Stranded Deep impressions: is this island survival any different?

Stranded Deep
It’s half-past starve o’clock already?

Whenever a new survival crafting game pops up, I have the same thought: aren’t we tired of these yet? The mix of scrounging, crafting, cooking, eating, hunting, being hunted, and dying? Breaking trees into logs and logs into sticks and sticks into tools while managing health and hunger and thirst and exploring a procedurally generated world… haven’t we done that? Like, a lot?

Stranded Deep was released on Steam Early Access on Friday, January 23rd, and at the time I played it, it was sitting at number three on the Steam Top Sellers list. Clearly, many of us aren’t tired of survival crafting games yet, or maybe we’re just all hoping to find one that’s doing things a little differently.

This one certainly doesn’t start differently. Just like The Forest, Stranded Deep begins with a plane crash. Unlike The Forest, the island you wind up stranded on is tiny and not inhabited by naked cannibals, though sharks—the naked cannibals of the deep—patrol the waters offshore. Once you’ve paddled to land, you begin gathering sticks and stones to make axes and hammers, chop down trees for firewood and shelter, and search for foods such as potato plants, fish (hunted with a spear), and crabs. There’s no HUD: to see your stats you can glance at your wristwatch which shows your health, hunger, and thirst.

Stranded Deep
You can’t build a house in your pockets. Gotta use the ground.

Crafting isn’t done in an inventory pane but on the ground in front of you, similar to another Early Access game,  TUG. Drop stuff into a pile and an icon notifies you if something can be crafted. This method is a bit more realistic than a crafting window, I suppose, but it comes at the cost of convenience, and coupled with the lengthier act of going through your inventory and manually dropping items on the ground just to find out if you can make something, I’m not sure it’s entirely worth it.

The procedurally generated islands of Stranded Deep are small and nondescript. There are shipwrecks as well, sometimes beneath the waves, sometimes right on the island, usually with a few lockers and crates to search. Once I found a highly useful machete, another time I came away with a flare gun. I found part of an engine and an empty jerry can, hinting that there may be ways build more complex watercraft.

Stranded Deep
Home sweet home. Now to build that coconut radio.

Cooking is tricky in that you need to physically hold your food in the campfire for a certain period of time, and after doing it a dozen times I still don’t know how long that is. I let the sizzling sounds recycle and replay several times and ‘crab’ never became ‘cooked crab.’ I ate several; sometimes I got sick, sometimes I didn’t. Consuming three fish was fine, but a fourth made me vomit and break out in a rash. As usual, much more emphasis is put on food than water, which always feels backwards to me. In reality, lack of water will kill you long before lack of food will, and like most games of this sort, the food meter in Stranded Deep is the priority because it depletes so quickly.

Stranded Deep
I cooked a mudcrab the other day. Tasty creatures.

The biggest problems come with traveling to new islands. In all my games, I had to leave my starter island soon after arriving due to lack of usable materials, specifically stones. Since stones are used for so many different things like axes, hammers, spears, and firepits (which allow you to leave something cooking in the fire rather than holding it there), I found myself constantly in need of more. There were very few to be found, and there’s currently no way to bash boulders into stones, so you can’t make your own. So, I paddled my raft towards the nearest island, which doesn’t really work the way it should.

The map is broken into small zones (a visible white line drawn through the water is hard to miss) and entering a new zone seems to re-render everything. The nearby island I was headed for suddenly appeared much further away, and two more islands suddenly appeared that seemed just as distant. As I drew closer and paddled through more zones, other islands abruptly appeared in other directions, even behind me. By the time I reached the island I was headed for, I couldn’t even tell which island I’d left. This feels like a big problem. If the open world lacks consistency, establishing a home base and finding it again later is going to be annoyingly difficult. With such a tiny inventory (eight slots that can only hold stacks of four) you’re often forced to leave some gear behind at your base while venturing out.

Stranded Deep
Which of those three identical smudges was I headed for?

Another problem with travel is related to the raft itself. After my third island, the raft became stuck in the water and would only spin in circles when I paddled, and even dragging it to a new spot wouldn’t get it to move when I started paddling. I eventually climbed off and built a raft out of logs, but when paddling it into a new zone it abruptly vanished, leaving me to swim the rest of the way. This happened again after leaving the next island on yet another crafted raft, only this time it happened in the middle of the night and I was plopped into the water next to a great white shark that chewed me to bits.

