Tag Archives: Steam

Another Steam Winter Sale Fades Away

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.

Through 10am on January 4th, which is today...

Through 10am on January 4th, which is today…

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.

Cards obtained

Cards obtained… and there was no tomorrow when I got this message…

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.

Some Stats Steam Has on Me

Some Stats Steam Has on Me

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:

  • Sandbox
  • Survival
  • Shooter
  • Roguelike
  • Builder
  • RTS
  • Simulation
  • RPG
  • Story-drive
  • SciFi
  • 2D/3D
  • Platformer
  • Unique
  • Adventure

-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?

Steam Holiday Sale – Even Valve Seems a Bit Bored

The Steam Holiday Sale went live on Tuesday with the usual sudden surge of excitement and the occasional error.

Best Deal Evah!

Best Deal Evah!

There were a few items discounted into negative territory.  The best I saw was Quake, which Steam was apparently prepared to pay you $9.85 if you would download it.

To borrow another Tweet, Van Hemlock had a good summary.

But once that settled down and prices got adjusted and discount math was correctly calculated, the sales event seemed to be happily under way.  Nearly everything on my wishlist is on sale, and I am once again tempted by Cities: Skylines and Project CARS.

Of course, all of those other unplayed, or underplayed, games in my Steam library are giving me baleful stares.  Their mere presence inhibits my ability to buy anything new.  And when combined with the knowledge that there will just be another Steam sale later if I don’t buy anything this time around, any sense of urgency is lost.  That one time emotional response of, “I’d better buy this now, I might want to play it some day!” has been replaced by the feeling that unless I want to play the game RIGHT NOW, I can wait until a later date.

So yeah, another “tired gamer in a malaise” story here at TAGN.

The odd bit is that even Valve seems a bit less into the whole Steam Sale too.

Gone are the events.  You get holiday Steam cards for just browsing games.  The daily deals and flash sales, ever the bane of the OCD in people obsessed with getting the best deal, are gone.  There is no need to keep checking back every few hours.  The price cut on the title you are interested in is going to be the same throughout the Holiday Sale.  That old flow chart about when to buy is history. (So many versions of it out there.)

So no rush.  You can sit an consider your purchase or make lists of games people should buy or otherwise reflect on the sale in peace, without anybody nudging you to get on with it because it all might be different in an hour or three.

All of which is something of a relief.  A new normal has emerged.  And though I kind of miss the special nature that a Steam sale used to have, you cannot recreate that forever.

How to get Your Steam Left Hours Down

Steam Left is the web site that calculates how many hours of play time you have left before you can claim you have “finished” the games in your Steam library.  You can find the site here.

Back during the Steam Summer Sale I was looking at how many hours I had left.  It was a good year’s worth of work, playing 40 hour weeks, using the standard “2,000 working hours in a year” rule of thumb I learned ages ago.

74 days would get me through the summer...

Your Steam library… it isn’t a job, it’s an adventure!

I knocked off a couple hours myself this summer, but I found a way to bring that number down some more.  My daughter was complaining of summer boredom so I installed Steam on her computer and logged my account in and told her to play whatever she wanted.  She has an iMac, so she couldn’t play everything on the list, but there are (to me) a surprising number of titles supported both Windows and Mac OS.

So for about a week she went through and played Sim City 4 and Tropico 4 (which was a real bargain when I grabbed it) and a few other titles.  All in all she ended up playing about a dozen hours worth of Steam games before she moved on to other things.

So, with 1,767 hours left on the estimate, I still have about a year of full time work to go on my library, but at least a few hours were knocked off.

I’d Buy That for a Dollar… or Less?

This past week I had logged into Steam. I don’t let it log in automatically when I start up my computer.  Some part of me always wants to limit the number of processes running on my computer at any given time.

Anyway, I haven’t been logging in recently because I haven’t been playing any games that I purchased on Steam.  War Thunder was the last thing on Steam I was playing regularly.  And, of course, we are in the great gulf between the Steam Summer Sale and the Steam Holiday Sale,

Still, that doesn’t mean there are not sales.  I got a note that something on my wishlist was on sale, an item I couldn’t really recall the details of, so I logged in to Steam to window shop. As I logged in… and several games started to update… I ran over the front page to see what else might be on sale.  There was a mention on one part of the page that over 100 games were currently on sale, so I clicked on that to get the full list.

You can sort the list by various criteria and I decided to go with price, lowest to highest, to see just how cheap things can be on Steam.

As it turns out, things can be very cheap.

Steam - Under a Dollar

Steam – Under a Dollar

That is a list of fifteen items UNDER a dollar on Steam, with the lowest checking in at a mere fourteen cents.  More than half of that list is under fifty cents.

