Frugal Gaming: Playing On A Budget

After several years earning more money than we needed, saving a bit, splurging on a wedding, holidays and so on, times are a little more uncertain for the wife and I these days. Adult life has a way of creeping up on you.

One of the most obvious areas we were able to save money immediately was my gaming and technology habits. Here’s a few ways I’ve adjusted my spending to continue funding this hobby of mine.

The waiting game

Gone are the days of buying new games as they are released, not that I think they’re particularly expensive, considering how many hours of entertainment can be had from most titles these days.

The simple fact is, they’re often available much cheaper after only a matter of weeks or months from when they release. Far Cry New Dawn, for example, was available earlier this week for 50% off on Steam, just 6 weeks or so since it was released as a full(ish) priced game.

There will definitely be exceptions to this new rule, of course, if Valve dropped Half-Life 3 on us, or Gearbox gets on with it and finishes Borderlands 3. I will pay crazy amounts of money for those games, to start playing the very second they’re available.

Only buy during sales with maximum discounts

When I can’t resist the temptation to buy something, I’m waiting for the seasonal sales we often see. I’ve purchased most of my games during sales already, but often years before I get around to playing them, if at all!

Now, I’m looking for the heaviest possible discounts. I paid £15 on Steam for Max Payne 3 a number of years ago, but I still haven’t played it. I’ve seen heavier discounts on it since then, I should have waited.

Another terrific site comes in handy here for PC, isthereanydeal.com, which tracks current prices and also shows historic price information across most PC digital store fronts. This allows you to determine if there’s an active sale going on for the title you’re interested in, but also how low the price has been in the past.

When it’s at an all time low, say 90% off, hit the buy button, it’s unlikely to get any cheaper.

I’m not aware of any similar sites for the console stores, but I usually go by active percentages there. Typically things are 50-67% off, so anything at a higher discount is instantly attractive.

Love your backlog

I’m not special when it comes to my own backlog, like most peoples, there’s hundreds of games I already own which I haven’t played, not even for a minute. Last year I resolved to finish more of my backlog and I’ve done OK so far, but now it’s time to hit it hard.

The excellent howlongtobeat.com estimates my Steam library alone will take hundreds of hours to complete, without buying anything new, that should keep me entertained for a while!

I often use this to determine what game I’m going to tackle next, based on the time I know I’ll have available.

There are console games untouched in my backlog as well, The Last Of Us Remastered, the Nathan Drake Collection, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Quantum Break and so on. All purchased, all not finished.

Hit the pre-owned stuff

A fat Christmas bonus (from just 8 weeks with a new company) in December 2011 made purchasing a PS3 an easy decision. I partly justified this, and console purchases since, by telling myself I would make use of the pre-owned games market.

I’d get rid of the games I didn’t want any more, pick up new old stuff, offsetting the higher prices of console games compared to my Steam library. No problem I thought. Two things happened.

Firstly, I only purchased one pre-owned video game until yesterday, in 8.5 years of being a console owner. I never traded in any of the games I finished either.

Secondly, the Xbox and PlayStation stores have thankfully gone the same way as Steam in the last few years, offering similarly huge discounts on console games as you can find on the PC. I can now pick up low cost titles on console directly from their digital stores.

There’s still many pre-owned bargains to be had however, I missed many titles prior to 2011 on PS3 and even more of the Xbox back catalogue. I paid a visit to my local CeX yesterday and picked up Killzone 2, for my recently resurrected PS3, for just 50p. They had hundreds of titles and many of them were 50p-£1.50, similar stories for other consoles too. I just didn’t have the time, but I’ll definitely go back and have a proper look at what they have to offer.

Hit the subscription services

If you’re happy to play random stuff, at a fixed cost, subscription services could be the answer.

I’ve dabbled a few times with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, £1 for a months trial here and there, two months for £2 during E3 etc. I’ve certainly had my money’s worth. I’m currently on a three month subscription for £12, not as good as previous deals, but 50% off the normal price. This is also plenty of time for me to finally start and finish Halo: The Master Chief Collection and probably finish Forza Horizon 4 as well. Perhaps more.

There’s over 100 titles on Game Pass, which are coming and going all the time, you can download and play as much as you like.

