STRAFE: The Lost Patch

By Shamus
on Jul 16, 2017
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Back in May, I mentioned that I was playing STRAFE, the procedurally generated FPS with permadeath. About that time, I got sick of the game and quit. I’d played 42 games, and the random number generator still hadn’t blessed me with the random drop required to begin the game in the second zone. Which means I had to play through the entire first zone every single time I started a new game. I was sick to death of the first zone and I just wanted to see what the later levels looked like. The typical game went like this:

  1. New game.
  2. Play through twenty insufferable minutes of the first zone YET AGAIN. The procedural generation keeps the game fresh, but not THAT fresh.
  3. Reach the end of Zone 1 without ever seeing the random doodad needed to unlock the shortcut to Zone 2. I wonder what it looks like? I wonder what the odds of finding it are? I wonder where it drops. How close am I to finding it? Next game? Another 42 games?
  4. Arrive at Zone 2.
  5. BOOM! Surprise threat in Zone 2 kills me.
  6. Repeat. Actually, screw that. I’ve got better things to do with my time than grind through 20 minutes of work for 5 minutes of fun.

I love the end-of-level summary. Here I missed par by 1 second. That sucks. You get a bunch of bonus supplies for coming in under par.

I love the end-of-level summary. Here I missed par by 1 second. That sucks. You get a bunch of bonus supplies for coming in under par.

The game seems to be confused about its identity. It positions itself like a 1996 shooter, but then it’s got all these roguelikeYes, this term is a mess. It’s not my fault. Can we not argue about this for once? elements and no save system. It positions itself as this fast-paced thrill ride like Quake or Serious Sam, but then healing is incredibly rare, there are traps, some foes do lots of damage, and you often need to spend a lot of time wandering around empty levels hunting for keycards in order to progress. So the game acts like you’re supposed to run and gun, but the mechanics push you towards careful, methodical play.

So I shelved the game. I mean, I’ve got over 180 un-played games on Steam, so there’s no reason to slam my head against one that’s wasting my time.

But then three weeks ago, the STRAFE developers posted this to Twitter:

Patch 6 sounds pretty sweet. It adds easy mode. I don’t really want easy mode so much as a more dependable means of unlocking the Zone 2 shortcut, but I guess easy mode will make grinding for that random drop slightly less irritating. More importantly, Patch 6 has some stability fixes, and I’m hoping those will fix various problems I’ve been having.

However, I don’t have the game on Steam. Just before release, Kickstarter backers were given a choice if they wanted a key for Steam or for GoG. Being a huge fan of GoG, I chose that. And for whatever reason GoG users are still waiting for this patch.

I’m not even sure who to blame here. I’ve heard it suggested that GoG tends to sit on patches for a couple of weeks before releasing them, so it’s possible that the developer submitted the patch and things are out of their hands. Or maybe they’re just not bothering with GoG. It’s impossible to tell and nobody is communicating. Maybe the patch will appear in an hour or maybe we’ll never see it.

So that kinda sucks.

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Footnotes:

[1] Yes, this term is a mess. It’s not my fault. Can we not argue about this for once?


202040 comments. (Forty is the only number whose letters are in alphabetical order.)

From the Archives:

  1. Infinitron says:

    Silly rabbit, GOG is for old games (that don’t get regularly patched).

    • Sannom says:

      If that was the long term plan, why would they come up with plans like GOG Connect to try and siphon away some people from Steam? I think one day they will manage to convince an AAA editor of the potential of DRM-free sales and then will try to become direct competitors with Steam.

  2. Sannom says:

    In my experience, GOG is always late when it comes to patches, usually between a few hours and two days.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I’ve had at least one game that was 6 months behind. I can’t remember its name, although I think in that case it might not have been GOG, and might instead have been the devs not releasing the patch to GOG? I can’t remember. :S

    • Zekiel says:

      I discovered this annoyance with Pillars of Eternity. Patches on GoG were several days behind Steam. I kind of understand why (of course it makes sense to prioritise the platform with far higher number of users) but it did make me think that maybe I shouldn’t buy new-ish games on GoG. Which is a shame, because I prefer to support GoG over Steam where possible.

  3. Droid says:

    “but then it’s got all these roguelike[1] elements and no save system”

    Should we really call them elements when the game is made of chemical compunds? What does the word “element” even mean, anymore?

    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The word has been derived from the latin elementum,meaning first principle.So yeah,we CAN say that something is made out of elements of something else if it consists of the principles of that thing.

      (I couldve resisted,but I didnt want to.And Im not sorry for it.)

