PC Gaming

Why Physical Copies Can Trump Digital Downloads (A Skyrim Post)

The Keen and Graev Twitter account announces that there’s less than 23 hours to go before Skyrim unlocks on their Steam account.

My Steam account says there’s approximately 32-33 hours left before Skyrim unlocks.

Comparatively speaking, to get Skyrim potentially sooner than other folks, I confirmed with the local game shop about physical copies coming in. According to them, the physical copies would come in on 11/11/11 anyway by mid to late afternoon, which is approximately 24-26 hours from now. Add to that the fact that Skyrim pre-orders in my country get a nifty coffee mug that should be nothing like the FFXIV CE tumblers, and you have the makings of an excellent reason to buy physical, as long as you do your research.

To sum up,

1. Due to time zone issues, the Physical Copy of Skyrim will arrive earlier than the unlocking of the Steam version.

2. I save on bandwidth as I won’t be downloading the game.

3. Free Skyrim logo-emblazoned black coffee mug with my pre-order for the long-haul gaming session that’ll happen in the evening.


Advanced Happy Skyrim Day, my fellow gamers!

Appreciating Minecraft’s Effect on Indie Gaming (Without Playing It Much)

Despite the many merits of Minecraft, I dislike the current state it’s in because it’s too sandboxy for me. Without any clearly defined goals set for myself to push through, Minecraft’s effect wasn’t that strong on me. I ultimately get bored playing the game after less than 30 minutes.

That said, disliking the game doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what Minecraft’s effect on me was.

While it could be said that my first Indie game purchase was Torchlight (Torchlight is, in fact, the first game I ever purchased through Steam, and my second Steam-enabled game after The Last Remnant), Minecraft was what really brought independent game development to the forefront of my game-loving mind.

Minecraft’s popularity and media coverage made many gamers take notice of independent developers and their many offerings, whether it be a storekeeper’s RPG in the form of Recettear, a roguelike like Dungeons of Dredmor, or a FPSS (First Person Santiy Survival) thriller such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Indies these days allow for exceptional gameplay experiences that do not necessarily require a high price to enjoy. Indeed, with Humble Indie Bundles and Royal Bundles available to the public these days, getting into the groove of loving low-cost, high quality gaming is proving to be a steadily popular choice among the discerning gamers out in PC and Xbox 360-land.

Even now, Minecraft is probably the biggest example of what indie gaming is, but since there’s no formal definition for what an indie game is, I doubt it actually holds the title of biggest indie game in a person’s heart.

That game probably goes to whatever awesome game is out at the moment. It’s a fickle way of thinking, perhaps, but it also means there’s a lot of love to go around. While The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Saint’s Row: The Third are going to be the AAA hits I look forward to playing in the near future, it’s the indie games that’ll keep me company when the money is tight and gaming urge is strong.

Who knows? Minecraft may even get randomized quests for fun before 2012. At least, I hope it gives me a reason to play it again. I could use a good excuse.


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An Introduction to Microtransactions (If You Don’t Play Games)

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted to understand the nature of online game purchases a little bit better. While I understand the general processes in my head without much trouble, explaining online games and microtransactions to a non-gamer is actually rather difficult.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to leave a friend without the requisite knowledge, of course. To that end, I’ve created this primer of sorts on microtransactions, using some of my own terminologies, for the sort of person who doesn’t really play games.

When we refer to commerce in this day and age, we usually think of the exchange of money or credit for good and services. In games, there is also commerce on numerous levels, with each sort of transaction allowing for different goods and services to those playing the game.

There are two sorts of transactions one would typically think of when it comes to games: the purchase transaction and the in-game transaction.

In a purchase transaction, a consumer who wishes to play a game, either through ownership of the game or acquisition of a license to use the game software, pays a fee (in cash or credit, online or in the real world) before he can acquire the means necessary to play that game.

