Category Archives: Steam

The Steam Summer Sale 2019 Winds Down

When this post loads, the 2019 Steam Summer Sale will be officially over, being set to finish at 17:00 UTC today.

The Steam Grand Prix

I was incorrect in my post announcing the sale back when it started.  I expected it to consist of a lot of the usual things.  Valve has been pretty consistent over the last few years with the tasks related to events which allow those interested to collect cards or levels or whatever.

This time around they decided to try something new.  And, as with many new things, it wasn’t without its problems.

The metaphor of the sale was a race, and you got to select which team to join.  Each team had an animal mascot.  They were tortise, hare, pig, cockatiel, and corgi.

Since people could select on their own, most of the population chose the cutest animal on the internet, the corgi, and so every day when I logged in the race looked something like this:

One of the least lopsided days

Corgi did not win every day.  Tortoise won a single day, and hare won twice, but otherwise it was Corgi on top for 9 out of the 12 days of the race.

Those on the winning team had a chance to win something from their wishlist.  There was some confusion as to how that would happen and, fearing they might be awarded something inexpensive, people began purging their wishlists of cheap indie games.  Since devs get stats on that, it was like an indie game apocalypse I gather.

Valve had to quickly tell people how to designate which game you would win, but I am pretty sure the damage was done by that point.

As I mentioned in the month in review post, even after I knew what the deal was I decided purging my wishlist was a good plan.

There was also a hole in the system early where there was no cap on the number of points you could apply from qualified games from which you had earned achievements that allowed people to go crazy with points, buying badges, the discount, and boosting their Steam level into the hundreds.

Oh well.  I am sure Valve learned something along the way.  And I suspect that most Steam users ignored the whole thing.  My sample size for that assertion is pretty small… my daughter and a half dozen of her friends… but I was the only one paying any attention to that aspect of the event.

On the sale side of things however, my daughter did come to me for two titles.

The first was Rust, which had been on my own wishlist before the purge hit.

She and her boyfriend play that together.  How sweet.

However, her big game for the event was Megaquarium, which is a “run your own aquarium attraction” simulator.

She ended up not having to work over the weekend and burned through the campaign mode. I was looking over her shoulder when she added the whale shark to her exhibit, the crown jewel in the game.  I think she is one achievement away from being complete on that front, and you have to do that one in sandbox mode according to her.

This was her sort of game and she gives in a big thumbs up.

I only purchased one title during the sale, but it was one I have been thinking about for quite a while.  I now own Grand Theft Auto V.

Unlike my daughter’s choices, I was struggling a bit to even get started in GTAV.  This was primarily because it seemed to be all about having a gamepad controller to play it and seemed to be trying to hide keyboard commands from me.

Not that the basic keyboard commands were completely opaque.  It is the usual mouse and WASD for movement and such.  But about 10 seconds into the game somebody is yelling at me to use my phone to detonate an explosive, but there was nothing to indicate how I should do that.  Where in a normal tutorial a game might tell me which key to use, I had to dig into the menu, find where the commands were hidden, and scroll through the list to find the right key.

Fortunately, as a single player game, all the NPCs were able to wait, if not patiently.

I think I need a long stretch of time on the weekend to get into that.

Anyway, another sale passes and another one will hove into view a few months down the line.  It is practically part of the circle of life now.

June in Review

The Site

I was excited momentarily when I saw another WordPress.com blog had a switch on their side bar that allowed you to turn on and off “night mode” on your blog.  This mode makes your blog dark, which solves the war between those who want black text on a white background and white text on a black background.

The magic switch

On seeing that I immediately started looking up how to add that to TAGN.  And I found out how.  It is a plugin, and to be able to add plugins you need to have a business level account with WP.com, which runs past $300 a year.  Given that is over 10x what I pay today (I have a no longer available “No Ads and CSS editing” plan for $30 a year), night mode won’t be here any time soon.  I just don’t care about you, the reader, that much.  Sorry.

I did also see that WP.com had re-arranged their plans yet again.  I hadn’t gotten a note about that, but the range now includes some more reasonably priced options.

