Too long have we suffered at the hands of BROKEN algorithms.

There is a chance today to return to that Golden Age where no one talked about “discovery”.

Too long have our digital streets have been SWAMPED with shovelware.

There is a chance today to drain that swamp.

Too long have storefronts seduced the weak with beautiful screenshots of MINDLESS walking simulators.

There is a chance to put interactivity back in its rightful place – in GAMES.

There is a chance today. And we must seize it.


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13 thoughts on “Make Steam Great Again

  1. Do people talk a lot about the analogy It seems kind of obvious to me, but I dunno….


    …if you haven’t run across it, it probably doesn’t have much merit, but it did seem to me that iTunes at least at one point had a kind of monolithic grip on digital music sales. At least one person has been kind of surprised when I mention that I don’t buy most of my music on iTunes.* (For your interest, not that it necessarily supports my thesis, a movie CEO in 2011 saying iTunes is worse for the music business than piracy.)

    Now Spotify and other streaming services have probably replaced iTunes in many ways… the F2P model of music?

    *For race-to-the-bottom kind of reasons; I listen to a lot of avant-jazzish stuff that runs to very long tracks–sometimes an album will be one 45-minute track–and there are some labels that sell these on other sites at $.89 or $.99 a track, meaning a whole album can be one or two bucks. But iTunes limits single tracks to ten minutes, which makes it more expensive for me. I may have mentioned I don’t use Steam either.

  3. Matt, I’ve kept away from iTunes because I do not like the control it has. I should keep off Steam for similar reasons, but many developers are no longer providing alternative options. Some music I like is also locked inside iTunes that I would like, leaving me with no option but to pirate if I don’t like the iTunes service. But interesting reasons of your own!

    You’re thinking along the same lines as the book here, Matt. I’m definitely going here. Every chapter is putting down new dots and, at the end, it’s time to link them up – and in comes Amazon, Spotify, Apple, Facebook…

  4. This is very concerning for indie developers. Lots of them wouldn’t be able to publish games with this sort of barrier!!

  5. It feels like a while since I blatantly off-topiced about whatever game I happen to be thinking about at the moment, so I just thought I’d mention that I managed to almost beat my high score at Luftrausers and unlock an achievement I’d been unable to do for a while on a run where I didn’t touch the arrow keys. Would’ve done better but it’s really hard to deal with the blimp without touching the arrow keys. This makes me question the skill/luck ratio of any success I’ve been having.

  6. Well, here’s where I feel like I have an Actual Point about Luftrausers–it starkly raises the question of why we play this particular game. For me, the things I want to do in Luftrausers generally aren’t well captured either by the score or by the unlocks at this point.* Filipe Salgado has an excellent analysis of the problem with the score system; getting a high score is based almost entirely on knocking off a string of little enemies to keep your combo at maximum. But this is contingent on the game continuing to throw the little enemies at you, and discourages you from fighting the big damage-sponges like battleships; which are the most interesting battles for me. My highest score came when I kept a combo going through my entire run without killing a single ace or battleship.

    But then, what does it mean that in some sense I’m not making any “progress”? My score isn’t high, but I don’t particularly enjoy the style you need to play to get a high score. There are color palettes I haven’t unlocked, but that doesn’t mean anything to me (and most of them are eye-wateringly garish anyway). If I can say, hey, I managed to sink two battleships in this run, or I managed to sink a battleship without using bombs, or I made lots of cool multi-explosions with the cannon, then that satisfies me even if the game is giving cues that that’s not how I’m really meant to play it. It helps that it’s a game that goes in bite-sized sessions that don’t really build on each other; I don’t expect each session to be different from the one before. (One thing that was liberating for me here was when I saw Michael Martin’s review describing the unlocks as “hilariously difficult” stunts for when “you’ve tired of sensible play,” and I was like, “Yeah, there really is no reason for me to bang my head against those gray boxes.”)

    There’s something here like in my rant about the level selection in Crayon Physics–I was annoyed when it seemed like the game was forcing me to compile elegant/old-school/awesome solutions to unlock everything, but once I had seen the ending I spent a long time crafting an elegant solution for “The End?” just because I wanted to, and when I succeeded it was awesome. And maybe I don’t get bugged as much by this in Luftrausers because the content gating (which happens through component unlocking) isn’t presented as a level select screen with an ending that’s closed off.

    BTW the “nuke” seems like an admission of defeat by the developers–a way of saying “We know that a lot of people are going to get brickwalled by some of the obstacles so we’re going to give you something that lets you defeat certain enemies not by playing the game but by hoping that they’re randomly there when you lose.” Also the arrow-keyless run was with the Houseboat (spread/bomb/hover); since the plane comes out of the top cloud facing down, and the spread gun pushes you back, you can maneuver up and down by shooting/letting go. In this run a submarine (acemarine I think, the one with battleship-like guns) happened to generate under me, which meant I had a lot of bombs heading down toward it and unlocked “kill a submarine at max combo.” Not that I knew it until I saw the notification, because it was off the bottom of the screen. I also honestly feel that the game could do with a bigger screen so you could aim from farther away and find submarines quicker and know where aces are, though that may be completely missing the point.

    *Except that I want to kill a blimp, and killing a blimp is going to unlock a ton of stuff. But even then, that’s not why I want to kill it.

  7. I think that’s the reason why I dropped Luftrausers in the end: your ‘progress’ and high scores mostly depended on how many small enemies the game was willing to throw at you before (and while) you attacked the blimps, battleships and subs. Not to mention, that crazy-ass mode you unlock is ridiculous.

  8. Right well I have an actual response to this.

    It is this: I’m never convinced whether I enjoy combo-led play.

    I’m the kind of player that usually clings on for dear life, enjoying the rollercoaster road of an action game but I rarely evolve into an athlete for such titles.

    I liked the idea of getting high scores in Assault Android Cactus but that relies heavily on maintaining combos – as if that game isn’t panicky enough – and I just can’t maintain it. Combos work when you’re besieged by lots of enemies and once they start getting scarce you have to make an effort to harvest them to extend the combo run. It’s an interesting type of challenge but I often feel I’m being undermined by random numbers at that point, feeling like I lost a combo not because of my skill but not producing enough fodder. You could probably argue skill is required for extended combo runs but that’s what I said, that I never become an athlete in these games. Dynamics change completely when you switch to bosses because combo runs tend to dry up as one big monster replaces a horde of bees.

    With these questions buzzing in my head about what is actually possible vs what is possible for me, I find myself more and more walking away from snappy achievements and score. Leader boards often make me feel puny and ridiculous. I feel like I’m not too shabby when it comes to N++ but shooting games? Don’t even bother.

    This is why Thoth was beautiful for me, because there is no score or real achievements other than to reach the end. (Ha ha, if only that were the end of the story…)

  9. There are lots of games where score is meaningless–like, I finish FTL (I even won a couple times) and it gives me a score and I’m like “Huh?” What matters is, did I win and how close did I come? In nethack people even strive to get the lowest score that they can while still winning. And there’s no winning in Luftrausers but I’ve decided that, mostly, the things you do to get a high score are incidental to the things I want to accomplish in a game. This is my way of saying that my son managed to destroy a blimp before I did (came to wake me up to tell me he’d done so, which was fair. I was almost awake anyway).

    …oh, and once it gets to actual level selection–you can be in over-the-top mode or not–it’s very awkward, not least because the key that switches modes also quits the game half the time on my system.

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