With in-game transactions, we refer to the transactions within a game that allow a user to acquire items, equipment and services specific to that game. This necessitates paying a fee comprised of that game’s particular currency in order to complete the transaction. Whether it comes in the form of in-game gold, gil, zenny, or megabucks, these are simply virtual goods that, under specific circumstances, are not actually traded for any form of real-world currency.

Examples of purchase transactions include the use of Philippine Pesos or US Dollars to purchase a game like Diablo II. Using the currency within Diablo II, namely gold, to purchase weapons, armor, and potions is an example of an in-game transaction.

So far, this is all easy to understand, but complexity arises when we realize that there are other ways by which companies can earn revenue from games. There are a variety of ways in which games in this Internet-connected reality we live in can foster additional revenue, and that is mostly done through a set of transactions that are commonly known as microtransactions.

Unlike purchase transactions or in-game transactions, the word “microtransactions” is a blanket terminology referring to the use of real-world currency (again, either through cash or credit, though usually credit) to acquire goods, services, or additional game content for a game one is already playing, The term is known a microtransaction due to the current trend for microtransactions to generally, though not always, cost less than the price one would pay to acquire the game or continue to gain access to it.

If you remember the example earlier about using in-game gold to purchase weapons and armor in Diablo II, you’d expect in-game gold to have no real-world value. The truth, however, as a result of games growing increasingly more connected to the internet is that currency, goods, and services within a game can have a real-world monetary value assigned to them that can also be affected by market forces.

Many types of microtransactions exist at present due to the nature of games in this day and age, but for non-gamers (and probably concerned parents who don’t know how microtransactions work), an introduction on some of the broad types of microtransactions would be in order.

First off, there are direct microtransactions. These microtransactions are basically an exchange of real-world currency for a specific good or service within a game, or for additional content that is either locked away as a result of the game’s code (thus meaning you’ve paid real money for a key to unlock the additional content) or added to a game after that game’s release.

Direct microtransactions is really a broad term I’m using to refer to a wide-range of potential microtransaction types, but it simplifies the process simply because this sort of microtransaction describes the means by which one acquires a specific good or service while (usually) supporting the developers of a game or an entity connected to the company that developed the game being played.

An online role-playing game like World of Warcraft allows for the purchase of in-game pets, flying mounts, or character renaming services for a fee: this is a direct microtransaction. Most games on mobile devices such as the iPad that do not require a purchase transaction (and are thus touted as being free to download and begin playing) use direct microtransactions to unlock the full game and all its capabilities. Some games on personal computers and consoles (such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) which have purchase transactions also get additional game content delivered through the console or computer’s connection to the Internet after launch, and these require the use of one-time credit card transactions (which are direct microtransactions) to download and play.

There is a second type of microtransaction that is a little easier to define, but a bit more difficult to peg in terms of its overall legitimacy as a microtransaction. These are what I’d define as currency microtransactions.These types of microtransactions are microtransactions in which a player would use real-world money to purchase the currency required to create an in-game transaction. Now, while in-game currency is also a form of virtual good, I’ve set it aside as its own microtransaction type due to how this particular form of virtual good can be used legitimately by certain game developers and unethically by certain companies.

Let me give an example of a both currency microtransaction types. Legitimate currency microtransactions occur in a free iOS game called Tiny Tower. While the game itself is free, the game allows players to use the credit cards connected to their iTunes account to purchase an in-game currency known as Tower Bux, which can be used to speed up the construction of an amenity in-game.These legitimate currency microtransactions are the main means by which the developer gains revenue from their game, allowing them to continue developing more games.

Unethical (a loaded word, but I lack a better word to replace it with) currency microtransactions are commonplace in certain massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as, again, World of Warcraft. Certain companies employ people to acquire the virtual currency of a game like World of Warcraft in order to sell the currency to players for real-world money. In some cases, these companies will try and gain access into people’s game accounts to take virtual currency away from other players in order to sell it online. Very little of this real-world money goes back into funding the development of the game, and the experience of play is somewhat diminished by the encroachment of gold sellers into the virtual space.

