Alasdair Duncan is that bearded, bespectacled Scotsman that covers PC gaming that is not Fraser Brown. A long time Destructoid community member and forum moderator, he covers adventure, puzzle, FPS and all kinds of games on the PC. Watch, as he adds more games to his Steam library with only the vaguest hope of ever playing most of his games.
Alasdair has been gaming since his mother bought a Commodore 64 back in the early 1980's. He adores Deus Ex, GTA Vice City, Team Fortress 2, Borderlands, Super Mario Brothers 3 and all those weird indie titles on Steam.
You can meet Alasdair at places like PAX where he tries to convince people he isn't a) drunk or b) Irish.
So in 2011, I set myself the challenge of completing more games and making a dent on my backlog. In the end I had mixed results; the games I finished almost all the games I started this year, but I still didn't really make a dent on my actual backlog as I mainly played and completed games that I bought in 2011. Taking stock of the situation I can take comfort in the fact I now have a fairly solid work ethic when it comes to completing games but I realise that big chunks of my Steam library may lay unfinished for a long time.
So now in 2012, I have set myself a new challenge and it's one that I wrote about a while ago, concerning my fairly narrow tastes in games. In 2011 I didn't stray from my usual favourite games, franchise or genres; FPS/RPG combos, small indie titles on PC and XBLA. Lacking funds for the latter part of 2011 meant I didn't get to play things like Skyrim or Rayman Origins but really I played the type of games I would play every year. Hell, I managed 2 playthroughs of Mass Effect in 2011 which is no surprise to me.
So in 2012 I'm going to make an effort to expand my horizons; each month I'm going to play a new game in a genre I'm not familiar with or have traditionally resisted playing for whatever reason. There's a couple of reasons I'm doing this, firstly I feel I will get better at games by experiencing new mechanics and gameplay devices. Playing the same type of games that have similar structures, controls and mechanics means I'm getting better at that type of game but it could mean I'm getting stale in my thinking.
Secondly, I could be missing out on some great gameplay experiences because I'm just playing the same genres over and over again. Variety is the spice of life, so they say and that's something I'm missing out on right now. Thirdly, I think this will be a useful exercise in seeing how a newcomer approaches a genre of game they're unfamiliar with; are games still accommodating for new players or are many catering for the hardcore.
So here's the deal; each month I'm going to play a new type of game that I'm not familiar with and I will write up what I thought of each game in a blog post. Now here's some conditions I'm going to make clear before we go any further: this isn't a backlog challenge, I'm not under any pressure to make sure I finish each game. If I pick a game and find it overly frustrating to play or just not enjoyable, I'll stop playing it but I'll explain why in my blog post. I'm going to try and pick a recent example of a genre or at least a videogame in the last few years that is a fair representation of it's respective genre. I've not got access to a load of systems so my hand is forced in that respect, which is also why I'm not going to listen to complaints of "I can't believe you picked that game, don't you know the superior version is on the SNES?!?". Unless someone is super keen to read what I'm going to write and wants to donate some consoles my way, then I'll be playing on the 360, PC and my DS.
So that's my resolution for 2012, yes it's a flimsy attempt at masturbatory self improvement (along with the cooking classes my brother has signed me up for and I'm going to try and see if Rocksmith will teach me guitar after all these years) but hey, I'm going to try some games, probably fall on my arse and maybe even learn something.
Earlier on this year, I made the decision I had to finish more games and to make an effort to try and reduce my backlog. The reasons for this were twofold; I had received an X-box 360 for Christmas and after moving back from Australia I had no console games. As such, it would be a good habit to get into before I eventually amassed a big collection of games that would mainly be unfinished, if my past habits were anything to go on. The other reason was my Steam catalogue was still filled with unfinished games, the result of being too spend-happy when it came to sales and my seeming inability to turn away from a bargain.
