Wolfenstein 3D

Last week, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds smashed the Steam peak player records. The previous record-holder, Dota 2, while admittedly made by one of the world’s biggest and most powerful games companies, began as a Warcraft mod. These days, we barely blink an eye at the idea that a game can come from nowhere and shake through word-of-mouth, clever concepts, a bit of cool technology like Portal’s… well, portals… or simply by hooking into some reservoir of good feeling, and accomplish more than any marketing budget can dream of. Minecraft is this generation’s Lego. Undertale is one of its most beloved RPGs.

Indeed, the world of indie development is now so important that it’s hard to remember that it’s only really a decade or so old. That’s not to say that there weren’t indie games before then, as we’ll see, but it was only really with the launch of Steam on PC and services like Xbox Live Arcade that the systems were in place to both get games in front of a mainstream audience, and provide the necessary ecosystem for them to quickly and confidently pay for new games.

In 1979 Richard Garriott set out on his path to buying a castle and going into space by selling copies of his first RPG, Akalabeth, in ziploc bags at his local computer store

The massive success of indie games on Steam has of course come with attendant pitfalls. The early access program gave small studios the ability to beta test their games with player numbers they would not otherwise never reach, and gave players the ability to take part in shaping games. However, a lack of guidelines left players and developers with very different expectations as was seen in the reaction to a paid expansion being released for Ark: Survival Evolved while it was still in early access. Steam Greenlight made it easier for indie games to get on Steam but became a popularity contest that was easily gamed, leading Valve to replace it with Steam Direct.

All this is largely taken for granted these days, with the big challenge for modern indie games being to stand out. Simply getting onto Steam back then could set a studio up for life. These days the market is full to bursting, with most new releases disappearing from sight almost at once.

In both cases though, it’s a world away from how the market began.

Back to the start

The exact definition of ‘indie’ has never exactly been cut-and-dry. To some, it’s an aesthetic, best summed up by the classic bedroom coder. To others, it’s a more commercial distinction, of working without a publisher. To others, it’s ultimately about the work, with an indie game standing out more for being not the kind of thing you get from a commercial company, rather than really focusing on who made it. 

There are many definitions to play with, and few hard lines to draw. The poster-children of ’90s shareware, id Software (who you may know courtesy of a little game called Doom), began working under contract for a company called Softdisk, cranking out games like Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion, Hovertank 3D, and Catacomb 3D, before moving on to make games with/for shareware giant Apogee.

In the very early days of gaming, just about everybody was indie to some extent. In 1979 Richard Garriott set out on his path to buying a castle and going into space by selling copies of his first RPG, Akalabeth, in ziploc bags at his local computer store (one of those copies then ended up in the hands of California Pacific, who offered Garriott a publishing deal). Sierra On-Line began in 1980 as just husband and wife team Ken and Roberta Williams, making simple adventure games like Mystery House that nevertheless pushed the boundaries of what people expected from games at the time—like having graphics—before booming to become one of the biggest and most important companies in gaming history.

What do you do if you don t have the money for big boxes? Ziploc bags are your friends.

Companies could emerge from almost anything. Gremlin Interactive began as a computer store called Just Micro, while DMA Design, originally Acme Software, which would make its name with Lemmings and much later become Grand Theft Auto creator Rockstar, began from its founders meeting up at a computer club in Dundee and ultimately signing with Psygnosis. Whole genres were created from a single game, such as Football Manager in 1982.

The speed of all this took many by surprise, with Balance of Power creator Chris Crawford saying in 1984, "We have pretty much passed the period where hobbyists could put together a game that would have commercial prospect. It’s much more difficult to break in, much less stay in. If you want to do a game, do it for fun, but don’t try to do game designs to make any money. The odds are so much against the individual that I would hate to wish that heartbreak on anyone."

The shareware revolution

But of course, people continued. The PC was largely left out of much of it, however, due to the relatively high cost of disks and its general perception of not being a gaming machine. In the UK, the main indie scene in the ’80s was on cassette based 8-bit systems like the ZX Spectrum, with publishers happily accepting almost any old tat, recording it to a tape, sticking it in a box, and selling it for a few pounds at newsagents, game stores, and anywhere else that would take copies. They were cheap, sometimes cheerful, and allowed for endearing weirdness like 1985’s Don’t Buy This—a compilation of the five worst games sent to publisher Firebird.

