One last poke at 2015… for now.
I always want to use water vapor as a metaphor when I write about Steam. As it turns out however, water vapor is relatively untapped as a source of humor, though Wikipedia assures me that as much as 80% of electrical generation involves steam in some form or another. Also, autoclaves.
So the best I can manage is something about dissipation or condensation… which I think both accurately describe some aspects of the just past (should be done before this posts) Steam Winter Sale.
The dissipation aspect was the nature of the sale itself. As I previously noted, gone were the daily deals, flash sales, and other usual methods to get us all to stare at the Steam Store wondering if we should buy now or delay. Everything that was going on discount was at the same price throughout the sale.
That took a bit of the edge off of things for sure. One could ponder one’s wishlist at leisure and decide if the price was right… though I must admit that my own wishlist is sort of a video game purgatory, where games are sent to linger in an uncertain state, neither purchased nor ignored, for years at a stretch.
Then there was condensation, an opposite action in order to give focus. In this case, the usual holiday card game required you to go through three recommendation queues each day in order to earn the cards. Just the sort of minimal OCD sort of activity that works for me. I went through every day, earning 39 cards, which I guess means that the sale was 13 days long… or maybe I missed a day.
I actually got enough cards to complete the set for once, which allowed me to craft a badge of some sort… not sure what that did, but it got me to level 9 in Steam levels. I actually badgered Gaff to trade me the one card I needed and, after he finally consented, got that card in the next set of draws.
The queues themselves… which is a feature that showed up like a year ago… I think… are made up of 12 games that Steam thinks you might like based on your past purchasing behavior. I had run through a couple queues back when they first launched the idea, but haven’t really looked at them since. And then they became part of this event and I looked at a minimum of 39 of them… more I think, since at least one day I did an extra one, and then I did an extra one yesterday because I suddenly couldn’t remember how many games were in one. And I went through them with moderate care, not just ripping through them to get my treat at the end. So, by the last day I had looked at a lot of games.
I did add some to my wishlist… I think I had 20 games there to start with, though I took a few off as I added more… so maybe 20 games added total. And, of course, I flagged more than a few as “not interested,” all of which left me with a few observations.
-Jesus there are a lot of games on Steam! Somebody probably has an absolute number (Google says “more than 6,000”), but there is a difference between a number and actually wading through a few hundred.
-We still need to master the whole online interface for shopping. Sure, there are more than 6,000 games on Steam, but you only ever see maybe a dozen at a time on the front page and devs are so inconsistent with descriptions that search likely won’t find everything you might want to see.
-How many Call of Duty titles has Activision made at this point?
-You buy one freakin’ Amine themed game (Valkyria Chronicles) and Steam feels the need to show you every other one it can find.
-Flagging something “Not Interested” seems to only impact that particular title. Flagging half a dozen Anime themed games seemed to do nothing to abate the flow of them through my queue.
-Likewise, flagging something “Not Interested” when it is part of a series of games doesn’t seem to have any impact on being offered other games in the series.
-Removing something from your wishlist though, that makes that particular title appearing in your next queue pretty much a lock.
-There are way too many games out there, judging by description alone, that were made by grabbing 2-4 words from this list and running with it:
-There seemed to be a correlation between how dubious/low reviewed/indy a given title was and how much their description leaned on the 2-4 words they chose from that list. Quality titles (subjective observation) don’t seem to go with those words in their description, all the more so since Steam has tags for that sort of thing. (Also, remember when Steam tags were the end of the universe?)
-On the flip side, I only saw this used in a description once, and more is the pity; “retrofuturism.” That is a word worthy of your game’s description.
-There are a load of space sim games out there. Seriously, if you’re preaching that people must support Star Citizen because there are not enough space sims out there, you just aren’t looking very hard. Okay, yes, nothing out there is aiming as high as Star Citizen, but there are a lot of niche titles on Steam that would likely tickle some aspect of your space sim needs until Chris Roberts finishes his magnum opus.
-There aren’t very many cowboy games. Or at least there were not any in my queues.
And how well did all of that wading through queues work out for Steam?
If they were looking to get some money from me, not very well. I ended up buying no new titles during the sale.
Which does not mean I did not add a new title to my library. In one of my queues was a game called Endless Sky that I almost flipped past until the words “Escape Velocity” jumped out of its description.
Escape Velocity was a game from Ambrosia Software that I played the hell out of back in the 90s. That was a long time ago on an operating system far, far away. That triggered a moment of nostalgia, which I almost let pass… until I saw that Endless Sky was free.
I am not sure how “free” for a game with no add on sales is working for Steam, but I grabbed it and invested a few hours into it over the weekend. While it is a work in progress, it does feel like the Escape Velocity.
So out of all of those daily queues, that was my big score: a free game based on a game I played about 20 years ago.
I am not sure that is the retrofuturism you were looking for.
Was there anything else worth getting during the sale? Anything that couldn’t wait until summer? And did Steam’s holiday queue magic work on you?