Posted in News, Reviews, tagged Blu-ray Disc, game, game center, iMac, itunes, pc consoles, PlayStation, Steam, steam client, Xbox on June 25, 2013 |
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Now that the public spectacle of the release (some would say bungled release) of the X Box One and competing Playstation 4 are fading in the rear view mirror, let’s return to where gaming really began- on the PC. Consoles can be great; they offer developers a stationary target for development by ensuring that everyone has the same specs, and newer consoles are offering more value through added functionality (Blu Ray drives, streaming media, social media connectivity, etc.). While it can be fascinating to watch the two major players fight for dominance of the living room (I can’t consider Nintendo to be in the same category) let’s not forget that consoles are still playing catchup to the humble desktop. While Apple will likely never embrace Blu Ray (labeled a ‘bag of hurt’ by the late Mr. Jobs) even the least expensive Mac Mini can surpass any console in nongaming value-added functionality.
For years my go-to source for games has been Steam. Their ‘iTunes for gaming’ model has been a boon for PC gamers of all tastes- Windows, OSX, and now even Linux. It offers one stop shopping for everything from cutting edge games to classic casual games a la PopCap, and often at a significant savings compared to other sources. I’ve picked up several big title games a few months after they were released at an impressive discount (most recently Borderlands 2 for $29.99), and having cloud access to your purchases means never having to archive an install disc again- just install the Steam client and re download. The OSX App Store has (somewhat) risen to the challenge with a decent library of games, but overall it can’t compare to Steam’s library, cost, and social functionality (I have absolutely no use for Game Center).
While Steam is in no jeopardy of losing it’s spot on my iMac‘s app dock, I have to admit I’ve come to embrace a competitor: Gog.com. I stumbled across an post of a big summer games sale via a blog post in a random RSS feed, and always being open to a new avenue for gaming decided to click through. While they lack the One App to Rule Them All approach Steam offers, Gog.com does offer an enticing library of titles coupled with the same sort of cloud access its established competitor has. Best of all, they sweeten the deal by offering a surprisingly large number of titles free if you sign up for an account. I’ve been playing Torchlight for about a week now; while not exactly a new concept for a game the dungeon crawler has been very fun (and is reminiscent of a favorite oldie Nox).
More is usually better, and in the case of free/inexpensive games it’s better than bad, it’s GOOD. Gog.com’s No DRM summer sale is still ongoing- check it out while it lasts.
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Posted in News, Reviews, tagged app store, game, gaming, Indie game, indie games, ios, iphone, Nihilumbra, power ups, Steam, Video game, videogames on January 13, 2013 |
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While looking over my backlogged App information, I came across some welcome news from one of my favorite sources Bandello. The indie game focused organization has a new game and some very promising news of broader horizons.
First, there’s EpiX (developed by Blinzy Studios). This little gem is a happy mix of retro gaming, clever use of your iOS device’s touchscreen, and the joys of indulging in (what is for some of us) obsessive behavior. Like most indie games EpiX is a simple one- your Viking helmeted hero stands alone against waves of marauding orcs, with only your sword and special powers between you and certain doom.
The gameplay has only one control: tapping the screen. Touch the orcs (represented in retro 8-bit glory as a pixellated head) to “kill” them as they approach you from all angles. What sounds ridiculously easy becomes rather difficult to manage as the waves become thicker and thicker, populated by tougher and faster orcs that can blend in with the terrain (making them difficult to pick out). When the orcs get too close they do damage, shrinking your life meter. Augmenting your trusty sword are a variety of power ups such as Heal, Shield, and Fireball (with self explanatory effects).
The pixellated sprites and primitive electronic soundtrack invoke more than a little old school gaming nostalgia, and the uncomplicated gameplay is surprisingly engaging. While the game is billed as an epic orc-slaying venture, I found it to be more akin to an old school gaming version of popping bubble wrap (and if you’ve never indulged in this obsessive past time, it offers far more satisfying enjoyment than words can convey).
