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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

S1_mp64_ship 2015-05-06 18-01-24-19

THE LOWS

Tyler Wilde: Where’d everyone go?
I don’t love Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but I don’t dislike it. The multiplayer is pretty fun, even if I’ve grown weary of the CoD style. Regardless of what I think, it’s a huge game in terms of budget and global popularity, so I was surprised at what a pain it was to find a match in one of the newly-released Ascendance DLC playlists this week. When I checked yesterday, more people were playing Battlefront II on Steam than Advanced Warfare.

Player retention has been on my mind lately. If Call of Duty sells well every year, and people buy the season pass every year, then what does it matter if most of them stop playing before the next one’s out? Not much, perhaps, so it could be argued that Activision just isn’t bothered by dwindling player-counts.

But in general, it seems to be getting harder and harder to keep players around. Look at Evolve, another big game, which often has fewer than 1,000 concurrent players. A small game that I really like, Ratz Instagib, is often entirely empty. Last year, I tried to review Cult of the Wind, which people seemed to like a lot on Greenlight, but no one was playing it. Meanwhile, TF2 and CS:GO are constantly packed. I’m not sure how you compete with them, but one guess is that mod and mapmaking support are simply vital. Killing Floor’s numbers will tell you the same.

There’s also something to be said for enjoying multiplayer games with a small community where you get to know everyone. I like that experience a lot, but at the same time, it’s frustrating to own a game you like but have trouble finding matches when you have time to play. I’m less bothered about it in smaller games that are either free-to-play or inexpensive, but when you’re CoD and you’re selling $15 DLC, not having anyone to play it with is really crappy.

Wes Fenlon: A mess for Dark Souls 2 fans
Nobody knows exactly what's going on with Dark Souls 2, but people are getting softbanned, and From Software isn't talking yet. Softbanning in Dark Souls 2 puts you in a smaller player population comprised entirely of cheaters—but it seems like some of those "cheaters" are simply running mods that fix some longstanding Dark Souls 2 bugs. More than a year after release, From Software just got around to fixing a weapon damage bug. Modders had already fixed it. Are players being banned for using mods? We're still trying to find out. And I don't want to throw blame at From Software prematurely. Even if they aren't banning people for using mods, though, they were definitely slow to fix some glaring game bugs, leaving the modding community to fix them itself. That's poor form for a game that recently got a re-release that existing owners had to shell out extra money for, unlike the generous Game of the Year Edition of Wasteland 2.

Wasteland 2 Slide

Samuel Roberts: GOTY FTW
Great news for owners of last year’s solid post-apocalyptic Kickstarter RPG Wasteland 2—you get the game of the year edition for for free if you’ve already bought it or backed it on Kickstarter. That includes a whole host of updates and dialogue additions that build upon the game as it exists now. That’s not my low of the week. In fact, I think that’s great news.

My only query is, why don’t more games make an effort to give that level of goodwill to early adopters? What a fantastic gesture that is to the audience that helps make your game a success. Developers and publishers of big triple-A games are unlikely to do this given the costs associated with creating some DLC, but I’d like to at least see it done once.

Phil Savage: Digital marketplace
I recently moved house, which was a stark reminder of my distaste for physical possessions. I get the appeal of nice special editions and a browsable catalogue of retail goods, but I'm not a fan. This is my fourth move in the last two years. Frankly, I could do with cutting down on the boxloads of popular culture. That or move into a ground floor flat.

This rambling needs a point, so let's try this: a life dedicated to digital consumerism is still fraught with uncertainty. We are at the mercy of publishers and retailers to not dick us over. That was brought into sharp focus this week with the deletion of P.T.—Konami's free playable teaser for the cancelled Silent Hills. If it leaves a PS4 owner's hard-drive, there's no way for them to re-download it, even though it should be tied to their account.

Time and again we see industries incapable of adapting to an increasingly digital marketplace. Games should be better at it, given they're at the forefront of technology, but even here there's a long way to go. Ultimately, we shouldn't settle for a system that can't protect the things we've paid money for. It's in our interest to condemn the companies that don't work to preserve games, and praise those that do. Given how difficult it to simply bring beloved classics to digital platforms, it's clear we can't leave it up to publishers to make everything better.

Kerbal Space Program Slide

Andy Kelly: Spaced out
I love space. I spend a lot of my non-gaming spare time reading about it and watching documentaries about it and thinking about it. So I fully expected to love Kerbal Space Program—especially after Phil’s glowing review. But I just can’t get on with it, and it’s entirely my fault. As the years tumble on, I’m getting worse at learning new things. I’ve played through the tutorial, but nothing clicked. I’ve loaded up and abandoned the game within minutes so many times that it’s getting embarrassing. My stupid mind can’t grasp it.

I think I should give it another shot, though. If I manage to stick at it, and land on the Mun, it’ll be reassuring. I’m not about to give up. I can still learn things. The worst thing is that it’s not even that complicated. My brain’s just being stubborn. Refusing to learn. “You know enough, flesh sack. You can cook pasta and wipe yourself. That’s enough. Stop filling me with more stuff.” Oh, yeah? I’ll show you, brain. Just you wait and see.

Chris Livingston: Crash and Return
I'm currently locked in a process every PC gamer has experienced at one time or another: trying to diagnose and fix a problem with a PC game. GTA 5 crashes to desktop fairly regularly, and sometimes even completely locks up my PC. And so, I'm engaged in the long, slow, frustrating slog to find an answer.

We know how it goes. Google the problem to find others that have it. Delve into forums to read posts. Scroll down through dozens and dozens of replies that all equate to "Same" or "Bump" or "Rockstar plz fix." Try a simple solution someone has proposed, find it doesn't work, revisit the forum to stare in jealousy at the one poster who said "This fixed it for me! Thanks!" Try the more complicated solution contained within a lengthy YouTube video set to unthinkably horrible music as someone walks you through 46 poorly-explained steps, only to find it too doesn't work.

Verify integrity of game cache on Steam. Ha ha. This never works. But we try it. We eventually try everything.

In the meantime, I'm trying to look on the bright side. A crash every two hours or so, at the very least, gives me a reason to stop playing and get to bed.