The June 2019 personal plans

The Blogger plan is only slightly more than what I pay now, so I might be tempted by that for the other site, if only to remove ads.  The Premium plan would even be within my means for this site, if I had any use for most of the features.  Therein lies the problem.  I don’t even want a custom domain name.  After more than a dozen years as tagn.wordpress.com, why would I want to mess with that.  All I really want is ads removed and enough storage space for my many screen shots.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com pushed a new version of their mobile app last week that not only shows less information, but insists on showing stats based on the time zone you happen to be in as opposed to the time zone to blog is set to.  My attempts to engage with WP.com have been met with the usual blank looks and unhelpful replies.  This does not make me want to give them more money.

On another front, I got sick of the Blog Roll Feed in the side bar failing to load.  It was always a bit problematic, but of late it seemed to be failing to load almost all the time.  So I dug into my Rube Golberg setup and found a problem that should have prevented it from loading ever.

This comes up more often in software than you might hope in software.

Anyway, I redid how everything connects and it seems to be much more reliable now.  So op success for what is now v.7 of the sidebar feed.  It isn’t bullet proof… it is still a hack… but it shows data now more often than it did previously.

One Year Ago

I was done with DragonVale.

Blizzard picked the version of the game that would become WoW Classic.  Version 1.12 would be the destination for nostalgia.

With Pokemon moving on to other platforms, it was clear that the Nintendo DS/3DS/2DS platform was on its way out.

In New Eden it was time for the CSM13 election.  Surprise!  Null sec candidates won most of the seats yet again. #NoCollusion

Running Abyssal pockets seemed to be all the rage.  The Federation Grand Prix, on the other hand, was something of a disappointment… unless you were selling shuttles I suppose.

I was also time for the great outpost conversion, where all those stations dropped in null sec over the years were converted to faction Fortizars.

We were also wondering what EVE: Project Galaxy was.  I guess we still are, since it hasn’t shipped yet.

Somebody said something dumb about PvP in EVE Online, then went on to get banned.

Star Citizen was roundly trolled for rolling out a ship that looked a lot like an EVE Online ship, and they took that trolling badly.  It happened to be the same ship that we used for a race.

I also went on a main fleet op, which is something I do every so often to remind myself why I do not go on main fleet ops.

And then there was the return of the Mystery Code in EVE Online.  There was a lot of stuff going on at CCP.

And it was a year ago that Steam announced that they weren’t going to judge games, they were just going to let everything onto their service… unless they considered it “trolling,” which sounds like a judgement to me… or if it was on the version of their service in China.  The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China pretty much demands curation of all aspects of life.

But the Steam Summer Sale was on, so who really cared about all that?

I wrote something like a review of the game Vietnam 65.

Daybreak gave us all another free character boost in EverQuest II.

I did a summer reruns post about 80s video games.

Finally I did a Friday Bullet Points post that included Star Citizen, Diablo IV, Apple killing support for OpenGL, the pending Aquatic Update for Minecraft, free video games for Amazon Prime subscribers, and perhaps my last Pokemon download even post ever.

Five Years Ago

I toasted the Newbie Blogger Initiative class of 2014.  Long may they post… those that remain in any case.

WildStar launched… and started its journey to F2P and eventual closure.

SOE finally broke its ties with the ill-fated and ill-conceived ProSiebenSat.1 deal.

Derek Smart was telling us why to charge for beta.  Lord British was getting serious with virtual real estate.  Meanwhile, DC Universe Online was doing well on the PlayStation.

It was summer and the short lived strategy group was looking to the Steam Summer Sale for a new game.  Meanwhile we were still playing our epic game of Civilization V.

We heard about how CCP handled/mishandled World of Darkness.

CCP launched the last of its expansions with a six month lead-time.  Kronos was the end of the line for twice yearly expansions.  I set off on the training plan to be a wing/fleet booster in EVE Online.

I also did a summer reruns post about the Fountain War in EVE Online.

In Azereoth, my attempt at the Loremaster achievement had me in Darkshore and then on to Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains .

