Jun 26, 2013
Just as promised, Steam Trading Cards is now live. The virtual cards can be earned by playing participating games on Steam, trading with other users, or buying on the Steam Marketplace. Complete a set to create a badge, earn rewards and XP, and level up. The user with the highest Steam level at the end of the year gets to high five Gabe Newell while announcing Half-Life 3. In space.
In other true facts, I'm already hearing from users playing the Steam marketplace to profit off the cards' initial popularity. One user I spoke to has been buying low and selling high to pad his Steam wallet, even creating scarcity by buying up low-value cards in quantity. I'll keep an eye on marketplace prices as more users start trading the collectibles.
I was hoping to find a good deal on a 1952 Mickey Mantle card, but unfortunately, baseball isn't a participating game. You can see which of the games you own are participating here.
Team Meat's take on piracy is just as blunt as its bloody platformer Super Meat Boy, with the two-man team stating in 2011 that it "doesn't #%@$ing care" about gamers stealing its game. Now, co-creator Tommy Refenes says in a tumblr post that a more worthwhile alternative to intrusive DRM systems is to forge trust with gamers and deliver a solid, reliable product. I know, that's just crazy talk.
"As a forward-thinking developer who exists in the present, I realize and accept that a pirated copy of a digital game does not equate to money being taken out of my pocket," Refenes begins.
Refenes believes it's impossible for a publisher to absolutely claim that the implementation of DRM made a game more profitable. "There is no way to calculate this because it is not possible to quantify the intentions of a person," he says. "Also, there’s no way of accurately determining which customers would have stolen the game had there not been DRM." He continues: "I do believe people are less likely to pirate your software if the software is easy to buy, easy to run, and does what is advertised. You can’t force a person to buy your software no more than you can prevent a person from stealing it."
Refenes boils the issue down to building trust between a company and its customers—if a developer or publisher shows consistency with its works and treats everyone fairly, he says, people will want to buy and show support with their wallets. "People need to care about your employees and your company's well being," he writes. "There is no better way to achieve that than making sure what you put out there is the best you can do and you treat your customers with respect."
And yes, Refenes does bring up SimCity as an example of What Not To Do in the case of customer relations and product quality, believing the waves of refund requests EA received during the game's messy launch are "much more dangerous" than piracy itself to the company's bottom line.
"When EA/Maxis create their next new game, how many people are going to be excited about it and talking positively about it?" he asks. "I imagine that the poison of their current SimCity launch is going to seep into the thoughts of potential customers and be a point of speculation like, 'Is it going to be another SimCity launch?'"
Read the rest of Refenes' comments on his tumblr page.
Feb 24, 2013
Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
When Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac co-creator Edmund McMillen describes a game as "by far the strangest project I've ever worked on," it's going to be unusual. After long weeks of teasing, Team Meat has revealed its mysterious Mew-Genics is something of a cat lady simulator, having you collect, care for, enter into pageants, and breed procedurally-generated cats (so far it can produce 25,418,658,283,290,000,000,000,000 unique felines).
"I think most would describe Mew-Genics as a cross between The Sims and Pokemon with a sprinkling of Animal Crossing and a dash of Tamagotchi, but at its core the game really isn't like anything we've seen before," McMillen explained in a blog post.
McMillen illustrates how the game works with a little story of when he tried to get Puddle, a cat with an admirable forked tail, to breed. There follows a twisted tail of breeding partners associating food with beatings and therefore starving to death, inherited narcolepsy, contracted FIV, abusive cat-dads, and cryogenic freezing.
The story ends, "I wasn't able to save Dot because I was arrested by the local animal control shortly after I put Puddle in the cube, probably because of letting Goon run away ... and the whole giving my other cat aids thing ... or maybe it was the dead cat in the attic." Do read the whole story, won't you? It is awfully pleasant.
"I think the gameplay story above sums up what our goal is, we want to create a living world where cats act like cats and the player as well as the cat's actions actually matter," McMillen said.
Mew-Genics is slated for release on PC (via Steam), iOS, Android, and "possibly more" later this year. Here's the wacky title theme:
Jan 22, 2013
Are hard-as-hell indie games enough to satiate our hunger for a challenge, or should mainstream developers quit trying to appease everyone and start really testing us? In this Face Off from our archives (originally published October 2012), Executive Editor Evan Lahti gives former Senior Editor Josh Augustine a hard time for his willingness to take it easy.
Make your own arguments in the comments—debate team captains: it’s your time to shine.
Evan: Focus testing is the enemy of experimentation and innovation. It widens the audience of a game by watering down the experience. Portal was harder, and better, than Portal 2, which forewent feats like mid-air maneuvering almost completely. Skyrim gave us a detailed wilderness where falling into a freezing lake meant nothing and dragons weren't much more than giant mosquitoes. Remember what dying was like in Diablo and Diablo II? You had to bravely fight back to your corpse to recover your gear with whatever rented junk you could pull together. I miss that brutality, and the feeling of, y’know, actually losing something.
Josh: And Diablo III offers that: in Inferno and Hell difficulty. Either of which can be played with permadeath on. Knock yourself out.
Evan: I’d love to, but Blizzard insists that I can only earn the right to play on a difficulty that can actually kill me by spending hours churning through Children’s Mode, erm, Normal. For every new character.
Josh: So you’re asking to die more? Dying isn't inherently fun or interesting. It’s not the secret sauce of game design. Even if games are a little less hard, it’s only because we’ve grown out of the binary win/lose states of the ’80s and ’90s. Those were motivated by a desire either to get people to put in more coins or to artificially lengthen 8- and 16-bit games that were otherwise short and simple. We’re in an age of gaming diversity and accessibility. More people are playing games; that’s great.
Evan: It’s not about dying more. It’s about wanting game design that uses difficulty creatively. Look at DayZ: you spawn in a 225km2 world with no weapon, no map, and no compass. You have to eat and drink. Everything is trying to kill you, and death is permanent. Almost every weapon has discrete ammo. If I’m good enough, I can read the stars to find my way.
It’s completely brutal, but more than 400,000 people flocked to it in just a couple months. It’s led Arma 2 to the top of the Steam sales charts for almost as long. Why? Because it does something so few modern games do: it respects your ability to figure it out yourself.
Josh: Difficulty’s out there if you want it. Super Meat Boy, Dustforce, Dungeons of Dredmor, Legend of Grimrock, Amnesia, Mount & Blade... all of these games are variously unforgiving. Dark Souls’ PC release is called the “Prepare To Die Edition.” Dota 2 and League of Legends are making judgmental, complex multiplayer games mainstream again. In Tribes: Ascend, I have to make mid-air skillshots at 225km an hour. What more do you want?
Evan: All the games you mentioned are from independent studios. They’re from the fringes. No one in the mainstream is embracing consequence-driven gaming, and as long as that’s the case, I think game design will continue to stagnate. I’m bored of regenerating health and checkpoints. And MMOs, honestly, they’re some of the greatest offenders of this because they were born from a model where players were paying an additional fee. Almost all of their design is based around appeasement. There’s no concept of failure or loss or struggle built into them. Every victory is just an eventuality: if you grind or pay enough, you’ll get what you want.
Josh: Even if what you were saying wasn’t a complete generalization (have you played TERA or Rift or DC Universe Online? They’re all totally tough)—a lot of people relish the social freedom and friendly atmosphere that MMOs provide by not punishing you dramatically just because you aggroed one too many cave goblins, or whatever. Difficulty isn't some one-setting-suits-all concept.
Evan: Challenge counts, and modern games are missing it. Without it, we’re just passively consuming content, going through the motions, acting out a puppet show of animations, particle effects, and sound. Even with immediate access to YouTube walkthroughs the moment a game is released, most developers are still desperately afraid of upsetting players or scaring them away. When I play something like DayZ, I feel feelings. My pulse changes. I regret decisions. I get mad. That’s valuable.
Josh: Well, while you’re getting mad that games don’t make you mad enough, I’ll be having fun.
Dec 17, 2012
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alec Meer)
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Alec Meer)
The entire gaming world and its robo-dog is currently going from door-to-door and begging for cash, so a shaft of philanthrophic light amidst the Kickstarted darkness is a welcome one. We posted about Mario/McMillen & Refenes mash-up Super Meat Boy Galaxy last week, but it was unclear whether Aubrey Hesselgren would ever share more of his half-gag, half-tribute project with the world. Turns out, he will. BUT ON ONE CONDITION. That condition is cash. Of course it’s cash! This cash will not, however, go to the developer – it will go to The Samaritans. If SMBG is successfully ‘ransomed’ for £10,000, its prototype will be freed and released to the public.
Blood money, I call it! Blood money! And also a very smart idea. (more…)
Super Meat Boy Galaxy is a prototype for a 3D version of Super Meat Boy set on a Mario Galaxy-esque globe. It was created by developer at Preloaded, Aubrey Hesselgren, as a 30th birthday present for Super Meat Boy programmer, Tommy Refenes. On his blog, Hesselgren has announced that he's decided to hold his own prototype to ransom in an attempt to raise £10k for the The Samaritans. Here's the ransom note.
Hesselgren describes the prototype as "just a bit of a throw away experiment. It was never intended as a “pitch” to make such a game." If the £10k goal is met, Super Meat Boy Galaxy will be released from its basement, wrapped in a police blanket, led away to safety and then released to the public for everyone to play. If it doesn't meet the target, those who donate will still get a copy of the prototype. Though Hesselgren has hinted that he'll probably end up releasing it for everyone to play anyway adding "I'm the worst ransomer ever."
"Bear in mind that this is a prototype, and as such will not be as friendly and polished as a final game," he adds. "Its main purpose was to investigate whether Super Meat Boy’s kinaesthetically pleasing platforming physics could survive the leap to 3D, given the right camera and level layouts." This video suggests that those pleasing platforming mechanics translate rather well, don't you think?
Developer Aubrey Hesselgren has released a video of his "completely unofficial 3D version" of Super Meat Boy, which he whipped up for Tommy Refenes' (one half of Team Meat) 30th birthday. Using Unity and Blender, Hesselgren - also known as HilariousCow - combined SMB's bloody walljumping with the wraparound worlds of Super Mario Galaxy, and the result is a demo/proof-of-concept that's far better than many commercial attempts to move a 2D series into the third dimension.
Of course, with this being a birthday present - and "a bit of a training exercise" - Hesselgren has said that he probably won't release it to the wider world. At least we'll always have this video, which shows that it is possible to convert something like Super Meat Boy into 3D, if you take the time to get over the camera hurdles. Can someone do Binding of Isaac next, please?
Nov 14, 2012
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Jim Rossignol)
Over-talented game dev Aubrey Hesselgren crafted an unofficial 3D mashup of Super Meat Boy and Super Mario Galaxy, apparently “for Tommy Refenes’ 30th Birthday”. You can see a video of it in action below. Hesselgren says on a Reddit thread devoted to the idea: “It’s just an experiment in adaptation. I kept hearing people write off 3D games with all the arguments about spatial perception, limited information etc, and wanted to try to tackle a few of their points, just for my own edification. I didn’t want to dismiss what they were saying, but I felt like I had to see for myself. I learnt a lot!” (more…)