So, I wrote up a blog entry declaring my intentions to reduce my backlog and to commit to finishing games before getting new ones. I think the year ended up with a mixed result for me but Iíll break the challenge down into two separate parts. First of all, Iím going to list all the games I played from start to end in 2011, listed by format:
Back To The Future Episode 1
Back To The Future Episode 2
Back To The Future Episode 3
Back To The Future Episode 4
Back To The Future Episode 5
Max Payne 2
Portal 2 (single player only)
Puzzle Agent 2
Sideway: New York
Mass Effect Galaxy
Assassinís Creed 2
Batman Arkham Asylum
Dead Space 2
Deus Ex Human Revolution
Mass Effect (twice)
Mass Effect 2
Age Of Keflings
Beyond Good and Evil HD
Dead Rising Case Zero
Dead Rising Case West
Dead Space Ignition
Pac Man Championship Edition DX
At the start of the year, still lacking disposable income, I managed to get some cheap XBLA titles, also I decided to make the commitment to getting all the achievements for any XBLA game I got (even if this meant getting some lacklustre DLC later down the line). The only XBLA game I didnít complete was Half Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax which I didnít really enjoy. Aside from that, my XBLA games were completed before I bought another one, especially in the case where I got Dead Rising Case Zero when it was on special offer, completed it and then picked up Case West before the sale ended that week. If you want to see how well I did achievement-wise, you can look at my achievement list on my Giant Bomb profile.
With the 360, I did just as well as I mainly got games that Iíd either played before (I had owned a 360 whilst living in Australia but left it there when I moved to Scotland) which is why I picked up titles like the Mass Effect series (which I played through to get a save file setup for ME3) and Batman Arkham Asylum (which I wanted to play again). I was really excited for titles like Deus Ex Human Revolution, Dead Space 2 and L.A. Noire so I had the motivation to get through them. The only thing I didnít finish up was Need For Speed Hot Pursuit which was a Christmas present. Itís a great game but I found myself reaching that glass ceiling that I experience with sports or racing games, that point where no matter how hard I try I just canít reach that next level of skill.
I actually lacked a PC for almost half the year but I got a decent laptop in the Summer and was able to play some more games. Previously Iíd completed titles on my parentís iMac which made me grateful for the PC+Mac Steamplay options that I had available to me. The Back To The Future episodic games were good as they could be completed within a couple of hours and there was a new one each month. However with my new laptop, fell back into my bad habits, installing Team Fortress 2 and playing that instead of getting laid into my backlog and new releases. And yes, I still bought plenty of Steam games and more than one Humble Indie bundle which meant I added about a dozen games that I didnít complete.
On reflection, I think I did pretty well with this year; I completed over 30 games for the whole year (compared to 10 from the previous year) and I did get into the habit of sitting down and finishing games, at least on the X-box. A big factor would have to be my lack of funds this year, meaning I really only could play the games I was really excited for; there was no just going out to a games store and just blowing my money on a game I wasnít 100% interested in, just for something to do. On the PC, thereís still too many distractions for me; I can jump on Youtube, IM or the forums if I get frustrated with a game and want to put it down for 5 minutes. And if itís not some internet distraction, itís another game: get frustrated or die in Defence Gird, I could play Rock Of Ages or Orcs Must Die with just a couple of clicks.
Beating My Backlog
The other part of my challenge was to reduce my backlog from having 60% uncompleted games to 50%. Well I did achieve this but only by virtue I was adding a lot of games which I then completed, so I didnít really make much of a impact on my pre-2011 backlog. The only games I did complete from before 2011 were Braid, Max Payne and itís sequel; aside from that I only really completed titles that I got in 2011.
Also, I cheated. When I bought a lot of games for the PC I just didnít actually add them to my backlog unless I played them for more than 10 minutes or so. Again, I spent a lot money on bundles and sales that my backlog would have shot back up to the 60% mark. Towards the end of 2011, The Backloggery introduced a feature to have you list games as being ďunplayedĒ rather than uncompleted. So for instance something like Sanctum or Sol Survivor would really be ďunplayedĒ rather than being ďunfinishedĒ. I think this might be a good way of again, helping me finish games. I could dip into my ďunplayedĒ games when I had no ďunfinishedĒ games on the go. So once 2012 rolls up Iíll start on re-organising my PC backlog again.
Did I follow my own advice?
Earlier this year, I posted some tips on how to possibly beat your backlog; now itís one thing to give out advice but itís another to actually follow it, so did I actually follow my own advice? Well I stuck to normal on nearly all games and it served me well. I rage quit less than I used to and my ego didnít suffer it. I avoided games during the year, that when they approached I looked at them and thought ďI donít think Iím gonna enjoy this, Iíll pass for nowĒ. I mean, no monies helped that decision too....
ďResist temptationĒ Ö. oh man, did I fall foul of that one. I still bought plenty of games that I ended up no touching or playing for 5 minutes. Thatís the one habit I need to change: itís the one that means Iíll end up with plenty more games I doubt Iíll get through. I did avoid multiplayer distractions, however the change to free to play and the creation of a Dtoid server meant I did get back into playing TF2.
