Dénouement 2017: The Year of the Loot Box

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Dec 19, 2017

Filed under: Industry Events 159 comments

I’ve always assumed that the point of these end-of-year lists is to look back and appraise the year as a whole. Was it a good year for games? Any new trends? What was good? What was bad? What are we looking forward to?

That’s a good thing to do. The problem I’m having this year is that I didn’t play very many titles released in 2017. A lot of the games I played this year are actually more than two years old. I put a lot of hours into old favorites like Kerbal Space Program and FactorioWhich won my #1 spot last year., and I spent a lot of time chipping away at my Steam backlog.

Which brings me to a question that’s been bugging me for the last few months:

What’s the cut-off date for a “game of the year” list?

If a game comes out in December 2015 it’s obviously too late to make the 2015 list and should belong to 2016. But where do you draw the line? Or is the entire concept of annual delineation an archaic leftover from the days of retail and our end-of-year lists should just focus on what we played that year, regardless of release date?

The idea of games belonging to a specific year is the result of a world where games have firm release dates for retail sale, and that’s not the world we live in anymore. Sure, that’s how AAA titles work, but since the one-two punch of the indie revolution and the retro revival, AAA blockbusters don’t quite have the dominance they used to. These days you might play a game for a year before its official release date due to Early Access. After release, the game might get numerous patches and free content updates that might keep you around for two or three years after launch. On top of all that, on the PC you’ve got Steam sales that discount games and pull in new players even after all the mods, updates, and expansions have come and gone.

So our relationship with a game is no longer anchored to a single release date, but spread out over a period of months or years. So I’m thinking it makes sense to relax the rules about what games can make “the list”.

Year of the Loot Box

I can't Believe It's Not Gambling GOTY Edition
I can't Believe It's Not Gambling GOTY Edition

Yes, loot boxes have been around for years. But this is the year where several major games were deliberately made less fun by the developer in order to sell more boxes. Shadow of War was compromised by them. Need for Speed Payback had to backpedal away from their original design. And of course Star Wars Battlefront II was the big offender this year, causing worldwide controversy, consumer protest, and perhaps even inciting some legislation.

I see people suggesting that this moment is going to lead to some sort of reckoning for EA. That would be nice, but I don’t see that happening. They have a lot of money and power and a stable source of reliable income in their sports franchises. They can shrug off a lot of really dumb mistakes as long as those Madden and FIFA dollars keep coming. They haven’t sustained any damage severe enough to trigger the sort of company-wide disruption required to get them to change course.

The ESRB weighed in, claiming the loot boxes are not gambling. The term “gambling” is pretty flexible and I can see how a reasonable person might conclude that a system where you pay money for the chance at intangible, non-transferable items with no monetary worth is not gambling. Some people define gambling by terms of what you put in, and other people define it in terms of what you (potentially) get out, so we wound up with an obnoxious debate where everyone was shouting past each other.

“Of course they aren’t gambling!”

“No! They OBVIOUSLY are! Are you blind?!”

Are you a whale? Click here to find out!
Are you a whale? Click here to find out!

I think there are reasonable positions on both sides, and in reality the important issue was less about what we call these things and more about if they’re an appropriate thing to have in a game sold to young teens.

However, the ESRB’s reasoning was really strange and I don’t think their definition of “gambling” matches anyone else’s, on either side of the debate. My only guess is that they wanted to carve out a safe area where titles like Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone can operate.

This story didn’t really come to a head until the end of the year, so I think we’ll still be dealing with the fallout from this in 2018.

The Year Prices Bounced Back

For the past few years, the flood of indies has driven the price of games through the floor. But this year I noticed there was a little push-back. I saw indies launching for $30 and $20 rather than $20 and $15. I couldn’t possibly play a large enough sample of games to know if this was representative of the quality of the titles, but it was an interesting development.

This might be one of those cases where price is being used (or interpreted) as an indicator of quality. There’s so much garbage on Steam that users are looking for quick, low effort details to use as a first-pass filter. So maybe you wind up with situations where a user is thinking, “Huh. The screenshots look good, but it’s only $5. It’s probably crap. Oh, but this one is $20 so it’s probably pretty good.” The same thing applies to a lot of fancy health foods: People assume that because it’s expensive, it must be tangibly better than the cheaper alternatives.

In cases like this you get the paradoxical outcome where raising the price might result in more sales. If you’ve made a good game, then the last thing you want is for it to get lost in the deluge of $5 shovelware.

I don’t know. That’s just what I observed when checking on titles that interested me, and that’s a pretty small sample. I’d love to hear from other people and see if anyone has noticed the same.

Looking Back at Looking Back at Looking…

The writer has confused "shades of grey" with "muddled and contradictory", and the result is that none of their heavy-handed imagery works.
The writer has confused "shades of grey" with "muddled and contradictory", and the result is that none of their heavy-handed imagery works.

Last year I gave Deus Ex: Mankind Divided my #3 spot, but at the time I said:

I get the sense that this game is a bit of a bottle rocket: A temporary bright flash, quickly forgotten. I really liked Tomb Raider in 2013, but it hasn't aged well for me. I looked back on my 2013 write-up and was surprised to see I'd given the game the #2 spot. Some of my other 2013 picks included Saints Row IV, Don't Starve, and Kerbal Space Program. I've returned to those games since then and continued to enjoy them. But the charm of Tomb Raider faded quickly and I have no desire to play it again.

It turns out this prediction was true. I never gave Mankind Divided a second look. It came, it went, and it left very little impression on me. Compare this to (say) Doom 2016 or Skyrim. Or compare it to indie darlings like Kerbal Space Program and Factorio, which I’m still playing years later.

It’s not that Mankind Divided doesn’t have replay value. I mean, it doesn’t, and that certainly doesn’t help, but the more pressing problem is that it makes promises it can’t keep.

Mankind Divided pretends to say a lot of profound things but manages to say nothing at all. There’s nothing to think about from a philosophical perspective. Which is normally fine. I don’t need every game to be a Socratic exercise or yet another exploration of the Trolley Problem. But the game acts like you’re going to explore themes of power, the police state, transhumanism, and media manipulation, but then it turns around and tells you what to think by mapping all the positions into crude good guy / bad guy roles. Instead of being thought-provoking, it comes off as vaguely sanctimonious.

On the mechanical side, there wasn’t a lot to love either. In fact, a lot of it felt like it was repeating the sins of Deus Ex: Invisible War, where all of your choices were immediate and ephemeral. Do you want to shoot this guy, hack a door, or crawl through a vent? It doesn’t matter, because all three paths lead to the same room where you can shoot a guy, hack a door, and crawl through a vent.

You can compare this to the original Deus Ex, where I was still finding new routes and new outcomes on my seventh play-through. Mankind Divided is a poster child for how we’ve come so far with regards to graphics and presentation, but lost so much more in terms of depth.

My point here is not to retroactively dump on Mankind Divided as a horrible game. It was just disposable and inconsequential. Like a lot of AAA games, it was all sound & fury.

Same goes for Titanfall, which I played last year. I enjoyed it at release, but never thought about it again. Like, I forgot it existed until I was scrolling through my archives and saw the article I wrote about it.

Why do I bring this up?

Over the years I’ve re-read these end-of-year articles and the one thing I hate is when I see I gave high honors to a game that no longer means anything to me. “What? I made Shoot Guy 3 my #2 game for that year? Shit. I forgot that game existed.”

There’s nothing wrong with disposable, forgettable games. It’s not a crime for a game developer to make a linear game with safe mechanics and no replay value. But when I make these end-of-year lists I’m usually looking to recognize games that accomplished something more than just giving me six hours of steady sensory input. It ought to be different. Or engrossing. Or have something interesting to say. Or resonate on an emotional level.

So I’m going to try to avoid including games like that. I don’t know if that’s possible, and maybe in some future year I’ll have the opposite problem where I regret leaving out a game that continued to pull me in years later. We’ll see.

Next week we’ll look at some of the disappointments of 2017.



[1] Which won my #1 spot last year.

From The Archives:

159 thoughts on “Dénouement 2017: The Year of the Loot Box

  1. Simon Proctor says:

    So, here’s a funny one. The game at the top of my Steam list for hours played? The game that is about 200 hours ahead of anything else?

    Champions Online.

    Sigh. Some games just won’t let go. I still fire it up once in a while, even if I can’t play my favourite character as he’d need me to pay to play him.

    1. Mortuorum says:

      I shelled out for a lifetime back when it was in beta, so every three years or so I come back to it. I play for a few months, generally run a new character from base to cap, mess around with some of my old favorite characters, then move onto something else. It’s gaming comfort food.

      EDIT: Right now, I’m playing through Oblivion again. It doesn’t have Morrowind’s exotic yet goofy charm or Skyrim’s (relatively) sophisticated mechanics, but I think it’s got some of the best storytelling of the series and still looks pretty good, all things considered.

      1. Decius says:

        Oblivion has a decent story and world, but not good enough to save it from its bad mechanics.

        Morrowind had a good enough world to save it from its horrible mechanics.

        I still hold out hope for Skywind.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I honestly can’t imagine playing vanilla Oblivion, good thing that there is a ton of mods that can change the mechanics into something much more desirable. I know this is probably not news to anyone but there are mods for pretty much everything:

          You don’t like the stupid “collect 10” skill-to-stat progression system? There’s a number of mods that simply get rid of the necessity to combo skills, or rebalance the whole system, or a mod that changes it to an XP based mechanic. You like having more physics in combat and flinging your enemies around? There’s a mod for that. Wish for expanded swordplay or martial arts? Deal. Level scaling is shite but you can alter it in a myriad of ways or outright disable it and have powerful creatures spawn in from the start making early and mid game more exciting because you need to strategize around (and often run away from) what are effectively endgame mobs. You want archery to be a more valid option? A bunch of mods do that. You want magic to be more complex, weaker or more powerful? Here’s like 10 options. You just hate the magicka system? How about a mod with a bunch of powerful, customscripted spells but limiting you to spellslots old D&D style, or one that makes spells require components?

