The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Steam Summer Sale

Steam Summer Sale 2016

“If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all of your items, just carry those twenty percent.” —Henry A. Kissinger

We’re dead in the middle of a Steam Summer Sale right now, and this year’s sale comes a little later than it did last year: starting on June 24 and ending on July 4. Dispensing with the flash sales, this year, sale prices are fixed throughout the entire sale at one rate to ensure that everyone who’s interested in a game can buy it at a constant price without waiting around for the flash sales. In addition, gone are the somewhat chaotic events of last year’s summer sale, which featured an 8-bit monster hunting theme that allowed for interesting badges to be unlocked and the previous year’s infamous team event; the 2016 sale is simpler in nature, following the Winter 2015 sale in providing trading cards through viewing one’s discovery queue. This approach shifts the sale event back to the sales itself, as opposed to earlier years, where the events appeared to generate more interest than the discounts themselves. I rather prefer this approach, and in the 2016 iteration of the sale, my wallet lightens considerably as I add DOOM, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Refunct, SUPERHOT and the Go! Go! Nippon! 2015 DLC to my library of titles. At the time of writing, now that I’m afforded some time to relax, I’ve gone back to beat SUPERHOT‘s campaign to unlock challenges and endless mode. In addition, I’ve also returned to Pripyat with Captain MacMillan in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

  • This is perhaps one of the biggest single purchases I’ve made on Steam at any one given time: the prices were driven up by the fact that DOOM is still a lofty 48 CAD even with its 40% off sale. Armed with the 20% off discount and a bonus 15% off coupon, SUPERHOT becomes a more reasonable 23 dollars. I did say that if the game cost 25 dollars or less, I would pick it up without any questions. Finally, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a game I’ve been looking to introduce into my library: it’s an amazing single-player experience that I longed to experience again ever since playing through it four summers ago on a friend’s account.

  • Thanks to the discovery queue, I learned that Go! Go! Nippon had new DLC, bringing the game into 720p and offering nearly double the content compared to the base game. I’ve beaten the Makoto route, but the DLC brings the game into the modern era, with higher resolution artwork and new places to explore. I came across Refunct through the discovery queue, as well: it is through this queue that cards are earned, and it’s relatively straightforwards to accumulate enough cards to obtain a summer sale badge.

  • I also decided to capitalise on the heat of things to get a Sakura Angels badge: last year, I did mention that I would craft the badge, and the result was that I got a cool emoticon and wallpaper out of it. With my graduate programme ending now, I will need to decline some of the scholarships I was offered and figure out what else, besides revising the thesis, needs to be done before I can graduate for real.

  • For now, however, I will take things easy and enjoy Canada Day tomorrow: it’s a well-earned break after nearly six full months of solid work, and I’m looking forwards to an adventure in the mountains. As I’ve mentioned last year, these screenshots of my current Steam profile give some insight into how things change over time. In this year’s post, only the iTunes logo is different, and a close inspection finds that I’m now level 25 in Steam compared to last year’s 22. I’ve also got 218 more achievements and two more perfect games.

Looking back at some of my reflections on games during 2015, I’ve finally purchased SUPERHOT after much anticipation from last summer (in fact, I’ve been waiting for SUPERHOT to release since September 2013 after a friend showed me the prototype). In addition, DOOM enters my library: it’s looking to be a fantastic game, and I cannot wait to purchase a new GPU to see how fantastic DOOM looks on it. Similarly, four years after my MCAT, I finally have the opportunity to crawl through Chernobyl in a ghille suit in 1080p. This has been a wonderful sale, and my eye now turns to pre-ordering Deus Ex: Mankind Divided once I return from my conference; standing as one of the best games I’ve ever played, Deus Ex: Human Revolutions set a new standard for what constitutes a good game, and it’ll be exciting to see where Mankind Divided will go with Adam Jensen’s story. For the present, there are some four days left in this year’s sale, and I’m quite pleased with this year’s acquisitions: between these games and Mankind Divided, there will be no shortage of games for those rainy days where I do not feel like talking a hike in a nearby civic park or getting some friends together for wings and beer.

