without the physical case or form. Then it’s up to you whether or not you like having five gigs of digital games on your HDD waiting for you. Personally, I like to hold the cases in my hand. Digital games tend to drown in my computer, because I tend to have a large library of various things from documents to images.

STEAM is not about PC gaming. It’s a digital gaming console. As such, if you’re a STEAM user, you’re more related to console gamers. The PC kiddies think otherwise, but let’s go a bit deeper.

Cartridge based consoles are basically computers that need to be completed with the said cartridge. Consoles needed carts to function, unless they had built-in games. As they became more dumbed down PCs, this link was more severed until we ended up with the machines like the HD twins, which are basically multimedia systems for everything, and gaming was not even the second choice.

cart PCB
After all, game carts are pieces of PCB that hold information that the console just executes

STEAM follows the original function rather well. You can’t really do anything with it unless you have games. Luckily there are games like Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Street Fighter IV, Phantasy Star and oh…
STEAM’s DRM also functions much like console’s own natural state of being the DRM itself, and many publishers won’t release their games without any DRM. As such, STEAM isn’t really just a programme, it’s a consoles emulator. That’s a bit tacky, so let’s go with a digital video games console.

I always thought that I disliked STEAM because it demanded me to stick with it, that I hated the idea of my games tied down to something. After a rather heated discussion with two of my friends, I came to a conclusion that why I disliked STEAM so much wasn’t because it was about PC gaming, but because it limited gaming overall. After all, don’t the consoles do the exact same thing? STEAM and Origin, and all similar services, are shadows of consoles. PC is a free environment where I can do whatever I want to it whenever I want. I can tweak games with mods, remove files here and there and basically have a drug party with its insides. STEAM doesn’t allow me to do any of these unless it approves. It’s like one of those evil aunties that take you for a weekend and force-feeds you her own strange foods that give you diarrhea.

Now that I think of it, it’s funny how all of my so-called hardcore computer gamer friends are nothing more that STEAM users.

There havebeen rumours for STEAM Box, a machine that would run a STEAM for your TV. Isn’t that a console that runs solely on digital games? The better question is, why the hell would VALVE would like to step away from this digital distribution business they’ve found so good? STEAM allows all generations to compete with each other on equal grounds, and the more I take look at what it offers, the more I see games that I’d like to play. The thing is, these games are older games and readily available on consoles. Why would I download a program that I don’t need for anything else than playing few measly digital games, when I can get the same game with a box, a physical manual and nice plastic casing around it? I did not buy my computer for games, I bought it for work. Gaming is a tertiary element here, but I bought these consoles for one thing only.

I do prefer physical consoles and physical games over digital ones, especially when the service provider has all the powerto screw me over at their will. SEGA can try to screw me over all they want when I’m playing Comix Zone.

The ownership of digital games is the second of the things that always putme off. As much as STEAM is a digital game console, all games that you have in your library are on an indefinite rent. If any of you readers wouldlike to sell some of your STEAMbased games, I’d like to buy them. They’re used of course, as you’ve been playing them. That should knock some 25% to 50% from the price, and as they’re common as hell because of digital distribution, that knocks other 25% from the price at least. So, I’d like to buy that 10€ game for 2.50€. I can always take my business- Oh you can’t sell?

As much STEAM wishes for you to think that you own the games, as long as they have the say in whether or not you have the access to those games means that you’ve got no power over them. I can sell you vast majority of my games as I own them. The companies have nothing to say to that. STEAM isn’t just a console, it’s a console that takes all of your money without really giving the product you were promised. It’s crooked and dishonest, but the product itself seems to please all the PC kiddies nowadays, so it’s kind of expected to see it flourishing. After all, it’s a common misconception that only kids play consoles.


It’s also a really damn good question why would I like to download STEAM when services like DotEmu have packs like this. It even has goddamn UNDERCOVER COPS!