Gamebytes and Bots
Gamebytes and Bots
GAMEBYTES AND BOTS
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THE BEST OF SINGLE PLAYER PC GAMING - NOW PLAYING:   MAGICINDIE
THE BEST OF SINGLE PLAYER PC GAMING - NOW PLAYING: MAGICINDIE
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COMING SOON
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DUNGEON CRAWLER
ACTION RPG
RECENT POST-RELEASE REVIEWS - SEE FEATURES FOR BEST SINGLE PLAYER GAME REVIEWS
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OUTLAST
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QUAKE 4
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MURDERED SOUL SUSPECT
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DIVINITY 2

CUSTOMIZING YOUR OWN PC GAMING EXPERIENCE

If you do a search on the internet about customizing your PC gaming experience, the majority of results that come up will be about PC hardware. Although the type of hardware you choose can certainly determine the games you are able to play, and affect the technical aspects of your experience, hardware does not address the less tangible and more important aspects of the gaming experience. Of course, to some people, tinkering around with the innards of their machine is fun, but to most gamers tinkering is just the often necessary prelude to playing their games. Unfortunately, PC games these days are totally prone to unoptimized releases and forums become dominated by user talk of hardware components. These discussions can often lead to insulting comments about your "potato" computer if you don't have the latest, greatest equipment. However, it's unfortunate that so much hype goes into this that many gamers lose sight of what gaming should be about, which is the personal enjoyment of a hobby that's supposed to be fun and entertaining for you.

When I decided to build a gaming computer, I researched the heck out of all the various hardware components until I was satisfied about getting the best I could get within my budget. Anyone serious about PC gaming will do the same thing, but how many people give as much thought to which games they will buy. With the price of games these days, you could very quickly surpass the amount of money you paid for the rig to play them on, which is fine if you actually do play them and enjoy them. However, statistics show that an alarming percentage of people never finish their games for one reason or another. Due to the type of content we're getting, we could blame the gaming industry to a certain degree, but a lot of the blame should land squarely on our own shoulders. Impulse buying and a lack of self-discipline is a big problem and one the industry depends on. People have short attention spans and if we are not engaged, we will move on. But who is ultimately responsible for making that decision to purchase the product?

Another sad statistic is the number of games in library backlogs that people have bought with the intention of playing, but never do. When I started gaming, I got caught up in the sales hype and now, if I never bought another game, it would still take me two years to play them all and I have a small library compared to many. The point being, that no matter how good or attractively priced a game might be, it is virtually impossible to play them all. Fortunately, along the way, I smartened up. So, when I say customize your own gaming experience, I don't mean hardware - I mean get to "Know Thyself" and expend some energy thinking about what you really want out this hobby. Think of it like a gaming profile that is unique to you and the most important aspect is to develop your own personal style.

Although millions of people play games, it's still about making personal choices that will give you the minimum frustration with the maximum enjoyment. If you're new to gaming, establishing what you enjoy will likely take some experimentation, but it's important to make this hobby all about your own likes, dislikes, budget and time. Although this simple observation may seem obvious, you might be surprised at how many people just keep spending money on games they will never play. The following pages lay out a good foundation on the basics of PC gaming and list the broader questions to consider about the industry in general. Considering how you feel about these points of interest will lead to making better decisions in the long run.

DETERMINING YOUR PERSONAL LIKES AND DISLIKES

It's understandable that people new to gaming make mistakes and need to ask for help, but I'm constantly amazed at how many people who are already into this hobby lack much of the basic knowledge that every gamer should know for their own consumer protection. There are several pitfalls to consider about this potentially expensive hobby and doing a little research now could save you a lot of heartache later. Trust me when I say that even if reading is not nearly as exciting as playing, in fact no fun at all, it's is a lot less painful than trying to fix mistakes after the fact. Looking before you leap is good advice at any time and gone are the good old days when ignorance was bliss. Increased knowledge is never a bad thing when it comes to making good decisions and understanding even the basic standards in the gaming industry is a good place to start your journey towards customizing your own gaming experience. The following few pages briefly cover how things work starting with getting to know what you can control in regards to your own preferences and ending with industry trends that you can't control except through wise spending.

CAN YOU ANSWER THESE BASIC QUESTIONS?