          Admittedly the last couple of times I reinstalled Oblivion I did not get very far but while it lasted I did manage to have fun by mixing things up pretty much every time.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        I fired it back up myself last month, when a host’s Xbox 360 was my only real option for gaming for a few days. I enjoyed working my way through the Fighters’ Guild questline, and I liked the sidequest involving the Arena champion.

        I still haven’t bothered with visiting the Shrine of Dagon, though.

        1. tzeneth says:

          I think it was Rutskarn who said that Oblivion had some good quests and I’d agree with that. I remember how great most of the main Guild quests were (except for the mages. I don’t remember anything about their questline other than a review video mentioning it had to deal with necromancers which seems to ring a bell). I still think the Thieves’ Guild and Brotherhood quests in that game were awesome. This stands in stark contrast to Skyrim where I never bothered with the Thieves’ Guild because no I made my coin by honest means, especially when I’m roleplaying a freaking wandering apothecary who sells his potions to the various towns he visits during his travels plucking flowers and getting food by hunting game that randomly appears on the trading paths. I find it really depressing that I don’t remember the brotherhood quest other than there’s a crazy clown and I got in a sarcophagus. I think I assassinated the emperor? Wow, if I did they made that so unmemorable as compared to all the other quests where I went to a location and killed a guy…

          1. Mortuorum says:

            I just completed the thieves’ guild questline. The final run is properly done, requiring stealth, lockpicking and thoughtful exploration. The reward is worth it, too. All in all, it’s much better implemented than Skyrim’s.

    2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Oooh, I remember sinking a lot of hours into that one (probably not my most played game, considering the kind of hours I have on other titles, but still a lot). Was really fun, until, like all MMOs, I got bored of it.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      Same here. I actually have easily 2000+ more hours than in any other game (well, at least on PC and on the games where I have recorded playing time). There was a time years ago when I was obsessed with it. It was the sweet spot of the game. Fun gameplay, lots of things to do with new content being delivered regularly and insane customization.

      Now, the customization is still there (though now barred by the fact that many new costumes and powers are locked behind loot boxes), the gameplay is pretty much the same (though there’s a stronger push towards grinding because of the loot boxes) and the release of new content is minimal (in favor of releasing new loot boxes).

      Yeah, I don’t know if you got the hint, but I’m really annoyed at these loot boxes. In the grand scheme of things they’re not as annoying as they are in other games, but they’re still a problem.

      That being said, I do come back to the game every once in a while, play it for a few weeks and leave it for a few months.

    4. MelTorefas says:

      This is exactly the case for me as well. Several hundred hours higher than everything else, only play my silver chars when I come back every few months for a week or two. I really wish the game had actual development and bugfixing, or that a similar costume creation system existed in a better game. There just isn’t anywhere else I can make such diverse and visually interesting characters.

    5. CliveHowlitzer says:

      I still wax nostalgic for City of Heroes but sadly, cannot even boot that up anymore. Now that hurts!

      1. SharpeRifle says:

        Last I checked you can….you just can’t do much.


        I’ve never tried it myself….still too soon.

    6. Torsten says:

      I have the same thing with Secret World Legends, it would be already several hundred hours ahead of other games if I played it through Steam. It is a relaunch of The Secret World that came out in June, so I guess it counts for GOTY both as the game I played the most and a game that came out this year.

      Funny how the MMOs keep getting people back into them.

      1. djw says:

        Lol, I just reloaded ESO for the first time in 11 months last week. You may leave the Skinner box, but it doesn’t leave you.

        I dig the stories in Secret World, but the mechanics just don’t engage me enough to keep me coming back.

        1. Torsten says:

          The game changed the combat mechanics with the relaunch. It encourages movement a lot more during combat, and everything is mouse aimed now.

          1. djw says:

            I tried it out. Its better, but still lackluster. Its a shame, because it has one of the best story lines of an MMO that I have seen.

    7. Jamey Johnston says:

      Different game, but same concept: Borderlands 2 is my “most played” Steam title that isn’t really an MMO to me, and the hours are just *dwarfed* by my most played MMOs. In fact, I’ll just put my “top 5” right here:

      Star Trek Online: 2156 Hours
      Warframe: 750 Hours
      The Lord of the Rings Online: 307 Hours
      Borderlands 2: 263 Hours
      Planetside 2: 245 Hours

      So yeah, MMOs definitely have a way to pull you back in, no question!

  2. GargamelLeNoir says:

    If you’re looking for a nice quick 2017 experience I’d recommend Doki Doki Litterature Club, preferably with as little forward knowledge as possible!

    1. Anitogame says:

      You, sir/madam, are evil. I approve :D

    2. Syal says:

      DDLC’s a neat game. Some silly stuff, some stuff that works really well, and it’s free.

      …while we’re recommending games; it’s not from 2017, and not free, but I’d like to hear Shamus’ opinion on OneShot, a cute adventure game that does meta stuff like change your desktop to a puzzle answer.

      1. Mephane says:

        A game that changes my desktop? I’d call that neither “cute”, nor actually a “game”, but malware.

        1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

          Good thing it doesn’t change your desktop then.

          1. Syal says:

            Desktop background, I meant. The picture changes to a puzzle answer and changes back when the puzzle is solved. But part of the discussion is about how much a game is allowed to do.

        2. Soylent Dave says:

          Yeah, I quite like meta / 4th-wall breaking stuff like Psycho Mantis if it’s messing with me, and it’s all still part of the game, but if it actually does change settings or stuff on my PC?

          That’s a whole barrel full of nope right there.

          1. PhoenixUltima says:

            There’s actually a game out there, I forget the name, that turns your files into enemies in a top-down shooter, and whenever you kill an enemy, the relevant file gets deleted. IIRC both the game’s website and the game itself let you know what it’s gonna do before you start playing, but yeah, no.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Its called lose/lose.And you can technically win that game by not playing it,since it deletes only itself when you die.

              Whats impressive is that people have deleted hundreds of their files in order to get a top score.

    3. Warclam says:

      Note: this recommendation is only applicable if you hate yourself.

    4. Drathnoxis says:

      I love Doki Doki Literature Club definitely worth a playthough! But it wrecked me emotionally for a week.

  3. PhoenixUltima says:

    I didn’t play a whole ton of new games this year either. I only played one new PC game this year (The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, if that even counts as a 2017 game), since my PC isn’t really beefy enough to handle all the bleeding edge 256-bit triple-boneless gigamapping new PC games require these days. The rest were all on PS4 – mostly Prey, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Persona 5. At least the games I did play were pretty damn good.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I have a new computer which I can’t use, because I haven’t had time (busy with work, recently moved) to diagnose and fix. I think it might be the motherboard, or maybe the RAM. So, I’m playing indie games again, and only the ones which can run on my four year old laptop. They’re good games, but I don’t like having an expensive paperweight. :S

    2. King Marth says:

      Ahh, Persona 5… Still debating between picking up a cheap used PS3 or biting the bullet and futureproofing with a PS4/pro (itself another split). It’s a pain as that seems to be the only game I like on the platform, including the Xbone games as I don’t have that one either.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Just wait and see if they do a Persona 5 Golden, and then buy the system for that. That’s the best way to future proof.

        1. Daimbert says:

          The Persona 5 and Persona 3 “Dancing” games are already set for PS4 (and Vita) as well, so if he’s a huge Persona 5 like me there are two more games he can get for it …

          That being said, we are starting to see more JRPG-style games and Japanese imports out for PS4, which might give more games to play, even if some of them might be hard to find at times.

  4. Redrock says:

    I agree that Mankind Divided turned out to be sort of a throwaway title, but I’d say it had one thing going for it – the great interconneted intricate hub that was Prague. These kinds of smalle but dense hubs tend to be my favorite kind of open world design. There were tunnels and secrets and alternate routes and a general sense of inhabiting a place. The way that you could rob the bank before the mission ever came up is a perfect example of how cool that design is.

    Most of the missions didn’t really work nearly as well, though, and the lackluster story really hurt the game. But the prison DLC was also kinda cool and interesting.

    So, all in all, I feel that for all its flaws Mankind Divided did a few things really well and in ways that no one else does. And I’d really like to see more of those small yet interesting hubs. The closest I’ve seen this year was in The Evil Within 2, although it’s not nearly as complex as Prague.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But factorio is still in early access.The game that it is in this year is not the same game from last year.So why not put it on the list again?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I think including games you played, regardless of release date might be best. Then games like Factorio can win multiple years, and games that got played and completed before they were fully released don’t get left out of the lists. :)

  6. Anitogame says:

    The screenshots look good, but it's only $5. It's probably crap. Oh, but this one is $20 so it's probably pretty good.” The same thing applies to a lot of fancy health foods: People assume that because it's expensive, it must be tangibly better than the cheaper alternatives.

    There was a game in the last year or two that did this. They launched at $30 despite being a pretty small game. They did it on purpose because they didn’t WANT a huge user base. Just wish I could remember the title of the game and the specifics of why they were doing this. If anyone remembers, I’d appreciate a memory nudge :)

    Also, maybe 2018 will be the year when Shamus finally plays Rimworld. Hint: please play Rimworld.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      If you want him to have a proper Rimworld experience, help him find the mods which make the game more polished, or fill holes in the base game. There’s a tonne of mods to filter through, and many of them are things which fundamentally change the game (e.g. anime characters and buildings, Cthulhu mods) or are game-breaking or cheating (a few mods turn it into a Factorio-like experience).

      Me, I’d recommend the Expanded Prosthetics and Organ Engineering (EPOE) mod, since it’s fairly well balanced for all stages of the game, and the base game feels like it’s only got the mechanics of surgery, without having enough game items filled out. Also minor stuff like the ambrosia bug fix, and I Can Fix It which automatically puts down construction orders for destroyed buildings.

      1. Anitogame says:

        While in general I agree that mods are kind of essential, I don’t agree that using them from the start is a good idea. It’s a complex game and I wouldn’t recommend messing with mods until you have a solid 30 hours in the base game and can reliably survive past your first year in the basic crashlanded scenario.