Metro 2033: Redux Review

“Humans had always been better at killing than any other living thing.” —Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro 2033

While it may come across as somewhat strange, I played Metro: Last Light back during 2013, well before I played Metro 2033. This was because of a promotion that granted me a free copy of Metro: Last Light with my then-new GPU. I completed Metro: Last Light twice, once as a blind run and the second time to collect screenshots for my review. Then, during the 2015 Steam Summer Sale, the entire Metro franchise went on sale, and I decided to pick up Metro 2033: Redux to experience a remastered version of the story that started everything. In 2013, a nuclear war devastated Russia, forcing survivors in Moscow underground into the metro stations. Twenty years later, Artyom is sent to seek help from the Rangers when the Dark Ones attack their station. Fighting his way across the surface, and the territories of different factions, Artyom succeeds in reaching Polis, where Ranger Miller agrees to help him defeat the Dark Ones. Together with the Rangers, they activate the D6 missile silo and install a laser-guidance system at the top of a radio tower, destroying the Dark Ones. I went through the story on Spartan mode, so Metro 2033: Redux played quite similarly to Metro: Last Light. I beat the campaign in roughly eight hours, focusing on completion rather than exploration, and during the course of the game, there were numerous environments to explore and fight through. Consequently, I unlocked the standard, rather than good ending, and at some point in the future, I will return and play through again to see if I can unlock the good ending.

The original Metro 2033 was billed for its horror environment, and Spartan mode in Metro 2033: Redux was intended to lessen this atmosphere with an increased availability of supplies. However, even armed with more ammunition and supplies, Metro 2033: Redux still manages to be unsettling in some places. Audio cues, such as the shrieks and roars of distant mutants, or the distant voices of Fourth Reich soldiers, add to the suspense as Artyom makes his way through different areas. The unpredictability of some enemies, such as the librarians and demons, also serve to elevate the surprise that players encounter moving through the game. Coupled with the level design and choice of lighting in the different environments, there’s the sense that one can never be too certain of what’s lurking around the corner. Despite a reasonably impressive arsenal of weapons, the weapons’ efficacy against the demons vary, further contributing to the players’ sense of vulnerability. Conversely, in the populated areas, players would feel completely at ease, taking the time to explore and listen to some of the stories that the metro’s inhabitants have to say. Taken together, Metro 2033: Redux is able to convey the environment’s atmosphere to the player, and this contributes substantially to sense of immersion in the game.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In keeping with the standards set by the Metro: Last Light review, this talk will also feature thirty screenshots. Metro 2033: Redux starts off in media res, giving Artyom a Kalash 2012 with a laser sight and reflex sight as the heads with Miller to the surface. A herd of watchers ambush them, and the game steps back eight days earlier, when Artyom was asked to travel to Polis to inform the Rangers of the Dark Ones’ presence.

  • The word “redux” is to “bring back” or “revive”, which is exactly what this version of Metro 2033 does. While it might have not been the best justification for picking up this title, I admit that I did wish to play Metro 2033: Redux so I could lay claim to being a blog that used the terms “Otafest” and “Redux” at least somewhere. A friend of mine created a detailed summary of his Otafest experiences last year and named the updated incarnation as Otafest Debriefings Redux, which sparked my intrigue in using the word here at least once.

  • The voice acting is similar to that of Metro: Last Light, and it is always a joy to explore well-populated areas, which are littered with signs of habitation. Details in the environment, whether it be merchants selling gun parts, vendors selling food and people conversing all around, it’s clear that people have adapted to life in the subway tunnels.

  • Unlike Metro: Last Light, the ghosts of Metro 2033 are best seen by directly shining a flashlight at them, whereas in the former, they’re best seen in the peripheries, and like Metro: Last Light cannot cause direct harm to the player. They are quite unnerving to behold, and resemble the blast-shadows leftover following a nuclear explosion, during which the intense light burns a person’s outline into a surface.

  • For the most part, the underground tunnels are quiet and disturbingly so, with faint growls from far-distant mutants. However, when they do make an appearance, the mutants themselves sometimes telegraph their presence, turning a suspenseful encounter into a firefight where a quick trigger finger and sharp wit will quickly decide the outcome of said encounter.

  • Numerous weapons in Metro 2033 made a return in Metro: Last Light, and it’s comforting to learn that reliable weapons, like the Shambler, are present in the former. Still deadly at close ranges and still with a long reload time, I kept the Shambler throughout my run as my primary close-quarters weapon, meant to take out any mutants.

  • The Bastard is an automatic weapon that fires assault rifle rounds, and despite being chambered for the same 5.45 x 39mm rounds of the Kalash, but I find it to be woefully under-powered compared to other rifles, even though it’s got a high rate of fire. Thus, as I did in Metro: Last Light, I traded in the Bastard on first opportunity and did not bother upgrading it.

  • My favourite segments of the Metro games happen at the surface: even though there’s a constant need to find replacement filters, there is a strange beauty about the cityscape abandoned by man. The extent of structural decay following the migration into the metro is consistent with what is outlined in Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us: buildings crumble, and even in a place with Moscow’s climate vegetation begins reclaiming the pavement.

