One of the things to look forward to at any important time of the year is a Steam Sale. Christmas is the time where things really start to get going on that front. People spend themselves into debt with games that they might never play but are just so cheap. This Christmas will probably be the biggest sale Steam has ever handled, and there’s bound to be a few surprises, as there always are (I bought Mass Effect for a ridiculously low price this time last year). A surprising build up to this event has been the Steam Treasure Hunt, an event in which you are presented with four challenges to complete in a variety of games every couple of days. The games are typically indie titles and are priced below £2, with other more mainstream titles busted down to about £5. Herein lies the problem; I can’t stop doing these bloody challenges.

I’m typically a sucker for attempting goals in games. If you present me with a challenge I typically won’t shirk from it. If you present me with a dirt-cheap game and tell me to complete a certain objective, I will buy the game and try it. Of course if you present me with the chance of getting another hat in TF2 then I’ll be 110% more likely to do it. Here are the games that I’ve bought over the last few days as a result of this damned event:

AaAaAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
Beat Hazard
Bob Came in Pieces
Just Cause 2
Magic The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers
Zombie Driver

Frankly, this Treasure Hunt may soon mean that I embark on a hunt of my own…to my bank as I request a loan. I could happily say that my investment has, so far, been rewarded by some very decent games. Sadly, not all of them are very fulfilling, and I plan to write an article on either here or GamingDaily about some of these offerings. I know one thing for sure, if the Christmas Steam Sale is anything like this, I will have to sell my kidneys. Again.


Moving On

On October 5th I was browsing Twitter as I do during my brain-dead moments. I was sick that day so I had a pretty fine excuse for being in such a state. During my little browsing session I saw a retweet from a certain Jaz McDougall, writer for PCGamer magazine. It was originally by a profile named GamingDaily, and it said:

“Hey, PC gaming types – want to write about PC games? Read this: http://www.gamingdaily.co.uk/write-for-us/ (RT’s would be appreciated)”

Immediately I knew that I had to go for this. I contacted the editor and showed him some of the things I’ve written here over the course of the blog’s lifespan. Sure enough, he gave me the go ahead. Now, one month and a few trial articles later, I am a registered writer with PC gaming blog Gaming Daily, and I’m over the bloody moon.

I’m just so happy with how things pretty much fell into my lap. One Twitter link and an email, job done. I suppose it goes to show just how powerful that little social networking tool can be, but that’s for another post I guess. I’m just overjoyed to now be on the first step of the ladder. From here I can meet new people, make connections, start doing what this blog was made for on a professional level.

Yes, I’m moving on, but I’ll always remember that this little journey started with a pokey little blog made for a Journalism assignment at Uni. I’ll be here from time to time, but the majority of my content will now be posted on GamingDaily 🙂


Team Fortress 2 is still the FPS game to beat

Last week, Valve released Team Fortress 2’s most controversial update yet. Since 2007, the game has been patched and updated for free (provided you’re playing on PC and not the much-neglected console version). Sadly, with the Mann-Conomy Update, this has changed. Yes, you can still download the update itself for free, yet the game now has those dreaded ‘micro-transactions’, in the form of paying real money for in-game items. Surprised? Confused? Angry? You aren’t alone, the community was in uproar.

A couple of days after the update came out, I uploaded a commentary to Youtube of my thoughts on the issue. I came to the conclusion that while I wasn’t dead against the money issue, I felt it was a shame that Valve had suddenly gone down the ‘Activision / EA route’ of charging money in-game seemingly for the sake of it and immediately creating a division within the community. Valve have been the best developers for the PC for a long time now, and part of what made them great was their caring for the community, the way they communicated with us, and their free content for TF2. After all, what started as a game with six maps, two game modes and 25 weapons is now a game with 32 maps, 10 game modes and 77 weapons! Yet, people wanted things to stay the same. The people who had gotten used to this free content were the ones screaming the loudest. Here’s a few of the comments to the video I created which took people round the new Mann Co. Store:

“In my views, this killed the game.”
“Now the whole game is like a shit mmorpg.”
“Valve has sold out, they are dead to me now.”

Having seen these remarks, it puts things right into perspective for me. It really is not that bad. Not so bad to the point where the whole game has changed, at least. Almost all of the items that were added with the update are available through regular means, such as trading, crafting or finding. The items that aren’t available through those methods are purely cosmetic and give you no bonuses over other players whatsoever. To balance that out, there are also some items that aren’t available in the store but can be found, traded or crafted. Ironically, this is the least publicised aspect of the update. Funny, that. The second least publicised aspect of the update is that pretty much all of the new items were created by the community for a competition. The new items are the winning entries and part of the reason for them being available for money is so that the creators of these items can take a share of the money that Valve makes from them. If that isn’t being generous and supportive to your community, then I don’t really know what is.

While Valve have annoyed a lot of people who were once loyal customers in the last few days, there’s no denying that, for me, TF2 is still the ultimate online FPS experience. The community is still top notch, the weapons are still balanced more than most big-name shooters currently on the market and it still costs less to buy the full game than any competitor. While Activision give you £11 map packs for Modern Warfare 2, Valve have given you the option of paying 50p for that Flare Gun you carelessly got rid of and now really want again. Hats are more expensive but, seriously, hats? If hats provided you game-breaking bonuses then maybe I’d understand criticism for them being available for money, until then they’re just cosmetic. Chill, and you can get one in a trade from another kind player (of which there are many). If more developers were like Valve, even with this quite turbulent week they’ve had, there would be many more very happy gamers.