  4. Grey Rook says:

    Um, I apologize if I’m missing something really obvious, but if they’re announcing this on Twitter, couldn’t you just use your own Twitter to talk to them? Or do they just block anyone who tries to reach them that way, or by the forums?

    Also, I kinda feel like this validates my decision to not buy the game when it was on sale. It’s a shame, really. The game they advertised looked cool, it’s just not the one they’re selling.

    • Shamus says:

      I politely nudged them a week ago on Twitter. No reply.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I also wanted the game they advertised instead of the one they delivered, and I’m a guy who normally likes those gameplay elements that Shamus mentioned. I still play SLASHEM[1], loved Spelunky, and love-hate Enter The Gungeon. However, I was expecting a game like the old DOOMs, but they tried (and failed) to mash DOOM gameplay with all of this other stuff that they couldn’t make fit. Spelunky arguably does one of the best jobs of integrating permadeath and random dungeons into a game completely unlike Rogue (it’s a platformer), but STRAFE misses the mark. I think the game could still have those elements, but it would need an complete overhaul balance-patch, and not just a minor “easy mode” patch.

      [1] It’s a more-stuff fork of Nethack, which is a descendant of Rogue.

  5. PeteTimesSix says:

    If it makes you feel better (and I know it won’t) there’s not much point in starting on the other levels anyway, since you don’t have the benefit of an upgraded gun, collected scrap, increased maximum health and shop items that you should have collected along the way.

    I mean, that’s what I heard anyway. I’ve finished the game with the railgun and the SMG (and died in the boss room on my last shotgun run), and I still haven’t actually fixed any teleporters yet either.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      My experience is strictly second hand but that seems to be what most people I heard talking about the game agreed on. You can start on a later level but that makes you woefully unprepared for the dangers there.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      I’ve sort of run into this problem with Necrodancer. In that game, zone shortcuts unlock as soon as you clear the boss at the end of the zone. I’ve hit a road block with Zone 3, and most of what I’ve read says its because Zone 3 is almost impossible for most players if you use the shortcut because you start with none of the upgrades or good weapons you should have found in Zone 1 & 2. I just can’t bring myself to grind through the first two zones (and their bosses) every time I want to play, so I think I’m sadly done with that game…

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You should check out dead cells.Its still in early access,but it has a neat way of going around this very problem:There are timed doors in later levels that you can access only if you rush previous levels and skip practically everything in them*.But,if you manage to enter these rush rooms,you get a bunch of stuff that makes up for the stuff you missed earlier.

        *For comparison,the first level can be rushed in under a minute,while a meticulous grind through it can take up to five minutes.

  6. el_b says:

    the reason ive avoided buying games on gog is that theres a surprisingly large list of new games that are ignored on there. dlc, expansions and patches just dont show up for gog versions but do for steam. its like they dont consider it a valid store front and have no respect for its customers. also from what ive read it also doesnt allow you to just download the patch and add it like you used to, or automatically add it like steam, instead it makes you download the whole game again.

    • Bubble181 says:

      The latter, at least, I can defintiely say isn’t true. GOG Galaxy lets you download just the patch.
      However, in some cases, you do need to download the base game and patches separately, unlike Steam where you automatically get a patched version if you (re)download. A little bit more hassle, but on the other hand, it lets you play unpatched versions of some games, which can be a lifesaver or at te very least more fun, in some cases.

      That said, yeah, i’m still waiting for the same patch :(

      • el_b says:

        i do understand this isnt gogs fault, but that still doesnt make me want to spend money on it, if anything it makes me want to ignore the games that do that entirely.

        • boz says:

          I completely understand unwillingness to buy games from GoG because of these issues and have no objection to that. But this statement is not fair “…its like they dont consider it a valid store front and have no respect for its customers…” They can’t put a gun to a publishers head and demand updates.

          • el_b says:

            which is why i said id rather ignore those games completely. if you spend money for the same product you shouldnt be expected to take less. if they find it too hard to add some stuff in that has steam integration they should have gog sales come with a steam key as well.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            I assume “they” means publishers.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    ‘Member when you could just download a patch and apply it yourself without the need for it to be specifically uploaded to a certain site before you could use it?

    Also:why does gog hold patches back like this anyway?Isnt a main policy of gog “no drm”?Withholding a patch like this IS a sort of drm,because you cant just get the patch from wherever you find it and use it on your game.