You can also disable the renewal at any time, dropping in and out as you please, as I’ve done numerous times. Anything you have installed will simply stop working, then start working again once you have an active Game Pass subscription. Anything you have installed via disc that’s on Game Pass will no longer require the disc either!

If you keep an eye out, you can often purchase a 12 month Game Pass subscription at 50% off, usually around Christmas time.

Another way to gain a large number of games for a small amount of money is the Humble Monthly subscription. Some huge titles have been available from this service in the past. You can also gift your unwanted keys to bargain hunting hard up friends.

There’s also Games with Gold, Deals with Gold and PlayStation Now, and probably more out there I don’t even know about yet!

Maintain wish lists

Keeping up to date wish lists on platforms where this functionality is available will be useful for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, you will get an email from some stores when a game in your wish list goes on sale. In some cases they’re not shy about giving you all the details in the email, so you know straight away whether it’s worth it or not.

Secondly, friends and family can use this list to find something in their price range to purchase and gift to you. My wife is asked for every birthday and Christmas what I would want. Well, just go to the list people!

Grab those freebies

Various stores are giving away games these days, if you’re quick, you can grab games for free.

Epic Games Store are currently giving away a game every two weeks. So far I’ve claimed five games from them, a couple of which were on my Steam wish list. I’ve also nabbed a few via Twitch Prime and about a dozen over the last two years from Humble, often prompted by their mailing list.

Supplies are usually limited, but you don’t generally have to even install the game, just claim and it will be added to the library in question, ready to install another time.

Points mean prizes

This section was added in June 2020

Microsoft Rewards enables you to do quizzes, click links, perform searches and all sorts of similar busy work, which takes a few minutes a day at most, to gain Microsoft Rewards points. Stay with me here…

Although you can exchange those points for vouchers to different retailers or even donate them to specific charities, depending on where you are in the world, I’ve been most interesting in acquiring something gaming related; Xbox Store vouchers.

Its taken 11 weeks of half-arsed attempts to get this far, but I’ve just reached £25 worth of points, in time for my birthday and E3.

There’s a surprising number of options for trading in these points. In the UK, at the time of writing, you could do New Look, Argos, Halfords, Decathlon and Cafe Nero, in addition to Microsoft’s own stores, Skype Credit etc.

Now I could hit this harder all year and get Microsoft Store vouchers instead, put that towards an Xbox Series X. I think you can even cash the points in for something like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, or at least spend the Xbox Store points on such a thing.

Either way, if you’re a cash strapped teenager, parent to Fortnite beasts etc, this might be worth looking at to help fund your gaming habit on Xbox.

If you create a Microsoft Family, whereby you tell Microsoft which accounts are all part of the same family unit, you can pool your points together by sending them to one another, to get rewarded quicker. This is how I managed to get close to £10 a month so far, as I roped the wife in to help out. I haven’t even been trying that hard.

This is what I’ve managed to come up with so far, I don’t feel like I’m missing out too much, plus it is nice to finally finish games from the backlog! If you have any additional tips or thoughts on the subject, please let me know via the comments.

The PC Launcher Wars Must Come To An End

This madness has to end. One of the things which drew me to PC gaming over consoles back in the mid to late 90s was the freedom of choice. The mods, the tweaking, squeezing slightly better frame rates out of my beloved video games. Choice. Good times.

The PC as a gaming platform is an evergreen land, if you can afford it, where your hardware is always up to date, and where “exclusives” were not a concern; it was on the PC or it wasn’t. Hello Red Dead Redemption.

Sometimes when a game wasn’t available, that didn’t even matter if you were willing to bend the rules a little, thanks to emulation, such is the joy of the platform. We’ll always find a way.

Here we are, in the year 2019, PC gaming is arguably more popular than ever, thanks in no small part to the rising tide of Valves Steam platform and its seasonal sales, offering steep discounts. Other digital distribution platforms have come along, publishers and developers such as EA and Ubisoft fancying a slice of the pie.

In typical EA fashion, if you want to play their games, they’re only on the Origin store, after a certain point in history. Ubisoft have played a little nicer, allowing much of their catalogue to still be available on Steam as well as their own store. Until recently that is, but we’ll get to that.

On my PC, I now have Steam, Uplay, Origin, Gog Galaxy, Twitch Desktop (for freebies), Battle.net (to play Overwatch and Destiny 2), Bethesda.net (to play Fallout 76) and my head is spinning already. Recently I found myself installing the Epic Games Store for more freebies.

