Gaming Intel Dispatch 2017.2

April has been a pretty big month for me. The first big news is that I’ve passed the 500 followers mark on Twitch! Largely thanks to Steel Division: Normandy 44 and Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator. More on those games later, but those games were definitely good choices! My next big news is that I am now a Twitch Affiliate! I got in during the first wave, and within the first hour! I was so excited that I filled out all my info during the stream while running battles in the background. Being an affiliate means that people can cheer for me now, in the future I will get a share of revenue from games bought via my stream on Twitch, and that I will also eventually get a subscribe button which in turn means I need an emote! Any ideas, leave ’em in the comments! Finally I’ve added a currency bot at the request of some people to bet on games. It’s something I’m trying out, so feel free to give feedback. There are a ton of uses for it beyond betting, we’re only limited by our imaginations.

Games On Deck

There are some quick mentions  I want to make. Star Wars: Battlefront II made it’s little announcement. Not sure yet whether I’ll participate, but I wasn’t really wow’ed by the trailer. Next up is a game called Starfall Tactics. It’s a space RTS that also calls itself a wargame. Dunno what a wargame is, but the description sounds interesting. You can check out Starfall Tactics here. Another little news announcement is the Heroes of the Storm 2.0 launch. Lots of additions to the game, though it appears mostly cosmetic.

As I mentioned above I’ve been playing a lot of Steel Division: Normandy 44, and I’ll definitely be playing more in the future. It’s in early access now, but this may easily be my favorite strategy game when it fully launches. I’ve played two of the US Divisions so far, and had a ton of fun. I can’t wait to see what other divisions are in store. Eugen is slowly releasing new divisions as the game approaches full release on May 23rd.

Probably the most popular game right now is the Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator. I’ve created a little game that pits viewers against each other. If you’re interested in checking out the viewer battles, you can find out the basics here. You can also check out the YouTube video below, it’s one of the better battles I think.

Update: New T-Rex unit is AMAZING!

As for games I’d like to play more of in the next month, there’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Helldivers, For Honor (which has a Roman soldier and Shinobi being added), and finally I’ve gotten multiple requests to play ARK: Survival Evolved. I’m gonna try and make that happen, but it seems like no matter what I plan, something unexpected always comes up.

Warhammer 40,000

Since there seems to be a sizable Warhammer 40,000 sub-audience, I’ve kept all this info together. There’s lots of big 40k news this month. The biggest probably being a new edition (8th, specifically) of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game coming out. I’ve got a buddy who wants to get into it, so I’m strongly considering joining him. I’ve wanted to put some tabletop gaming content on my site for the longest time, or just create a separate tabletop site. I’m really pushed for time though, and starting this hobby would only make it worse!

Of course the biggest news in the video gaming world is the launch of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III. I have decided not to purchase it for now. I’m going to watch some gameplay, then evaluate it again come Steam summer sale time. I’m mostly concerned about the base building. Not sure if I enjoy base building RTS games anymore.

Since I really enjoyed Helldivers more than I thought I would, I’m looking a little more cloesely at Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor Martyr. It’s basically Diablo in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Lots of procedurally generated worlds, and a massive galaxy to explore. It’s in early development, but as it progresses it may be something I pick up.

I’m still hoping to find a group to play through Space Hulk: Deathwing. I’d really love to tackle this game again with some multiplayer. If you’re interested, be sure to check out my Tactics & Strategy guide. Don’t stumble around a deadly space hulk, storm it like a pro!

Update: Update 5 just hit for Space Hulk: Deathwing! New ‘Special Missions’ assigns random objectives for you to complete so it’s got a LOT more replayability. If you still need to pick it up first, here’s my Green Man Gaming affiliate link (Space Hulk: Deathwing is 15% off) and you’ll even help me out with a commission.

Finally, I came across a mobile game called Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade. You get to play as an Imperial Knight. I checked out the tutorial, and found the gameplay to be fun, and the graphics looking great. It’s free to play too so you can check it out for yourself.