    • Droid says:

      It probably has to do with their policy of full money-back guarantee if the game does not launch on your system without any messing around on your part (mostly because they use decent emulators for everything from the last century).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        An easy fix for this is to have a “if you get a patch from a different sources it may not work” label. Those who don’t want to wait can risk it.

  8. John says:

    Hm. If a patch is available on Steam before it’s available on GOG, then it seems to me that it’s probably because the developers got the patch up on Steam first. And since they probably sold more copies of the game on Steam than on GOG in the first place, that seems like a fairly reasonable thing to do. It may also be easier to put a patch up on Steam than it is to do the same on GOG, though I admit that this is just speculation. Finally, there may in some cases be legal voodoo. I’ve seen forum threads over on GOG where somebody asks GOG: “Hey, how come you don’t have or do this thing?” GOG’s response is generally: “We would love to have or do that thing but can’t.” It’s not much of a response, I grant you, but it is a response from an actual human, whereas I’m pretty sure that Steam is run by GladOs. Or maybe Wheatley.

    • Zekiel says:

      To be fair, if Steam were run by either GlaDos or Wheatley we’d probably get entertainingly malicious/idiotic responses to customer support queries, rather than nothing at all.

  9. exsiccation says:

    On Steam, developers can push builds themselves directly. Upload, test, publish, and you’re done. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but easy enough and you don’t have to wait on any other third party.

    Traditionally with GOG, devs have instead needed to send GOG a build and then wait for GOG to create its own installer files and patches. A few days wait for a patch to go up on GOG is not uncommon, but depending on how busy the GOG team is, it can sometimes take longer.

    The wait for Strafe’s patch sounds uncommonly long, so it may be something else is delaying it.

    Also, recently GOG has been pushing developers towards a new system for publishing builds and updates directly, so it’s possible things have changed there in the last few months.

  10. Brandon says:

    Using RNG to prevent level progression is really weird idea.

    • Naota says:

      I feel like this is one place more games should look at their influences to solve. Rather than providing you a skip, how does Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup – a “pure” roguelike – avoid “first level fatigue”?

      -You have reams of choices and combinations of gameplay styles right from the outset (Race, Starter Package/”Class”, Diety)

      -Such a variety of things can happen to you early on that no two games are really the same. Their threats and opportunities can vary wildly, and the first few areas can be lethal even to veterans if they get careless.

      -Power snowballs at just the right curve. “Winning” (AKA progressing to new places where you’ll probably die to new, horrifying stuff) games have their own momentum. You can often break through or into new areas on the back of a really good start, which “previews” their threats and lets you learn enough to tackle them in future runs when you’re merely doing average.

  11. RJT says:

    Every time I’ve seen a patch missing on GOG, it is because the developers haven’t bothered to send it yet. Granted, I do not pay attention to every game, just the ones I play. I believe the GOG user base is an order of magnitude smaller than Steam’s. They only get patches if the devs are dedicated to offering multiple store alternatives and knowledgeable enough and have enough time to claw the Steam integration out of the code. Alternatively, sometimes they get patches because the GOG users tends to be…vocal.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      Sadly, as you mention, the problem usually has to do with Steam integration. Steam makes things easier for developers, which in turn makes it harder when they have to release in other platforms. It’s a bit like what Shamus suggested Sony tried with the Playstation 3. Only, for Valve, it’s actually working.

      Unfortunately, this doesn’t just mean patches, DLC and other stuff will arrive late to GOG. Sometimes they will never show up at all. It happened, for instance, with Armello. The developers pretty much treated GOG customers as second class citizens, didn’t patch the game further, didn’t release DLC for that version (for which GOG, from their own pocket, offered refunds) but still used them to request funds for ports to other platforms. In the end GOG ended up removing the game from their store.

  12. Radiosity says:

    “I’d played 42 games…”

    Clearly, Strafe is in fact the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

  13. Naota says:

    It positions itself as this fast-paced thrill ride like Quake or Serious Sam, but then healing is incredibly rare, there are traps, some foes do lots of damage, and you often need to spend a lot of time wandering around empty levels hunting for keycards in order to progress. So the game acts like you’re supposed to run and gun, but the mechanics push you towards careful, methodical play.

    I have to wonder if the developers encountered the same issue as with Good Robot – that playing fast-paced in procedural levels can lead to a lack of texture in the gameplay, where the player repeats the same core actions without a break for long enough that they lose interest, despite the seeming onslaught of activity. Then again, they have a whole other dimension to work in, and more progression systems, so it’s hard to judge.

    Also, I’m a little surprised nobody’s drawn this comparison yet. Up to and including the post-release easy mode patch, this all sounds a bit familiar!

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