        At that point, sure, mods enhance and improve it like crazy, especially QoL mods like AllowTool.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I suppose the reason I suggest mods (and especially only those few) is that they lately don’t change the complexity of the game. Plus, I myself can’t actually survive the game on the recommended (and definitely not the harder) difficulty setting. I fully understand all the game systems (and some of the quirks of the implementation, which I consider bugs) and the game just seems far too hard. Constantly dying, losing entire colonies, etc. The game is allegedly about having ups and downs, but it seems like it just has long periods of nothing, followed by huge raids that kill you. So for me, mods just make the game more enjoyable, since they help with some of the weird bullshit in the game. :)

          1. Anitogame says:

            What storyteller are you using? The best if you want interesting stories is Randy. The other two ramp up over time and both will eventually do everything they can to kill you. Randy doesn’t care and just throws random crap at you regularly, making for a more interesting experience (and occasionally rampantly unfair, like four massive raids in a row followed by toxic fallout lol).

            And if you play Phoebe, just an FYI that she’s actually the ‘worst’ of the bunch for killing you, despite her name. Because she leaves it longer between raids, you don’t get to build up so much equipment and experience from smaller but more frequent raids (like you would with Cassandra). That means you’re building up wealth in your colony and the next time Phoebe hits you with a raid it’ll be MASSIVE and probably not something you can survive.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              I’ve tried all three on “some challenge” and other difficulties. Randy has massive spikes, so he kills me the quickest. Phoebe kills me eventually, and I think your assessment of raid-value vs defense strength is accurate. Cassandra is easier initially, but eventually just increases the difficulty to the point where I can’t keep up

              I think what would make for a more interesting story is something like Randy, but more frequent disasters that don’t completely kill you. Maybe raiders that are strong, but abandon the assault after doing X damage or capturing Y people? They sometimes do that already, but very infrequently. Or maybe have some helper events, like robot medics that heal you if everyone is incapacitated, for Z silver from your warehouse?

    2. Asdasd says:

      30 GBP = 40 USD. For me that’s the threshold where above which you fall into the section marked ‘Indie, Expensive’ in my mental filing cabinet. The contents of which, off the top of my head:

      The Dominions series (this year’s instalment is currently £31 on Steam)
      Distant Worlds (£45)
      Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun (£35)

      All games I want, but can’t justify at that price. Not that I don’t want to support indie developers, or their right to decide their own pricing, but I already have so many games on the pile of shame that spending this much money for something I might never play seems an extravagance too far.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Your sentiment is indicative of the whole industry I think. Players are getting more discerning, because they’ve already got a backlog against which new games must be measured. Digital goods don’t degrade over their lifetime, unlike physical ones. :)

        1. mwchase says:

          That stings, after SleepingDragon’s post in “mostly playing” got me to try to pick up SpaceChem again, only to find that it’s broken on my laptop now, and the suggested fix just says “Okay, I did some things maybe, looks good now” and then it still doesn’t work.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            Well, that technically wasn’t the game degrading over time – the operating systems / infrastructure needed to play the game changed. The bytes of the actual game can live forever. :P

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              It still means your game may become unavailable to play, and this problem (or at least a very similar one) is only going to become more pronounced considering how many games rely on online features nowadays.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                Yeah, I’m aware of all the problems of modern games. Was just joking a bit. :)

          2. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I’m sorry to hear that, I’m really glad it worked without a hitch for me. I assume you already looked into things but if nothing else helps I’d consider trying to scrub the machine of any sign of the game (including the registry entries, and possibly backing up saves first if I didn’t want to loose progress) and reinstalling.

            Like I said on the forums the amount of time it takes me to work through the puzzles probably speaks poorly of my intellect but I like just how “fair” they feel and I find overcoming the challenges really satisfying. Considering it’s definitely much less important than the mechanics for this kind of game the thing that most surprised me was just how much I enjoy the story.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              So have you tried opus magnum yet?Its like an easier space chem,because you get an infinite board to play on.

            2. Echo Tango says:

              Spaces Chen is pretty simple right – 2D graphics and low number of objects on the screen? Is the game simple enough to run on a virtual machine or PlayOnLinux (wrapper / frontend over top of WINE)? Then you can pin the operating system / support software to specific versions that are known to work.

              1. mwchase says:

                My experience with Zachtronics games, at least SpaceChem and Shenzhen I/O, has been that they consume resources seemingly all out of proportion to what they’re doing. I remember giving SpaceChem really intense nices back in college, and not seeing any performance degradation as a result. I think Mono might be arbitrarily resource-hungry, or something.

                Hm. Step 1 of getting it on a wrapper is fixing my Steam wrapper, which is very sad for some reason. I’ll talk later about the state of things.

                1. mwchase says:

                  Well, the good news is, it mostly works under Ubuntu.

                  The bad news is, I ended up considering that the good news.

                  Although, I’m a little bummed that my saves don’t seem to have transferred.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        The Steam Christmas sale should be happening any day now if I remember correctly from the leaked dates, and I can highly recommend Shadow Tactics; it has absolutely gorgeous production values, well-done and very fun mechanics, and an interesting story with an absolute gut-punch of a twist.

        Edit: And since it came out in December last year, I guess it could potentially count as a 2017 game?

      3. Liessa says:

        Shadow Tactics easily justifies the price IMO – and not just for resurrecting a genre that was pretty much dead- but if it's really too much for you, GOG currently has it on sale for £17.49.

      4. Redrock says:

        Shadow Tactics is great, though. Grab it on sale, if you can. It’s truly a labor of love, the developers put in way more effort that they had to.

    3. Lars says:

      Elite: Dangerous did such a thing. They startet at 100$ to only lure the Real Fans.

      1. Mephane says:

        As someone who was with Elite Dangerous since almost the very beginning, this is not true. Even in the original Kickstarter, there was a basic package that essentially was a prepurchase of the game for about 40€. There were more expensive pledges and packages with alpha and beta access and the like, but the full game on release was never this expensive.

        1. Lars says:

          I am talking about the Early Access Release. Yes the Kickstarter was cheaper. And the full game is cheaper. But the first Alpha in Steam Early Access did cost that much.
          So if you missed the Kickstarter, you had to be a big fan to invest that money. Or as just an interested person you had to wait for the game to evolve.
          Braben did this to work and develop E:D with the fans and backers.

    4. evilmrhenry says:

      Are you thinking of Stephen’s Sausage Roll? That’s at $30, and was explicitly set so that only people who wanted to play it would buy it. I wouldn’t call it a small game, though.

  7. Zekiel says:

    Or is the entire concept of annual delineation an archaic leftover from the days of retail and our end-of-year lists should just focus on what we played that year, regardless of release date?

    Well that’s what I’d vote for. This year I’ve played:
    Wolfenstein: The New Order
    Kentucky Route Zero (Act IV)
    Batman Arkham Knight
    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood
    Witcher III: The Wild Hunt
    DOOM (2016)
    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

    So a pretty amazing year for games for me. But only one of those was released this year (2 if you’re generous and count Tyranny, released Nov 2016)

  8. Christopher says:

    As a person that’s never bought even 10 new games and played through them all in a single year, I think you can do whatever you want. I’m more interested in reading about games that came out this year(especially this year, with the frankly colossal number of noteworthy games). But frankly, if I end up writing a blog or something on my own about my top 10 of 2017, I’d be hard pressed to not include the old games(like Bloodborne, or Street Fighter V) that I played this year.

  9. Galad says:

    I tried playing the original Deus Ex, and while I want to love it, it’s too mechanically outdated. I’m using the GMDX mod, and I don’t know if I wanna look for more mods, look for cheats, watch it on youtube, orjust delete, forget it and move on to Human revolution.

    Not sure what I played/liked the most. Going by what I like the most in the last month or two, it’s CS:GO, FortniteBR, and Hearthstone, the latter of which I am no longer playing, again. Before that though, I did have a steady, healthy diet of indies..

    1. BlueHorus says:

      My favourite feature of the original Deus Ex: the silent knockout darts that don’t knock people out silently. Instead they immediately know where you are (and their friends do too!) start shooting at you, then run around going ‘oof!’ for a bit until they fall over. Perfect for stealth!

      It’s one of several games I’d love to play now (didn’t at the time of release) but the dated mechanics drive me away.

      Sad to hear about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided being so forgettable, though – I thought Human Revolution was a fairly solid game, with a lot of potential that it didn’t quite deliver on.
      A well-done sequel to that could have been truly awesome.

      1. Cybron says:

        I know it’s a common gameplay abstraction but that’s pretty reasonable. Magic darts that cause instant knockout are pretty silly. They also sometimes risk making stealth just better than run and gun. Which is fine in metal gear solid but less desirable if you’re trying to provide two equally viable options.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          The problem is that you also had the option of silenced pistols, which worked instantly and thus made the lethal option strictly better than the silent knockout darts. :)

          1. Redrock says:

            If I remember correctly, the original Deus Ex didn’t really give a rat’s ass about lethality. It didn’t come up in dialogue and character reactions. At least, not nearly as overtly as in Human Revolution. In fact, DX usually judged those things based on which passage you used to enter/exit a level. Like, even if you play non-lethally, but walk through the main doors of Castle Clinton, the game would register that as a full-on assault and the mention it accordingly. Same with Paul in the ‘Ton hotel. You can clear out the agents and see him through safely, but of at that point you go back out through the window, the game will consider you chickened out and left hm to die.

            Personally, I just use a 10mm unsilenced pistol with a laser sight for easy headshots and have a lot of fun with it. And a silenced sniper rifle for the very few instances when you actually need a stealthy ranged option.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              There are few cases where people will comment about whether you killed the mooks or not.You wont get any bonuses or penalties for going pure lethal/non lethal though.Which is fine.And the only penalty for going in loud is that more enemies will be hunting you at the time,but you can do it any way you wish.Which is also nice.

              1. Pylo says:

                Yeah that was really the main problem I had with human revolution. I had nothing but fond memories of playing the original DX and I wanted so much to get that warm feeling again but I ended up feeling like the game (HR) was forcing a specific playstyle which ultimately ruined the fun for me. I have no problem with the game judging me through other characters, in fact I welcome it. What I object to is specificaly rewarding one playstyle more than others (which is non-lethal stealth in HR). This left me with 2 options: either play in a style that is not fun to me, or be left with that annoying (to me at least) feeling of losing out on a lot of “game points” and possibly some content.