Miscellaneous

A few more odds and ends. First up is this awesome study that says gaming at work may make you more productive. Read the article, show it to your boss, and lemme know how that works out for you. Next up is something for those that read comics. I got an email announcing Comixology Unlimited. It’s Amazon.com’s unlimited access service to digital comics. It’s not for every comic, so search the site for your comics of choice and look for the ‘unlimited’ banner. It’s just $5.99 so even if you just sub for a month to do some reading and then cancel, it may be worth it to you.

April Games Play and Purchase Data

As some of you may know, I keep track of my personal gaming habits on spreadsheets. I thought i’d try and turn it into something fun and interesting to look at. Check it out below, and if there are any other stats you think might be fun to track, let me know in the comments. I plan to add and iterate as time goes on.

Monthly Stats

That’s it for this post. I’m gonna try and do something like this each month. I’ve debated whether to do it at the end of the month, or the beginning of the month. If I do it at the beginning of the month, I can just add news as I come across it. The downside is unless people check back regularly, they’ll miss that news. Alternately if I do it at the end of the month, I can provide a more comprehensive update, it just won’t be as timely. Let me know what you think in the comments, along with any big news you think should be passed on.

Have a good one ladies and gents, and thanks for all your support across all my channels!

How I Learned Anyone Can Review Games Gud

Why Steam Reviews Aren’t Always Useful

I have a good little story for this. One of my Twitch viewers told me about a game called Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. It sounded interesting to me, and when I saw it on sale I decided to check it out. WOAH! Bad reviews on Steam though! Well, given that 12 year olds, and adults that act like 12 year olds, have access to the internet, I rarely take ANYTHING at face value. I decided to check out the negative reviews, and find out what it was people hated about Eternal Crusade.

  1. Kickstarter promises broken this.
  2. Devs are complete idiots that.
  3. This game sucks.

There were few actual gameplay critiques. While any of 1 and 2 may be accurate, none of that reflects the current status of the game. Regardless of memes everywhere, ‘because reasons’ isn’t an argument, much less a valid argument. While broken promises and incompetent devs are a concern worth knowing about, if the actual game is good isn’t that more important? Better yet, if the actual game itself is good, are 1 and 2 even possible? These are the great questions of our time.

Challenging The Status Quo

So what’s a gamer to do now that they have evidence that a Steam has been tainted with emotional and subjective reviews of a game? If only there was a way to see what the game was like in its current state, without shelling out all that money? Thank you Twitch. I bounced over to Twitch, and found a few people streaming Eternal Crusade. I watched this more than I have watched any other game on Twitch or YouTube. They weren’t even playing the faction I was interested in (Space Marines), but I was having fun. I asked all the streamers kinda the same questions: how they liked the game, was it worth the money, and so on. They all said the same thing. ‘Game is fun, worth the sale price.’

Now the stakes go up a notch. Emotional reviewers on Steam say no, fun-loving streamers actually playing the game say yes. Yeah, took about a half a second for me to decide too. I was actually ready to buy the game when I won a giveaway in one of the streams I was watching. So I installed the game, spun it up, and WOW! It was lots of fun, and 87 hours later, it’s still fun. While it looks like #1 above is true to some extent, #2 and #3 were definitely wrong. The game is solid, and I recommended it in my review.

Not An Isolated Incident

I’ve come across several games that have gotten wildly skewed reviews. ARK: Survival Evolved went through a similar phase when it launched DLC during Early Access. (Yes, lol, DLC during early access, but…) Everyone slammed it because it offered DLC during Early Access, not because the DLC didn’t work, or wasn’t worth it. Which is silly, because ARK was in Early Release status FOR YEARS. Meanwhile, it was more complete and successful in Early Release, than many other titles at full release. Early Release is just a buzz word. A trendy term. If you don’t know that by now, then you’re in good hands because I’ve known it ever since I first laid hands on ARK. Another good game I recommend too, by the by.

