Like many PC gamers, I have a problem. I have too many games, on too many platforms. I have bought so many discounted, bundled games that my games library has ballooned to truly silly proportions and I know I am not alone in this as around Christmas time this tweet was doing the rounds:
There’s a huge video game sale full of good games for free right now!
It’s your steam library. The stuff you bought like three years ago. You own those. Go play them. You’ll like them.
This got me thinking, at this point I have a couple of thousand games I have been meaning to play someday, and obviously I will never have the time or inclination to get to all of them. But surely I could try a representative sample. So this year, since January the 3rd, I have been trying an average of one new title a day. A game I have never played, but either own or have access to via a subscription service.
The goal is simple. Play a game for generally around half an hour, long enough to form some kind of opinion on it. Ideally have sampled enough that I can have a short conversation about the game if someone were to ask me about it. Finally, decide if I would like to come back to it sometime, and then move on.
Oh, and to ensure I don’t get stuck on a series, each time I move on, I should move at least one letter down the alphabet. I wonder how many times I will get through before I have to skip a letter.
So far I have found this very rewarding. It turns out that, even bloated as it is, my library consists mostly of games that I at least like. This series provides the constant novelty that I crave. It feeds the same part of my brain that keeps me on Twitter and Reddit longer than is healthy.
I plan to give weekly highlights (and the occasional lowlights) on the blog here, but as always you can catch the videos on YouTube.
It has been a while, sorry about that. I’ll try to do better in the future.
The last time I posted, it was a short update on the results of my channel’s format change, the results were inconclusive, overall not the pick up in audience I was after, but ceasing trying to put up videos every day reduced pressure and stress. To this day I haven’t received any comments asking for the let’s plays to return.
That said, roughly two weeks after that fateful post in September, I went back to daily or near daily uploads. Why? Because the Suspicious Developments released the Space Birthday update for Heat Signature. I love that game, I already had been planning to do tip videos for the update (and I did, Heat Signature Hot Tips received 15 new installments), but more importantly they added a Daily Challenge mode. Suddenly a game I enjoy and am quite good at had a daily competitive element and inspired by Tom Francis putting his challenge runs up online I followed suit.
I have been releasing Heat Signature Daily Challenge videos nearly every day with only the occasional break due to minor things like travel, getting married, honeymoon, guests, technical difficulties and laziness. It turns out I am an above average Heat Signature player. I am perhaps quite good at this game. Over the course of the last 5 months I have obtained what I believe are two world records in Heat Signature daily challenges.
Before I show these off I want to delve into exactly how the Heat Signature Daily Challenge works, because unlike Spelunky or Crypt of the Necrodancer this isn’t just a set daily seed for the regular game mode. Heat Signature was not initially designed to have a Daily Challenge so they had to figure out what the challenge would mean and how to implement it.
The Daily Challenge can only be started in galaxies where no faction has been eliminated, each challenge consists of the following:
3 linked missions of escalating difficulty and point value
A random character with up to 4 traits, negative or positive
A load out consisting of 1 melee weapon or gun, 1 self-charging item, 1 disposable item, 1 random pod
A clause, you lose points each time you break it
Each mission is an increasing number of points, 100, 150 and 250. So completing all three with no penalty earns you 500 points. However for those players are then graded on style. The theoretical maximum style bonus is 100, but for every 16 seconds they spend near mission ships, or aboard any ship they lose 1 point. It generally takes 5-6 seconds to dock to a ship and 5-6 seconds to pick a character from the cold void of space after they crash through a window, so needless to say it is very difficult to get those highest scores.
Which is why first I want to present my world record for the highest number of points earned in any Heat Signature Daily Challenge
This was the perfect storm of gear. We have a character with a concussion hammer, which lets us dash up to guards but does not kill them which would violate our clause, we have a Glitch Tick which means that docking is instant as we just teleport to their airlock and we have a self-charging slipstream, meaning that we move 5 times faster than normal and finally we just have to steal an item, so we don’t need to work out how to deal with armour, shields or having to pick up an extra body from space. With this loadout we can literally teleport on the target ships, run through them stealing from guards on the way, grab our item and tail it. The biggest risks were having a guard shoot another or having a guard sitting in a window room on our way out. We are blamed for any deaths no matter who actually causes them.
The aggregate mission time for this run was 35 seconds, leaving me with the first (and to my knowledge only) 599 score on any Heat Signature Daily Challenge leaderboard, the game’s lead developer actually commented on Discord that he did not expect that score to be possible.
The second world record is somewhat more niche. The Speed clause daily challenge is somewhat unique in that it is nearly impossible to avoid a penalty, as you get a 5 point penalty for every 10 seconds you spend aboard a ship. The record setting run can be found below:
The score for this run has been equalled, back on the 28th of October, a player by the name of Terin got a 490 score in a Speed daily, but they took 40 seconds, where I took a total of 38. Ultimately this run is very similar to the other world record run. We have a glitch tick cutting roughly 5 seconds off of every dock time and we have the amazing early game loot of a rechargable slipstream and once again we just have to steal things. In some ways this is easier than the other run in this post because I simply do not care what happens to the guards I interact with. If it is more convenient to just shoot someone from across the room I can with no score impact at all.
I am particularly proud of the third ship on this run, I manage to get through the larget ship in the least time through good use of slipstreams and swappers, for many of these guards I was merely a very loud breeze and then I was gone.
