Friday, January 16, 2015

Things I Learned by Sampling Way Too Many Steam Games

I Played a lot of Games

In total I sampled 66 Steam games that have been sitting in my library, unplayed.  The last 22 posts leading up to this one have been my impressions of them.  While it may seem to you, dear reader, like I played them over the course of many weeks the truth is different.  I crammed all these games into the space of one week, between Christmas and New Years.

It gave me a great chance to put my new PC through its paces and it finally let me sort through my huge Steam backlog.

What did I learn?  Let me tell you...

Having a Controller is Key

There were so many games that I tried which would be next to impossible to play with only a mouse and keyboard.  There is another big selection of games in my library that can be played with mouse and keyboard, but are much better with a controller.

My go to controller is from my dead Xbox 360.  The console is dead, but the controllers are all in fully functional.  I keep one near my PC and it works perfectly with the sync station I have plugged in via USB.  Or, if you don't already have a wireless one laying around you can grab the wired variety.  It connects directly to a PC via USB with no sync station required.  But honestly, the sync stations sell for like $5 so it's probably worth it to get rid of the wires.

The Xbox 360 controller is quickly becoming the industry standard PC controller.  All of the games I tried it with recognized it immediately and needed no configuration from me.

Long Intros Suck

Let me play your game!  Don't make me wait through twenty minutes of bullshit.

Give me a taste of your gameplay in the first five minutes of the game.  By the end of trying 66 different games the story didn't matter at all.  I was trying to get a feel for the game and that required gameplay.  The gameplay I wanted to sample was often buried behind ten to twenty minutes of intros, cutscenes, character creators, and whatever else.

Hook me on the gameplay first, then hit me with your story and worldbuilding.  Not the other way around.

A lot of developers suck at making trailers

Show off the cool part of your game!  Not the intro, title screen, preamble, or awards!

I was trying to embed videos with my impressions whenever it made sense, but so many of the game trailers were horrible or didn't show off the gameplay at all.  Many of the videos were made up primarily of text listing awards or critical reception.  Another handful were cinematic intros to the games that didn't give any kind of impression of gameplay whatsoever.

I know a game developer might not be a professional video editor... but maybe they should hire one.

Limited Mental Energy for Epic RPGs

I tried out a bunch of RPGs and almost none of them stuck.  The only one that truly grabbed my attention was Valkyria Chronicles.  I barely even remember the other RPGs I tried.

I need to love the setting, the battle system, and the characters for the game to have any chance of sticking.  Even if I have all those things I might not be able to buy into the game if it isn't from a series or developer I already love.  I only have so much mental energy to put toward these huge games.

It takes something truly special or unique to hold my attention in an RPG.  I know that if I commit to an RPG I'm almost always committing more than 20 hours of my time to that game, if not 40 or 100.  RPGs are epic in length and if they don't wow me early, I'm not going to commit to the time it takes to play them.

Lots of Kickstarting, Not Much Playing

I kickstarted a lot of games that are now in full release.  I had barely played any of them.  I was surprised by how many of my backlog games were Kickstarters that I backed and never even tried the finished product.

This is definitely going to give me pause in the future when I look at Kickstarting games.  Unless I'm super passionate about a game, it seems to be a better idea to just wait.

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