Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gaming - At this rate they will soon be paying us to play their games.

I acquired three new PC games in the last last week:
Allods online - Total Cost  €0.00
Peggle Nights - Total Cost €0.00 (Free for signing up to a PopCap passport)
Spellforce Platinum Edition €3.74  (This weeks Steam bargain)

I haven't even mentioned several excellent free flash games I had a look at along the way. The quality of gaming entertainment that can be had on your PC for little or no money at all is bordering on the ridiculous.

By the way I a making a new rule for myself in relation to Steam and other on-line game sales. My new impulse purchase threshold is hereby set at €5. From here on out I will not pay more than this for a game unless I definitely intend playing it within one week of purchase. 

Allods: A Summoner in XAES

XAES is a level 10 instance for Empire players of Allods online. It contains the final quest in a chain of 5 "pilgrimages" that all new players get. The pic shows my summoner Arzuthr standing at the entrance to the main building (after we had cleared the place out).

The summoner is quite a complex character to play. At level 10 I have a powerful pet who can tank and does a fair amount of DPS.  I am also a healer who I can heal myself and others. On top of that I have spells that do direct damage and damage over time. That sounds like an overpowered combination but it is balanced by the fact that my spell casting is very slow - it takes several agonising seconds to cast anything. The net result is that my personal dps is very low (less than the pets) and my healing capability is similarly constrained. A second restraint on healing is that you need to store up "drops of blood" in order to cast heal and the only way I can generate drops of blood is using a slow casting offensive spell. I can store up to ten drops of blood but once they run out I need to go offensive again in order to recharge my healing ability. It takes a bit of getting used to  managing your pet and switching between offensive and defensive as the situation requires but it is a very flexible mix. At level 9, I was able to solo an equal level elite who dropped a very useful 75 silver.

I was the only healer on our XAES run and I found it hard enough to keep up with the pace of the faster characters. By the time I finished casting my slooow spells the mob would be dead and everyone moved on. The only time my healing was really needed was at the final boss. Nobody died during the fight so I can take some credit for that but it was frustrating to see the main tanks health drop precariously as I waited for my slow healing spell to cast.The instance itself was short (about 25 minutes) and there were no real surprises - standard tank and spank bosses with some wandering trash. We did encounter one bug - two invulnerable trash mobs that were stuck in a corner and prevented us from finishing one quest.

XAES represents a kind of graduation from the starter Empire city. This could be a natural breakpoint for me to leave the game but I am still enjoying myself so I think I will stick around for a while longer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Free Trials now cost $1 - I think it is a Brilliant Idea

Darkfall has introduced a free trial apparently,only its not free. It costs $1 or €1 depending on which side of the pond you live.

Needless to say this has provoked howls of derision. Typical quote from the announcement over on Massively: "So basically they want you to *PAY THEM* to convince you to pay them some more?!?!?! Who came up with this idea?"

Personally I have no intention of trying out Darkfall, its not my kind of game but I am full of admiration for Aventurine. I think their $1 free trial is a brilliant idea. I doubt if it will generate any net revenue but it creates a barrier which will probably filter out a lot of spammers, scammers and general undesirables that regularly abuse free trials in other games. Aventurine is a small company. They just don't have the resources to deal with an influx of trouble makers.

I have no doubt the $1 will probably also dissuade a number of genuinely interested players who might be tempted to continue in the game. By dissuading these people Aventurine are limiting the game's growth rate. However it has been very clear since the beginning that Aventurine is not looking for uncontrolled rapid growth. Remember how difficult it was to even buy the game for the first few weeks. It seems to me that Aventurine have a very sound business policy with an eye on the long run. They are focussing on long term sustainable growth. This is a company and a game that is going to be around for a long time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rethink: How Much Should You Expect to Spend in a F2P Cash Shop?

Heartless gamer   made a very good point in a comment to my earlier post about how much the average paying user spends in a free to play game. I had linked to a famous Gamasutra article which shows that the average spend per paying user in Puzzle Pirates is $50 per month and from that I concluded that that was what a serious end game player in any free to play should expect to spend. Heartless points out that we cannot be sure it is the same 5,000 paying users every month. Perhaps a much larger group of players are making sporadic payments of $50 or so every few months. This of course changes the economics for users. If a larger percentage of players are prepared to pay something the the average cost per paying player can be less.

