Gamebytes and Bots
Gamebytes and Bots
GAMEBYTES AND BOTS
Call of Juarez Gunslinger screenshot
FPS
Coming Next | Call of Juarez Gunslinger
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Coming Soon :
Grim Fandango
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Coming Soon :
Grim Fandango

HOW GAMING INDUSTRY TRENDS CAN RAID YOUR WALLET

Not so long ago when you purchased a game you could be assured that you were receiving all of the available content for that game. At some later date, developers may have offered full add-on missions and maps, or even full expansions for free or for little cost, but you knew that any addition was complete unto itself. Not so in today's market.

The change in marketing strategy had its small beginnings in offering additional content for a price instead of for free, but we all know the "slippery slope" syndrome; if something works, and it did, start pushing the boundaries of what people will accept. And when it comes to pushing profits, it seems there are no boundaries. Not only has the price of DLC skyrocketed, but the quality of it, in many cases, is sub-par. However, because the down spiral has taken place over some years, consumers have slowly been conditioned to accept this as the norm. In 2006, Bethesda tried an experiment by releasing horse armor at the price of $2.50 as DLC for Oblivion, which became a standard joke amongst users for useless DLC. However, that led them to all other DLC, which is now standard practice within the industry.

With the advancement of computer technology, combined with the growing popularity of video gaming, the industry has become very big business. As such, games are now more complex and development costs can become huge. In order to pay for these, prices had to rise, but also ways had to be invented to get more from you than just the base price of the game. In marketing, this is called add-on sales. Another major development was the ability to sell and distribute content online, thus offering an easy and relatively cheap distribution method. A few clicks and the deal is done.

As I said, the beginnings came in the form of paid DLC (downloadable content). People were willing to pay a small amount extra for new missions and maps. This seemed to content everyone for awhile, till someone got the brilliant idea of redefining what constituted DLC. Whereas it used to be complete missions or games, it can now include small bits and pieces such as special weapons, armor, costumes, skins and whatever other stuff the developers can dream up. Depending on the game, purchasing these extras can pack a powerful wallop to your wallet as prices rise ridiculously for small items. Another tactic is to put the base game on discount, but not the DLC, highlighting the fact that add-ons are where the steady stream of money is.

NOW PLAYING
Assassin's Creed Black Flag Preview: After some less-than-stellar and same-old, same-old entries to the Assassin's Creed franchise, Black Flag brought a new invigoration to the series with a entire game built around one of AC3's side activities. Pirating the high seas proved to be a very popular theme and Ubisoft actually did a good job of it too. This game still stands out as one
of the best in the bunch. It was a much needed boost to the series after the disappointment of AC3 when performance issues started to take a real nose-dive.
 cont'd

THE NEW GAMING REALITY

The following is a list of current marketing strategies and various ways your wallet can get raided. If you have a good understanding of how the industry works, you can develop sound buying practices based on your own set of criteria. Then you will never have to feel that you've been taken for a ride.

PRE-ORDERS

In times past, a game would come on the market when it was finished. Now a game can be sold months before it is scheduled for release. Pre-selling games has become a standard practice and to entice you, the publisher may offer special content and a small discount only available with pre-orders. In many cases, however, that same content may or may not become available after the game has been out for awhile. There are some disadvantages to pre-ordering, lack of reviews for one, but as a marketing strategy, offering pre-order bonuses seems to work. There are always those who want the latest and greatest the minute it becomes available. However, as happens quite frequently, these same games can be had for deeper discounts fairly soon after release and at some point, a GOTY (Game of the Year) version may be released that includes all of the DLC as well. There seems to be some indication that pre-orders are declining as gamers wise up; especially in light of the plethora of problems plaguing Triple AAA game releases.

DAY ONE DLC

When this practice started, many gamers were quite affronted believing they were being ripped off. Many felt that developers had intentionally left important content out of the main game in order to squeeze more money out of you. The rationale being that if DLC was ready on day one, it meant it could have gone into the main game. For instance, The original Metro 2033 had a ranger mode that was included in the game, but cost extra on day one in the sequel, Metro Last Light. This has now become fairy common.

