Valve Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Valve RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Valve Responds To Metro Exodus PC Exclusivity https://www.gameskinny.com/obo9q/valve-responds-to-metro-exodus-pc-exclusivity https://www.gameskinny.com/obo9q/valve-responds-to-metro-exodus-pc-exclusivity Tue, 29 Jan 2019 16:08:29 -0500 William R. Parks

Yesterday, Deep Silver announced that moving forward, the PC version of Metro Exodus would be exclusively available through the recently launched Epic Games Store, promptly ending pre-orders of the title through Steam and other platforms. Now, Valve has responded to the announcement, providing information to fans that have already pre-ordered through Steam and offering its opinion on the matter.

Specifically, Valve has used the Metro Exodus Steam store page to indicate that the developer and publisher behind the game have offered assurance that all Steam pre-orderers will have their copies fulfilled through Steam. Furthermore, it is stated that all title updates and future DLC will be available to players that have secured copies through Valve's digital distribution platform.

Valve has also taken this opportunity to editorialize on the decision to remove Metro Exodus from Steam, calling it "unfair to Steam customers, especially after a long pre-sale period." The company continues with an apology:

We apologize to Steam customers that were expecting it to be available for sale through the February 15 release date, but we were only recently informed of the decision and given limited time to let everyone know.

Indeed, making Metro Exodus exclusive to the Epic Games Store is causing notable frustration for a vocal portion of the community. This can be seen across a number of platforms, including ResetEra, a site that hosts a popular forum for video game discussion, where some players are suggesting that the decision will prevent them from purchasing the title altogether.

Certainly, a number of PC players want the freedom to choose the service they use when buying their games. While an exclusive platform may offer incentives, such as a cheaper price, some will simply opt not to support a practice that feels in conflict with this freedom.

When the Epic Games Store was announced last year, a conversation emerged around its revenue split and how it might act as competition for Steam. Since then, Epic has continually shown that exclusive releases will be one of the methods they employ in battling Valve's Goliath, which may be leaving some players with a single question: Is this type of competition actually in their interest?

More of Valve's response can be found on the Metro Exodus Steam store page. More of the conversation surrounding Deep Silver's announcement can be read on ResetEra.

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Steam: When Does the 2018 Winter Sale Start? https://www.gameskinny.com/grgfy/steam-when-does-the-2018-winter-sale-start https://www.gameskinny.com/grgfy/steam-when-does-the-2018-winter-sale-start Wed, 19 Dec 2018 13:22:39 -0500 William R. Parks

[Update: The Steam Winter Sale is now live until Jan. 3.]

For those that are looking to cheaply expand their PC game libraries, there are few opportunities better than Steam sales. One such sale is the annual Steam Winter Sale, and players have not long to wait before diving into this year's discounts, as Valve has confirmed the official start date.

Specifically, the 2018 Winter Sale is set to begin tomorrow, December 20, though what it will include has not yet been made available. That said, players will also be able to begin voting on the Steam Awards 2018 nominees tomorrow, and perhaps a number of these games will show-up amongst the discounted titles.

Some of the highlights from the games nominated for the Steam Awards include Assassin's Creed OdysseyHitman 2, and Monster Hunter: World, all of which are in the running for Game of the Year. While not officially confirmed, being able to pick up any of these titles at the Winter Sale would certainly be a boon for some fans.

As many will know, Valve hosts a number of massive Steam sales every year, including this annual Winter Sale as well as a Summer Sale and one that takes place around Halloween. These sales often feature thousands of titles at discounted rates, and it is easy to pick up a myriad of great games at $10 or (much) less.

For example, the recent Summer Sale included a wonderful array of cheap co-op games, such as Torchlight 2 for $5, Left 4 Dead 2 at $2, and Borderlands 2 for $5. Players can certainly expect more of the same from the upcoming Winter Sale.

Between the recently announced Epic Games Store, a new revenue structure for Discord's storefront, and Bethesda's focus on its own launcher, there are a lot of new hats in the ring of digital distribution. However, Steam's huge library, coupled with these massive sales, is certain to make it challenging for any company to compete directly with the platform.

Whether these new distribution opportunities will ultimately survive the juggernaut that is Steam is unknown, but hopefully, the challenge will produce results that are good for both consumers and developers alike. In the meantime, the imminent Winter Sale is certain to provide countless great deals to enjoy.

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Epic Games Store: What Titles Are Available? https://www.gameskinny.com/hoow9/epic-games-store-what-titles-are-available https://www.gameskinny.com/hoow9/epic-games-store-what-titles-are-available Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:35:40 -0500 William R. Parks

Earlier this week, Epic announced a new digital distribution platform, the Epic Games Store, focused on giving developers a larger revenue percentage than what is offered by other gaming marketplaces (namely, Steam). Now, the Epic Games Store has gone live, and it features a small selection of games with more on the horizon.

Currently, only three games can be purchased through Epic's new platform:

  • Ashen, a just-released action RPG that takes inspiration from Dark Souls and Journey. Developed by A44 and published by Annapurna Interactive.

  • Hades, an early-access dungeon crawler that was revealed at last night's Game Awards. Developed by Supergiant Games.

  • Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, a direct prequel to the 2017 survival horror game, Hello Neighbor. Published by tinyBuild.

While this preliminary selection is quite limited, players can expect to see Darksiders 3 on the Epic Games Store beginning December 14, and some new information has come to light that is certain to turn some heads: every two weeks, a new title will be freely available through the platform.

This begins with Subnautica, an underwater survival adventure game, which can downloaded, for free, from December 14 to 27. From there, the 2010 platforming sensation Super Meat Boy will act as the Epic Game Store's next free offering, and it will be available from December 28 to January 10.

This is not all players have to look forward to, as Epic has given a glimpse of some forthcoming titles coming to the marketplace. Notable amongst these is Journey, a stunning adventure game from 2012 that will be making its PC debut via the Epic Games Store. Other forthcoming titles include:

  • Genesis Alpha One
  • Maneater
  • Outer Wilds
  • The Pathless
  • Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
  • Satisfactory
  • Super Meat Boy Forever
  • World War Z

No official date for the addition of these titles to the Epic Games Store has been given.

Launching only days after its announcement, Epic once again demonstrates that they are a company committed to fast action with the now live Epic Games Store.

While the scope of the initial selection is certainly modest, confirming that it will indeed be a long process for this new platform to be operating in a realm anywhere near competitors like Steam, the promise of free titles will undoubtedly begin bringing players into Epic's digital storefront.

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Fortnite Developer's Epic Games Store Challenges Steam's Revenue Split https://www.gameskinny.com/nctvq/fortnite-developers-epic-games-store-challenges-steams-revenue-split https://www.gameskinny.com/nctvq/fortnite-developers-epic-games-store-challenges-steams-revenue-split Tue, 04 Dec 2018 17:23:15 -0500 William R. Parks

At the end of last week, Valve announced revisions to how profits are shared with developers that sell their games on Steam, the company's massive digital distribution platform. This has lead to an ongoing conversation about profit sharing, and Epic Games, the developers behind Fortnite, have chimed in (maybe unintentionally) by announcing the Epic Games Store.

The Epic Games Store is a new distribution platform for game developers, and it will launch with a group of games selected by Epic. It has been indicated that some of these launch games will be announced at Thursday's The Game Awards, and more details on the Epic Games Store are likely to come as well. From there, the platform will open up to include more titles in 2019.

Prior to Valve's aforementioned revisions, the company received 30%of all revenue generated from Steam sales. Now, Valve has given incentive for the most successful games to stay on its platform by cutting the take to 25% when a game reaches $10 million in sales and to 20% when it reaches $50 million. This is a potential response to the ever-growing options for digital distribution, though it does not help the small indie developers that are likely to need it the most.

Epic, however, has taken another approach, and the company will receive only 12% of the revenue generated by games sold through the Epic Games Store. As per a statement from Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney:

As a developer ourselves, we have always wanted a platform with great economics that connects us directly with our players. Thanks to the success of Fortnite, we now have this and are ready to share it with other developers."

Furthermore, games that are sold through the Epic Games Store that have been built using Epic's Unreal Engine will not be subject to the 5% fee the company collects when these games are sold on platforms like Steam. This does not preclude games built with Unity from being distributed on Epic's platform, but it does give developers that are using Unreal an additional incentive.

While it may be a while before Epic's new platform comes anywhere near rivaling the juggernaut that is Steam, the company's focus on increased revenue for developers is certain to turn some heads. At the very least, the Epic Games Store will stand against Valve's platform as some much-needed competition, and, hopefully, it will make it increasingly possible for developers to work on smaller-scale, indie projects.

