Epic Taking Shots at Steam

Epic Games used to be synonymous with Unreal Tournament, a game that I and millions of others adored and played over the course of the years. In recent memory though, people associate the company with the game Fortnite, which has been topping charts for months and according to SuperData and Wilhelm’s posting, raked in 2.4 Billion dollars over the course of last year. This begs the question — how do children and teenagers have this much disposable income? Their Battle Royale mode is free to play, and though it does have microtransactions for ridiculous skins for nearly everything in the game, I can’t seem to find anyone over the age of 21 who actually enjoys the game. People will go on and on about how you shouldn’t disparage <insert piece of media here> just because you don’t personally enjoy it, but I’m not that person. Fortnite is literal garbage and I can give you a few reasons why I think so.

My first issue with Fortnite is the game itself. For starters, it began as a co-op wave based game that sounded fun — that is until they tacked on this Battle Royale mode and turned the genre into the phenomenon it is today. I think it was pretty shitty of them to abandon the core game that many fellow Internet denizens enjoyed. It’s also over-the-top ridiculous but an otherwise dull Battle Royale experience. Despite not being much of a fan of the genre, I have still tried various iterations and have enjoyed some of them. I’ll take Battlerite Royale or Realm Royale over this dumpster fire any day. Despite it being clearly aimed at a wider audience, the appeal just isn’t there for most adults, probably due to the design choices along with the ability to literally build towers into the sky when you’re supposed to be shooting and killing your opponents. Take away that building component and the rainbow of bullshit and perhaps you’d have a better game. But then you’d probably have Unreal Tournament, and now we’ve come full circle.

But this article isn’t supposed to be about criticizing Fortnite itself, no this is supposed to be about how Epic Games have now opened their own storefront to compete with the likes of Steam. We first learned about the store prior to the end of last year, and Epic was touting the fact that it intends to take less of a cut for game sales on its platform. It’s easy to imagine them being able to afford this having made all of that cash with Fortnite. It seemed that the majority of us felt like there was no way that anyone could really compete with Steam though. Sure, there is the Humble Bundle Store that has sales around the same times of year and GOG that gives DRM-free options to get your game on, but they aren’t taking much business away from Steam. Honestly there are other options but most of them are less popular or sketchy so I’ll leave it at that. Whatever the case, Steam has been a major part of PC gamer’s lives since the early 2000’s. Other big companies like Blizzard, EA and Ubisoft have made their own launchers as well, but even then there was a period of time where their games were still available on Steam, you’d just have to go through the motions of launching a launcher from Steam which caused some people (like me) to completely boycott those companies just to cut down on the amount of launchers on our computers. I prefer consolidation, regardless of if that means “monopoly.”

I actually had the Epic Games launcher installed for a time, mainly because I was following the ongoing development of the next Unreal Tournament game. But due to the massive success of Fortnite, Epic decided to stop further development of UT, and for that I am even more cross with them. I’ve had Origin and Ubisoft’s launcher and I still have Battle.net installed. More recently I added Bethesda’s launcher to the mix and it’s getting to the point again that I don’t want all of these damn launchers. It feels like the golden age of MMOs all over again — needing 300 different launchers to play a variety of games. Origin and Ubisoft went the way of the dodo on my PC, and I decided that I would only play their games on console to avoid the clutter. I’m letting Bethesda slide a bit here because I love their games, but Fallout 76 has been a sore spot for most. I have only played it for a couple of hours due to waiting on them to sort out the issues, but that’s a story for another day.

What initially spurned this conversation piece was the most recent news that broke this week. It appears that Epic Games have managed to lure a company over to their store, even though the game had been available for preorder on Steam for months now. Apparently those customers that preordered on Steam will still get their copy on Steam, but the game’s store page will be taken off of the service soon. So if you want a copy of Metro: Exodus on Steam you should probably go ahead and grab that now while you can. From what I’ve read, Steam charges developers 30% of each sale made on the platform. I’m assuming that means that Epic is charging less, but I’m not sure what the actual percentage is. It’s a free market, and I guess I applaud someone for trying to stand up to the behemoth, but I can’t see this being good for gamers outside of potentially saving them money due to competition. What I see is an increasingly fractured player base or being stuck with a ton of launchers to play games when we really should have these titles releasing on all platforms to give players’ choice back.