  • Khan is introduced in the Ghosts level (that’s not a typographical mistake: there is a level called “Ghosts” in Metro 2033!) as a philosopher who occasionally associates with the Rangers. His knowledge about the paranormal phenomenon in the tunnels of the metro, enough to convince the ghosts to part and avoid anomalies. Consequently, even though Artyom might be traversing some of the spookier sections in Metro 2033: Redux, having Khan’s reassuring presence around eases tensions.

  • I recall spending a fair bit of time trapped in this area after detonating the explosives to seal an open tunnel that was allowing watchmen to enter. It turns out that there are stairwells off to the sides that lead to the next objective. The lack of a minimap, coupled with only a compass for guidance and dark maps means that a fair bit of time in Metro 2033: Redux is spent exploring, trying to figure out where to go.

  • Perhaps because of my innate familiarity with shooters, or perhaps because I’m uncommonly lucky, I was able to find my way about without too much difficulty. Here, I’ve acquired the Kalash (AK-74M), the mainstay assault rifle of both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Highly versatile, it has a lower firing rate and high damage, making it an excellent mid-to-long range weapon. I’ve equipped mine with an IRNV scope and laser sight here, making it useful for combat in the tunnels against the Fourth Reich.

  • Though I tried my absolute best to maintain a stealthy profile and sneak through the area, I was eventually detected and forced to engage the few enemies that were left. I’ve always found that the weapons in Metro were superbly against human opponents, even though they’re inferior in quality to pre-war weapons; against most mutants, it would take an inordinate amount of ammunition to put them down for good.

  • Here, I help a small child return to his mother and politely decline her reward to earn a moral point. Despite my efforts to earn moral points where possible, it is likely that I did not earn enough to offset the fact that I frequently resorted to the Rambo-approach for extricating myself out of difficult situations.

  • The moon (or maybe a really faint sun) in this screenshot reminds me of the blood moon eclipse that I was fortunate enough to glimpse yesterday evening, which coincided with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. After a dinner of roast duck, chicken and prawns, I savoured a slice of mooncake as cloud cover rolled in to cover the moon. While my area missed totality, I was able to see the partial eclipse, as the clouds covering the moon finally moved on, illuminating the landscape in moonlight. As an added bonus, the weather this year has been very nice, and we were fortunate in that, unlike last year, there was no snowvember-type event.

  • Consequently, I still saw enough of the eclipse to avoid missing out on an event that won’t occur again until…wait for it…2033. The weather remained pleasantly cool during the evening, so I could stand outside without discomfort. Demons are amongst the toughest enemies in Metro and require up to three entire magazines from the Kalash to down. Consequently, it makes more sense to make use of cover and avoid them.

  • I typically don’t equip a 4x scope on my weapons, given that Metro has always felt more to be a close-quarters shooter. However, for segments of the game set outdoors, sometimes, it is useful to hold onto a good ranged weapon. I’ve picked up a Kalash with the 4x sight here, but previously, I was rocking an IRNV-equipped Tihar pneumatic rifle as a stealth weapon, and decided to accept the suppressed VSV VSK-94 for subsequent sections of the game.

  • The abandoned streets of Moscow remind me of images of Pripyat by winter following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. From the documentation I’ve read, citizens of Pripyat were hastily evacuated and told they would be allowed to return in a few days, hence the presence of possessions in the apartment blocks. However, documentation for the various haikyo in Japan is virtually nonexistent, leading the inquisitive mind to wonder what circumstances led the buildings’ inhabitants to desert them with such haste.

  • Returning from Metro: Last Light is the awesome ability to torch spider webs using Artyom’s lighter. The spiders inhabiting the webs are harmless, but the webs do slow Artyom down: burning them will remove them as impediments and also yields a cool, realistic looking fire effect.

  • After meeting up with the Rangers, Artyom follows a small task force assigned with finding a folder containing the location of D6. Given this cryptonymn (Д-6) by the KGB, D6 is allegedly a secret subway system with a depth of between 50 and 200 meters. Its exact function is not known, but it’s been speculated to be for emergency use by government officials. Finding this one folder in the massive library complex feels like finding a needle in a haystack, since no one knows where the folder itself is.