Perhaps the most interesting figure coming out of that article is the $3 per every user (paying and non paying)  that he feels would be a very good revenue target for a flash based free to play. Every single user whether they are hard core or softcore beginner or end gamer adds some cost in terms of server bandwidth, in terms of marketing costs and in terms of support costs. Now my gut feeling is that a full blown mmorpg like Allods is a lot more expensive to create and maintain that Puzzle Pirates or any of the Flash based games. I am going to stick my neck out and guess that $6 per every user is a more realistic revenue target for a game like Allods online. Remember that subscription games are taking more than $10 or more per user even after all discount subscriptions and free trials are taken into account.

Ok going with the $6 figure the next question is: "What percentage of users will pay something"? Then it becomes simple arithmetic to determine what you need to get from paying users. If half of your players are going to pay something then an average monthly spend of $12 from them is likely to be enough. On the other hand Daniel James from Gamasutra suggests that only 10% of his players every paid anything. If only 10% of Allods players put their hands in their pockets then Gpotato is somehow going to have to squeeze $60 per month out of each of these dedicated players.

To be honest a 10% figure for paying versus non paying wouldn't surprise me. Going from the buzz in the game and on the internet there is a surprising number of people who seem to feel they have a "right" to play the game for nothing. 

Based on the above analysis I don't think that a target $60 per paying user (ARPPU) is unrealistic for Allods  but many of the games erstwhile most vociferous supporters clearly do think it is unreasonable. The problem here may be that the game is so good and so polished that it has attracted a large number of former players from subscription mmorpgs who are accustomed to paying only $15 per month for a game of this quality. Unfortunately if most people are going to pay for free then there is no way the small number of serious payers are going to get away with $15 per month or anything like it.

What to do?
1. Try to broaden the revenue base as much as possible - stack the cash shop with cheap novelty and convenience items that will get $1 or $2 from a much wider spread of customers.
2. Consider gating content in some way and charge for access. Free to play up to level 10 or whatever.
3. Think about going to a subscription only model - you would lose a lot of customers but those you keep would pay their way.
4. Cash shop and optional subscription combined. This is tricky - If most of your players still opt to play for free and hard core players use the subscription to limit their cash shop expenditure then you won't get enough average revenue per user. Since subscription players would rightly expect to have unhampered access to all game content you would need to stack your cash shop with glamour items (pets and such) in order to entice a few extra dollars off subscription players.
5. Introduce a pay for time model with some free allowance of time to justify the continued "free to play label"
5. Accept that former World of Warcraft Players are a dead market for this game. Sit out the mass exodus that occurs once the cash shop becomes live and advertise heavily to players of Puzzle Pirates and similar games who are used to $50 per month expenditures.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A better Free to Play Model

Writing this is a hurry but the furore over Allods has further strengthened my believe that there are numerous flaws in the typical Free to Play model. One major flaw is that a small number of players must pay a lot in order to subsidise the majority who pay nothing. Another perhaps more serious flaw is that in order to force people into the cash shop developers have to design inconvenience into the game. Making your customers suffer is surely not a sustainable business model.

Given all this I wonder if the pay for time model as used in China would not be a better approach. You could still incorporate a free to play component - think of it as a form of extended free trial.

Try the following:
Free players can play for up to 10 hours per week.
Additional playing time can be purchased in lots of 10 additional hours at a cost of $5 for 10 hours.
A lump sum payment of $45 buys 30 days (or perhaps a calendar month) of unlimited playing time.
Perhaps further discounts may be available for higher quantity purchases.

No cash shop. No items which give in game power increase.

Allods Cash shop Hysteria may be Naive

Staunchest supporter turned most ardent critic of Allods online Keane sums up his anger in a recent blog entry: None of us can afford to pay $50-$75 per month to PvE at level 40.  If that really is the amount that would be required to sustain a serious end game player then the whole apoplectic furore over the Allods cash shop is naive in the extreme. We have always known that serious players of a free to play game have to spend more than the $15 per month sub typical cost of subscription games. This has to be the case because most players don't pay a dime so serious end game players need to pay substantially more. In a much quoted Gamasutra feature Puzzle Pirates head man Daniel James revealed that the average revenue per paying user of the free to pay verion of Puzzle Pirates is just under $50 per month. How could people expect to pay less for a full featured free to play like Allods?