Like many solid indie games, one of the best facets of EpiX is the price- FREE. It is advertising supported but the splash screen pitches for other games aren’t intrusive and are something I’ll gladly endure for a quality time waster.
Secondly, Bandello has announced the much-praised game Nihilumbra (from Beautifun Games) could be making the jump from iOS to PC and Mac thanks to Steam Greenlight, Steam’s community-based sounding board for possible new additions to the Steam Store. Games with sufficient support are greenlit for the store, and the page provides the game developers feedback from interested game players they may not normally have access to. If you haven’t played Nihilumbra give the page a look; they need support from gamers like you!
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One of the complaints about Macs for some time was their lack of gaming cred- anyone that cared about PC gaming in the slightest knew that you had to be running Windows to be able to play any of the worthwhile games available, from the days of DOS until the advent of consoles powerful enough to provide a PC-like gaming experience. Macs were great for graphic design, music, and photography, but gamers need not apply.
This changed with the release of Steam for OSX. While not every title is available for Macs, Steam still offers an unmatched level of service for gamers: one stop shopping for everything from the latest cutting edge shooter to the simplest casual games, rolled in with cloud access (get a new computer? No problem- install the Steam client and redownload your purchases!) and good support for social networking.
Shortly after Steam made the jump to Mac, the then newly-released OSX App Store got in on the action as well. While the App Store can’t match Steam’s frequent sales prices, it’s a great resource for Mac enthusiasts looking for a new game (and a growing number of games are Game Center compatible, matching Steam’s social networking features).
The only thing lacking for some gamers is in the user interface. While I’ve been long conditioned to the keyboard/mouse combination used by first person shooters (all the way back to the original Castle Wolfenstein and Redneck Rampage) a lot of game enthusiasts prefer to use a game controller. Windows users can easily plug in one of a horde of USB controllers and get to fragging,but Mac users weren’t so flexible. Thankfully a recent article from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) offers some hope for those of you that aren’t as dedicated to traditional controls as I am.
The post describes using what they argue is the best controller out there- the XBox 360 USB handset. Depending on what method of gaming you prefer, just plugging the USB controller in may be all you need do. The online streaming game service OnLive will apparently use the controller natively with no further software or drivers needed. While it wasn’t tested, they believe that Steam’s recent Big Picture mode (designed for those using a big screen TV as their display) would likely accept the XBox 360 controller just as OnLive does.
Sadly, for those playing games that don’t natively accept a controller the going might not be as easy. The article offers a link to a stable, free driver for the XBox 360 controller that will work with many games that support controller input, and other software to help should your game need keyboard input.
I’ll be sticking with my keyboard and ArcMouse for as long as Valve keeps me enthralled with first person perspective games like Half Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead; but for those of you that want a more console-oriented experience without the console there are finally answers. Grab that game controller and fire up your favorite title- those zombies aren’t going to shoot themselves!
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While it hasn’t reached the level of it’s competitor, OSX has become a viable platform for gaming. The expansion of gaming client Steam to OSX was one of the factors that got me to make the switch from Windows- while not every game in their ever-growing library is available for OSX (but my mainstays Half Life and Left 4 Dead are!) the list of compatible games is respectable, and when you include the offerings of the OSX App Store the numbers and genres of games increases exponentially.
The list just grew a bit larger thanks to Steam’s latest addition for OSX- Counter Strike: Global Offensive (courtesy of MacRumors). Global Offensive is the latest edition of Valve’s flagship combat series last renewed in 2010. The new edition isn’t groundbreaking but does offer some noticeable improvements by offering new gameplay modes, matchmaking, and leader boards. The hardware requirements are fairly modest, so even older Intel-based Macs not relying on integrated graphics should be able to handle Counter Strike: Global Offensive capably.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive is available for download via the free Steam client now for just $14.99.
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Apple didn’t garner a tremendous amount of press when they first introduced the App Store in OSX Lion. While it was mentioned as one of the new features in the operating system refresh, it wasn’t one of the primary points that pundits pontificated on. The OSX version of iOS‘ App Store was a logical extension of Apple’s offerings; one stop shopping for trustworthy, vetted software with immediate gratification and an effortless method of keeping that software up to date. Now with Mountain Lion the App Store has been brought to the forefront as the only means of distribution, and new safety features built into OSX 10.8 favor software downloaded from the trusted source (even to the point of excluding other sources should the user decide this level of protection).
