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.

If House of Wolves had a raid, most people wouldn’t make it there, anyways.

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Destiny. Once you’ve hit level 32, your gear is all maxed out and you have plenty of cool weapons, you don’t really have much to complete. Crota has been slain dozens of times, with cheese shortcuts or not. The game has been patched repeatedly and now here we are, awaiting the second DLC, “House of Wolves,” set for release on May 19.

As far as the story goes (hahaha, I’m talking about the story of Destiny), There was one cutscene in the vanilla game that shed light on the “Queen of the Reef.” It’s assumed The Reef is just kinda…out there in the asteroid belt somewhere. You’ll even get to just hang out there! This is alright, as long as it doesn’t completely replace The Tower.

bridge keeperI know this reference is going to be very old and obscure, but indulge me. In Everquest, there was a zone outside the human city, Freeport, called East Commonlands. You remember now? There was a cave where everyone would do their trading, buying, and selling. But then a new expansion came out which included “The Bazaar” and East Commonlands became totally barren. I’d just hate to see The Tower suffer the same fate. Bungie wouldn’t do that, right?

When “The Dark Below” was released, we got a new raid, “Crota’s End.” This time around, we won’t get a new raid. But you already paid your $35 for both expansions, right? I did. I guess I don’t regret it, even without a new raid for “House of Wolves.” It still comes with a lot of new content. Instead, there is a mode called “The Prison of Elders” which is a new cooperative kind of mode. People might be upset with this because the endgame has always been get geared up, go do the raid, get sweet loot.

In this article from Forbes, it says only 19% of players have ever completed a raid. That is mind-blowing. That means only 19% of players have reached the main content put out in the game. If you don’t get to that point, you’re missing out on a lot and not getting your money’s worth. Granted, it does take a large time investment to get to that point. Getting to the near-max level and finding enough people (you need six) to form a raid group can be too much for players.

What I see this expansion doing, is opening up more content to the average player. I expect it will be easier for lower level players to get into and it will give these players more opportunity to get the gear they need to compete at a higher level. What it’s looking like is a horde mode which you fight against wave after wave of enemies, trying to survive. But that sounds a lot like what you do in a lot of the story missions, waiting for Peter Dinklage (your Ghost) to hack into whatever device while you fend off the enemies from him.

If you want the whole skinny on the upcoming content, Redditors have already taken care of that for you in a megathread. I’ll be picking up the Xbox One controller once again to battle the Fallen in a month. I’ll see you there.

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.

Building with height maps in Cities: Skylines

This week, I really wanted to write about something different, a game I’ve never played, maybe something new. It’s always tough to come up with new ideas, especially a couple times a week. But there is only one thing on my mind, and that’s Cities: Skylines. All I want is to build my city, solve traffic problems, manage utilities, and watch it grow.

My mission has changed from simply trying to build the biggest city and keep it afloat, to replicating and simulating my hometown, Morgantown, West Virginia. The in-game map editor gives you the tools to do such a thing. You start out with a massive flat green surface, like a giant square golf course. At first I thought I might have to shape the terrain and manually carve out the Monongahela River and Cheat Lake myself. But Cities: Skylines uses height map technology where you can take a satellite image and the game will render the terrain for you. Brilliant!

I found the site terrain.party which has a map of the world and an itty-bitty blue square that covers an 18km by 18km surface (which is a one-to-one scale in the game).

Morgantown area highlighted in terrain.party

Morgantown area highlighted in terrain.party

You can then drag that square over to any part of the world and save the highlighted area as a .png image. It gives you multiple height maps from different sources, but I chose to go with the USGS version.

Height map result of Morgantown area

Height map result of Morgantown area

This is what terrain.party gives you. A simple black and white map that shows elevation. You can see in the bottom-right corner how it gets lighter, which is the higher elevation towards Preston County. And there’s the exact curvature of the Monongahela River, along with Cheat Lake in the top-right corner. This is too cool.

Once you import your map, the map editor immediately changes your golf course into the terrain from your real life area. The transition is a little rough, however. It’s far from a workable city at this point. I used the hell out of the soften tool to smooth out some rocky-looking mountains into the rolling hills of West Virginia. I also lowered the elevation of the bodies of water, otherwise a lot of what is supposed to be dry land would get flooded. The water tool is pretty sensitive (Yes, I made sure that the river flows north.) Then it’s up to you to add trees (you have a budget of 250,000), wildlife, train and plane routes, and highways leading into the playable area.

This game was set up for the community to take it and run with it. The subreddit /r/CitiesSkylines has already surpassed /r/SimCity in subscribers. There’s even a /r/CitiesSkylinesModding subreddit where you can post a request for a mod or release a mod for the game you’ve made yourself. I made a post myself requesting a PRT mod as a public transit option. That’s when I discovered I’m not the only one hoping to make a realistic model of Morgantown.