The End Is Not Near

I am not completely trashing Steam reviews here. If I seem a little harsh, it’s because I feel like the people with 0.2 hours in a game, with reviews that consist of ‘awful game. refunded.’, are idiots. I personally use Steam reviews. I find them helpful most of the time. All I want you to take away from this is to actually read some of the reviews. If the game looks good to you, but the reviews are bad, find out why. Giving up and moving on because a group of anonymous people say you should? Use your head, have your own opinion. If you’re wrong, you’ve wasted 5 minutes. Maybe 20 if you watched a stream. If you’re right though, you’ve gained hours upon hours of fun with a hidden gem. One good game will make up for plenty of research on the wrong ones.

 

Pondering the Merits of Early Access

steam early access

Is Early Access Worth It?

This is apparently a hot-button topic. I think a lot of the problem lies in the definition. I have seen games go from Early Access straight to full release. This kind of clouds the whole Alpha-Beta process for games. A sense of misgiving also comes from broken promises. For example, I read an Early Access game statement the other day that said their intention was to stay in Early Access for 6 months. That statement was over 2 years old. Games that are perpetually in Early Access are a bit of a problem. I want to go over the pros and the cons, but for full disclosure, I am pro-early access.

Paying For Inconvenience

First up is paying for Alpha/Beta access. As a player of Early Access games, you are essentially paying to play an unfinished, buggy game. Generally developers give this kind of access for free because you are doing them the favor. So why should players now pay to test games? I think this is the strongest argument against Early Access. I personally don’t have a direct answer for it. I do think there is a more important consideration, which I’ll point out later.

It Always Comes Down To Money

The next part of this discussion is cost. In my experience, Early Access games are generally cheaper than AAA game titles. Most EA titles run right around the $20 mark, while AAA titles almost always start at $60. This is because you are investing in a game. It works the same way as investing in the real world. You are putting money into an Early Access game now, hoping it will be worth more in the long run. EA games definitely do not offer the same quality and amount of content when they start. Early Access is essentially self-funding. EA developers are using your money to continue development of a game. The alternative is having a big money developer back their title, but that comes with a huge price. Games that are released too soon, cutting features or mechanics to ‘dumb down’ things, and various other loss of control related cuts. EA developers don’t answer to shareholders, they answer to customers. Also worth mentioning, some EA games raise their price on release day. So getting in early can literally save you more money too.

Infinite Possibilities

I’ve saved what I consider the most important consideration for Early Access. I mentioned investing already from a monetary sense, but you’re also investing in a broader sense. How many games have you played where you thought, “If they added just this one feature, this game would be amazing.”? I bet even games you’ve enjoyed, you’ve still had some idea of how to make it better. Well, EA games are bringing those ideas to fruition. The alternative is to wait for some AAA developer to pick up the idea, and statistically, well, good luck with that. What was the last big AAA dinosaur title? ARK started as an Early Access game, and I love ARK. I’d argue that it’s a complete AAA sized game now, but the point is that dinosaur-lovers like myself have a game to play that involves dinosaurs thanks to an EA title. It offers PvE, PvP, as well as mods to make whatever play experience you could want. What other game could dino-lovers play that offers even half of that? EA games expand options for us, and I personally think this is the most important reason to back Early Access games. Otherwise, we’re stuck settling for what some corporate bean counter says will make them the most money. There’s an entire company with a reputation for releasing games early, and ironically they share the EA abbreviation.

Measure Value In Early Access Games

Early Access gives developers time. They can fund their development by selling copies of the game, instead of having to answer to timetables of profit-hungry investors. It clearly evokes some strong emotions in some people. I know people that will outright ignore any early access game, no matter how far along or how proven a game it is. I’ll look at a game, watch it for a little while, and then buy in. You’ll notice several games on my Black Friday shopping list are early release. For me, price is definitely the deciding factor for investing in Early Access. The earlier it is in development, the less I’m willing to spend. At the end of the day though, my measure of success for Early Access isn’t whether it releases or not, but if I have fun playing it. If I’ve gotten hundreds of hours out of a $20 early access game, I don’t care one bit if it ever makes it to full release or not.