So on the whole, I still think I did pretty well. I think next year Iíll do better though. If I can get work Iíll be saving up for a desktop PC purely for games, so Iíll be able to get through some of the more graphically intensive games from my PC backlog. Iíll still be frugal when it comes to purchasing console games but then I see that the MGS HD Collection and Catherine get a UK release in February, Max Payne 3 is in March and Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock Infinite are due to hit before April 2012. Argh! Iíll give it my best shot though.
I am easily distracted. Whilst I like to think I'm very focussed and single minded, I get overwhelmed with other things and find myself wanting constant variety. All of which is a fairly lame excuse for posting these pics so late and why Stevil's avatar adoption for PAX 2010 was such a damp squib. When I got back from PAX 2010, I started my plans to move back to Scotland after living in Australia for 4 years. By the end of October, I was back home but without a PC of my own to use, so Stevil's pics lay on my external HD for months. However, I can now post the results of Stevil's fairly low key and lame adventures to PAX 2010.
First up, Stevil get's endorsed by Mr Destructoid in a pic you may have seen before:
Stevil get's a good view of Duke Nukem Forever. Remember when the announcement of DNF was actually exciting? Wow, that was like last year 'n shit...
I'm pretty sure I saw these delightful young ladies at the End Of Nations booth this year again:
Ok, so yeah I hardly took any pics. I didn't bring a proper camera with me so I was stuck with my 1st gen i-phone camera which is really not a good way to take photos at all. The reason why I didn't do an avatar adoption again is because I just keep forgetting that I need to take photos whilst I'm at an event, I'm not a guy who goes snap happy at all. So, Stevil you crazy Welsh bastard, sorry it's taken so long for you to see the crappy results of your PAX 2010 adventure. My apologies.
So over the last six days, I've been in the surprisingly warm, north east coast of Scotland helping my parents moving some items out of my grandparent's old house. My grandmother passed away a few years ago and we've moving some large items out of the home and garage before the new owners move in next weekend. My parents actually bought the house next door quite a few years ago when my grandmother was getting rather frail and that's where we've been staying right now. My parents still intend to keep the house as a holiday home and I've been here quite a few time, twice this year already.
Thing is, there's no Internet connection in this house. Before you ask how that's even possible, I'll point out that there's no actual telephone land-line, at least my parents have never bothered having it activated. Frankly in this day and age, your mobile phone has pretty much replaced your house's hard line and considering the only communication I've had has been in the form of a single text message, it's not really surprising.
What's been irritating has been the lack of gaming I've been able to do, made worse by the fact that this is the first time I've been up at the house with a computer of my own. I splurged the last of my savings at the end of September to get a 15.6" Samsung laptop, the first computer I've owned since I left Australia around this time last year. Knowing I was coming up, I installed a few games on Steam to help pass the downtime. I should point out that I've headed up north just a week after a full re-install of Windows 7 so I've been putting games back onto my laptop but mindful of my tendency to play 1 game, rage quit and play another whilst never getting round to actually finishing them, I put about 7 or 8 games onto my laptop knowing that I wouldn't get bored and that I'd have a decent selection of titles. My knowledge of Steam's slightly flaky offline support has meant that I know that I shouldn't expect games to work straight away, so I re-installed my titles from their backups, went into offline mode and made sure they loaded. No problems, so I packed up my bag along with my wired 360 controller, headphones and external backup drive and headed for the Highlands.
First on my list to play was the rather awesome 2D graffiti platformer Sideways, which I'd bought the night before. I was making good progress with the game and I wanted to carry on playing it so I could complete the game. The game itself plays fine but at the end of the level, your scores are updated to the Internet for online leaderboards; I played the next level of Sideways but then the game stalled, unable to connect to the Internet meant I was stuck until I could re-connect to the Internet. This struck me as a big oversight; the game couldn't just detect that Steam was offline therefore leaderboard scores wouldn't need to be updated?
