2018 Retrospective

So this started out as a short list and kind of bloomed into quite a weighty post, so I’m sorry if it’s a pain to read.
I wanted to list some of the stuff that I had achieved and things that made me happy in 2018, I also wanted to broadly cover personal goals I would like to achieve this year.

2018 Highlights

Meetups

This year we got to see so many people that we mostly talk to online, there were some new faces and some already familiar to us too.

Broadsider – We had the chance to meet BroadSider twice in 2018 when we were up in his neck of the woods, Broadsider is a wonderful person that is very entertaining regardless of if he is streaming or in real life.
We got to visit one of oldest gaming friends which involved a trip on a ferry, which is always an adventure travelling to an island.
FluffyBunEsq – Fluffy doesn’t live too far away so we met up with him a few times this year sometimes in Cardiff other times closer to where he lives.
BoopleSnootBex – We met up with Boople on one of ours outings to other parts of the country, despite it being a last minute event we all had a great time.
Lucanaii and EngineerAirhead made time in their UK visit to come to Wales, it was amazing to met them both and we had a lovely day out in Cardiff.
One of my dearest and oldest internet friends (back from the dial up days) was visiting London with her other half, so Munki, LittleTroll and I travelled up to the big smoke to and had a wonderful day catching up chatting about things that had changed since their last visit.
There was of course Twitch London but more about that later.

GameBlast18

Our third year taking part in the Special Effect gaming marathon weekend. Last year the Digital Rogues were were joined by FluffyBunEsq who went all out in his fundraising activities,
I raised over £650 which is a new personal best for me and collectively our Digital Rogues team raised £2,264.86 which is a stunning 350% better than our previous years total.
We were very lucky to have got some amazing gifts to give away from Developers and our community members.

EGX Rezzed

Munki and I decided to go to Rezzed it was kind of a last minute thing but there were two good reasons.
Firstly was to met Becky Frost from Special Effect who has been one of the primary contacts that we have conversed with for GameBlast, We had chance to sit down, grab food and have a wonderful chat. Becky is an amazing person and really has such enthusiasm for the work that she and Special Effect does.
Another attraction at Rezzed was to get the the chance to play on Megaquarium, the first playable Demo which I was very excited about and impressed by.

Also at Rezzed was a stack of other titles including:
Cultist Simulator – I game I that was already playing since the Kickstarter, but got some great stickers for my clan.
Yorkshire Gubbins – We packed some Hendersons crisps freshly collected from Yorkshire to give to the wonderful creator Charlotte Gore.
Unforeseen Incidents – This game was being shown and I got to play a Demo and speak to the artist, I was sold on the point and click adventure game, instantly.
Siege & the Sandfox – A lovely looking platformer that I got to play briefly and the gameplay reminded me of old school platform games were there was more than one way to approach a situation.

The Role Playing

2018 was great for RPG’s I got to run D&D 5E starter sessions for new players as well as running 2 campaigns which are so funny in various ways, but always a good laugh.
Breaks with my clan game allowed me to GM a game of Achtung! Cthulhu (Fate Edition) and Monster of the Week, my fellow clan mate GM’d which allowed me to play Blades in the Dark and a custom Fate Accelerated game themed on Planetside.

Each of these was very different and allowed us to try out new systems and settings, all of them were very fun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twitch Affiliate

Since I stream for fun, getting affiliate was never a goal that I had set out to achieve, however at the end of May I finally ticked all the required boxes and got the email.
I only really stream once a week so I hope people don’t expect too much from me, however I appreciate everyone that stops by my streams, Sunday mornings isn’t when folks generally wake up early, so having folks tune into me while they are doing their usual household chores is kind of great.

I like having the emote but I’m still not 100% sure on how to have to fill all of that stuff in my on Tax Self-Assessment forms next year.

Twitch London Community Meet Up

The meetup in London was kind of last minute deal, we had seen it was happening but there weren’t any streamers we knew going, so we dismissed as being the non-drinking type, social events can kind of be awkward when most around you are drinking, even more awkward if you don’t really know many people.