  • After one of his party becomes injured, Artyom must continue the trek into the library alone. Here, I stare down a librarian, one of Metro 2033‘s toughest opponents. The best way to deal with them is to remain still, around one to three meters away, and stare them down, after which the librarian will treat Artyom as non-hostile. This is quite effective, except for the rare black librarians in the library’s basement and is the preferred way of handling them. The first time I encountered a librarian, I expended half my ammunition fighting it owing to its remarkable resilience.

  • Radioactive mushrooms illuminate a forgotten corridor at a point in the game I cannot quite remember. While not dangerous per se, these mushrooms do indicate regions where there is poisonous gas, making it prudent to reequip the gas mash. At some point earlier in the game, I found a pair of night vision goggles, which made it much easier to move through the darker sections of the game without being spotted. Their usage is balanced by the fact that lights will overwhelm the player, forcing them to remove the goggles.

  • The flamethrower is a highly effective weapon that easily makes short work of the mutants. I regret not carrying one into the last level, since ammunition for it is relatively common in comparison to shotgun and assault rifle ammunition. Users must be mindful of the air pressure and fuel remaining, and is most useful at close quarters. On any subsequent play-throughs, I’ll definitely carry a flamethrower with me into D6 to deal with the hordes of mutants.

  • I suddenly realise that I’ve no pictures of the Abzats, an automatic shotgun that is quite possibly one of the best weapons in Metro 2033: Redux at close quarters. Belt fed, it has a 20 round capacity and high rate of fire, allowing it to tear through opponents, but is hampered by a long reload time. Here, I’m wielding the Kalash 2012, an assault rifle that has a slightly higher rate of fire and lower damage than the Kalash. Its larger magazine is an asset for medium range combat.

  • One of the coolest weapons of Metro 2033: Redux is the Hellbreath, a weapon that makes use of an electromagnetic accelerator to fire metal projectiles at extremely high velocities, like a railgun. It is extremely powerful and has better endurance than the Tihar, but is not as accurate or stealthy. Owing to the sheer number of mutants encountered, by the time I reached the train station, I was out of ammunition for my Abzats and Kalash 2012, forcing me to use the Hellbreath in close quarters.

  • Consequently, Metro 2033: Redux‘s final sections were quite intimidating, as I felt ill-equipped to take on the giant amoeba, gelatinous balls of sludge that rush the player and miller. These balls can be destroyed using a single shot. The pores they spawn from do not need to be killed, since they only only produce one amoeba. In Metro 2033, the amoeba were much more frustrating as enemies, since the pores could produce multiple amoeba until they are killed.

  • One of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in Metro has to be the biomass, a pustulating mass of flesh that covers the reactor. It cannot be killed by conventional means and assaults victims with psychokinetic attacks, compelling them to walk into the biomass and become consumed. The entire area under the biomass is dripping with slimy organic substances and filled with amoeba, and when making use of the crane to open the valves, the biomass will try to destroy the crane, suggesting that it may have a limited degree of awareness.

  • It feels good to be back out in the open air, and back to where Metro 2033 first began: with D6 located, the time has come to climb the Ostankino Radio Tower. With a height of 540 metres, it was completed in 1967, and was the tallest building in the world until the CN Tower was completed in 1976. The tower suffered a fire in 2000 and knocked out television broadcasts to the Moscow area, but this was repaired.

  • A demon attempts to consume Miller before Artyom intervenes. The only weapon with any ammunition left, I emptied the Hellbreath’s entire magazine into it to kill the demon. There are several demons at this point in the game, and the documentation suggests that some of them are invincible, meant to be part of scripted sequences.

  • The view from the top of the Ostankino Radio Tower is phenomenal, and the effect is brought out to the fullest in Metro 2033: Redux. The developers used satellite images to generate the textures, resulting in reasonably accurate layout of Moscow. The extent of the nuclear war’s devastation can be seen: although the tower itself appears to have survived the detonation, a crater can be seen below.

  • The last portion of Metro 2033 after placing down the SOFLAM is to experience a trance of some sort. It’s one of the more surreal sections in the game, and once the end of this space is reached, the ending begins to play. This time, there was no flood as I progressed through the different levels, and with Metro 2033: Redux finished, I’m going to divide my time between Sakura Angels and Call of Duty: Black Ops (the former is from the 2015 Summer Sale latter and the latter, I picked up on a sale out of a desire to experience a story that could have occurred concurrently with the events of Higurashi).With my posting quota for September reached, I’ll return in October to blog about Gochuumon wa Usage Desu ka?? and some other topics as they come to mind.