Obligated Gaming: No More

Goodbye to Azeroth, until Cataclysm blows us all up

Video games are not jobs. No matter how involved they may be in your professional life, if you’re a games journalist or even a designer, they’re just an elaborate hobby. No more than that.

In June last year I was offered to become an officer in the guild I had long been a part of in WoW, Primal. It was, in many ways, the happiest time of my WoW career. I’d always wanted to experience the game at the business end where all the hustle and bustling activity were to be found. I was warned that being an officer was no picnic, that there would be hard times and yet I stuck with it and accepted the offer. For 13 of those months, I was a happy officer of Primal. Yes there were bumps in the road but ultimately I can look back on those 13 months as enjoyable. For the most part, I was able to log in and enjoy myself and play as I wanted to. For the remaining two months, things turned sour.

I was no longer logging in because I wanted to, I was logging in because I had to. This wasn’t a game anymore, this was a glorified job in a virtual world where you pay someone else to do some occasionally very tedious tasks. Raiding was all that kept me in the game. If you take that out, there really is very little to do at the max level. As such, the idea of rushing dinner on four nights of every week just to be online on time was becoming less and less attractive. Why was I still logging on? Did I feel like I was logging on out of obligation, rather than a desire to? Yes was the answer, and that’s why between now and the launch of Cataclysm, I won’t be logging into WoW again.

Let me make this very clear; this is not a bitch post. I’m not airing out dirty laundry or finally unleashing long-held-back bitterness at my guild or WoW in general, because the sense of community in Primal is second to none. The purpose of this post is exploring the whole notion of ‘obligated gaming’. Video games are, almost by definition, supposed to be enjoyed. Whether you work full time and use them as escapism or you are surrounded by them all day as a tester or programmer, the idea of playing because you have to should never come into the equation. If your job is centred around video games, you took that job because you damn well enjoy playing video games. At no point should you feel as if you’re playing because you have to. The moment that thought even enters your mind, you have to stop there.

When I play a game from now on, it’s going to be on my terms and when I want to play it. This medium is too dynamic and too lovable to ever be treated as a job. Don’t let it be.

Alright, it happened

Starcraft II

Why I got Starcraft II:

  1. Peer pressure.
  2. Damn good reviews. Seriously, I took extra special notice of the ones that responded to the ‘omg 3 separate games’ criticism. The campaign has been very worthwhile so far.
  3. I wanted to return to RTS games. A long time ago I was having the time of my life while playing Age of Empires II. I wanted to hark back to those glory days.
  4. I stopped playing WoW, I need another game to step up to the mark. JEREMY KYLE STYLE.

So yes, I bought Starcraft II and I don’t regret it. Yet.

  1. SC2Is it true that they’re splitting the singleplayer campaign up into 3 separate games? If so, I don’t really want to wait that long to finish off a campaign that I have no previous interest in, let alone spending that much money on.
  2. GRAPHICS CARD MELTDOWNS! Seriously, I just invested in this brand new PC that I worked my fingers to the bone in an attempt to build, I don’t want to trash my graphics card thanks to Blizzard.
  3. I haven’t played Starcraft.
  4. I haven’t played an RTS game in about 5 years (Age of Empires III was my previous foray into the genre)
  5. Due to #3 and #4, I would get myself absolutely creamed in multiplayer. Yes, Blizzard supposedly have this matchmaking system in place that matches you up against equally skilled players. I don’t really buy it, I still think I’d lose more than I win thanks to my multi-year hiatus from RTS games.

Coming up next week: 5 reasons why I bought Starcraft II (probably).

Not too long ago DICE put a patch out for Bad Company 2. This patch was PC exclusive, so 360 and PS3 users haven’t yet experienced the goodness (looking at you, Xeer2000).

Now, the server has vastly improved the server browser for me, despite claims to the contrary by PC Gamer. It now takes 5 seconds to find a game, as opposed to the 55 it used to take. The filtering is much better as well, I can now choose to not display any hardcore servers which I truly despise (although I have had some instances where I’ve seen servers with HC or hardcore written in their names even if I’ve filtered them out). But it’s the weapon changes that the console crowd will be looking at. Here’s a few of the highlights you can look out for:

  • Firstly, the M60. The overpowered weapon received a few changes in the patch and many cried ‘NERF!’. If you ask me, the thing has hardly been nerfed at all. They’ve reduced the base damage of it, which is all well and good, but they increased the accuracy of it. This allows you to auto-fire for much longer, rather than having to tap-shot your enemies down. If anything, looking at other LMGs, the M60 hasn’t necessarily been brought down, it’s the other LMGs that have been boosted.
  • If you, like me, have been frustrated with the speed of the Tracer dart in the past, then this patch will make you cream. The dart now moves at the speed of sound, and taking down choppers is infinitely easier. On one map it is entirely concievable to take a vantage point and shoot tracer darts at the two enemy helis on the spawnpoint, and take them down whenever they try and take off. It may even be slightly overpowered now for that reason alone.
  • Another Engineer related change: The drill – “Increased the repair and overheat speeds of the Power Tool. Now overheats sooner but repairs the same amount before overheating.” This is a handy change. You can now repair through the damage of a rocket impacting your tank before the next one is launched. To give you a rough estimate on how much faster it repairs, I’d say it’s roughly twice as fast now, with half the amount of time before it overheats to compensate.

How’s this affected my stats? See for yourself, I’ve recently started playing a bit of Recon and after a few teething problems I think I’m getting the hang of it.

16-8 game as Recon

7 Sniper kills (5 headshots) and 4 knife kills

Now my overall stats, taken a couple of days ago:

Overall BFBC2 MP stats

K/D Ratio: 0.93