Building a Backlog

With digital purchases becoming the largely de facto way to purchase games, sales have skyrocketed. Whilst some still prefer to own an actual product (specially coded onto a plastic disc of varying storage capacities) that is also fueled by limited edition collectors specials (usually with bonus goodies) and some discussion of this also points to the continued preservation of games. Most of the time games are now downloaded at a button click. Continuing expansion of digital infrastructures globally, has meant faster and easier access to games whether it is by 3G and 4G technology with increasing possibilities with the slow rollout of 5G, or increasing dispersion of fibre-optic cables.

This has come with varied problems however. As far back as 2012, Steam sales have been noted as harming the game development community by damaging the long term value of the brand or as put by the CEO of EA a cheapening of intellectual property. Though this is largely opinion based and not compared to sales figures, not to mention the inherent bias in both interviews as both storefronts (GoG.com and Origin respectively) were possible competitors to Steam at the time.

Steam Libraries have a tendency to increase exponentially with sales

Some of the claims are partially true, as waiting for a sale is only a matter of a few months or so, (and even less with increasing world wide holidays such as the Chinese Lunar New Year gaining traction offering reduced time between sales) and gamers have even more discounts to look forward to. However there is another effect that I couldn’t find discussed until two years later, that points to how sales encouraged growth of players, whilst warning that it caused initial communities to be smaller, though long term this seemed to even out as many developers pointed to long term sales for their games that gave them “healthy revenue boosts”.

However for us as gamers, Steam sales are massive contributors to the backlog of games. It gives us the opportunity to experience games as a medium more widely, when you take a chance on that niche, bizarre indie game that you otherwise may not have bought, or let you purchase two expensive AAA games rather than one, since you were trying to stretch your budget as far as possible.

Steam sales are massive contributors to the backlog of games. It gives us the opportunity to experience games as a medium more widely

Other culprits to increase ones backog include gaming bundles such as those from Fanatical or Humble Bundle, whose Humble Choice offers select games every month at a very attractive subscription price and the added bonus of donating to charity. Who have by and large seemingly avoided the ire of the gaming press.

Another more quiet culprit is the issue of regional pricing. This may not be a large factor for gamers in 1st World countries, but it makes all the difference for those of us living in the 3rd world. My GoG library is largely inhibited by the fact that they do not allow for regional pricing, which makes Steam, Epic and even Humble Bundle far more attractive prospects. Being charged Pound sterling on the uPlay store or directly converted prices on Origin make them far and away the most expensive options. The same held true whilst I worked in China, where games were even more cheaply priced than in my native South Africa. Though regional pricing is not without its detractors as well, with concerns being raised around geoblocking and discrepancies in pricing.

My GoG library has had an extensive increase with increased integration provided by the new Galaxy client

Despite all of these controversies and debates, many of which centre around economics, and accessibility of gaming as a world-wide phenomena, many gamers’ backlogs continue to grow. Which begs the question… how to manage continuously increasing inventories.

Which begs the question… how to manage continuously increasing inventories.

Prior suggestions have included working out the time to beat various games using sites like HowLongtoBeat or organising your Steam library into played, unplayed, DNF (Did Not Finish) or current. That is even easier now with Steam’s (and GoG’s) new library management tools.

Steam itself has also suggested ways for players to play old games, from its mini events such as the SpringCleaning event that included badges entitled “Clear the Backlog”, “Nostalgia” “Can’t Wait” and “Blast from the Past”. In addition they’ve just unveiled the Play Next Experiment in the Steam Labs, designed to recommend games you have not yet played from your backlog.

Narrative and puzzle games seem like appropriate recommendations

Other ideas for mastering the backlog come from a few friends. One of which is to tackle a larger more time intensive game whilst playing shorter ones alongside it.

Now finally for the main #LoveYourBacklog challenge provided by LaterLevels.

A Game You’re Eager to Play But Have Not Yet Started

Disco Elysium has been critically hailed by many, and its dialogue systems and opportunities look absolutely incredible. Although I don’t particularly relish the general nihilistic tone of the game, I do look forward to seeing exactly how their systems have developed opportunities for roleplaying.

A game you’ve started several times but haven’t yet finished.

I actually don’t have any titles for this category. I finish all the games I start, mainly because I’m on a mission to review every game in my library, which means in order to review them, completion is required. Even if I leave them on hiatus for a while, I end up resuming from where I left them rather that restarting.

The most recent addition to your library

Project Warlock comes courtesy of Humble Bundle Choice for February. It’s an old fashioned FPS shooter, that is vaguely reminscent of the old Heretic and Hexen games. I’m terrible at FPS games but did have fun exploring the old level designs and castles of Hexen, so hope that this will give me a ‘blast’ of nostalgia. It doesn’t have an elven protagonist though as Heretic did, so I may not enjoy it quite as much!

