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Being somewhere doesn’t make you FROM somewhere. Learn from this, internet things

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it already, but I’m in another country. While this country doesn’t belong to the EU, it does sit in the middle of the continent known as Europe (as well as being involved in the European trade something, or something. I forget). Basically, it’s Foreignia. Not England. Full of people who use languages I don’t understand.

But being here for a couple of weeks doesn’t mean I’m going to be here forever. It doesn’t mean I speak these stupid languages (STUPID), it doesn’t mean I live here, it doesn’t mean I’m never going home. In fact, I know exactly when I’m going home, I’m slightly better at speaking English after being here for just a few days and I absolutely am not giving up my British passport – it has a unicorn on the front, for fuck’s sake.

The reason I mention this isn’t because my friends or family are worried I’m abandoning The Queen’s own land. No, the reason I feel the need to mention it is because – apparently – all companies in the world seem to think I’m in Switzerland forever and I am never coming back. According to Google, I automatically want all of my results in German, even after I change the language settings for the thirtieth time (I’m too lazy to actually type .co.uk in the address bar). That’s quite annoying, but I can live with it, mainly by engaging in the solution buffered by parenthesis in the last sentence.

But the other things are genuinely annoying. Steam, the wallet-rapist, is midway through its Christmas sale, offering games I want (but will never play) at stupidly low prices. Now let’s ignore the fact that it tries to charge me in euros, which actually make the prices a quid or two more than God’s British Pounds. No, what annoys me here is I’m apparently just not allowed to buy things thanks to being in another country. Makes… sense?

The one that really annoyed and confused me, though, was O2. I have been looking a fair bit recently at upgrading my phone, as my contract is up soon – I’ve mentioned it about 89 times before. As such, I went to the site this evening and tried to look through the shop to see what’s on offer. “You’re not in the UK, so piss off” was the basic response. Unperturbed, I entered my login details and went through the upgrade button to get my upgrade code so I could browse the mega-super-personalised options (that definitely aren’t the same as everyone else’s). Seems even being logged in with the system knowing you are a UK resident holding an existing contract (with the company you’re currently using the site of) means a complete bag of shit-faced nothings in the eyes of O2.

In the grand scheme, it means very little. But right now, it’s bloody annoying.

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Sales: fun, and not difficult to understand. Unless you’re Impulse.

It is the time of year that has become quite exciting over the last few years. The chilly weather sets in, the long nights take over and the feeling just hits you. That’s right kids – it’s digital distribution outlet sales time!

I’ve found myself getting increasingly excited* about the approach of this time of year, as it’s when the big online outlets for video games start to slash their prices. Now, in real shops, for real things, this might mean 25% off here, a half price there. When it comes to invisible products, like video games you don’t physically get to own, the sales are a smidge better. Like regular 75% off better, or 80%, or 90% – that kind of thing. To the point  where it’s rude not to buy these things you don’t actually get to own and will probably never even download, never mind play.

Anyway, this leads onto the vague point I had. See, the sales are great – Steam has set the precedent and all others are trying to follow suit. What this means is a fuckload of cheapities. But there are some out there that just don’t get it. I’m not going to attack Games For Windows Live, as that’s like clubbing a seal cub with learning difficulties.

No, this revolves around my need to pick up a new copy of Galactic Civilizations 2**. Keeping an eye on Impulse – the digital distribution service run by the people who make the game – I was drawn today to their one-day sale which is of the game. “Great!” I think, “I can get it for a reasonable price and the money will go straight to the developer!”

Well that didn’t last long. Off I went to a more standard retailer, offering old-fashioned things you get sent through the post and can hold/throw/burn as you see fit.

Guess what I opted for. THINK ABOUT IT, PEOPLE SELLING GAMES.

*When I say “excited” I don’t mean bouncing-off-the-walls giddy, I just mean “looking forward to”. I may be a sad nerd weirdo, but I’m not that bad.

**STOP JUDGING ME.

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FIFA World Cup 2010 predictions – groups G-H

Right, last one now and a lot later than I intended to do it so it’ll probably be worse than the other three – and they were pretty bad. Ah well. Read on, reader.

Group G

Brazil: See, I don’t really care about Brazil in any World Cup – I just accept they’re great. I care even less right now that my brain is dominated by post-Sony conference E3 thoughts.

Ivory Coast: Like, when can I play Twisted Metal? What did Gabe’s half sentences about Steamworks mean? Is PS3 getting Steam? That would be amazing.

Portugal: It’s fun how E3 has managed to actually ignite some excitement from me for once – the last few years have been abject failures on that front. Twisted Metal! Kevin Butler is funny too. I reckon they’ll get a bit more use out of that character. He’s funny.

North Korea: Oh look – North Korea! I wonder if anyone there is even aware there’s a new Twisted Metal game coming out. I hope there is. If only a handful of secret North Korean nerds. Hard as that might be.

Group H

Spain: Wait, right, football. Errm… Spain are a team who are well good, like. I think they will do well in the football Word Cup, and that “Torres” will score some goals. I wish he still had a mullet though. Don’t know why, I just do.

Switzerland: Oh yes, THE SWISS. The monsters of the footballing world, known for their fury and sheer emotion on the pitch – as well as on the world stage. Filthy neutrals. They do have a chance to get out of this group, mind, as they’ve done well up to now.

Honduras: Another one of those teams you don’t really understand why they’re in the finals. Also I called them Costa Rica the other day, though that’s acceptable because I was thinking about Paulo Wanchope. And probably Twisted Metal.

