The Internet had a tantrum, Valve and Bethesda gave in

Steam is a program made by Valve, the maker of Team Fortress 2, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, and Portal. It’s a place to buy and download PC games into a library where you can play with friends, stream your games to them, unlock achievements, and even gift a game to a friend. It has become a Mecca for PC gaming. Before Steam, I wasn’t much of a PC gamer. Nintendo was all I knew. But then the infamous Steam Summer Sale happened, when games can be sold for 75% off or more. Like this past summer, I already had Skyrim for Xbox 360. But I wanted to be able to play the game with all of the cool mods and get a chance to play Skywind. Morrowind and Skyrim are both needed to play it and it just so happened both games were on sale at once.

Then I discovered the power of having mods for Skyrim. You can make this game look absolutely beautiful and have so much more depth in gear, weapons, quests, and more. If you can think of it, it’s probably a mod for Skyrim.

DBZ Overhaul Mod by Redman and Rigormortician

DBZ Overhaul Mod by Redman and Rigormortician

On April 23, Valve implemented a system to allow mod creators to charge money for their work. That sounds reasonable, right? Modders put a lot of hard work into their craft and never get any monetary compensation for it. As a consumer, I was bummed about it because I don’t like to pay for things that just yesterday, I didn’t have to pay for. The modders would only receive 25% of the revenue from the content sold. The Internet lost its collective mind.

Protest sign mod in Skyrim

Protest sign mod in Skyrim

On April 25, Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve, hosted a Reddit AMA to answer questions and listen to concerns. Two days later, on April 27, Valve removed the pay feature from Skyrim mods on Steam. Well, that didn’t last long, now did it? So, what happened? Why didn’t this work? I can point to three things. People hate paying for things, especially after getting it for free for so long. Why all of a sudden can I not go to the well and get a bucket of water? Now I can only buy bottled water from this vending machine? The profit split with modders only getting 25% of the share and DRM or digital rights management concerns are the other two, which are more clearly explained here.

There were supporters of the paid mod system. Although the implementation was shaky, there were good ideas behind it. Some say there should simply be donations for mods if you wish to tip a modder for their hard work. But as one modder says, out of 200,000 downloads for a mod, he only received two donations, which means 0.001% of users donated. Valve claims it wanted to test this system out with Skyrim, but maybe such an old, more established mod community wasn’t the way to go. I hope they find a way to make this work, because I really feel like it could lead to some pretty fantastic mods that we as gamers would love to throw all our money at. Maybe we just needed to be dragged into it, kicking and screaming.

Bread is love. Bread is life.

The game we have all been waiting for has become fully toasted and edible. I Am Bread, from the creators of the nonsensical Surgeon Simulator 2013, Bossa Studios, has come out of “early access” on Steam for PC and Mac. For launch week only, you can own it today for the low, low price of $9.74 and begin your journey as a slice of bread who only wants to be toast. I’ll let the gameplay speak for itself.

Powdered Toast Man

Powdered Toast Man

It will probably be the most famous bread since Powdered Toast Man. From what I’ve seen from the gameplay, flipping around a room to find a way to toast yourself can be very perilous as you need to maintain edibility. No one wants to eat bread that’s been on the floor, soaked in water, or covered in pencil shavings. This is a very hard, unforgiving game with limitless possibilities because of the open world. You might find it makes you rage a little bit.

“…underneath that buttery rage layer was something else. Something I didn’t expect. There was a really fun and well made game. It’s hard to explain the joy of flipping your toast and seeing it fly through the air and land that jump just right. It’s insane. It’s fun. It’s insanely fun.” – MartyrA2J’s review on Steam

Not only does it look like a fun game to play, but a fun game to watch. Today, games are watched more than ever with live streams on Twitch and “let’s plays” on YouTube. When marketing a game, you need to think about how fun your game is for an audience. I Am Bread does that. There’s action, suspense, drama, and character development. As Martyr mentioned, when you see that slice of bread flying through the air, your heart stops.

Oh, and there’s bread puns, so many bread puns.