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Is Microsoft About to Buy EA, Valve, or Sega? https://www.gameskinny.com/3naw9/is-microsoft-about-to-buy-ea-valve-or-sega https://www.gameskinny.com/3naw9/is-microsoft-about-to-buy-ea-valve-or-sega Mon, 12 Mar 2018 15:00:33 -0400 Andrew Krajewski

Rumors have been circulating for a while now about Microsoft acquiring major publishers and developers to strengthen their exclusives lineup. Furthermore, Microsoft is sitting on a pretty pile of cash (more than $130B) and is inclined towards spending it. Because of this large sum of money, many fans in the gaming community have speculated and expressed hope for the acquisition of a company the size of EA, Valve, or Sega. So let's take a closer look at these companies and make some predictions of our own.

EA

A Mass Effect Andromeda character awaits combat

Currently the company everyone loves to hate, EA is an intriguing option for acquisition. EA could definitely benefit from the good will Xbox has garnered. EA access, which is currently exclusive to Xbox, would be great bundled in with Xbox Game Pass. It would be a good way to grow the audience for the various EA sports games like FIFA and Madden while still providing profits through Ultimate Team, in addition to growing the Game Pass library with AAA games. Microsoft is also bright enough to make sure these sports games aren't made exclusive, but we could still see IPs like Mass Effect or even Anthem have some sort of exclusivity. EA also owns a ton of "dead" IP, especially on PC, that Microsoft could revive in their effort to bring more games to their platforms. It would definitely be exciting to see how EA could change under the Microsoft banner.

Valve

This acquisition isn't as realistic as the former, but it still holds intrigue. Valve is a cash cow that any company would be happy to acquire. Gamers are tired of waiting for the next Half-Life or Portal, and Microsoft could provide the extra little push needed to bring forth something. Valve also dabbled in console gaming with the Steam Machine, though it didn't achieve its desired success. With a solid infrastructure like Xbox's, and Microsoft's emphasis on play anywhere titles, Steam could have the hardware it has always wanted. 

Gordon Freeman with the Half-Life logo

I don't see this one happening anytime soon, though. Valve seems perfectly happy with the money it's currently making. Also, all the garbage that clutters up Steam's store would need to be pruned to make Valve's platform more desirable to a company like Microsoft, which does a decent job of keeping its store relatively trash-free.

Sega

Sega isn't the biggest moneymaker in the business, but at the right price, Microsoft won't shy away. Sega provides Microsoft with two key assets they are lacking: some clout in the Japanese market, which Microsoft could definitely use, and Sonic. Now, Sonic games are definitely a topic of contention, but Sonic himself is a great mascot, and people care about mascots. Besides Mario, there aren't many mascots as popular as Sonic the Hedgehog; that's definitely worth something. 

It's also worth mentioning that Microsoft considered purchasing Sega in the past before deciding not to. It's understood that the deal didn't go through back then because Sega didn't have the firepower to compete with Sony. Now with the console war climate becoming more amicable, Sega might be a welcome addition to the Microsoft family without the pressure of keeping the platform afloat.

Final Takeaway 

All three of these companies have great IPs and unique qualities that could benefit Microsoft. EA would be fun to see because of the volume of games they produce every year. Sega has a tremendous Legacy, and Valve would bring in a ton of money. While these acquisitions aren't likely, that doesn't mean we can't dream. With the cash Microsoft has on-hand, it'd be nice to see them acquire somebody. 

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What are your thoughts? Would you like to see Microsoft acquire these companies?  Who else should Microsoft look into bringing on board? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to stick around GameSkinny for more content like this.

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An Interview with the Creative Minds Behind Half-Life: A Place in the West https://www.gameskinny.com/e1s5l/an-interview-with-the-creative-minds-behind-half-life-a-place-in-the-west https://www.gameskinny.com/e1s5l/an-interview-with-the-creative-minds-behind-half-life-a-place-in-the-west Thu, 25 Jan 2018 13:21:58 -0500 Sarah Elliman

Half-Life is a gaming series known and loved by many; the immense popularity of the original game has made Valve what it is today. Even in 2008, the various installments in the series had sold just under 18.4 million units; the sales the series must have achieved by now must be astronomical. It is the intricate world, interesting characters, and various narrative possibilities that have drawn fans back to the franchise time and time again. Sadly, there hasn’t been a third installment to satiate the desire for more content, and the 10-year gap from the release of Half-Life 2 could suggest there never will be. Luckily, mod and comic book creators Ross Gardner and Micheal Pelletier have bought life back into the series with their episodic comic book Half-Life: A Place in the West.

Half-Life: A Place in the West is set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2 on alien-occupied Earth, and it follows three characters who are all drawn to a decrepit American town called New Franklin. The protagonists are searching for a group of missing children when they stumble upon a retinue of freedom fighters who seek to reclaim their land. A simple twist of fate connects the fighters with the missing children, and the tale unfolds from there.

The comic has received heaps of praise from fans, as the comic stays true to the atmosphere and content of the games while telling a different story entirely. The overwhelming success of Half-Life: A Place in the West has been incredibly unforeseen, but it's an exciting prospect for both fans and those involved in the project. At GameSkinny, we have been given access to the brilliant minds behind the comic and their inner thoughts on their marvelous creation. 

GameSkinny: What are your backgrounds, and how has that enabled you to create the comic?

Ross Gardner & Micheal Pelletier: Our backgrounds are sort of all over the place. Making a comic is something we’d wanted to do for a very long, long time.

It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I’m not sure there’s a lot that really could prepare you for it. 

GS: What inspired you to create the comic?

RG & MP: We were inspired by both the bizarre science-fiction universe Valve created and our love of comics … We wanted to tell a story outside the confines of the game and introduce new perspectives on the traditional Half-Life archetypes. 

GS: What made you put it into comic form?

RG & MP: In developing our story, we found Half-Life naturally lent itself to the comic book medium, and whatever we envisioned, whatever we imagined we could do. The vast imagery of Half-Life was open to us, and A Place in the West presented an opportunity to present it in fresh and exciting ways. Hopefully we’ve done that.

 

 GS: The comic has been praised by many as being able to capture the Half-Life universe to its fullest. What do you think allowed you to create a story that is so true to the original content?

RG & MP: We’ve more focused on being true to the themes rather than any actual events, and I think that resonates with our readers. I think the key to making it feel true to the world is about not capturing the events of previous tellings, but capturing how those moments made you feel.

GS: Although not being a property of Valve, the comic has been an incredible success thus far and is continuing to grow. What do you think draws people to the comic?

RG & MP: [We've] stepped aside from the main narrative of the game to focus on different aspects of it … I think the reason that people are interested in it is the same reason that we were drawn to creating it. Half-Life presents an enormous and fascinating world and explores small facets of it.

GS: Where do you see the comic going? Can you envision the future and direction you want to take the comic in?

RG & MP: We have a total of 13 chapters planned, the last of which will bring the story to a definitive conclusion. The story was planned out from beginning to end before we started production on the first chapter, so we’ve always known our endpoint, even if certain arcs and plot beats have necessarily taken different forms along the way. Our main goal is just to keep getting better at this comics thing. We’ve never done anything like this before, and we learn so much with each subsequent chapter. From where we’re sitting, there’s a clear uptake in quality with each release, and we want to keep going on that trajectory.

 


Half-Life: A Place in the West is truly a magnificent comic that captures the essence of the series perfectly. If you haven’t already, check out the first chapter here. It’s entirely free, and subsequent episodes are only $1.99. If you would like more information about the project, you can also visit the Half-Life: A Place in the West website.

Are you interested in reading the comic? What have you thought of it so far if you already have? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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How eSports Are Stifling Creativity in Games https://www.gameskinny.com/tnnx1/how-esports-are-stifling-creativity-in-games https://www.gameskinny.com/tnnx1/how-esports-are-stifling-creativity-in-games Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:41:26 -0500 Alberto C.

As games have become more and more accessible over time, their weight in the entertainment industry has grown. Video games not only represent a bigger piece of the pie than ever before, they’re also shaping the way we think in other areas. Talks on including video game competitions in the Olympic Games have been ongoing for a while now, and the vast increase in cash prizes, possible thanks to millions of spectators that watch the tournaments, showcases that gaming competition is here to stay. A caption of the largest prize pools in eSports can be seen below.

But the effects of the rise of skilled gaming competitions appear to be reaching, intentionally or not, much further than most expected. Developers seem to be increasingly focused on developing titles specifically for eSports at the expense of a game or studio's originality. The goal is shifting, for at least some developers, from “what makes this a good game to play” to “what would be a good game to play and watch.” Obviously, if both can be satisfied, well then it’s a win-win, and this article will be forgotten in due time. However, the recent trend suggests that creativity will be the true victim.