Epic’s store will obviously gain features at a rapid pace, thanks to modern software development methodologies, so I have no concerns there, I’m sure it will become an excellent platform in a very short space of time. Many others disagree, justifiably at present; they can’t purchase games in their local currency, play offline, leave reviews or join communities. These features will all come soon enough.

Epic is a business like any other, they know Fortnite will not continue to make them money forever, that’s why they want a cut of video game sales from other publishers on their own distribution platform. What better way to do go about it than undercut the big dog and make some waves in the industry, while you’re at the height of fame already?

Exclusivity hurts gamers

Not content with having one of the most popular games in the world, they’re now investing their new found fortune from Battle Passes and cosmetic sales. By scaling up the content available on their own digital distribution platform, they’re taking on Steam directly, calling out the established 30% cut Valve takes from sales.

Dangling the carrot of a higher percentage of revenue from sales, the difference going straight to the developers/publishers rather than Epic, it appears to be working. Publishers are eating it up, because lets face it, all they’re interested in is money, the developers are generally the altruistic bunch who do it for the art, not the cash.

Yanked from Steam shortly before release, The Division 2 was always going to be available on Uplay as well… but seriously!?

Here’s where the problems start, they’re also ensuring distribution of these games is exclusive to their store for 12 months, even where pre-orders have been taken for months on Steam, such as Metro Exodus and The Division 2.

Those are two high profile video games, making this feel like some serious anti-consumer nonsense.

During the Game Developers Conference, they’ve announced a number of additional titles coming to the Epic Games Store, including one title developed by Obsidian Entertainment, The Outer Worlds. As little as four hours before the announcement, Obsidian were updating the Steam Achievements. They were seemingly unaware of the deal going on behind closed doors with their publisher.

Although they might receive a bigger cut from sales, how many lost sales are they missing out on by players boycotting the game, due to their publishers decision to sign up for 12 months exclusivity on the Epic Games Store? Are Epic offsetting that cost by paying for exclusivity?

I can’t help but wonder what they’re trying to achieve here, short of pissing off what is probably a vocal minority I’m sure, but I consider myself a part of that minority now.

Thanks, but no thanks Epic

I’m tired of installing more software on my PC to play games. Enough!

There are so many features of Steam I miss when I play a game on a different platform. In-Home streaming is chief among those features, with a small child now asleep in the next room from around 7pm, it would suit me more to play PC games on the TV downstairs, with a controller. There’s a whole host of games I can’t do that with, because the Steam overlay just cannot work with them.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but out of everyone, I think Ubisoft had it right. Build out your own platform, but integrate with Steam and keep your games available there. My free code from a graphics card for The Division was my first foray into Uplay after years of avoiding it. After I realised it wasn’t so bad after all, I bought a whole bunch of Ubisoft titles on Steam and have enjoyed them immensely.

After begrudgingly installing the horror show that is Besthesda.Net, because of my love for Fallout 4, just to play Fallout 76, now with this nonsense… I’m definitely done. It looks like Rage 2 isn’t going to be on Steam, that looked like fun, but screw this, I’m out. I will support the developer by acquiring these games on a frigging console. Oh the irony!

Update (26/03/2019)

A few days after this post was first published, Bethesda tweeted they would be bringing Rage 2, new Wolfenstein, Doom Eternal and Fallout 76 to Steam. Maybe there’s hope after all!?

Are you fed up with having so many different launchers? Are you primarily a console player chuckling from the sidelines? Are there any games you’re missing out on because of where they’re distributed? Lets hear about it in the comments!

The Post Explaining Where We’ve Been

Ok, so it’s been a while. I did that typical thing of explaining why things had gone quiet, then things went really quiet without any explanation for almost a year.

The truth is, although we stopped blogging, we didn’t stop playing games.

What is your excuse then huh?

My wife and I found out in early November 2017 we were expecting (unexpectedly) our first child in July last year. By March 2018, July didn’t seem too far away, there were still so many games on my list I wanted to play, before the inevitable adulthood kicked in. Far Cry 3, Far Cry 5, Forza Horizon 2, State of Decay 2 all polished off. July came and went very quickly, then after 11 days past the due date, our little bundle of joy arrived. Talk about having your life turned upside down…

Something which has surprised me, is just how much I have enjoyed becoming a parent, having despised other peoples children for years, it turns out I love my own very much. That’s biology I guess!