It would be many years before most indie PC games could get that kind of placement. Instead, there was shareware. The concept dates back to the 1970s, though it was popularized by PC-Write creator Bob Wallace in 1982. Rather than having a central distributor like a regular published game, users were encouraged to copy software and pass it along. If they liked it, they’d then send the creator a check to unlock the full thing or get more of it. 

In the case of Apogee Software, and indeed what became known as the Apogee model, a game might have three parts. The first one would be free, and free to share, the other two commercial and only for registered purchasers to enjoy. (Not that anyone really listened, as the vast, vast numbers of pirated copies of Doom probably shows better than anything.)

The beauty of the system was that anyone could distribute these games, with the rule being that while you weren’t allowed to sell the shareware version, you could charge for materials. That meant games could appear on magazine cover disks and later CDs. They could be on any university server or dial-up BBS or services like Compuserve and AOL. If you wanted a relatively full choice however, you often needed to send off for them. Whole companies were set up to sell just the trial versions, sending out printed catalogues of their stock and charging by the disk. 

By the mid-90s of course the popularity of CD had rendered this relatively pointless, with ‘1000 Games!’ CDs available in supermarkets and bookstores and anywhere else there might be an audience, rarely mentioning the part about them being glorified demos. Much like on Steam today, at this point most smaller games got lost. Still, as a player, it was an almost inexhaustible feast.

Not every game could be Wolfenstein 3D and promise a fight with Robot Hitler if you paid

As crazy as sending off a check to get a game might seem, it worked. In a few cases, registered shareware games even made the jump to boxed products in stores, though that was relatively rare. Either way, shareware was hardly a license to print money for most, but it supported many a developer throughout the '90s and made others their fortunes. Epic MegaGames began with the text-based RPG ZZT before becoming the company that made Unreal. Duke Nukem began as a very simple 2D side-scroller, notable mostly for oddities like the main character wearing pink and just wanting to save the world so that he could get back to watching Oprah, but nevertheless blossomed into Duke Nukem 3D before publicly wilting into Duke Nukem Forever. 

And there were many more stars too, regularly appearing in new games or simply popular ones that kept showing up, like Skunny the squirrel and his awful platforming (and ultimately karting adventures), Last Half of Darkness, and Hugo’s House of Horrors, much beloved by magazine and compilation editors for its extremely pretty first screen, and never mind that it was all made of clip art and every other room in the game was barely MS Paint-level scribbles.

The alternative industry

Shareware's big draw for players was, inevitably, free games. The downside of the Apogee model and others that erred on the generous side was that a whole episode was often enough—especially as that’s where the developer’s best work tended to be. Compare for instance the deservedly beloved shareware episode of Commander Keen: Goodbye, Galaxy! where you run around a beautiful, varied planet, with the dull space adventure of its commercial sequel. Not every game could be Wolfenstein 3D and promise a fight with Robot Hitler if you paid.

Less cynically though, shareware gave many genres their home. The PC was typically seen as a business machine, with its commercial successes often adventures, RPGs and other slower and more cerebral offerings. There were platformers and beat-em-ups and similar, but they were usually poor conversions from other platforms at best, with few worth taking a risk on. 

If the PC ever had a mascot platformer , it was Commander Keen. The shareware version of Goodbye, Galaxy! was his finest hour.

Shareware removed that risk factor for customers, while letting developers show off. The original Commander Keen, while simplistic to modern eyes, was proof that the PC could do console-style scrolling, even if it wouldn’t be until 1994’s Jazz Jackrabbit that anyone could seriously claim to be doing convincing 16-bit console-style arcade action and visuals. (Even then it wasn’t a very strong claim, but luckily by this point the PC had Doom and so didn’t care.)