Rainbow Six Siege, the latest in the saga that made a mark for its unforgiving combat and highly rewarding tactical approach and planning, now resembles Counter-Strike more than almost any other RS game before it, especially those titles that received the most praise back in the day. Relic's Dawn of War series already took a leap of faith when it morphed from a more traditional base-builder RTS to a more tactical action-RPG in Dawn of War II. The radical change in gameplay disappointed some but was still well received by many who appreciated the blend between RTS and RPG elements that reminded many of some of Warcraft III's best parts. The changes made to the most recent title have been an overall miss, with poorer reception not just from game critics, but staunch negative feedback from the playerbase thanks to its suspicious similarity to Starcraft II and MOBA gameplay.

And it's not only game series that have suffered. Developers and publishers that once tried to distinguish themselves from the competition are now mimicking or altering their own products to give them a spectator-friendly edge. Studios once renowned for the quality of their products and uniqueness within the market now appear to be making copycats of one another the same way many developers tried to copy Call of Duty's successful formula in their own shooters. Whereas Valve has Dota 2 and The Artifact (a Dota 2 card game that is currently in development), Blizzard has Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, and Overwatch (another heavily influenced MOBA title). And then there are the cases from other lesser-known but increasingly large developers, such as Hi-Rez Studio's SMITE and Paladins, or arguably the most successful MOBA of all, League of Legends.

The arena of The International 2017 (Dota 2)

From a business perspective, it is easy to understand the logic in sticking to a formula that has a high rate of success. But decision makers at the head of these companies would do well to remember that it was neither business thinking nor a profitable streaming industry alone that got them to managing games that now account for millions of dollars and viewers. MOBA origins can largely be attributed to the creation of a single custom map made back in the days of Starcraft known as Aeon of Strife, made by a mapmaker known only as Aeon64. Likewise, it should go without saying that other incredibly successful titles nowadays, such as MinecraftPlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or Counter-Strike do not have their origins in rooms full of MBA executives, but rather in videogame enthusiasts themselves.

Though too early to say for certain, it appears that some bigger developers have ceased to be concerned with making their own thing and are now aiming for the shareholder-friendly, easily successful formulas. The "problem" with the success of eSports is that it appears to be contributing to this narrowing of the companies' views on the long term. The good news is that this gives indie developers more room to shine than ever. Already easier to get financed thanks to crowdfunding, the smaller studios have a great opportunity to share their own ideas without having to worry about being overshadowed by the bigger kids that are all too concerned with imitating each other.

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Former Valve Writer Potentially Reveals Plot of Half Life 3 https://www.gameskinny.com/vwkyp/former-valve-writer-potentially-reveals-plot-of-half-life-3 https://www.gameskinny.com/vwkyp/former-valve-writer-potentially-reveals-plot-of-half-life-3 Fri, 25 Aug 2017 09:25:46 -0400 Selandrile

The gaming world is abuzz after beloved industry writer Marc Laidlaw, famous for his work on the Half Life series, posted a fictitious letter to his blog yesterday. The letter, titled Epistle 3 and utilizing code names which are humorously conspicuous, details a potential plot line for video gaming's most infamous vaporware.

“Gertie Fremont," an obvious stand-in for Gordon Freeman, is the author of the letter, which details a journey to find the “Hyperborea” while combating the "Disparate". Fans of the series will recognize this as the scenario laid out by Half Life's final entry: Half Life 2 Episode 2.

Along the way Gordon encounters Dr. Breen, now in slug-form, who begs for death to escape his current state. The tragic fate of Dr. Mossman is revealed, along with implications of Alex and the G-Man having some form of connection. Perhaps most interestingly, Gordon is "spread across" time in a sequence meant to show off Half Life's events such as the 7 Hour War, the Combine's other worlds, and possibly even the future.

The sheer amount of internet traffic flocking to this post appears to have crashed Laidlaw's website. Laidlaw said in a tweet:

It has yet to be confirmed whether this is simply Laidlaw's personal imaginings, official plans developed while he worked at Valve, or something in between. Valve's notorious secrecy will probably ensure that we never know for certain.

Fan reactions to the post have been mixed. Some have claimed it was a bittersweet experience while others expressed anger with Valve. For many fans, however, this short letter brings an end to an era and closes the book on an unfinished tale.

But if the letter is anything to go by, this is the last teaser we'll ever get of what may have been Half Life 3:

"Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final episode."

-- Epistle 3, Marc Laidlaw

You can find the original letter on Marc Laidlaw's website. Fans have also helpfully translated the letter by replacing the code names with their intended marks. You can find the translated version on Github

What do you think of this letter? How does it wrap up the Half Life series in lieu of a true sequel? Let us know down in the comments!

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More Developers and Publishers Should be as Transparent as Valve https://www.gameskinny.com/vph66/more-developers-and-publishers-should-be-as-transparent-as-valve https://www.gameskinny.com/vph66/more-developers-and-publishers-should-be-as-transparent-as-valve Wed, 24 May 2017 12:21:41 -0400 GeorgieBoysAXE

In a bold, yet unsurprisingly decisive move from Valve, the distributor has decided that image isn't everything. The team behind the world's biggest digital gaming storefront has recently introduced a page that aggregates the number of Steam support requests they receive and work on each day. And a lot of fans are making a hubbub about it. 

This seems like a small gesture that’s being blown out of proportion, right? You’re probably telling yourself: “Well, of course, Valve has plenty of help tickets to sort out... so what’s the big deal about this page?”

That's a fair assessment, but there’s actually plenty of fuss to make about a company that’s making an active attempt to demonstrate accountability and generate transparency between it and its user base.

Let's Clarify What Valve is Really Doing Here

The digital distributor is not only breaking down statistics to show exactly how many tickets the Steam team receives at any given time, but it's also coming clean with how many they’re able to get done — allowing Steam users to see what the work volume from both sides of the spectrum.

It’s a concept that seems a bit out of place — and rightfully so. Despite the advancements that have been made in regards to the convenience of digital consumerism, the powers that be have never given customers this much information about what's going on behind the scenes. How hard they're really working to take care of the gamers that keep their businesses alive often goes unnoticed. 

In short, Valve is being more transparent with its Steam users than any other top dog in the industry right now. And that's great news for us.

This is especially true when you look specifically at refund requests. Gaming is an expensive hobby, so gamers like to educate themselves about prospective purchases before actually spending their hard-earned cash. Where we'd normally have to rely on reviews and community sentiment to help us make those decisions, Valve is giving us new insight that will keep us even more informed. Seeing how many refund requests come through for a specific game is powerful information that can really tell gamers whether they'll be getting their money's worth—and that's a rare thing in an industry that seems to be more money-grubbing than ever before.

Distributors, Take Note — This Is How a Digital Marketplace Should Be Run

Is there a chance that releasing this information could negatively affect Steam's profit margins in the long run? Certainly. But the risks involved are well worth it for the good will it's going to create between sellers and buyers. And there are many other companies that should follow suit.

Nintendo is a prime example here. The Big N's digital distribution practices have been lacking in a number of ways for quite some time. Its current eShop platforms don't offer any sort of account management system that allows for transfers or back-up copies of games. And there's a complete lack of curation that causes plenty of great games to go largely unnoticed, especially if they don't have the marketing budget or promotional help from Nintendo. To summarize, buyers in the eShop aren't privy to the user feedback that's been central to Steam's store pages. The community is inconsequential, and the buyers within it are suffering for that. 

To summarize, buyers in the eShop aren't privy to the user feedback that's been central to Steam's store pages. The community is inconsequential, and the buyers within it are suffering for that. 

I'm not saying Nintendo should (or would) implement something as transparent (and possibly profit-damaging) as Valve's refund request tracking. But at the very least, a download count or something similar would be a nice start, just so players can see how other players are reacting to a particular game. The eShop could even take some cues from the now-defunct Miiverse and put a thread on each store page that would allow users to engage in positive or negative discussion about the games being sold. 

Doing so could cultivate a connection and a level of transparency between Nintendo and its eShop users that has never existed before.

But let's not throw all the shade at Nintendo. As iconic as the company is, it's still relatively new to this whole digital distribution thing. So let's turn our keen consumerist eyes toward the other two giants in digital distribution — Microsoft and Sony. 

Console Storefronts Need a Transparency Facelift, Too

Both Microsoft and Sony currently offer premium memberships that give their players access to a number of online multiplayer games and exclusive sales. And while both PlayStation Plus and Xbox Gold are novel services, neither of them has done much to serve the consumer as best they can. 

Plus and Gold memberships have so much potential to be something more, like a guaranteed access to Tier 2 technical support for anything that goes wrong with the operation of your system, for example. Hell, even give exclusive access to a backlog of games that can be digitally streamed is something that we could all get behind shelling out a few extra bucks for — at least something more than what we already have and is included in the membership. 