Then Christmas came, some work stuff, illness, all sorts, and here we are in March 2019, save for one post in between, not much has been going on around here.

I find myself having the “time” (whatever that word means any more) to blog once again, now the sprog is a little older. WordPress hosting is up for renewal, so a decision had to be made. I have chosen to carry on, because I also realised, writing is something I enjoy, so why not continue? I will probably be migrating the hosting at some point though, to something cheaper.

Since I started putting this post together in October last year (no, really), there’s been a further development. My employer of 4 years agreed to let me work from home permanently, rather than head office. We have now moved half way across the country (to the Bristol area) to be closer to my wife’s family. Free babysitters! Result.

As for the others…

Woop has started working full time in a 9-5, after a number of years being self employed, so we’re unlikely to see much from her. She is juggling many things in real life now.

Jon has changed jobs (twice) and is in high demand, he’s also started blogging again on geeklish.co.uk; I guess the writing bug got to him in the end 😉

Hopefully I can convince folks to join me at various points. The Creative Christmas posts were some of my favourites in the short history of nowisgames.com, it has also amused me greatly they’ve been on the front page all this time. I had so many conversations about games with people putting those posts together, it reminded me what this blogging stuff is all about, for me at least 🙂

I don’t know what I’ll have to say, or when I will say it, but this will be the place it happens. I will continue to lurk on Twitter and in the comment section of lots of WordPress gaming blogs. I’ll post here when the urge strikes, when I’m not playing something of course.

So whatcha playing?!

At the moment, I’m heavily into Fallout 4 again, having picked up the Game of the Year Edition on a second platform, the Xbox One X, after almost 500 hours on PC. As amusing as it is using mods and building a robot/synth army on PC, I’ve been wanting to do an “idiot” character for a while, without mods, to get some achievements in the bag. With the child upstairs sleeping, it’s downstairs on the console and TV for me to get some gaming in. Boy does it look sweet in 4K.

I’ve finally finished Killzone Shadow Fall, giving the PS4 Pro some much needed attention. My first foray into a Killzone game, I have to say it was pretty good, even though I was terrible at it most of the time. I will probably hunt some of the older titles down and fire up the PS3.

For now, it’s back to Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, which runs like arse on my PC for some reason, so the PS4 Pro feels the love once more. Reportedly quite short, once that’s dusted off, I’ve got three months of Xbox Game Pass to squeeze in Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which I’ve been wanting to play for years. Now that I finally don’t feel the rage playing an FPS with a controller, the time is right.

At some point, I will try and write some words, so thanks for stopping by!

Strategy Guide Publisher Prima Games To Close (Apparently)

Sad news today, so sad in fact I’m breaking 9 months of silence! More on that later.

Prima Games is reportedly closing doors as of next year, due to “challenging market conditions” in recent times, as reported by various news outlets. Eurogamer is where I read about it first, they’re linking to Publisher Weekly where the news originates. The echo chamber is now in full force, here I am adding to it! At the time of writing my own post about this, I can’t find any official statement from Prima Games, Penguin Random House and so on.

With the rise of the internet, YouTube and places like gamefaqs, this is not really surprising.

In the last few years, I’ve developed a habit of spending more money on strategy guides, art books and general tat for video games, than on the actual video games. Er £20 for a strategy guide, no problem! Hmm £40 for the game WHAT!? I’ll wait until its £3.75 in the Steam Sale…

Magazine subscriptions have also become something of a guilty pleasure of mine. Edge magazine in particular shines and is a very high quality publication. By the time they arrive on my doorstep, they’re already out of date, despite having just been printed.

Its only a matter of time before there’s nothing left to subscribe to and we’re all left swimming in the quagmire that is online media. Enjoy accepting those cookie consents and dismissing full screen ads!

One Thousand Hours, Ashamed Or Proud?

A few days ago, I was introduced by a colleague to a consultant we’ve hired at work, “This is Dan, he’s into PC games too. He’s done over 1,000 hours on Borderlands 2.”

Feeling ashamed, I replied “Jeeze man, don’t tell everyone in the canteen that!”