This led to a flurry of games you really couldn’t get elsewhere, or that were in very short supply on the shelves, from vertical shooters like Major Stryker, Raptor, and Tyrian, to fighting games like One Must Fall, to quirky top-down RPGs like God of Thunder, and racing games like Wacky Wheels. It offered a great split. When you wanted a deep, polished experience, you had the commercial game market. For action fun, there was shareware, not least because when we did get big games like Street Fighter II, they tended to stink. Shareware supported the industry through much of the '90s.

The high cost of indie

By the mid-90s though, there was a problem. Commercial games began rapidly outstripping what bedroom teams could do, both in terms of technology and complexity of content. While there were engines available, they were mostly poor quality, with nothing like Unity on the market and the likes of Quake and Unreal costing far too much for anyone but other companies to license.

If you wanted to play with that kind of technology, you were looking at making mods instead. This was the era that gave us the likes of Team Fortress (1996) and Defense of the Ancients (2003), but also where the indie scene became largely forgotten. This wasn't helped by the fact that indie had essentially no place on consoles at all, despite a few nods over the years like Sony’s Yaroze console, a development PlayStation aimed at hobbyists released in 1997. The PC saw its own push towards home development with tools like Blitz Basic/BlitzMAX (2000) and Dark Basic (also 2000), with the goal of inspiring a new generation of bedroom coders. However, despite selling reasonably well, none of them gained much traction or saw many releases.

Jeff Vogel s Spiderweb Software has been making RPGs since the '90s. They look simple, but fans keep coming back for their depth.

The indie scene as a whole ceased to be a big player in the market—which isn’t to say that it vanished. Introversion’s Uplink for instance was a big hit in 2001. Jeff Vogel’s Spiderweb Software started releasing old-school RPGs like Exile and Geneforge in 1995. PopCap began in 2000, becoming the giant of casual games like Bejeweled, Peggle, Bookworm Adventures, Plants Vs. Zombies, and Chuzzle—not bad for a company that was originally called ‘Sexy Action Cool’ and planned to make its debut with a strip poker game. 

And of course, there are other notable exceptions, such as Jeff Minter, who never stopped making his psychedelic shooters both for himself and others. However, it wasn’t until 2004 when Steam nailed digital distribution that the market had a chance to explode and offer a real chance of going it alone.

The turning point

Steam wasn’t the first digital distribution system, and at its launch it wasn’t even popular, with Valve forcing it on players for both Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike. However, it was the first major attempt that nailed the details, like being able to download your games on any computer you owned rather than having them locked to just one, and being able to do so perpetually, rather than simply for a year, as was the case with most of the competition. 

The results spoke for themselves. When Valve was a lot pickier, and being backed by a publisher was a distinct advantage to getting onto the system, any developer who managed to get onto Steam effectively received a license to print money. Farther afield, though games not on Steam were at a distinct disadvantage, the legitimisation of digital distribution as a concept certainly raised most boats.

And with all this came something just as important: the indie game ecosystem. With money to be made and developers flocking to indie for all sorts of reasons (being tired of the big companies, wanting to make a go of an independent project) it became viable to create tools and systems to help make the scene. Game Maker for instance, and Unity and Flash. Today, would-be indie developers have the tools to go head-to-head with even the biggest studios, albeit typically on a smaller scale, as well as explore more cost-effective options like pixel art and procedural 3D, while services like Kickstarter and Fig offer a way of seeking funding without immediately selling out. 

This also opened the definition of ‘indie’ even further, with companies seriously able to consider going it alone, without a publisher. Not everyone could be Double Fine, raising $3.5 million for Broken Age, but many have had huge successes—Pillars of Eternity pulling just under $4 million, the Bard’s Tale getting $1.5 million and in the height of Kickstarter fever, even Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe managing to raise $650,000 for a remake of the first game.

Cave Story was one of the first games to get people talking about indie releases, beyond Flash games and the like.

It’s at this point that the word 'indie' really catches on. Again, it’s not that it was never used, but until this point the scene wasn’t big and important enough to warrant a position as basically a shadow industry in its own right. The release of Cave Story in 2004 was where people really started talking in those terms, with Indie Game: The Movie in 2012 cementing this, highlighting three of the most successful titles of the time—Braid, Fez and Super Meat Boy. 