Red Faction Finished - Great Game if You Choose Correct Difficulty Setting

Bill Harris of Dubious Quality recommended I play Red Faction on "casual" difficulty setting but gamer pride convinced me I knew better. I started off on normal and got about half way through the game at that setting before it eventually dawned on me that I just wasn't enjoying myself . Eventually I gave in and lowered the difficulty (thankfully you can change difficulty at any time) and the game transformed into a complete hoot. Sure lowering the difficulty level removes the challenge but this game is not about challenge it is about glorious carnage and destruction. The game even has a pretty good story if you are into that sort of thing.

I have previously grumbled about the infinitely respawning enemies but perhaps an even worse problem is the really crappy save game system. First problem is that you are always sent back to base whenever you reload meaning a tedious trek across the map to get back to your objective. Second problem is that there isn't even a decent checkpoint save system. Instead when you are killed you get resurrected to a  nearby base with a death penalty. If you you don't want the death penalty you have to load the last game you saved manually. You did remember to manually save your game after every bit of progress didn't you?  Playing on casual setting overcomes all of these issues by simply reducing the number of times you die.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This is getting Allod more interesting

It looks like my confident prediction of a grovelling apology and price reduction from Gpotato were somewhat wide of the mark. Here is their first official response to Cash-shop-rip-offgate. Grovelling  apology it is not. Oh  they do apologise for not telling people that the item shop was going live. I haven't read a single complaint from anybody who was upset because "No one told me the cash shop was opening". All of the complaints were about the cash shop pricing and Gpotato's statement most pointedly does not apologise for that. They do acknowledge the concern and promise somewhat vaguely to "begin to evaluate the details of our item shop". That is not an apologyu or re-traction. If anything that is a confirmation of intent.

The apoplexy of the community begins to make more sense to me now. They must have seen this coming even if I didn't. Even the normally impeccably spoken Saylah of Mystic Worlds has taken to using anatomical references. Tempers are certainly hot over this. One puzzle still remains - a number of commenters have indicated that they pre-invested significant amounts ($50 or $100 in some cases) in shop currency EVEN BEFORE THE SHOP OPENED. Of course these folks feel rightly screwed because they are now trapped into spending that cash on ridiculously inflated items ... but why on earth did they do it? Why does anybody give money to a shop before it is even opened?

Anyway all this controversy has convinced me to hang around the game for a bit longer. I may not be interested in the gameplay on screen but the gameplay off screen is shaping up to be very juicy. My reading of the situation is this: Somewhere in the chain of this games management  there is person or persons who have studied Microeconomics 101 and know that there is an optimum price point for cash shop items which will maximise revenue. Other games try to guess this price but these managers (MBA graduates by any chance?) know better. They are going to take a scientific approach - setting an initial price and then varying it. After each variation they can determine whether revenue has gone up or gone down and by following the slope of the revenue versus price curve they will eventually home in on the optimum price which maximises revenue. Textbook stuff. Of course these guys are not stupid (MBA graduates - remember) so they realise that customers don't like prices going up. Therefore they decide to start with the highest prices possible and work down - no one complains about falling prices so that will keep people happy right? Oh and another master-stroke: better label the game "open beta" while we are conducting this experiment even though it really is a full release of everything else except for the cash shop. Using the word "Beta" is a get out of jail free card if anything goes wrong isn't it?

What could possibly go wrong? What has gone wrong is that in their ivory tower textbook vision of how pricing should be worked out they completely forgot that they are not operating in a vacuum. Customers already have an expectation of fair and reasonable pricing from other free to play games and even from Allods itself in other territories. They completely underestimated the scale of the customer backlash to perceived "rip off" pricing and my guess is they completely overestimated the degree of leeway the word "beta" in the title would give them. Allowing customers to pre-invest in shop cash before pricing was announced was also a grave error (eve if those customers were pretty silly to do so imho).

The official response is particularly interesting. Notice that no apology is made for the core complaint - the high prices. I think that this communication was written by some poor stuck in the middle customer rep. They probably knows full well the scale of the PR disaster but they are stuck with a recalcitrant management team who "know" they are doing a clever thing by playing with prices (after all it says so in their MBA  textbook) and who can't understand all the fuss. After all isn't the game still in Beta? It says so in the title!  Sadly the one chapter they apparently have not read in that MBA textbook is the one which says that finding the optimum price is not a lot of use to you if you scare away all your customers in the process.