  1. Do you have any preference between downloading a game from the Internet or having a hard copy on optical disc? Does it make any difference?
  2. How do you feel about different types of DRM (Digital Rights Management) and about installing third-party software and game clients on your computer? What are the risks?
  3. How important to you is the age of the game as this will reflect in its graphics and possible complications running it on newer systems?
  4. Are you familiar with your computer specs as all games have minimum requirements and you may not be able to run some of them?
  5. What category of game do you think you may like and are you interested in playing multiplayer, singleplayer or both?
  6. What is your money and time budget ?

HERE'S WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PC GAMES

Rather than wait till you are actually faced with a problem, why not arm yourself with some basic facts first. Then you will know your own mind beforehand and be able to make informed decisions.
1. Digital Download or Hard Copy
There are basically two ways to purchase your game; you can purchase a disc copy from a local store or from an online store such as Gamestop or Amazon, or you can download a digital copy onto your computer from a site that sells them. When I first started gaming a number of years ago, I was cautious about giving my credit card number to total strangers online and I resisted this avenue of obtaining games for a couple of years. Eventually, however, it became very difficult to find them locally as retailers were moving away from selling PC games and concentrating more on console games. (Much to their loss as digital suppliers stepped in to fill the gap) It soon became evident that if I wanted something specific that I would have to bite the bullet and join the masses of online shoppers. So availability in PC games at the retail level was and is still a problem. As more and more distributors joined the digital game, prices became very competitive, giving you the advantage of more choice, easy price comparison, and instant shopping from home. However, many people are collectors and enjoy the box art and having something tangible in their hands, but you should be aware, as you will see in the next section, that this does not afford you any more rights than a digital copy. Neither does downloading mean a faster installation. In addition, some games are moving to digital-only availability, which may prove problematic for those with bandwidth caps and for those who like to collect. Also, another trend is to now sell a retail copy that does not actually include the complete game data and still requires digital downloading. Fallout 4 and Doom 2016 are more recent examples of this. The lesson to be learned here is not doing your homework before you buy and getting caught in an expensive trap.
2. Digital Rights Management - ( DRM )
SUPRISE, SURPRISE! When you purchase a game, you don't actually own it. What you do own is a license to play that copy and it matters not whether it's a digital copy or a disc copy. Many receive a nasty shock when they go to install a game and find out it requires a constant internet connection, or installing a client program such as Uplay or Steam. It's a false belief that you can bypass these requirements by buying retail. DRM is a highly controversial issue and for that reason, you need to carefully read info on the boxes, labels or websites. At its simplest, most games require a unique identifier known as a CD Key, which is a string of numbers and letters associated with that particular copy and without registering it, you won't be able to launch the game. So, regardless of which route you decide to take, you will not be able to avoid some form of DRM and some connection to the internet. If you want to enjoy a variety of games, this is one of those situations where you will have to do some compromising.

DRM can range from simple registration of a key, to needing third-party clients to download and play digital copies or to play box copies. For downloading a game, clients can range from simple download managers to full blown sites that offer many other services including stores, achievements, rewards, forums and support. Unfortunately, as the price of games skyrocket, we now live in the days where we can't afford to be ignorant of these matters. Although there are some compromises involved, the good outweighs the bad if you practice due diligence before you purchase. Check out GameClients for more information on some reputable clients.

