A familiar stranglehold

Yesterday over at The Ancient Gaming Noob, Wilhelm posted a great blog entry about platforms challenging Steam, I really encourage you to go and give it a read as my post bounces off alot of the same themes and topics. https://tagn.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/challenging-steam/.

I did starting writing a comment on that post but found that I was rambling a bit so I though I’d type it up here instead.

Kicking things off

Valve got lucky, their game distribution service was never really a store front, it evolved into a platform that other games wanted to be released on.
By reducing the difficultly of online distribution for other non-valve products, it grew into something that now dominates the gaming landscape. 

Many platforms started off like Steam being a delivery solution for one publishers titles, we see that with Origin, BattleNet, Glyph, UPlay, Station and Arc.
This works for their needs but there is very little in the form of other games and titles, the branching out was never a direction that lasted any length of time.

That isn’t to say that new blood isn’t wanted, but any new contender has to fight a battle on two fronts, firstly getting the developers to want to use their platform, secondly convincing users that it’s a platform they should move to and invest in.

Drawing in Devs/Publishers

Epic has outlined how they hope to make their platform different enough to attract developers, with a lower revenue cut of 12% on sales which is a huge reduction compared to the 30% that Valve take via Steam.
That 18% revenue increase maybe enough to encourage more games to give the Epic Store a shot, most likely alongside other digital stores to still feed the player bases established on those platforms.

As a final perk for developers, games that use the Unreal Engine will have the licence charge waive by Epic for using the platform.

Interestingly Epic have suggested that there will be a 14 day 
no-questions-asked refund policy, which sounds great however when you consider the number of smaller titles where the full game can be completed in timescales smaller than 14 days (8 to 10 hours) there maybe some reasons for smaller game developers to avoid the platform.

Drawing in Users

New users with very few game purchases under their belt aren’t going to have any issues trying out a new platform. A percentage of their game are possibly Free to Play titles and they aren’t financially invested to heavily in a single platform.

As Wilhelm mentions, for some time Twitch has been dishing out monthly free games (for prime members) to encourage users to download their Twitch Desktop App.
Epic seem to be chasing a similar model to encourage users to adopt the platform as there digital home with one free game every fortnight.

However the biggest hurdle is that I, like many other gamers, have a huge investment in Steam, not only in my game library but in the auxiliary elements that have grown around it over the years.
These include such things as : Communities, Friends, Workshop items, Guides, Achievements,Wishlist and finally the ability to purchase real world store cards.

It terms of moving away from steam I enjoy Gog and have purchased a number of games on that platform when I don’t want to have to deal with steam, usually for modding reasons.
GoG connect has also allowed me to claim some of my titles on the DRM Free platform, additionally some of my Purchases via humble bundle have also included a DRM free copy of the game.
However none of these things go far enough to draw me away from Steam for long.

Swap Shop

Competition is healthy and anything to give players more choice is a good thing. It could help to drive down the revenue cut that other platforms are taking and result in a better landscape for developers and players.

There are so many additional launchers sitting on my hard drive until such a time as I need to use them, they aren’t loading on start up, they usually take an age to patch when I have to interact with them.
This is the reality of a gamers PC, we load those most important regularly but the others just gather dust as they were the chosen platform for that one game you really wanted.

On the Epic store that game is likely to be Rebel Galaxy Outlaw for me, as I really enjoyed the first game and I’d like to try and support the developers.

Only time is going to tell what impact Epic will have on the the gaming store scene, hopefully if nothing else it will shake things up a bit.

Getting back up to speed

Hi,
You maybe wondering what happened to my Blaugust efforts which I kind of kicked off but then I vanished part way through.

Well I kind of need to jump back to earlier in the year to explain, I had been becoming more and more stressed at various things, some of it comes from my home life and some from my ongoing health concerns, but the bulk were being triggered by different elements at work.

I had been trying a number of things to help me stop being so stressed and exhausted, different things that helped to stop me from tipping over the edge. They did just that, but they didn’t really deal with or solve the underlying causes, so predictably that dam was gonna break, it was just a matter of when.

In the middle of August I had a stomach upset that lasted a week, I knew that I was also pretty run down and exhausted, I spent most of that week in bed, recharging my batteries or so I thought. But the following Monday morning I prepared to head out but just couldn’t bring myself to leave the house, it was only really at this point did I notice how completely overwhelmed I had become and things weren’t great.

So there you have it, for the last few months I have been working on dealing with my anxiety and depression. Thankfully I had some great support from my family and friends, plus from a psychologist who was introduced to me by my employer.
So I’m still learning how to view and process things differently, in a way that means I’m not getting wound up.

Dusting off my blog

Returning to blogging could have been as straightforward as hitting the publish button. However in the 6 months since I last posted and even longer since I had done any maintenance, there was housekeeping that urgently needed doing.

Social

It dawned on me that I had not reviewed the social links in sometime, thankful it was straightforward to discard some out of date links for Raptr,Anook and Forge, I also added some newer items such as GOG and BattleNet.

Privacy & Cookie Policy

Cookies are a way that sites can store data in the browser, this can range from session information to preferences or options, these allowed for customisation of site features. On top of that nowadays cookies can be used to track everything users do on a site, what they searched, what they clicked on and other behavioural traits.