Share why are you for, or against, Early Access games?

My Experiences From Streaming

My Last Six Months Streaming in Three Acts

My connection wasn’t initially good enough to stream. Finally when it was upgraded (FREE!) last year, I didn’t jump on it right away. I put it off for a few months because: I had other things going on, I hated the sound of my voice, and/or whatever other excuse I could come up with. When I finally did jump into streaming, I started with Total War: Arena in September of 2015.

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We love you so very much, Arena! We miss you! Please come home soon!

Chapter One: Total War Arena

What an amazing ride it was. I was lucky enough to win one of two spots to participate in the Arena North America server launch event! I met Lionheart there, as well as Overkill. Meeting them was undoubtedly a big help to my stream, as I was lucky enough to be able to collaborate with them on my stream. Still, being an Arena focused streamer brought some perks of its own. I was able to participate in several closed developer events (Vercingetorix preview), I got to jump in on the developer livestream events, and was able to get the Arena community manager on my stream multiple times! I also got to meet people from around the world. Latvia, Chile, Finland – playing with viewers was a new adventure everyday. This remains one of the biggest benefits of being a streamer. It was an amazing run until Arena finished closed beta, and went down for development at the beginning of March 2016. I finished with 297 viewers and over 30,000 views! That’s like each viewer coming back more than 100 times during a 6 month span! I don’t really know how good that is, but I’m happy with it.

Chapter Two: Variety Streaming

With Arena down, I was actually a little excited to be able to pursue some other games. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well for me at first. Hitting the right game at the right time is everything in streaming. Nothing stuck for me quite as well as Arena. Playing new games means competing with all the big-name streamers. And I use competing in the loosest sense, because it wasn’t really a competition. The Division, for example, was a steady 2-3.

I want to stop here and mention that I did have a small handful that stuck with me after Arena. These viewers always kept 2 or 3 people in my channel during the “dark times”. CatGotYourKeyboard (my wife), GameTime, Crysis, and Throwback have probably spent the most time in my channel no matter what I played. I can’t thank you guys enough.

Finally I committed to another Total War title, Rome II. I started seeing some familiar faces again from the golden days of Arena. I started slowly gaining followers again, and got out of the single digits in viewers. I learned the basic Total War formula, and really enjoyed plaything through the campaign. My love of dinosaurs pulled me onto The Isle when I stumbled across it. I started gaining LOTS of followers who liked a whole other genre, and it even brought more viewers than Total War! It added a couple more die hard fans to my channel like Dino and Enderdragon. It does cause a little ‘friction’ to this day though. Total War fans hate The Isle, and The Isle Fans hate Total War. It makes swapping games a tough decision, but I just go with whatever seems more fun at the moment. Seems to be working. While I haven’t gotten back up to my Arena numbers yet, I am a lot farther ahead than when I re-started. My crowning achievement has been getting double digits while playing a DOOM campaign on opening launch weekend! It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re a small time streamer it’s the world.

Watch my DOOM campaign series on YouTube!
Watch my DOOM campaign series on YouTube!

Chapter Three: Collaboration

While Arena has been down, I have gotten together with Lionheart on several occasions. For those that don’t know, he has the largest Total War channel at 180,000 subscribers! We have been discussing all the development announcements from the Arena team. For someone with such a successful YouTube channel and stream, he’s been amazingly easy to get in contact with. I have also started playing SWTOR on Sundays with Shintar pretty regularly. I have read her blog for a long time, and it has been one of the biggest referral sources to my website. I’ve never been able to actually thank her properly, much less do anything with her at all. It’s been a great decision, and I have had more fun in SWTOR than I’ve had in years. Through Shintar’s blog a few years ago, I came across Ravanel Griffon and her blog. I discovered Ravanel also played ARK at the same time The Isle led me to ARK. I asked Rav to teach me the ropes on stream which eventually led to joining her private server. She’s since joined Shintar and I playing SWTOR occasionally too. I’ve even gotten to do some collaborating with HaxoTheHunter in the Arena updates, and more recently Stellaris. Collaborating with people has been the other best part of streaming. I’d love to do even more in the future.

