ARK: Survival Evolved [official site] features a brontosaurus wearing a giant riding saddle. For that reason alone, it seems like good news that from now until Sunday, the open-world nude dinosaur fighting game is free on Steam
Good news: Valve Time hasn’t entirely disrupted the planned Holiday 2015 launch of the Vive, their much-anticipated VR collaboration with HTC. It’s still on course to happen before the year is out.
Bad news: But, er, only for a lucky few. The main launch has been pushed back to next year.
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RPS Feature RPS Chat v0.86
Early Access games are here to stay, but is that cause for concern or celebration? We gathered to discuss whether early access benefits developers or players in its current state, and how we’d make it better. Along the way, we discussed the best alpha examples, paying for unfinished games, our love of regularly updated mods, Minecraft and the untapped potential of digital stores.
Rumour has it that the decrepit Arkham Knight port beat a retreat on account of Steam refunds. After all, what better way to get a dastardly developer to blush and shuffle its hooves than to reverse its cash flow? Until June, when no-questions-asked refunds came into force, such a feat was impossible. Perhaps, after years of pro-consumer jabs at Microsoft and other corporates, Valve sought to make a material gesture that player interests are truly the heart of the Steam empire. Or perhaps they dislike being sued. Hint: they are currently being sued.
By now, you’ve likely encountered a shop and have a reasonable feeling about how refunds should work: if it doesn’t do what it’s meant to, you take it back. Nothing could be simpler. Refunds for digital products – or, as is often the case, licenses for digital products – are a legal hellscape of false assertions and misinformation, in large part a product of outdated legislation that no one is keen to test in court. To sift through the muck, I got in touch with Ryan Morrison, founder of the New York law firm by the same name (and no relation of mine this side of the 17th century). Whether you’re European, Stateside or in the wrong hemisphere altogether, here’s the plain English version of where and through which service your purchases are best protected and why some retailers still risk refusing refunds.
Steam has been a source of crushing disappointment for me ever since it started selling movies too. When I’m poking through the list of new releases and see intriguing names like ‘In Search of the Most Dangerous Town on the Internet’ or ‘How We Got Away With It’, I get excited. Then I read descriptions like “Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania has only 120,000 residents, but among law enforcement experts, it has a nickname: Hackerville” and get jazzed. Then I see screenshots and think “It’s an FMV game too!” Five second later, I realise what’s going on.
I wish they were games though. For five seconds, they’re the greatest game I’ve heard of all day.
Valve are a taciturn company, which is fair enough. Mercy knows if I received ten thousand e-mails and tweets about Half-Life 3 every day, I’d dedicate my life to obliterating the written word. At times, though, they really should break the silence. They should shout and yell and scream and let everyone know what’s going on. Say, if for five days a security hole had let ne’er-do-wells easily take over people’s accounts. Nope.
Valve have closed the hole, but Steam’s website – including the Store – is down now and I have no idea whether that’s connected, because they aren’t announcing anything about this. Speak up, son.
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Card Hunter [official site] is available on Steam right now. It will be one of the best games released on Steam this year just as it was one of the best games of 2013, when it launched as a browser-based free-to-play CCG/RPG hybrid. The development team includes former Irrational, Popcap, Looking Glass and Magic: The Gathering folks and the game is every bit as good as their combined back catalogue suggets it might be.
Go. Play it now.
Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto 5 [official site] has made an appearance in the Steam Summer Sale. But the ensuing discussion is less “let’s all go a-heisting” and more “what is this shady nonsense you’re trying to pull?” I thought I’d take a peek and see what was going on.
A new update to Steam’s refund policy looks like it’s what gamers have been crying for – a way to far more easily get their money back when buying Steam games which don’t work on their machines. Within 14 days of purchase, and so long as you’ve played for under two hours, they’ll give you a refund. Hurrah! However, we’ve spoken to developers who are concerned the new system makes it extremely simple for Steam users to keep non-DRM games and then get their money back. Let alone the issues it raises for games that last under two hours.
RPS Feature Steam cleaning
Steam skins let you change up how your Steam client looks. Some are pretty much just recolouring options while others want to have their wicked way with your menus, refining or rejigging them. Skins have been around for years now so you might have encountered some of these already – certainly, the community has clustered round a few good skins with a smattering of irregularly updated fan service when it comes to particular games, anime or My Little Pony (well hi there, Fluttershy). But there’s a chance you’ve missed out – or you’re hankering for a change of digital scenery – so here are five of the bestest best Steam skins.
You’re good aren’t you, dear reader? You wouldn’t speedhack in the corridors, wallhack in a test, or aimbot a dog’s ball, would you? No, no, of choose not. Then you have nothing to worry about. But those scruffy herberts you dutifully report to the prefects, those lot are in trouble.
Valve have expanded Steam’s banning to allow developers to easily ban ne’er-do-wells from the online sides of their games, without using Valve Anti-Cheat. Rather than being automated, the new ‘Game Bans’ (catchy name) rely on devs reporting players to Valve.
RPS Feature Mod Is Dead
Robin Scott started building websites to support the modding community in 2001 when he was 14-years-old. In 2007, he started a company to support his site, TES Nexus, as it became the main source for distributing Oblivion mods, and today Nexus Mods hosts “115,674 files for 173 games” and has almost 9 million registered users. If anyone knows what the modding community cares about, and exactly what mods can do for the good of games and gamers, it’s him.
In the wake of Steam’s inclusion of paid-for mods, and just a few hours before their eventual removal, I spoke to Scott about whether creators should be able to charge for mods, how he would have done things differently, and what any of this means for the future of the Nexus. Even in the wake of Valve pulling the system down (for presumed later return), his thoughts are an interesting look at the issues at hand
RPS: Firstly, what do you feel about paid mods in theory? Ignoring their current implementation, do you think there’s a way to do it that good for both developers, mod creators and mod players? Are mods something which should be free on principle?
Valve are known for their odd experiments, from Team Fortress 2 hats to – heck! – Steam itself, but they tend to roll with them no matter what the reception, polishing these oddities up with force of will and years of refinement. Their plan to support selling mods through Steam, however, has gone back to the drawing board.
They launched a pilot scheme last week with Skyrim, and had planned to start letting other devs enable paid mods for their own games if they wished. Instead, they’ve removed paid mods from Skyrim, refunded everyone who bought mods, and confessed that “it’s clear we didn’t understand exactly what we were doing.”