Non-gamers, including those responsible for children who are gamers, would do well to reflect upon the implications of microtransactions on real-world wallets. Younger gamers who do not pay attention or who do not understand what microtransactions are can fall prey to unintended purchasing sprees, often on the parental dime.

One well-known report among gaming circles is the story of one Brendan Jordan, who racked up a 1000-pound bill on the console service known as Xbox Live. There was nothing illegal about the purchases, and while the mother of Jordan wants the game companies to bear some responsibility for the mess, it can be argued that game consoles have protections in place to prevent minors from accessing purchase-based microtransaction services.

In any event, non-gamers and parents should be more mindful of what games these days can and can’t do, and what capabilities the technologies of today allow. Ultimately, this will keep misunderstanding at a minimum and proper parenting at the ready.

Bothered by a Decision: Failing The Month of Gradual MMO/Money Disuse

I was supposed to finish a post about quests in games, but I’ve been putting it off because I’m bothered by something I chose to do and want to stick to.

It’s simple really: for one month, I would play one free-to-play MMO for a maximum of 10 hours weekly and spend absolutely nothing on video games by completing single-player PC games I’ve yet to finish. There are primarily two reasons for doing this: the first is to gradually get used to not playing MMOs so that MMORPGs feel new and vibrant again, while the second is to save money as I’m dreadfully close to running on empty.

This started sometime last week when I began playing LOTRO again on the Landroval server and made my final purchase for a month: Brink for the PC.

Here’s what happened since then:

Instead of buying games, I bought other stuff. I purchased a Kindle version of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, then grew so obsessed with reading it on my bed that I convinced myself that I HAD TO HAVE a tablet to read the Kindle book on. $360 later, I became a Samsung Galaxy Tab (which my parents shelled out for after I explained my case) owner.

I got a new job.

I forgot I had started a no-purchase order and tried to buy The Witcher 2, but checked with my bank and found out that I would go over my limit if I bought it online, and in dejected response I spent $55 on junk food and assorted goods (Tablet accessories, dinner at a restaurant by myself, and a massage at a spa) within the span of three hours after finding out I couldn’t buy the Witcher 2 with my e-credit card.

Any halfway sane person can see that there is something inherently askew right now with my self-control mechanisms. I realize it, but I am having difficulty maintaining the restraint necessary to keep myself from doing stupid things like the above, which not only cause me to spend on myself unnecessarily, but also cause my parents to accede to some half-baked whim on my end.

I think my MMO burnout is a sign of something worse: that I have gotten so burnt out with doing things normally that I’m obsessing over the rush I get from spending money and watching a download meter rise on Steam. It’s not the game that I want; rather, it’s the purchase behind a game or other object that gives me pleasure, and that’s a scary thought.

Times like these, I either need a counselor or a support group, and I’m not sure I can afford either at this rate.

Fallout: New Vegas DLC Detailed in Press Release

Planning on Getting Fallout: New Vegas? You may want to wait a while for the definitive Game of the Year version, as Bethesda has announced three DLC packs for the game, which will be made available over the course of the next three months.

The three packs, dubbed Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road will not only give the Courier of New Vegas some new adventures; it’ll also flesh out the finale of the game by introducing Ulysses, the courier who wouldn’t take the job you took, and his reasons for doing so.

Seeing as the full press release has tons more spoilers than what I just mentioned above, I’ll just leave this link here, and a copy of the main body of the press release after the cut.

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A Statement on the Gaming Community, or the Chun Li-Bison Dichotomy

Elementalistly took to writing what I consider to be a spirited discourse on why the MMO community is beginning to disappoint him, and while I understand his sentiments, I cannot say I completely agree with him.

While I won’t try to refute all his points (another writer, Nightwreath of Massively Multiverse, seems to have done that ahead of anyone else), I do wish to point out something I’ve noticed about the gaming community at large.

