Monthly Archives: September 2011

OnLive, not Origin, is the true competitor to Steam

Despite what EA would like you to think with regards to their Origin digital distribution system it isn’t, nor will be, a grand competitor to Steam. Steam has a virtual monopoly on PC games sales, and monopolies are things we are taught to fear, however that is only the case when the system in control is or becomes corrupt, and over exerts it’s reach on what is available and how much it will cost. Valve has never shown even a hint of this, despite having had no real competition in the past few years. We trust them because they trust us, we’ve bought into the idea of what Steam represents, and we as a community of gamers are resistant to having the PC gaming world fragmented to the point where you need to install an application for every publisher you wish to buy games from.

This is why Origin has met with responses from ‘Meh’ to boycotting. It’s trying to give us what Steam already does, but for such a subset of games that it fails to even come close. Sure EA has the might to just push on with it, and having their games removed from Steam sets up Origin as the only place to get most EA titles, and certainly the upcoming Old Republic MMO, not that I really have much interest in that anyway.

Other providers have found niches to extract value from. Good Old Games, specialising in many abandoned titles have found a way to make money whilst offering games DRM free by keeping the price to the customer low enough for people to not worry about paying compared to copying the games. $5 or even $10 for a game and an assortment of collectibles like wallpapers and sound clips is a good bargain in most peoples books.

But as for taking on Steam, there is unlikely to be a system that could directly.

And that’s where Onlive comes in. Essentially it’s providing the same product. Games, from various publishers, to end users. But the system is so different to what Steam is offering that it will find itself a place. It can offer the same, brand new, cutting edge games but sell them to people who don’t want to, or can’t afford to keep up with even the slowed PC tech arms race of recent years. Grab yourself a £200 laptop and away you go, you can even hook it up to a TV screen with a £3 cable and be playing the latest PC games on your 50” screen for next to nothing. This represents the true threat to Valves dominance, by not taking Steam on directly and offering a totally different approach, but with the same end result. Both services are just as volatile, should either go out of business you will lose all those games irrespective of whether they had been downloaded or just streamed.

So what could Valve do about this situation? Other that just shelling out for OnLive? Well how about they introduce their own streaming service, not to replace the downloads but to run along side them in a shared ecosystem? Imagine that for a moment.

You’re at home, you have Space Marine installed from Steam on you high powered home gaming nirvana. Glorious actual 1080P gameplay streaming into your eyeballs via your carefully selected gaming rig. But then sometimes you are not at home, no access to that £500+ gaming beast. But you do have your laptop with you, or even a tablet device. Fire up the Steam app on either and you can be playing the same Space Marine experiance, continuing from where you saved via Cloud Saves, the game not hobbled by your mobile device, but steaming OnLive style giving far better quality of visuals than would otherwise be possible. You haven’t bought the game twice, just purchased the licence to play that game either via download or streamed content. Surely such an idea has already occurred to Valve, a way to remain up to date and relevant, providing the same great service as ever, yet enabling a much wider audience to join in the regular wallet emptying that so many of us already partake in in Valves favour.

Dead Island 2 : Bank Account 0

So, as an update, we caved in and picked up a second copy of Dead Island. So we’ll soon be able to let you know what we think of it as a co-op game. Our hopes are for a Borderlands style adventure with the quest based gameplay, and we’ll be trying out the alternative combat system also. We picked the game up at BestBuy who are becoming our go to people when it comes to picking games up there and then, prices are quite standard, but they will price match other retailers, including Amazon, up to 30 days AFTER your purchase. Good to know 🙂

Arcade is where the heart is.

After the disappointment of the lack split screen in Dead Island, we found ourselves without a new co-op game to play. So as we have started to do more and more recently we turned to the XBOX Live Arcade for help, in between grabbing levels of Gears of War 2 😉

After trying a few demos which show promise for future purchases, namely Toy Soldiers Cold War and Space Marine Kill Team, we decided on the dungeon crawler Crimson Alliance. The pay structure is a little odd, the game itself is free and then you pay for character packs, which are even more oddly done in that a single character is a rather hefty 800 MSP whilst the all 3 character pack is just the usual Arcade game price of 1200 MSP. Given there is an achievement to completing the game once with each character type I’d advice most people to go for the full pack. Another oddity is there are three characters but the game is set up for four player teams, perhaps a sign for future character types to be released?

The game play seems fun, if relatively standard fare. Linda took on the role of Assassin, which was an easy choice given it’s the only female character (seriously male/female options for all classes would be nice if it became a standard feature in games) and I took on the caster role. Our friend @Woodoggies will become the tank like fighter once he has the game downloaded. Linda and I played through the first five or so levels to get a good feel for the game, the combat is quick paced and the block function essential yet tricky making building up a multiplayer tough. So far we’ve managed a x5, somewhat short of the x8 required for the achievement. Loot drops are controlled by finding chests rather than killing enemies, and in general are less impressive than the items you can buy from the occasional caravan stop, and we seemed to have more than enough money to buy the best item at each stop.

There are also some puzzle sections, however from what we have seen so far they require all the brain power of a clever mouse, so we’re picking up health boosts and ‘soul anchors’ at a quick pace but presumably these will increase in difficulty. They may hinder a solo play through though, as some favour being in a multi person party so worth baring in mind it you plan to play alone.

All in all a jolly fun game, including what appears to be some replay value with score attacks and leader boards being present and correct and a medal system for rating each dungeon run you make with an achievement based incentive to gold them all.

Dead Island is dead to us.

We booted up Dead Island last night having had it delivered in a timely fashion by the excellent ShopTo, however we were immediately disappointed by the game as it lacks any local co-op options what so ever! After all the hours of fun we’ve had playing the likes of Borderlands, Gears of War and Left4Dead split screen, whilst also joining up with others online this came as somewhat of a shock. The only other game to let us down in this way in recent years was Red Dead, however given that’s more of a single player game with added multiplayer modes it was less offensive.

I’ve taken the step of emailing DeepSilver over the matter but I’m doubting we’ll get much of a response. Here is the contents of that mail:

Hello, my wife and I have been looking forward to playing Dead Island together since seeing the trailer, and have had the game on pre-order for some time. Well it arrived last night to our home and we booted it up expecting to find the same sort of co-op fun we’ve enjoyed over countless hours in other largely multi player games like Borderlands, Left4Dead 1&2, Gears of War, the Halo series, and so on. We were immediately let down by the fact that the was absolutely no split-screen option! Whilst we have come across this before in other games, most recently Red Dead Redemption, they have always been largely single player games and so we can forgive them somewhat. But in a game squarely focused on multi player it seems an absurd oversight! 

I realise that in the minds of many the idea of same room multi player is in decline, but the number of couples who game together is on the rise and so this is a market that really shouldn’t be over looked. 
Obviously this is an extreme long shot, but I don’t suppose there is any chance of Split screen being patched into the game? Would imagine retro fitting it would be difficult, which to be honest only adds to the surprise that it wasn’t considered earlier in the development cycle. 
Looking forward to hearing an explanation of why this was not considered a requirement for a modern multi player game.
Should we get any kind of response I’ll be sure to share it.
Annoyingly we tested the game out a little in single player and it looks like it would have been a very fun game for the two of us. How such an option can be overlooked in a world where the number of gaming couples is on the rise is a mystery to us.