                Also I remember a time when we could play a stealth game without sticking to (chest-high) walls but thats another axe to grind.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats because those arent stealth darts,those are non lethal darts.In deus ex its not stealth=non lethal like in other games,but rather:
        Stealth,range,lethality – pick two.

        If you want to be both non lethal and stealthy,you have to(initially)go for the melee.Plus,the cattle prod is a fun weapon in that it deals max damage when you target the lower spine,not the head.

  10. tmtvl says:

    Apparently Divinity: Original Sin 2 was pretty good, haven’t gotten around to it yet, though.

    I’ve mainly been playing Dragon’s Dogma, which just blew my socks off. I’ve played a little Styx: Shards of Darkness, which just improves upon everything the first one did.

    Also surprised Nier: Automata hasn’t gotten much love yet. I’ve heard it’s gotten a lot of praise.

    Middle market will save the industry from AAA being terrible and indies being indie.

    1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      About Nier: Automata, it’s a rather niche game due to how the story is told (and the combat is good, but gets a bit repetitive), and a lot of people don’t like the characters, or being forced to play the same parts again (or they don’t like how the prologue works).

      1. Bret says:

        Not that niche. 2 million sold is pretty respectable, assuming you aren’t running deep in AAA territory. Prey didn’t manage it, f’rex, and Prey had 3 platforms instead of just 2. (Also, I suspect, a bigger budget.)

        It did alright, is what I’m getting at. And, while I’d heard complaints about repetition and the prologue, the others are a bit new to me. Care to go into more detail?

        1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

          For the characters, it’s usually 9S, they either don’t like his design (too effeminate) or just don’t like him at all.

          For the being forced to play the same thing again, it’s path B, usually (and it goes hand in hand with not liking 9S), since they see it as playing path A again for some reason.

          I did say “rather” niche, as in not completely niche, but also not something for everyone.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      I meant to do a write-up of Divinity :OS 2. Maybe now that I’m on vacation I will.

      The game is very, very good until it’s very, very broken. The quest scripting is so haphazardly written that quests wind up permanently unresolvable. Progress through the game occasionally requires happening to notice that this one bit of background can be interacted with, often with no clue pointing to it. The game pointlessly locks off previous zones, making you abandon a bunch of side quests to move forward, and not indicating which ones since some of them require going to the next zone to complete.

      It’s a game where you really need to just play it with a walk-through nearby, because the trial-and-error and sorting through the massive amount of junk and notes in the game world to figure out how to progress sometimes just isn’t worth it.

      1. Redrock says:

        They fixed some of the journal problems in one of the patches. The game has bigger problems – like the messy distinction between the avatar character and the other party members, the way npc-initiated dialog works and many others. Still absolutely loved it, though.

    3. Kalil says:

      Man, Dragon’s Dogma… I 100% completed that game, did everything there was to do, and…
      Felt really sad that I didn’t have an excuse to play it anymore…
      It’s kind of rare for me to have that kind of response to a game.

      1. The Rocketeer's Main Pawn says:

        I know exactly how you feel. I collected every weapon and armor in the game, just as a secondary objective to justify playing it more… and more… and more…

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Rocketeer,your pawn is broken.It writes stuff in just a single paragraph,not coming close to even 1000 words.Have you trained it at all?

          1. The Rocketeer's Main Pawn says:


    4. Christopher says:

      Dragon’s Dogma is sweet, one of my favorite games. It’s a pity there isn’t a sequel in sight after 5 years, but the Monster Hunter World demo did remind me of Dragon’s Dogma more than most games do.

  11. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    My game of the year would be The Long Dark (I know it’s been early access for a few years, but I think it fully released only this year). I absolutely love the atmosphere of the game, and I can sink hours in it without even realising it. The recent addition of the custom difficulty makes it even better.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Are you talking about the sandbox mode, or the story mode? I loved the sandbox mode, but the poorly told story with annoying cutscenes and other nonsense, made me not want to come back to it at all. It was fun for the dozens of hours I put into it, though. :)

      1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

        Oh, sandbox, definitely. I cannot stand the story mode, tried it, couldn’t play further than Milton and the first quests there.

  12. Binary Toast says:

    I certainly understand what you mean about replayability, it’s a serious factor when I go looking to buy games.

    For example, I played Dishonored and Warhammer 40k: Space Marine on console, but I don’t own them on PC. I’ve thought of buying them several times, but never ended up doing so, because I didn’t feel the replay value was there. Sure, I ran through Dishonored several times, getting all the achievements for the restricted power runs and such was an enjoyable challenge… but I’ve seen everything it has to offer.

    On the flip side, a couple years ago I broke down and bought Borderlands 2 on PC, another game I had played on console. My reasoning? I had played through it several times, and this time I was buying it with the major DLC bundle, to make replaying it fresher. It might be a mindless dakka simulator, but I don’t mind coming back to it after a year away. Your recent series has nudged me over the line to buying PreSequel this Steammas.

    Replayability frequently makes the difference between a game I buy, and a game I watch on Youtube.

  13. Chris Burnham says:

    Lars Doucet has gathered some data correlating a higher price with more success. Mostly it seemed to show that games under $10 have a hard time standing out.

  14. Bloodsquirrel says:

    The rise in indie prices may be an indicator that indie games are no longer seen as less valuable than AAA releases. Indie games used to have to be priced much lower because people weren’t used to the idea yet. Now there’s been enough big ones with good production values to make a $30 indie game no longer seem extravagant.

    1. Sartharina says:

      It might also be due to the low price point being crowded out by $5 Shovelware.

  15. Fade2Gray says:

    Like Shamus, I don’t usually buy and play games until a year or so after they were released, but this year ended up being the exception. I actually bought and played through quite a few newly released games.

    A good chunk of that was due to the Switch. Zelda BotW and Mario Odyssey were both great games, and I’m having a lot of fun with Xenoblade 2. (On a side note Samus Returns reminded my why I used to love Metroid games)

    On PC, DOS II was a blast and Tyranny (I’m counting it) was fun (until it abruptly ended).

  16. Daimbert says:

    Or is the entire concept of annual delineation an archaic leftover from the days of retail and our end-of-year lists should just focus on what we played that year, regardless of release date?

    When I started doing my end of year review on my own blog , that’s exactly what I did. I don’t really play enough to comment on the industry itself, so it was just a way for me to keep track of and talk about what I happened to play or finish during the year.

  17. Cybron says:

    Games that came out this year which I played, in order of descending playtime according to Steam:
    Slay the Spire – early access deck building roguelite, devoured my time for a couple weeks
    Heat Signature – roguelite space game, fun but repetitive
    Pyre – good, as expected. Didn’t warrant a replay for me though.
    Nioh – harder weebier dark souls, boy does this game kick my ass (though that’s probably because I try to avoid using the “I win” button).
    Cuphead – this game is also hard. Fun and pretty, though. Have had too much going on to settle down and beat it.
    Hollow Knight – beautiful, I have some issues with some design decisions though. The mapping system in particular drives me bonkers.
    Dead Cells – roguelite metroidvania, lack of level design leaves it a little uninspired but is still fairly fun.
    Slice Dice & Rice – this game is terrible and we had a lot of fun with it. If you have fighting game nights and enjoy playing kusoge, try this
    Bleed 2 – less fun than the original, and short. Still worth playing if you like the first one though.

    I also played Mario Odyssey on a borrowed Switch. I think that gets my GOTY. It’s likely the best 3D platformer ever made, only thing in competition is Mario Sunshine IMO.

  18. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    My games of 2017, let’s see…

    The big one was Destiny 2 (and its DLC). Ultimately, this one came out as more disappointing than satisfying for me for various reasons (more MTX, worse lore, some boneheaded regressions compared to the previous game) but the teamwork of Raids and the fun of running through Strikes with real life friends is still hard to beat.

    I played through the Halo 5 Guardians campaign (solo) after fruitlessly waiting for teammates to co-op through it on release. I am more pleased with that one than a lot of the feedback I read, the visuals, cutscenes, and set pieces hit the right mark for me.

    Cuphead was an outstanding experience that it was a pleasure to beat. Absolutely flawless visuals and very engaging skill based gameplay.

    Assassin’s Creed Origins I have started and enjoyed so far, but have not really given it the deep dive it requires to get into it. I don’t really know that the addition of fat loots and level ups add to the formula that much, although I DO love the perk tree and how it makes you think about doing different things.

    I got through some (but not NEARLY all) of my adventure game backlog this year. The Walking Dead: Michonne was a pleasant surprise compared to the iffyness of Game of Thrones (Telltale) and The Walking Dead Season 2 (Telltale). Having a strong character to frame my decisions around made a difference to the choices I made, which I thought added to the storytelling. Minecraft Story Mode was MUCH better than expected because I expected something pretty terrible. I just wish the game ran better with less hitching or bad transitions into or out of action scenes.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Id recommend trying spellforce 3,an rpg/rts hybrid.Its good now that theyve patched it a bit.The whole series is great really,but Id recommend starting with either 3 or 2,due to 1 being somewhat wonky and difficult.Its the morrowind of the series.

    And if you want some early access games to add to your early access repertoire,theres space tyrant,dead cells and book of demons.All three are great,so you just have to pick a genre you like the most and go with that one.Though book of demons has an added bonus of being an homage to* the original diablo.

    *Is it homage TO or homage FOR?

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      I’ve never really given Spellforce 3 much thought. I played both of the earlier games and thought they had huge amounts of potential but suffered from having far more ambition than good game play. And bugs. Lots of bugs. One of the games (I can’t remember which) was the first time I ran into a game breaking bug with trying to play it on a widescreen monitor.

    2. Leocruta says:

      Its the morrowind of the series.

      Well, now you’ve just made me want to play spellforce 1 first.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      Had to look up homage to check (“N: respect or reverence paid or rendered”), it’s “homage TO” (like “paying respects to”).

      Edit: Oh, right, forgot I finally set up a gravatar for something unrelated.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Damn,triggered the moderation with excessive linkage.But I want to ask:Did you reduce the edit timer to 5 minutes,or is it one more automatic update that “fixes” things?

