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Alasdair Duncan's blog
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Alasdair Duncan avatar 3:04 PM on 11.25.2011  (server time)
A week of offline woes

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.

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