Meanwhile the Warlords of Draenor alpha was starting, so I had to avert my eyes.  So I started pondering things like how Blizzard should change the starter edition of WoW.

The instance group, heading towards its regular summer hiatus, was hitting the Mogu-shan Palace.

I took a look at a long history of gear obsession.

And I was wondering if authenticators were still a thing.

Ten Years Ago

People were upset about Blizzard not including LAN play in StarCraft II.  It looks like Blizzard stuck to that plan company-wide, as every game since has been always online.

The NeuroSky MindSet was released, but I still cannot cast fireballs in WoW using only my brain.

Then there was that Wii Bowling Ball controller.  Seemed more like a lawsuit magnet.

There was a new definition of hard core gamers.

I was complaining about the local newspaper being made up of 8 pieces of paper.  I have since stopped getting the daily paper.  We still get the Sunday paper however.

There was an attempt to get Age of Empires II: Age of Kings going while people in the instance group were on vacation.  We did end up getting connected via a service called Game Ranger.  Now you can play it live on Steam.

The in-game map in EVE Online was showing me where I had been and where all my stuff was.  Pretty neat.  CCP added a new map since, but they had to leave the old one in because the replacement still hasn’t achieved feature parity.

And then there was World of Warcraft.  They changed when you got mounts in the game allowing people to (literally and figuratively) fly through The Burning Crusade.  There was that whole WoW/Mountain Dew cross promotion which, if nothing else, got me another in-game pet.  I spent all my gold on the artisan flying skill, and then they lowered the price with the mount changes.  I got the achievement The Explorer, but that didn’t mean I was necessarily an achiever.  And I bought an authenticator.  Viva account security.

And then there was the Midsummer Fire Festival.

The instance group was deep into Wrath of the Lich King.  We did Ahn’kahet: the Old Kingdom and Drak’Tharon Keep when we were all available.  When not we went back to TBC and did some heroics with four of us just for kicks.

And then there was FarmVille, a Facebook game that had our attention for a brief moment.  It went live ten years ago.  It won awards and faced criticism from a range of sources.  Even Martha Stewart was on Zynga’s case for a bit.  And, of course, it set the standard for spammy, cash hungry crap games on social media.

Twenty Years Ago

The Half-Life mod called Counter-Strike had its first public beta release.  Valve hired the two people who developer the mod, acquiring the code and name as well, and it was developed into the stand-alone title Counter-Strike.

Thirty-five Years Ago

The first version of Tetris was released.  It might have made an appearance on more platforms than any other commercial title, and variations on it are still appearing.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  4. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  5. Is New Player Retention Fixable in EVE Online
  6. Drifters Hitting Null Sec Upwell Structures
  7. Three Problems MMORPGs are Never Going to Solve
  8. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  9. That EVE Online Starter Pack Controversy
  10. WoW Classic Stress Test Redux
  11. The Alleged Purity of Leveling
  12. Failed Headshot in Tribute

Search Terms of the Month

best way to raid with mouse/keyboard in eq2
[Can you even do so without mouse/keyboard?]

redeeming starter pack eve online
[There wasn’t much redeeming about it]

wow classic support 32 bit?
[A big negative on that]

Game Time from ManicTime

Overall time was down by 30% this month.  I must have been doing other things, like writing blog posts about everything that happened last week.  WoW also seemed to be down, though I’ll get to why in that section.

  • EVE Online 40.10%
  • WoW 27.47%
  • RimWorld 21.79%
  • Civilization V 6.16%
  • Minecraft 3.99%
  • LOTRO 0.50%

EVE Online

There was quite a lot going on in New Eden in June, what with EVE North, CSM14 elections, selling skill points, and the war in Tribute and Vale, I had lots to write about.  And then the Drifters started hitting our structures, future war plans were suspended, and we all went back to Delve to PvE.  Oh well.  The 64-bit client seems to work though.  I used that all month.