Most of my deaths came as the results of bugs. You will automatically climb trees if you walk near them, meaning that while rushing around I often found myself climbing halfway up a tree trunk without intending to, leading to a couple of nasty falls at low health. Climbing into a shipwreck on one island, I dropped through a hatch into the hull and couldn’t climb back out, forcing me to abandon what had been a fruitful start. I expect bugs like this in an alpha, and I expect they’ll eventually be fixed. This is just a warning to potential early adopters that there are many.

Stranded Deep
I have one knife, he’s got a mouth full of ‘em. Think I’ll stay here.

Despite all the bugs and the annoyances of ocean travel, it’s still an attractive world to inhabit for a few hours and I’d be interested in returning once the major issues have been addressed. In games like this I tend to initially enjoy the busywork of gathering resources and building shelters, but if there’s not much more added soon I can see it getting old in a hurry. At this early stage I can’t really see anything that sets Stranded Deep apart from other survival crafting games, except that you won’t be attacked by cannibals, animals, or monsters while trying to build your shack. I’m not sure that’s enough, though, and I hope it finds a few more ways to stand out. Stranded Deep is available  on Steam Early Access.

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Valve’s former economist is now Greece’s finance minister

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Valve is pretty much an unknowable obelisk: giant, powerful and unfeelingly silent. Due to this absence of communication, the few voices that do emerge from the studio are amplified ten-fold. Hence why you may recognise the name Yanis Varoufakis. During his time as Valve’s economist-in-residence, he ran a blog dedicated to analysing and explaining the studio’s virtual economies.

Now, Varoufakis has a new job. He’s today been named Greece’s finance minister.

Varoufakis was at Valve from 2012-2013. Despite not playing games, he said in his introductory post that he was fascinated by the virtual economy Valve had built—specifically that it was an economy with hard data for every transaction. “Think of it: An economy where every action leaves a digital trail, every transaction is recorded;” he wrote at the time. ”Indeed, an economy where we do not need statistics since we have all the data!”

Through Varoufakis’s analysing, we learned how gifting played a part in TF2′s economy, how a sophisticated bartering and arbitration formed around trades, and how Valve doesn’t even fire people like a normal company.

Varoufakis’s role as finance minister is quite a departure from the academic study of non-existent headwear. Greece was hard-hit by the economic crisis, leading to a debt crisis that has resulted in high unemployment and bankruptcy. Varoufakis himself is seen as a radical—one who has referred to austerity measures as “fiscal waterboarding”.

That, though, is the purview of serious political reporters. As a videogame reporter, I feel it’s my responsibility to do something dumb. Here, then, is a series of suggestions Varoufakis could take from his days at Valve that would instantly, definitely, fix Greece’s economy.

  • Randomly give a fish on a stick to citizens as they go about their day. Also, sometimes a trilby.
  • If you set a hat on fire it is worth more money. Because reasons.
  • All trade will now be based on the conversion rate: Two Refined = Stout Shako.
  • The most valuable thing you can own is now a decapitated rabbit’s head.
  • Abolish physical crop exports. Switch to digital :weed: exports. They’re worth more.
  • The Trojan Horse, but with Crates.
  • Make Half-Life 3

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What’s on your HDTV: Super Bowl XLIX, ‘Grim Fandango Remastered’

imageThis week it’s all about the big game. We will not mention the footballs and how much air is or is in them, we will only wish for a contest that’s not already over by halftime. Other than the Super Bowl matchup of the Seahawks and Patriots, we’re als…

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Planetside 2 breaks world record for most players in an FPS battle

IN WHICH PLANETSIDE 2 PRODUCER DAVID CAREY HOLDS A WORLD RECORD

World Record

Source: Twitter.

There are a lot of things you could call a battle between 1,158 people. “Confusing” springs to mind. Also, “messy”. In the specific instance of the 1,158 person battle fought in Planetside 2 this last weekend, the more accurate adjective is “record breaking”.

As reported earlier in the month, 24 January was the date Planetside 2 players opted to gather in an attempt to break the world record for the largest online first-person shooter battle. The aim was for 1,100 players. On the day, an extra 58 turned up—comfortably beating Man vs. Machine’s record of 999 people.

Community site Planetside Battles organised the event, and have published the final battle report. During the course of the battle there were 53,729 kills, 3,822 team kills and 31 base captures. You can find a number of videos of the event at the Planetside 2 Reddit board. Below, you can see a montage of highlights created by ‘WaffleVFX’.