This makes me feel dizzy as my brain wonders at what point is something simply priced too cheaply.  At what point does it start to cost more simply to run the credit card transaction.  How much of that fourteen cents does a developer even see.

Apple’s iTunes App Store has a lower limit of 99 cents if you want to charge for an app.  Free is the only cheaper option.

Is there any reason to price something on Steam for less than 99 cents?  I mean sure, fourteen cents gets you a spot at the top of the list, but is that price an enticement or a warning?

And, in answer to the title, I did not buy any of these games.  There is probably a message in that as well.

Steam, What Have You Wrought?

Things that are not supposed to happen over the course of a Steam Summer Sale; have your Steam Left number go down.

Before the Steam Summer Sale 2015, my count was:

74 days would get me through the summer...

74 days would get me through the summer…

Here, at the tail end of the sale, with the counter running down, my tally is:

I played some video games

I played some video games

Somewhere in between the start of the search for the summer game and now, I played 12 hours and didn’t buy anything.  And I am not even sure how I played that much, as the only game on Steam I played much of was War Thunder.  Well, time adds up.

Meanwhile, things like Steam Left and the long list of games in my Steam library has trained me over the years to not buy games unless I am going to play them right then and there.  And so I ended up buying nothing from the Steam Summer Sale.

Not that there were not things on sale, often at very attractive prices.

Steam Summer Sale 2015

Steam Summer Sale 2015

There were a number of items on my wishlist that I had my eye on.  Earlier in the year Cities: Skylines seemed to be the rightful heir to Sim City, given the praise it got.   Likewise, Project CARS seemed to be the driving sim of the year, getting high praise from those who purport to know best, with both local and online play available.  Something to replace the soon to depart Need for Speed World maybe?

But I wasn’t on the edge of my seat ready to play either title and the discounts, while good for somewhat recent releases, were not too good to pass up.

Not that discounts levels sold me on anything either.  I had one game on my wishlist that was marked down to $1.24 for the sale… and I didn’t buy it.  I guess that means I ought to take it off my wishlist, since I don’t think it will ever get any cheaper than that.  To be fair, it did have mixed reviews and I put it on the list more to remind me to look into it again than because I was going to buy… but still, at $1.24 you think I’d just buy it.

Apparently not.

Then, of course, there was the sea of titles that interest me a bit, but which are not really my thing.  I am tempted to get Alien: Isolation because I have heard such good things about its atmosphere… and it was 75% off at various times… but in the end it seemed likely to just sit in my library unplayed.

And I always get excited when the Traveller’s Tales LEGO games are on sale… until I remember that they really play like crap on the PC unless you have a game pad… and even when you have a game pad it still feels like an awkward port.  The definitive experience for those games is on a console, in your living room, with a controller.

So I ended up here, at the end of the sale, having purchased nothing.  Which is fine… I hardly needed any more unplayed games in my library.  But it is amusing to consider how things have changed, how the Steam Summer Sale used to be such a big deal and how I would buy things just because they were priced so damn attractively.  Steam has trained me over the years to hold off and only buy things that I am sure I will play.

Steam Mistake? Tropico 4 Collectors Bundle for 39 Cents [mistake fixed]

The Tropico 4 Collector’s Bundle for 39 cents… um… I’m in.

99% off

99% off

You could literally sell a couple of trading cards to pick up this bundle.

I heard Alikchi spotted this and the word has spread.

Addendum: As noted in the comments, somebody at Steam noticed their mistake and the price has been changed.  It was climbing rapidly up the daily best seller list, so it seems like a lot of people got a bargain today.

The Passing of Another Steam Summer Sale

Another Steam Summer Sale has come and gone.

As others have noted, its regularity… and the fact that we get a Holiday sale in December… has taken some of the edge off of the whole thing.  Seeing a whole pile of games marked down was a huge deal the first couple of times we saw it.  Now, however, we have come to expect it.

Oh look, games on sale... yawn...

Oh look, games on sale… yawn…

Such sales have changed my behavior some.  If there is a game I have to have right away, I still buy it right there and then… unless the sale is around the corner.  Steam screwed me on that last year.  I bought the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V the day it launched, despite the summer sale coming up.  And then two days later the Summer Sale launched and the expansion was marked down, a gaffe that even Steam realized might have been a discount too soon.

Steam tries to make up

Steam tries to make up

So maybe I won’t pre-order anything that will launch close to the sales zones any more, but otherwise my behavior on must-haves has not changed.