By some measures, it can be said that there is a significantly larger number of gamers now as compared to during gaming’s infancy. Comparatively speaking, the number of people playing MMORPGs during the Everquest I era were far fewer when placed against the era of World of Warcraft’s dominance. Couple that with the fact that console gaming is a significantly larger enterprise now when compared to gaming on personal computers, and you have the stirrings of a large console gaming base that could potentially spill onto or share commonalities with the fanbase of MMORPG games.

That said, there is one thing that made me think when I read Elementalistly’s post, and that had something to do with what I call the Chun Li -Bison Dichotomy.

During the latter half of Street Fighter: The Movie, we are introduced to Raul Julia’s famous conversation with Ming-na, set as a confrontation between M. Bison and Chun Li:

Chun-Li: It was twenty years ago. You hadn’t promoted yourself to general yet. You were just a petty drug lord. You and your gang of murderers gathered your small ounce of courage to raid across the border for food, weapons, slave labor…my father was the village magistrate. A simple man with a simple code: justice. He gathered the few people that he could to stand against you. You and your bullies were driven back by farmers with pitchforks! My father saved his village at the cost of his own life. You had him shot as you ran away! A hero… at a thousand paces.

M. Bison: I’m sorry… I don’t remember any of it.

Chun-Li: You don’t remember?!

M. Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday.

The Chun Li-Bison dichotomy is the term I use for the situation wherein two entities have a disconnect over the perceived value of a particular event.  The analogy holds firm in the face of two masses of gamers, and this is where the main discussion point begins.
I feel that Elementalistly fails to take into account not only the overlaps between the console and PC gaming communities, but also the inherent perceived value individual players have over what makes a game worthwhile to spend time on.

My awkward reference to a game being “worthwhile to spend time on” is written specifically to avoid confusion and to necessitate a thought process with the reader. One person will find a game is worthwhile to spend time on because of a variety of factors that will potentially differ from the next person. In my personal case, a game is worthwhile to spend time on if it provides me with an experience that I can lose myself in temporarily, regardless of whether I “finish” the game or complete my objective or not. For another person, a game may be worthwhile to spend time on because it allows for decidedly short-term bursts of entertainment or amusement.  For yet another, a game is worthwhile to spend time on because of the achievements and recognition one can get from mastering it.

The MMO community at large has changed from the time of Ultima Online. The Community is no longer a few thousand strong but is, instead, a society of millions connected by different games. To say that the MMO community is disappointing seems to presuppose that everyone places the same value on a game one holds dear when compared to other available games, when most games are, as Elementalistly would put it, damn fine games.

If a game has provided a person with what he needs and values most in his leisure, then that should be enough, and few should remain disappointed if they have enjoyed their time, found their personal tastes to be more attuned towards something else, and moved on. If a person has found a game wanting and moved on, respecting that others may find a game more to their liking than he, then is he not an upstanding member of the gaming community at large for being mature enough to cut ties cleanly without blaming someone for purchasing something that ultimately did not agree with him, regardless of how much or how little time he spent playing the game?

It is only when one sounds the death knell of hostile criticism and negativity upon leaving that I become concerned for the well-being of a community. With that point, I must say, if we took negativity from all comers as a sign of the impending doom of the things we love, then what are we truly left with other than disconcerting emotions and an utterly useless Street Fighter: The Movie analogy?

On The Dungeon Siege Bundle of Theoretical Awesomeness

The Dungeon Siege III Bundle on Steam is theoretically awesome.

You get three games for the price of one, and can basically play out the (somewhat meager) story that comes through in the first and second games.

Of course, it’s never really that simple, as you’re playing two rather old games, and it’s been nearly six years since the  second Dungeon Siege game came out.


Here are some factoids on what you will not get if you go purchase the Dungeon Siege III bundle, like I did.

1. You will not get multiplayer. This is stated prior to anyone even thinking of purchasing the game.

2. You will not get the expansion for Dungeon Siege II.

3. You (possibly) will not get to play Dungeon Siege I on your brand spanking new computer, though this appears to have been remedied somewhat, if the Steam forums are any indication.

Personally, I want to see if Dungeon Siege 2  is any fun to play, but that’s just me.

