Free from Epic – Yuko’s Island Express

I actually remember helping my youngest child play a demo of this game at some point. It’s a really cute and well crafted take on what would otherwise be a very random pinball game. The basic premise is that you’re a new postal worker who happens to be a small red beetle. Given the ball to which you’re leashed, I would propose that it’s a dung beetle.

Aside from the variety of pinball related challenges, most of which require you to collect runes or manipulate the environment in some way, the primary progression comes from collecting enough fruit to unlock entrances to new areas. They seem to cost either 30 or 80 and there were certainly times that I had to go back to old boards in order to collect more fruit.

Despite having a fairly robust map, routing can be less than straightforward. Still, the overall format is a bit loose at times. Progression can feel a bit metroidvania like at times. Exploring part of one area to unlock a new ability or find out where something is then doubling back to grab the thing that you need.

I would say that there’s a lot of fetch quest type action, but you’re the postmaster, so yeah.

While anything resembling combat is quite rare, there are a couple of boards that have a slightly combative setup. Most of it is like the other areas and more a matter of problem solving and figuring out what you’re expected to do rather than anything overtly combative. Still, it was interesting to see some of the different challenges and approaches they incorporated into these sections.

The art style and environments were good, if stylized.There are a lot of little secrets and hidden places to find if you’re paying attention. There were actually several areas I never figured out how to access. Some simply because I couldn’t figure out how to physically get there and others because I couldn’t find the required item.

There are also some very strange characters as well. The underground area has mysterious hooded warriors and the snowy peaks are home to frogs called “space monks” that build giant rockets to the moon. Most of these various groups or species have a chief that you’re supposed to be finding and asking to attend a healing ritual. Solving their problems, usually. Each of them also have their own biome and none of them seem to be fond of visitors. Most of them require some new ability or unlock to gain entry.

There’s also a great deal of optional content as well. I managed to collect about half the little sproutlings required to do whatever this was. You use them 10 at a time to light torches scattered around the island. Despite playing for about 7 hours and completing the main story content as well as wandering around a great deal, they game reported me has having about 54% completed.

There are actually a number of side quests that require you to visit and explore different areas of the island to find specific locations or puzzles. From planting mushrooms all over the island to collecting parts of what appear to be a petrified wizard.

On the whole it’s a nice little game. There are a variety of things I’m leaving out, like ways to color and decorate your ball. It’s perhaps not for everyone, but it was a good way to spend several hours for no cost. If I had one complaint it’s that some of the boards require a degree of accuracy that ends up feeling more like luck. There are places that feel a little frustrating when it’s easy to fall into the lower section and difficult to get back to the upper section.

Y’all take care. Watch out for explosive slugs.

Epic Games Store – A Few Thoughts

So, it’s certainly no particular secret that I’m somewhere in the neutral to mildly positive territory regarding Epic Games, though I really need to check out Galaxy 2.0 also.

This is probably based on my general tendency to prefer the underdog, though I’ve long believed that Valve needed some form of competition. Still, Steam has been around so long that the list of QoL features it’s acquired is quite long compared to a relatively recent product like EGS.

This became readily apparent to me today. Longer-term readers may recall my hard-drive issues a while back. Well, I limped it along, but its seek error rate is steadily climbing. I figured I would go ahead and bite the bullet on changing the install location of EGS before it failed entirely.

I was initially going to criticize EGS for the absurdity that followed, but it appears to be more of a Windows issue. Because the drive is so flighty and changed letter designations, Windows refuses to uninstall anything that was on it. Likewise, if I try and re-install software that was currently installed on that drive, it simply fails saying that the install location doesn’t exist.

The end result being ctrl-F-ing my way through the registry editor deleting any reference I can find to the EGS. Rather agitating state of affairs if you ask me, but it wasn’t EG fault, I suppose.

Another thing I’ve eventually discovered is the inability to throttle the EGS’s download speed. I keep Steam pretty heavily throttled so it doesn’t lock down all the bandwidth, but I couldn’t find any way to restrict EG. Would be a nice basic feature to have.

