Available On: PC (Steam Early Access) The rogue-like genre has absolutely exploded in the last several years thanks to indie developers. FTL. Rogue Legacy. Spelunky. Risk of Rain. Binding of Isaac. Darkest…
Humble Bundle is long known for compiling video games into largely discounted packs while also allowing consumers to donate portions of the money to selected charities. Over the years Humble Bundle has provided some astonishingly good deals but the latest bundle, called the Freedom Bundle, may be their best ever.
The Freedom Bundle is Humble’s bold stance against the United States’ current tumultuous political landscape. Specifically the recent attempt at a “Muslim Ban” by the Trump administration. “We humbly remember that the United States is a nation of immigrants, and we proudly stand with developers, authors, and charities that champion liberty and justice for all,” states Humble.
More than just words, Humble is sending 100% of the payments from this bundle to charities. Specifically the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the International Rescue Committee, and Doctors Without Borders. Humble is also matching contributions up to $300,000.
“We chose these three organizations because of the inspiring work they do in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced people as well as in defense of justice, human rights, and civil rights,” states Humble.
The bundle includes over 40 of some of the best indie games from the last few years, as well as some eBooks and digital graphic novels. Highlights include Stardew Valley, The Witness, Super Meat Boy, Mushroom 11, Nuclear Throne, Invisible Inc, The Stanley Parable, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, and Song of the Deep. This is an excellent collection for anyone who plays games on PC and would make a nice Indie Game Starter Kit.
Unlike past pay-what-you-want bundles you’ll need to pay a minimum of $30 to receive the full Freedom Bundle. You can certainly pay more, however. The current unnamed top donation sits at $3,000. Over three million has already been raised.
All the games can be redeemed on Steam, with a few offering DRM-free versions through GoG. All games are available for Windows with a few offering Mac and Linux versions; check individual games for compatibility. The Freedom Bundle deal expires in one week, ending Feb. 20.
Steam has long been the primary arbiter of PC gaming. With global reach and a user base in the millions, any big changes that Valve makes to its digital service is a huge deal. The latest major change drops Steam Greenlight in favor of a new system, called Steam Direct.
“Steam Direct is targeted for Spring 2017 and will replace Steam Greenlight,” states the announcement. “We will ask new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account. Once set up, developers will pay a recoupable application fee for each new title they wish to distribute, which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline.”
Valve admits they’re still discussing that recoupable fee. They’ve talked to “several developers and studios” and been given a range “as low as $100 to as high as $5,000.” That’s a fairly large range and has a lot of current indie devs anxiously wringing their hands.
Depending on the fee Steam Direct will have a much lower barrier of entry than Stream Greenlight. Steam Greenlight required indie developers to submit each new game for Steam users to vote on. Greenlight gradually picked up the pace of new game submissions and helped usher in thousands of new games into Steam since its inception in 2012.
Steam Greenlight has since grown bulky and unwieldy, but Valve wants to continue automating curation for the vast amounts of games being submitted to Steam. Steam Direct will technically be easier, with the fee designed to weed out the less-than-serious proposals.
Valve hasn’t been above retracting moves or changing systems based on public feedback. It’ll be interesting to see if Steam Direct is embraced of decried. Like most things it will come down to the cost.
Platforms: Steam PC, PS4, XBO
Release: Early 2017 (Steam Early Access)
PAX South 2017 featured gigantic alien statues beckoning newcomers to check out HoloSpark’s upcoming cooperative first-person shooter Earthfall. Earthfall draws heavily from Valve’s Left 4 Dead series, and aims to fill the co-op void left behind after Left 4 Dead 2 released back in 2009.
“I’ve been banging on my buddy at Valve for two years to make Left 4 Dead 3!” laughs Russell Williams, CEO of HoloSpark. “I love PvE. It’s much less stressful to play as the heroes where you’re not getting shot in the head half the time.”