This is shaping up to be interesting viewing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Allod of fuss over a bit of cash

The European office of Gpotato the distributors (if that is the word) of Allods online is in my home town of Dublin so I more or less felt obliged to give it a go. I have only played for about two hours so I won't dream to offer a review except to say that it seems very polished for a free to play. I personally am not at all ready for another mmorpg so I doubt I will be playing for much longer.

In fact I probably wouldn't have posted about it except to note the kerfuffle among US players over the recently opened US cash shop who's prices appear to be somewhat inflated. $20 for a small bag expansion and some rune costing over $6000 apparently. I am pretty sure this is a mistake, cash shops are all about micro-transactions - little and often is the way to go to milk maximum revenue out of players. Players will make a bunch of $2 purchases on impulse but a single $20 purchase raises a mental barrier that has to be overcome.

Anyway the thing that surprised me was the absolute apoplexy this has sparked in the fanbase. This thread is fairly typical. The game has only been running for a few days and yet people are acting as if its the end of the world. I know some people played the closed beta before but their characters were wiped so they have really just started again. How could they be so hyped up as to explode like this particularly given that it is probably an error. It is as if years of playing mmorpgs and having to put up with non responsive developers has conditioned people into completely over-responding the moment anything happens.

Anyway the whole things seems to be a PR disaster for Gpotato if nothing else. I predict a grovelling apology will soon be forthcoming but of course I could be wrong.

Thoughts about our Fractal Universe

My last post prompted some very thoughtful responses. Tesh was even kind enough to link to a terrific website called that has absolutely terrific zoom-able pictures of our own Milky Way galaxy.

When confronted with such immensity it is hard not to get a tad philosophical. How can a mere human mind cope with all this immensity?  Even if you do somehow come to terms with the awesome vastness of the Milky Way just cast you eyes back to the deep field picture and realise that every dot in that picture which itself is but but a tiny speck of the sky represents an entire galaxy. If those concepts are not enough to completely overwhelm your mind then consider that there is a parallel immensity at lower scale. Every pebble on the Earth is itself an entire universe of atoms and the atoms are comprised of a plethora of sub atomic particles. Every time we probe deeper we seem to discover yet another layer of structure beneath that which was already known.

My own personal reconciliation with all of this immensity is to try and accept that the universe we live is has a kind of fractal nature. Not fractal in the sense of self similarity but in the sense of having a complex structure at arbitrarily small and arbitrarily large scales. You can zoom in as far as you like or zoom out as far as you like and you will always find an immensity. Having come to that conclusion the next logical step is to accept that we live at a certain scale and to do our best to master the universe at that scale.

Being human though it is hard to be content with that. One of our great strengths as a thinking species is our ability and indeed our need to simplify complex problems by reducing them to simplified equivalences. I understand this very well because I am an engineer by training and it is a commandment of engineering science that arbitrarily large and complex systems can be reduced to first or second order equivalent models.  We understand first and second order systems very well. We can describe their behaviour and we can control it.

This urge to simplify complexity to a level we can comprehend is revealed at the very largest scale in cosmology and at the very smallest scale in the various attempts to come up with a "theory of everything". Both endeavours attempt to reduce the complexity by putting bounds upon it which are within the grasp of the human mind. Both endeavours are probably equally futile. The fractal nature of the universe thwarts all attempts at reduction.

PS: I know that I may be using the term fractal wrongly in the above post. Mathematical fractals have as I understand it a property of self similarity which means that they can be reduced to a simple recursive description. The universe on the other hand does not appear to have self similarity but does appear to have a complex structure at arbitrary levels of magnification. If there is a better word to describe such a system than fractal I don't know it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reflections on the Size of the Universe

I believe the Hubble deep field images are among the most awe inspiring photographs ever taken and I have recently set the Ultra Deep Field up as my desktop background. To take this image the Hubble telescope was pointed at an area of space devoid of  nearby stars and an image of deep space was constructed by accumulating data over a period of several months. The total area encompassed is equivalent to a speck about one millimetre squared held at arms length. Yet this tiny tiny window on the universe is crammed full of galaxies. Each of these galaxies likely has billions of stars. This image contains some of the farthest away objects ever observed - galaxies at a remove of billions of light years from our own.