Microsoft embracing the scene via Xbox Live Indie Games played its part, as did their XNA development system, and attempts to make a big deal out of indie launches during its "Indie Game Uprising" events between 2010 and 2012. 

Elsewhere, the IGF (Independent Games Festival) launched in 1999 was also going from strength to strength, drawing more attention to the likes of Darwinia, Monaco and Crayon Physics Deluxe. We also saw more overtly indie friendly portals like itch.io, and the Humble Indie Bundle, offering new marketplaces and ways of selling games—even if many later bundles proved a dead-end.

Perhaps most excitingly, it’s now that we start to see whole genres and styles largely associated with the indie market either flourish or come into existence, not least the ‘walking simulator’—games primarily about exploring a space and a story through environmental detail and voiceover. The first big name here was Dear Esther, a free mod released in 2008 and later remade in 2012, with later examples including Gone Home, Firewatch, and Everyone’s Gone To The Rapture.

Braid helped prove that indie games could be artistic works of love, equal to any commercial release.

There’s also the pixel-art aesthetic of games like VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy, and the original Spelunky, and for many old-school gamers, a return to brutal old-school difficulty. And somehow I doubt we need to say much about Minecraft. (It’s been quite popular, and influential.) Classic point-and-click adventures also saw a resurgence outside of Germany, largely spearheaded by the Adventure Game Studio creation engine and the success of Wadjet Eye Games’ The Blackwell Legacy, Gemini Rue, Technobabylon, and the upcoming Unavowed.

But it’s of course reductive to pick specific genres. The joy of indie games is that as long as the money can be raised somehow, a passionate team can take on more or less whatever they like, free of publisher interference or perceived wisdom, allowing for arty games like Limbo and Bastion (distributed by Warner Bros, but only as a publishing partner), throwbacks to lost genres like Legend of Grimrock, exploratory pieces like The Stanley Parable and The Beginner’s Guide, or completely new concepts like Superhot, where time only moves when you do, and the ferociously complex Kerbal Space Program, where difficulty really is a matter of rocket science.

The downside is that as ever, it’s not enough to simply make a game. An indie title buffeted with word of mouth can sell millions, but far more are doomed to languish largely unplayed and discussed in the depths of Steam’s increasing piles or other services’ far less traveled shelves. The initial gold rush is very much over. Still, plenty of gold remains. It’s impossible to predict what game will be the next Spelunky, the next Minecraft, the next Undertale, or the next Super Meat Boy, but absolutely no risk at all to bet that whatever it is, it’s already on its way.

Jun 3, 2014
PC Gamer
keroblaster-teaser


Kero Blaster's chiptune soundtrack is a perfect analogue for the game itself: effortlessly upbeat and cheery one moment, dramatic or laid-back the next, but always sounding like it could've come from an NES if a composer had spent the past 25 years mastering its sound chip. Kero Blaster is a throwback 8-bit shooter without an ounce of waste: its minimalist story sends a hardworking frog through a viney forest, a tumbleweed-swept mesa, and other charming levels filled with somehow more charming enemies.

I wouldn't call Kero Blaster a love letter to the simpler games of the past, because it doesn't wink at you with its pixel graphics and old-school Japanese platforming. Kero Blaster just is one of those games, an NES shooter that happens to run on modern PCs. When I wasn't running out of lives and stuck replaying levels, I was having a great time.

Kero Blaster is Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya's take on NES classic Mega Man. Pixel's last big game was Cave Story, a brilliantly designed shooter every bit as good as its inspiration, Super Metroid. Kero is a far humbler game, carved up into compact levels with none of Cave Story's exploration or hidden backstory. But the link between the two is obvious: the same purity of jumping and shooting is intact, and Kero Blaster ties its levels together with story vignettes focused on a cast of four nameless animal characters. Together they run the business Cat & Frog, which oversees teleporter nodes scattered around the world. When mysterious creatures disable those teleporters, the frog gets stuck with the field work of repairing them.
The Kero rhythm


As Kero Blaster's silent amphibious hero, I blasted my way through a half dozen levels, picking up three new weapons along the way and money to upgrade those weapons and expand my lifebar. My lifebar needed serious expanding. Kero Blaster is not an easy game: every enemy attack takes off a full heart, and with the initial three HP, I died quickly. But Kero Blaster never feels unfair or overwhelms the screen with bullets like Contra: enemies move and attack in learnable, predictable ways.