Lord of the Rings Online

I did, in fact, play a bit of LOTRO this month.  I wanted to grab the 64-bit client, which didn’t take too long, relatively speaking.  LOTRO updates always take longer than they should because the patcher is archaic.  But I managed it.  Then I logged in and was in Bree and had to remember how to get back to Moria.  And then Mirkwood opened up a few days later on the Legendary server and my interest waned completely.

Minecraft

I ran out of steam somewhat when it came to the Village and Pillage update.  I found villages, improved them, fought pillagers, did a bunch more exploring, and then came to the usual “now what?” part of the game, at which point I tend to stop logging in so much.  We’ll see if the bug hits again.

Pokemon Go

I had a pretty good month with Pokemon Go.  I didn’t level up, but I got some break throughs, such that there is a blog post in progress on this, that would have gone last week… but last week managed to fill itself up.  So I’ll get to that.  Otherwise, the usual stats:

Level: 36 (+0)
Pokedex status: 425 (+6) caught, 453 (+6) seen
Pokemon I want: Togekiss
Current buddy: Prinplup

RimWorld

As Minecraft faded, RimWorld came back into the picture.  Both are games you can sit and play while listening to podcasts or audio books, which I find relaxing.  Having won the original scenario a couple of times, I wanted to do the next more difficult scenario.  You start with five colonists and almost no technology.  That led to a some restarts as all my colonists died again and again.  But I got past that finally.  There is a blog post in the works as to where that led.

World of Warcraft

What with the war in EVE Online and not much new happening in Azeroth, WoW time slid quite a bit.  The percentage shown even includes the WoW Classic load test, since the final WoW Classic client registers with ManicTime as the same as the live client.

Actually, something big did happen.  We got the 8.2 update and more content and the chance to unlock flying.  Due to EVE Online, I haven’t even started on any of that.

Steam Summer Sale

Despite my guess last  week, the Steam Summer Sale is not the same old thing.  No, they have some new ideas, and some old ones, and they have had odd results.  First, you have to choose a team and nearly everybody decided to go with Team Corgi because corgis are cute.  So Team Corgi wins a lot.  I went with Team Tortise, which won a day after Valve gave us a way to sabotage other teams effectively and everybody hit Team Corgi.

Then there was the chance to win something from your wish list.  They did this years back, and it got people to add games to their wish list.  Now we all have so much crap on our lists that Valve threatening to give us a random game from it for free triggered a mass wish list purge, much to the horror of devs, who get stats on that.  That was amended so that you will now win the first game on your wish list, so you don’t have to banish all the five dollar indy crap from your sight.  I did so anyway, paring my wish list from 71 to 11 games.

Finally, to earn points and such in the event you have to buy games (duh), play some specific games and complete special tasks within them, or play a game that has Steam achievements.  I did the latter, which is how Civilization V made it onto my ManicTime list this month.   I would have just played RimWorld, but it does not have Steam achievements.  Oh well.

Coming Up

We have another week or so to run with the Steam Summer Sale, so we shall see if I end up buying anything.  My daughter is pestering me about a couple of titles.

In World of Warcraft I have the whole Rise of Azshara update to explore.  With almost two months to go before WoW Classic I should have enough time to unlock flying.

With null sec wars in EVE Online called off on account of CCP, there will likely be a return to SIGs and Squads being the place to actually play the game.  We’ll see what CCP has planned for this Drifter invasion, but it isn’t making people in null sec happy.  The Drifters aren’t actually killing structures and don’t even drop loot.  They are just a plague sent to afflict us.  We’ll survive, but there had better be a point to this.

And, otherwise, it is July.  People used to say August was the dead month for video games, but then Blizz started launching things in August, so now July is it I guess.

The Steam Summer Sale 2019 is Under Way

It is that time of year again… or one of those times of year… when Steam has a big sale.  This year the event has a racing theme.

The Steam Grand Prix

While I haven’t dug in yet, it looks to be off to its usual splendor.

Better than something priced wrong I guess.  Also, who goes there via the web?

I am sure there will be the usual cards to collect, queues to browse, and stickers to… also collect I guess.  I know I’ll deride the whole thing while logging in every day to dutifully do all the things.