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Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered appears to be a thing

Fahrenheit Remastered

David Cage’s beautifully pompous, silly, offensive and occasionally a bit good Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy has appeared on Amazon as Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered. In this new version of Quantic Dream’s QTE-riddled adventure, listed for release on January 29th, ”all of the in-game textures have been meticulously recreated in HD for mobile and desktop”. You’ll be able switch between the old and new graphics as you see fit, as with those redone Halo games on Xbox One.

There are several screens accompanying the listing, but it’s hard to tell whether these are of the old 2005 version or this ‘remastered’ edition of the game. If you’ve only played the original version, you’ll be pleased to hear that “unlike the original North American release, Remastered contains all of the game’s original scenes, uncensored and uncut”. Steam is mentioned as a requirement, while there will also be “full controller support” for Sony and Microsoft pads.

Fahrenheit 2

Not played Fahrenheit? It’s an intriguing murder mystery that soon David Cages into a bizarre Matrix conspiracy where you fend off possessed helicopters and fight the physical manifestation of the internet using QTEs. It really has to be seen/played to be believed.

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What’s the best way to move Steam games to and from an SSD?

SSD_F3_angle_240GB

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Ask PC Gamer is our weekly question and advice column. Have a burning question about the smoke coming out of your PC? Send your problems to letters@pcgamer.com.

I’d pretend someone named “Bartholomew SSD-Owner” asked this, but that didn’t happen—I’m just certain it’s been asked, and I wanted to bring a program called SteamTool Library Manager 1.1 to your attention.

It was more useful back before you could set alternate Steam install directories, but if you run a small SSD and only want whatever you’re currently playing on it, SteamTool makes it easy to shuttle games to and from your storage disk. Sure, you could just find the game’s folder and move it to a second Steam install folder on your HDD, but that’d take like, precious extra seconds.

SteamTool

Generally, this got me thinking about all the ways we customize Steam or use external tools to make it better. A while back we shared some of our favorite Steam skins, but here’s some more useful Steam-related stuff. And because I’ve inevitably left out your favorite, share it in the comments!

steam.tools — A much better way to browse the Steam market for trading cards, backgrounds, and emoticons.

Depressurizer — Helps organize your library, and can auto-categorize games using data from their store pages.

SteamPrices— I use this site, among others, all the time to track discounts.

SteamDB— Another great way to track what’s going on in the Steam store.

Steam Left— Estimates how long it’ll take to beat your backlog (more frightening than useful).

Steam Charts — Find out what people are playing.

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Here’s what our readers think of the Moto X (2014)

imageIn his review of the second-generation Moto X last September, our Senior Mobile Editor Chris Velazco called it “a huge step forward from last year’s model.” He complimented the seamless feel of the edges and thought its improved OLED screen was “one …

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The Bard’s Tale IV announced

Bard's Tale

Hey, so remember inXile’s teases a few weeks back that they were working on another “passionately demanded” RPG? Well, this is almost certainly it: a new Bard’s Tale game (and a proper sequel at that) to 1988′s Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate.

inXile CEO Brian Fargo announced the news yesterday at PAX South, stopping short of revealing much about The Bard’s Tale IV, although he did promise “more details to follow”. Thankfully, Fargo revealed a few of those details to IGN, including that the story will take place in Skara Brae, where the very first game was set. Combat will be turn-based, but everyone will now take their turns all at once—goodies and baddies alike. Fargo seems to have been inspired by Hearthstone, in this regard.

There will be a Kickstarter, of course—their last two did pretty well, you might recall—but there’s no news on exactly when yet. We’ll be sure to tell you when inXile fire theirs up, though personally I’m a little disappointed that those trademarks for Van Buren and Meantime don’t appear to be coming to fruition, at least yet.

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The music industry’s best-known production app will soon be free

imageYou’ve probably heard the output of Avid’s Pro Tools audio production software, even if you don’t know what it’s like — it’s virtually a staple of the music industry, and spawned now-famous (or infamous) effects like Auto Tune. There hasn’t been a c…

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VRSE readies a production farm for experimental VR works

imageVirtual reality is in the midst of an ongoing renaissance, sparking incredible interest from every side of the spectrum, including tech giants like Facebook, young startups, big movie studios and independent filmmakers. With that in mind, VRSE, a new…

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