Chile: What do Chile have going for them these days? I lost track of them in the early noughties, so I have no idea where they’re at right now. Probably shit. Oh well. Out in the group stage after the monsters of Switzerland beat them into a tearful submission.

Be fair now – it wasn’t as painful as you think it was. Maybe it made you laugh? Oh, screw you. I don’t give a shit if you laugh or not. You sick bastards. You suck.

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Holy crapspackle, AvP is on Steam

I know I tried to convince you all the other day that Steam is my nemesis, but then they went and put the original PC Aliens vs Predator game on there. For £2.99. God I love you, Steam. You’re amazing. Please don’t ever change.

For those who don’t know and don’t care what that is or what it means, you may stop reading now and go do something else. Leave the house, buy some food, go for a jog, iron things – whatever it is you normies do. Those who don’t know but do care what it is or what it means can read on.

Also, those who do know but don’t care or do know and do care can… oh, I’ve gone cross-eyed. Do what you want, you chumps. I’m going to wax lyrical about a fantastic game from ten years ago. But not much, as I have real, paying work to be getting on with.

AvP came out not too long after I got my first PC, and I was still getting used to the world of FPS’s’s’s’ssss’ that actually worked (seeing as they didn’t on console, apart from Doom on PSOne, which is still better than the PC version). So it was with great joy that I picked up a copy of the game of the comic* of two of my favourite monsters ever made: the Alien and the Predator (and one of my favourite characters in the space marine, before the likes of Halo made them shit and eponymous). Actually, writing their names down I’ve just realised how shit those names really are. Though, on the other hand, calling Arnie’s foe ‘Clive’ probably wouldn’t have had the same effect.

Anyway – installed, loaded up, played. Video clip of bloke telling you to get the fudge out of dodge as it’s all gone a bit FUBAR. So you do. And you immediately start shitting yourself, as you’re alone, it’s very dark and every fucking inanimate object in a five-mile radius decides to start moving. God damn you, things. It takes most of the first level before you even see an Alien, and when you do – bam, two hits and you’re dead.

Yeah – forgot to mention – Rebellion made the original AvP with everything turned up to ‘cunt’ on the difficulty device.

But that just helped. You didn’t want to get into a fight because if you did you would, without a lot of luck and skill, end up dead. But that never felt cheap; it never felt like the computer was cheating you out of fun by being a massive prick. It just fit the story – these species were made to fuck your shit up, as the kids do indeed say.

I could go on, but I’m pushing 500 words and I haven’t even got to why AvP is such a special game to me. One day I was sat in the living room at my Mum’s house, playing along. I had headphones on so as not to disturb my brother and mother, who were both watching TV. So there I was, drawn in to this stunningly atmospheric little world, and I was hunting facehuggers with the motion detector. It bleeped, I flinched, before I could react I had a facehugger on my face (fitting its job description well, I have to admit). The initial bleep of the motion detector, the noise of the facehugger grabbing me and the jolt of movement on screen combined to make me royally shit myself, jerk backwards and fall off my chair in absolute, all-out terror.

Nothing – nothing – no game, book, movie, TV show, person, late-night walk alone of any kind has ever scared me more than that game managed. Granted, being beaten up by two ruffians when I was younger was scarier, but of all the things where I was in no actual danger it was a videogame that has scared me the most.

So well done AvP. You’ve earned my £2.99. I just hope you haven’t aged too badly.

*And not the game of the film, as the films, Mr Paul WS Anderson, made me want to claw my eyes out with a rusty Spam tin. Well, not so much the second one, but for fuck’s sake man – learn to write an ending. You will likely be the subject of one of these blogs this year, young man.

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Steam = crack: very moreish

It’s official (and it’s something that’s been echoed by many people I know): Steam has ruined me. What was once a pathetic-looking bank account with a few spare quid in it has turned into a barren wasteland that wouldn’t look out of place in a gallery hosting pictures of ‘the middle bit of Australia’.

It all started out so innocently – and I know this because there is a function to check your previous purchases. A couple of years ago I bought the X-Com Collection for about £3. Not bad for two of my favourite games ever made and a few more shit ones. Then some others came: the sales had indie games, World of Goo was snapped up along with a dozen or so other no-name things that I bought out of curiosity. Soon enough the snowball had picked up enough pace to wipe out an entire village with the likes of the Ubisoft package turning up in the My Games tab. All of this was before those evil, vindictive shits in charge decided to go with the massive winter sale just a few weeks ago. How on earth could I resist the Eidos package? Torchlight for a few quid? Morrowind?

Obviously, I couldn’t.

Steam has turned me back into a child; it’s taken me back to the days when I would buy a game based on what it looked like, or what its name was, or just if it was cheap enough (see: Blast Chamber on PSOne for a prime example). The problem is, back then I had a controlled income and couldn’t live beyond these means. If I didn’t have the money there was no overdraft, no credit card to act as ‘free’ money for something I just wanted. Now, obviously, it’s a different matter altogether.

I should learn to control myself and all that gumph, but sod that: I hate you Steam – you’ve ruined me.

(I don’t hate you really I love you please don’t hate me sorry)

I could go on for thousands of words on this, easily, about how it’s not even the playing of the games that gets me – it’s just buying them. Getting them cheap. Picking up a bargain. Owning another classic. But I’m not going to, as freelance won’t do itself. And you can sod off if you think I’m going to actually get deep with this.

On the plus side, this does now mean I have a shitload of great games to work through for the next (few) year(s). And what’s that you say? King’s Bounty Gold for a matter of pounds? Well, one more couldn’t hurt…

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