Having completed Metro 2033: Redux, I can say that this was a highly entertaining title, and now, I’m inclined to read the novel for myself. Whereas Metro: Last Light dealt with Artyom’s experiences a year after Metro 2033, the Ranger’s occupation of D6 and the different factions coveting D6; the story in Metro 2033 is simpler, following Artyom’s journey to Polis and discovery of D6. As such, it might be seen as a coming-of-age story for Artyom. Consequently, Metro: Last Light really allows for Metro 2033 to shine, as it depicts Artyom’s fate following the events of Metro 2033, and now that this is done, I’ve fully experienced the story of Metro. As far as replay value goes, I’ll definitely go back and try the game out for the good ending, perhaps even capitalising on the fact that Metro 2033: Redux comes with Ranger mode, which completely dispenses with the HUD for a truly immersive experience. While this was not included in the standard edition of Metro: Last Light (much to the chagrin of many), it is nice that Metro 2033: Redux comes with all the bells and whistles. Those who’ve played both Metro 2033 and Metro 2033: Redux have varying opinions about whether or not the graphics update was worthwhile, but there are new features that make Metro 2033: Redux handle and play more smoothly, and ultimately, the improvement to the visuals means that the game’s strongest point (its atmospherics) succeed in conveying the mood in and around a post-apocalyptic Moscow even more effectively than the original.

Steam Summer Sale 2015

“The bargain that yields mutual satisfaction is the only one that is apt to be repeated.” —B. C. Forbes

Yet another Steam Sale is drawing to a close, right as Summer Solstice and Father’s Day kicks off. It’s officially summer now, and I have been enjoying the lengthening days leading up to summer’s start. This year’s sale came much earlier than it did in previous years (last year’s ended on June 30, and 2013’s was in late July), coinciding with the E3 2015 Expo. An earlier start to the Steam Sale means there’s more summer left to actually experience and enjoy one’s acquisitions, and this year, despite already having spent a small sum on the Wolfenstein bundle and Modern Warfare 3, there were some fantastic deals: I spent a total of not more than twenty Canadian dollars on Metro 2033: Redux, DeadCore, Just Cause 2 and Sakura Angels. Three of these titles lie within the scope of my interests. I’ve been wondering what Metro 2033 was like ever since beating Metro: Last Light back in 2013, DeadCore‘s a 3D platformer that I saw a preview of back in October, and one of my friends noted that Just Cause 2 was a game that practically paid for itself (he has roughly 91 hours in game and picked it up for the same price I did). I’ll see to starting Metro 2033: Redux in July, once I finish Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, and as for the other games, I’ll start them when I start them.

  • This year, my purchases were broken up into two rounds: on the first round, I picked up Metro 2033: Redux and DeadCore. One thing I have noticed that doing talks on Steam Sales is that it’s possible to see how software icons change over time, and if one were to take a look at the application icons for things like Steam and iTunes, they’re dramatically different from the ones from last year.

  • Then on Friday, round two of purchasing titles occurred. Just Cause 2 was a no-brainer, but why Sakura Angels, one wonders? I was swayed by the low price and hilarious reviews on Steam, and decided that the visual novel’s rather unique content outweighed any limitations it might’ve had. It’s supposed to be quite short, with all routes being doable within the space of four hours. I’ll go through this one later in the summer and see if I can’t provide a proper review on it. Unusual it may sound, no one’s unfriended me…yet.

  • I’ve finally gotten my Go! Go! Nippon ~My First Trip to Japan~ badge up to full level, and I’ve got my eye on levelling up the Sakura Angels badge at next opportunity for the kicks. Friday also was the week to the Flood of 2013: I was set to go visit the downtown core, but rising river waters closed off the downtown. This year, I was able to head downtown after the day’s research had concluded and celebrate my recipient of a scholarship, as well as make another donation to the flood redevelopment efforts.

  • I’ll swing by to do a talk on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided before the week is out: posting will come to a close today, since it’s Father’s Day today (besides being a cool, grey first day of summer). This year’s itinerary encompassed helping move new furniture and building a new desk, and today, we’re also to pick up a TV shelf, bookcase and a pair of desk chairs from IKEA, as well as siu laap (燒臘, or Cantonese-style roasted meat) for dinner. It’s as busy as it sounds, so I’ve taken this respite to get this here post up before heading out.