A lot of commenters on Reddit suggest playing the game with two players even though there’s only a one player mode. Much like the Roosterteeth let’s play, have one player control the mouse and the other player control the keyboard for the ultimate teamwork exercise. I’ll have to check the game out, grab a friend and try it out. I’d love to stay and talk about bread some more, but for now, I’m off to Las Vegas for the NAB Show. See you there.

The game SimCity should have been

This month, small developer Colossal Order released their city-building game Cities: Skylines for PC, Mac and Linux. About this time in 2013, EA Games, a very larger game developer, released SimCity, a different city-building game. What’s fascinating, and really, refreshing, is that we have two very different receptions from each of these games. You have a big developer with a lot of money and plenty of manpower working on a game that was $60 at release. Two years later, you have a very similar game from a significantly smaller developer for $30 at release. And city-builder gamers love it.

SimCity 2000

SimCity 2000

Game developer Will Wright with Maxis started it all in 1989 with the original SimCity for the Macintosh computer. The first SimCity game I played was SimCity 2000 for PC. I picked it up at the book fair at my elementary school, because what 7-year-old wants to read books? I just want to play SimCity! The series has been incredibly popular with many simulation games taking inspiration from it. Would we have The Sims if not for SimCity?

In 1999, EA Games brought Maxis under its wing and that’s when things started getting…complicated. Just this month EA announced that they would be shutting down the Maxis developer offices in Emeryville, CA. Did EA see Cities: Skylines and the glowing reviews it got with half the production and half the cost?

SimCity (2013) had a few key issues that drove gamers crazy. At launch, players were required to sign-in on an online server (for a single-player game, what?!) in order to play the game. So if your internet connection is down or the EA server is down, no SimCity. The people in the game (sims) didn’t really act how people act. The city space in which to build was a quarter of the size of previous SimCity games. People got really angry. Especially because when the game was released, the most critical point where everyone spent a lot of money on this game, it did not work. I wouldn’t have a blog without flubs like this.

But then…

Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines

I’ve played a little bit of this game and watched others play it even more. The overwhelming response to this: This game is everything SimCity was not. You don’t have to be online. People have individual jobs assigned. You can follow every little person! I bought the game on day one and it worked. The space you have to build a city is huge. Steam Workshop is integrated right into the main menu, so all sorts of cool mods will come in the In this short playthrough, Polygon takes some shots at SimCityIf you want to see how it’s done, see how Sips is redesigning Donutsville, Bagelsville and Pretzelballs Junction. It’s actually therapeutic watching someone play Cities: Skylines.

It’s a very tame city-builder without too much trouble except for the occasional fire–no tornadoes, floods, or giant aliens to destroy your buildings or abduct your citizens. I’m okay with this. It’s not a game without drama, however. Christopher Livingston at PCGamer.com put the cheat codes on and made a city with one residential square. Hilarity ensues. We’re in the first week and so much fun has already been had. If you’re bummed out about SimCity and want to play the functional version, hit up Cities: Skylines. For $30, it’s at least twice the value of SimCity (2013).

What about remakes that are really good?

Apparently, something really good happened. A game was released that didn’t have a whole lot of hype leading up to the release. But then people got a hold of this game and thought, “Wow this is actually pretty special.” Isn’t that a great feeling?

Pew pew pew

Pew pew pew

Homeworld 1 and 2 were released in 1999 and 2003 respectively for the PC. Homeworld 1 received a 9.5 out of 10 from IGN.com back in 1999. Like, what? How have I never heard of this game? I love space battles! I love real-time strategy games! Homeworld 2 got a 9/10 in 2003. And they just decided to stop making these games? Why? There is a group on Facebook called “We want Homeworld 3.” Looking at this gameplay, I’d say that would go over well.

So here we are 12 years later and you can get both games as Homeworld Remastered Collection, released on February 25. People love this remake. I would be really weary of remakes especially after Halo: Master Chief Collection and Age of Mythology Extended Edition. But it’s so refreshing to see something done right. For $35 on Steam, you get the remastered versions of Homeworld 1, Homeworld 2, access to the classic versions of both games, and the multiplayer beta.

It concerns me that the multiplayer is still in beta, but I think it’s probably a good thing. They’re saying, “This isn’t done yet! Don’t freak out if it doesn’t work right now!” That’s fair. I never knew about Homeworld, but the fanbase for the series is very fervent about these games being the best real-time strategy games ever made. Just check out posts on Reddit like this one and read gamers drool over these games.