Whether or not I will buy anything is a different story.  I will go through my wish list and stare at things like the ageing Grand Theft Auto V and wonder if this time the price is right and I will buy it at last.  (GTAV is 50% off, making it $15. Seems like a deal.)

Anyway, the whole thing is in motion yet again, so I might as well press my nose up against the glass to see if there is something I must have.  Honestly, the only Steam game I have played lately has been RimWorld.   That isn’t even marked down, though I own it already so I don’t know why I should care.

I have between now and July 9 to get in any deals.  And if I miss one… well, I guess I’ll have to wait until Winter.  Steam has trained us to wait for sales.  At least titles don’t completely disappear from the store when the sale hits.  Or maybe Steam just gets their consent.

Where Does The Age of Empires II Definitive Edition Fit?

The golden age of the Real Time Strategy genre is nearly 20 years gone at this point.  Like most ideas in video games, it first made a splash in a raw form, in this case via Dune II ,and then saw change in great leaps, some of which made companies, as the original Warcraft did with Blizzard.  There was lots of variety as new titles rolled out.

Then somebody “won” the genre, created a title that seemed to perfect some aspect of it… that was probably StarCraft… after which the genre tapered off.  It didn’t die, but like MMORPGs or Facebook games, it stopped getting so much attention.  It was no longer the hot new flavor to chase.

In around the peak of the genre came Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, one of my favorite RTS titles.  I’ve written about it before, but in summary it was kind of a big deal for myself, friends, and co-workers.  Back in the days when IT wasn’t policing every PC in development for unauthorized software, we would play a couple of games at the office every Friday night.

So you might think I was pretty excite to hear about Microsoft announcing Age of Kings II – Definitive Edition last week during E3.  Except, of course, I am not.

The Age of Empires trio at the Microsoft site

I mean, I should be happy that Microsoft has finally dusted off the web site for the franchise, which was locked in 2001 for about 15 years, and decided to pay attention to the franchise.  As late as four years ago there was a banner ad for the original XBox on the franchise page.

But there are a few issues for me.

The previous remaster, the Age of Empires Definitive Edition didn’t exactly make a splash.  After a big announcement two years back, it was quietly released on the Microsoft store eight months later where little seemed to be said about it.  It remains an exclusive there last I checked, though there seems to be some plan to bring it to Steam at some point.

I was also more than a bit convinced that the AoE remaster was little more than a marketing scheme to draw attention to the planned Age of Empires IV, so this might just be more of the same.   Also, given that I wasn’t big on Age of Empires III and that all we got was a vague trailer about the game, I wasn’t too excited on that front regardless.

But the primary reason I haven’t been all that thrilled about the Age of Empires II – Definitive Edition announcement is that we already got an Age of Empires II remaster just over six years ago.

Hidden Path Entertainment, who did the wonderful Defense Grid and Defense Grid 2 tower defense games, did a remaster of the game back in 2013 that included:

  • Re-mastered for high resolution displays 1080p+.
  • Enhanced visual engine with improved terrain textures, water, fire and ambient lighting effects.
  • New Steamworks features: Achievements, Leaderboards, Matchmaking and Cloud support.
  • Share user created content with Steam Workshop support.

Not only that, they also updated the unofficial expansions for the game and even added another one just last year.  When steam does stats, Age of Empires II – HD Edition is always doing surprisingly well given its origin in the last century.

Basically, there is already a happy and thriving Age of Empires II community on Steam that is good with the game, so a new version from Microsoft just raises uncomfortable questions… like what happens with all of the Steam Workshop stuff people have created and what about those three expansions?

What does Age of Empires II – Definitive Edition really bring to the table, besides 4K graphics, and what will people lose if they go there?

I personally think that the graphics upgrade and a remastered sound track is insufficient to get people to buy another copy of a game they have probably already purchased twice at this point.  Or that seems to be a common thread in the reactions to the press release on Steam.

The press release mentions three new single player campaigns to be released with the Definitive Edition, and four new civilizations as well, which makes this seem even more like a branch that will be incompatible with the HD Edition.