I’ve checked the App Store first for any needed software due to the software update integration. While I feel savvy enough to know what sources to trust for downloads, I’d happily endorse relying on just it for an Apple neophyte unsure of the lay of the land. It’s that reliance by design that turns many off of Apple’s ecosystem; the walled garden might be safe but for some that safety is stifling.
As with any unmet demand, there is an alternative to the App Store on the horizon. MacRumors reports that my favorite source of games Steam will be expanding their offerings to non-game software September 5th. The free downloadable Steam client already offers Windows, OSX, and even Linux users an iTunes-like experience with immediate access to a large library of games and built-in social networking features.
The article points to guidelines set in place by Apple for apps hosted in the App Store as both creating the need for an alternative digital software marketplace and a new distribution house for software that can’t meet Apple’s stated guidelines. Limitations such as sandboxing requirements place a hurdle that some programs can’t overcome without losing key components of their functionality, and a Steam-hosted OSX app store will likely be much more lenient with their requirements.
I for one welcome the additional marketplace (especially from a retailer I already love)- competition is always a good thing, and this may allow non-App Store compliant software developers a better chance to make their software accessible enough to spur more development.
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This in courtesy of TUAW (The unofficial Apple Weblog): more game sales! The aforementioned Steam sale is listed along with numerous others from Crescent Moon Games, EA, SNK, Ubisoft, and others. Many of the sales listed are for iOS devices, from free to 99 cents (including arcade favorite The King of Fighters).
Many of these sales will be ending soon, so if you’re in the mood for a new game or two act soon!
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Mac Life announced a huge sale going on now at my favorite game source, Steam. For the uninitiated, Steam is essentially an iTunes for gaming- the free downloadable client acts as a multi-OS store (even supporting Linux), library, and social platform with other gaming enthusiasts. Whether you’re a hard core gamer or just an occasional casual game player, they have something to suit your tastes.
The current sale has some fantastic offerings: Valve‘s Orange Box collection has been marked down to just $9.99. This includes Half Life 2, all following episodes, and Portal- some of the best First Person games ever made. Other favorites like Psychonauts, Portal 2, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have been marked down to ridiculously low prices. If you haven’t enjoyed some of these classics now is the time!
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MacRumors has reported that the latest rendition of the serial game Quake (first introduced to OSX in 2006) is coming to the Mac App Store at the lowered price of $19.99.
While I’ve confined my game buying to Steam, competition is always a good thing. The OSX App Store matches two of Steam’s advantages as a vendor- updates and fixes are automatically pushed out to clients, and new titles are at your fingertips providing immediate gratification. With the addition of an OSX-centered version of iOS’ Game Center Apple with be able to compete with the social aspect of Steam’s client as well.
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The blogosphere is buzzing over a report that Apple’s CEO recently paid a visit to Valve, the video game firm that brought us two of the best games I’ve ever played- the Half Life series and the Left 4 Dead series as well as Steam, a distribution platform that’s been harkened an iTunes for PC gaming. On a personal note, Valve porting the Steam platform to OSX was the final deciding factor for me to abandon Windows and switch to an iMac for my desktop; if you’re a gamer of any degree you need the Steam client.
Rumors of the purpose of the visit abound, from the possibility of Apple participating in the development of new gaming hardware featured in a new Apple TV, to a project focusing on wearable computers to counter Google’s Project Glass eyewear. I’d even love to see this as an overture to bring a whole new line of games and development to iOS; Steam has an iOS app but it’s used only to access the Steam community (a games-only social platform) and the Steam store.
Casual gaming has been big from day one on the iPad, and more involved games have been cropping up over the past year (such as the recently announced addition of Max Payne). Whatever the purpose of Mr. Cook’s visit, I’m excited over the future of gaming in iOS.
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