It was back in October last year that I first supported Family Plot, and I was anticipating its arrival. I have had my final copy for a few months now and thought it was about time that I finally reviewed it.
The infamous Steam Sale has come again, and amidst the veritable deluge of prices crashing to earth there are some serious bargains. I can honestly say I’ve bought more in this sale than I have done in years, a few of those curiosity pieces reduced to pennies, blockbuster titles of yesteryear brought to all time lows. Financially speaking the going has been good this summer if you’ve got a nice full wishlist so you can monitor the good deals when they come.
Steam’s efforts to gamify their sales process and engage their users in the buying process may- at one time – have revolutionised the retail industry, but their recent efforts have been a little lacklustre, repetitive, and at times a little sloppily executed. So let’s talk about the latest attempt, the sticker collection.
Every 24 hours you get the usual chance to cycle through your discovery queue ignoring the popular games, watching the odd trailer that catches your eye, maybe racking up an item or two for the wishlist, and collecting trading cards for the regular badge that you’ll never quite complete. The queue also earns you stickers, as do two other “quests” that change every day that get you further and further involved in Steam’s various community features. You slowly build up a sticker collection that build up various scenes of game characters enjoying typical summer activities, barbecues in the park, going to the seaside, time out in the wilderness with friends, that sort of thing.
And yet I find myself thinking that this may be one of the least interesting and blandly transparent, and maybe that’s because I’ve seen too many. Sure there’s plenty of new users who’ve never taken part, maybe aren’t aware of all of the community features they’ve got going on, and they’ve added a few lately that they probably want to shout about a little, and rightly so, they’ve put in the backbone to take their once barely known selling platform for their singular line of games and created a monster of the industry that’s stripped PC games from the highstreet and have forced the consoles to give deep thought to their business model… but that’s a different article, I’ll stop now.
Turning your engagement in a product and into the sale into a game is the perfect approach for Steam, but it requires some feedback, some reward, and filling up a sticker book with some mostly boring stickers? Ok, seeing Geralt of Rivia flipping burgers is entertaining enough but most of those stickers are cups. One of the pages has mostly cacti, and to be honest a few of them just don’t fit the background.
And I find myself asking unpleasant questions like: “What exactly do Steam levels do for me?” and “Why am I so entertained by collecting the cards?” I’m not in this to chase numbers, I find I want more out of my experience, and practically any amount of return on investment would make me far more interested.
I’m well aware that the Steam sales are a deal that benefits everyone, we get cheap games, Steam makes money, and the creators make money (although… no, y’know what, that’s another article again), so I’m not saying that the sales are a bad idea, far from it. But they have a motif to pursue, and right now it feels like they’re just rolling out the same recycled picture show and haven’t even reached the bar on that either.
Creativerse is a title that’s not unlike Minecraft, so you may see people compare the two games quite often. In fact, as a spoiler, Minecraft will be name dropped a lot in this article. However, whilst Minecraft-like games usually don’t appeal to me, Creativerse certainly does. It’s a cute, clean game which is thoroughly well made. Furthermore, servers are really well looked after – So come and take a peek at this beautifully imagined game with us!
The fight is fought and won, there is no more glory to be had here, so why are you lingering? Why it’s to finish the job in style of course; because no epic fight is finished with one guy just bleeding from his wounds, or simply limping away to feel sorry for himself. You have to let them know who’s won, you have to do it in style!
In the last few days there has been a leak that shows us an early print of the upcoming Magic: the Gathering block Ixalan. This is actually the second leak, but the first was barely a glimpse of the cover art which gives us some idea of the inspirations behind it, and listed with a different name “Atlazan”. Very minor compared to this huge release of info, a sheet of actual cards not due to be released for months. Understandably, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro are not happy about this, but is a leak all that bad?
