A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Steam

Face, Meet Brick Walls – Puzzle Games

I’m a fan of interesting puzzle games. Look up SpaceChem, A Virus Named TOM, and Hacker Evolution on Steam and you’ll see the kinds of puzzle games that really attract my attention. I like simple games, but I have a problem with puzzle games in general…

You see, after a fashion, I can’t figure the puzzles out.

I swear, that admission feels like a weight off my chest. It’s almost embarrassing though. There’s a point where no amount of staring or fiddling around will help me figure out how to solve the puzzle in front of me and it happens in every puzzle game at differing points. The only constant is that I do hit a brick wall labeled “can’t solve this one without help”.

That’s why I’m thankful for walkthrough sites and guide videos. In fact, SpaceChem got so complex that I had to write directions down to save on alt-tabbing between the game and the YouTube video I was using as a guide. Eventually I made my own SpaceChem video, but it was based on another solution video. I still haven’t beaten that game, but it was so fun to play.

Recently the puzzle game A Virus Named TOM came out and I snapped it up. It’s interesting, it’s engaging, and it’s fun. Also, awesome soundtrack. Admittedly, I hit a wall pretty early, but they allowed for that to a small extent with level skip tokens. I’m in the last series of puzzles only thanks to mostly skipping the previous stage. I was empowered by these skip tokens. I skipped by the trouble puzzles and hit the ones I could definitely do, going back when I felt like it and eventually figuring them out with either my own skills or with internet voodoo help.

I’m a pretty straight-forward gamer. If the problem is in front of me, I look for the most direct solution to getting past it. Most games allow for that. MMOs are typically “direct approach” games with the option to occasionally sneak around problems but there’s a lot of variance in the direct approaches based on your class and personal play-style. Deux Ex: Human Revolution encourages a stealth approach to the game, but you can take the head-on approach if you’re feeling particularly daring. Again, lots of variance in both primary approaches thanks to timing, luck, and skill. Puzzle games though, there’s typically one or two solutions at best for a given puzzle. The trick is thinking in the language of the puzzle, interpreting the twists and turns that have come before to help you through the next few twists and turns. I suck at languages though.

I love puzzle games but they smack me in the face sometimes with how generally inept I can be.

Yesterday I played a little A Virus Named TOM, hit a brick wall with my face, and then jumped into Star Wars: The Old Republic and REVELED in the simplicity of just shooting enemies with my Commando. It was so good.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” – Walter Elliott

P.P.S. Oh, I throw Tower-Defense games in with puzzle games. The strategy itself combined with the timing required makes it a puzzle game of the highest order. Seriously, I got whipped by Defense Grid and System Protocol One.

Digital Download Services – What happens when the lights go out?

I was considering the prospect of purchasing a physical copy of Diablo III versus getting the digital version of it from Blizzard and it occurred to me that I don’t know what would happen if a particular digital download service disappeared suddenly. By that I mean, what would happen to my games if Steam, Origin, or some similar software program just went away. Here’s my thoughts on such a matter. Oh, also, I’ve done no research into these programs beyond my casual use of them, so if their terms of use agreements specify anything, well, I didn’t look. This is just a thought dump.

I have quite a few games from digital download services and I’m going to talk about some specific examples to keep things simple-ish. From Origin, I have Mass Effect 3 that requires Origin to be on and active for me to play multiplayer. From Steam, I have the original X-COM series that requires Steam to be signed in to and connected to the internet for me to turn on my games (and possibly to keep them running). From Ubisoft, I have Splinter Cell: Conviction which requires a connection to UPlay (their in-house service) for me to even play the game at all. From Impulse, I have Sins of a Solar Empire, which needs Impulse to update.

So, what would happen should these companies decide to stop their services? Do my games keep working as normal? Is there some guy at every company ready to send out the emancipation program that allows everyone to play their games without the service? Will I lose just the functionality that the service provides (updates, multiplayer, save games)? Will all my games just cease working?

Did anyone think of what to do if/when this happens? Say Electronic Arts goes out of business tomorrow. What happens to Origin? Will there be someone there to offer his condolences to all of us who depend on their service for our daily dose of entertainment? Is there a contingency somewhere to ensure that we who rely on their software aren’t screwed out of our investments? Are they being overconfident, hopeful, arrogant in assuming they’ll continue forever or are there plans in some safe somewhere for the potential apocalypse?

To be honest, I’m not a fan of any situation that requires I be connected to the internet to play a single player game like X-COM UFO Defense, the single player campaigns of Splinter Cell: Conviction and Mass Effect 3, and many others. I can understand some form of digital rights management, but I really didn’t mind the old code sheets for games like Sim City or even looking through the manual for word 17 on page 83 and line 8 for games like Starfleet. Hell, the code wheel for Starflight was awesome.

A lot of the time, I genuinely don’t know what to think about these things. Mostly I console myself by saying, “I’m not going to be playing this game for the rest of my life. There have been games, there are games, and there will be more games that catch my eye and make me happy.” If Steam went away today, I’d be a bit upset that I can’t play Bastion or X-COM or Mass Effect, but I’d get over it eventually.