Microsoft also seems to have learned from the Age of Empires Definitive Edition and will be launching the new game straight onto Steam, where the fan base has resided for years now.

However, even that move gives me pause.  Are they planning on supplanting the HD Edition on Steam?  Hidden Path may have done the HD Edition, but Microsoft owns the title and all the rights.  If they want to yank the HD Edition in hopes that the fan base will be compelled to buy the Definitive Edition, they can do that.

I don’t think they will keep you from playing the HD Edition if you already own it.  It will likely still be there in your library.  But they can certainly disappear it from the store, take down the Steam Workshop, and remove all evidence of the expansions that have appeared since they last cared about the game.

Furthermore, it Microsoft being tone deaf and heavy handed isn’t exactly out of character for them as a company.

I hope that they will find a way to embrace the current and thriving Age of Empires II community that exists on Steam.  Age of Empires II – Definitive Edition is due out this fall according to the press releases, so I imagine that we will see how they plan to play this soon enough.

Quote of the Day – No Porn

So we’re not going to see asset flips, and we’re going to explicitly say no to porn games or other intentionally controversial games

-Tim Sweeney, Gamasutra Interview

I have been waiting for somebody to play the quality card… or at least the “no porn” card… against Steam since the day Valve announced their policy of trying to be as hands off as possible when it came to which games made it onto their service.  A policy that they couldn’t stop from biting themselves in the ass with even after they gave themselves a loophole to avoid just that.

But now Epic Games is stepping up to the plate when it comes to their store.

Not that this is a surprise.  In the online video game storefront market Steam is the undisputed king, and the only way you make gains against an entrenched competitor like that is to play to your own strengths and against their weaknesses.

Epic has been using its generous revenue policy and its control over the Unreal engine to get developers to make the jump to the Epic Store, including some exclusives.  That gets stuff in the store, but the customer doesn’t really care what the revenue deal is unless there it makes the price lower, and Steam sales are tough to beat for those patient enough to wait.

So now Epic is assailing Valve, if somewhat cautiously, on another front.  Now they are playing the quality card, indicating that they won’t be hosting crap or porn or games that just want to be edgy or controversial.  And that is fine.  We get all angsty about freedom of expression in the US, but the constitution only applies to the government censoring you.  A retail outlet refusing to sell your horrible game… or even your excellent game… isn’t a problem at all.  If it were, I doubt WalMart would still be in business.

Interestingly, Tim Sweeney also made the distinction between the Unreal engine side of the company and the store front.  They won’t be policing what people do with the Unreal engine once they license it.  But they are also making it clear that just because you are using the Unreal engine doesn’t mean there will be a spot waiting for you in the Epic Store.

We’ll see how well this plays out.  Epic doesn’t have to become Steam, they just have to grab enough exclusives… and give away enough free titles I guess… to make their store front a must have for some critical mass of gamers.  They still don’t have anything that interests me enough to sign up, but the titles I play tend to come straight from the studios that make them in any case.

Steam Policy Plays Out as Expected

This took a bit longer than I thought.

Back in June of last year, when Valve announced that they would no longer do any sort of curation of games being submitted to Steam, I figured we would see some horrible game as a test case in the next three months that would prove they couldn’t pretend the games they were profiting from had nothing to do with them.

Actually, given that they almost immediately played the “trolling” card to block the game Active Shooter, I thought maybe they had quickly figured out that being as hands off as they were saying wasn’t a viable plan after all.  (That Valve then quickly announced that Steam was expanding into China, where all content would need to be heavily curated, was merely the delicious irony icing on this otherwise sad cake.)

But here we are nine months down the road and Valve has managed to thread the needle between not curating content and not damaging its own reputation by selling something truly offensive, to come out look bad on all fronts.

Seriously, as I said elsewhere, it is like somebody at Valve asked, “How can we do the right thing and yet still look bad to all parties?”

The test case was a game called Rape Day, which started getting press the moment it popped up on the site as coming soon.  On Wednesday the Steam blog posted a statement saying that they would not be hosting Rape Day on the service.

