I’ve been cruising towards an MMOG break for a while now. Although the server move in Warhammer Online seems to have perked things up greatly on the RvR front I’ve scarcely logged in the last few weeks, and the prospect of the Land of the Dead doesn’t excite me greatly, though I should probably give it a try before dismissing it entirely. It’s been a good run, though. After getting a bit sick of it all almost exactly a year ago I wasn’t sure if I’d stick with another MMOG for more than a month, but I’ve been fairly active in WAR for six months or so, popped in and out for another three, and managed my first level capped character since hitting level 70 in The Burning Crusade. Time for a bit of a break, then, to recharge the massively multiplayer online batteries for Champions Online, or APB, or The Agency, or whatever next catches the eye.
Away from MMOGs, Grand Theft Auto IV is still fun to pop into now and again for a few missions, or a race, or just to cruise around the city looking for shiny cars to purloin. Empire: Total War is also excellent, I’ve been paying more attention to the naval battles which are quite manageable with a fleet of up to four ships (more than that and I find it tricky to micromanage them for optimal broadside-delivery). I’ve got half the setlist to go in Guitar Hero: Metallica, getting the hang of heavy strumming (Shortest Straw and Disposable Heroes passed), but the longer solos still need work. I’ve finally got around to playing Left 4 Dead’s Survival Mode with a few friends, and would like to try some more. For quick pick-up-and-play fun there’s Plants vs Zombies (I say “quick”, inevitably a five minute game somehow stretches out to a couple of hours…) Summer is traditionally a quiet time for game releases, which is good, I’ve got plenty to be getting on with. I really don’t need any new games.
Naturally, then, I’ve been buying stuff from Steam. First, it popped up the news that the two Freedom Force games were available for a fiver, just as I’d been reminiscing a bit during a podcast invasion, so I stuck the double pack in the shopping cart (after all, if you get one you might as well get the other… even though the boxed game of Freedom Force vs the Third Reich was sitting on a shelf not four feet away). And seeing as I was in the Steam store, sorting the options in ascending price order to see what else could be had for under a fiver… While doing my series of articles looking back at old PC magazines and thinking back to early gaming I’d remembered how much I’d enjoyed the original Civilisation but totally neglected the rest of the series, and the complete Civ III was on Steam for about £3.99. Two Freedom Force games and a boatload of Civilisation for less than a tenner, lovely! About the same price as a cinema ticket, and many more hours of fun.
To digress for a moment, when did a cinema ticket become the benchmark for hobby cost/time ratio, why not something else? Say, books? A shiny new hardback can run to somewhere around £20, you might finish it in three or four hours if you’re a fast reader… comparable to the cinema ticket, I guess, maybe slightly better value. You’d probably get it at a discount from Amazon or somewhere, though, or maybe in a three for the price of two deal, and you could always sell the book after you finish it, or keep it to re-read, and who only gets brand new hardbacks anyway? Poke around the charity shops and jumble sales, you can pick up plenty of stuff for 50p or less, radically reducing the cost per hour. Why spend money at all, in fact, a bracing walk around our delightful countryside is entirely free (as in beer, not necessarily as in speech, depending on the right to roam etc.) Let’s not get the ramblers involved, though, and lack of cost plays havoc with divide by zero errors in the spreadsheet. Tell you what, Sherbet Dip Dabs. 39p (in the shop at the end of the road, at least), and, providing you don’t go crazy and start chewing the lolly straight away, you can get ten minutes out of a packet, giving £2.34 as an hourly cost benchmark. That’ll do.
So, two Freedom Force games and a boatload of Civilisation for the price of three and a half hours of Sherbet Dip Dabs, and they won’t make you sick if you play the whole lot at once. The money isn’t really an issue, though, that entire previous paragraph was just an excuse to crowbar Sherbet Dip Dabs into the post in a desperate attempt to secure some kind of sherbet-based sponsorship for the blog (not Sherbet Fountains, though; liquorice, eugh!). I’m hardly lighting cigars with twenty pound notes, but then I’m not so boracic that buying a few games here and there means I need to forego other luxuries like food or rent in a month.
Except money *is* the issue, if the Steam update had popped up and said “Buy either Freedom Force game for £19.99, or £34.95 for the two!” I’m reasonably sure I wouldn’t have bothered. Civilisation IV was available, presumably a better game than III, but for the massive sum of about £12.99 instead of less than a fiver. To the immortal question of Mrs Non-Gorilla, “What d’you buy that for?”, I can but plead “Oooh! It was a bargain”, and I’m hardly alone. As the figures put out by Steam show, major price drops result in kersquillions percent sales increases, particularly when they’re for a limited time.
Anyway. The result of all that was more games than I could possibly play plus three extra, but that was it. Whatever the siren call of the Steam bargain of the week, I’d plug my ears with cheese and lash myself to the mast, even if it’s Cheap MMOG Weekend. What’s that you say, Narrative Inevitability? It’s Cheap MMOG Weekend on Steam? Well, it’s a good job I’m taking an MMOG break not about to go and buy something just ‘cos it’s cheap.
So. Yeah. I’ve got a level seven Inquisitor in EverQuest 2. Oh come on, it was a bargain!
 Fun fact, etymology fans: I’d assumed the word was ‘brassic’, and somehow related to cabbages, perhaps being so poor they were all you could afford to eat; it actually seems to be rhyming slang, ‘boracic lint’ for ‘skint’.