I started a poll on Twitter to see what others might think about this occurrence and how they plan to proceed.

For reference, I would vote to stick with Steam. I have far too many games on the platform and unless there is something exclusive to Epic that I can’t get anywhere else and NEED to play, I’m sticking to this. Even then, I’d probably just buy the game for console to avoid it altogether. I understand frugality though, so I included the option to bargain shop between the two, which seems to be the most popular to this point. I guess if you were just getting into PC gaming then you have the option to get your collection started with Epic but for me it’s just not something I want. I’m offended by Fortnite‘s existence and success, and I’m offended by Epic panning Unreal Tournament. That’s enough for me to not give them any dollars at all.

I Went to the Danger Zone

Surprise, surprise! Another major multiplayer game is jumping on the Battle Royale bandwagon! Valve has implemented this feature to one of their flagship titles, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Like so many other games before it, the company is taking an established game in a different genre and adding-on this game mode to compete with the countless other titles that usually only focus on BR. CS:GO has been around for a long time, and the Counter-Strike IP even longer than that (20 years in 2019); with the success of the BR genre as a whole, I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise, yet it did for me. I suppose we should have expected this, given long-running series like Call of Duty (with Black Ops 4) having also thrown their hat into the Battle Royale ring. The funniest part of this is that the first game we saw introduce the Battle Royale concept was Daybreak’s H1Z1, and it is probably one of the least played games in the genre, with upstarts Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite Battle Royale having dominated the market since then. Despite not being a huge fan of the genre itself, I keep seeing games that I find interesting attempting to do things a little bit differently, and the “Danger Zone” is no exception.

While titles like Realm Royale added classes and others like Battlerite Royale gave this treatment to a MOBA style game, Valve has kept the core gameplay of CS:GO intact while also adding the BR elements to their game. It’s been a while since I last played CS:GO, and it appears that the menus and UI have been changed up a bit as well, I think it looks pretty sharp. It’s intuitive and responsive, so that’s a plus.

Unlike most Counter-Strike maps, it’s a rather large island with plenty of points of interest. This map is called “Blacksite” and encompasses some rural areas along with some industrious ones. Since it is an island you’ll be confined to its landmass, but running from one corner to the other will take several minutes. There’s plenty of places with hidden loot, including buildings, towers and caves. The varied terrain has plenty of places to hide, though the traditional gas cloud will slowly shrink in size forcing you to keep moving and find firefights to eliminate other players. At this point the map only supports 16 players, which is far less than most other Battle Royale games, but it seems to keep match times lower, which means you’ll get more games in more often.

Instead of a flying bus or dragon or whatever else the other devs have come up with, where you fly over the map and jump when you care to; instead you’re presented with a map and can select your starting location. This has its pros and cons when compared to other BR titles, as you have the advantage of seeing where others are planning to spawn, but don’t have the choice to drop out and then vastly change direction while in air. In this sense it’s most similar to H1Z1, as in that game you’ll just be randomly spawned in the air and can control your decent in a limited fashion. The map looks gorgeous and I’m glad to see that CS:GO has ultrawide support built in at this point. There is a brief warm up period where you can run around and gain your bearings while also being able to kill other players, and then the map opens up to allow your placement for the match. You’ll still drop in via parachute from a chopper, but you’ll won’t be able to move too far off of the starting point that you selected. Some major differences between this game mode and other BR games: you will start with a moderate amount of currency, find cash about the map along with more dropping from players that you kill, all of which can be spent with a buy menu. There are limited options for purchase, but these can be bought at any time and will be delivered via flying drone. This is also something you can use to track other players, as their drones will follow them around and give away their position. Also, given the “shoot from the hip” nature of CS:GO, there are no iron sights to be found though this doesn’t really change game play all that much.

So far my best match has been a #2 finish, which should have been a first place victory, but I accidentally hit Shift+Tab which brings up the Steam overlay, at precisely the moment that I spotted the only other surviving player. Of course they shot and killed me at that exact moment, but such is the way of things. It seems that a top 5 finish is much easier in this game over the other BR titles I’ve played, but it’s still a very skill based game from my experience. As you complete matches, there is a separate account level for this mode, and you’ll earn rewards as you level up. Weapon skins aren’t new to CS:GO, but you can earn them as you go with the Danger Zone.