Over the past week you may have heard about a game called ‘Rape Day’ coming soon to Steam. Today we’ve decided not to distribute this game on Steam. Given our previous communication around Who Gets To Be On The Steam Store?, we think this decision warrants further explanation.

Much of our policy around what we distribute is, and must be, reactionary—we simply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct. We then have to make a judgement call about any risk it puts to Valve, our developer partners, or our customers. After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think ‘Rape Day’ poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.

We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.

This response, of course, satisfied almost nobody.

Defenders of the game, including the developer, pointed out that the game was hidden behind the “adult content” tag, so you had to opt-in to even see it and, of course, on a service rife with murder simulators how does rape stand out?   How does Grand Theft Auto V get a pass?  Per the developer:

You can’t reasonable [sic] consider banning rape in fiction without banning murder and torture

That the developer chose to emphasize a particular aspect of the game by choosing to title it Rape Day seems like they were looking for easy publicity.  The developer still plans to sell the title directly, and it will likely see much more success now that it has been in the headlines of various new sites, both gaming and mainstream.

Meanwhile others, myself included, looked at the game and wondered how that wasn’t straight up trolling given the past statements from Valve.  Did #MeToo pass its expiration date or something?  Did this occur during Women’s History Month by accident?  (Happy International Women’s Day by the way.)

Also, while I understand the whole “case by case basis” thing, since that is how real life works, I think they would have been better off reviewing the game before they let it appear on the store front, even behind the adult content tag.  Another random dev complaining about Valve rejecting their game would have been lost in the background noise.  This is only a story because Valve put it up on the store like they had approved it already.  And maybe they had.  I don’t know and Valve isn’t saying.

But whether or not they had approved it, their brief saying that the game would not be made available on Steam managed to squander any positive from the decision.  A strong statement, or even a lukewarm one, indicating that this game was not going to be on Steam because it crossed a line that Valve, as a company, could not endorse might have managed to wrest some good will.

Instead, we got:

After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think ‘Rape Day’ poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam.

“Costs and risks” could have been maybe meant to indicate something to do with the Steam community, but in that dry statement is comes off a lot more like a worry about some impact to the bottom line.  Feeling that endorsing rape might not be financially advantageous doesn’t win you much sympathy.

And so it goes.  Valve ends up looking good to almost nobody.  Depending on your point of view, they’ve either managed to betray their statement about not passing judgement on games or they’ve nearly come close to affirming rape as an acceptable entertainment option in their online store, only having been waved off at the last minute by bad press.

All of which was an entirely predictable outcome when they announced this nine months back.  I think they made the correct decision.  I am mostly bemused by how Valve managed to make things much worse for itself than they had to.  I hope they have a serious after action meeting to keep this level of stupid from occurring again.

Some further reading, none of which makes Valve look very good:

Taking a Nibble out of Steam

The big news in early December was that Epic Games was going to create their own online digital games storefront to compete with Steam.

Steam is big.  Big enough that no competitor is going to show up and hit them with a single knock-out blow.  EA couldn’t do it.  GoG certainly couldn’t manage it.  Amazon might have a shot via Twitch some day.  There is Discord gamely trying.  The Microsoft store persists out there, if you want the non-Java Minecraft of the remastered version of Age of Empires.  And recently Apple has been talking about a Netflix-like “games as a service” service.

And, despite its dominance, Steam is not unassailable.  Steam is vulnerable on a few fronts where an upstart could steal part of their pie.  There are viable markets to be invaded in the Steam portfolio.

Because who wants to be Steam anyway?  Is somebody else itching to be the top purveyor of Hentai themed Minesweeper knock-offs?  Let Valve remain king of their garbage heap.

Still, Steam was clearly their target.

Back when the Epic Store was announced, their big play was aimed at the development side of the equation, where Epic was planning to take only 12% of the sales price… and waive the fee for their Unreal engine… compared to Steam’s 30% cut.

Look how much more Steam takes

This prompted some questions.

This silliest was asking if Steam “deserves” a 30% cut.

