It’s almost here! It’s almost here!
The Steam Christmas Sale is rumored to start on December 19th, and I cannot wait. I have been very good lately, avoiding both the Fall Sale and all Humble Bundles, but my resolve is starting to fail this close to the holidays and I demand NEW GAMES .. for me to ignore.
To be honest, my list is a little short this year. I’ve already bought (and, for the most part, played) many of the biggest titles so far, and I think I’ve gone so crazy at previous sales that there isn’t much left for me to get! That being said, there are a few titles…
1) Papers, Please – Currently $9.99, I’ll buy for $4.99
I played this game during its beta, and there’s a reason it has become one of the indie darlings of this year. Papers, Please combines solid, non-violent gameplay with an unsettling story. I want to buy it half so I can play the post-release content, and half just to support its development.
2) Audiosurf 2 – Currently $14.99, I’ll buy for $4.99
I’ve played all the Mass Effects, and I’ve played Sim City 4 and Tropico 4 until I literally fell asleep at my computer. But the Steam game I’ve spent the most hours playing? Audiosurf. Half game, half rockin’ party, Audiosurf 2 looks to take the original and add Tony Hawk-style tricks. My pocketbook wants me to wait until Audiosurf 2 is $5, but then it will be mine.
3) Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea – Currently $14.99, I’ll buy for $7
Booker and Elizabeth go to Rapture and solve noir crimes! There is absolutely no part of that sentence that I do not love.
So what are you hoping to pick up in the big sale?
There are bad things happening to gamers on YouTube this week, and we should all be worried.
YouTube, the site owned by Google, uses a “content ID” system to spot copyrighted material. If these automated content bots identify a misuse of audio or visuals, a claim is placed on the video on behalf of the legal owner and ad revenue is turned over to them.
This system was generally all well and good, but then earlier this week someone at Google decided to run a new, stricter content ID system on all existing videos, and channels about video games were hit the hardest. To be clear, the videos affected were not pirated or even in the “grey area” of Let’s Plays. These were videos with licensed music, clips from officially released trailers, and even official studio interviews!
Along with years worth of content being suppressed, some established folks like Angry Joe went from making a living with their channel to no longer earning from any of their popular videos… literally overnight.
Who is to blame?
As the first wave of content claims went out earlier this week, the initial response was to blame the game publishers. Everyone knew that Let’s Plays walked a fine line between fair use and copyright, and maybe publishers had finally had enough?
Although their names were attached to many of the claims, though, it turned out that publishers were just as surprised as the YouTubers. Many big names such as Blizzard, Riot, Valve, and Deep Silver immediately made statements confirming that they had no interest in shutting down video reviews or LPs.
Additionally, a number of the claims are by little known third party companies like CD Baby, an independent online music distributor, whether the video creator has a license to use the track or not.
A lot about this mess is still unknown, but it’s looking more and more like YouTube decided to unleash a new content ID bot to enforce copyrights even in cases where the content owners didn’t ask for it and don’t care about it or where it doesn’t apply. And, most importantly, they’re still not talking about it.
Why should I care?
I’ve been following this story with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s terrible news for gamers.
First, while the low barrier to entry for making YouTube videos means that there are some terrible videos out there, it also means that independent coverage can flourish. Folks like Angry Joe or Total Biscuit or Adam Sessler can cover game news and reviews and be a whole lot less beholden to publishers. (It also provides a platform for voices from minorities that you probably won’t see on Kotaku or any “establishment” source.)
Stiffling that is terrible for game criticism, terrible for the industry, and terrible for us players.
And while I know a number of people who don’t watch Let’s Plays, we still should not stand by and let them go gently into that good night. LPs are a fundamental part of the marketing plan for any indie game, and pretty important to AAA studios too. They let players “try before they buy” in a market that is increasingly focused on making people pay for early access, and in most cases the LPers are working hard to provide entertainment value above and beyond playing the game.
Arguing about the transformative nature of LPs is really a topic for another article, so I’ll just say that I watch a lot of LPs and while certainly sometimes it’s in lieu of buying a game for the most part LPs either convince me to buy the game or they are hilarious entertainment in their own right.
If a studio wants to put a stop to LPs of their games, fine. (Nintendo has done this, for example.) But that should be up to the studio, and not YouTube.
Really, this debacle is just bad news for both video makers and watchers of YouTube. They’ve shown that they have no problem decimating an entire section of their website without so much as even an email. These content creators have put hours and hours of their time into a product that has made Google plenty of money, and in return they have the rights illegitimately ripped away.
