Tobold's Blog
Sunday, December 08, 2019
Phoenix Point

According to Steam, I played XCOM 2 for over 200 hours. Thus it would not be strange to think that I might want to play Phoenix Point. Because, to not put too fine a point on it, Phoenix Point is pretty much an XCOM clone. Which is fine by me, better a good copy than a badly designed innovative game. But I still didn't buy the game, because of the strangeness of modern game distribution.

You see, Phoenix Point is not available on Steam. I would probably have bought it, if it was. But Phoenix Point is an Epic Games Store exclusive, and I am still resisting installing the Epic Games Store software and opening an account. Somebody has to! If we all follow this new trend of splintering game distribution over many different distribution platforms, we will end up with an incredible mess. For games that you bought a while ago and haven't installed, the day you want to play it, you will need to remember on which of those 37 distribution platforms you bought it. At some point we will need software that manages all the different stores and launcher software on our PCs.

So no Phoenix Point for me? Not so fast! Because, while there is some delay, Phoenix Point will be part of the Xbox Game Pass for PC. And I am still subscribed to that, for now €3.99 per month (the first month was just €1). At this price I can subscribe 10 months for what it would have cost me to buy Phoenix Point. And as Outer Worlds before and Phoenix Point now are not the only games I play on the Game Pass, this remains a great option. But companies aligning themselves into either the Steam camp or the anti-Steam camp leads to the curious situation that quite a lot of the games that are Epic Games Store exclusive and that would interest me end up being instead available to me for free on the Microsoft Game Pass. I can't help but think that the developers of Phoenix Point or Outer Worlds would have made more money of me if they had put their games on Steam.

"At some point we will need software that manages all the different stores and launcher software on our PCs."

Luckily, forward-thinking by Microsoft has provided us with the desktop shortcut! (If there are too many, you can make desktop folders to put them in too...)
@Gerry Quinn: The desktop shortcut will only help you to start the launcher. It won't help you finding which game is associated with which launcher, or which game is cheapest in which shop at the moment.
Personally, I think it would be best to spread your game on as many platforms as possible ...but like the newer music streaming publishers do. But maybe the exclusive payoff is high enough to offset the missed steam sales
I find this annoying as well. Not so much for games, as I tend to play one game until the wheels fall off, and that can take a while.

Where it annoys me is video streaming services. I can only watch one at a time, so why should I have to pay for more than one at a time? I refuse to sign up for a new one, that will allow me to watch whatever crap they have on offer 24 hours a day, just to watch one or two shows.

There needs to be some kind of industry standard here, based on average retail prices of products in that life cycle of that genre (Then scaled for digital one time use), that determines the per hour price of a streamed product (Or subscriber licensed product you downloaded, like Steam.)

So... if the average person watches 4 hours of TV a day (Pulling number out of my butt.) Then 4 hours of PREMIUM CONTENT every day (The most popular content.) should cost 1 standard subscription (about 10 bucks a month.) or 8.3 cents per hour. Most of that would go to the content originator, a little to the select service that connects you.
@Tobold: All competent installers will give you the option of creating a desktop icon that starts the launcher and then the game. It's the same as just launching the game except the launcher starts as well to do cloud syncs and stuff. So there is nothing extra to remember. For example, my Into The Breach icon launches Gog Galaxy which starts the game, my Slay The Spire icon does the same with Steam. Most of my icons would be one of those or a straight icon for an .exe, but Bethesda and Ubisoft work similarly, and I assume Epic does.

I don't much like the extra load on my system from various launchers, but it really only slows down startup a little, and a newer and better PC would likely notice no difference.

If you already bought the game, it is too late to worry about prices. I guess there might be some advantages in having just one shop for everything so they can just tell you what the current price is. But if there were just one shop for everything, that might not be so cheap :D
Epic games does have the lure of having free games every week or so... :P

That aside, you might like Bad North: Jotunn Edition which you can get on steam. It's nowhere near as in depth as X-COM and has simple graphics, but its easy to get into and can be challenging especially on the higher difficulties.
GOG Galaxy 2.0 (currently in opt-in beta) already allows you to consolidate all of your different launcher games into one without having to keep desktop icons or folders for all of them around (I prefer my desktop to be as uncluttered as possible)
Another option if you're looking for a specific game is to just use Windows search to find it - Pressing the Start button and type the name usually finds most launcher games.

I'm also refusing to register or install the Epic launcher for multiple reasons - their security was (at least a few months ago, haven't heard about it improving recently) apparently terrible and I simply don't like their modus operandi of timed exclusives - I'd rather just wait for the exclusivity period to run out and get the game on Steam, GoG, or anything else and think of the game's Epic exclusive period as Early Access/Beta
I have Epic Game store installed for free games and I testiffy that it creates shortcuts that launch the game straight away without even loading store/launcher app itself (some core app is still running in background and briefly shows instructions on how to take screenshots etc. on launch). SO it's almost as seamless as standalone game.
I am currently immersed in Hare brained scheme's Battletech and I heartily recommend it to any fan of XCOM. Like XCOM there is an overarching strategy game and a turn based tactical game. In the strategy game you gradually acquire upgrade and train a cohort of mechs and pilots that you must then bring into turn based tactical missions. Combat in the missions is quite slow paced and very tactical (mechs have many individual subsystems and weapons and they can take quite a beating before being put fully out of action). The overarching strategy game is simpler than XCOM and really just involves managing the finances of your small mercernary company to stay afloat. It can be challenging enough at times when reapir costs outstrip your meagre earnings from missions but overall it feels fairer and less brutally arbitrary than XCOMS strategy game. There is a whole integrated meta game of collecting and upgrading mechs which is also great.

A word of warning the games tutorial isn't great and it can feel a bit unpolished at first. Once you get into it it is well worth it however.
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