The game which has spent the most time on your backlog

Dungeon Siege III was purchased in 2013 as a part of a Dungeon Siege pack, as I slowly converted my physical game library over to a digital one. This was mainly due to the fact that I ended up not having a settled home for many years, which is prohibitive against large book or gaming libraries. Slowly over the years I’ve built up my backlog to be primarily games I had previously owned and so I picked up the Dungeon Siege pack. I had played both the original Dungeon Siege as well as Dungeon Siege 2, but never had the opportunity to play the third. Partly because I had grown bored of aRPGs at that stage and partly because it received lacklustre reviews. I replayed Dungeon Siege last year, and temporarily started Dungeon Siege 2 after tweaking it to run on a modern system, however still haven’t completed it in order to play the third and final game in the series.

The person responsible for adding the most entries to your backlog

This would be myself since my relatives are fairly disapproving of gaming, seeing it as an escape from reality (it is) and something I retreat to at difficult times, which they then blame as causing the difficult time. Other factors such as depression or just the general society in which I live were not seen as exacerbating factors, although with the declining economy, there has been some mitigation, as well as the incredibly difficulty of finding work against affirmative action policies when applied against minorities, to exclude them. Yet persistence pays off, and work can be found, even if it’s not the skilled work I’m fully trained for. It does however allow me to freely indulge in the occasional splurge on games, though with what global gaming trends hold as well as the junk status of our economy, the future is likely not so prosperous. But while I can, I will add games to tide me over the dark times ahead (and most literally dark times, as our electrical power outages are consistently being increased)!

For more old games, I will replay at some point as well as more modern titles I still have to tuck into, you can browse my Steam Library. I’m planning to tackle quite a few RPGs alongside the numerous HoGs that are waiting to be reviewed. This includes classic titles like Baldur’s Gate I & 2 EE, to see how much more I can appreciate them now, with a few years of gaming behind me, years that have changed and reformed the way I view games, alongside some extra worldly wisdom, from having traveled and become a …semi-responsible adult.

8 Comments

  1. Woohoo, another one with a mission to finish games! I like it!
    Just out of curiosity: What would you say was the objectively worst game you’ve played? If you can name one, of course.

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    1. There was a short free to play Visual Novel called Carpe Firm which was absolutely terrible, the writing was boring, the characters bland, and the sprite artwork (so necessary for VNs was.. pathetic, it conveyed as little character as the writing). Another poor game was Empress of the Deep, which was just a really badly constructed HoG. I generally rate HoGs quite low yet keep coming back to them despite it… Like poorly written romance novels!

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      1. I know exactly what you mean with HoGs. Most of them are pretty low-effort since the premise is so simple. Put in a background, litter it with random objects and make some of them “interactable”. Done! Yet, these games scratch an itch that no other genre can quite reach…My favourite HoG games are from the Mystery Case Files series, especially the Ravenhearst games.
        The problem with bad games is that once you hear about them, you think “oh come on, it can’t be THAT bad” and are somehow tempted to play them. But in the end, it would leave you disappointed (it WAS that bad) and gave the lazy developer some money…

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      2. A lot of my friends on Steam love the Ravenhearst games but for one reason or another I haven’t purchased them. Probably because I usually play a lot of the fantasy/fairytale HoGs. My favourites though are probably True Fear (sadly I can’t post the review here as I received it from a curator program when I wrote for them, and the agreement was I couldn’t post info elsewhere) and Adam Wolfe, which I probably should review at some stage as I really did enjoy it! But this copy paste is what has become the bane of Artifex Mundi titles. They were so great early on but the constant copy paste of puzzles truly wore them down. At least My Brother Rabbit was a breath of fresh air from them.
        Five BN was no better, I got bored with the constantly reused assets in the Lost Lands series, I only stick with it now since I started the series and feel obliged to finish the story.

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      3. Wow, these are a LOT of games I have never heard of 🙂 Except for Adam Wolfe, which I have a rather low opinion of, as you might have guessed from my review and our conversation.
        I wholeheartedly agree about the copy&paste dilemma, it has gotten to the point where I sometimes cannot distinguish between titles by name alone any longer. Unfortunately, it seems like Big Fish Games (from Mystery Case Files) seems to go in the same direction.
        But I get the feeling that many smaller studios, especially in Point&Click Adventure Games fall into that trap, for example Microids (although in recent years, it seems as they are slowly clawing their way out of there).

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  2. Every year Steam has their Spring Cleaning event. Do you wonder what games they might suggest you clear from the backlog as part of it? Also I see Talos Principle under recommendations. I still have to finish that and I also spy Senua’s Sacrifice, I still have to buy that.

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    1. Going to be awhile until I get to Shadow of Amn again but there will definitely be a series of posts when I do get there since there’s so much to talk about from Jaheira and Viconia to Minsc and Boo… And of course Irenicus!

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