A little friday fun of a different kind, we’ll call it the ‘scare the spouse with your gaming expenditures’ edition. Steam is the most successful of the PC gaming digital distribution platforms. I’m a big fan and have been using it for years. The folks at ddgamer have put together a little tool to calculate what your account’s worth. Remember when you look at this that the numbers are based on the current value of the software, not what you actually paid. For me this means my account looks like it’s worth a lot more than I actually paid because I so often take advantage of the weekly and holiday sales Steam offers. Caveats aside, here’s my account, which today is worth $1,603.26. Change the username to your own to calculate the value of your account. A side note – folks have actually been selling off their Steam accounts, so if the number makes you feel sheepish and you want to try and recoup some of that money, you can try selling it on Amazon zshops or ebay or whatever. Mind that Valve (owners of Steam) may not approve, it’s probably a violation of their TOS, etc etc.
Did you play and love Diablo or Diablo II back in the day? Do you wish there was a modern equivalent? If so, you can stop reading now and head over to steampowered.com. Buy yourself a copy of Torchlight for $20, and you’ll be in action rpg nirvana within a half hour or so.
The same principle applies if you played Fate some years ago – Torchlight is by some of the same folks and if you like Fate, you’re going to love Torchlight – it’s Fate on steroids with a shiny new coat of paint.
If you’re not familiar with these games, they’re easy to pick up and play, feature some light’ish rpg elements, tons of variety in setting, enemies, and most especially loot. You run around doing simple quests, fighting bad guys, leveling up, gathering up swords of +5 smacking of goodness, lather, rinse, repeat. They don’t necessarily require much heavy thinking but there are tactics that work and those that don’t, with plenty of health potions required for those who don’t want to bother thinking and just want to plow ever deeper into the dungeon.
I love the genre and this is the best example of it to come along in years. There’s a video below so you can get a sense of the gameplay. For now this is PC only but there’s a Mac version on the way due in January. For now you can only buy this via the digital download services but a boxed version is also on the way. There are also development tools on the way and the game is very Mod friendly. If this does as well as Fate did, expect tons of additional content, conversions, and more.
My only criticisms of the game are that I wish the loading was a bit faster and I wish they had included multiplayer, but man, it’s $20 and it’s a blast to play. Definitely worth checking out if it seems like it’s up your alley.
If you have a PC and you don’t buy this game, you don’t love fun. Audiosurf is this fantastic little music game that uses your own music collection to build levels you fly through, collecting tokens for points as you go. At $2.50 over on steampowered.com this week, you have nothing to lose by trying it – your morning coffee probably costs more than Audiosurf does and it won’t last nearly as long. Get thee over and buy it, then friend me on Steam so we can compare scores!
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Team Fortress 2 is perhaps the greatest online fps ever. To celebrate this week’s release of new content for the Pyro class in the game, Valve is again allowing anyone to play for free, starting this friday at 11AM. Get yourself over to steampowered and download the client, then have some fun! My advice would be, pick a class with long range capability. Everyone will be playing Pyro this weekend, meaning the soldier, sniper, heavy and engineer will be enjoying a fabulous turkey shoot.
I finished up Shadowgrounds Survivor this morning. It was on sale a couple of weekends ago on Valve’s Steam software distribution service for only $5. I had played the demo some time ago and liked it but hadn’t gotten around to spending the ~$20 to buy it, so when it came up for only $5 I jumped on it. By and large the game is worth $20 though there are some annoying glitches to be found playing through it.
It’s an old school action arcade game with some light RPG elements layered onto it. The plot is a riff on the old ‘aliens that look like the aliens from the movie aliens attack a space colony’ which has been riffed on any number of times, but it’s done competently enough and you can pretty much skip through it directly to the alien blasting action if you want. Controls are straightforward – mouse to rotate/aim and shoot and WASD/arrow keys to move your character around. Over the course of the game you get to use and level up three characters – a marine with a lot of firepower, a drunken russian with a flamethrower, and a lithe little assassin with some stealthy and long distance firepower. There isn’t much variety in terms of enemy types, but the game is about the blasting of the hordes and this never bothered me. The graphics themselves are pretty good:
There were two major technical issues with the game. The first had to do with the camera. Often as you entered a level the camera would swoop around in an in-game cinematic, and this would sometimes then get stuck in a weird location leaving you unable to see the action, or even worse, sometimes after the cinematic I’d find my character trapped in the level geometry and unable to move or stuck in a confined area. Reloading from my last save always seemed to clear this up. The second problem was worse – there is a known save game corruption bug with the game which would always happen as you transitioned into a new level and would crash the game. This one is really annoying. There’s a workaround to this problem on the forums over on steampowered.com that involves downloading known non-corrupt save game files. I suspect this one would have pissed me off more had I paid more than $5 for the game, but for what I paid…ehh, I more than got my money’s worth.