“Also living in Morgantown. I was thinking about putting together a heightmap myself just so I could make my own Westrun. My guess is the engine won’t support building a road that poorly done. But first I’ll need to create a pothole mod. Luckily there’s already the ‘allow heavy trucks in your downtown’ option built in to really simulate the horrible traffic planning.” – /u/enkafen

That’s where the true enjoyment of this game comes from. I have a passion for this city and I want to build it, but I can make it better. I want lay down the roads and see what the traffic does. Then with a wave of the mouse, I can fix the problems that I live through every day. I can claim omnipotent domain and bulldoze through property to make much needed new roads. This took a dark turn into my own deep conscience. Anyways, later this week I’ll be doing a video blog of Morgantown in Cities: Skylines. I hope to see you there!

Amiibos.

Last year, Nintendo turned down an offer from Activision’s Skylanders to have them exclusively for the Wii. Skylanders are little figurines that interact with a video game to let you play as that particular character in the game. They are incredibly popular, bringing in $1.5 billion in revenue since 2011. Did Nintendo mess up? Maybe. But then they thought, “we’ll just make our own.” And that’s why we have Amiibos.

goldmario

Amiibos work a little differently than Skylanders. Depending on the character, you can use them differently for different games. One way to use Mario here, is to link him up on Super Smash Bros. Wii U and train him to be stronger than your average fighter. You can buy these things for about $13 if you can find them. Or if you can’t, you can buy them on eBay for over $100. Some characters are easy to find, some are extremely rare. This is just one of the Nintendo products with artificial scarcity.

/r/amiibo is a great place to watch the insanity. It’s also a really great place to find what you’re looking for. People will post sitings at sorts and links to order or preorder certain figures. They’ll also vent their frustrations about how they can’t find what they want. What sense does this make? Why doesn’t Nintendo just make a ton of them and sell them all? /u/Majordomo_ makes a good point:

“Here’s the thing; by limiting production they actually are pulling in a larger demographic of consumers. In the short-term they are sacrificing sales to increase the long-term demand through engaging a pool of people that would have otherwise not cared about Amiibo.

Also, with limited shelf space at retailers (The profit margin is slim on a 13$ Toy) it is in the manufacturers best interest to have stock come in waves and be turned immediately. Which is exactly what is happening. Perceived demand when seeing empty shelves vs stocked shelves greatly effects consumer behavior.”

Nintendo knows exactly how this works. They have created the illusion of value. They make people do stupid things. I have a friend with every single one of the Amiibos sitting on his living room floor all still in the boxes. He has preordered all of them and stood in line to receive them. I guess that’s what happiness looks like: 30 or so Amiibos on your floor in boxes.

Evolve is out. Is your wallet ready?

What if I told you the game you’ve been waiting to play for over a year had a lack of content? What if I told you it was littered with microtransactions of DLC, even after paying the full $60 for the base game? Would you still want to play? /u/bm_nJoi says on Reddit’s /r/EvolveGame that buying the DLC is justified.

“I am fully prepared to pay 60$ for a flagship title, then tens and twenties and more dollars for continued awesomeness. If we stop supporting these titles, they disappear because Kim Kardashian’s (who needs to be deleted from existence) mobile game made 10x what these big budget titles did and every game dev company gave the f*** up on these titles.”

So it’s a war between high-budget next-gen games and free-to-play microtransaction mobile games? If we don’t open our hearts our wallets to developers like Valve, they’ll stop making games worth playing? Kim Kardashian will win. No, buying extra DLC on a highly-anticipated game is not going to stop the Kate Upton Game of Boobs train. It’s actually going to make Valve continue this behavior in future games. And what did /u/bm_nJoi get when he bought the season pass, which is $25 on top of the $60 for the base game?

“…not a single animation has changed, not a single inch of skin has a different texture, not a single appendage has been altered or added, and he’s got a slightly red tint to his skin that is mostly only noticeable at certain angles…”

Reskins. You bought $25 worth of reskins. So the people who bought the DLC are understandably upset. If you’re angry about it…”Then don’t buy them.” – /u/roshambojangles

There is over $130 of downloadable content available that isn’t included in the base game or the season pass. That is absurd. But what about the gameplay? Maybe I’ll just buy the game itself and nothing extra.

It seems Valve was sitting around, playing some Left 4 Dead 2 one day, playing a multiplayer game where four players are humans and four players are infected. One guy thought, “You know, we should make a whole game where one player is a monster, like Left 4 Dead’s tank, and the other four players have to team up to take it down. That’s probably where we got the newly released Evolve for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Tank Gameplay – The Neverlose2008

The gameplay for Evolve has…evolved from this encounter a little bit. You are a much larger beast, leveling up by eating smaller creatures to become powerful enough to take on the team of monster hunters. GhostRobo gave the game incredibly praise in this gameplay video back in August, calling it “one of my favorite games of the last decade.” That set me up for some pretty lofty expectations.

Reviews are out but they are subject to change. Since when did we have provisional ratings? Polygon gives Evolve an 8/10, which is pretty good. But they don’t send that score to Metacritic in case we have another Halo: Master Chief Collection kerfuffle. I have not bought or played Evolve. Honestly, I’m a little hesitant to put in the $60 for another multiplayer-only game like Titanfall that was super fun for about three hours. But it does look like a lot of fun, and I will probably pick it up to at least be able to update this post.

*I will not be a sucker and buy the DLC*