SEASON PASSES

A season pass really translates into nothing more than a promise from the publisher/developer to provide future DLC for their game. So once again, you are purchasing something that does not yet exist. You, in fact, have no idea what you will be getting and season passes do not guarantee that you will receive all DLC ever made for that game. You will receive a certain amount, but will have to pay for any new DLC after the season expires. In other words, you're buying a pig in a poke. The developer could release content that is not very good, but that hardly matters as they have already been paid for it. It's a successful phenomenon that's hard to understand. Season passes can be fairly expensive, almost as much as the base game, but can still be purchased long afterwards, so at least by then the reviews are out and you will know what you are getting.

MICROTRANSACTIONS

Microtransactions, in one form or another, have been around for a long time and traditionally get their name from transactions that involve the exchange of small goods for micro amounts of money. However, it's quite recent that the gaming industry has started to introduce this little money-maker into more and more of their games. It is not uncommon to see them in Free to Play games, but now you will find in-game stores cropping up in full price triple AAA games as well. At the moment it is somewhat controlled by paid content not being necessary to win the game, but it remains to be seen how far publishers/developers will try to push this by making it harder to beat the game without purchasing special weapons, armor, abilities and upgrades. This already happens in many Free to Play games and why some of them have been dubbed "Pay to Win". These so-called microtransactions, which started out costing cents, are also now costing dollars. One of the early instances in a Triple AAA game was Dead Space 3 where upgrades could cost as much as $4.99 each. This is on top of the base game being released at $60.00 US. I'm sure you can see just how expensive a game could get. Worse is when you are at a severe playing disadvantage if you do not purchase these extras. Although not quite the norm yet, it is heading in this direction at speed. On the heels of that, are purchasable items that you can only use once within the game and then you lose them.

EDITIONS

Some games can be released in various editions. Usually these are the standard vanilla version and the upgraded version that could include soundtracks, concept art and developer commentaries. Naturally, the latter costs more. After the game has been out for awhile, you may get a GOTY (Game of the Year) edition which includes all the DLC to date. You may also see other types of editions that include all games in that series. These are all ways of marketing games as they grow older.

REMASTERED & DEFINITIVE EDITIONS

From time to time, publishers will release an older game in a remastered form. Examples of this are Doom BFG and Deus Ex: Human Revelations Director's Cut. The content of the game usually remains basically the same, but graphics, resolutions and changes to fit newer technology are improved. They may also include past DLC. Opinions on whether these re-worked games are always an improvement over the original can be mixed, however re-releasing games and editions such as Goty can have the effect of pushing the originals off the market. They are also priced much higher to reflect today's market. We continue to see more and more of this, although some developers will give deep discounts or free upgrades to people who already own the originals. Bethesda announced a Skyrim remaster and a free upgrade for those who owned the Legendary Edition, but they also raised the price of this current edition in anticipation of the interest in the remastered game.

EARLY ACCESS

Okay, this is one that just baffles me, but some people like it. Developers have taken to selling their games in their Alpha and Beta stages. In other words, you are basically paying to test their game before it is officially released. Early access games will be full of bugs as they are still in development. The price is assumed to be lower than what it will be when the game is finished and officially released. More and more early access games are showing up for sale, and why not as the developer can fund development this way. The problem is that many people don't understand that what they are paying for is what they get and that there is no guarantee that the game will actually ever be finished. In fact, Steam had to post a disclaimer on these games as people were raging and demanding refunds. Although there have certainly been some notable successes in this category, the vast majority of these games never get finished and some feel this is a ticking time-bomb waiting to go off. In Oct of 2015, Steamspy reckoned there were more than 700 games on Steam entered in the Early Access category since 2013. Currently, summer of 2017, Steamspy lists close to 1500 entries.

SUBSCRIPTIONS

These are renewable fees that you pay to either play Online games or buy additional services. For instance, Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation charge a fee that allows you to play multiplayer and also gives you access to various apps, bonuses and discounts, although Microsoft has dropped this fee for Windows 10 users. Online games can use different models. The game could be free, but with monthly subscription fees, or you may be required to buy the starter pack as well as pay the fees. The rationale for this double dipping is that online games deliver a persistent world that constantly needs updating. If you play these Online games on the console, you may actually find yourself paying two subscription fees to play the multiplayer.