One of the more glaring omissions between Steam and these two console storefronts is the lack of curation between users, and the ability to communicate feedback on a product or service for other users to consult with.

Sure, you could say that the community groups that Sony and Microsoft offer are a step in the right direction, but what about something like Green Light? Or games getting their own store pages where players can participate in specific congress of the title and the various topics associated with them?

The liberties that Valve grants you when it comes to expressing your thoughts in these forums is another benefit that we won't see from the other two storefronts. And it isn't due to a lack of moderation by Valve, either — they're fully aware of what they're granting.

Sony and Microsoft are much too busy shifting between the roles of publicist and spin-doctor to even consider those options; These two companies believe that they only way they can succeed is to control as much player influence as they can in order to keep the consumer from getting none the savvier. 

The line is undoubtedly drawn somewhere, and I’m fully aware that the inmates can’t be asked to run the asylum, but the step that Valve has taken has given us some food for thought that we should all chew on. From Nintendo to Microsoft to Sony, a little more transparency into statistics like concurrent players, refunds, and workflows -- and even community engagement with native forums -- would be a welcomed change. 

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3 Reasons Budding Game Designers Should Dig Into Dota 2's Map Editor https://www.gameskinny.com/ag23f/3-reasons-budding-game-designers-should-dig-into-dota-2s-map-editor https://www.gameskinny.com/ag23f/3-reasons-budding-game-designers-should-dig-into-dota-2s-map-editor Tue, 21 Feb 2017 08:00:01 -0500 Sergey_3847

Video games are not only fun to play, but also fun to make. Except when you're first starting out -- because it seems scary how much knowledge you must accumulate in order to make your first steps as a game dev. But if you're willing to get creative, there are other ways to learn game design that are considerably more enjoyable than trudging through piles of tutorials. 

If learning code is hard for you, then the best way to enter the world of game design is through in-game map editors. So many games have them, including Skyrim, Crysis, Counter-Strike, and more. But if you're an aspiring developer, then the one you should really be looking at is the Dota 2 map editor.

This is not just some random level generator, but a tool that can open the gates to professional game development for you. Here's why it's such a powerful way to learn.

You will learn how to design levels professionally

There are many ways you can start learning level design. Lots of people learn through creating modifications for their favorite games, but that's not always the best starting point. Creating maps in a top-tier MOBA game like Dota 2 allows you to really feel what it takes to design your first levels.

There aren’t that many great offers on the game market, but the one from Valve is truly intriguing. So, if you really want to enter the game dev, now’s the time!

All you need is to install Dota 2, if you still don’t have it, and add a free Dota "Workshop Tools" DLC to the install queue. It includes a whole package for creating, editing and scripting custom maps in Dota 2. The level editor is called Hammer and is very simple to use, which is great for those who only start designing levels.

The Hammer manual is simple and intuitive, so you will easily start creating your first custom maps for Dota 2. The results of your level design in Hammer Editor can be included in your future resume, if you are planning to apply for a job in game dev.

Make it easy for yourself and begin with a simple solo map, and later you can create full-fledged games within Dota 2, such as Roshpit Champions or Warchasers.

You will have a direct access to Source 2

You may have heard that Dota 2 has been recently transferred to Valve’s own Source 2 graphics engine. This is a huge step forward for everyone involved in the development of the game, including third-party developers. Here’s what Gabe Newell had to say about Source 2 in his recent AMA at Reddit:

“We are continuing to use Source 2 as our primary game development environment. Aside from moving Dota 2 to the engine recently, we are using it as the foundation of some unannounced products. We would like to have everyone working on games here at Valve to eventually be using the same engine. We also intend to continue to make the Source 2 engine work available to the broad developer community as we go, and to make it available free of charge.”

This is amazing news for all aspiring game developers! Now with this announcement anyone who wants to create content for Dota 2 will have a direct experience of working with the Source 2 graphics engine. With this kind of knowledge your qualification will be of highest priority and you can be confident that entering the game dev community will be easier than ever before.

Later you can start making your own games on Source 2 and Valve will be happy to see your games in their top lists. They really, really want people to use the same engine for all their projects, and they’re welcoming everybody who will follow their call.

You will start making real money

If the two reasons above are not enough to make you pursue the goal of making content for Dota 2 on a new Source 2 engine, then maybe this third reason will give you some food for thought. It may sound trivial, but money is always a good reason to start doing something in your life.

Valve fully supports their third-party developers -- it lets them receive payments for custom game passes and even shares a few percents on top. If you want to know more about the Valve reward system, then check out this official FAQ.

This is a really great deal, since right now there aren’t that many custom games with passes in Dota 2. This means that the competition is very low and you can enter this market with no drawbacks at all. There is only one condition -- your mods should be really good.

Hopefully, this information was useful to you. There aren’t that many great offers on the game market, but the one from Valve is truly intriguing. So, if you really want to enter the game dev, now’s the time!

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Seven Simple Steps to Surviving the Next Steam Sale -- and Saving Money https://www.gameskinny.com/pgfpq/seven-simple-steps-to-surviving-the-next-steam-sale-and-saving-money https://www.gameskinny.com/pgfpq/seven-simple-steps-to-surviving-the-next-steam-sale-and-saving-money Sun, 29 Jan 2017 15:24:26 -0500 Vian De Bod

Wow, those are way too many S’s for my mouth to say out loud. Anyway, with the Steam Winter Sale safely behind us, I believe it is time to make sure that we don’t overspend (as much) on the next one. 

For those of you who may not know, Steam is a digital games distribution platform developed by Valve software, who is notoriously known for holding amazing sales through the platform and not releasing Half-Life 3. If you’re an average PC gamer, odds are that you know all about Steam and its glorious sales. You’ll know all about the next best game to get and how to go about getting as many games as you possibly can during these golden times.

The problem is, however, that not everyone knows how to save their wallet from a world of hurt at the same time. Most people, unfortunately, go through a process that’s quite financially destructive. There might be some slight variation, but it usually goes something like this:

You see a game you like. It’s 40% off, and so you decide to buy it. That’s all fair enough. Then you go on to do the same with twenty other games you never even wanted in the first place!

Don’t deny it. We’ve all been there.

I have experienced this very same problem through my many years of gaming, and I have developed a system for those of you (like me) who want to leave the sale with a few new (and hopefully good) games without breaking the bank.

Obviously, it's best to follow these steps strictly, but we’re all human, and we’re all subject to spur-of-the-moment splurging. Having a “safety cushion” helps to minimize any potential damage caused by human error.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here is my 7-step method to saving money during the next big Steam sale -- and also getting some good games out of it on the cheap. 

The 7 Steps to Saving Money During the Next Steam Sale:

  1.   Make a list of the top 10 games you want to buy -- This helps you focus on only the game you want to buy, instead of being overwhelmed by the glut of discounted games during any given sale. 
  2.   Organize that list from games you want the most to games you want the least -- Be honest with yourself! There’s no point in purposely putting the more expensive games in, for example, the top five.
  3.   Remove the last five games from the list -- and put their names in a folder. You'll get these games during the next sale or when you have the funds available.
  4.   Of the remaining five, buy the top two (numbers 1 and 2) --This is where your honesty with yourself pays off.
  5.   Arrange the last three according to price -- From the least expensive to the most expensive, rearrange the bottom three games on your list.
  6.   Buy the cheapest one -- Put the rest in a folder marked “Backup” 
  7.   Play one hour of each game -- Evaluate whether you are happy with your games. Playing for only one hour is very important. Steam does not allow refunds for games played longer than that. If you are happy, then great! If not, refund it and get a game you put in your “Backup” folder 

--- 

So there you have it! Seven steps to some budget gaming! Of course, you are free to buy more games from that list of yours afterward, but at least this provides you with a framework to prevent “accidental” over-spending.

Pro Tip: Remember to look out for bundle-deals before buying a game as these usually offer more value for your money. If you’re smart, you could get more than ten games for the price of three with deals like these!

Have fun, but be smart!

Do you have any tips for surviving Steam sales? Let us know in the comments below! 

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The Essence of DotA is Not Dead in Dota 2's 7.00 update https://www.gameskinny.com/0hvk1/the-essence-of-dota-is-not-dead-in-dota-2s-700-update https://www.gameskinny.com/0hvk1/the-essence-of-dota-is-not-dead-in-dota-2s-700-update Tue, 13 Dec 2016 16:29:01 -0500 Ashley Shankle

From the outside looking in, Dota 2's 7.00 patch just seems like a big UI and quality of life update. But to actual players of IceFrog's long-running Warcraft 3 mod and its transition to the Source engine as Dota 2, 7.00 signals an end of an era more than just a substantial update.