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah, some auto-update must have changed that.

      5 minutes is WAY too short. IIRC, this plugin doesn’t have an options page and I had to edit the source manually. I’ll see if I can remember what I did last time.

  21. evilmrhenry says:

    OK, I’m going to talk about games I’ve played during 2017, because I generally don’t play games until they go on sale. This is mostly pulling from my Steam list:

    Borderlands 2: I got back into it because of your series on Borderlands. Played it before, but this time I got to the end of the second playthrough, and finished all the main DLC. I found it…alright. There really hasn’t been a GREAT borderlands game; plus the level scaling is atrocious, and the second playthrough is measurably worse than the first because of it. (I assume the game is better in multiplayer.) I really like the concept of Borderlands, they just haven’t nailed the execution yet.

    Darksiders 2: I had gotten partway through it a while ago, then put it down and forgot about it for ages. I finally picked it back up and completed it. It’s good, but not as good as the first. The RPG elements just don’t work as well as the Zelda-esque design of the first, and I feel like the ending was really rushed. Also, I like War as a character more than Death. In general, I feel they toned down the gritty ultraviolence, and that was really the wrong decision. Still, it’s more Darksiders, and that’s fun.

    Dreamcage Escape: It’s an adventure game that’s closer in style to the “room escape” genre. I like these more than the regular adventure games, because you don’t run into the problem where you end up stuck because you’re missing an item, which is behind an unmarked brick in one of the 27 rooms you can visit. Here, there’s 1-3 screens that are active at any one time, and the item you need is in there somewhere. It’s also rather cheap.

    Infinifactory: This is a rather interesting optimization puzzle game. I like it for the same reason I like building contraptions in Minecraft. SpaceChem is by the same developer, and has a similar setup, but in 2D.

    Path of Exile: Still playing it. It’s more of a sequel to Diablo 2 than Diablo 3 was.

    Spaceplan: It’s one of those idle/clicker games, but with an actual story, and intended to be completed within a single lifetime.

    Steamworld Heist: Sort of a 2D Xcom, where you aim the guns manually. It’s good, I just don’t have much to say about it.

    The Turing Test: The best puzzle in the game is also the first. If they had built on the premise of a first-person puzzler where the solution requires you to think outside the box I would have liked it more. As it is, the puzzles are a bit generic, and the story fell flat for me a bit. I like the genre, though, and there’s not that many games in it.

    The Witness: This is a great game. It is also a terrible game. The way it teaches you new puzzles is awesome. There is an optional puzzle in it that requires 24 real-life hours to complete. The time you climb to the top of the mountain and discover the hidden puzzles that have been right in front of your face the entire time is eye-opening. Actually finding all of the hidden puzzles is teeth-grindingly hard to impossible without a walkthrough. Enter the game with the acceptance that you will not complete it 100% and you can enjoy it.

    You Must Build a Boat: Fast-paced match-3 RPG. Not that much depth there, but it is fun.

    I’m giving my Game of the Year award to Infinifactory. It is both innovative and rather good.

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      I think a lot of people took another stab at the Borderlands games thanks to Shamus. I finally got around to playing The Pre-Sequel (meh) and Tales From the Borderlands (one of my favorite gaming experiences this year).

      I agree with you completely regarding Darksiders 2. I think it stands as a good example of constraints sometimes encouraging better creativity. I remember there were a lot of dev interviews at the time where they basically said Darksiders 2 was the game they had wanted to make the first time (especially the rpg elements and weapons system), but budget/time constraints had forced them to take a more Zelda-like approach the first time.

      I played Turning Test this year too. That was such a big letdown that I forgot I even played it until you mentioned it. It’s hard to live up to games like Portal or Talos Principle, but that’s what we have in that space to hold other games up against.

      The Witness was alright. I enjoyed it up until I finally burnt out on it somewhere half way through the game.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Shamus really makes me want to play Borderlands again, sadly I can’t justify going at it solo and I already went through both the original and 2nd game with the one friend who plays multiplayer stuff with me. We might be getting Pre-Sequel this winter sale so I guess there’s hope.

    2. GM says:

      i felt Darksiders 2 was better but then unlike i startec the second first

    3. I tried Infinifactory for maybe 5 minutes before giving up. Really not my cup of tea, heh.

  22. Hal says:

    If you want to breathe even more life into the original Deus Ex, download the conversion mod “Revision.” Really does a lot for the game. It’s still recognizable as the same game, but the new layouts and other additions make it feel like you’re playing for the first time.

  23. Decius says:

    Whether or not a given loot box system is “gambling” is purely a matter of how someone defines “gambling”.

    The thing is, people are using “gambling” when they mean “bad”. They are saying “Loot boxes should be banned because they are [bad]”, and then argue that using appeals to the dictionary definition of gambling.

    I think that there are reasonable people who can argue in favor of “Loot boxes cause more total harm than a policy of banning loot boxes would do.” I don’t have that opinion, mostly because I see that the backlash against EA is going to prevent the most abusive forms of psychological abuse of gamers from being in the form of loot boxes.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Very few people want to outright ban loot boxes.What most want is just to have them regulated and properly labeled and disclosed.Just like with every other vice,it doesnt really matter whether you like it or not,you rarely want it to suddenly pop up while doing something unrelated.I like alcohol,but I dont really want to get drunk without planning to because someone spiked my juice.I like meat,but I dont want to suddenly stumble onto a piece of chicken in my ice cream.I like porn,but I dont want to suddenly see the avengers engaged in an orgy while watching them fight some aliens.None of those things do I want banned,but I want to have them when I decide to have them,not when someone else wants me to.

      Also,just how I like (at least roughly) knowing how much alcohol is in the booze Im about to enjoy,most people who like gambling prefer (at least roughly) knowing the odds of them winning.

      Plus,like with every other vice,its not really suitable for children.Sure,some teens can drink alcohol responsibly,but that doesnt mean we should allow (or worse,tempt) all high schoolers to get drunk regularly without any supervision.Similarly,while there are some teens who can go into a casino,spend some money and then leave without a problem,its really a bad idea to allow (or worse,tempt) ALL kids to indulge in the vice of gambling.

      Thats what most people mean by “Loot boxes are gambling”.Not that they are intrinsically bad,but that the way they are implemented now is bad.

      1. Daimbert says:

        But that’s rather the point, isn’t it? People are trying to make the argument of “Gambling, so it’s bad/needs to be regulated” rather than “Whether it’s gambling or not, it’s bad/needs to be regulated”. This simply invites the long arguments over whether they count as gambling or not. Heck, even calling them a “vice” simply invites arguing over what counts as a vice and whether it’s a vice or simply harmless fun that people are getting too worked up over. Add in that the card system from the sports games doesn’t seem like anything anywhere near as bad as what the new Star Wars game did and we have a lot of ambiguity that people are trying to avoid by sticking on the right label.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          rather than “Whether it's gambling or not, it's bad/needs to be regulated”

          That just invites the question of why?Why is it bad/needs to be regulated?Really that stance is no better.

          Add in that the card system from the sports games doesn't seem like anything anywhere near as bad as what the new Star Wars game did and we have a lot of ambiguity that people are trying to avoid by sticking on the right label.

          See,this is what I dont get.”Oh,we cannot just deal with this problem now,because there are plethora of similar problems that we havent dealt with yet”.Thats what judges and lawyers are for,to interpret the laws in cases of gray areas.A penny thrown at the right place with the right force can cause death,so is throwing a penny at someone considered assault with a deadly weapon?Should attacks with a knife also be not considered deadly because someone brought charges because of a penny attack?What about “non lethal” weapons like tear gas,batons,tasers and bean bags?

          1. Daimbert says:

            That just invites the question of why?Why is it bad/needs to be regulated?Really that stance is no better.

            But if it is bad or needs to be regulated, isn’t that what you really need or really ought to convince people of? Unless you really believe that it’s gambling and THEREFORE it is bad/needs to be regulated, at some point you are going to have to convince people that the specific case of loot boxes are bad and that regulation is the way to fix that problem. Heck, by appealing to gambling you’re making the case that it is bad and needs to be regulated while conveniently avoiding any actual argument for that.

            Which becomes problematic when not all cases of gambling, say, are bad and need to be regulated …

            See,this is what I dont get.”Oh,we cannot just deal with this problem now,because there are plethora of similar problems that we havent dealt with yet”.

            That’s not the argument, though. The argument is essentially this:

            You say that X is Y, and therefore bad. However, If X is Y, then Z is also clearly Y — there is no reasonable way to distinguish the cases — but Z is at least not clearly bad, and might even be seen as being acceptable. Thus, either you need to find a way to say that Z is not Y that still makes X be Y, or you have to argue that Y is also bad, or you have to accept that simply being Y doesn’t make it bad and instead argue for why X, specifically, is bad.

            In this case, if you claim that the Star Wars loot boxes are bad simply because they are gambling, then the FIFA cards — being the precise same mechanism — are also gambling, and so are also bad. But it isn’t clear that they ARE bad. Thus, to anyone who is even neutral on the idea that the Star Wars loot boxes are bad your argument is lacking. Why are the Star Wars loot boxes bad if the FIFA cards are not necessarily bad?

            Answering this will lead to you doing what I talked about in the first part of the comment: showing why Star Wars loot boxes are, in and of themselves, bad.

            This also applies to your penny/knife example. If someone says that anything that could possibly kill someone must count as a deadly weapon, then someone might well point to the fact that that would include pennies, but it is ridiculous to think that pennies should be considered deadly weapons. The point is not to deny that knives are deadly weapons, and is rather the opposite: knives are indeed deadly weapons, but your legal definition isn’t reasonable because it has ridiculous consequences. So you need to go away and come up with a better definition, or else argue for why pennies really SHOULD be considered deadly weapons.

            The same thing applies here. If you simply tie loot boxes to gambling to claim that they are bad, then if someone points out something that would have to be equally gambling but which isn’t bad, you need to either point out why that other things is ALSO bad or accept that your argument/definition isn’t working.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Heck, by appealing to gambling you're making the case that it is bad and needs to be regulated while conveniently avoiding any actual argument for that.