His reply? Apparently, I should be “proud of that milestone“.

Video games are now my primary hobby, my main source of entertainment, a topic I discuss with many people at work and the nowisgames.com team. I read about them, now I write about them too.

You could say, over the last 25-ish years, I’ve fallen in love with them. Now I have the pleasure of going back decades, discovering wonderful titles I missed the first time, because I was too busy being a spotty oik playing football and having zero success with girls.

We’re truly spoiled as gamers today too, with a deluge of indie titles and Early Access, bigger AAA games easily lasting 50-100 hours out of the box, Season Pass content extending the base game. Digital distribution is bringing old treasures back to life on modern PC’s, such as Ignition, an obscure title I enjoyed back in the day!

With this much choice, what makes it possible to play just one game for this amount of time?

Obsession

To play one game for 1,000 hours in a year, that’s just under 20 hours a week, it’s like having a part time job. Once you’re hooked enough to become that invested, it’s easier to play more, how does 40 hours a week sound? Maybe 60? I’ve done it, especially when taking time off work, it’s very easy to convince yourself this is acceptable, if you’ve got the time.

There is no time for sleeping, I’ve got a robot army to build in Fallout 4!

I get comments from people who “don’t understand how you can play one game that much” and heck, I’ve made similar comments to my brother-in-law about his 2,000 hour+ (continuing) stint on The Division. If he went to New York, he’d probably know his way around.

If I had spent over 1,000 hours in a year watching movies, would anyone have anything to say about that? What about reading books? Why is spending time playing video games a “waste of time” as I hear occasionally. It’s my time, I should be able to spend it doing things I enjoy.

Forget about that backlog, it isn’t going anywhere…

Borderlands 2 is a great deal of fun, especially with friends, but the story campaign is reason enough to go it alone and enjoy your time. The ability to play over 1,000 hours of this particular game comes from a few factors, common with other games in which you can invest that amount of time.

There’s the sheer amount of content for a start, plus the number of experience levels to progress through, which I’ve talked about here.

It doesn’t feel like repetition, or a loot grind, although that is what it’s really about. It’s relatively bug free, there’s no loot boxes (cough) and the whole experience is just rock solid.

An even guiltier pleasure is GTA Online; at the time of writing, this has been played for almost 1,500 hours, since June 2016. Most of that time was in the first year of owning the game.

Rockstar keep delivering huge amounts of new content and charging nothing for it, this game has become the cockroach of my library, it just doesn’t want to die.

I’ve infiltrated this submarine more times than I care to remember, but it seems to play differently every time

I went through a period of feeling guilty about playing one game, I should be playing “other stuff” and I keep staring at my backlog; all that money spent, on stuff I’ve never experienced.

Digital distribution is partly to blame for backlog growth, that much is obvious, this stuff is not taking up any real space, so it’s very easy to accumulate. The other reason is of course the amount of time invested in a handful of titles.

Keeping it regulated

Many games or platforms keep track of time played these days, which probably fuels the obsession I have with how much time I’m spending playing games.

I get annoyed when the game or platform doesn’t keep “proper” track of time spent playing. I generally avoid buying games on Uplay, because stat tracking is a mess over there; if I can buy a Ubisoft title on Steam, I do it solely for the reason of tracking time spent playing. Sad huh?

Overwatch seems to track only the time spent in a match/round, not the loading screens, character selection and round countdowns. On the one hand, that is good, because it reflects how long I’ve spent actually playing. Conversely, it led to an unhealthy habit for me. 

The game claims I’ve spent 111 hours playing, but I’ve played precious little else for the last 6 weeks, at an average of about 4 hours a day, so my estimation is closer to 168 hours.

I’m gauging how much time to continue spending playing this game (on a daily basis) with information which doesn’t match reality.

I should enjoy this hobby in moderation. At times, I think I invest too much time in it. My wife would probably agree! Thanks for keeping track Steam/devs.

On reflection, I am proud, particularly with my investment in Borderlands 2, but also a bit concerned in general.

Which games have you enjoyed to this degree, either breaking the 1,000 hour (or more) mark, or getting into the many hundreds of hours? What hooked you in? I’d be interested to read about your experiences in the comments below, so please don’t be shy!