3. Older or Newer Games
Your particular taste in games may not really become apparent until you've played quite a few and discovered what you like and don't like. To some people the most up-to-date graphics is important, but to others it's the story or the gameplay mechanics. There are lots of really good older games available on the market. After all, old in the gaming world can be as little as six months to a year. You can watch videos, read game reviews and peruse game forums for user feedback, but ultimately it's going to get down to your personal preferences. You also have to consider whether games will run on your system. Older games were not made to run on newer technology, although many of them have either been patched or users have found ways to make them work. This involves learning how to install and configure files, which could be intimidating till you learn the ropes. Many older games have also had their source code released so that users and fans can improve textures and graphics and develop their own additional content in the forms of Mods. Gog.com also specializes in getting older games to run on newer systems and re-marketing them. A more recent trend is new releases in the form of remakes and remasters, which have the effect of original copies being removed from the market. If you already own them, however, you can still access them and sometimes the newer version is offered as a free or heavily discounted upgrade. This is entirely up to the developer. Older disc versions could present problems though.
4. System Requirements
Make sure your operating system, memory and graphics card are all sufficient to handle the game. I cannot believe the number of people who purchase games without checking this first. The labels on box games give the system requirements and are there for a reason. Digital sites also list the minimal and recommended specs. Although occasionally requirements can be overstated, you cannot just assume that they are. Also remember that depending on the age of the game, it may have its own set of problems concerning compatibility to newer technology and although there may be workarounds, research it first. If you plan to make PC gaming a hobby, upgrades to your hardware may become necessary for more recent games. Newer PC games also require large amounts of bandwidth to download, take up huge amounts of hard drive space, are pushing next-gen technology, and require the latest DirectX and drivers to run properly. Check out TechTalk for a more detailed but easy lesson in the individual components of game system requirements and where to find the information about your own machine.
5. What Kind Of Games Will I Like
Games come in different genres, so deciding what to buy largely depends on your likes and dislikes as well as what games your system will support. It's getting harder to be specific with this, though, as many games now cross over several genres. There are many factors that could affect your decisions such as how you feel about crude language, violence or sexual content. There are people who suffer from motion sickness and those who find it hard to deal with horror themes. There are games that have detailed and extensive stories and those that have almost none. So, regardless of what seems to be the most popular or highly rated, choosing the games that are right for you gets down to personal tastes. For instance, if you don't like virtual driving then no matter how good people say the game is you're not going to enjoy playing a driving game. This is a hard lesson to learn when a game is being hyped and people are waxing eloquent about how wonderful it is.
6. Budget: Both Time And Money
Last in this segment, but certainly not least, is your budget. You can spend as much or as little as you like on this hobby. The best advice I can give you is to buy games not because they are popular or on sale, but because you are going to play and enjoy them. Once you've been around the block a few times, you will discover that games you may want to purchase come on sale in cycles. Many people have backlogs of games they bought at a discount but have not played before it's on sale again and again. If you're not going to play the game now, the advantage of waiting is that the base full price may come down and 75% off later will be cheaper than 75% off now. You could also wait for the Goty edition, which includes all of the DLC. So there is no rush to buy unless it is an unique sale or you want to engage in the Multiplayer aspects while they are popular.

Time can also play a factor in your decisions. Completing games can range from taking a few hours to taking hundreds of hours. RPG games will typically take much longer to finish than shooters and in addition may require a ton of research outside of the game to understand all the elements within the game. Games with checkpoint saving only can also be problematic as you cannot save and quit when you want to and sessions may take more time than you have.
GameClients  gives you the low-down on the most popular and reliable digital game distributors. Always use legitimate and trusted sites for purchasing and downloading your games.
Can I run it?  is a common question. TechTalk is a quick and easy lesson on the components system requirements and shows you how to locate the information about your computer specs.

DESCRIPTION OF VIDEO GAME GENRES

First Person Shooter ( FPS ):
These games are often listed under the action genre. The term "first" basically means that everything is viewed through the eyes of the character you are playing and except for some cut scenes, you may never see more of yourself than your hands and your weapon. In TPS (Third Person Shooter) you will see your entire character as if viewed by another person. There are top down shooters as well, which means the camera angle looks down on the play like a satellite and generally the game world and characters look much smaller.

Role Playing Game ( RPG ):
This is often where you find more of a fantasy theme and can usually select different genders, looks, and classes for your character. It commonly involves a fair amount of time dealing with lots of inventory items, magic spells, potions, skill trees and upgrades. Typically, there are also dialogue options as well, which could change events in the game. This is a very popular genre. Some of them can be highly complex and chew up a lot of time in the planning stages and in inventory management. You can also spend hours and hours just reading the vast amounts of detailed information on the net. At one time I avoided these like the plague, but have since tried a few and developed a liking for them. This is a genre that might have a lot of crossover with some games having more RPG elements than others.

Adventure / Action Adventure:
These are games that tend toward exploration and involve gathering items and solving puzzles. They usually include some combat as well, but are more puzzle oriented than action driven. Myst, one of my all time favorites, falls into this category as well as Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series. Additionally, Adventure is the genre used to describe most point and click games. Although I started my gaming hobby mostly with point and click, I now find I don't care for the slow pace of the ones that still stick to the old traditional mechanics. Having said that, I recently discovered Hidden Object Games (HOGS) and find that I do like that sub genre.

Other Adventure:
Some games in this genre have moved beyond the traditional definition and have spawned some hybrid categories such as "walking simulators", "interactive movies" and "visual novels". Whether they can rightly be called "games" would depend on your own definition of what a game is. Interaction is usually very limited, mostly consisting of just walking around and discovering things while the story unfolds. Some of these might offer more interactive elements than others.