Some touches of modern design also ease the difficulty. A generous invincibility period after taking damage keeps enemies from killing you with awkward sprite-on-sprite bumbling. The shop allows you to extend your lifebar to survive half a dozen hits. At one point, you get a coat, which Kero Blaster's frog hero wears. It lets him take one hit without damage.

The coat is a big deal.

I was grinning ear-to-ear when I picked up the coat. It's seriously dapper Resident Evil 4's Leon S. Kennedy rezzed down into an 8-bit frog. I immediately stepped on something spiky and lost the coat. That made me sad. The coat isn't a big deal because it looks cool, though it's a big deal because Kero Blaster is so deliberately designed that every powerup is a hard-earned addition, and every platform and enemy placement is carefully calculated.

Money accrues like a gold IV drip at first, so I chased every single coin to upgrade my weapons. The frog moves slowly, like a hero of the NES era, and he can't shoot diagonally. Horizontal and vertical attacks require precise positioning to hit enemies and dodge their attacks, which often travel in a straight line. But there are clever ways to avoid those attacks: the bubble powerup reminiscent of Mega Man 2's Bubble Lead shoots a stream of watery orbs that bounce around and roll off ledges.



The enemies are all weird and silly and creative and attack in a fun variety of ways. One hid in a trashcan until I got close. I had to jump to trigger his attack. Another threw coins at me to lure me in, then pelted me with books like the world's lumpiest demon librarian. Each level is short they took me 10 or 15 minutes when I was playing slowly and none of them waste time with repeated enemy encounters or drawn-out boss fights. Bosses die quickly to powered-up weapons, and it feels good to kill them without taking damage after a couple pattern-learning deaths.
It's not easy bein' green
I died an embarrassing number of times in Kero Blaster. Enough to feel like I wasn't as good at the game as I should be, since I conquered Cave Story with little difficulty. As much as I appreciated the deliberate pace of progression, I found myself playing through a few levels far too many times. The same thing kept happening: I'd make it most of the way through a level without dying, then get stuck on one particularly hard part (why am I so bad at killing those birds?) or die three times to a boss, which meant starting the level from the beginning. I didn't mind going through a level twice I was eager to do it better. The third or fourth time, I got a little frustrated.

Around the fifth level, I got over that difficulty hump by grinding enough gold to buy hearts and upgrade my primary weapon. As distinct and potentially interesting as each of Kero Blaster's four weapons are, I stuck with the basic rapidfire gun about 80 percent of the time. The others I only found useful in sporadic situations, and the starter weapon consistently dealt more damage much more quickly. I could have used the other weapons more often, but they rarely seemed like the best tool for the job. In a game that feels so thoughtfully designed and balanced in all other aspects, I was disappointed by how seldom I used Kero Blaster's full arsenal.



I enjoyed Kero Blaster enough to blast through its first few levels a second time in New Game+, and like he did with Cave Story, Amaya's hidden some secrets for that second playthrough. Speedrunning levels in New Game+ with powerups intact is a fun reminder of how far you've come in a few hours, and there's an air of mystery to the story and its characters that sticks with you. Just don't go in expecting Cave Story's grandeur Kero Blaster is an intentionally short, straightforward game. While dozens of Kickstarters use nostalgia as a selling point, Kero Blaster unassumingly shows how to make an 8-bit platformer for modern PCs with a light contemporary touch. It's refreshing to play a game with such mechanical purity, even if it doesn't do much we hadn't seen by 1993.
PC Gamer
Kero Blaster


Studio Pixel's Cave Story was a pillar of the formative indie scene - and now a follow-up of sorts has emerged in the form of his sidescrolling platform shooter Kero Blaster, which releases today. It's a momentous, nostalgic and slightly melancholy occasion - how much has changed in the world of independently created games in just six or seven years. I can't say if Kero Blaster is any good or not yet - its free prologue Pink Hour was too brief and too difficult to really get to grips with - but a recent trailer hit all the right notes, so I'm hopeful that the old Pixel magic is there.