Until this patch, the game was almost a full conversion of the original Warcraft mod with its own intricacies and small balancing changes. The original and Dota 2 even shared most of the same patches up to 2014 -- meanwhile, Valve's iteration grew into one of the world's leading eSports.

As of the 7.00 update, Dota 2 is its own beast and far separated from DotA itself. And as expected from a community that has been playing the game at 6.xx patches since 2005, many players can be described as nothing short of pissed off despite the changes being for the better. Adjusting to change is hard.

What exactly changed with 7.00?

To go into the extensive list of changes that happened with yesterday's update would take a lot more effort than someone like me could write up -- check out the update's numerous official pages for full changes -- but some things should be pointed out for those familiar and unfamiliar with DotA and Dota 2.

The first and most obvious changes hit the UI and map.

Map and UI changes

7.00 brought a total in-game UI overhaul, giving it a more modern and minimalist look. The bottom HUD is smaller and more compact, the new talent system's branches can be seen next to abilities, and when you click on another hero its inventory can now be seen on the left side of the screen instead of the focus being taken off of your hero.

The detractors to the UI changes are few, with the biggest being that custom HUD skins are now less discernible. A downside to those attached to their HUDs, but overall the new look is beneficial to new and experienced players alike even if it does need a scaling option.

The map changes are widespread and, for many classic DotA players, confusing. The full spectrum of changes would take a while to list, but here are some notable ones:

  • Roshan moved to the top side of the river, and Roshan's stats have been adjusted
  • Jungle terrain has been reworked so that each of the jungles have equal spawns and Ancients are no longer Spell Immune, but do have 70% Magic Resistance
  • Neutral camps and their spawn times have been adjusted as well as new Ancients being added
  • Tier 2 ~ 4 towers' damage has been adjusted
  • Huge Rune changes, including: Adding Rune Spots in each of the four jungles, no more Bounty Rune spawns in river, Powerup Runes will now only spawn in one spot in the river, and Bounty Runes will only recharge 2 Bottle charges
  • Shrines have been added to four spots across the map and inside both teams' bases. Shrines themselves give buffs with a 5-minute cooldown and can be teleported onto

This is by no means the complete list -- it's massive -- but it should give you an idea how big the map changes were. Dota 2's map is now almost completely different, with new ways to juke, new neutrals to farm, and new buffs via Shrines. With Bounty Runes popping in four total locations every two minutes, getting XP when supporting or jungling is easier than ever, provided you're staying safe and your team is on point.

The above map changes add more complexities to what was already a complicated game, but also makes gold and XP gain for non-laners less of an uphill battle. Does this make it "casualized"? No. But that doesn't stop a huge chunk of the community from crying about it.

Talent Trees

The map and UI seeing such big overhauls aren't what have so many players losing their minds, though. What's doing that is the addition of the Talent Trees and the removal of manual attribute leveling -- and it doesn't help that seeing attributes by holding the Alt key is currently broken.

The new Talent Tree system replaces the original, more free-form system of being able to choose between leveling a skill or pumping some beef into your attributes when you level up. This was a key component of a number of heroes' playstyles because some skills just aren't that useful -- but stats always are.

With this new system players are no longer able to forgo any skills for attributes. You now must pump levels into your skills until they are maxed, with additional attributes now coming solely from items, skills, and talents.

The talents themselves bring a new and more fresh scent to Dota 2, but even those with the worst eyesight can see the system was almost lifted from Blizzard's MOBA Heroes of The Storm.

Talents are certainly far more interesting than leveling attributes (+125 Cast Range on Jaki at level 15? Yes, please.) and it's incredibly difficult to say they don't add more variety to the game. The only real detractor to them is they are so similar to the system in Heroes of The Storm it's almost offensive. The system works, that's for sure, but Dota 2 is supposed to stand out from the pack.

The big complaints from the community at this point in time are in fact how much more similar this patch has made the game to its competition at first glance. It's a valid complaint, but it's not valid enough to want 7.00 and its new gameplay elements gone.

7.00 means Dota 2 is no longer DotA with a new coat of paint

The UI is easier to use, but "it looks like League of Legends". The Talent Trees are a million more times more interesting than leveling attributes but "don't have the essence of DotA".

DotA itself is an old game, having first made its way to the Warcraft 3 scene in 2004. Some sort of changes were bound to happen once Dota 2 finally finished adding all the DotA heroes and started adding their own. And here we are, 7.00, and we have the brand new hero Monkey King and the new vision of Valve and IceFrog to keep Dota not only fresh for players of all skill levels, but relevant in eSports scenes past our own bubble. To anyone on the outside, Dota 2 just seems like "a bunch of OP heroes doing a bunch of OP shit and also I have no idea what's going on".

There is now true distinguishment between DotA and Dota 2. If that means that Dota 2 has lost the essence of DotA, so be it -- it's finally time for the sequel to become an actual sequel and not a Source-engine conversion of an 11-year-old Warcraft 3 mod.

The changes in 7.00 are by no means perfect, not even counting the amount of confusion players are currently going through or the small bugs, but they've brought about a new and hopefully more fun age of Dota that will not only be able to keep longtime players interested but draw in new players to keep up that flow of fresh blood.

There's so much more to the 7.00 patch than I even bothered to touch on here, but it's still Dota 2. You're still going to play the game the same as you ever did before, just with the details a little different. The essence of DotA isn't dead, but it has changed to fit its more modern and high-earning eSport sequel.

You can say it's casualized if you want (but you won't be able to prove it), you can say the UI looks like League and the Talent Trees are right out of HotS. It doesn't matter. Because it's still Dota 2 and you're still going to come back to it because no other ARTS/MOBA is as complex nor as satisfying as Dota 2 is. And whether you want to admit it or not, that is especially the case with 7.00, which has effectively left DotA in the dust for good.

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5 Best Deals of the 2016 Steam Autumn Sale https://www.gameskinny.com/5swtw/5-best-deals-of-the-2016-steam-autumn-sale https://www.gameskinny.com/5swtw/5-best-deals-of-the-2016-steam-autumn-sale Sat, 26 Nov 2016 06:22:31 -0500 Unclepulky

Ah, Steam Sales, the greatest medicine of all. They may not treat colds or get rid of pain, but they make our wallets feel so much better.

The 2016 Steam Autumn sale is going on right now and will continue through November 29th. The following five deals are what we believe to be the best deals available.

5. Broforce

Broforce is one of the silliest and yet most fun games to come out in 2016. This 2D co-op title includes over the top action, explosions, hilariously bad puns, explosions, a plethora of game modes, a killer soundtrack, and explosions.

Usually, Broforce retails at $14.99 on Steam. Right now though, the game is 75% off, bringing the cost down to $3.74. In addition, you can also get four copies of Broforce as gifts for the other bros or brodettes in your life, and that package deal is also 75% off. 

And, as a little bonus, you can currently download the game's quite good soundtrack for a mere $1.24, as opposed to the usual $4.99.

Check out the Broforce Steam page for more details. 

4. Antichamber

Entries four and three on this list aren't games new games, and they aren't bundles, but they're both truly amazing indie games that you can currently pick up for next to nothing.

The first of these is Antichamber. Developed by Alexander Bruce, this is one of the strangest and most surreal games ever made. It isn't a horror title at all, but it will certainly bring a thrill to your senses. If you think games have become repetitive and stale, then Antichamber is exactly the breath of fresh air you need.

Usually available for $19.99, the game is currently 75% off, bringing the cost down to $4.99.

Check out the Antichamber Steam page for more details. 

3. Ys Origin

Brought to us by one of the oldest game developers still in the business, Nihon Falcom, Ys Origin is an outstanding action JRPG.

With really impressive graphics for a low-cost game, smooth as butter gameplay and a story that subverts many of the tropes common JRPGs, there's a lot to like about Ys Origin.

Including a 40+ hour story, several additional (and really fun) game modes, and multiple playable characters, including several hidden, unlockable ones, Ys Origin is a steal at any price. And, for those of you who are really into achievements, this game offers over 40 of them.

Ys Origin is currently 70% off, bringing its cost down from $19.99 to $5.99.

Check out the Ys Origin Steam page for more details. 

2. Star Wars Collection

With Star Wars: Rogue One coming to theaters next month, now is as good a time as any to play some Star Wars games.

This massive collection includes:

  • Star Wars- Dark Forces
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
  • Star Wars - The Fore Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition
  • Star Wars Battlefront II
  • Star Wars Empire at War - Gold Pack
  • Star Wars Jedi Knight - Jedi Academy
  • Star Wars Jedi Knight- Mysteries of the Sith
  • Star Wars Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast
  • Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
  • Star Wars Republic Commando
  • Star Wars Starfighter
  • Star Wars The Clone Wars - Republic Heroes
  • AND FINALLY, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

Usually, a whopping $99.99, this collection is 77% off, bringing it down to a mere $22.99. Also, all of these games are on sale individually, meaning you can handpick any ones you want for very cheap -- if you haven't somehow picked them up already. 