So what can we do?
That’s really the question, isn’t it? I don’t have a good answer.
A lot of people have mentioned moving to Twitch, and while I think Twitch is great at what it does, it’s not good at archiving or playing pre-recorded video. Of course people should also express their dissatisfaction with YouTube appointing itself copyright lord (and the craptacular G+ “integration” too, while we’re at it).
At this point I feel that the best solution is someone laying down the cash to make an alternative to YouTube, honestly. Perhaps it can be game-focused and help arrange blanket copyright deals with studios. YouTube needs to not be the only kid on the block anymore.
That is a rather long term solution though, and not one most of us can help with. In this case, it seems like the best we can do is worry and spread the word.
Want to know more about this? Watch this Adam Sessler interview session from yesterday:
Over the weekend there was a beta stress test for an MMO. This MMO takes place in space. People who participated in this beta are not allowed to discuss what they saw under pain of not being invited to any more betas, and also the taint of being unprofessional.
I myself have nothing against a bit of professionalism, even in the more laid back world of blogging. Sometimes, though, I bet someone participates in a beta and finds the whole experience quite good and something they would recommend to friends, except there is one aspect that is so overwhelmingly terrible that it is hard to ignore.
Way back in February I wrote a post titled “Not Feelin’ the WildStar Character Models”. While many months have passed since that post was published (and a lot of people have disagreed with me since then), everything I have recently seen of WildStar has just furthered my concern, particularly with the lady characters.
See that bunnygirl? That’s one of the official shots of the Aurin, a race of animal people who love nature. Notice how she has a big bust, an irrationally tiny waist, and big hips (and one can assume a booty to match). Also notice how her neck is really really long, which is unrealistic but a legit stylistic choice.
So a bunnygirl race is pretty silly, but diversity and choice are good and that includes having a sex bomb option, right? But what if… the women of every race had the same proportions? What if the zombie ladies, and the robot ladies, and the rock ladies all also had the exaggerated hourglass figure and really long neck? And what if the female version of every single race waggled her butt while she ran? Why, that wouldn’t be very much diversity at all, would it?
I got a bit of pushback about the idea of similar character shapes when I wrote that post back in February, so let me give an example from a game that I am sure most of us have played at some point: WoW.
This cute lil’ gnome has a bust-line but is pretty boxy around the waist and has straight hips.
This pandaren lady has larger hips and a larger bottom, as well as being stockier overall than the gnome.
This draenei lady has a much larger bust than the other two, proportionally.
A game that seems quite good in both mechanics and lore is a pretty special thing, but that specialness would be severely impacted for me if I had no option but to play a sex bomb lady with a tiny waist who waggles when she runs. Playing such a game might feel as though little thought was put into the character models themselves, even if they have a neat backstory or environment. It certainly might feel as though the game devs had never even considered the lack of diversity in female models.
Those are the kinds of thoughts someone might have after playing a game in beta this past weekend, and I bet they would want to talk about it and maybe even spread the word that this game is really fun but could be a lot more appealing if the models were tweaked before launch.
December is a bit of a jerk. I mean, the last week or so of it is great — most folks have presents and turkey and a week off work and hugs from family — but the three weeks before that strike me as being some of the worst of the year. It’s cold, and dark, and we all have a million things to do and functions to attend and dollars to spend on top of our usual life routines.
(Not to mention that as a content creating type there’s at least internal pressure to create exciting “end of the year” summaries and special features and things.)
It has all left me with a pretty solid case of the BLEHs. Bleh! Bleeeeeh. So instead of writing anything terribly thoughtful, behold a bunch of links, game updates, and a recipe. Yes, a recipe.
* Out of Beta on why the Argent Commander card in Hearthstone is better than you.
* Doone on the importance of speaking up about inequality in games and otherwise, along with j3w3l on sexism in games.
* Game By Night is back and wants us to remember that games are supposed to be fun
* Speaking of GbN, I was a guest on the last episode of Game On ESP Podcast, presented by MMORPG.com, and I think it’s probably safe to say now that I’ll be appearing there more frequently in the future. Awesome!
I didn’t buy anything in the Steam Fall Sale because I know that the Winter Sale is coming (and at a time that is much easier on the pocketbooks) and also.. I just have a lot of games, okay? I own many many wonderful games, and lately I have been ignoring all of them for WoW and Hearthstone.