This number of worlds, these distances, these time-scales are completely mind boggling. They are in truth simply unimaginable and yet they exist. Here is the picture:

(Image in the public domain courtesy of NASA. A high resolution version can be got from Wikipedia )

One thought that immediately strikes me as I contemplate this picture is how inconceivable it is that our humble sun is the only place in all of this immensity where the miracle of life came about. The universe must teem with life, just as it teems with stars. Why then have we not heard from any one else?  Science fiction writers have proposed many reasons ranging from the benign (our development is being quietly observed from afar until such time as we are judged fit to join the congregation of space faring races) to downright scary (some malevolent force  systematically eliminates all space-faring races).  Could it be that life evolved elsewhere is so fundamentally different as to be unrecognisable to us or is it  simply due to the immense distances involved and the tyranny of the un-attainable speed of light?

The second thought that strikes me is how this immensity exposes the arrogance of that branch of human science known as cosmology. Hypotheses such as the big bang, black holes and dark matter are afforded the same respect as established scientific fact when they are really no more than extrapolations built upon extrapolations. Extrapolation is a useful tool that allows us to use those things we know to make predictions about those things which are outside of our current scope of knowledge. However every extrapolation incurs uncertainty and the further we go from the dataset of the known the greater the uncertainty.  Thus knowledge gleaned on Earth of how things move and interact had a reasonable chance of holding up when extrapolated  to the neighbouring planet of Mars and indeed the experience of the Mars landers has shown that the extrapolation was valid. Cosmologists extend such extrapolations a billion billion times further though and the uncertainty becomes so large as to render the extrapolations completely useless. 

There is nothing new about this - every era has had its cosmologists who confidently claim to have the full and true explanation of the universe. Just as today the proposers of such theories have often been held up as mystical geniuses safe in the knowledge that no one was likely to be able to prove them wrong. This is not science. It is closer to religion than science and indeed it was real evidence based science that eventually exposed the cosmic eggs, the celestial spheres and the epicycles for the failed extrapolations that they were. I will therefore make a bold extrapolation of my own: I believe that in years to come the cherished cosmological hypotheses of today will similarly perish beneath the ongoing march of real evidence based science and children of a future age will look back and chuckle at our big bangs and black holes with much the same amusement that we feel when considering Ptolemy's epicycles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Red Faction Miracle Tweak

It looks like my pronouncement of the retirement of my ageing gaming PC may have been premature. A browse of the Steam forums turned up this unusual tweak. By setting the priority of the game process to lowest my stuttering goes away even in the fiercest fire fight? Bizarre but it works for me. I even upped the graphics settings again and it still works.

The Game is Up - time for a Hardware Upgrade

Still working through Red Faction Guerilla (now much more enjoyable since I swallowed my pride and lowered the difficulty setting)  when I hit an unexpected blockage. I was doing the final mission required to liberate a region called Oasis when my frame-rate dropped from it usual acceptable level to 1 frame per second freeze frame.

My first thought was to turn down the graphics detail but even running in a small window at minimum detail level doesn't help. Next pop open Windows Task manager to check memory usage. The game never uses more than 1.5Gb of my 3Gb installed. Memory is not the issue. Look at CPU usage however - both cores of my 2.2GHz Athlon 64X2 are running around 90% usage in normal game play and the intensity of battle during this one mission with multiple explosions, vehicles and enemies just pushes the CPU usage up to the 100% mark. At 95% CPU the game is still playable. At 100% everything freezes.

I'll probably be able to squeeze out enough extra clock cycles to finish the game by shutting down any background programmes but really this signals the end of the road for my 2005 vintage gaming PC. I build my own computers and I always try to build in longevity. I have found that with careful selection of motherboard and components followed by regular housekeeping and maintenance, and a few judiciously selected upgrades I can stretch the useful gaming life of my machines far longer than could be expected from a pre-made model. In fact the pattern is quite predictable. The graphics card is the first thing that needs to be replaced, then memory needs to be upgraded and after that I find myself running out of hard disk space. All of these can generally be addressed with reasonably priced mid range upgrades. When the processor itself starts to complain though you have reached the end of the line. Even if I could still find a faster processor for my ageing motherboard the performance gain is likely to be negligible. A new motherboard is really what is required and that means a complete rebuild.