After Cave Story, and the many games inspired by it, you might be expecting another interlocking, sprawling Metroidvania, but with Kero Blaster billing itself as a "classically-styled 2D side scrolling action game packed with adventure", I'm expecting a more guided, action-heavy experience from this one. There appears to be a huge focus on collecting, and upgrading, crazy weapons, before its froggy hero uses them to blast adorably evil enemies to smithereens.

Kero Blaster can be had for $7.99, or in a bundle with its soundtrack for two dollars more. The following video offers a preview of all the smooth and catchy chiptune noises we can expect to hear in the game.

PC Gamer
Kero Blaster


If this trailer for Pixel's long-awaited follow-up to Cave Story doesn't lift you up, then I'm sorry but you might be a soulless husk - either that or you aren't overly fond of platforming, chiptunes, or Pixel's expressive yet simplistic art style. One of the two. We've known about Gero Blaster for a while now, but it's recently been renamed Kero Blaster and been given a brand new video, which affords us our first proper gawp at the soon-to-be-released sidescrolling platform shooter.



Is May 11th good for you? Well that's a shame, because that's when it's releasing - for $7.99, no less. Kero Blaster, by the way, concerns a gun-happy frog whose monster-killing job takes him to a variety of nicely pixellated locations across the globe. Expect weapon upgrades, giant coins, and barely any travel allowance, as that big trailer up there makes pretty clear.

Cheers, IndieGames.
Aug 2, 2013
Announcement - Valve
PC Gamer
runner2


Nothing says “indie” quite like breaking down the walls of copyright and adding a bunch of characters from games you had no hand in making. And wouldn’t you know it, Gaijin Games is doing just that with their cardiovascular improvement simulator, BIT.TRIP Presents: Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien or "Runner 2" for those who need to work on their lung capacity.

Those who drop $3 for the “Good Friends Character Pack” will have access to Psychonauts’ Raz, Cave Story’s Quote, Machinarium’s Josef, Super Meat Boy’s Dr. Fetus, Portal 2’s Atlas (who’s Steam exclusive), Bit.Trip’s invisible Commander Video, and Spelunky's, er, Spelunky Guy.

We’re a little bummed that the DLC doesn’t offer new levels of some kind, but it’s hard to complain about anything when it’s a paltry $3, which, as developer Dant Rambo notes, is less than "a bag of hot dog chips." Still, here’s hoping we get some new levels to break in this new cast somewhere in the near future. In the meantime, why don't you watch these character introductions narrated by none other than Charles Martinet, aka, the voice of Mario. Yes, that Mario.
Announcement - Valve
Save up to 80% on new Week Long Deals on Steam, available now until May 6th at 10AM Pacific time!





















Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 75% on Cave Story+!

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

PC Gamer
Humble-Indie-Bundle-7


Now there's even more reason to use that holiday cash Aunt Myrtle sent you on something charitable. The ongoing Humble Indie Bundle 7 has just expanded its indie game offerings to include The Basement Collection of Flash games, the action puzzle platformer Offspring Fling, and the retro 2D platformer Cave Story. The original bundle was packed with indie hits Snapshot, Closure, The Binding of Isaac and its Wrath of the Lamb DLC, Shank 2, Dungeon Defenders and its DLC, Legend of Grimrock, and the documentary Indie Game: The Movie. So, for the next six days, you can snatch up nine full games and one movie for a price that's absurdly close to free.

If you haven't done a Humble Bundle before, here's how it works: You can donate any amount of money and receive Snapshot, Closure, The Binding of Isaac, Shank 2, and Indie Game: The Movie. But if you pay more than the average ($6.41 as of this writing), you'll also get Dungeon Defenders, Legend of Grimrock, The Basement Collection, Offspring Fling, and Cave Story. The folks at Humble Bundle estimate the total value of this collection at $170. You can even choose how you'd like to have your payment divided between the developers and the two benefiting organizations, Child's Play Charity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

For more information on the games included in the bundle, check out the trailer for Humble Indie Bundle 7 here.
PC Gamer
black_friday


Good news, everyone! Steam, Amazon, Blizzard, and more have kicked off Consumer Season by booby trapping the web with potent spending bait such as 33% off XCOM: Enemy Unknown, 50% off The Walking Dead, and 66% off StarCraft II. We spent the morning stumbling through the minefield to compile a list of some of the best seasonal discounts, but stay vigilant: more surprise server-busters are bound to go live as we approach the spendiest weekend of the year.