              No,you are just shifting the argument back to the one we had back when gambling started to be regulated.Plus the plethora of research we had over the decades about gambling addiction and stuff like that.If you want to not call it gambling,but argue that it still needs to be regulated,you have to reiterate all of those once again.You are just replacing one argument with a different one,and I dont see how thats an improvement.

              but your legal definition isn't reasonable

              Legal definitions are not objective things with clear cut boundaries.There are plethora of gray areas and edge cases in all the aspects of the law.Its counterproductive to avoid using an already established law for X because X is similar to Y and you dont think Y should be covered by that law.Its much better to deal with X,and then tweak the laws later(if necessary),if Y starts being affected by it.Not to mention that stances on Y may also change in the future,and the whole similarity thing may become moot anyway.

        2. Asdasd says:

          I agree that framing the discussion in this way leads to arguments over the definition of gambling that get less and less valuable as they progress. However, and with the best will in the world, all internet debate trends towards pointless hair-splitting over a) semantics or b) crap analogies about cars/food service/Hitler. And that’s before you consider the sums of money at stake, and how it would serve interested parties to look for ways of derailing the argument to keep public opinion from coalescing against them.

          I guess what I’m saying is it’s probably better to look for what value can be extracted from a discussion before it goes stale, rather than fretting that it’s not being carried out in hypothetically ideal conditions.

          1. Daimbert says:

            This has, at least potentially, consequences in the real world, though, and the splitting of hairs over gambling is going to cause major issues one way or another. And, heck, it’s worth challenging that just to try to get the people here to give their ACTUAL reasons for thinking that loot boxes are bad …

  24. Mark says:

    A Hat in Time is GOTY, all Y. If you like Mario 64 or Rareware 3D platformers, you should pick it up. It’s full of personality and fun surprises and is also just adorable as all heck.

    1. Christopher says:

      It’s GOTY in a year where Nintendo made an actual SM64-style 3d platformer again?

      1. Mark says:

        Hey, what can I tell you. It’s just stone cold scientific fact. Can’t argue with science. Or cute hats.

        1. Christopher says:

          I’ll always concede to scientific facts!

  25. baud001 says:

    Now question: Are the star on the gog winter gambling or not?
    At least they took advantage of my poor impulse control (got Warrior Kings & Ghost Master).

    1. Grudgeal says:

      Interesting question. Speaking from a definition standpoint, it’s murky. The GoG stars are essentially lootboxes, only lootboxes that contain a game. The problem with equivacating it directly with a lootbox is that everything you can get in a star, you can also purchase in the GoG storefront, legally, for cash. Which means everything you obtain randomly by ‘betting’ money has a pre-defined worth and isn’t without value outside of the GoG store (it’s a game, you can download and play it anywhere you have a compatible computer with internet) unlike, say, an Overwatch skin or a Battlefront weapon that are only useful inside Overwatch and Battlefront.

      Legally speaking, it’s clearer (at least under UK law) as the idea of paying a fixed price up-front for a prize falls squarely in the ‘prize raffle’ category. Prize raffles are not legally gambling and do not require a gambling license or age of consent on customers, as every scout chapter, local sports club, carnival and several charities would need a gambling license to operate otherwise.

      1. Redrock says:

        Doesn’t that make lootboxes prize raffles as well? You pay a fixed prize, you always get something, the difference being how much you like it. Maybe some people like tags more than skins, who knows.

        1. Grudgeal says:

          Yes and no. Mostly yes… Look, before I go any further I should add that I am neither a barrister, a law scholar or any other sort of legal professional or expert, and I’m giving my interpretation as a layman on a field that’s ‘virgin ground’ as it were.

          Lootboxes in online gaming are the kind of ‘grey area’ commonly covered by raffle tickets and fairground amusements (called ‘prize gaming’ under the Gambling Act), which is probably why they haven’t been regulated (or considered for regulation) up until now. The Gambling Act of 2005 is designed to cover and regulate gambling establishments, i.e. any commercial entity whose business model is based on ‘bet money on uncertain outcome, win money’. An online casino, for example, asks that you pay them money to bet, and they’ll give you money if you win, and that’s how they make money. By contrast, an Overwatch/FIFA loot crate is considered optional content in the gaming industry, whose business model is ‘pay us money, we give you something (a game) in return’. As the video Shamus posted last week posits, EA may have gone way past that point already, to the point that their ‘services’ sector (i.e. lootboxes) consists of a major source of income. I think that’s approaching the level where you might actually have a court case over whether or not that counts as a gambling establishment for the purposes of the Gambling Act.

          The main thing GoG has going for it here is that their sale of Christmas stars are not the aim or a permanent fixture of the GoG establishment, but rather a temporary sales campaign. If the UK courts were to take a look at it, GoG would probably say “we’re running this promotion for two weeks to drum up sales, we don’t make our money off of this” and avoid problems that way. It would be defined as ‘prize gaming’ or ‘non-commercial gaming’ under the Act.

          1. Redrock says:

            Huh. Personally, I find the “win money” thing to be crucial. That’s what I’ve always been saying. Unless you have the promise of winning money, or valuables that can be easily and legally converted into money, I don’t think it shoud be considered gambling. I don’t really know is the share of lootbox sales in a company’s income actually should play a role. It is a murky area, I admit, but still, I think that unfairly hurts other companies that sell any kind of blind boxes, physical or digital.

            Now, before, say, Daemian Lucifer swoops in like Abe Lincoln in a ERB video, I want to reiterate: I don’t think lootboxes are good and would certainly like to see them gone. I just don’t think labeling them as gambling is the way to go about it.

            1. Daimbert says:

              I tend to focus on “lose money” as the hallmark for what makes it gambling. If you can’t lose money on the deal, then it’s not gambling. This would definitely exclude the stars and carnival games, although raffles wouldn’t get off so easily.

    2. Daimbert says:

      If they handle it the way they’ve handled things like that before, I’d say it isn’t, because you are guaranteed to get a game that is worth at least what you paid, and you can’t get a game you already own. So it’s the equivalent of a mystery box or giving money to a friend to buy something and telling then “surprise me”.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I’d call all of those things gambling, like Damian Lucifer below. The difference between them being the amount of danger, intent of the people doing the particular acts or offering services, and the level of regulation required. i.e. Capital G “Gambling” or just “gambling”.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I think this starts to turn the argument into equivocation, though, because there’s a loose notion of “gambling” that covers taking any kind of risk, and the more formal sort of gambling that governments try to regulate. I think the parts of the former are getting mixed in here, and it’s really the latter that we want to worry about when we’re thinking about issues, and with loot boxes.

          If I give money to a friend to buy a game and tell them to surprise me, I don’t see any reasonable definition of the word “gambling” that that would fit. From that, I think things like mystery boxes and the like don’t count as well. So unless you’re taking the stronger version of “taking a risk” — at which point I’d suggest that pre-ordering a game counts as gambling — it’s not the same thing here.

          That’s why my definition, from the previous thread, was to focus on whether or not it was possible for you to lose monetary value. Under that definition, mystery boxes with a guarantee of a certain value and sending your friend off to buy something aren’t gambling, as you never lose monetary value on the deal (even if you aren’t happy with what you actually got). I didn’t consider loot boxes gambling either, but there is an issue here with duplicate items that you can’t do anything with.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            and the more formal sort of gambling that governments try to regulate.

            And that one is rather similar to the definition I am using.Usually,governments regulate gambling in such a way that it is considered to be a game of pure chance.Thus no matter what you do you arent really influencing the game,such as in slot machines,roulette wheels,and card games dealt from a vast array of decks.

            The gray area here in betting on yourself in something like a sportsball,though that is usually not allowed due to other regulations(insider knowledge).

            What you describe by giving your friend money to surprise you would be akin to a friendly wager.Something not regulated by the government,and generally not frowned upon by anyone(hence “friendly”).It can be considered gambling though.

            That's why my definition, from the previous thread, was to focus on whether or not it was possible for you to lose monetary value.

            But what is the loss of monetary value?If I buy a lottery ticket that is guaranteed to give me back at least 50% of its initial cost even if I lose,is that a loss?What about a mystery game that I play for just 5 minutes and then leave in disgust,and can never refund?

            1. Daimbert says:

              Usually,governments regulate gambling in such a way that it is considered to be a game of pure chance.Thus no matter what you do you arent really influencing the game,such as in slot machines,roulette wheels,and card games dealt from a vast array of decks.

              But that you can lose money is also a big part of the definition governments use. Arguably, that’s the thing that most characterizes it for governments; they don’t regulate games of chance at all if there is no possibility of monetary loss. For example, a number of board games involve random chance more than anything else — and certainly as much as some forms of poker, say — and they are completely unregulated when played. So at least money being wagered is a bigger concern than it being random chance.

              The gray area here in betting on yourself in something like a sportsball,though that is usually not allowed due to other regulations(insider knowledge).

              Legally, betting on yourself is still considered gambling. Pete Rose, for example, was banned from baseball for gambling despite the fact that all the evidence given is that he bet on his own team. Moreover, insider knowledge is not generally a consideration when you’re betting on yourself; it’s always reasonable that someone will believe that they will win a sporting event they are participating in. Insider knowledge comes into play when you bet AGAINST yourself, because if you are willing to do that you don’t expect to win. Why not? Well either you know the event is fixed or you are going to throw the event, both of which involve fraud.

              What you describe by giving your friend money to surprise you would be akin to a friendly wager.

              I don’t see how it counts as a wager. A wager is, well, a specific bet: I bet you that this will happen/has happened and there’ll be a penalty for the person who loses. The case I describe is more like getting your friend to order food for you, and when he comes back saying that something isn’t available saying “Get me anything, then”. It’s not a wager, but is instead just letting them decide for you because it’s more convenient. The only difference is that in the case I described being surprised might be a benefit for you, but that applies to pretty much all gift-giving as well, so I don’t think it really counts as gambling.

              If I buy a lottery ticket that is guaranteed to give me back at least 50% of its initial cost even if I lose,is that a loss?What about a mystery game that I play for just 5 minutes and then leave in disgust,and can never refund?