In Hearthstone I have been continuing to lose arenas, but I feel like I’m improving! I think my weakness is in picking the deck as a whole — I can identify the best cards in each set of 3, but I need to better identify the focus of the deck.
For constructed I finally levelled up a Paladin deck to 10, the last hero I had to level for the basic cards, and it turns out that Paladin is.. really fun! The playstyle suits me very well, with a bunch of smaller minions and big buffs, and playing the Sword of Justice card always makes me smile.
In WoW I have been somewhat focused on making gold and working on the legendary cloak quest chain. My server, Nordrassil, was just merge– I mean, connected with Muradin, which means the Auction House just almost doubled in potential shoppers.
All this gold is good, because I’m working on a Vial of the Sands. I got a small discount on the mandatory vendor items for being a goblin, and hopefully by the end of the month I will be able to pick up guildies and ideally drop them from great heights. (Wait, forget I said that last bit out loud.)
The legendary cloak quest chain was designed to be done gradually over a number of patches, and while I am glad that I just came back to WoW recently and so have no patch-related gating it’s also a bit of a slog all at once. I like the idea, and I enjoy the chain a lot particularly when it wants you to do diverse things like win a battleground or work on reputations or hit a world boss, but in-between for me anyway it’s pretty much an endless sea of LFR. Go collect X in any raid! Cool, now go get Y in these particular raids! Great, now go get Z also in those raids!
Of course as a filthy casual mostly non-raider I don’t need the cloak and I could quit or at least stop caring for a few weeks, so any duress I feel is something I am doing to myself. Really, though, as much as I good naturedly gripe in guild chat I do enjoy a good masochistic grind. (Hmm. That sounded better in my head.)
One of my non-game hobbies is cooking. I find it really soothing, all that chopping and stirring and seasoning, and then when it’s all over you have a delicious thing! A few weeks ago I bought a slow cooker, and it’s opened up a whole new world of recipes for me. Below is one of my recent favorites, Korean Tacos. Make the pork and pickles ahead of time, and this is a super quick weeknight meal.
- pork shoulder roast
- yellow onion
- green onion
- cilantro (if you like it)
- cabbage (pre-chopped coleslaw mix works great)
- rice vinegar
- soy sauce
- gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- sesame oil
- small tortillas
the night before…
- Chop up the yellow onion into bite sizes
- Put the pork shoulder in your ceramic slow cooker insert. Throw in the onion, a few splashes (seriously, not more than that) of rice vinegar and soy sauce, and a heaping tablespoon of the gochujang. Put the ceramic in the fridge.
- Slice (a mandolin works great if you have one) cucumber and ginger.
- Put all the slices in a bowl with about 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Add water to cover the veggies and put it in the fridge.
the next morning…
- Put the pork in the slow cooker and set it on low. Now go to work, you slacker!
- Does your house smell amazing now? I bet it does. Take the pork (just the meat and onions, no juice) out into a bowl and use a fork to shread it.
- Grab a bowl and mix up a few tablespoons of gochujang, lots of rice vinegar, some soy sauce, and a splash of sesame oil. If you like spicy (I do), try adding a squirt of sriracha!
- Chop up green onion and rough bits of cilantro.
- Grab a tortilla. Combine the cabbage, some pork, a few cuke and ginger pickles, a sprinkle of green onion and cilantro, and then a few tablespoons of sauce.
- Eat it and make yummy noises.
This week Liore and Elly sit down with special guest Aurelia to talk about EQ Landmark and Hearthstone.
EverQuest Landmark announced its early access packages last week, which range from $20 – $100. Elly and Liore generally agree that paying for beta is silly, while Aurelia takes a more measured approach. We additionally looked at Landmark in general, from the idea of user generated content, to virtual land grabs, to whether we non-artistic folks will screw up the world with hideous houses.
In other news, Aurelia just got a Hearthstone beta invite so all three hosts talk about their hands on impressions. Elly, as the resident Magic expert, feels that getting casual scrubs into Hearthstone is an overall win for the TCG market, while Liore and Aurelia commisserate over being terrible.
Also, we discuss the principle of TTD, or “time to dicks”! Liore yells about not preordering games! We compare Steam Sale shopping lists!
Like to watch? This podcast is also available on YouTube:
It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
* A good post about the economy of Hearthstone
* EQ Landmark Founder’s Pack page