Gentleman of negotiable accomplishment   Leave a comment

In life as on windows.

Yesterday for work I learned how to print in .net.

That is a lie. Yesterday, and not for the first time (as every previous time I’ve been told to do something else as I’m just getting my head around it, and therefore forget), I read some tutorials and examples about how printing works in .net, as it is quite different to (and somewhat more complicated than) VB6’s throw-some-drawing-commands-at-the-Printer-object model.

Eventually I gave up, and considered what to do for the evening. I decided to take a break from the gym for this week, and to instead play computer games and get on with some decorating with the inevitably-doomed aim of finishing a bedroom by the end of my holiday next week.

So that will be playing computer games then.

The reason for the timing is the Steam summer sale. There’s a promotion where, if you get various achievements in games or perform a few other activities*, you win tickets. Every ticket enters you in a prize draw, but you’re probably not much more likely to win that than the Lottery. Much more interestingly, for every three tickets you can claim a prize – some DLC for a game, or some items or maps or something. A few are tat, but some are actually quite good; one is all the DLC for Defence Grid: The Awakening, which I probably would’ve bought if I weren’t a pathological miser. One is an expansion for AI War which I’ve already bought.

Normally I am Dead Against achievements, as they are an attempt to replace the building of intricate, explorable game-worlds governed by interesting mechanics that provide a game that players can investigate and experiment in for some time, with a series of meaningless (even inside the game) obsessive-compulsive kleptomanic, genocidal or busy-work tasks bolted onto Tedious Linear Corridor/Cover Shooter #366 or Sub-Par GTA Clone #49 in an attempt to make people think they’ve got their money’s worth. They also destroy any possibility of immersion as every few minutes a box will pop up saying “Congratulations! You played the game for a while!” or “Well done! You shot a dude! Only 3,428 more needed for achievement I Shot A Lot Of Dudes!”, which might as well be “YOU REMEMBER YOU’RE PLAYING A GAME, RIGHT? ‘COS YOU’RE PLAYING A GAME! JUST THOUGHT I’D REMIND YOU YOU’RE PLAYING A GAME, WOULDN’T WANT YOU TO GET INVOLVED!”. People used to complain about the word “Loading” on loading screens and that only happened once per level.
Oh, some achievements are just a bizarre way of making the game annoying and frustrating to play. But at least those ones might be considered an actual achievement.

But getting stuff I might otherwise have bought for the price of playing some games that I clearly want to play (and, knowing me, quite likely haven’t yet) or I wouldn’t have bought them? I can cope with that, especially as the achievements so far have been fun (Toki Tori‘s sunbeams giving you a few different puzzles to solve, or SpaceChem‘s “play three assignments” being essentially “play three levels” which is ace, because it’s SpaceChem) or absurdly straightforward if you know the trick.

What I haven’t yet figured out is: what do the developers of the prizes get out of it? For the developers of the ticket-achievement games it’s obvious; adding an achievement to a game is presumably quite easy, and it’ll get people playing the game, as well as advertising it to everyone looking at the day’s achievement lists (and often they’re added on a day when it’s extra-reduced beyond even the normal sale), so they make money that way. Steam presumably make extra money from crazy people just buying games to get achievements. But having your stuff given away? They’re prominently advertised, but would that gather enough sales? Would anyone buy a game just to claim a free DLC prize to use with it?
Unless Steam pay for it, in which case are there really enough crazy people to pay for the prizes? There’s certainly no shortage, but that seems unlikely.

Maybe Steam are just doing this out of the goodness of their heart as a bit of fun, figuring that their ludicrous profits over the sale period will cover it dozens or hundreds of times over. But getting freebies for playing games does seem a bit too good to be true, so I suspect it’s geared to make somebody some money somewhere. That money has to come from Steam users – eg. me – somewhere along the line, and I’m uncomfortable that I can’t figure out the catch.

* One of these is “take a screenshot”, which is literally completed by pressing F12 and then clicking the OK button to upload it to Steam. Another gave me an excuse to further extol the virtues of SpaceChem, as if I needed an excuse.


Posted 7 July 2011 by Colthor in Diary, Games

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