How I came to pick up DeadCore was quite an interesting story: the Steam Summer Sale 2015’s main event was a monster-hunting mini-game that featured unlockable milestones, and when certain objectives (number of players joined, enemies damaged, items used, mouse clicks registered, etc) were met, deals would unlock. On the second day of the sale, I noticed that DeadCore was offered, and realised it was the same game I was looking at back in October. There was one title that was not offered during the Steam Summer Sale 2015, and this was SUPERHOT: I’ve been following its development since 2013, and from the looks of things, the game will be available in the fourth quarter of 2015. I’ll pick it up onec the time comes; the delay in its release is entirely forgivable, since the developers have implemented so many new features into the game that it’s nigh-unrecognisable from the Unity prototype from 2013. Of course, to keep this wait exciting, I’ll have a graduate thesis project and four new titles to keep me occupied.

Wolfire Receiver: Immersive Gaming Done Correctly

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” —Og Mandino

A little less than a year after I got Receiver with my Overgrowth preorder, I’ve finally beaten the game touted as a highly detailed gun mechanics simulator with procedurally-generated worlds and permanent death. This unique combination of elements means that Receiver is likely to be one of the most challenging games around, more so than The Impossible Game and The World’s Hardest Game. However, this difficulty arises as a consequence of its simplicity: Receiver forces players to first learn how to reload their weapons properly, and initially coming from most shooters where smashing the ‘R’ button triggers a reload animation, Receiver requires an intricate pattern of coordinated, precisely placed keystrokes to reload a weapon. It takes roughly two hours to fully master all of this; being able to reload any of the weapons from muscle memory without looking at the keyboard is immensely satisfying, but also just the beginning of the game. The next task is to focus on finding eleven tapes scattered though a procedurally generated world where starting resources, enemies and tape placement is random. Even the most skilled player may find themselves entering a room and dying in an instant because of a turret or hover-bot’s placement, forcing them to start over. This ceaseless cycle of death and failure leaves players frustrated, often to the point of rage-qutting. Players with a more open mind will persist, and through reinforcement learning, eventually develop a mastery of the weapon mechanics and a fear of the killtrons’ distinctive detection sound.

  • It might come as a surprise to some, but I’ve spent 34 hours in Receiver, which places it fourth overall in my Steam Library: owing to idling, I’ve got some 971 hours in Team Fortress 2 (and would probably have roughly 40-50 hours of actual play time), making it first. Second place belongs to Skyrim and third place is Bad Company 2, although half of that is playing through the campaign.

  • This much replay value is not bad at all for a five dollar title: a quick computation finds that the game costs 15 cents per hour to play. My personal benchmark for value is a dollar per hour, so if a game manages to cost a dollar per hour or less, then it’s money well-spent.

  • While Receiver makes use of a procedurally generated world, I’ve found that tapes tend to spawn in more or less the same areas. Consequently, there are some places that are better to explore in detail than others. Quite personally, I absolutely love the apartment assets: only furnished with the basics, these rooms feel very cozy and relaxing compared to the emptier, more intimidating and darker lower floors.

  • I understand that my posting patterns have been quite inconsistent this month: my research work’s slowed down slightly, given that I’ve needed to debug my model for minor but somewhat jarring bugs (between supervising and helping undergraduate students out). Said bugs have been fixed, and the model works alright: I’m mostly back on track at present, and soon, work can begin on the project’s virtual reality component.


  • Besides my thesis project, the summer’s epic food quest continues: last week, I attended a superlative Nerd Night talk on Dr. Caleb Brown’s discovery of a new horned dinosaur after enjoying a Reuben sandwich in a British-style pub. Then, on Saturday, I was out for dinner with the family, which, amongst other things, included a delicious wonton soup and pan-fried mayonaise shrimp. Monday saw another excellent steak, and as I am wont to do (ever since 2013), I do enjoy thinking about whether or not reality is a simulation before savouring said steak.

  • I’ve still yet to try a Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich, but that’s on the schedule for this summer. Returning to Receiver, one must keep an eye out for tapes everywhere; there are some occasions where tapes will spawn in an apartment’s sinks. Fortunately, to make tapes, flashlights and rounds easier to spot, Wolfire’s developers had the foresight to provide a glowing effect around items to ensure they can be easily seen. While some find the tapes to be uninspired, I personally love them: one of the tapes suggests that listening to the tapes repeatedly confer supernatural powers. Cleverly, those playing the game frequently will eventually memorise the tape’s contents.

  • With enough practise, it becomes possible to accurately hit vital components on the killtrons from a considerable distance outside of their operational range. Bullet physics is accurately simulated in Receiver, so one does have to aim above their targets for distant shots, and a very nice touch is that bullets can ricochet off the environment. I’ve had several instances of a ‘missed’ round bouncing off a wall and managing to strike a killtron to disable it.