Editorial: January 2018

We’re back, feels like we’ve been gone forever!

This is a little later than usual, the paid job has been keeping me very busy from day one this year; January is our busiest month, which is always nice to endure straight after the Christmas break! Two more weeks to go…

As I mentioned in the Creative Christmas New Years Gaming Resolution post, I’ve put my entire backlog on howlongtobeat.com, with the intention of finally culling it a little bit. I’m going for quality over quantity, although there are some great experiences to be had which are just a few hours long.

After being abandoned in Destiny 2 on PC, I went back to the first game on Xbox One. Very quickly (to my surprise) I completed the main campaign and the first two DLCs they released for free, back in the day. Now I’ve just got The Taken King and Rise of Iron to finish. If they’re as quick as the rest, I’ll be left with a slightly bitter taste, Destiny as a whole, so far, has been quite underwhelming to me, despite the initial rush. It’s a beautiful looking game though.

December picks

Heroes never die!

My growing fascination with Overwatch has continued, finally viewing each of the available character animated shorts, all of which were very enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the whimsy of Bastion’s entry. That’s right I said whimsy!

Here’s a list of the ones Blizzard has made available so far, in case you’ve missed any of them.

I then found myself on YouTube watching the voice actors larking around, saying their lines from the game and ordering a Starbucks, among other things, while in character. At various points I think they start doing each others characters, just to make it extra confusing!

The Limited Edition Artbook has turned up, followed by the keyring, and The Overwatch Anthology just landed on my doorstep as I write this. There’s some free comics on Amazon… I’m losing too much sleep, I just can’t stop!

December hits

We spent most of December working on the Later Levels Creative Christmas collaboration, writing and managing our own contributions and reading posts from other sites. This was our first real effort at community involvement, we thoroughly enjoyed it! More than anything, it sparked many conversations within the team over WhatsApp and Discord, so we spent most of December talking about video games a little more than usual, as well as all playing together.

For the next few weeks we’ll be finishing up the stuff we dropped in December and getting started on those backlogs, catching up on missed reading and trying to get through January any way we can!

Creative Christmas: Game of the Year 2017

Completing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: You wake up the following morning, hungover but happy – you have an entire day of gaming ahead of you. You start thinking back over the video games you played during 2017; what was your game of the year?

Jon: My finger buffet approach to gaming makes this one difficult, and I’m thinking I’m going to cheat here a little bit and say the Witcher series. I’ve been meaning to play them for a while and I’ve just finished 1 and 2 and I’m downloading 3 while I type this. It’s been a while since something has really grabbed me – lore wise – so the Witcher series gets my vote, for reminding me that it’s not a race to devour a game, but an exploration to discover it.

sonicmania00_0
“It had my inner child jumping up and down”

Cat: For pure nostalgia, and hours of joy spent playing it, Sonic Mania.

Chris: Well for me GOTY is easy – Sonic Mania. It managed to pay tribute to the classic (and best) Sonic games on the Mega Drive, without relying purely on nostalgia. It’s a solid Sonic game in it’s own right, you can tell it has been made by people with a genuine love for Sonic. It had my inner child jumping up and down in excitement the moment the opening “Seeeggaaaa!!” intro played, right through to the end credits. The campaign for Streets of Rage Mania starts here!

Dan’s Wife: I loved playing Overcooked but it got difficult… I was obsessed with Piano Tiles on iOS and maxed out the levels!

Claire: Out of all the games to release in 2017, there is only one I could pick as GOTY, which led me to invest in a PlayStation 4.

Horizon Zero Dawn captured me straight away, thanks to my love for archery, but beyond that, I soon learned nothing could get me away from the game. Even since first playing it, other games like Sonic Mania, Cuphead, Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy have come along, but they still wouldn’t be able to reach top of the list.

I was so happy to see DLC released, The Frozen Wilds, to make the experience last just a little bit longer.

The mechanics of the game – open world, completing quests, puzzles, working out how to kill giant machines, it has a good balance between story and not overloading you too much with side quests. Working out how to kill the “boss” machines joyfully threw me back to working out how to take down the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus.

The graphics also make you feel like you are there in the world, on top of that, you can also have fun in photo mode…

Unravelling the secrets of the game world, you learn it is closer to our own than you first think, but unfortunately, I cannot reveal why I love Horizon’s story without spoiling it for you 🙂

Overall, Horizon Zero Dawn is just the perfect balance, in my opinion, in all aspects of gaming. It feels like something truly original.