Strategy:
This is a genre that requires a lot of strategic planning in order to win the game. They often involve giving the character control over entire civilizations or species. Within this genre are 3 types - Real-time Strategy, ( RTS ) Turn-based Strategy, and Action RTS. War and Tower Defense games can be a sub category of this genre.

Sports:
A genre that's self-explanatory. They emulate playing physical sports such as football, basketball, golf, hockey and even pool. E-Sports are competitive matches that can also be spectated and take the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players. Pro-gaming has become such a big thing that some universities are now offering scholarship programs.

Simulation ( SIMS ):
These games try to accurately depict real-world situations and some are designed for real-life training purposes. Sim City, introduced in 1989, is a classic example. Iterations of this game are still very popular today.

Puzzle & Arcade:
If you enjoy solving puzzles, there are lots of these around and many are free. Some may rely on coordination and speed, but others puzzle can get a little more complex and can again cross over genres. There are many types of puzzle-solving games and you will find lots of these offered by small independent developers. Arcade is a term that describes games that were played on coin operated machines located in public places. These are now emulated on home machines, but are not the true definition of arcade.

Platform:
Platforming describes a game that is characterized by jumping to and from suspended platforms or over obstacles. Trine, a gem of a game, is a good example of this genre. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Tomb Raider: Legend would also be good examples of a mix of platform and action. There is a wide range of types of games that use platforming as a mechanic. A common problem with Action Platforming games has to do with camera angles and these are often played better with a controller than a keyboard.

2D and 3D:
This describes how a player is allowed to move within the game. 2D restricts the player to moving in a straight line either left, right, up or down, but 3D allows you to explore the environment moving in any direction. There is a wide selection of 2D games, typically from independent developers as these are easier and less costly to create. They are generally priced lower than 3D games as well. This genre has been around a long time and has made a strong comeback with games that continue to be popular.

GAME MODES


Single-Player:
Great for the unsociable like me. JUST KIDDING! As suggested you play alone against computer generated characters known as AI's (artificial intelligence), NPC's (non-playing character) or bots (robots). In most cases, you can play offline. These games may or may not also include online co-op or multiplayer modes, the popularity of which often dies relatively quickly. Conversely, some multiplayer games that list single player modes do not actually have single player stories and campaigns. In other words, it's misleading.
Co-Op:
Defined as co-operative playing, this is a type of single-player game that is modified to allow additional players. More games seem to be adding this mode, which is great for playing with friends or family. However, you can also arrange to play with strangers. The nature of the game determines how many co-op partners you can play with. "Local" co-op means that two people can play on one PC via split-screen or shared screen through LAN (Local Area Network) Difficulty levels are usually adjusted to compensate for the additional players and the story may feature a new ending in this mode. Working as team to accomplish a common goal is the main idea.
Multiplayer:
These are games that are played online by many players. Obviously this involves connecting individual worldwide computers through servers via the Internet. Here you will play with and against real people. It seems to me that there are more and more problems cropping up with online play partly because of cheaters and partly because online anonymity makes many people behave very badly. But I'll leave you to decide if this is for you. These games may or may not also include a decent single-player campaign, but usually their main focus is multiplayer. One potential problem with multiplayer-only games is their shelf life. Their popularity may not last long, so if you are coming late to a game, be sure to first check if there are people still playing it.

Massively Multiplayer Online ( MMO ):
This just means that the game can support a very large number of players at the same time. You may see these listed as MMOG or MMORPG, which is just describing the genre. MMO games can have varying amounts of content that can be completed solo, but certain quests may require hooking up with other people to complete. These games require a fair investment of time in order to maintain levels that are equal to other players.

Free to Play ( FTP ):
This is not really a game mode, but it deserves a mention. You can play a game online for free, but the catch is that there are microtransactions and possible advertisements integrated into the game. Many of them have earned the reputation of not so much free to play as "pay to win." IOW, you need to buy the upgrades necessary to beat the game or that make you competitive with other players. This could ultimately end up costing you much more money than games that are not free to play. There are quite a few of these around and no wonder as it can be quite lucrative for the developer. There are also various forms of this model.
The above is a very basic list which really only gives you a vague idea of the game genres and modes. There are also different themes within these such as horror, car racing, war, sci-fi, to name a few. It's probably more informative to read reviews. I've seen games that tote several genre labels, such as action adventure, first person shooter for example. With many games there can also be several modes of playing.

Page 2  is an overview of what to keep in mind when buying PC games and how to minimize frustrations and disappointments.

Page 3  covers the current industry trends and the many ways publishers and developers can raid your wallet.
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