SMART SHOPPING - BARGAIN HUNTING

As noted, gaming is big business with publishers and developers all vying for their share of the pie. You can spend as little or as much as you want on this hobby depending on the extent of your interest. Distributors have regular sales with as much as 50 - 75% off, so there's really no need to rush into anything with the caveat that the multiplayer portion of a game might be a timely issue. The only real question to ask is whether you will get around to playing that game before the next sale.

At Holiday times, like Christmas, digital suppliers have big sales events. These used to be a time to get the best prices, however, that no longer really applies as discounts are no better than those that can be found weekly and are quite often worse. The only difference is that more of a supplier's inventory is on sale during that time period, which may remind you of forgotten gems. However, tempting as this may be, this is also the time to be more diligent as well. When it comes to relatively new games, if you don't intend to play the game now, you will likely get it even cheaper later as base prices go down. However, keeping base prices high for longer on digital games is the trend now, so you may need to exercise a lot of patience.

CHARITY BUNDLES

Charity bundles have been around for a few years now, but they started with a small group of independent game developers banding together to sell their games in a bundle. The buyers are not only allowed to set the price they are willing to pay, but to also decide how their money is to be distributed between the developers and charities of your choosing. Charity bundles were and are unsurprisingly highly successful. You can pick up a number of games for as little as $1.00. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people were buying these in hoards and trying to re-sell the keys to unsuspecting people for a profit. The industry has now taken steps to curb this. The choice of games are usually from small independent developers and may not be instantly familiar, but as exposure grows, so do the choices. This is a good avenue for people on limited budgets. Some sites have also now added stores in addition to the continuing bundles, which allows them to sell more mainstream games. The prices on those, however, reflect this.

KICKSTARTER

Kickstarter is a way to fund creative projects that might otherwise never see the light of day due to a lack of financing. Artists and creators of all sorts of projects can register on kickstarter, set a financial and development goal, and hope that people will contribute funds to it. Funding goals must be reached before the creator receives any money, but if successful, Kickstarter receives a 5% fee with the balance going to the project creator for development. Quite a few game developers are taking advantage of this method of raising funds and it seems to be fairly successful. Depending on the type of project, contributors might receive a copy of the finished works as well as small incentives to contribute.

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION

Digital distribution of games is becoming more and more popular by the minute. Whereas Steam set the bar on this, publishers and distributors are coming on board by setting up their own online stores in direct competition. People might be inclined to impulse buying as shopping from home is so easy, but digital doesn't necessarily mean cheaper. Generally, slightly older games are where you will see the real price breaks. Online stores give a greater variety and do make it easy to check often for sales and comparison prices.

REGION RESTRICTED, REGIONAL PRICING & CENSORED

Region locks exist to enforce restrictions as defined by separate regions. Areas around the world are subject to cultural differences, legal restrictions and age rating differences. This means that a version of the game bought in one part of the world may not be playable in another part. Censored, on the other hand, means that some content may be removed due to regional rating standards. These restrictions apply no matter where you try to buy the game. There is also regional pricing, which can make the game prices very different. The Steam client has been slowly converting to regional pricing for many countries.

IT'S NOT ALL BAD NEWS FOR THE CONSUMER

On the up side, we live in a time where we are spoiled for choice. Since the upswing of independent new game development, the resurrection of many older games and the growth of charity bundle sites, there's something out there to suit every budget and every taste. Cheap games don't automatically mean bad games. Only big publishing houses have big marketing budgets and many smaller titles might fly under the radar if they can't get the exposure. Even Triple AAA games eventually pass their "best by" date and can be had for a fraction of the original cost.

GOOD ADVICE

When I first joined Steam, I thought I was in game bargain heaven. And I was. So I proceeded to buy a lot of them during the sales. So now I have a backlog that will take me two years to play if I never buy another game. At some point I wizened up, observing that over time, games I had bought and not yet played were coming on sale for less than I had paid for them. Not only were they cheaper, but GOTY versions were being released, which included all of the DLC. So before you click that buy button ask yourself if you will play that game before the next sale. Otherwise, think twice about it. Also ask yourself if you are going to play it at all? Research shows that people are buying, but not playing, which is an odd phenomenon pointing to impulse buying, short attention spans and a collector mentality. Games are for playing, not for sitting in libraries collecting virtual dust. You'd be better off spending your money on something more tangible. This is why it is important to have a well-developed sense of your own personal gaming likes, dislikes, and buying motives as this will help you to resist temptation. On the other hand, if you have more money than you know what to do with and it's the actual shopping experience itself that pleases you, go for it.