The Memorable Moments

The part about streaming I was least prepared for has been the people. It’s been such an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting experience for me. I couldn’t ask for a better little community of viewers. Some like BigAl, Byzantine, and Invitica always stop in no matter what Im playing. One person tried to buy me a $40 game (Sorry Diocales!), but I couldn’t through no fault of said person. Two people have told me I am their favorite streamer. Three people have asked me to put up a donate button. As a relatively new streamer, it’s quite humbling.  So I hope some of my regular stream viewers find this post, because I really appreciate you guys. Hanging out through games you don’t like, or getting excited about the ones you do, I am glad you are here. Thank you everyone for being here!

All Emotional Over ARK

ARK SURVIVAL EVOLVED

The Path I Followed To ARK: Survival Evolved

I wanted to write some thoughts about ARK before I did an actual review. I’m a dinosaur lover, so I wanted to go ahead and get that emotional attachment out of the way. I was acutely aware when this game came out. My wife watched several streamers playing it on Twitch, and by default I heard it as background noise. It had dinosaurs, which interested me, but it was a survival game. I had also overheard her watching other survival games, and that genre just never seemed appealing to me. Finally I saw her actually playing it, running around naked on the beach and defecating, I was pretty sure no amount of dinosaurs was going to fix this game for me.

And that was a mistake I regret now.

Luckily my wife continued to watch people streaming ARK, and I ever so slowly changed my opinion. In February 2016, ARK was added to the March Humble Monthly, available for early download. I procrastinated until March 2016, and finally tried it out. ARK is all I can think about sometimes now, and I can’t get enough.

What Calls To You In ARK

The possibilities are what locked me into ARK. You have an entire WORLD full of dinosaurs to explore. A world completely untainted by anything. No pollution, no technology, and man isn’t the top of the food chain here. That spot is reserved exclusively for dinosaurs – and worse. You are vulnerable to everything. Running around with rags, stacking thatch up in hopes that nothing comes through – because it can – and did, and killed me. Death will be a large part of your journey. Death returns you to rags, only your wits and luck will help you get your items and equipment back. Still, your will to survive will only get you so far. You will continue to struggle until you embrace your destiny: Dinosaurs.

You need these incredible creatures to survive. Find your favorite dinosaur. Tame your favorite dinosaur. Fight alongside your favorite dinosaur, braving the unknown. There is always something bigger than you in ARK. You will never be certain of your standing in the food chain. Evolving is your only hope for survival. From spear to machine gun, rags to armor, you have to endlessly evolve. From thatch to stone, your home, your fortress has to evolve. Including giant gates that would make the architects of Jurassic Park jealous, to bring your dinosaur companions, your friends, into your home. Because your home is the only place you are safe. But you can’t stay inside forever. Your own survival is secondary to exploring a world like this. If your blood is red, your sense of adventure will overwhelm you.

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Your Decision For ARK

Making snap judgments about games is a lot of my purchasing decision. It’s that first glimpse of ‘something’ you see that makes you stop flipping through Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, hopefully my website – wherever it is that you come across that new game initially. You’re making a judgement on that ‘something’, and choosing to look more. This trailer is a great ‘something’ to base your opinion on. I challenge you to watch this trailer for two minutes. If nothing else, the musical score is amazing. 0:51 and 1:34 will get you if you have a heart for adventure at all. This trailer is truly the essence of ARK. There is nothing misleading about it, and accurately represents your experience from your first time logging in. Truth in advertising doesn’t get more honest than this.