Windows sucks, sucks so profoundly that words cannot express my loathing for it, yet it’s the standard OS for gaming and I love my gaming action, so I’m stuck with it. I took Friday off last week because windows registry cruft had finally gotten to the point where the machine was taking ~5 minutes to finish booting and no amount of registry scouring could cleanse it of the problem, plus the boot volume was writing a disturbing amount of error messages to the logs, making me fear for its life. It was time for the ‘once every couple of years’ clean install of windows.
Since I was having to go through this, I took the opportunity to buy a new motherboard and videocard. The motherboard only supported 1066 bus speed, leaving me unable to upgrade to newer faster cpu’s including the new wolfsdale 45nm cpus. The videocard has had overheating problems since the day I bought it – it’s an ATI 1900xt and I basically dislike the thing. Performance wise it was ok, but it’s been loud and flaky due to the heating problems the whole time I’ve owned it.
I went cheap but effective on the motherboard side of things, with a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L. It’s lean on the features but the right price and with a solid review and reliability record. The one thing it lacks is firewire, which my last board also lacked and I survived without (though not without the occasional annoyance). It doesn’t support DDR3 RAM either, but I figure I am at least one machine away from moving to DDR3 anyway.
On the videocard end of things, I switched to Nvidia after at least 4-5 ATI cards in a row. ATI still produces decent cards but the 8800GT I bought is basically the value performance leader these days and ATI cards continue to run hot and loud. I didn’t want a repeat of my last ATI card is what it boiled down to. It also helped that I found a deal on an ASUS for around $150 after a rebate.
The build went pretty uneventfully. The only problems I had were initially getting it to boot, which turned out to be because the cooler on my CPU has a broken peg which was causing it to not stay seated against the cpu. Boot, overheat, shutdown immediately. I figured it out pretty quickly and brute-forced a solution. Next time I upgrade the CPU I’ll toss the cooler. The other problem was me being a dummy coupled with bad labeling on my RAM. For some reason I had it in my head that I had 4GB of Patriot RAM, the the labels on the RAM are misleading, so I spent a ton of time fiddling with ram slots and BIOS memory timing settings before I had a V8 moment and realized all was already working well – I had 2GB and the machine was seeing it correctly.
On the OS side of things, I did a couple of things differently. For the first time I used a slipstreamed installer disc, in this case one with service pak 3. I had an initial blue screen with it but the second install went smoothly, and it was a beautiful thing to go to windows update and see only a small handful of patches instead of the usual hours worth of patches to apply. I also installed Ubuntu 8.04. I’m going to try and force myself to only use windows when I’m gaming and linux the rest of the time. We’ll see how that goes.
Anyway I just figured I’d write up how the build went, as I’ve done a number of times in the past. The whole thing took me a full day and then some, though portions of it were spent watching progress bars creep by, fiddling with my DS or PS3 while I waited. The current build’s name is ‘suckeggridesaga,’ which is short for ‘Suck Egg Rides Again.’ Every one of my machines has been named some version of suck egg, cause, well, you know – Windows really does suck eggs.
Oh – one other thing to mention. Steam, as in the software service from Valve, is just awesome. I have at least a dozen games installed in Steam, and to get everything up and running again all I had to do was install a new copy of the steam client, log in once, then log out, copy 70 some gigs of data into the steampowered folder, and re-login to the client, and all my games just worked. Compare that to installing a dozen games using the physical media, then installing all the patches and adding in all the mods and addon content. There’s no contest – digital distribution is totally the way to go. The same was basically true of my gametap stuff as well – I copied over the client and binaries and all my games were good to go. Physical media for PC games can bite me. Given the choice, I will go digital distribution every time.