Unless you have been living under a rock you will have encountered the EU Cookie Policy from 2 years ago and also the more recent GDPR, these cover how cookies are set and explaining how visitors data maybe be used respectively. GDPR covers explaining how a users data will be used and also the right for a users data to be removed and how they can request this.

WordPress has been proactive in giving users the ability to create a privacy policy page with a good template to get the ball rolling, however a list of cookies and their purpose is the preferred display method for detailing what cookies your website will be setting in a users browser. So I set about documenting what cookies load the first time you visit my site directly (incognito mode is good for testing this).

Me and Privacy

In the last year I started using Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Privacy Badger, this plugin is for Chrome/Firefox and Opera effectively allow users to manage what cookies from a site they wish to allow and which they want to blacklist.

You may have noted that my Share Buttons have now gone from the end of each post. The reason behind this is that when reviewing my website looking at what cookies were being set for the cookie policy, there were many tracking cookies that were linked to the sharing buttons.

Why remove them?
We’ll I don’t think they were used much, but since I have been taking steps to help my own privacy I didn’t want people to feel the same about visiting my site, so I removed the Sharing Buttons, which dropped the number of cookies massively. I have been looking into alternatives for share buttons, that don’t actually have any tracking or cookies, sounds simple but it’s still a Work in Progress.

I then decided to review the remaining Cookies. There were however 3 cookies from Google Webmaster Tools that I had setup many, many years ago, now if I want metrics on visitors I generally use the information that WordPress can supply. So I decided that since I could not remember the last time I had looked at the Google data I most likely didn’t need it. So that got removed as well.

The result

So after all that my site only drops 3 cookies on a new visitor coming to my site, 2 from WordPress and 1 that my hosting company drop for load balancing.
Running a website used to be quick and easy, now there are hoops to jump through and cookies to bake.

7 out of 10 OS’s

I have been recently pondering when I rebuild my gaming PC if I should go for Windows 10, I have been happy with Windows 7 and so far haven’t really had a strong enough reason to switch.

Pros

  • DX12 support
  • Fast boot
  • Smaller OS footprint

Cons

  • My experience of Windows 10 is that I have seen more Blue Screens in the 18 months of using the OS than I have ever seen with Windows 7.
  • I still regularly hear stories of unexpected or breaking OS updates hampering gamers.

So I decided to see what the take up of the OS from fellow gamers has been, visiting the Steam Survey site, I have to say I was quite surprised by what I found.

Steam Survey Jun 2018

In the last 5 months there has been a vast change in the Steam user base (that have given information for the survey) shifting massively from Windows 7 64bit to Windows 10 64bit.

I know that Sea of Thieves released in mid-march, which was only available on Windows 10, but could that have impacted the metrics so much?
Yesterday Microsoft reported that more than 5 million people have played the game since launch, bearing in mind that in the the first week the number of copies solds was 2 million, it’s not a terrible figure to wave about.
Admittedly those figures cover both PC and XBox but it’s interesting to think that it may have spurred people into updating, but maybe not the sole reason.

Perhaps like myself it was just a natural time for a large number of people to upgrade their machines, taking the opportunity to move OS’s too.
Are DX11 is more performant on Windows 10 and people want to get the most from their existing games?

As more upcoming titles begin to opt for DX12 the last bastions of Windows 7 will start to crumble, maybe I just have to endure the random updates and blue-screens with everyone else.

Backlog trimming

So I continue with my adventure into my Steam backlog, I had chance today to play three games that I haven’t touched before and I quite enjoyed scanning through titles I remember wishlisting a buying during sales.

So I played some games that were all a little different.

Unstoppable Gorg is a 2012 Tower Defense game from Futuremark, I found the mechanic of the game rather fun as it added a different dimension to the order and way you built towers. The game storyline is rather fun and fully embraces the B movie era with it’s video pieces.

 

I don’t know where to start with Dr. Langeskov, the game take traditional game tropes and twists them into something unexpected. I really enjoyed playing the game and it had me laughing at times, much like Stanley Parable.

 

Dear Esther :LE is the revamped version of the original game now in the Unity Engine instead of Source, the sound has been remastered.

It had been some time since I had played this title and I feel I’ve half remembered much of the game, it was nice to have a reminder of my first thoughts on the game. The story is still as gripping as it was the first time.

 

If the game Outrun and the film Crank had a child it would be Outdrive, a fairly straight forward game that needs you to drive and drift a vehicle but also manage the  power so it’s not going too fast or slow. It was tricky to get it right to start with but after a while it was second nature.

 

Last word is a fun little game that has a combat system that requires a little strategy in order to beat your opponent. The aim of the battles is to always have the last word. The artwork is very nice and the soundtrack was also rather pleasant.

I’m surprised that the game hasn’t made the leap into mobile platform as it could work quite well.

 

This puzzle game was a blast, Cubot slowly ramps up the difficulty as it introduces new mechanics for you to master (overcome). The first 4 sections I took in my stride then things got more difficult and I didn’t have the time to sit and work out the solutions, but I can see me going back to try and complete the game in full.