1. Sid Meier's Civilization V: Complete Bundle

By far the best deal of the 2016 Autumn Steam Sale is Civilization V, along with ALL of its expansions.

The Civilization series is considered by many to contain some of the best strategy games of all time. And, according to most fans, either Civilization IV or Civilization V is the best of them all.

Usually, purchasing Civilization V with its multitude of expansions costs a grand total of $149.34. However, right now, it's 92% off! That brings the price down to a mere $12.27. If you have ANY interest in the Civilization series at all, here's the perfect opportunity to get into it.

Check out the Civilization V Steam page for more details. 

What games are you getting from the 2016 Autumn Steam Sale? Will you be purchasing any of the games listed above? Let me know in the comments!

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Will VR Ever Make the Jump to eSports? https://www.gameskinny.com/9t211/will-vr-ever-make-the-jump-to-esports https://www.gameskinny.com/9t211/will-vr-ever-make-the-jump-to-esports Sun, 20 Nov 2016 08:00:01 -0500 Lydia M

Virtual reality has really blown up in the past year. Nowadays, with cell phone technology you can even create a cardboard headset, making it simpler than ever to immerse yourself into a VR experience. As quickly as the technology develops, the uses of virtual reality expand.

VR really stepped into gaming with the Oculus Rift around 2014, which was then bought by Facebook. After that, other major companies followed suit, developing their own VR rigs to adapt to gamers. With that, the potential of virtual reality eSports has started to stir. But can VR succeed in the rapidly evolving community of eSports?

It most certainly will try.

Virtuix has already created their own virtual reality system, known as ‘Omni’, going beyond just the headset and including an actual motion platform the player can walk on, which reflects the in-game environments.

They displayed their active VR experience at Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas and even held an FPS tournament.

The Omni is such a huge setup and while they’re available for pre-order, you would be lucky to snag one yourself.

This brings up one of the major conflicts with virtual reality and eSports: cost. As they are starting to become more and more popular, the price of the headsets or full setups are still a bit too steep for casual consumption

If VR rigs are going to be used in eSports, players need to be able to practice with them right? Dropping huge amounts of money for the VR rig alone is unlikely for a casual gamer to pick up and try competitively.

Right now, virtual reality headsets for gamers are more of a parlor trick, like the Kinect or PlayStation Eye. They’re cool to have for a few games, but not really in high demand for gamers. You’ll probably still start seeing them in every other living room (especially in the holiday season), but it’s doubtful that there will be enough buy-in by gamers that would consider VR in eSport tournaments.

While it’s not really practical that VR could be used for eSports players anytime soon, there is a good chance companies will focus more on using the technology to give fans an immersive experience during tournaments and events.

Back in the summer, Valve introduced the Dota VR Hub for users to watch live matches, replays and streams in their VR Theater from the comfort of their own home. This gave viewers a completely new experience for watching professional Dota 2. The feature is still available and can be used through your Steam account, as long as you already own a VR headset. 

This weekend, ESL and SLIVER.tv provided a similar feature at Intel Extreme Masters: Oakland for CS:GO and League of Legends. Fans were able to watch both competitions with a 360-degree view, as well as player and bird's eye perspectives. Viewers were even able to see in-game stats as they watched. The service was free and fans were able to watch it on their smartphone, SLIVER.tv or VR headset through SLIVER.tv’s platform.

This specific feature for IEM was good, in theory, but the execution was less than stellar. The quality was fairly low on the website version, and overlaying the first-person view over the bird’s eye view was less than appealing. Viewers were also unable to select anything other than your 360-view, as the map location changed based on where players were located.

Overall, it’s more likely virtual reality in eSports will excel further in relation to fans more than the players. There are already big companies behind the technology and as eSports grows, so will the technology with it. 

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Valve Revamped Steam Front Page with Discovery Update 2.0 https://www.gameskinny.com/v6g68/valve-revamped-steam-front-page-with-discovery-update-20 https://www.gameskinny.com/v6g68/valve-revamped-steam-front-page-with-discovery-update-20 Thu, 10 Nov 2016 00:00:10 -0500 Sonny Go

If you look at Steam right now, maybe you'll notice that it looks a bit different. It's the Discovery Update 2.0, which has given the front page of the digital store a facelift and some slight tweaks to how curators work in Steam's ecosystem. The update has been implemented and users should be able to see it for themselves right now.

This front page refresh had been promised for quite a while, building on the improvements set forth by the first Discovery Update. It seems that it has done more than just make things look better. One of those major changes is requiring publishers to post real screenshots of games.

Pre-rendered screenshots (colloquially known as "bullshots") and concept art had always been used to market games, and the practice had been under fire in recent years due to major releases that fell short of their promises made through pre-release marketing (i.e. Watch Dogs, Aliens: Colonial Marines, No Man's Sky).

Steam Curator now has a new home page, wherein users can browse the curators' recent reviews. Curators are now also given the ability to indicate whether they're actually recommending a game or just providing information about it. Users can now better look to curators for recommendations and suggestions of games they can buy next.

The Discovery Queue has been given customization options to make it better at giving users recommendations that are specific to their preferences. You can boil it down to specific genres, states of release, and even other media such as software and videos. With this update, it now matters even more to click "not interested" on something you're not into.

Other changes included in this Discovery Update were implemented earlier, including fine-tuning the display of new releases, showing local top sellers, a new iteration of User Reviews for better reflection of game quality, and so on.

Steam's front page used to be criticized for being a mess and unhelpful to indie developers whose games get buried by bigger releases and floods of other indie titles. Hopefully this new revamp, like the first Discovery Update, has made improvements on the look and feel of the Steam front end, and that Discovery 2.0 has added new and helpful features like the Discovery Queue and Steam Curators.

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Why is Counter Strike Always in the Top 3 Games on Twitch? https://www.gameskinny.com/9j0h6/why-is-counter-strike-always-in-the-top-3-games-on-twitch https://www.gameskinny.com/9j0h6/why-is-counter-strike-always-in-the-top-3-games-on-twitch Mon, 31 Oct 2016 10:00:02 -0400 Caio Sampaio

In the late nineties, video games were still maturing as a medium and players gathered on local networks to play their favorite games. Counter Strike was one of them. A fan favorite back then, the franchise continued to evolve and grow along with the industry.

Valve released the latest entry in the series on August 12th, 2012, but times have changed. Players continue to get together, in order to admire their favorite series, but now in a different environment, as they gather to watch others play on Twitch.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is consistently on the top 3 list of most watched games on Twitch. This fact brings a question: what makes this production a compelling experience to watch? We analyzed its game design to find out.

A contemporary product

It has been 17 years since the first entry of the franchise became available, but since then, its core mechanics have not changed. The most popular game mode is the bomb scenario, in which a team of terrorists must plant a bomb in a specific location, while a squad of Counter-Terrorists must either eliminate the enemies or defuse the explosive.

Most matches will not last longer than five minutes. It feels as if developers in 1999 anticipated the needs of people in 2016. We live in the digital era and the attention span of its citizens continues to dwindle. People, in general, now want short bursts of entertainment, rather than consuming long pieces.

Unlike other First Person Shooters, in which rounds can take more than an hour, Counter Strike: Global Offensive provides viewers on Twitch with a short and intense experience, thus meeting the needs of people of the digital era.

It is worth mentioning that the experience of watching a match of Counter Strike: Global Offensive is also friendly to the viewer. No matter which mode the streamer may be playing, the objective is always simple, defusing a bomb, rescuing a hostage or simply killing enemies. The means to achieve these goals are simple as well, creating an experience where even those who have never played the game can understand what is happening.

Brevity, intensity and universality are key reasons as to why Counter Strike: Global Offensive is constantly on the top 3 list of most watched games on Twitch, but there are other factors that come into play as well.

Keeping viewers on the edge of their seats

In the game’s most popular mode, there is no respawn. If players die, they need to wait until the start of a new round, in order to rejoin the action and a death can occur instantly with a single well-placed shot, fired from an enemy rifle.

Anything can happen at any time. This adds intensity to the experience, not only to those who play it, but to those who watch it. The game creates a sense of urgency in its audience, as viewers keep their eyes glued to the screen, afraid that if they look away for an instant, they might miss something important.

The fact that players cannot respawn also adds meaning to each time the player dies, considering the penalty players suffer after each death. In others First Person Shooters, death becomes less significant, considering that players can respawn and rejoin the action few seconds later, as if nothing has happened.