My inventory is fairly limited because I spent the majority of my time playing CS:GO on the Playstation 3 back when it first released. I haven’t played the PC version for many hours so I don’t have access to things that more dedicated players may have earned. I constantly see myself being killed by people with various colored weapon names, of which I assume are different rarity skins. Of course these don’t make much of a difference overall, but if you put the time in I’m sure you can be one of those people who kill me with cooler weapons than I have. Nonetheless this seems to be a pretty awesome BR experience and definitely better than the shitshow that is Fortnite (apologies if you actually enjoy that hot garbage dumpster fire).

One bit of controversy that I should mention: The game has now become free to play, after what, 6 or 7 years of being a paid title? This is for obvious reasons, as the company is trying to bring in new blood to the franchise but also because BR games are generally free to play and the new hotness so they want to try and compete with the others that are out there. There has been a flood of negative reviews on Steam due to this, and though I understand that people are upset because they paid money to play CS:GO and now anyone can jump in for free, but given that it’s an old title, I don’t see how they can expect refunds and/or more free stuff after paying for it years ago. I paid for my copy (two, if you count the purchase on my PS3), and I’m not upset that this old ass game is now free. Valve could have easily given us some sort of in-game reward that would have pacified these folks, but even then I suspect that people would still bitch and moan. Whatever the case, new blood is never bad for an older title, and it doesn’t deserve the negative press. Honestly I would rather that they made a new version of Day of Defeat (even with a BR mode) because it was my preferred mod from back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, but to each their own I guess. People will always find something to complain about, and this is clearly no exception. Still, being free to play, now is as good a time as ever to check out an excellent game if you haven’t played it before. I’m happy to join up if you want to play, just drop me a friend invite on Steam (I’m Izlain there like most places).

Let me know what you think about the game in the comments if you do try it out. As always, happy gaming!

Intergalactic Summer Sale

It’s that time of year again, the big Steam Summer Sale is here, and that means discounts on a huge amount of games. Typically the summer sale comes with some sort of activity to distract you from the money you’ll be spending on a bunch of games. Each year it’s been a little different, though one of the best years was a couple back when there was a clicker game and it was actually fairly entertaining. This year is following that same sort of idea, with a new clicker game, a new badge to craft and of course the big discounts we have come to expect from the event.

Remember when I wrote about the Spring Cleaning Event a couple months back and we all received a mystery box? Well now we know what that was for. You’ll be playing as a “Salien” fighting against other aliens and guarding your base. You can customize you Salien and that mystery box contained various bits of clothing for your paper doll. A little underwhelming, but that’s what it is.

Aside from clicking to shoot your base’s turret, you also get some different abilities. You start with one, and it will help to keep you from getting overwhelmed. Apparently you gain experience for completing rounds on planets and as you level up you’ll open new abilities. I don’t think I’m going to put that much time into this, but I assume the more you play the more you can open up and perhaps there are more ways to gain trading cards. I know the discovery queue will give you 3 cards a day and then you get some for playing the event, but there could be other things I’ve missed so far.

From that main map you’ll enter a planet and then choose a vacant square to do battle. You’ll fight aliens for a couple of minutes, earn xp and then move on. Apparently by completing squares you get entered to win games, but I’m not holding my breath when it comes to winning something (I have terrible luck). It’s probably best that you get in there and blast as many aliens as you can, then you might actually win something, but overall I’d say it’s probably just best to craft the badge (if you want it, I like collecting them) and get some sweet discounts on games. I know I dropped a couple bucks to pick up the Darkest Dungeon expansions, and Wolfenstein II is tempting me at $23. Otherwise, that’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s a nice little distraction and I always look forward to seeing what new things Valve comes up with for these events. Happy gaming all!

Thoughts on Quake Champions

Quake Champions first came on my radar around this time last year when it was announced at E3 2017. It was shown off a bit again this year during the Bethesda conference, but being an Early Access game in beta it’s not quite done yet. It started off with a buy-in price of $30, but more recently there was a starter pack put up on Steam for $5, which doesn’t come with all of the champions that exist in the game. As a special E3 week promotion, that starter pack was made available for free, so I took my chance to finally experience the game first hand.