Oh well, E1S group is almost full, so I’ll go ahead and wrap this up. Y’all take care.


BlaugustBOnlylogoIn case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an event called Blaugust. The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Epic Games Store – Free Games Weekly?

So my regularly occurring Something New posts on Sunday, I had been taking advantage of twice a month free games from EGS. I noticed during this sale that they were doing one every week. They’ve really put me in a spot now by announcing they’ll be doing it the rest fo the year.

Now, that’s not to say that this is a bad thing. I’ll gladly accept another 28 free games, though that was about half their library last I checked and I’m curious how they intend to deal with that. I personally expect that we’ll see some repeats by the end of the year.

What it means for me, though, is that I can be a little more particular about which one I cover, if I wish, though the original point was to get caught up and cover the game that was actually still free, in case anyone wanted to check it out. That means I have to download, play, and write between Thursday afternoon and Sunday on a given week because the free game will have changed by the following Sunday.

Ah well, we’ll see. I was looking forward to trying Enter the Gungeon this weekend, so don’t be surprised if you end up hearing about that this Sunday. I actually did play last week’s game, Kingdom: New Lands, I just didn’t get around to writing the post.

It was a pretty good game. Little more difficult than I anticipated, as I never managed to clear the first area and each attempt took close to an hour. After the third or fourth failure, I moved on to other stuff. If nothing else, the gameplay itself was a cool concept and was executed well.

Y’all take care, and don’t mess with EGS. They have weaponized their cash flow.

Something New – Stories Untold

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It’s time once again to go over our free Epic Game Store game. This time it’s Stories Untold, a somewhat thematic game with the tagline “4 Stories, 1 Nightmare.”

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I’m assuming, based on the tagline, that all four of these seemingly un-related narratives are tied together in some way. Unfortunately, in the making of this post, I did not get through all of them, so cannot be certain.

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The first story takes place pretty much entirely as a text adventure using the console on the left. They did a great job at using the environment for atmosphere, but I do feel that it was rather difficult to use the rather small text area. This was something of a recurring problem and leads me to the impression that this game was intended for a 60 inch TV and not a standard computer monitor. I’m also glad I’m old enough to have experience with this type of text adventure, which made the clues it provided very straightforward, for the most part.

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really liked the second story. It had an SCP Foundation sort of vibe to it and I really enjoyed the way to section played and progressed.

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This section also introduced the ability to switch between two different views. One using the computer to see what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, and the other, where you can fiddle with all the bits and pieces in the experiment proper.

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The third section plays similarly, with a microfilm viewer in place of a computer, helping you tune to various radio frequencies, deciphering the encryption code, then interpreting the proper commands. I got somewhat stuck on the morse code bit and had to look up why what I was certain was the correct code wouldn’t work. Apparently, I had some of the digits wrong due to the fuzzy microfilm situation. Operator error, I assure you.

I made it at least partway through the last section before the power went out, and I probably won’t be dealing with it again until late this evening. I got far enough to infer where this might be going, but can’t be certain.

Decent little puzzle game, overall. Subject matter can get really dark though, so player beware. Overall time commitment from beginning to end is probably only 4-6 hours, I’d guess. Those people over at Epic sure do like their narrative puzzle games.

Y’all take care and stay safe. Maybe don’t drink and drive, yeah?

Epic Games – Sale Shennanigans Follow-Up

The first thing I saw when I got up this morning was a Kotaku article (Publishers Pull Their Games From Epic’s Store During Its Big Sale) about the sale I had written that evening myself. Their news was, well, not exactly as positive as my own, as indicated by their title.

Logically, it made sense though. They billed themselves as “the store that cared about developers” and if they did indeed launch this sale on short notice to foster goodwill with the consumer, then I could see where those developers might feel reasonably upset.

So the thing I didn’t notice or catch, that Kotaku reported, was that two games were removed and one had a price change. The individual details are a little more complicated, but at the moment, that’s the short version.

Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, a rather wordy title if you ask me, was removed shortly after the sale went live. People who got the sale price are still having their purchase honored, so that’s good. Paradox and Epic have since come to some manner of agreement regarding this situation, as I understood it.

They also reported that Oxygen Not Included was also removed, but has yet to be commented on. A curious development, to say the least.

Now, Hades, an ARPG similar to Bastion and Transistor and made by the same developer, had a sudden price increase. Since increasing prices to “compensate for a sale” is a bit frowned upon as being deceptive this gained some attention. It was also compounded by the fact that Supergiant Games had previously stated they would make consumers aware of any price increases ahead of time. This obviously didn’t happen.

What I’m seeing reported seems to indicate that they were planning to do a price increase but had not yet announced it. When this sale hit, dropping the purchase price, they had a moment of panic and pulled the trigger without telling anybody. It would appear that they have since apologized and dropped the price back down for the time being.

The unstated premise that I’m curious about though is how all this is being handled behind the scenes. At least some of these discounts, like the $10 off everything above $15, are characterized as “on us.” This implies that Epic Games is actually eating the difference and still paying the developers as though the game were purchased at its normal price. That would truly be a great thing for both consumer and developer, and not at all how I imagine this sort of thing typically works. I’ve always assumed that both parties receive their respective cut at the lower price, which would explain why Supergiant would panic when something you were selling for $20 is now suddenly $10 against your will. A far cry from the standard retail market where goods are purchased from the producer at wholesale and then marked up.

I was curious, so I tweeted the question at them, for lack of a better avenue to contact them. I also thought better of is and emailed their PR address as well.

[Update: I did, in fact, receive a reply indicating that this is the case. Good on them.]

Y’all take care, I’ll find something else to talk about tomorrow.

 

Epic Games Store – Finally Has a Sale

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Sale in the sense that many games cost less than normal, that is. Not going to lie, as much as I talk about EGS I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a shill. Alas, I’m not paid to promote it, which makes it better for them I guess? Free advertising?

It’s a good chance to pick up some of their exclusive titles for a little less than full retail. Most things seem to be $10 off, as long as they were originally more than $15. The steepest discounts percentage-wise are to the smaller indie titles they have given away previously.

The most notable thing is that this applies to pre-orders as well, so things like Borderlands 3 and Pheonix Point are also $10 off. I’m considering going ahead and picking up the later, we’ll see. I’m already in for an FFXIV sub and a modded Minecraft server at the moment and may be looking at owing a couple hundred in the very near future if I manage to get into this third class.

Still, if there was anyone eye-balling a game on the EGS now is the time.

I’m curious about the timing of the sale though, as they’ve been increasingly upsetting some communities by snapping up exclusives, and I wonder if this is their way of trying to earn back some goodwill.

I actually haven’t taken the time to see how that’s working out. Events conspired to keep me off the grid in the first half of the day, and the last half has been spent working on other things.

For the curious, it’s also quite a long-lived sale, lasting for just short of a month and refunding $10 to any existing pre-purchases as well as any qualifying purchase made after May 2nd as well. Pretty good terms, if you ask me. Like Mr. Moneybags running around handing out tenners “for the heck of it.”

Ultimately, I’m a consumer though, so I ought not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Y’all take care, and don’t spend any money you can’t afford.

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games, and Phoenix Point – Again

Saw an article in my news feed early this morning talking about a series of tweets from Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, talking about some of the nuts and bolts of their revenue split and how it works out for them.

It really helps put some context on something I talked about the other week, which is the cost of exclusives and what has to happen to make back that money. I’ve seen reports for the cost of the Pheonix Point exclusive ranging between 2 and 3 million USD. People doing the math are coming up with a figure around 2.25M. It has a pre-order price of $40/unit.

We’ll say, for the sake of argument, that PP has sales in the same range as XCOM 2, around 1M units in the first year. That’s 40M in gross sales so 4.8M gross split. If I take Tim at his word here that means their net profit for this game would be around 2M USD. The break-even point should be right around 1,125,000 units. Any less than that and it’s taking a loss to provide this product and the only sensible reason to do that would be to drive traffic. I honestly don’t think this is the right title for that, but that’s just me.