Dan: My game of the year for 2017, which released in that year… it would have to be Prey. It was such a great experience, I’m looking forward to revisiting it; 30 hours of BioShock and Half-Life smooshed together, I loved it.

If we’re talking about favourite game played during the year, I’d have to say Fallout 4. I put this series off for a long time, having seen my brother in law play Fallout 3 many years ago. Was this something I’d be interested in?

Eventually I caved during a Steam sale. To begin with, I had many issues with the game crashing, performance, losing progress because it doesn’t auto save very often and so on. I strayed too far too soon around the map, and was punished for it, not really knowing how the levelling and progression worked.

fallout4-goty-01
Watching Toy Story 3 over Christmas, I was reminded of this horror I stumbled across in Fallout 4, I didn’t sleep very well that night

I just fell in love with it, then the research started, how can I get this game to run better, save more frequently, how can I mod it, how does the levelling actually work, the settlement building looks cool, I can mod the weapons, armour? Oh and build robots?

Before you know it, 300 hours has been invested and I’ve had an absolute blast. Think of all the games I could have finished with that 300 hours! Who cares, I love the wasteland!

Woop: I struggled to think of a game that was released this year that I would consider my game of the year. The only one that sprang to mind was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but with all the bugs, controversy and the fact it was only just released (fully) by the end of the year, I felt it probably didn’t deserve the title – maybe for 2018.

So I have decided the award, for me, goes to a game that was released in 2016 (almost 2017!). Planet Coaster is up there with my all time favourite theme park builder sims. I may even go so far as to say it has surpassed Rollercoaster Tycoon 2… I haven’t had chance to play it much, but I will definitely be sinking many, many hours into this game as they continue to develop it over the coming year.

Dan: So ends another year, quite a good one for gaming, in my opinion, some great titles chosen there! I’d like to namedrop a few others, which didn’t make the cut for me, but I’ve been asking todays question of many people, out of curiosity more than anything.

  • Ghost Recon Wildlands – Three of my colleagues surprised me in picking this one, I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’ve also been forced into playing “Expert” mode and I’m still enjoying it
  • Grand Theft Auto Online – I wasn’t surprised by this persons choice, as he hasn’t played much else all year, but he has a good point. Rockstar have consistently released some great (and free) DLC for about 18 months now, continuing to milk the cow…
  • Nier:Automata – I haven’t played this myself, but I’ve wishlisted it for the PlayStation 4, it’s been very well received and is highly rated, it does look worthy…
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – Another popular choice at work and in the wider world, breaking more concurrent user records on Steam over the festive period. For me, a bit too unfinished, even leaving Early Access in December, but I’ll keep dipping into it over the coming months…

In closing…

I’d like to thank everyone on the team, friends and family too, and everyone else out there for taking part in Creative Christmas. Huge thanks, however, must go to Kim from Later Levels, for organising this event in the first place, so thank you Kim!

Also, 2017 was the humble beginning of nowisgames.com, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading, following, liking and commenting on our musings.

It’s been so much fun working on the site, but more importantly, seeing what everyone else is up to and reading some truly great and original work out there, which is a nice change of pace from the big name sites.

Happy New Year to you, from all of us, here’s to a great 2018!

Creative Christmas: New Years Gaming Resolution

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: Midnight eventually rolls around, which means it’s now time to pick a New Year gaming resolution to see you through the next 12 months. What’s your [gaming resolution] choice for 2018?

Jon: Continue to regain that sense of wonder and discovery while playing a game and not rush through in an attempt just to beat the damn game.

Dan: I’ve got to get my backlog under control and finish some freakin’ games. Horizon Zero Dawn and the first Destiny must tumble first.

I’ve promised myself not to buy anything else, despite all the insanely tempting offers, there’s got to be a one in and one out rule. I’ve put my whole backlog on https://howlongtobeat.com and the challenge is on!

Multiplayer games are the problem. Do I play something on my own, while everyone else is playing Overwatch? Well of course not!

Disclaimer, anything purchased during the current Steam Winter Sale doesn’t count :p

Dan’s Wife: Get around to playing the Crash Bandicoot Remastered, which someone needs to buy for me!!!

