February 18th, 2010

Sarah ShepardI played the original Mass Effect on Xbox 360 in 2007 as a male Infiltrator who followed the Paragon path. This was characteristic of me because I rarely play females and almost always play “good” characters. I think the only time I’ve defected to the dark side was on my third time playing of Knights of The Old Republic. But for the next two years I’d hear praise for female Shepard’s voice performance, and arguments in favor of the Renegade path.

I resolved that, when I played Mass Effect on PC, I would play as female Shepard, and I’d also play as a Renegade. So I created Sarah Shepard; I expected playing her to be fun, but not superior fun. I also expected to hate her. I didn’t like myself as a Dark Jedi in KoTOR. Force Lightning was fun, but I was a selfish asshole. I didn’t save the galaxy, I took it. My choices on Mass Effect’s Renegade path didn’t all result in such extremes, though; I could save the galaxy without having to mollycoddle everyone. I’d do it efficiently, and by my own rules. Playing Paragon or Renegade is analogous to playing as Superman or Batman would — that is, if either approved of killing.
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February 5th, 2010

This is Counter-Strike before Steam.Microsoft has announced that Xbox Live for the original Xbox is being discontinued so they can continue to evolve Xbox Live on Xbox 360 and future consoles. From what I’ve surmised, they used their old tech to make their new tech, but they can’t do what they want to their new tech without breaking their old tech — so they’re throwing it out. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s lack of foresight comes at the expense of their customers. While considering what this means for players and for the industry, I’m reminded of why I don’t like closed systems, and also of Valve and Counter-Strike’s transition to Steam.
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January 27th, 2010

Congratulations.I’ve had enough of Quick Time Events (QTEs) — those cut scene caricatures whose on-screen button cues limit my control and demand that I press A as I approach a chasm, or B as a boulder rolls toward me.

“Hold on,” the candy-colored cues decree, “I’ve got this — just give me a nudge.”

If I obey the cue, I leap, and I dodge. If I disobey the cue, I fall, and I’m crushed. So I obey; I leap, and I dodge. Did I have control? No, I merely had influence. That’s because the Quick Time Event is an anti-player design device; it interrupts, it distracts, and it controls.
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January 13th, 2010

My recent Bearly Noteworthy post got me thinking about what I’d do to improve Steam. I thought about the features that I’ve wished for over the years, and I compiled them. Most of my suggestions are UI and Steam Community enhancements meant to give we users greater control over how our friends, our games, and our data are organized.

Social & Organizational

  • Allow users to create and name groups in the My Games and Friends lists; make them sortable.
  • Display the number and names of friends who own a game in a column in the My Games list. Also display the size of each game in a column in the My Games list
  • Make the Community Blotter more significant by integrating it with the existing Steam notifications system. On a related note, allow users to disable event notifications for individual groups.
  • Track the played time of non-Steam games launched through Steam.
  • Expand instant messaging features by making chat containers tabbed, and allow group chat rooms to exist inside them; this will encourage users to join group chat rooms. Additionally, expand Steam Friends so users can access other IM accounts (AIM, Windows Live Messenger) through it and through the overlay; tabbed chat containers make this practical.
  • Add user ratings and user reviews to the game store. Only allow users to rate and review games that they own. Allow other users to vote for or against the helpfulness of reviews, and allow users to comment on reviews.
  • Expand Steam Cloud by synchronizing favorite servers and server history. Consider allowing users to define custom sync options for files which Steam Cloud doesn’t officially support.


  • Expand the selection of Source mods hosted by the Steam store.
  • Add an audio player to the Steam overlay.
  • Open the server browser to plug-ins that add support for unsupported games; see Qtracker.
  • Abandon Internet Explorer as the renderer for the store page and as the Community Overlay browser; consider WebKit since it’s open source and multiplatform.

When Steam Community launched in 2007, I thought many of these features would have been added by now, but Steam’s evolution has been stunted. I lost sight of that point — perhaps because the competition’s software seems primitive in comparison, or simply because I’ve become enamored by the sales — but I see again that Steam has maturing to do.

January 6th, 2010

I bought these.$119.01USD — that’s what I spent during Steam’s holiday sale. For less than the price of two new console games, I bought nineteen PC games, all from Steam. Although I was aware of sales at other stores, I bought nothing from them. Steam demanded my undivided attention; its two week store-wide sale grabbed me, and its daily sales held me tightly. Just as a clumsy analogy reinforcing a simple point, Steam’s sale refused to go unnoticed, and it refused to be forgotten. No other digital distributor’s sales accomplished this; apart from some festively redesigned websites, they were unremarkable.
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December 31st, 2009

Neurotic Buddha II by Flickr user BlimpboyI buy a lot of games — responsibly, or so I tell myself. That is, I buy most of my games when they’re discounted, rather than new. Although I buy these games with the intention of playing them, I don’t — not always. I’ve taken to hoarding; I own games that I’ve gone for weeks, months, or years without ever playing.

One such game is World of Goo. I bought it once during a Steam sale, and again during 2D Boy’s pay-what-you-will anniversary promotion ($2). Despite that, I’ve never played World of Goo – not even the demo. Another example is Plants vs. Zombies. My Steam profile claims that I’ve played it for four hours and that I’ve earned some achievements, but those marks where made by a friend who used my computer. I didn’t want to watch him play, but I relented. It looks fun.
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DoSu TeamDoSu Team


December 16th, 2009

I don’t like lists, but I wanted to make one. I like certain things, but I also don’t like certain things. That’s two lists worth of things, but the only thing worse than one list is more than one list, so I’ve combined my two lists of things to make one list of things. Additionally, I’ve disorganized the items.