Still, one has to assume they are confident that they can eat the loss, if it comes to that, or they would not have done it.

On the other hand, it’s great for the developer, who’s reporting a 191% ROI. The break even point for the game was around $588K and this deal more than covers that. A good break for a new studio. Of course, since I last spoke about this I’ve also learned I was wrong about this being the first title of a brand new studio. It’s actually their second title and the company has been around for six years. Their previous game was Chaos Reborn, also listed as a Tactical RPG. It has an estimated 50-100K owners on Steam. I’ll have to check that out when I get home.

I’m behind schedule enough as it is, so I’ll go ahead and stop there. Y’all take care, and if you’re the donating type, check out this GoFundMe campaign shared by Marathal.

I Don’t Think I Like the Actual Epic Games Store Itself

I was reading some comments lately regarding Epic Games and their Store. Of course, I was reading these on Reddit, and as a whole they’re pretty mixed. Acknowledging that something was needed to provide competition to Steam, but generally upset about exclusivity.

It was particularly interest to watch people argue about their free games. Y’know, the ones I’ve been covering in my Something New posts. The next one is Transistor which is, in fact, one of these free games. Now, there are several reasons why a business might give something away, or running a sale for that matter. One of the biggest benefit is obviously getting people to visit the store, be it physical or otherwise. I realized a don’t visit the store section of EGS very often so figured I would take a look.

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It took all of three seconds to remind me why. They have this awful “tile” setup where the games are presented in groups of three, one large image on one side and two smaller images next to it, and it just switches sides for each group. I was curious how many actual games they were selling so I started by counting these groups of three, of which there are currently 16. 48 “titles.” There are no list views, categories, or tags so narrow things down. You either scroll through it or do a text search.

Now, three of these are free, Fortnite BR, Unreal Tournament, and Transistor. It also includes a couple of “groups” which include more than one item, like Overkill TWD’s various pieces and a different Jackbox Games packs, but they only show up on the main store page as a single image, so that’s nice. Another 8 of those titles are currently in “pre-purchase.” So they have roughly 35 actual items for sale.

They have an additional 18 titles in the “coming soon” section, but at least one of those is their next free game. There is no indication on the store page when these “coming soon” titles are actually expected, either. There’s absolutely no review system, and most of the game pages don’t really provide much information to make a decision with, usually just a short bit of text, a trailer, and maybe a dozen screenshots tops. It’s just not a very user-friendly store, at least in my opinion. It really needs some work.

On the bright side, their free games so far have been absolutely superb titles with a strong preference towards puzzle-solving and narrative-driven experiences. Which is good, because I just don’t see this as being overly competitive with Steam in its current state. It is, at best, funneling money away from Valve using exclusives, but it’s by no means cheap. I just got a notice of a reddit post alleging that EGS paid 3.3M for the Phoenix Point exclusive. Don’t get me wrong, if I had to pick one game from their library to buy, this would probably be it, but they need to sell some 118,000 copies just to cover the exclusivity, not including the cost of bandwidth and hosting. That might be pushing it for the crowdfunded first title by a new studio in a niche genre. Not saying it’s impossible, just seems that many things are stacked against it.

I guess we’ll see. I’ll continue covering their free games, but so rarely venture any further than I need to that most of it will go by without my even noticing.

Y’all take care, and please remain behind the yellow line while the hype trains pass through the station.

Dauntless – Also Moving to Epic Games Store

Y’know, this Epic Games stuff is morbidly fascinating. Every day or two it seems they’ve managed to secure some new title for their platform. The ongoing shenanigans with Metro: Exodus is interesting and they’ve just announced today that Dauntless will be moving to EG as well.

The thing with Metro is, the immediate backlash of the announcement is that the other Metro games on Steam are allegedly getting review bombed. I’m not really in a position to check on it at the time of writing. The point though, is that just reinforces how ineffective some of Steam’s systems are. Leaving a negative review on one or more games that aren’t the offending one seems a little disingenuous. Maybe Valve should add the ability to write reviews on developers/publishers, because that’s really what this practice is.