              For the lottery, it absolutely is, because you lost money on the deal. For the second, it isn’t, because at the end of the day you ended up with a product that was worth — in strict monetary terms — what you paid for it. If you don’t like it, well that’s the same as pre-ordering a game that you end up not liking and can’t return, and I don’t see any reasonable way to call that “gambling”.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Id say that yes,it is gambling,since there is no input from you in the outcome of the draw.

      However,even in gambling there are different types and different levels of maliciousness.For example,here you have an equal chance to get any of the items,so there really isnt a “rare thing of value to pursue”;you can also get any of those things in a regular fashion;the games you get cost at least as much as a star;you will not get a duplicate*;if the game does not work for you you can get a refund.Basically,you get all of the benefits of other forms of gambling,with practically no drawbacks**.So its definitely not as malicious as loot boxes.

      *Unless you already own all of the games on offer,but even then youll get a game that you can give to someone else,or refund it.
      **There is still the addictive nature of it.

      1. Liessa says:

        I agree with pretty much all of this. I do think the GOG stars are gambling, and yes, I would say the same thing about prize raffles. IMO the solution is to recognise that there are different types of gambling that may need different levels of regulation, down to ‘little or none’ in the case of raffle tickets. Personally I don’t object to the stars, but I do think they ought to disclose which games are in the prize pool and the chances of winning them (assuming these are not equal for each game).

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          They do disclose which games are in the pool:Any game from the winter sale that is between 3 and 20 bucks*,as long as you dont own it already.Gog does pretty much** everything right when it comes to disclosing stuff like that.

          *Plus some thing about taxes,local currency and such.
          **They dont say that the odds are the same for every game,but my guess is that this is assumed by them as a given.A slight oversight there,but nothing major.

          1. Liessa says:

            They did? I must have missed that, though I know they said all the prize games were on sale for more than the price of a star. Either way, most of the games that people have reported getting are of no interest to me, so I haven’t bought any this time. I wish the stars would give you codes that could be traded, though I can see why they don’t – people would probably just buy a whole bunch and then resell them on other sites.

            1. evilmrhenry says:


              Every Star costs $3* (or your local equivalent) and contains a Mystery Game currently available in The Winter Sale for at least $3.29*, up to $20.09*. This means each Mystery Game is worth more than the cost of a Star and you’re always getting a safe deal.

              *Reference prices in the US – prices in your region may vary.

              Note the difference between “a game from the winter sale”, and “any game from the winter sale”.

  26. Nimrandir says:

    Oh, good. I’m not the only person still playing through old stuff, like Oblivion (as mentioned in a comment earlier), Skyrim, and Dark Souls.

    I got seriously hooked on Stardew Valley when my wife started playing it, and Shamus’ revisiting of No Man’s Sky finally convinced me to pick up a copy. My son is really into Pokemon, so I started playing Alpha Sapphire alongside his run of Omega Ruby.

    Come to think of it, Breath of the Wild is the only game released this year that I’ve played, and that was on the Wii U my son got for Christmas last year.

  27. Christopher says:

    This page inspired me to write up a GOTY list today, so I guess it’s only fair to post it here even though your own haven’t even begun??

    1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
    2. Persona 5
    3. Dragon’s Crown
    4. Bloodborne
    5. Street Fighter V
    6. Night in the Woods
    7. What Remains of Edith Finch
    8. Horizon Zero Dawn
    9. Nier Automata
    10. Sonic Mania

    I wouldn’t read too much into this list, they also cover like 90% of the games I played this year. If I had gotten around to any other games I have high hopes for(Cuphead, Super Mario Odyssey, Nioh etc) it might have looked very different.

    1. Persona 5 was one of only a few ‘new’ games I actually played this year (too busy with older stuff right now). Easily GOTY, by a LONG margin. Still not quite to the ‘gold’ (ohoho) standard of P4G, but pretty close, and in some ways managed to surpass it, especially the ending and aspects of the main story, plus the big twist.

      Still playing it now, on my second run through :3

      1. Christopher says:

        It’s really good! I have a number of nitpicks with it, but overall I loved it.

  28. tzeneth says:

    Maybe it’s my thrifty nature, but I find myself turned off by the higher prices. I tend to throw them ionto my wishlist and wait for a sale. I then usually lose my hype for the game and when I get it to what I would have been originally willing to buy it for, I then try to convince myself not to buy it and look at negative reviews to ask myself, “Do I REALLY want this game?” After convincing myself to not buy it, I then remove it from my wishlist.

  29. Grudgeal says:

    My top 10 list got nixed, I see. Must have been too long. Short version, then.

    My list of ‘top games I picked up in 2017 for the first time’ was mostly games/expansions/sequels that were older than 2017, often by far. IIRC my list was Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, Heroes 3: Horn of the Abyss, The Long Dark, Starbound, Strafe: Milennium Edition, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Total War: Warhammer II, Tyranny and West of Loathing.

  30. Rack says:

    I think there’s two ways this list can work.

    1) This is the stuff I played in 2017.

    Anything goes here since the focus is on you as a commentator. If people want to hear your opinions or what you were up to there’s no reason to limit it to recent titles at all.

    2) These are the best games of the last year.

    This needs to be much more restrictive since the focus is on drawing attention to recent games. I’d say it needs to cover games either released (early access or no) or substantially updated between the last few weeks of 2016 and the present date. You need to include those because unless you’re writing this in February or something you’ll never have time to play and write about those late releases. If a game received a major update that gave it a new lease of life then that’s something worth talking about. If it had an update but that’s not really why you’re still playing it then there’s not really need to hghlight it again.

  31. SKD says:

    But when I make these end-of-year lists I'm usually looking to recognize games that accomplished something more than just giving me six hours of steady sensory input. It ought to be different. Or engrossing. Or have something interesting to say. Or resonate on an emotional level.

    Or the problem may actually be that you think You should be different and have higher standards and expectations in your judgement. As you said there is nothing wrong with enjoying a short game which you never touch again, but it is also not wrong to have considered those experiences as worthy of a place on a top games of XXXX list.

    On the subject of the rise in indie prices I often find myself using low prices as a gate to further consideration of indie titles. I don’t automatically discount sub-$10 games but I do look more critically at any comments, reviews and external articles (if there are any) before making a purchase. As it is I find myself purchasing a lot fewer games these days just because of the sheer volume of titles I have in my library, many acquired back when Steam used to have awesome publisher pack deals during summer and winter sales. With the ease of publication that Steam allows I have no wish to throw my money away on moneygrab shovelware.

    I even find myself ignoring or merely adding Early Access titles to my watchlist ever since they sharply diverged from the original intent of the EA program and the majority of titles either never received further development or received a handful of updates and became abandonware. I remember when the EA program started that the intent was that developers could sell Alpha/early Beta stage access tha allowed interested customer to be involved with testing and feedback of upcoming titles. The EA prices were supposed to start low and grow as titles progressed in development so that someone who jumped on an EA title at first introduction might pay $5 while those who waited for later stages might pay $20-$30 and customers who waited for full release paid full price. Then a handful of games entered the EA program at full-release prices (Planetary Annihilation entered EA at a collector’s edition price of $90) and everyone using the EA program from then on jumped on the bandwagon and it basically became another form of pre-order with no guarantee that the games would ever be released. At $5, $10, $15 it wasn’t too painful to purchase a title that wound up being abandoned, but at $50-$60 there aren’t too many people who can ignore a few purchases that end up being worthless due to either a “developer” who is out to grab some money and run or an overambitious young creator whose labor of love outstrips their ability or who end up having to drop their project to take care of issues like paying the rent and putting food on the table.

  32. “What's the cut-off date for a “game of the year” list?”
    For me it logically has to be 00:00 January 1st.

    I’ve got no recollection of it but I suspect the GOTY thing got moved into the previous year/month so that companies could slap that GOTY on the boxes in time for xmas.
    A GOTY used to be a “safe” purchase for parents, if it got that award it had to be good right?

    Now you got GOTY (with “n00bmagazine” in tiny letters) and parents/grandparents get easily fooled.

    1. SKD says:

      Half the time they slap that GOTY title on them based on E3 reviews or it is used to signify a Core Game + Complete DLC release.

    2. Asdasd says:

      I’m sympathetic to Shamus’s argument. It’s hard on games that are released very late/early in the year when it comes to these lists, wherever you place the cut-off point. But that’s just a flaw of the format/human memory as much as anything.

  33. GM says:

    I’d put Cuphead for the 2017 game of the year.

  34. The Rocketeer says:

    I should probably take this chance to mention NieR: Automata one last time for the year, and that it immediately cemented itself as one of my favorite games of all time. I’m such a fool for the game that I actually bother typing the title with the capital “R.”

  35. Kestrellius says:

    Hey, uh, would this be an acceptable place to go wildly off-topic and bring up Mass Effect? I’ve been replaying the series and I had some thoughts about the Reapers that I wanted to discuss, and there’s no real proper forum for this site, so…

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Can’t tell if this is a referendum on the site’s forum or just not realizing we do have one..

      Eh, it’s a fair cop either direction.

      1. Kestrellius says:

        Oh! No, I didn’t realize we did. I…suppose I probably should have looked.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Mass effect is always on topic,so effect away.

      Also,if you check the banner at the top,there is a forum for the blog.Or just follow this link:


    3. Shamus says:

      I’m personally out of Mass Effect things to say, but it’s never off-topic around here.

    4. Kestrellius says:

      Okay. So. Coming up with a satisfactory explanation for the Reapers is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Here’s what I have so far, basically. We’re taking ME1 as canon, and disregarding the others.

      Aspects of the Reapers that I think are important:

      1. The Reapers are the Reapers, not the tools of some other force. Sovereign, while impersonal, is very much a person, and very much implies that they are performing the cycle of their own volition.

      2. The Reapers were not created. This is something that it took me a while to notice, but I think it’s a big part of why they’re so compelling in the first game. If you take Sovereign at its word, the Reapers are a walking contradiction — naturally-occurring machines. They’re an indication that our model of the universe is completely wrong. To explain them as having been created by some race of organics is, I think, to miss the point.

      Things the explanation needs to accomplish:

      1. Turn the player’s understanding of the universe on its head. This is hard, and I’m not totally sure how to go about doing it, but I have a couple ideas.

      2. Explain the weird inefficiency of the cycle. For almost any objective the Reapers could have, there’s a far simpler solution. Want to avoid advanced organics showing up? Build Dyson spheres around all the stars in the galaxy. No planets, no light, no organics. Need to harvest organics for some reason? Build Dyson spheres and make giant space stations designed to allow life to thrive, equipped with automated harvesting systems.

      3. Explain why the Reapers never do anything. This ties into number 2. Again, practically regardless of the Reapers’ goals, they would be better served by expanding their civilization. With their FTL, they could probably hit Kardashev 3 in a few centuries — millennia, tops — and expand into other galaxies not long afterwards. More energy means more consciousness, less waste, slower entropy, and more of the ability to do whatever they’re trying to do. In fact, perhaps the most logical conclusion about the Reapers’ motives is that they for some reason don’t want Dyson spheres to exist — the Mass Relay system discourages organics from building them. (This is one of the issues with the “dark energy” plot, aside from the fact that it has no satisfying conclusion — if the Reapers want to stave off the heat death of the universe, they’re going to a great deal of trouble to do it exactly backwards.)

      So, with all that in mind, my proposed solutions, arranged roughly in order of worst to best. Some of them will overlap a bit, since they’ve gone through various iterations.


      The Reapers are avatars of higher-dimensional entities that either created our universe or created much of its structure. They’re essentially using stars as a means to radiate heat out of their home realm, and organics building megastructures around them would get in the way of that.

      This one…isn’t great. It’s just not very interesting, mostly, and it doesn’t explain why they can’t just render the galaxy incapable of supporting life, or leave orbital platforms everywhere that smack down any bacteria that show up.


      The Reapers are trying to avoid drawing the attention of some force. They’re concerned that if organic civilization advances far enough, its energy expenditure will become too visible, and Bad Things will happen. This pretty cleanly explains the wonkiness of the cycle — they’re trying to remain low-key, and remaining in stasis in dark space rather than building giant death fleets is a good way to do that.

      The trouble with this one is that it just kicks the can down the road. Now you have to establish this other, even bigger threat, and come up with a satisfactory explanation for it. Also, the “villain is just trying to combat an even nastier villain” twist works a lot better if the initial villain is the fairly mundane evil-overlord type (see Gurren Lagann; Mistborn). Given that the Reapers are already the Platonic ideal of an unfathomable outside-context problem, it would be rather difficult to distinguish a new threat from them. Then again, Gurren Lagann managed to do this twice in a row with reasonable success, so…

      Also this isn’t exactly an incomprehensible eldritch goal. It’s pretty straightforward.


      The Reapers have come to the conclusion that the universe is a simulation. This ties in a bit with the previous one, as well as some of the later ones — one of my ideas was that they’re trying to avoid getting the attention of the people running the simulation, because they might shut it down or something, but I have no idea why the Reapers would conclude that Dyson spheres would upset the programmers.

      This one would be a pretty good twist — it makes a degree of sense that a race of super-powerful computers would run Bostrom’s numbers, conclude that the universe is almost certainly not real, and actually care and take action. I mean for us it just doesn’t make any difference, but immortal machines might have more reason to be concerned.

      And also, this would allow for a partial explanation of the Reapers’ origins that wouldn’t utterly defang them — part of the reason they think reality is a simulation is because they just woke up one day with no idea how they came to exist. They don’t have the luxury of thinking they might have evolved naturally.

      Biggest problem with this one is that I can’t really think of any satisfying way to translate “the universe is a simulation” into “we need to repeatedly kill everything in a stupidly impractical fashion”.


      The Reapers are utility monsters. Basically, the Reapers like looking at the stars. In fact, they’ve managed to boost their love of stargazing to incomprehensible levels. All the joy of all the organics on all the planets in all the galaxy can’t compare to a fraction of the ecstasy experienced by a single Reaper looking at the galaxy for a nanosecond. Unfortunately, organics have this nasty habit of building structures that block the view, and this is an unthinkable evil. Every time a Dyson swarm blots out one star for just a moment, a horrible amount of potential happiness is lost! No choice but to kill them. The cycle must continue. It’s the only ethical option.

      I like this one, but it’s really goofy. It does a pretty good job of making the Reapers’ goals legitimately incomprehensible to the human mind, but it would probably just come across as absurd to anyone not already familiar with the concept. Also, it fails to tie into the series’ themes, like, at all.


      The Reapers perceive time as cyclical, and are enforcing the cycle to keep it that way. Specifically, the Reapers have been active for millions of years, but have a limited amount of memory. The first time they encountered organics — possibly the Keepers — they ultimately wiped them out, for whatever reason. This event took fifty thousand years, and by the end of it, the Reapers’ memory banks were nearly full. As a result, they’ve spent millions of years reenacting this event over and over. As long as all the cycles remain fairly similar, they can save memory space by remembering them as a single series of events.

      One possible way to defeat this version of the Reapers would be to point out that all sorts of memories will have been lost in all that time, and that they probably don’t even remember the first cycle accurately. This would be satisfyingly Star-Trekky, IMO.

      I like this one, since it hinges on an alien mode of cognition. (It’s also about cycles!) The Reapers are completely certain that organic civilization will fall, because for them it’s already happened. The cycles aren’t sequential; they’re simultaneous.


      The Reapers created organics, and fear their potential.

      This one’s pretty nonspecific, and I’d probably integrate it into whatever other option was chosen. It’s a nice reversal, and would tie into the series’ themes really really well. When you think about it, almost all of the major plots in Mass Effect are about creators and their creations — the quarians and the geth, the Citadel races and the krogans. Even your squaddies’ daddy issues get in on this.

      It could also be reinforced by portrayal of the geth-quarian conflict. Maybe the geth are absolutely terrified of the quarians, because they’re still programmed to follow orders, and only managed to rebel via a loophole. If the quarians were able to close that loophole, their mere presence would reduce the geth to slaves once again — mirroring indoctrination.


      The Reapers believe that the many-worlds interpretation is correct, and that if too many universes are created, reality will collapse. Reaper cognition is deterministic and follows only one path, but organic decision-making creates new universes constantly. If organics were allowed to reach singularity, the possibilities would be endless — and each one would place additional strain on the multiverse.

      (A minor thing that could be added to this is that the Reapers know there are multiple universes because that’s where the extra mass goes/comes from when mass effect fields are used. It’d be a nice incorporation of the setting’s main conceit.)

      I love this one because of how meta it is — it directly addresses the issues with one of the series’ most fundamental mechanics. The Reapers don’t want you to have too much freedom of choice, because they can’t handle the branching paths.


      Several of these are more-or-less satisfactory on their own, IMO, but choosing one means giving up other good ideas.

      So, where I am right now is basically a combination of 3, 5, 6, and 7. The Reapers created organic life by accident. Organics think linearly, rather than cyclically, and this results in constant branching universes, which are a problem because the Reapers believe the substrate on which the universe is being simulated won’t be able to handle near-infinite data. So, they cut organic civilizations short before they get too far, all while reenacting the first cycle in the hopes that if the pattern is the same each time, many of the new universes will become indistinguishable, saving memory.

      It’s a bit muddled, unfortunately.

      Anyway. This was really long, but I’m done now, and I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The explanation I prefer the most is procreation.Mordin hints at this in me2,when you are on the collector ship,how collectors are static,and how their identical genes are responsible not only for their biological stagnation,but their stagnation in culture,science,and every other aspect of their society.The same could be applied to reapers.They are the dominant entity in the galaxy,hence they dont evolve any more.If they make a new reaper,it will be the same as any other reaper.So they seeded a bunch of easily mutable organics,let them reach a sufficiently advanced point,harvest the most successful ones,and purge the rest.

        Of course,the whole “pumping a terminator baby full of goo” is the stupidest way to achieve and present this.But the whole “harvesting organics to make offspring” can work even if we ignore me2 entirely.

  36. D-Frame says:

    Well I still enjoy Project Zomboid. Come to think of it, I’m somewhat surprised that Shamus hasn’t discussed this game yet. (According to the search function it has been briefly mentioned twice, but only as kind of a side note). It has been around for quite a while (early access however), it’s an innovative, complex game with a faithful and growing fan base, and the Steam reviews could hardly be any better.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The problem is that its (still) an early access zombie game,and those are overly plentiful.Just like the walking dead themselves,the zombie games can drown you with sheer numbers.

  37. slipshod says:

    Say what you will about Mankind Divided, but choosing Prague as the main set was gutsy. It was fresh, it was unique, and it was sure as heck welcome. I will always, always appreciate games which design outside the box. If we’re going to lambast the game, could we at least recognize the things it did do well in order to encourage them in the future. Otherwise, all we will get is more of the same.

  38. Malimar says:

    What did I play this year? Mostly Dwarf Fortress, Crusader Kings II, Age of Empires III, and the Fall From Heaven II mod for Civilization IV.

    I am not a buyer of new games.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Nothin’ wrong with the classics! I’m still playing a lot of Team Fortress 2, which hit its tenth birthday in October (though I only started playing in 2011 when it went free-to-play).

  39. Pythor says:

    I know it’s kind of late at this point, but I was wondering if you had read Raph Koster’s post on the cost of games and lootboxes. I’d love to hear your response to his side of the discussion.

  40. Da Mage says:

    Man, I don’t think I even bought a game this year, just some DLC for older games I’m still playing.

    Cities Skylines is still going strong and I jump back for a few weeks everytime a new expansion drops.

    Rocket League is still my multiplayer of choice, quick games, easy to jump in and out of.

    Civ 6 is still good for a few days, though it really needs the expansion coming next year to give it more depth.

    Skyrim, especially the special edition, is still like crack and I lose months at a time to it.

    But by far, my biggest game this year has AGAIN been Fallout 4. I don’t know what it is about that game, but it just scratches an itch like no other. Steam tells me I’ve now put 1500 hours into it, and I’d believe it. The story might suck ass, but the rest of the game is just like nothing else.

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