But for things I am not sure about, games that are not “must have” but merely nice to have… the Steam sales process has changed my behavior quite a bit.  My wish list is now filled with things that I “sorta” want, if the price is right, and I am in a good mood.  The impulse buy aspect of Steam sales has been replaced by watching my wish list.  I look at what is on sale that day, then look at my wish list, ponder if anything is “must have” at their current price, and then move on, generally without buying anything.

This year I did end up buying a couple of games.  One was for the strategy group “next game” plan that I wrote about last week, and which makes a good example of how Steam has influenced me.

While we had a list of potential games, Total War: Rome II was the primary contender, backed by Loghound. (I had other suggestions, but I wasn’t sold on any of them.)  A not-too-old release, it still has a list price of $59.99, the current benchmark price for AAA games from major studios.  As the summer sale was already in progress, it was marked down to half off.  $29.98 wasn’t a bad price.  There is a whole lot of game there.

But Steam has taught me to always wait until the REAL DEAL has been offered.  So while Rome II was the prime candidate, nobody moved to purchase it until Friday, because it wasn’t until Friday that the REAL DEAL kicked in and the price dropped to $20.37.  At that price it was an easy purchase and all of us picked up a copy.  So that is the tentative next game for the group, once we finish up our Civ V game (at some point in August by my guess) and if it turns out to be suitable.  A quick look shows a battle style that gives you a budget to buy units in advance, so I suspect this could mean long lead times before we actually play.  But the single player campaign looks to be worth the investment, so even if we don’t play it much, it was probably worth the money with the deep discount.

So there it is.  Our next game has been chosen.

I did have two impulse purchases, one of which was Europa Universalis IVas it had been marked down to $9.99.  It has been on my wish list since it launched, so I am not sure if it is really an “impulse” buy, but I grabbed it.  It is one of those games… like its predecessors… that I really want to like, but which is so complicated and so deep that I can never get into it and actually play.  I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to do simple things, which quickly becomes frustrating.  I have no reason to suspect that this will be any different.

The other was Ticket to Ride, which I already own on the iPad.  I should have just stuck with that.  The iPad version is the game as it should be played and as it should look and perform.  The Windows version is slow, graphically inferior, and prone to buffering mouse clicks as you wait for it to catch up, leading to many a mis-played moment.  I regret this purchase and I could not recommend this on Steam even at its very low sale price.

And, in a sale related matter that isn’t really about Valve or Steam, I was just a tiny bit annoyed to see Planetary Annihilation early access up on the list of things on sale… or even available at all.  I backed their kickstarter, but not at a level high enough to get early access yet.  I get a finished copy and that is all, but I actually paid more for that than the early access sale, which also gets you a full copy.  And Uber Entertainment, the studio behind the title, hasn’t been the best about communication when it comes to actual progress towards release, they are a year late at this point, and  they are out there hawking early access at retail.  I realize early access is basically a retail pre-order, but it still makes me think, “Dude, remember me? I gave you money nearly two years ago?”  Just the nature of Kickstarter projects I guess.

And then there was the contest.

In order to spice things up… and get people to spend more money… Valve put everybody on teams and set us against each other for the possibility of getting something for nothing… assuming you didn’t buy anything for this gimmick.  Clockwork over at Out of Beta covers the whole thing better than I, I just want to grouse about the level of exclusion.

Summer Adventure Gimmick

Summer Adventure Gimmick

Anybody who wanted to participate got dropped onto one of the five color teams.  However, to actually do anything to help your team, you had to be level 10, at least as far as I could tell.  So despite years of Steam usage and owning over 100 games, I wasn’t able to play because I was only level 7.

Level as of July 1, 2014

Level as of July 1, 2014

While that was up from where I stood last year, it still wasn’t enough.

The problem is… well one of the problems I suppose… is that I purchased most of my library before they got into the whole levels thing.  And one of the prime ways you earn points to level up is based on how much money you spend, so most of my purchases didn’t count.  The other problem is that I am not inclined to spend money just to level myself up on Steam.  But that probably excluded me from the Summer Adventure thing anyway, as Clockwork pegs the whole thing as a pay to win affair.

And, on the annoying front, one of the ways I could have earned a few badges and points was by voting on the content of upcoming sales.  Only you must be level 8 to earn anything by voting, so once again Steam failed to engage me by imposing what looks to be an arbitrary level limit on rewards.  Bleh.

So, the score for the event.

  • Purchases at the lowest possible price as Steam has trained us: 1
  • Impulse purchases: 2
  • Engagement in sale related events: 0
  • Games on Steam I haven’t even played yet: too many

Maybe I will be the “right” level for whatever event Steam has planned by the time the Holiday Sale comes around.