As Clint Eastwood said in Unforgiven, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”  What made this especially silly was that this came from the developers, who honestly ought to know better.  That is the same group that howled over every possible barrier to entry that Valve set up for Steam, because being on Steam was their only chance at success.  Well, 30% was the cut when they were on the outside desperate to get in, but now that they’re in that cut is too much.  It is as if people just complain about everything… which they do. (I also feel like pointing out the cut that studios got back in the brick and mortar retail days.)

Still on the silly side of things were people wondering if prices might be lower on the Epic Store given the smaller cut Epic planned to take.

As if.  I bet the devs complaining about Steam’s cut would argue vehemently against this.

There is a stubborn ignorance out there that still assumes that cost and pricing are somehow linked.  The two are not, save for cost represents the floor above which most companies would like their pricing to remain.  But a year back we had a long discussion about how much it costs to make video games, at least top tier AAA games.  So one might argue that video games is an industry where that floor isn’t even part of the equation.

Pricing is based on what the market will bear and what your competitors are charging.  We pretty much know the price of any big name game coming from EA or Activision before they announce it.  It is going to be $59.99.  Do all those games cost exactly the same to make?  Or is there just an industry price beyond which studios believe they cannot stray lest it have an impact on sales?  I think you know the answer.

More on point were end users in touch with reality asking why they should care about the studio’s cut if prices remained the same.  If you’re already invested in Steam and have a big library there, what would Epic’s store offer besides the inconvenience of another login to manage?

Well, we got the answer to that.  Exclusives!

It is the console wars all over, writ small.  How do you get somebody on to your platform?  Offer something that the competitor doesn’t have.  Epic already had Fortnite, so that was a given.  But they needed something else.  They needed titles that Steam wouldn’t have.

When they managed to snag The Division 2 back in early January, that was news.  That gave Epic a big title that Steam would be denied, though UbiSoft would still be selling it directly as well.

This past week though fewmets hit the windmill when it was announced that publisher Deep Silver would be selling Metro Exodus on Epic’s store.  That catch here was that Metro Exodus had already been available for pre-order on Steam.  That availability was turned off with the news.

Note from Steam – When You’re Number One You Never Name the Competition

While Deep Silver said they would honor pre-orders, this got people to howl, and all the more so because the price on the Epic Store was $10 less. (You might be tempted to claim this as evidence that there will be a benefit to consumers on the pricing front, but I’d as soon bet that Epic offered additional incentives to get Deep Silver on board and at a lower price.)

That is how you get the market to take you seriously.  So seriously though that people were talking boycotts and such and Deep Silver eventually had to clarify that Metro Exodus would be available on other platforms come February of 2020.  At least you know it will be cheaper by then I guess.

This sort of thing isn’t going to turn the Epic Store into a full fledged Steam competitor.  But I don’t think they want that.  This will make Steam take them seriously though, as it takes money straight out of Valve’s pocket.  Metro Exodus was going to be worth more to Valve than a few thousand more indie titles cluttering its store front.  And given the persistent rumor that the only reason Epic has a storefront is because their parent company, Tencent, is to hit back at Valve for going into the China market with Perfect World Entertainment rather than them, and it seems to make a bit more sense.

Anyway, I don’t think Steam is going anywhere.  Valve is too entrenched to be moved quickly.  Epic will be another minor player, taking a bit of the riches from Steam.  There is a temptation to compare this to what is happening with video streaming services these days, where Netflix has lost its grip as every major player has decided to open up their own service.  I suspect that will shake itself out on its own when people vote with their wallets and a bunch of those services find they were doing better just licensing to Netflix or Hulu.  But on the video game front it is different, as there is no subscription to pay… at least until Apple shows up… just some logins and front ends to manage.

Some players are always going to be big enough to roll their own.  EA’s Origin, for example, is less the Nordstom storefront they promised and just them having their own online store so they don’t have to share with a competitor.  You don’t even need it for all of their games.

Likewise Blizzard has their launcher-and-store combo, which Activision, lacking their own, has decided to use as well.

Others, like UbiSoft or Paradox, play both sides of the game, listing on other storefronts while maintaining their own as well.

And Steam abides.

Others on this topic: