Saturday, 29 March 2014

What is a fair price for a game?

A lot of talk happens about the fair price for a computer game.

There seems to be a general "tier" structure informally in place:
A full fledged AAA title is 50-60 dollars.
An ambitious smaller developer title is about 20 and mobile stuff is a couple of bucks (if they havent moved to in-game purchases instead).

No matter what, everyone thinks its too expensive though.

It's hard to say what is a "fair" price to pay. Free market economy types will say the price will stabilize somewhere. Sociologists will say that once a custom is established, that sets precedents that people are hesitant to break.

I tend to look at a few factors when trying to figure out if a game is "worth the cost".

Generally, indie games are usually quite cheap. I've seen pretty ambitious titles for 10 dollars or less, even for an in-depth RPG like Dungeons of Dredmor

Things you want to look at is:

How much play will you get out of the game? How many hours? How much replayability is there?

How much work seems to have gone into the game?

Are you taking a chance on a genre you aren't very familiar with, or aren't always a huge fan of?
Im inclined to pay a bit less for a puzzle game since odds are that while I'll enjoy it, I won't put that many hours into it.
On the flipside, a strategy game, I tend to be okay with higher costs, since I know I'll put in a lot of time.

You also need to consider the niche of the game. The guy at Spiderweb Software gets a rough time sometimes because of his prices, but he writes big, story heavy roleplaying games. A niche that isn't covered much at all in the indie scene (and arguably the top down retro style of RPG he makes isn't being done at all by the AAA guys).

Another example is Paradox who makes incredibly dense, complex strategy games. In cases like this, the developer needs to charge more, because the audience is smaller. Conversely they also tend to develop a lot of brand loyalty, because they cater to an audience that is very specifically theirs.

Sometimes the argument is made that paying 10 dollars or more for something like Avadon or Eschalon isn't worth it, because you can get Baldurs Gate or NeverWinter Nights from GOG. That's silly though.

Yeah, you can argue that Baldurs Gate is a better game than Eschalon. But how many times are you going to replay Baldurs Gate?
We want to have new experiences, and a game like Eschalon is not diminished by the fact that another game exists out there.

And in the end, the developer needs to eat. If you make heavy, old fashioned RPG's, you can't sell them for 2 dollars, simply because the Iphone and Android markets refuse to pay that. A guy like that isn't going to sell 300 copies a month.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Game review: Loren the Amazon Princess

So it's important to try out new things now and again.
This goes for video games too. Play first person shooters? Maybe give a strategy game a swirl. RPG fanatic? Go buy an indie physics platformer.

 With that in mind, I recently acquired Loren the Amazon Princess, a visual novel / RPG hybrid game. I had been curious about visual novel type games for a while, but wasn't sure a game genre that seems to be mostly about feeling up anime girls was for me.

The price tag was a bit daunting, but a few glances online offered a good story so I forked over the cash and went for it.

Much to my surprise, I ended up having a really good time with the game. The characters are maybe not the most original thing you have ever seen, but they are well realized, funny and quite adorable. As far as I can tell, you can end up romancing (and presumably eventually boning, haven't made it that far yet) pretty much everybody, so there's something for everyone.
I am a big proponent of diversity in video games, but if that bothers you, nothing is really required.

The gameplay is decently fun, if not terribly complicated. Line up a few of your characters (from a very large cast), attack the bad guys in turn based combat, and use a few different skills.

It all basically works, and with a few exceptions, it's not terribly challenging. A couple of fights required a few attempts but if you're a hardcore RPG fan, it won't give you much pause.
I did wish that there'd been a bit more variety in the powers and abilities. Even with a pretty simple combat system, I could think of a lot of different powers and abilities for heroes and monsters. I know a sequel is in the works, so it'd be nice to see the game mechanics expanded a bit.

In the end though, a game like this, you aren't really playing for the gameplay (somewhat ironically), you are playing for the story and the writing. While the main plot is basically "Evil bad guy is coming to kill you all, and the heroes must unite the peoples", the characters that accompany you are funny, likable and each have their own interesting traits and characteristics. They all feel consistent in their roles, and even the comic relief characters have some twists to them.

The most clothes anyone wears in this game

I sort of didn't want to get caught up in the cutesy feel of it all, but I did.