That’s all I have time to post about today, next time I will give an update on the other videos I have been doing. Hopefully I will get it out much faster than this post.
So an interesting thing happened last weekend. I’d gotten my hands on Ben Esposito‘s Donut County, acquired off the strength of a bunch of people talking and sharing screenshots about it. Earmarked as a review game, I figured I’d play it a little to close out my Sunday night, and then plan how much I’d have to play more to get a good enough idea of it and where that would fit in my schedule. You know, the usual stuff.
And then I blinked and it was two hours later and I had completed the whole game. Even got a few of the secret achievements to boot.
I’ve thought about doing a full Donut County review, since obviously I liked it enough to play the whole dang thing in a single sitting. There’s just… not that much to talk about? A full analytic deep-dive would pretty much turn into me describing the whole game blow-by-blow, and I don’t want to inflict that on anyone. Least of all you.
I still want to give Donut County the added publicity it deserves, though. And if that’s not what the Indie Shortieland formula was ad-hoc-created for, I don’t know what is.
Okay, so maybe, new isn’t exactly the right term given that the last daily video went out two months ago today.
Since then, as I mentioned back in April, I have stuck to a much lighter release schedule. Each week I release a tip video and a stream archive. The idea behind this lighter schedule was to cut out the content almost no one was watching (i.e. the Let’s Plays I started the channel to do), and consolidate them into a single video once a week. The hope was that reducing the amount of content that people didn’t care about more people would be tempted to hit that subscribe button and then stay subscribed.
How has it worked out?The first third of this graph is the last month of daily videos, the last two thirds are under the new format. What I see in this graph is an initial drop in viewership as my audience adapts to the changes, but not much of a drop because after all, not many people were actually watching the Let’s Plays as they were drawing to their close. More recently there are some peaks, but they are relatively isolated, which means they are probably from external sources, rather than something sustainable.
But what about subscribers? The view count might be mixed, but are subscribers hanging around longer?This is not exactly what I was hoping for, again we see a drop off shortly after the change from daily to less frequent videos, but on the other hand I have seen a burst of subscribers recently. Linked fairly closely to one of the peaks on the watch time graph above. I seem to be getting fewer subs that drop within a day, but I am not sure if that is simply a change in how subscribers are reported to me.
In conclusion, outlook hazy try again later. Changing the release schedule hasn’t provided any sort of clear signalling, it was neither an immediate success or an immediate failure. As things stand I will continue my current approach and reevaluate towards the end of the year.
I got into Zachtronics‘s latest release, EXAPUNKS, the same way I get into all Zachtronics games: Learning about it way after everyone else by seeing emails or Twitter messages about release dates and special editions, buying one of those special editions on the promise of cool manuals and physical goodies, and then promising myself that maybe this time I’ll actually see one of them through to conclusion. Poor return on investment for the third bit so far, but maybe this time! It could happen.
Now, last time I reviewed a Zachtronics game (Opus Magnum, which I reviewed here), the review turned into a sort of distributed reference block about which other Zachtronics games that one pulled from most and least. Which is fine, in a sense, they are all similar. But I realized after the fact that a review like that won’t be very valuable for someone who’s not already way into Zachtronics games: Saying ‘just read these review and play these games if you want to understand this one’ isn’t exactly accessible. So for EXAPUNKS, I’m going back to the normal ‘full’ treatment: Early-game impressions, options menus, the works. If you’ve got no idea what this game is like or what the deal is with this publisher, I should hopefully have you covered.
And if you are already a Zachtronics expert, no worries! I’m sure my subconscious will sneak in more than enough references to other games anyway.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium to high, depending on how well you read the screenshots.)
I am having real trouble keeping ahead on my tip videos, I have clear plans, but I am starting to spend my time increasingly on other games, meaning I have to specifically go back and replay sections of Into the Breach to gather footage. I am often up late on a monday night trying to put together the video for Tuesday. This is not a sustainable situation, I either need to get ahead or change game.
Ranneko Plays reached 200 subscribers this week, in the past month I have gained more than a dozen subscribers. That is about a quarter of all my subscriber growth in the past year. Looking into the YouTube analytics, most of them have subscribed while watching a tip video. It seems that the time investment on those videos is really paying off!
Real life is interfering somewhat with my streaming schedule at the moment. This week’s stream was delayed until Thursday because the rest of my things from Australia arrived, so I was busy moving boxes and assembling a bed. Next week’s stream clashes with a meeting. Unfortunately I am then travelling from Wednesday through Monday, so there won’t be an opportunity for a make up stream.
I succumbed to temptation this week, rather than playing Shadowrun: Hong Kong as initially planned. I decided to play the literally just released BattleTech, after all I am working this weekend so I figured I could try to finish up Shadowrun: Hong Kong in a bonus stream on Thursday or Friday.
It turns out I wasn’t quite as close as I thought I was as it took 2 bonus streams to finish it out. Next week I will be streaming on Thursday rather than Tuesday, because the 1st of May is a public holiday here in Sweden and I have other plans.
I have finally finished up Pillars of Eternity, but that does not mean that the Let’s Play will wrap up any time soon. I recorded about 12 hours of footage last weekend in the process of finishing it and the videos going up this week are from an even earlier session. In an effort to speed things up somewhat I have decided to put it up three times a week. That means daily content for my channel for a while yet.