So, to the people running these services: Thank you and may you be successful and never cease operations. Well… at least for a while.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. Have some Shakespeare:

If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow and which will not;
Speak then to me.

– Macbeth, Act I, Scene 3, Line 58

Impression – Forsaken World and Global Agenda

Last week, Steam announced a few free-to-play games that you can play through their service. In this short list was Champions Online, Forsaken World, Global Agenda, Spiral Knights, and Alliance of Valiant Arms. Seeing as I’ve already talked about Champions, I’m not interested in Alliance or Spiral Knights (right now, but Spiral Knights art design is/was lead by Ian McConville), I’ll talk about Forsaken World and Global Agenda.

I was playing some Daggerdale a few days ago with a friend. We quit at about 9:30pm or so and we were wondering what else to play. I offered up the new free-to-play games on Steam. After chatting about our options (ignoring Champions as we weren’t in the mood), we settled upon Forsaken World (made by the company Perfect World who has recently acquired Cryptic from Atari, I believe). I was having internet troubles, so I didn’t get to play it right away. My friend built a Kindred Assassin and declared that it was fun.

The next day I hit Forsaken World with a vengeance, trying out a Kindred Vampire for a little while but then switching to a Dwarf Marksman. Later, I even made a Stoneman Protector, a Human Warrior, an Elf Bard, and an Elf Priest. In fact, you can see some gameplay footage of my Human Warrior below. Let me just say (before the imbedding of videos) that I have a lot of fun playing this game. It’s very pretty, I suffer very few technical issues (if any) and it’s easy to play. I’m constantly hitting I for my inventory screen when it’s actually B, but other than that, it’s okay. I actually find myself preferring the Stoneman Protector, Human Warrior, or Elf Priest thus far (levels 17, 17, and 23 respectively). Definitely fun. Oh, the loading screens are fantastic… they’re pencil drawings initially and as it loads, they shift into full color. Lovely.


Now, Global Agenda was apparently originally designed to be a group PvE/PvP game with no real solo content after the tutorial. Recently (I suppose) they added some solo content to appeal to a wider audience. There isn’t a lot of it, but I suppose it’s enough for people to do stuff while they wait for queues to fill up. It’s a refreshing change of pace since there aren’t a lot of science fiction style MMOs out there (some, but not many). The tutorial is very well built, but the game overall is kind of fragile. My first playthrough, the game hung up three times, forcing a restart of the game. Also, when accepting or turning in quests, the game has a bad habit of not processing properly and essentially you wind up waiting around while the game realizes “Oh crap, he clicked FINISH for this quest! Give him the reward! Let him continue!” The graphics are very good, the game is rather easy to play, and I love having a jetpack and body armor. I’ve got a series of videos that’re showing a playthrough of the tutorial.


I hope you check these games out for yourself. They’re quite fun and provide different approaches to the existing MMO models out there. I especially enjoy Global Agenda, but I think I’d really prefer to have a few more friends playing with me so I can do the 4 player PvE content. Oh well. I’m enjoying what I can do.

Until next time, keep on playing!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Impression – SpaceChem and Deathspank

Today I’d like to direct your attention to two very interesting and fun games that I recently downloaded through Steam: SpaceChem and DeathSpank. Both of these games are $15 bucks and both are of high quality and production. Seriously.

The above video is actually a playthrough video I snagged while solving a particular stage in SpaceChem. The point of the game is to solve the chemical puzzles laid before you by creating a pathing solution for the “waldos” that grab and manipulate chemical elements. As the game goes on you’re introduced to bonding (adding and subtracting bonds), fusing (where shooting a fusion laser into one element pushes it into another thereby creating a third element), and so forth. Further, there’s also a bit of a storyline as you’re a new employee at this interstellar chemical corporation and you witness these strange events that occur. Personally I find the storyline to be compelling me to solve the puzzles so I can get the next bit or two. I really enjoy this game but it can be head-hurtingly hard sometimes. There’s a demo available on Steam and I highly recommend you give it a spin.

This video is the start of a Let’s Play series by Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers. I figured why make my own video when Hank is doing such a wonderful job already! Anyways, DeathSpank is very similar to the typical Diablo II style of game. You don’t get any spells, but as you level you get certain improvements or Hero Cards that amplify your innate abilities further. Equipment and money is plentiful as the exceptionally well written humorous story takes you all over this stylized world. I have a few issues with the game (mainly that I have to click every single time I want to swing my weapon as opposed to holding it down to repeatedly swing). The game seems to crash occasionally for me, but that might just be my problem. All in all, I have a lot of fun playing it and I’m really enjoying the amazing sense of humor the developers put into the game. Most things are tongue in cheek in this game.

Anyways, these are the two games that have captured my attention lately. Please give them a try and let me know what you think! They are very affordable and very fun!

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock and roll.” – Shigeru Miyamoto