Steam: Like the Summer Sale, the Steam Autumn Sale rotates deals daily, with even more fleeting Flash Sales lasting only 10 to 15 hours, so serious shoppers should check in at least twice a day. As a bonus, you get to follow Steam's adorable doodle story: currently, it seems a turkey is being forced to enter a Felix Baumgartner-inspired high diving competition.

But don't just look at the front page: Steam isn't promoting most of its deals, so scan the full list now and then. Here are some of the better discounts at the time of writing:


33% off XCOM: Enemy Unknown - $33.49 / £20.09
50% off The Walking Dead - $12.49 / £10.49
25% off Borderlands 2 - $44.99 / £22.49
75% off ARMA II: Combined Operations - $17.99 / £14.99
25% off Dishonored - $44.99 / £22.49
50% off Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - $11.24 / £8.99
33% off The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - $40.19 / £23.44
75% off Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - $2.49 / £1.74
75% off Limbo - $2.49 / £1.74
25% off Torchlight II - $14.99 / £11.24
75% off Cave Story+ - $2.49 / £1.74
More Steam Deals





Amazon: (Some deals are region-specific) Amazon hasn't been quite as liberal as Steam with the big games, but it has conjured a storm of Lightning Deals on desktop PCs, components, and peripherals. The scattershot selection below should give you an idea of what to expect.

HARDWARE:

17% off iBuyPower AM699 Desktop - $579.99
18% off CyberpowerPC GUA890 Desktop - $499.99
39% off Dell S2330MX 23" Ultra-Slim VGA Monitor - $139.99
40% off Samsung Series S24B30BL 23.6-Inch Screen LCD Monitor - $119.99
33% off Corsair Vengeance C70 Mid Tower Case - $97.45
31% off Logitech Optical Gaming Mouse G400 - $34.49
19% off Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse - $64.62

GAMES:

50% off The Walking Dead - $12.49 (Steam code)
80% off Dungeon Defenders - $2.99
10% off Hitman: Absolution - $44.99
75% off all Assassin's Creed games (excluding Assassin's Creed III)
More Amazon Deals




Blizzard: Blizzard has joined the party with Diablo III for $40 / £33 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for $20 / £17.



GOG: GOG's current sale nets you five games from a list of 20 for a mere $10 (just over £6). The list is loaded with some great indie adventure and puzzle games, so if you don't already own them, now's a good time to prepare for that "it's cold outside, so I'm going to drink tea (whiskey optional) and not leave my screen for the next forever hours" feeling.



Green Man Gaming: While Green Man doesn't celebrate consumerism with a morbid-sounding Friday, it is offering its usual voucher code. Enter GMG20-1FYLZ-EDG8R when purchasing a PC download for 20% off any game, except those already on sale. At the time of writing, GMG's daily deal (North America only) is Mass Effect 3: N7 Digital Deluxe for $15.99.



Newegg: (US and Puerto Rico only) Newegg has taken this whole "Black Friday" thing awfully far. Not only has it preempted Black Friday with "Black November," it's re-preempting it with a Pre-Black Friday Frenzy sale. How about a 500 GB Western Digital WD Blue hard drive for $50? A Samsung B350 Series LED monitor for $180? Keep in mind that if you visit Newegg from now until December 1st, you should not expect to then purchase other things, like food.

If you find any great deals as the weekend progresses, we'd love it if you shared them in the comments. And if all these sales combined with a poorly-timed lack of funds has you feeling down, remember that buying stuff is only briefly thrilling, while instead you could be continuously thrilled by PlanetSide 2, MechWarrior Online, Tribes: Ascend, or many of the other new free-to-play games we're thankful for this year.
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