The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, July 2, 2021 – Steam sales, Rickrolls and the PSP

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Happy Friday afternoon everyone! It’s time once again for the Rice Digital Friday Letters page, where you (yes, you) get the chance to have your say on anything you want really.

You can ask us a question, you can share something cool you find online or you can even point us in the direction of a creative project you’ve worked on that you’d like to share with us! This is a community-driven page, so don’t be shy — share whatever you please! All you need to do is hit up the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right of every page (click the black arrow if you don’t see it) and pen us a quick note. We’ll do the rest!

Don’t be shy about spelling, grammar and all that shenanigans, too. We’ll clean up your letters before we publish them… unless you’re rude, in which case we reserve every right to publish verbatim for everyone else to laugh at. But no-one has been rude to date, so I’m sure that’s not going to be a problem at any point, right?

Anyway, let’s get on to this week’s letters!

Caught red-handed

Dear Rice,

Your editor Pete was talking a big game elsewhere on the Internet about how he’s “immune” to Steam sales these days, despite writing articles encouraging people to pick up cheap games every time one rolls around.

Well, I would like to hear how he will justify, this, then!

Seems he’s not so “immune” after all.

Regards,
One of the Editor’s Steam Friends


Firstly, welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, mysterious Steam Friend, and secondly… err… I can explain!

I really can, actually. I stand by my comments about Steam sales (which were actually made on a semi-private blog post for a limited audience) — allow me to quote part of said post for the benefit of those who aren’t able to access said blog.

I’ve been pretty much immune to impulse purchasing on Steam sales for the last few times they’ve rolled around. A significant part of this is down to my focus on physical collecting, but I also feel like the Steam sales these days really highlight the big problem with digital platforms in general: curation (or the lack thereof) and discovery.

It used to be that interesting things in the Steam sale spread virally, and before long everyone owned a copy. It’s how stuff like Recettear came to be so legendary; somehow I suspect if that game were released today, it would disappear without trace, however good it is.

Part of this was down to the fact that the store was simply less crowded, and thus things that stood out in some way — the aforementioned Recettear was, I believe, the first localised Japanese doujin title to hit the platform, for example — were easier to stumble across, simply by virtue of the fact that they looked different and intriguing.

June 30, 2021

My point wasn’t necessarily that “I don’t do Steam sales any more” — though I must say, my emphasis on physical collecting does mean I’m more likely to pick up a boxed copy of a Switch version than a cheap PC release these days — but rather that it’s less easy to find interesting things on the store by virtue of the fact that it’s so bloody crowded these days!

You’ll notice that the Steam activity log entry posted above is actually from the same day as the post I wrote on the subject. In fact, it’s from approximately twenty minutes after I posted it, when a friend messaged me privately and said “I know you said you don’t buy stuff from Steam sales much these days, but…” and then proceeded to recommend a game I’d never heard of, but which looked awesome. Steel Vampire, if you were wondering.

Steel Vampire - The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

I looked at Steel Vampire’s Steam page, decided I liked the look of it — and also saw that the publisher had a number of other games I thought were interesting. So I nabbed those as well. That’s how discovery on the platform is supposed to work… but without that all-important first step — someone or something going “hey, look at this” — it doesn’t go anywhere. And most digital platforms — not just Steam, but also the console storefronts, itch.io, GOG.com and all manner of other places — are failing hard at this first step right now, which is bad for everyone, whether you’re a consumer, developer or publisher.

As customers of these storefronts, there’s not a ton we can do about it directly — but I do encourage you all to do what my friend did and specifically recommend stuff to one another. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of marketing there is, and while you shouldn’t feel like you’re doing a developer or publisher’s job for them, a genuine explanation to a friend as to why you enjoy something carries more weight than a hundred press releases or E3 presentations.

So on that note, from those games I picked up, I urge you to try Raging Blasters in particular; expect a full write-up on that one in the Blissful Death column very soon!

Giving you up

Hi

Rick me please

Andrew


You ask, you get.

That is what you meant, right? Does “ricking” someone mean something different? Hold on, let me look it up. (imagine typing noises here)

According to Urban Dictionary, “ricking” can refer to the act of violently moving something in circles with your hands, indulging in the act of sexual congress without the use of a condom on the penetrative participant’s peepee, or smoking a cigar for as long as possible without burning either your lips or hands.

I’m sure you’re a lovely chap, Andrew, but I need at least a couple of dates before I do any of those things with a new friend. Let’s maybe see how things go for a while first, eh?

Pspsps

Dear Rice,

Since you requested which were the readers’ favourite PSP games in that recommendation article, I’ll oblige. My 2 favourite games on the system are God of War Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus – you know, before the series turned into another over the shoulder escort mission. There were 2 pretty good DBZ games – Shin Budokai and Tenkaichi Tag Team. For some less mainstream choices I’d go for Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja, Puzzle Quest and Undead Knights (a wonderful hack and slash and unit control hybrid).

Regards,
Mr0303


Great picks! I know there are a lot of fans of the PSP God of War titles out there — if you enjoy the PS2/PS3 era of the series they’re a great complement to those titles. Worth noting you can also get both PSP God of War games on PS3 as part of the God of War Origins Collection, but some people prefer playing them in their original handheld incarnations for one reason or another.

Not too familiar with the DBZ games as I’m not a big follower of DBZ myself, but I’ll take your word on those ones — for the unfamiliar, Shin Budokai was the first DBZ game on PSP, and was developed by Dimps; reason enough to check that one out, I’d say, given how strong their handheld output is in general. Tenkaichi Tag Team, meanwhile, is a fighting game that offers two-on-two action with over 70 characters; this one was developed by Spike.

Shinobido - Tales of the Ninja

Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja is a stealth game from Acquire that was absolutely panned by the western mainstream press when it was first released — but I suspect if there’s one thing Rice readers know better than anyone else, it’s that the mainstream not liking something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth checking out, particularly when it comes to Japanese games.

I can vouch for both Puzzle Quest and Undead Knights; both are really excellent games. Puzzle Quest was all over the place for a good few years but seems to have been mostly forgotten about today — a shame, as I was always very fond of its interesting blend of RPG, match-three gameplay and mechanics somewhat inspired by collectible card games. Both are available as physical UMDs for the PSP, but both are nice to have easy digital access to on the Vita.


That’s your lot for this week! Be sure to get your letters in for next time if you’d like to be a part of the letters page. And don’t forget, we’re open to pretty much anything — if you’ve found something cool online you want to share, or you’ve made something you’re proud of that you think the Rice Digital community might find interesting, please do feel free to share it with us! We love to hear from you and see what you’re up to.

For now, though, have a lovely weekend, and happy gaming!

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