When Psyche confirmed she would be attending, Munki and I started planning to ensure that we could make it, a round trip to London was the easiest since we didn’t have time to figure out a hotel or child care for an extended duration.
We were in the unusual situation that we had met Psyches other half in 2017 while he was in the UK on business, but alas we had failed to manage to meet her on any of her trips, such as FrontierCon and GamesCon.
Having a child means that travelling for GamesCon isn’t a viable option, so we had to make doubly sure that we could attend this event.

Wonderfully Psyche and Kolo were happy to meet before the event it’s self, which was rather awesome as we got to hang out and chat in a more causal situation (plus we didn’t have to compete with music and the louder background noise of revellers that we would encounter at the event later that evening).
It was wonderful to meet Kolo who is such a nice person and both her and her community are very welcoming, we got to meet some of her community members later that evening.

Finally got to give Psyche a big hug, after many years of watching her streams, I can confirm she is every bit as lovely in real life and we were so pleased that we had made the trip.
Also that day Breadicus was also able to meet up beforehand which was great to put a face to the name of community member, we met PaulArcher in the event itself and he’s as funny in real life too 😀 .

As I alluded the evening event was nice but as with anything of that nature, loud and busy for the most part, we got some free swag and a lovely photo. We also managed to see Becky Frost who was in full SpecialEffect mode with a squad of volunteers backing her up.
Munki and I made our exit at 9 so we could get the last train back to Wales, all in all it was an absolutely lovely day.

New PC parts

After a solid performance for 7 years I finally retired my trusty 2nd Gen i5 2500 and grabbed myself a shiny new 9th Gen i5 9600k. It’s been on the cards for a while but I kept pushing it back so that
I’ve not really pushed the system with anything meaty yet but I’ve been pondering getting a new shooter at some point, now may be that time.
Sadly this move meant that I finally had to leave Windows 7 behind and move to Windows 10. (I makes me feel ill just typing that.)

Health

So this year was quiet tough for me as I struggled with my mental health to the point that I was off work for an extended period of time.
I had moderate Anxiety and Depression but to took me a good while to recognise that there was a problem. I got some help from my employer who put me in contact with a Psychologist service with a handful of sessions covered by them.
It helped me to get back into work, I’m not completely rid of though thoughts that were causing the issues but I feel alot more positive about facing them head on.


So what’s for 2019

Play more RPGs!

I am getting back into GMing and will restart a campaign I had to pause due to my health issues.
Planning some more RPG workshops to help people get into playing and maybe branching out away from DND, so others can taste different games.
I also have so many RPGs I want to try out at somepoint some in space, some hero settings, some cyberpunk, others completely off the wall.

Gameblast19

We are all registered and getting setup for this years GameBlast19, this year we hope to have another member joining us for the fun and we can all achieve new personal bests.
In the next month I will be trying to shape up my stream list and focusing on drumming up sponsorship as well as sending out some emails to game developers to see if we can get any content for giveaways.
I think as we had issues distributing physical items last year we are likely to stick to digital items for the most part.

Streaming

I want to get back into streaming with a web camera again, after I kind of fell out of the habit in the early part of the year I never returned to it and I’d like to fix that If I can.
I used to do an adhoc Thursday evening stream that focused more on Role Playing and map creation, I’m not sure if I want to return to map making again but I’d like to throw in some extra streams maybe once or twice a month.

Blogging

You knew it was coming, as always I’d like to challenge myself to try and blog at the very minimum one entry per month. I hope that it will be more frequent but let’s start somewhere realistic shall we.
I need to review my BlogRoll.
I also need to get better at checking my RSS reader and commenting more on other peoples posts more often.

Games

There are so many good games coming out and so many games in my Steam backlog, I want to try and get my played percentage from 51% (via steamdb, 459 out of 898 games played) close to 55%.
I am gonna try and stop picking up bundles when there is only one title I’m remotely interested in contained in the bundle.

See you soon

I hope that see you all again soon, I hope your 2018 was enjoyable and that your 2019 is even better.

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.