  • As vital as a cool nerves, a quick trigger finger and wits are in Receiver, sometimes, blind luck means that tapes are easily found. During one memorable game, I found two tapes right beside one another. There are some tapes with no dialogue, and just chanting. Allowing those tapes to run their course will add to the number of tapes absorbed.

  • There are some games where resources are plentiful, and on one particularly lucky match, I found most of my tapes in an endless expanse of rooftops. I soon passed my record of eight tapes absorbed to reach ten, and noticed that in an open area, there had been another tape lying in plain sight, guarded by a single killtron. I emptied my magazine into it to disable it, and moved in to claim the eleventh tape.

  • Thus, on June 14, a little less than a year after I started playing Receiver, I finally beat the game for the first time. This particularly lucky run took around 25 minutes, and with all eleven tapes collected, the game concludes. 33 hours after I started, I was both lucky and experienced enough to complete an immensely rewarding journey: Receiver is a surprisingly involved game for such a seemingly simple title, and has much more depth than most players imagine. The same might be said of most relevant skills in life: anything worth doing takes time to learn and become familiarised with.

These two seemingly simple developments lead to a degree of immersion in Receiver that even triple-A titles lack; how are these elements able to cultivate a sense of being a part of Receiver? It turns out that the lack of a health system in Receiver, and the ever-present killtrons eventually lead players to associate the killtrons’ detection sound with death. This leads players to immediately withdraw, retreat, hide or ready their weapons. However, some scenarios may lead to panic: being rushed by a hover-drone or entering a turret’s line of sight can lead to some interesting behaviours. One may empty an entire magazine at the killtron and miss every shot, or else fumble a reload while running away from a pursing killtron. Other times, death comes out of the blue, as swiftly and unexpectedly as any jump scare in a horror game. Paranoia may strike in yet other ways: how many enemies are there in the next room? Is that killtron really disabled or should several more rounds be put into it to make certain? Receiver is not even a horror game, and it can frighten players more effectively than most games of this genre. Through reinforcement, Receiver is able to effectively convey the sense that death is swift and often unexpected. This aspect contributes to the immersion in Receiver, forcing players to make full use of caution, as well as auditory and visual cues within the environment, in order to survive. The ever-present, unexpected nature of death keeps players on their toes, giving the sense that players are genuinely trapped in a building with nothing more than a weapon and their wits. This difficulty makes completing Receiver immensely rewarding, and in immersing players fully into its environment, Receiver illustrates how well-designed game mechanics can make a game far more entertaining than graphics alone.


“You see reality painted in shades of black, but beyond your world is another, bathed in radiant light. We have reached out to you with a warning. If you are able to hear our message, then you are one of the few we can help. We call you ‘Receivers’.”

I picked up a complementary copy of Receiver up with the Wolfire Overgrowth alpha. Released in June 2012, Receiver was the finished product from the seven-day FPS challenge, featuring a procedurally-generated levels and, most significantly, portrays the operation and handling of firearms in a far more involved manner than any other FPS I’ve played. The story is revealed as players find audio tapes scattered throughout the world; the firearm players are supplied with are intended to deal with killtrons, which take the form of stationary sentry turrets or mobile hover drones that will attack the player. Initially, it was little more than a curiosity, and attempts to play the game were met with quick deaths at the hands of the killtrons. I spent a fair bit of time looking through the help menu as I fumbled around with reloading my firearm; ineptitude meant that there were several occasions where I failed to pull the slide back after reloading from empty or engage the hammer to allow the weapon to fire. However, in the time that has passed since the Steam Summer 2014 Sale, I’ve sunk in around nine hours into the game, and have finally attained a reasonable proficiency with the weapons, enough to reload and operate all of the weapons (Smith and Wesson Model 10 revolver, Colt M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol and the selective fire Glock 17) from memory alone. With this done, I began diving deeper into the universe Receiver builds, set in a vast, uninhabited building somewhere in Hong Kong following the Mind-kill. Individuals in the Receiver cult have access to the Clear-tapes, which explore more of the story as the player accumulates them.

  • Receiver is a procedurally generated game: every game is different, with a different map layout and character equipment. Some days, players are lucky and will spawn with plenty of ammunition, a flashlight and be close to some tapes, while other days, the game will give the player no flashlight, no bullets or even spawn them right behind a turret.

  • The first main challenge in Receiver is learning how to reload each gun efficiently. It took me around two hours in game to fully memorise everything, but it was well worth it. The revolver is the easiest to reload: one merely needs to open the chamber, shake out spent cartridges, insert new ones and close the chamber, then pull back the hammer. As a double action revolver, pulling back the hammer isn’t necessary, but it does make shooting a faster action.

