I’m Excited For The Epic Store But…

Recently, Epic Games, makers of the Unreal Engine, unveiled their online digital games store. This store aims directly at the ever popular Steam, and takes a pretty hefty swing with it’s ultra-generous profit sharing for developers. If your game is developed on Unreal Engine, it’s even more generous. At a glance, this is good for developers and gamers. It’s good for developers because money. Just how good for gamers it will be is the big question. The over arching ‘competition is good for the consumer’ mantra certainly applies, but right now I wouldn’t call it competition.

Epic Games has a long road ahead of them. They have a lower user base, a smaller library of games, and almost no ‘features’ to offer. This is certainly to be expected at the beginning of any new online store front. So far Epic Games is offering free games every two weeks for next year. This is good for gamers because they get free games, and it’s good for Epic Games and developers because it brings people to the platform. Several games are also launching exclusively on the Epic Games Store, the biggest title so far being Ubisoft’s The Division II. Given this type of progress is taking place, I’m inclined to believe their progress will continue. But. The longer their improvements take, the worse it becomes for gamers.

Customer review systems aren’t easy to implement. You need something that’s flexible, and that can change over time to reflect major patches and content changes. Only being able to rate a game at one point in it’s development is a minor help at best. This is best illustrated by the ‘review bomb’ practice. Games get review bombed because developers did something their customers didn’t like. If the reason has merit behind it, the review bombings will continue until conditions improve (For example, adding in microtransactions a month after the game launches). If the reason is petty or temporary, the bad reviews will fade away pretty quick, or gamers can take the time to read the negative reviews and judge for themselves whether to continue their purchase or not (For example, unstable servers on launch day for a massively multiplayer online game).

Thankfully Steam has two categories, a lifetime rating, and a shorter-term rating. I think this is a good system to deal with review bombs. I personally have played games despite review bombs, although I’d say that most of the time I have regretted it later. Epic Games will need to come up with at least as good a system, if not copy it completely. Of course if they do copy it, they’ll get raked over the coals, so there’s that too.

Personally, I think Epic Games will add a customer review system to their store. They’ve made lots of good decisions with Fortnite and the Unreal Engine. I think they understand the value of a customer’s opinion. Not having a customer review system would just be so colossally anti-consumer that I think they would either be brow-beaten into it, or outright fail in their endeavor. I want them to succeed though. Steam has been pretty stagnant as far as innovating. Not that they don’t offer a good service, I just feel like they could do a whole lot more. I’m not against Steam either. Goodness knows I’m tired of downloading new launchers, but if Steam and the Epic Games Store push each other to improve, I think it’s a win for everyone.

Update

I recently found this quote from an Epic Games Store representative. Apparently, user reviews will be implemented only if the developer opts-in.

I think this is an incredibly bad sign. What will stop a developer from opting in only if they’re getting good reviews? Opting out when they’re about to implement micro transactions? This literally has no upside for gamers, and gives no incentive for developers to be fair. I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether I want to support this platform in the future.

Keeping Multiplayer Games Alive

The Fatal Flaw in Some Multiplayer Games

Being the fan of multiplayer games that I am, I am frequently let down by some games. Not because they aren’t fun, or have something wrong with them mechanics-wise. It’s because the game population is so small or nonexistent. One example was Of Kings and Men, a third-person melee battlefield. Great game concept, the models and animations were nice, gameplay seemed solid – but nobody was playing. This isn’t just an indie game problem either. Big companies suffer from this problem as well. Not 4 months after For Honor launched, and it took forever to get into a queue. Also I was way outclassed by everyone in the game (I scored 5 points…compared to 200-400). Matchmaking is a huge problem for games with big populations, and exponentially more difficult for smaller game populations.

Narrowing Down The Problem

So what’s a company/developer to do? Getting your game in front of players nowadays is complex. Do you use Twitter or Facebook to advertise? Do devs give out keys to YouTubers, Twitch broadcasters, or just do giveaways directly to the players? What about Google or Facebook ads? Keep in mind this all costs money, and is very time consuming. Not to mention you have to get through a sea of spam to actually catch someone’s eye. Some Twitter users I see are following hundreds or thousands of other Twitter users. The term ‘following’ should be used loosely here, nobody keeps up with all of that unless it’s their full time job. So yes, standing out is difficult among the throngs of every other game trying to do the same.