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

Basics 1 - Know Thyself  Customize your gaming experience by exploring your personal likes and dislikes.

COMING TO POST-RELEASE REVIEWS
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Grim Fandango
For all its faults, this Lucas Arts Adventure became a cult favourite and is often cited as one of the best games ever.
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Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
This popular spin-off stand-alone expansion of Far Cry 3 is really just a silly excuse to shoot things. But that was the intention.
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Alawar Hidden Object Games
For Hog lovers, Alawar's collection is another good choice.
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Deadlight
A zombie by any other name is still a zombie, but we won't hold it against the dev for trying to be different.
ARTICLES & HOW-TO's
TIPS
TIP:  If you search Steam for free games, you will find quite a lot of them, but most of them have microtransactions. However, there are a few that are truly free. Some of them are stand-alone and some of them require a particular base game.
Enhancing owned games with free mods can extend the enjoyment of your game and add many more hours of playtime. For instance, Skyrim literally has thousands of them and Left4Dead 1 & 2 and Half-Life also have a lot.
Steam, quite often, has free-to-play weekends on popular games if you want to try them out.
SITES TO BOOKMARK
  • Steam Legacy Forum - Steam created a new community discussion board tied in with your account, but some of us diehards are still around on the old forum. Valve finally pulled the plug on the old forums and the link will take you to the new community.
  • Big List of 3rd Party DRM - This is a list of games available on Steam with external DRM and their current status. Pretty useful for checking what type of DRM is on a game or whether it's been removed at some point since its initial release.
  • SecuRom - This includes Securom FAQs, a list of games that use SecuRom, and revoke activation tools.
  • PC Gaming Wiki - Evolved from the Big List, this wiki purports to offer fixes for every PC game.
  • Controller Support Steam - This is a list of games that have full controller support.
  • TweakGuides - This site provides a number of detailed guides to help you optimize your graphics and computer.
  • Can You Run It - An online system analyzer that determines if your system can run a game
  • AutoHotkey - Some games don't have the option to rebind controls. This program lets you to remap the keys.
  • D3Doverrider - As a last resort to fps lag, you can use this program to force triple buffering and vsync on. Instructions apply on any game
  • IsThereAnyDeal - A site that tracks current sales and prices on numerous sites.
TIPS
TIP:  If you rely solely on mainstream critical scores, you could miss out on some games you would enjoy, or worse, purchase bad games that have been deceptively hyped. Scores can be influenced by other factors and many gamers have become disillusioned with top media gaming sites who receive free copies before public release, especially if those copies are not exactly the same as what the public will receive. User input is usually more reliable and informative if you can wait post-release.
Scores on metacritic, the most popular scoring site, can also suffer from major backlash when publishers or developers make unpopular decisions. In this case, the score can reflect the feelings of the consumers instead of the merits of the game. Feelings can also change once the game has been fixed, but reviewers may not go back to change their scores.

GAME NEWS FOR SINGLE-PLAYERS

Lots of good stuff coming up for single-player fans who love a good story

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A second series for the very popular game Life is Strange released the first episode on August 31. Before The Storm
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Capitalizing on the acclaimed Dishonored series, Billie Lurk returns in a stand-alone expansion called Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.
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Horror fans rejoice - The Evil Within 2 releases in October, which just happens to be Friday the 13th. If you haven't played the first game, you can catch up on the story here.
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Good news for fans of the Metro series. Metro Exodus is a not-quite open-world sandbox survival game that might scratch the itch for STALKER fans as well. It will feature the return of Artyom from Metro Last Light as he moves above ground in search of a new home. It's due to be released sometime in 2018.
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Equally good news for fans of Darksiders. When THQ went bankrupt, it was unclear if we would ever get to meet the third horseman of the apocalypse. Fear not, Darksiders 3 is scheduled for release in 2018. You'll get to play Fury as a mage in a quest to beat the Seven Deadly Sins.