Personalities

One of the reasons why people watch games online, in general, is the streamer; the person playing the game. Due to the frantic nature of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, players can never truly know what to expect around the next corner.

This unpredictability makes it difficult for streamers to force, or even fake, a reaction, thus allowing the audience to get a more sincere performance from the streamer.

Taking the game to a higher level

The Counter Strike franchise offers players a core gameplay that is simple, but difficult to master. This is; therefore, an easy game for you to get started in, but after few rounds, you will realize that learning how to use its mechanics to their fullest takes time and effort.

People often watch this game on Twitch, in order to learn from those who have achieved mastery over the gameplay, or simply watch it for the pleasure of seeing a professional player push the game to a next level.

This is the same principle behind watching sports in real life. Think of football, for instance. You could play it with your friends and yet, most people prefer watching an NFL game on television. The act of watching someone else performing an activity you could be doing yourself is compelling, because we want to watch the best athletes taking the sport to its limit and this something you will not get by playing with your peers.

The same holds true to eSports.

History

Counter Strike is one of the most successful franchises in the gaming industry, to the point that even those who do not play video games are aware of its existence. The series survived through the test of time and still thrives to this day.

With this said, people are aware of the importance this game holds to this industry and once they have the opportunity to watch it, they do, because they know they are in the presence of greatness.

The community

The history of this game leads to the creation of its following. With more than half a million users playing each day, these people share a passion in common: this game. This is reflected in the chat during streams on Twitch, where users interact, share tips and stories regarding their favorite franchise.

The sense of community enhances all of those factors mentioned herein. This game would not even be alive if it were not for it, after all.

Conclusion

While games are experiences design to be played, platforms as Twitch and YouTube allowed gamers to create a new segment, that turns gaming into a passive activity.

This may seem counterintuitive, given that this industry craves for interactivity, but as Counter Strike: Global Offensive has shown us, an audience can enjoy a good product, even if it is not being consumed in the way it was designed to be.

Through the topics above we explained the appeal of watching a match of Counter Strike: Global Offensive on Twitch. Share in the comments your opinion as to why you like to watch the game you love to play.

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Game Developers Could Learn a Thing or Two From Portal 2's Narrative Design https://www.gameskinny.com/7itfq/game-developers-could-learn-a-thing-or-two-from-portal-2s-narrative-design https://www.gameskinny.com/7itfq/game-developers-could-learn-a-thing-or-two-from-portal-2s-narrative-design Tue, 25 Oct 2016 10:11:26 -0400 Caio Sampaio

We all have memories that will forever dwell in our minds. A first kiss, a first job...or the first time a rogue Artificial Intelligence attempts to murder you using a neurotoxin, for any Portal fans. 

Released in 2007 by Valve, Portal became an instant internet hit, featuring innovative gameplay mechanics and a charismatic universe -- to the point of immortalizing the sentence “the cake is a lie”.  In 2011, the series received its second installment, with more gameplay elements and a longer story, showing the origins of Aperture Science.

The narrative of Portal 2 was as innovative as the gameplay. The game featured only five characters, two of which were dead, a couple of whom were robots and one, the protagonist, who was mute. This combination seems unlikely to deliver a compelling plot, but writers at Valve managed to develop a successful story that the gaming community regards as one of the best in the medium.

And there are plenty of lessons that developers today could learn from this production and some of the storytelling techniques used in Portal 2. Lessons like...

1. Let players use their imaginations.

Many characteristics set us apart from other animals -- and one of them is our innate ability to imagine objects, images, and situations that do not exist. While reading a book, we test our imagination to its limit, as we turn the words printed in the pages into scenes in our minds.

This is one of the reasons why reading a good novel is a compelling experience. It allows the readers to create a whole universe within their heads and enables them to add their own special touch to it. The story written will be the same for every reader, but the way you picture the characters, settings, and how the events unfold will depend on your memories, knowledge and personality. What you create in your mind is yours and yours alone.

People tend to hold dear what is exclusive to them; therefore, a story that allows the audience to use its imagination tends to be more engaging.  

In Portal 2, writers at Valve applied this concept from literature by making players travel through the old sections of Aperture Science, whilst listening to audio tapes recorded decades before. The areas players encountered as they explored the ruins of the old testing areas worked in tandem with the audio tapes, in order to provide just enough information to keep the audience moving in the right direction with the plot.

The details of how the events unfolded, however, were left out -- so it was up to the player’s imagination to visualize what happened in that locale decades before. No matter what players imagined, each member of the audience pictured it in a different way, thus creating a more personal and meaningful experience to each player.

2. The value of a secondary plot (and more imagination)...

Developers at Valve used the aforementioned concept from literature in order to implement a secondary story in the game’s narrative. In this case, the struggle of Doug Rattmann to survive in the confines of the Enrichment Center, without succumbing to insanity. Players found traces of him, his drawings, and his dens -- where he left cryptic messages behind.

Developers introduced the element of imagination when players encountered Rattmann’s traces and theorized over the meaning behind them. And as stated above, the theories each player conceived of through their own imaginations were unique to them, thus becoming more meaningful.

The proof this concept worked is the thousands of pages on the internet with fans passionately theorizing on the meaning behind the drawings and dens left by Doug.

But a secondary plot must not rely solely on the player’s imagination in order to be successful. It must also be related to the primary story of the game -- otherwise players may not have interest in it. Developers at Valve made sure the player knew that the mysterious drawings painted on the walls mattered, by showing a painting of Chell early in the game, in a location the player could not ignore (picture above). That was the developer’s way of saying “this is important, look at this”.

3. Less can be more.

Portal 2 has a charismatic cast of characters, but players rarely hear them talking. And even when they drop a line, it is usually short -- unlike other games with minutes of dialogues in cutscenes. Throughout most of the story, players face a silent experience. The writers did this for two reasons, and the first one is to reinforce the mood of the game: solitude.

As players travel through a facility with miles of area without encountering another human being, loneliness is the natural sentiment, and the deafening silence within the walls of the complex enlarge this feel. Having characters speak too often would defeat the purpose of building the atmosphere and the mood of the game.

The second reason why lines of dialogue are scarce in Portal 2 is to add value to the characters. Remember, anything that is found in abundance loses its value and the same principle happens there. As they do not talk often, each time they do is an event in and of itself, considering how charismatic they are. Giving them too many lines of dialogue would make each line less special.

Even if a production has interesting characters, it is wise to avoid using them too often. Everything needs an opposite, and opposites attract. An intelligent line placed after a long period of silence will contrast with the silent moments and shine brighter, which is exactly what happened in Portal 2.

An unfortunate example of writers ruining a character by using it too often is Ghost from Destiny. He speaks so frequently and for so long that his presence becomes irrelevant over time. Many aspects were wrong in this character from Bungie’s latest title, and this was one of them.

Writers must use their characters wisely and keep them precious.

 4. Keeping the player in control.

Valve’s modus operandi, when it comes to narrative design, is to avoid cutscenes at all costs. This is a wise decision, considering that the selling point of video games is interactivity and productions in this industry should try to deliver information in a way that keeps the player in control. The aim is to design an experience that is unique to this medium, thus setting it apart from existing forms or art by creating its own language. Taking control away from players and forcing them to watch a cutscene would defeat this purpose.

You may argue that games ranging from Metal Gear Solid to Uncharted depend on cutscene-driven narratives, and were successful. And you might be right, but it is important to know that using cutscenes is not the optimal choice for every game.

The two productions cited above are third person shooters, where the camera is far from the faces of the characters -- making it hard for players to see their facial expressions and leading to a diminished emotional appeal in the story. In this scenario, the writer can implement a cutscene in order to get the audience closer to the faces of the characters for dramatic purposes.

In a first person game, on the other hand, cutscenes rarely are necessary, considering that the point of view of players allows them to see the details and the facial expressions of those around them.

In the Portal franchise, the player remains in control at all times. This helps maintain a continuous interactive experience without breaking the mood and the pacing of the game -- the way video games in first person should be.

5. Breaking narrative patterns.

A predictable story is a boring one. In order to keep the audience engaged, the writer needs to develop a narrative in which a surprise strikes without notice. There are plenty of methods to achieve this, and in Portal 2 the writers added the element of surprise by breaking patterns.

Wheatley once was a funny little robot who only wanted to help, until he went rogue. The AI Chell knew no longer existed, after taking GLaDOS’ place. Consumed by power, Chell’s only friend became her greatest enemy. GLaDOS went on the opposite route, by being Chell’s biggest enemy and later on siding with her in order to defeat Wheatley. These two surprises were only possible because people tend to detect and follow patterns -- and the writers used this fact to their advantage.