Solutions

Lately I’ve found a few games that are hugely impacted by playing with friends. I don’t mean random PuGs through the matchmaking system, I mean people that you know and interact with regularly. Helldivers and Rocket League are two that come to mind off top. I won’t play either without ‘friends’, and I’ve seen several people insist on the same. Finding more and more of these types of games lately, the question I start to ask the most is “Why don’t the sell these games in four packs?” A few games on steam are sold in four packs, and I’m not sure why more aren’t. For games so heavily dependent on their multiplayer community (IE both games above), having more players is paramount. Offering a nice discount for purchasing more than one copy seems like a no brainer. We get discounts for bulk purchases in everyday life. I get that it’s not cheap to make a game, but I’m willing to bet it’s even more expensive to make a failed game.

Another solution is to change the standard press key giveaway strategy. As I see it happen now, a game launches and press keys go flying out to all the biggest content creators. Occasionally the smaller guys manage to snag a few trickle-down keys as well. The big creators play it for a day, and then they’re done. Maybe a few days if the devs are lucky. After that, it’s just a forgotten memory. The creators showcasing it longer are actually the smaller creators. It’s all a game of numbers, large crowds for a few days or much smaller crowds over a longer period of time. If developers spaced out their timeline for giving out keys, probably to the smaller creators, it could keep their game ‘fresh’. Holding regular giveaways directly to players to coincide with handing out creator keys would probably be helpful as well.

Perfect Example

Just before writing this article I went to try and find a particular game being streamed called Fortified! from Clapfoot games. It came out just last year, and has mostly positive reviews. Nobody’s streaming the game though! Not many are playing the game either according to Steam charts. If I want to check out the game, it’s all year-old footage from YouTube, which may or may not be representative of the game in its current state. So I risk spending $14.99 in hopes that I like the game, and that people I game with like it enough to risk $14.99 themselves. The safer route is to spend that money on something I can watch more recent gameplay of. Which option do you think players are going choose?

Risk versus Reward

Game developers, especially indie developers, take risks themselves bringing a game public, but players take risks on buying games with little to no information on. While some player risk is mitigated by Steam’s 2-hour refund window, getting a full groups-worth of friends to buy in to a game together is almost impossible. I have 290+ Steam friends, 500+ Twitch followers, 390+ Twitter followers, 100+ on Facebook, plus hundreds of readers per day on this website, and I still can’t make it happen unless the game is free. F2P is great, but for the most part they still manage to have their fatal flaws (terrible community, pay to win, etc). The bottom line is, game developers need to come up with a way to make multiplayer games more accessible to paying customers. That might mean offering better pricing on multi packs, keeping fresh content out there for prospective customers, or something else entirely.

2016 Black Friday Week Deals for Video Games!

Best Game Prices For Black Friday and Cyber Monday Week Sales 2016

This is one of the best times of the year to get that game you’ve always had your eye on, but don’t want to shell out the asking price for. Now there are a lot of deals on a lot of different websites out there, so my goal is to keep it simple. I’ll be posting links to various websites and outlining their deals. Some of the links will be affiliate links, meaning I get a portion of the sale. Thanks in advance for your support!

Amazon

Green Man Gaming

  • The Black Death $14.99
  • Of Kings and Men $17.99 (Plus another 10% off!)
  • Stellaris Leviathans DLC $8.57
  • The Black Death $4.79 (Plus another 10% off!) BLACK FRIDAY ONLY

GameStop

Steam

  • Of Kings and Men $18.74
  • Battlefleet Gothic: Armada $19.99
  • Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade $24.99
  • Gloria Victis $13.99
  • Dawn of War: II* $9.99 (No DLC)

Humble Bundle

Bundle Stars

IndieGala

Sila Games