Dan: Good job Santa came through then!

Woop: Every year, for the last 5/6 years, I have made the resolution to play through Half-Life 1 and 2, to the end. Maybe this year will be the year?

Dan: “They’re waiting for you Gordon, in the test chamber.”

I highly recommend playing them both, and the episodes. If you’d rather watch someone play it, I’ve been thinking of recording a play-through to test the whole YouTube thing.

If you finish either game, I’ll fulfil my promise to complete the first Mirrors Edge haha. They’ve rebooted it since I first made that promise!

Woop: Deal.

Creative Christmas: New Years Eve Attire

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: You’ve been invited to a swanky New Year’s Eve party but have nothing suitable to wear! Which video game character do you call to ask if you can borrow an outfit?

Woop: Zoey from Left 4 Dead – I hate wearing smart, posh clothes. Give me a hoodie and a pair of jeans to wear and I’ll be happy! That and it means I’ll also be ready in case of the Zombie Apocalypse…

Jon: Agent 47 from Hitman, all the way, the man cuts a mean suit and has plenty of other clothes to wear while I borrow that fetching suit.

Dan: New Years Eve, party time! I’m going to hit up Soldier 76 from Overwatch for his rather fetching “Daredevil” outfit. I’ve attempted to grow a moustache in the past, I can tell you it does not look as good as his and I’ve never tried since haha.

Dan’s Wife: *giggles maniacally* Princess Peach! I’ll have one of her dresses, a tiara and her shoes!!!

Cat: Princess Peach 🙂

Jon: Our wives need to stop picking similar answers…

Dan: If we married princesses, does that make us princes?

Creative Christmas: Time To Chill

Continuing our journey for Creative Christmas; this is a collaboration formed by community bastion Later Levels, full of tasty festive posts from a growing band of WordPress bloggers.

Question: The presents have been opened and dinner has been eaten, so you’ve got a bit of time for gaming while Gran is snoozing on the sofa. What’s the best video game to play during the holidays?

Jon: It certainly needs to be something a bit more chilled for this time of year, so I’m going to opt for some relaxing Stardew Valley. A game that can be stressful, if you try to “beat” it, but absolutely wonderful if you sit back and just “discover” it.

Woop: Hmm The Sims. It’s my go-to chilled/slow paced game. Perfect for when you feel fat and slightly hung over, from all the chocolate consumed in a very short space of time 😛

Cat: Sonic The Hedgehog or Streets of Rage.

Dan’s Wife: I miss playing things like Guitar Hero! Get everyone involved and have a laugh!

Dan: Only because you troll everyone by saying you can’t play, then beating us all, Mrs Grade-something-or-other Cello/Piano!

Chris: Something with a good storyline to burn through whilst you have all that time off. I’m currently playing Remember Me. It’s pretty good, I’m really enjoying it. I think the prelaunch hype about altering memories ruined the game before it was even released.

Dan: Pre-launch hype?

Chris: Yeah they went on about being able to alter the memories of your enemies, to turn them into allies or generally mess with them. Turns out, in the final game, this can only be done in scripted sequences that are remarkably like the crime scene investigations in Batman: Arkham City. People were not amused lol.

Dan: Peoples expectations are too high I feel.

Chris: I think it was more the PR people completely miss-selling it in this instance – the memory altering thing is a tiny scripted part of the game, where you have no control over the outcome, yet they made a big thing out of it.

Dan: I’ve always associated Christmas with driving/racing and sports games, for some reason. I play driving games year round, I love them. Forza games are getting most of the love right now. Over the years, I’ve stopped being interested in sports, as well as sports games, but I used to dabble in the likes of Pro Evolution Soccer and NHL. At Christmas time, I can be persuaded to pick up the controller for those once more 😉

Having said all that, I’ve purchased STEEP during the Steam Winter Sale, which Woop and I played the heck out of during the open beta last year. The final game, a year on, is sublime. Oh there’s a photo mode too, sort of, so I’m doomed. Every hour of trying to beat something is followed by another hour of constantly rewinding and pausing the replays, to get another screenshot haha.

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Tell me this isn’t appealing at Christmas time? The only thing missing from this game is being able to go back to a cabin when you’re done and drink hot chocolate