They developed these characters with a clear personality. They built a behavioral pattern around them. And once players thought they knew these characters so well they could anticipate their actions; the writers broke the pattern, thus creating the element of surprise and more engagement on the part of the player. 

This technique is not valid for character development only, as the team used it in other areas as well. The core activity of Portal 2 consists of shooting portals into walls in order to move through an area -- and then repeating this process for approximately 10 hours. This premise may not seem fun, yet it delivered an unforgettable experience. One of the techniques used to retain the interest of players was breaking patterns regarding the areas explored in the game.

In the first installment of the franchise, the only major shift in setting occurred when Chell escaped from the final testing chamber and entered the offices of the Enrichment Center. Considering how short the first game was, this single change sufficed. But in Portal 2, the story was longer, making it necessary to add more variation to the maps.

The player started in a destroyed version of the Enrichment Center, which was then rebuilt by GLaDOS. Chell proceeded to be betrayed by Wheatley, who sent her to the old offices of Aperture Science. The changes in setting continued as the player progressed. Had the story occurred in a single section of the facility, players would have lost their interest very quickly.

If the players can anticipate what comes next, they will soon get bored.

6. Don't forget the fun.

As players move further into the game, they are introduced to new gameplay mechanics that increase the challenge of the puzzles. Some argue that Portal 2 is a long tutorial, given that players continuously learn how to play the game each time a new feature is added.

All of the techniques described in the topics above culminate in this one. The most important element of a game is learning how to play it. And the Portal franchise does not use texts, cutscenes. or training areas to tell players what to do. The mechanics must be discovered intuitively by the audience, which may lead to a process of trial and error -- hence the necessity of all of the techniques mentioned above.

A mistake novice game designers often make is dedicating all of their effort to crafting the gameplay mechanics. Obviously they are important, but so are all the other areas of the game, which must be used to deliver the best experience.

If players are engaged in the experience, they will be motivated to learn how to play, even it the learning curve requires a process of trial and error. They will continue to fail, fail often, bust most importantly, they will fail forward, until they learn how to master the gameplay mechanics.

Remember, people learn better when they are having fun. This is an aspect that the developers of Valve achieved through the concepts established in the topics above and via other techniques that were not mentioned in this article.

Conclusion

Portal 2 is a masterpiece of the gaming industry, and the points above barely scratch the tip of the iceberg in regards to the construction of its narrative. But I hope these insights could get you a better understanding on the techniques used to design this game.

What the future holds for the Portal franchise remains to be seen, but it will be a long time before its narrative design starts to feel outdated.

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Digital Homicide Drops $18M Lawsuit, Cites Financial Difficulties https://www.gameskinny.com/x7gk9/digital-homicide-drops-18m-lawsuit-cites-financial-difficulties https://www.gameskinny.com/x7gk9/digital-homicide-drops-18m-lawsuit-cites-financial-difficulties Mon, 03 Oct 2016 17:43:16 -0400 Jared Elliott

Digital Homicide co-founder James Romine has filed a motion to dismiss his $18M lawsuit against 100 Steam users who left negative comments about the developer's games and business practices.

The lawsuit was met with intense scrutiny from members of the gaming community after its initial filing last month--especially Valve, who dropped all Digital Homicide products from Steam in light of the incident. Within the filed document, Romine reveals that Digital Homicide was "destroyed completely" following Valve's response.

Romine dedicated a GoFundMe page to the lawsuit, requesting support from would-be patrons to finance a lawsuit, which, evidently, his studio could not afford to begin with. Of the $75,000 requested in Romine's fundraiser, only $450 was donated in support of Digital Homicide's cause.

Valve's swift and decisive actions to protect its customers have sent a clear message to Digital Homicide and developers of similar ilk--consumers should never face intimidation for exercising their freedom of speech, regardless of its financial impact on producers or the sometimes-unsavory nature of its execution. 

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Valve is the Champion of Open Discourse that We Desperately Need https://www.gameskinny.com/fogmh/valve-is-the-champion-of-open-discourse-that-we-desperately-need https://www.gameskinny.com/fogmh/valve-is-the-champion-of-open-discourse-that-we-desperately-need Mon, 03 Oct 2016 09:30:24 -0400 Jared Elliott

It is no secret that negative opinions of popular games and movies are met with hostility in this day and age. Critics of the Ghostbusters reboot, Suicide Squad, Virginia, and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, for example, have been accused of a litany of transgressions ranging from misogyny and racism to purposeful malice.

This trend was demonstrated most recently by development studio Digital Homicide, who initiated aggressive litigation against reviewers and commenters who expressed negative opinions about their products on Steam. The most notable action taken was the filing of a subpoena which demands the identities of 100 users who submitted negative or hateful comments. Valve responded by removing all Digital Homicide products from Steam.

This is not the first time Digital Homicide has attacked the freedom of individuals to voice their opinions. YouTuber and frequent Digital Homicide critic Jim Sterling has been hounded by the developer for several months now, with doxxing and dubious YouTube takedown requests reportedly taking place against him on a regular basis.

Digital Homicide contends that the Steam forums were not properly moderated, which led to an unsafe business environment and caused "very large... emotional and punitive" damages to the company. The company even claims on their lawsuit's GoFundMe page that it is unable to afford an attorney due to these damages. The great irony of this situation is that Digital Homicide filed its incredibly broad subpoena while most certainly anticipating the legal costs which would arise as a result -- but that's a story for another time.

To be fair, many comments left by Steam users could be considered crass, uncalled for, and even violent -- yet, whether or not these untoward comments caused tortious damages deserving of legal action against anonymous users is another question entirely. As far as their position with Steam is concerned, Valve was happy to answer that question with a swift, judicial rap of its own gavel.

This series of unfortunate events places Valve in an ever-shrinking and increasingly criticized community of individuals who believe that freedom of speech is not only an inherent right for all, but also necessary to protect consumers from misrepresentation of products and to encourage consistent improvement in the gaming and movie industries in general. In other words, it seems that Valve understands that critical opinions are necessary for continuing improvement and quality as a whole. The popular YouTuber Cr1TiKaL mentioned this same point in a recent video, admittedly in a more entertaining fashion:

The most revealing statement made by Digital Games amid this fiasco can be found on their own GoFundMe page, in which they characterize "hundreds of posts of negativity" as "attacks" and "false statements," which supposedly rendered all of their hard work moot:

Within a matter of hours hundreds of posts of negativity can be seen annihilating the marketability of the game leaving the developer who may have spent months and years on that particular game with an eviscerated husk. We barely survived initial onslaughts of these attacks and were just about to break through to success when the false statements obliterated us.

If anything, the above statement exemplifies this climate of censorship and misrepresentation, which encourages blame for failure to be assigned to the opinions of consumers, rather than the quality of the product itself. It may be cliché, but the old adage "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen" was never more relevant. Rather than taking the heat or simply leaving the kitchen, however, it appears that Digital Homicide would rather throw gasoline over a flaming grill and blame the dishwashers for getting burned.

There is a desperate need for corporations like Valve -- those who promote and protect criticism, rather than attempt to drown dissent with vast amounts of money, witch hunting, and legal intimidation. This is because consumers have not only a right, but an obligation to other consumers to voice their opinions about products on which they spend their time and money, regardless of their position. If we keep negative criticisms to ourselves, we condemn the future of movies and video games to the whims of popular opinion, which can be bought, sold, and manipulated by developers and publishers with disturbing ease.

I had second thoughts about voicing my opinion on the Digital Homicide matter, considering the state of current affairs and their apparent willingness to sue anyone they find threatening -- but, taking my own advice above, I decided that fear of retribution is never a justifiable reason to stay silent. I encourage readers to realize the same for themselves, because it is the only way that we can collectively ensure a bright future for the industries to which we have dedicated so much of our time and attention. Thanks to Valve, we're off to a good start.

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Wireless VR is coming to the HTC Vive https://www.gameskinny.com/kjk99/wireless-vr-is-coming-to-the-htc-vive https://www.gameskinny.com/kjk99/wireless-vr-is-coming-to-the-htc-vive Sat, 03 Sep 2016 17:03:19 -0400 Jeremy Brown

One complaint for many reviewers of the HTC Vive was the excessive amount of cables that come with the package. It detracts from the immersion to have cords all over while in the middle of a game.

Luckily, there is good news for those who want a less cluttered headset (or desk, for that matter). Quark VR is reported to be unveiling a new, wireless version of the HTC Vive this fall. 

The headset uses a transmitter that can be put in the user's pocket, rather than connecting cables to the PC. The attachment works over wifi, sending information back and forth from the PC to the Vive. The creators said that minimizing the delay   was one of the biggest challenges, but they're proud to say that they're "getting extremely close to being able to show it in action."

Quark VR's new wireless device has not been named yet, but will make a public debut sometime this fall. 

 

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