  • Originally, the M1911 was the only weapon in the game. To reload it from empty, one must eject the magazine. Then, they may hoister the weapon and insert fresh rounds, or a new magazine, then insert it back into the M911. Releasing the slide and chambering a new round typically will follow. A similar process is observed for the G17, although both weapons have differences.

  • The M911 has a hammer and a safety, while the G17 has a fire selector, allowing it to go between semi-automatic and full automatic fire. Early on, I found myself dying because I failed to chamber a round or because I left the safety engaged, but experience is an effective instructor. Consequently, I die less frequently from carelessness at present, although Receiver is immensely unforgiving: taking a single bullet, exposure to even a second of the hover-bot’s taser or falling from a height will end the game and result in a restart.

  • Receiver has simple graphics, but its procedural level generation means that moving between some areas may lead to a bit of lag arising even on a rig as powerful as mine. This lag is only noticeable for a few moments, and the remainder of the game handles very smoothly at 1080p on the “fantastic” graphics settings. The building includes sparsely furnished apartment complexes, empty rooms, large warehouses, rooftops and open courtyards. Tapes are typically found in roughly similar areas (such as in the bedroom here), or in the corners of the larger rooms.

  • Large stairwells and corridors dominate some parts of the building, and the killtrons are usually found in predictable areas. What is not predictable will be their numbers: sometimes, killtrons appear alone and can be easily disposed of, while other times, even the most skilled of players will suffer a quick death after being fired upon by several turrets while being pursued by the hoverbots.

  • For the screenshots, I’ve deliberately increased the distance the player holds the gun away from their eyes to give a better sense of what’s happening on screen, but for most games, I have the gun a little closer so I can better aim down the sights. Even with only iron sights, I’m capable of shooting out a killtron from across a room or courtyard, or even shoot out the signalling lights at the top of a building from across the map. One of the more subtle things in the game that few will have attempted is the fact that light fixtures can be shot out. This is, naturally, not a good idea, given that ammunition in this game is exceptionally limited (some games, players start with one bullet left in the chamber).

  • Those with a careful eye may notice that the massive building in Receiver is actually set in Hong Kong: the Jardine House and  the lower half of the Hong Kong Bank of China are visible. This subtle touch, coupled with a music track that progressively intensifies as one approaches the tapes, adds to Receiver‘s atmospherics. With that said, Receiver is an excellent game that also simulates a sense of loneliness: the player is completely alone inside the building and never engages or aids any other humans.

  • The unique environment in the game allows players to devise their own stories as to what happened prior to the game’s events. In my case, I enjoy thinking that the Mind-kill was introduced by TV Tropes’ administrator and moderators, destroying self-awareness and forcing the population into a no-negativity, mindless consensus. One individual, who had arbitrarily been “Google-banned” from TV Tropes, was spared of the Mind-kill. As a Receiver, they must now must venture back into the labyrinth that is TV Tropes and retrieve the data tapes that will allow them to overcome TV Tropes’ influence, while evading TV Tropes’ ban-enforcement measures, attempting to locate the source of the issue and putting an end to it for good.

  • The most tapes I’ve ever collected so far is six, just a little above the halfway point. Some tapes, I’ve heard more frequently than others, and the mention that individuals who listen to them repeatedly may transcend humanity is a clever bit of meta-humour: those who play the game frequently will doubtlessly hear these tapes repeatedly and even memorise some of the tapes.

As I progress through the game and track down the tapes, the story starts to take shape. The recordings on the tapes produce a vague story, and a part of the joy in Receiver lies in ambiguity, leading different individuals to interpret the story differently. Wolfire intended the story to add to the immersion within Receiver and ultimately succeeds, adding depth and promoting curiosity to what would otherwise simply be the world’s most involved firearm simulator. In my case, I see Receiver as dealing with media influence over human thinking. Society’s general tendency to accept what the media presents as truth to be a problem; the media is a form of business, and as such, is concerned with profits, rather than merely giving their viewers the facts. This leads to sensationalisation, and in some cases, projection of bias, leading to stories that deviate from the truth and impart on viewers a misconception of the issue. I’m not one to blindly believe everything I’m told (in fact, this is why I never got along with individuals who were part of popular cliques), and will carefully assess something before deciding on a position, whether to align with or against something. Back in Receiver, individuals immune to the media’s effects are referred to as “Awakened”, and are tasked with collecting all of the tapes. With a basic mastery of firearms and some understanding of what the tapes entail, my journey to delve to the bottom of the mystery behind the Mind-kill continues.