Just in case you are wondering about the oldest component in my rig - Its a 2002 vintage Creative Soundblaster Audigy. It still works great and gives much better sound than on-board audio.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reflections on a Child's Homework Project,

My 11 year old daughter brought a scrapbook home from school entitled "My Favourite Holiday". All of her classmates had each contributed a page of text and pictures describing their favourite holiday experience.

When I was 11 back in the mid 1970's cheap air travel was unthinkable and such holidays as were taken often relied on the generosity of rural dwelling relatives. Still we had plenty of fun. Ireland is blessed with beautiful scenery and a stunning coastline so the ever fickle weather and typical water temperatures of 15°C did little to dampen out enjoyment. Foreign travel was unheard of outside of church sponsored pilgrimages to selected religious shrines. It was more than a decade later that the advent of cheap student travel first allowed me to broaden my own horizons and by sleeping on trains and in dingy hostels I began to see the world.

My daughters classmates live in a very different time. In many ways they live in a different world. Cheap air travel has put a dozen or more countries within reach of a single days average industrial wage.  Significantly these particular 11 years old's  were born and raised in a now near mythical time known as the "Celtic Tiger". For a brief moment Ireland's star burned very bright and we believed we were all rich. Now we are poor again and it appears that much of the wealth we believed we had was all illusion but for that brief period anything was possible.

The pages of the scrapbook tell of journeys to fabulously exotic places: Australia, California, Brazil, South Africa. Between them these eleven olds have charted a map of the globe. They talk of wonders such as Niagara Falls and the Pyramids of Egypt with the casual familiarity that my eleven year old self would have reserved for our local park. Certainly the advent of cheap travel has shrunk the globe but these truly are the children of the Celtic Tiger. Now that it is over I wonder if they will ever get to visit these places again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Red Faction Blues

You are tasked with levelling an EDF controlled watch tower. Initally the alert status is green and you can easily sneak around the few guards and get up to the base of the tower. Your trained eye assesses the tower and you can see that a couple of strategically placed demolition charges will do the job. You lay the first charge and suddenly the previously sleepy guards wake up. The alert status goes to yellow. In yellow status the guards are aware of your presence and will try to seek you out. It gets hard to concentrate on placing your demo charges with bullets whizzing past you so you turn and shoot  the nearest two guards. These guys re-spawn almost immediately so you shoot their replacements. This jacks up the alert status to orange. The number of guards spawning doubles and you now have a firefight on your hands and you need to duck behind cover to recover from your wounds. Dodging and weaving you kill 4, 5, 6 more guards but they keep coming and then .. the alert status ramps up to red. The area is now flooded with shotgun wielding guards and a gunship flies overhead. You are now hopelessly outgunned. A couple of local insurgents have joined the fight on your side
but they are ineffectual in the face of such an onslaught. Your only hope of survival is to get into a vehicle and drive away as fast as you possible can all thought of demolishing the watchtower forgotten.

In my opinion the colour coded alert system in Red Faction just does not add to the game. It is like a Hydra in that the the more enemies you kill the more enemies spawn. This is a mechanic that would work well in a stealth game. Red Faction could work very well as a stealth game but the developer choose not to make stealth a viable option. The moment you swing a hammer or place a charge you are going to set alarm bells ringing and the whole thing snowballs. What you end up with is a wonderful demolition game hindered by a fairly crappy shooting game.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Steam Forums - a good spot for debugging info.

A couple of times recently I had crashing problems with games bought on Steam and I was able to quickly find a solution on the Steam forums. They have sub-forums for all their games and if there is a known bug someone will generally post there with, hopefully, a solution.  No particular credit to Valve's support - all the useful info comes from customers but it is still very useful to have a one stop shop for debugging info.

My most recent issue concerned an annoying crash at the loading screen in Red Faction Guerilla. The game used to work for me but a recent patch did the damage. Thanks to this forum post   I am up and running again.

I bought RFG during the recent Steam sale. It took a back seat while I was working my way through Dragon Age but now that I have time to appreciate it I have to admit it has absolutely the best "blowing shit up" I have ever seen in a game.