For Wizards of the Coast a great deal of money, effort, and time goes into preparing their usual advertising campaign. This isn’t just the regular steady drip feeds of new cards through social media worldwide, but it also includes the short stories on their website written by teams of cannon artists developing the wonderfully deep narratives behind every block, and the normal promo events with Friday Night Magic prereleases.
Read this piece by M;tG web content manger Trick Jarrett from the leaks around the Oath of the Gatewatch block two years ago about how such information leaks can undermine months, even years of work. For him it’s a personal kick in the teeth as it’s his work that’s being undermined. Through various associations with outside companies WotC expose themselves to the possibility of unauthorised leaks on a regular basis, but it’s still important to them to maintain creative control over the advertising process.
It seems like a no-brainer, leaks happen because people want to know stuff! There’d be no need or call for leaked information if people weren’t interested, and there isn’t a company that doesn’t want anyone to be interested in their product. Should a company be keen to know that people are so determined to learn about their product that they’re willing to go around their planned release schedule?
And by all means make a big deal about how you don’t want anyone to know about the information, but in many ways bemoaning the leak helps draw attention to it. You can frequently bring more attention with a leak and you’re own adverse reaction to it, than with your average run of advertising. Does Magic need the extra attention a leak might bring in for them? Not necessarily, but their advertisement can usually be formulaic. It can do some good to shake things up from time to time. Not that I’m accusing them of leaking their own cards, but maybe they needn’t be so downhearted.
Let us not forget that this is not just a game of fun for some people, and that Magic is a game played at a competitive level, and it’s these people watching attentively at the leak sites to get a head start on the maths. That may sound a little over-the-top but there’s actual money in it for some people. And those players less involved who pursue the game’s news less rigorously lose out. In those particularly rare instances where leaks are more physical than just a photograph, some people can get hold of some early copies of cards long before release.
These are the kinds of leaks that can truly damage a game and cause serious issues for the competitions that are integral to the gradual releases.
Just a quick note on one of the finest examples of a film that could have never existed without leaked footage. Plenty of us have speculated on the possibility that Sony, probably Ryan Reynolds himself stole the test footage in an effort to make his little fan project a reality, and if that little flicker of perfection hadn’t hit the internet like an atom bomb we may have lost one of the best superhero films of the decade. Now, there’s no good comparison to make between a film and a CCG with regular releases, but it does go to show that leaks can have their benefits, and while they may wound the pride of the developers, ultimately they may find their efforts rewarded.
Pros and cons aside let’s take a look at some of the content of the Ixalan sheet. It goes without saying that mechanically the cards are a solid mix of the usual chaff that will inevitably prove mildly useful or too specific for regular circulation, and the merciless and glorious horror cards that will have me – I mean, will have people buying booster after booster without a shred of remorse for their poor aching bank balance. I want to talk story and themes here.
There’s a prevailing theme in the art contents, pirates and dinosaurs. There’s more to discuss but I feel that needs to sink in for a moment, pirates and dinosaurs. I’m also rather gratified to see that Ixalan’s giant reptiles are depicted with feathers. Early speculations included strong Atlantean and south American styles in the visual thematics, continuing in the ancient civilization themes, Greece, Mongolia, and Egypt, and with feathered reptiles we may see some Aztec deities or myths, perhaps a coatl like creature somewhere in the block.
Finally we have our pivotal planeswalker, Vraska the Unseen, or whatever nickname she accrues. It’s going to be great to see a minor figure get some air time, although could the gorgon/assassin join the Gatewatch? I doubt it. That said I also doubt she’ll be the main threat to Jace and the Gatewatch.
Whether the leak is for the better or the worse, this is going to be a cool set, and I’m really looking forward to the future of the game.
Readers… we spoil you! Check us out; two board game reviews in the same number of days. If yesterday’s board game – Great Scott – was not your thing, then how about you try this offering from Sibro Games?