Earthfall’s gameplay is immediately familiar to anyone who has played Left 4 Dead. You choose one of five survivors of a near-future alien invasion and start with only a pistol. You and up to three friends (or AI) journey across the alien-ravaged Northwest and find new weapons and seek out objectives while monstrous aliens continually harass you. Earthfall uses a more advanced version of the AI director that Left 4 Dead famously employed to keep the action varied and unpredictable in each mission.
Like Left 4 Dead the action will be broken up into multiple campaigns, and each campaign will include several maps with a variety of objectives. Aliens feature simple grunts as well as advanced units that force you to change tactics, such as volatile exploding aliens, stealthy hunters, and a massive tank-like creature that takes all four survivors to take down.
Earthfall will also feature its own additions to the genre, such as placeable defenses. Players can find automated turrets (like in the film Aliens), as well as mechanical barricades to bar doorways, allowing only the survivors to pass but blocking aliens (for a time at least). You’ll also find and power 3D printers that you can use to create weapons.
Levels will range from standard “go from point A to point B” to completing objectives in a specific area. In the PAX demo I played, we had to repair and refuel a van to get the hell out of dodge. This included finding tires in a nearby junkyard and pushing the van into the garage. Meanwhile the aliens never stopped pouring in, and we foolishly got caught outside during a massive wave.
Williams teased out a deeper story than this genre usually portrays. “If these aliens are able to travel between the stars, why are they running at you to eat you? There’s a reason for that. Every campaign you will learn a new piece of information.” The story in Left 4 Dead was mostly left to notes on the walls of your safe house, so I’m pleased to hear about a stronger focus on the story telling.
When asked about any PvP components, Williams remained realistic on his team’s goals. “We’re a relatively small team on an aggressive timeline. We really want to nail this experience and make it great, then we can build on that.” He teased the story again, which should make PvP easier to integrate in their future plans.
Williams was clearly passionate about what he hopes to be a new co-op franchise. “Eventually when we do Earthfall 2, we look at Alien versus Aliens. Now we’ve got rifles and we’re marines, but now there’s a million of them! But right now our goal is to make this a great game.”
Earthfall is coming Early 2017 to Steam Early Access.
Directly following their large annual winter sale Valve has presented their top 100 highest grossing games of the year on Steam. The best-sellers are broken up into multiple tiers, from platinum to gold. Best-sellers include a list of the biggest releases of the year, such as XCOM 2, Civilization VI, and The Division, as well as older main-stays like Counter-Strike and Grand Theft Auto V.
The following 12 games make up the “Platinum” category, representing the highest grossing games of the year on Steam (presented here alphabetically).
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Dark Souls III
- DOTA 2
- Fallout 4
- Grand Theft Auto V
- No Man’s Sky
- Rocket League
- Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
- Tom Clancy’s The Division
- Total War: Warhammer
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- XCOM 2
Interesting to see No Man’s Sky up there, with its widespread criticisms and reports of mass refunds. Despite its incredibly rocky launch and controversy over content, the game sold remarkably well. Also funny to see both Dishonored and its new sequel in the Bronze category. A lot of folks waited until now to jump into the series.
DOTA 2, valve’s in-house MOBA, remains very popular as well. It’s also free to play, meaning enough people bought in-game loot to make DOTA 2 one of the highest grossing games of the year.
Valve doesn’t publish or make public any actual sales numbers. These best-seller lists are the best indicator we have of PC gaming on the world’s largest digital service.
The Steam Awards also wrapped up at the end of the winter sale. Users voted each day in a number of multiple choice categories. Here are the winners:
- Villain Most In Need of a Hug: Portal 2
- I Thought This Game Was Cool Before It Won An Award: Euro Truck Simulator 2
- Test of Time: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Just 5 More Minutes: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- “Whoooaaaaaa, dude!”: Grand Theft Auto V
- Game Within A Game: Grand Theft Auto V
- I’m Not Crying, There’s Something In My Eye: The Walking Dead
- Best Use of a Farm Animal: Goat Simulator
- Boom Boom: DOOM
- Love/Hate Relationship: Dark Souls III
- Sit Back and Relax: Euro Truck Simulator 2
- Better With Friends: Left 4 Dead 2