More on Magicka: Meteor Shower and Other Spells Revealed

As a follow-up to my previous post regarding tips to help folks out in Arrowhead Games’ Magicka, some googling for effective spell combinations has led me to a new Wiki that’s been put up to help folks with the game.

The name of the resource site is called Magickapedia, and right now it has all the things I can think of to master the game’s mechanics short of actually practicing spell-prompting. This includes a page on the available (or at least currently known) Spell Combinations available to players, as well as a useful reference to specific magic spells (which they’ve called Magickas) you can learn by combining certain elements in sequence.

Check out the Magickapedia, learn from it, and practice your spell casting so you can kick some troll butt! Cheers!

Tips and Tidbits for Playing Magicka

I figured that my impressions piece was a bit lacking, so I decided to make a second article focusing on things I’ve picked up in-game and on forums that may be of use to people hoping to beat some goblins into submission.

There’s just one issue I haven’t figured out yet, and that’s figuring out if the game takes screenshots when I press the PrintScreen button.

Anyway, let us move on.

First off, there is no mana to worry about in this game. You can basically fire off spells without worrying about conserving mystical energy, but you have to remember what you’re casting, how you’re casting it, and where you’re pointing that spell at.

The basics:

To cast a spell in the general direction of your mouse, press one of the eight keys that have a spell icon on them: Q for Water, W for Life, E for Shield, R for Cold, A for lightning, S for Arcane, D for Earth, and F for Fire.  This will prompt a spell icon below your magician, which can then be cast by right-clicking and will fire where your mouse is positioned.

To cast a spell on yourself, press one of the eight keys to prompt a spell icon, then click your middle mouse button to self-cast. This works best when you cast Life to heal yourself, Fire to remove wet status (WIZARDS DONT SWIM!), and Water to remove flames for your robes.

Instead of firing something in a given direction, you can also create an area of effect (AOE) attack by Shift-Clicking.

Right or Shift clicking without any icons prompted creates a knockback effect (imagine omni-directional farts, basically) that pushes smaller enemies away from you.

Before I forget, if all else fails, you can beat people with melee weapons using Shift+Left Click. 😀

Advanced Knowledge:

You can prompt up to five spell icons in a casting sequence. For instance, you can press A five times for a stronger lightning blast, or use A+S (Lightning plus Arcane) for a lightning laser beam.

There are spell books in game that will teach you special spells to aid you in your journey, but you don’t actually need to get the spell book to cast that spell. If you know the combination of icons that are required to fire off that spell, you can simply press the keys in sequence and activate that spell using the appropriate button, which can be a right or shift click, or the Spacebar. For example (TAKE NOTES!), A+S+F primes the Haste Spell. This spell is actually fired off by pressing Spacebar instead of right-clicking. It’s confusing, I know, but after a couple of minutes of using Haste, you’ll get used to spacebar and right click casting.

Even More Advanced Knowledge:

The people who made this game created a beast of a spellcasting system without explaining that some of the actual spell icons are created by combining OPPOSING elements. Remember what I said above about prompting up to five spell icons? Well, you can press more than five buttons to get five icons.

Take Meteor Shower, for example. Meteor Shower is a special spell that comes with a week-one purchase of Magicka. It is crazy powerful, but casting it is a pain in the butt. This is because to get Meteor Shower to actually get set up, you need to realize that Steam is one of the components of casting the spell. Here’s the secret: Fire and Water create a Steam icon. Meteor Shower is an icon combo of Fire+Earth+Steam+Earth+Fire. Thus, to prompt Meteor Shower, you need to press F+D+F+Q+D+F.

One more special combo from the forums now: Conflagration! Conflagration is composed of Steam+Fire+Steam+Fire+Steam. Imagine Dora the Explorer now, asking you if you know what to press to prompt Conflagration.


THAT’S RIGHT! F+Q+F+F+Q+F+F+Q!  You got it right! *hugs you*

Now, take this newfound knowledge and blow some goblin brains out, why don’tcha? Cheers!