Graphically, it's all well drawn art. The character portraits definitely lean towards the sexier side of things, but it's equal on all sides. The dudes are wearing skimpy outfits too. The portraits look great, but it'd have been nice to have them in more poses.

Music is acceptable but pretty forgettable. A more unique score would have been nice.

The control scheme is like an RPG ever. Point on stuff on the screen and things happen.

It's worth noting that the version available on Steam is slightly censored. Nothing serious, but if it bothers you, you can find steps to get around that. I also had to contact the author to get the DLC to work properly on Linux, but I got a response almost immediately.

In conclusion, did Loren sell me on the visual novel genre? That, I am not yet sure about. But it did sell me on the developers games at least. So there's that.

Available on Steam for the price of a 12 pack of beer, and a disappointing pizza

You can also get it for Android gadgets

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Open Source or not?

One of the quandaries that can strike Linux gamers, particularly those on the "true believer" scale of things, is whether to stick strictly with open source or not.

This applies to applications but even more so to gaming. For operating system applications, there is a massive wealth of free, open source (and quality) applications for virtually any need you have.

When it comes to games however, the selection narrows down a lot, and most of the titles coming out now are closed source software that requires payment. So what should you do? The answer of course depends.

Open source has some benefits even to gaming.
Games I have downloaded from a distributions repositories have generally worked without any trouble, they are usually made to run smoothly in that distribution and have benefited from quite a bit of bug fixing and tweaks over the years, especially for long running projects like Battle for Wesnoth or Frozen Bubble

Of course, the cost can't be discounted either. Free means no real risk, even if the game turns out not to be quite what you expected, and I do find that I will tend to enjoy a mediocre free game more than a mediocre game I paid for.
I guess being able to spend the 4 bucks I'd have paid otherwise on a beer and slice of pizza will mellow me out a little.

If you are a prospective game developer, basement programmer or just want to learn, being able to break it apart and look inside is of course a huge benefit as well, for games that are truly open source (as opposed to just free).

The downsides is of course variety and a limit to the type of titles you can find. While you can find one or two titles in almost any category, big commercial games just are not going to happen. If you want something on the level of Metro Last Light or Crusader Kings, you'll have to pony up cash for them.

I imagine in the end, most people end up playing a variety of titles. We buy some, and we download some that are free. If you set up a Linux installation for someone, it's nice to be able to include a few little fun games for them to waste time with.

As such, when we start reviewing titles on this blog, we'll review both commercial, freeware and open source titles, without distinguishing between them too much. Games are games, and fun is fun.

Today's Gadget:
To keep this blog going, and to share my experiences, I will be trying to showcase some gadget or thing that I've found helpful.

When talking about gaming, a lot of us grew up with gamepads and console controllers. While there are benefits to the keyboard+mouse combination (and I don't want to get into that particular battle here!), some game types do play better with a controller, and it can be nice to simply lean back in your comfy chair, controller in the lap while blasting bad guys.

The 360 controller has more or less become a standard among a lot of indie developers, and it is rare I find a game that does not support it. While there are other controller options, and we'll hopefully get to discuss some of those as well, this is a pretty solid, quality product with good buttons.
They also have very good compatibility with Linux (who'd have thought, right?)

The only downside I have found is that they are somewhat on the larger side. If you are looking at a gamepad for a kid, or just someone with smaller hands, you may want to try one out first at the local game store.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Linux Gaming. It's a thing nowadays

It used to be that gaming on Linux was a difficult beast. Very few games, much fewer commercial games and some people insist that you can't play Nethack for 20+ years.

That was before the indie explosion though, before Steam on Linux, before Desura, before all of these things.

There is still a stereotype persisting around Linux gaming however.

"There's no games for Linux!"

I intend to dispel this stereotype as thoroughly as I can. More importantly, I intend to discuss games in the good, old fashion: By playing them and reviewing them.

I am not a "funny angry" reviewer. I am not looking to exalt a game that doesn't deserve it or tear down a game that deserves better. I try to see the good and bad in each title.

I also try to review for a variety of audiences, including whether games are suitable for children.

In short, we're going to talk about gaming on Linux, because it's a thing, and that thing deserves talking about.