I’ve been looking for a new solid RTS to play. It makes me sick that I could have been playing this stuff for about 16 years, a huge chunk of my life.

GTA V on PC is delayed again, and that’s okay.

Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games

This week, developer Rockstar Games announced that Grand Theft Auto V for PC would be delayed for a third time. It was originally set to release in Fall 2014 but we’re now looking at April 14th of this year.

If this were a game that were unavailable entirely, I think gamers should be a little more upset. But chances are, you’ve already played GTA V on a different platform already. But if you’re still hellbent on waiting for the PC version (which I understand, PC is the prettiest) then it’ll probably be a well-made version of the game with very few bugs because they took their time. These delays don’t have to be a negative thing.

Online heists are going to be released on March 10, which is right around the corner! See? Things ain’t so bad. I believe the heist portion of the game is the most fun feature in the game. Well, except for the Top Fun series of the online missions, let’s be real.

Two players are in fighter jets, while the other two are on motorcycles or biplanes. They have to make it to a certain point before being shot down. It’s just the best.

With this long of a delay for a game, I really, really do hope that it is perfect. Rockstar said they want the game to be “as amazing and polished as possible.” And if you’ve preordered the game, you’ll be getting $1.5 million in spending money right from the start for GTA Online. If it’s not a great version of the game, well then I guess I will have something write about coming up in April.

How is World of Warcraft bouncing back? The secret has been out for almost a year.

In high school, I was mostly a console gamer. My parents weren’t going to buy a new PC with a nice graphics card and high-quality processing speed. PCs are very expensive to build. Plus, don’t you have enough video games on the Nintendo, son? Essentially all my friends in high school started playing World of Warcraft. I desperately wanted to play with them, but I couldn’t afford a decent computer or the monthly subscription fee. And that’s how they all socialized. You want to hang out? I’ll see you in the raid tonight at 9:00! But obviously I couldn’t join in.

In 2010, I finally got enough money together to build a PC that could run the games I wanted. And I played World of Warcraft with my friends (a little too much, honestly). That was when the game saw its peak in subscribers at about 12 million.

Statistic: Number of World of Warcraft subscribers from 1st quarter 2005 to 3rd quarter 2014 (in millions) | Statista

Since then, WoW subscribers have dwindled significantly. Like many of my friends and myself, gamers have unsubscribed their accounts and their characters are dormant. In the chart above, there are a couple of positive spikes in subscribers, particularly near the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. But that other spike in 2014 before Warlords of Draenor was released…what happened there?

hearthstone1

It makes perfect sense! Blizzard combined all of their games (Diablo III, World of Warcraft, Starcraft II) into one launcher with a new free-to-play online card game called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. If you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering, it’s a much simpler version and insanely fun. You could spend hours and hours building decks, battling your friends and strangers alike. But the worst part is…the game makes you thirst for World of Warcraft. I am firmly under the belief that the only reason Hearthstone was created was to get suckers like me to re-subscribe their WoW accounts. And that’s exactly what I did, but only for a couple months.

In a press release from developer Blizzard back in November of last year, they say the game is up to ten million subscribers. That is pretty substantial growth since the game was at about 7.5 million subscribers earlier in 2014. Over three million copies of the expansion were sold upon release, which adds up to about 10 million subscribers overall. But don’t you essentially have to sell 10 million copies of the expansion to hold 10 million subscribers? Hearthstone.

What is most mind-blowing about any of this is how World of Warcraft has performed compared to other MMORPG games. I wanted to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, but after playing a little while, I realized I’d rather just be playing WoW instead. There are many other MMO games that have tried the subscription model that have failed and gone free-to-play because of a lack of subscribers. Games like Star Trek Online and Elder Scrolls Online have gone free-to-play, which when that happens, the developers are basically saying, “we give up.”

WoW is now a 10 year old game. It is The Simpsons of the gaming world. Blizzard has found the formula to game addiction and infused it into an entirely different game that you can play for free. That way, you can get a little taste of what you’ve “kicked” before and decide that you want back on the real stuff. It’s genius, really. I can’t help but admire it. Stay in school, kids.