Touted as being the same sort of game as Quake III Arena that many of us played back in the 90’s (and was the direct competition for Unreal Tournament) and helped spawn the Arena Shooter genre, it has a modern twist from adding Champions with special abilities (to compete with titles like Overwatch, I’m sure). This claim holds true, as the champions appear to be mostly modeled after the Quake III skins though now they each have a special ability that recharges during matches and can be used to shake things up a bit. Of course, the nature of the game is to grab the best weapons and power-ups to mow down the competition, so the special abilities don’t add too much depth. Still a nice touch though.

The starter pack grants access to Ranger and Scalebearer, while the other champions are unplayable save for whatever the current week’s free rotation is. This is fine if you want a limited pool and would rather save up favor or platinum to buy the champions, but for $20 (currently) you can instantly unlock them all. Like most free to play games on the market, there are most of the expected trappings; you can buy champions for in-game currency (favor) or buy the RMT currency (platinum) for similar use. Skins come in many flavors, from customization options for your champion and the weapons they use. It seems that you can also further customize things with a rune system that I don’t quite understand yet. I assume it’s similar to systems found in League of Legends, though the runes seem tailored to each champion individually.

When it comes down to it though, this is the fast paced Quake that we all know and love straight out of the 1990’s. There are several different game modes and I’ve felt right at home with it. I love a mindless arena shooter, but this adds just enough nuance to make it feel at home in 2018, despite being firmly steeped in nostalgia from the past. I feel like it’s worth the $20 to get all current and future champions; it’s a good deal just like it’s been for other games like Smite and Paladins.

Jumping into the action has been a blast and I truly enjoy this updated version of Quake. I wish we could get a full campaign though, because the original Quake games were epic and we’ve had this new era of DOOM titles coming out so I’d like to see what id Software might come up with, but I’ll settle for the arena shooter that Quake has become. If you have ever loved a Quake title, I’d suggest picking this up now while it’s free, but even if you miss the promotion, it’s worth dropping the asking price for. I imagine it will be out of Early Access soon enough, as it feels polished and nearly feature complete at this point, but I also believe there will be new content added for some time to come.

Steam Spring Cleaning

Starting yesterday and running through the long holiday weekend, Steam presented us with a new platform event that is different than what we’ve come to expect. Usually when Steam has any sort of event it coincides with a big sale — originally there was the Summer and Winter sales, but now there’s sales in Spring and Fall and sometimes in-between. There have been mini-games and collections and other things to do within the platform along with those juicy discounts on games you’ve been wanting but haven’t purchased yet. This time around, I couldn’t find any sale information, it’s purely an event with tasks — sort of a metagame within the Steam platform.

For the four days of the sale, there are Daily tasks. These will rotate out each day, and if you completed them, the little trophy at the bottom of each will be filled in. When you click on the “post-it” it will present you with “qualifying games” from your library (or from a dozen or so that are free to play for the weekend) that you’ll play and then the task is completed. This means you can either actually do what they’re aiming for — getting you to actually play the games in your library — or just start the game and immediately close it just to get the trophy. I did a mixture of both.

Besides the daily tasks, there are projects as well, that don’t appear to change or refresh, you just have to finish these once. As you can see, I ran through these as well last night but in some cases I had to re-download the title just to complete the task. I wasn’t about to go and play Overlord or Torchlight again, but I did a run in FTL and Hellbound, along with firing up Eon Altar for the first time. Honestly it’s kind of silly for them to push you into playing old games you haven’t played much of or hadn’t played in a long time. I suppose that helps their concurrent users metrics, but otherwise doesn’t seem to do much of anything aside from helping you to unlock a new badge for your profile.

As you can see, I completed the tasks for Day 1, along with the project. It seems that you’ll have to do all of these each of the four days in order to get the maximum level badge. I’m going out of town this weekend though, so I’ll likely only get a day or two finished.

The only visible reward so far is this “Mystery Item” that appeared in my inventory after completing part of the tasks. There was a bundle of emotes as well, but I never use those, usually just turn them into gems for use for booster packs later on or whatever. The description says “This item might be useful in a future sale” which tells us absolutely fuck all. I assume that it will be a discount coupon similar to those you can see in my inventory. It’s not very reassuring when it says “might be useful” because that doesn’t really apply to everyone. Perhaps this is all just a waste of time? Or maybe it’s a great idea, I’m not sure yet. Will have to see what happens during the summer sale and what this item really is to judge its worth. It’s still nice to see that the company is always trying new things though, so I guess that’s all we can ask for.