Annoyed with that, I decided to play some more Beat Hazard, specifically the new Ultra mode. I made a huge amount of progress with that game, unlocking level after level and an array of new perks. However, I never unlocked any achievements despite climbing up the ranks. Was this because I was offline?? More than likely as I couldn't even check the achievement list whilst being offline. I know achievements are the be all and end all of gaming, far from it. I use them as a personal benchmark, a way of saying and showing "Yes, I got all I could out of that game" and as a motivator to come back and try again with games I didn't manage to finish. The idea that I'm missing out on those motivators annoys me a bit, can't the game just unlock them in the Steam client whether you're offline?
So, realising I had more backups I thought "I've not got much to do, why not re-install Fallout New Vegas" a game I had ploughed more than 50 hours into, only for crashes and an achingly dull DLC campaign to provoke me into removing the game so that I could come back to it later. Turns out you can't install a backup without being online, even if you only made the backup a few days prior. So no New Vegas for me, probably for the best really.
So there we go; Steam offline mode not as good as online mode. I mean, no shocks there and to be honest, I still was able to play games like Super Meat Boy, Terraria, Beat Hazard and the Binding of Issac with no problems. I know I'm quibbling here, at home I've got a fairly solid Internet connection that's been working a-ok and with that, I can game without any problems. It's still not a 100% connected world yet, and despite the fact that I'm almost totally converted into having all my needs met by the Internet (I'm dreading the amount of unread posts I'll have on Google Reader when I go home) there's still times when you need services to work offline and have them work as well as an online service. I'm not asking for patching and multiplayer options to somehow work offline, but a single player platforming game that's not able to move onto the next level because you've got no Internet connection is a bit much.
ďIím more worried that you can get a really good 99 cent game that occupies you for hours and hours on end and how that impacts $60 SKUs..... But I do worry about what it means for the next generation of console games? Are people really going to want to spend $60 on a game?Ē
Something that Mike also mentions is that free entertainment is competition to playing AAA titles, so like why play a big budget game when you can watch loads of free or cheap content on your TV or Netflix. When the Playstation launched years ago, Sony UK boss Phil Harrison claimed that Sony werenít in competition against Nintendo and Sega, they were competing with clothes, going out to the pub, going to the football. Sony positioned the Playstation as a lifestyle choice and it really worked. The Playstation crossed over to market that decided to play games instead of things like socialising and spending money on clothes and booze. Sony prospered in the 90ís and 00ís because they realised that they werenít in direct competition with other videogames companies, Sony realised that they had to make their console and games more appealing than TV or books and suchlike.
As for the charge of mobile gaming ďcheapeningĒ big name console titles seems to hit at the point of the value of a AAA game. Again, reading between the lines Mike sounds as if heís worried that gamers wonít feel a big budget game, like Gears Of War wonít be worth $60. Well Mike, maybe itís not. Yes games have been always been expensive, but are all games worth $60 or $40 (or $100 if youíre in Australia)? I realise that value for money can be an abstract concept to a lot of people and thatís without going into the idiotic ďgame length=value for moneyĒ argument. I would ask Mike if he feels that all the games that are released are worth $60 and it is a bad thing that playing cheap and fun i-phone games make me question the value of spending a lot of money on such games? Iíve gotten an amazing amount of value and enjoyment out of games like Fruit Ninja and Plants Vs Zombies as I have with some AAA games that cost more 40 times more. That's not a bad thing, that's just something that digital distribution and portable technology allows me. Not all my compelling videogame experiences are me sitting on a couch or at a desk, staring into a tv or monitor.
Mikeís comments almost make it sound like this is unfair like ďTV is free, so why are people going to pay $60 for GOW3? Argh!Ē Maybe GOW should be cheaper? Maybe you should split GOW into three separate parts, single player, hoard and multiplayer and let consumers buy them separately. Maybe future EPIC games should be episodic. Maybe EPIC should make more iOS games to test out ideas or tech? Maybe itís not my job to reassure Mike Capps that things are going to work out ok. I donít have the answers and I donít claim to know where the videogames industry is heading. What I believe is that making products cheaper and readily available makes them appealing to consumers.
Itís no newsflash that people have limited time to play games. Itís no newsflash that people only have a certain amount of limited income. But laying the game at cheaper, more convenient forms of entertainment as somehow being unfair is a cheap shot. Again, reading between the lines it sounds as if Mike Capps isnít 100% that his latest game is really worth $60.