Great Scott is a drafting game of invention from Sinister Fish. While at UKGE this year I had the opportunity to secure a copy of Great Scott. Ostensibly I was there to buy for someone else, but at their recommendation I ended up taking a copy home too. I had never before pondered the need for a Diabolical Donkey Destroying Banana Bender, but I have come to an all new appreciation for the device, and here’s why.
Each invention is put together with cards, three concepts and two assets laid out in a particular order to create a coherent and descriptive name, effectively boiling down to a simple formula:
Adjective – noun – verb – noun – noun
Each section is it’s own deck, players take two of each, and commence building by drawing card from a deck, taking one, and passing their hand to the next player. You begin fairly free form, but as the cards are passed around you find yourselves with fewer and fewer gaps to fill, and the pattern you’ve tried to create may suddenly be completed or broken depending on which stack you draw from. Everyone then pitches their idea, describing how it works and what purpose it serves. Everyone picks a favourite and a second favourite, and the next round begins.
Points are accrued from scores on the cards, matching pairs or groups, the commendations of others for a fantastic pitch, and alliteration. So while you may score fewer points by building a Colossal Cactus Burning Bee Booster than an Alarming Albatross Attracting Ape Automaton you may still recover some ground by describing the method by which your huge device might hold back the bee extinction by immolating cacti, compared to the guy who’s mechanical gorilla has led to an albatross infestation.
I love draft games as a format, it’s been a while since I did a Magic: the Gathering draft, but I still love a round or two of 7 Wonders every couple of months. Drafts tend to leave you completely oblivious to begin with, and madly desperate towards the end, so adding the draw step gives Great Scott a little bit more freedom to build an invention you can be proud of, but doesn’t give you sufficient support to make the game too easy.
It’s a sign of a good game that round by round players end up with very similar points, and by the end of Great Scott the point difference between first and last place is quite narrow. There’s a good balance of random and tactical play, and it always leaves you with an invention that is sheer chaos to try and pitch to the crowd. However, it’s this mechanic that does cause a few issues.
For those without a very creative mind, trying to describe their inventions can be difficult, especially for those who perhaps don’t know the less common words like Bitumenising, meaning that points accrued in the commendations phase are often lost. The Aspect cards break down into animal, vegetable, and mineral, and it’s entirely true to say that animals are funnier than most rocks and plants like Diabolite or Elm; there are a few shining examples like arsenic and dynamite, but it’s still a bit of a struggle to derive humour from Bauxite for example.
Really that’s an issue with target market. I still rate the game very highly, it’s good quality daft fun that kills an hour without effort, and even comes with a set of baggies that are slightly too small for any single deck in the box. Ah well, still a nice consideration.
Guess who’s back? Back again? Yes, GeekOut Video Gamers are back – So tell a friend and come play some video games with us! So if you’re looking for something to do on Saturday 24th June, then come join us for some fun and games!
Yes, we’re known for playing a lot of games here in GeekOut. It doesn’t matter where you’re from for this, if you’d like to join us for a bunch of games (most of which are free to play), just jump onto Discord and come play with us. Feel free to join us before the night, as we’re a really friendly bunch!
Games schedule so far (This can change on the evening):
Anything else: When Creativerse ends!
Team Fortress 2 (Mann vs Machine mode)
Path of Exile (Diablo-esque game)
League of Legends
Worms W.M.D, Worms Reloaded, Worms Revolution
Join us on Discord (https://discordapp.com/invite/0115v9py6MC6y2TDC) for a night of fun and games. We’ll arrange a game for people to download in advance that’ll be our main game for the night, so if you know of any really good free to play games, please let us know in the comments below.
Think you’re good enough to be a Rocking Pilot? This game seems to think so, as you take charge in your single attack helicopter against an army, or two. Thousands will fight you, as you aim to take them and all of the evil oppessors down. It’s bullethell madness and a throwback shooter with a modern twist – So join us as we take a look at this cartoony and colourful brand new game on Steam and at the end of the article, you can be in with a chance of winning one of our two copies of the game!