Meanwhile people are also getting spun up regarding Dauntless, which up until now has been independent. It’s worth pointing out that Dauntless is built on EG’s Unreal Engine, so it’s a move that makes quite a lot of sense. I imagine some money probably changed hands as well. Overall it’s probably a good move for Dauntless, it’s a good game and deserves some visibility. I spent a fair amount of time playing it a month or so before Monster Hunter World came out on PC.

It’s weird, in a way, I always figured somebody would eventually show up and find a way to truly compete with Steam. I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. This thing was only announced on Dec. 4th. In just under two months they’ve gone from “hey we’re gonna do a thing” to pulling titles out from under Steam a week before launch. Man, money sure does a good job at lubricating the machine.

They’re making enemies as fast as friends though. Some of the gaming YouTubers I follow have already started walking back their slightly optimistic opinions and sentiment on reddit seems…. mixed. Such is the way of business though. They don’t tend to succeed by being nice and playing “fair.” Epic certainly isn’t doing either of those.

GameStop, Nvidia, and Activision Stock Stuff

It still feels weird, watching various gaming and tech companies rise and fall via share price. I’ve actually gone so far as to create an account over at marketwatch.com this morning, where I’m slowly accumulating a list of companies I feel like monitoring.

This came about because both GameStop and Nvidia are in my headlines this morning for taking some manner of fall or another. According to my little watchlist ol’ Activision Blizzard is in the club too.

GameStop’s, though, is the most severe. They seem to have stopped looking for a buyer for the business and as a result their stock price is down somewhere around 25% overnight. It’s sad to watch, in a way, as I have some fairly fond memories of using GameStop, say, around 2012. We’ll see though, it’s not like they’ve gone out of business just yet. Maybe they’ll get their hands on a CEO and find some way to secure their market.

Nvidia seems like less of an issue to me. Their stock is down due to lower than expected sales during the holiday season. I get it, but the whole shares dropping because we made less than expected is a general pet peeve. Their 2018 Gross and Net Income are both up year over year since 2014. Like, a lot. Net income in 2014 was 630M and 2018 was 3B, with a B. Of course, people are people, I guess. It does look like 2018 over was a very flat year for them, quarter to quarter not much has changed. Makes sense though, I’ve been trying to delay major computer upgrades hoping prices would come back down. Maybe this year will be the year.

That’s another thing though. See, everyone talks about Q4 sales, holiday sales, and I get it, traditionally a lot of product moves during that time period. As a consumer, though, the holidays aren’t where it’s at for me. Yeah, some extra spending happens, but I simply don’t spend what some of my coworkers do on the holidays.

Maybe that’s just me though. In a wonderful show of shareholder confidence, AMD, the company I usually buy from, is also down due to Nvidia’s report. Neither case is really a big deal, I don’t think. Especially not compared to the drop they both experienced back in September.

Activision Blizzard is also down a little bit because an analyst changed their opinion of the stock from “outperform” to “perform.” So, y’know, whatever.

Unfortunately this sort of odd analysis doesn’t apply to everyone I watch. Both Valve and Epic Games are private, which means none of these numbers are collected in a nice handy place for me to look at. Apparently Koch Media has decided that Metro Exodus will be an Epic Games exclusive for it’s first year. I’m sure some money changed hands, as it seems to be doing a lot lately with Epic Games. I’m assuming that’s mostly Fortnite money being used to launch the EG Store.

I’ve seen people criticizing the EG Store for it’s use of exclusives as well. I’m admittedly not a fan of having a bunch of exclusive storefronts, and have expressed sentiments against them in the past. Valve needs some competition though, and this may in fact be required to establish themselves. Not that I think they will stop when they’ve done so.

On that note, I’m going to fade back into the swirling thoughts of capitalists and proletariats from which I came and get some “real” work done. Y’all take care.