So now that Iíve gotten a couple of posts under my belt, I thought Iíd re-introduce myself, as of course youíre all wondering who that handsome, monochrome man is that scowling at you from the top of some PC news on the frontpage. In my past life I was known as Ali D, a nickname Iíve had since I was very young. In Scotland, almost everyone with the name Alasdair is called Ally, but since Internet communication is now more commonplace, most people would pronounce my nickname as ďthe people that aid you in a battleĒ D. At the start of Summer, I put myself forward for the PC internship, working under the steady gaze of Jordan Devore. Got a couple stories under my belt which feels good (one of which was linked to on Twitter by Ken Levine!!) and hopefully plenty more over the Summer.
Iíve been a community member since late 2007 when I first started doing some cblogs. After that I started getting stuck into the craziness that is the forums, to the point where Iím now one of the moderators serving under Uncle Mxy and MOM. Iím hoping to carry on cblogging after my internship is up and Iíve got a good idea for an ongoing series which Iíll have to get started on soon. Other Dtoid fun stuff has led me to PAX Prime 2010 and PAX East 2011 (where my official duty was being Hamzaís bag bitch) and hopefully PAX Prime 2011 (once I get some stuff sorted out).
I'm the guy with the beard.
So going back to the start, I first played videogames on my motherís Commodore 64.... I say ďplayedĒ but I was still fairly young and the only thing I could actually play was Paperboy. Getting to the end of the street and playing the obstacle course was one of gamingís early thrills. After that, my brother and I got an NES at Christmas to share between us. We both pooled all our money that weíd received and ended up with £40 to buy Super Mario Bros. 3 which has remained a firm favourite. I would play NES games round at my cousinís house every Friday night, when my parents went round to see my Aunt and Uncle. He had games like Mega Man and Castlevania which I tried my hardest to get into, but my gaming skills were still well below par.
Papa Burch is gonna smack Ikarus one!
After that, I never had a new console for almost ten years. My parents werenít happy for me or my brother to be playing videogames often, so we got sent out to play in the streets or go round to friendsí houses, where their parents would send us outside as well. In my later teenage years, parents were happier to have us in the house as it meant we werenít drinking alcohol or smoking, not realising that all me and my friends wanted to do was play videogames. So my experiences of the 16 and 32-bit eras were playing (usually mulitplayer) videogames at my friendsí houses and usually having my ass handed to me at Street Fighter 2, Goldeneye, Tekken or Super Mario Kart. So Iíve had this weird upbringing in which I can remember back to the 8-bit era and beyond, yet Iíve got very little hands on experience or connection to that time.
Me and the boss. I can confirm he has amazing hair. And is also one of the nicest people I've ever met.
Eventually, I left school and worked so I could earn some cash and get a Dreamcast, followed by an X-box and then a 360. At the same time, I was studying so I needed a computer, so I got my first desktop PC back in 1998, just in time for Half Life, MDK and Grim Fandango. I stuck with PC gaming as I always found games that I was enjoying on the PC, especially Deus Ex my all time favourite. Iím no PC-elitist, Iíve got a 360 so I can play some console exclusive titles and some multiplayer fun.
Mr Destructoid (aka Mikey) endorses Stevil. I'll get those pics posted one day buddy.
So if I was to list off my favourite games, they would be a rag-tag bunch. Deus Ex is the game thatís most defined how I look at gaming, especially freedom and open endedness in videogames. The Mass Effect franchise is pushing my sci-fi fan buttons every time I play it. GTA: Vice City does a great job of creating a specific time and place, with added Gary Numan. Team Fortress 2 has been my favourite multiplayer game, so much so Iíve had to kick the habit so I can actually complete some other games. Aside from those core titles, Super Mario Bros 3, Jet Set Radio, Fallout 3, Batman Arkham Asylum, Grim Fandango, Plants vs Zombies, Far Cry.... thereís plenty to mention. My taste in games is shockingly mainstream, but I do love the great wealth of indie titles on Steam.
In addition to being "bag bitch", I am to help Pico dish out massages to senior staff.
Outside of gaming Iíve been going to gigs for years (my first gig was R.E.M. at Stirling castle) seeing so many of my favourite bands. I love all types of music, but Iím drawn to down-tempo electronic stuff, Scottish indie rock, instrumental and post-rock, sample based hip hop and 80ís post punk. Check out my Last Fm profile on the right hand side to see if weíre compatible. I spend a fair amount of time reading both novels and comic books; my favourite authors are Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Simon Reynolds and William Gibson. Some of my other favourite things are Mongolian beef, watching Rangers FC, Addidas clothing, vodka, sleeping in and cultivating my facial hair.