Carcassonne on Steam

Playing Carcassonne on Steam with River, The Abbot and Inns and Cathedral expansions enabled
Playing Carcassonne on Steam with River, The Abbot and Inns and Cathedral expansions enabled

One of my favourite board games is the excellent Carcassonne from Z-Man. It’s a simple but fun tile-based game where you build and claim cities and roads, farms and monasteries and gardens to acquire points.

Over the last few months, I’ve been enjoying playing the latest official version of Carcassonne for Android but it wasn’t until last week that I realised the game was also available for Windows via Steam.

I wonder if any of the Tour de France cycling teams will be playing Carcassonne on the rest day in the city that inspired it this year?

Firewatch

Firewatch hut overlooking forest

It’s not often that I purchase a computer game spontaneously, certainly not one that I’ve never heard of. But on Friday I did just that.

On Friday I bought Firewatch on Steam.

It was the artwork that first grabbed me, stylised and beautiful. Then I watched the trailer…

Who is the guy in the other tower?! Who are the girls who’ve gone missing?

And that was me hooked!

I finished the game on Sunday evening. But this week I’m going in again…

Installing Steam games on a second hard drive

Steam logo

About a month ago I took delivery of a new, much faster PC from PC Specialist. Now I’m getting around to reinstalling games, and I’ve just discovered a neat trick to install Steam-powered games on a second hard drive.

My last PC had served me well for about six years but it was creaking a little around the seams and was being pushed very hard particularly when gaming. It was time to upgrade.

And after upgrades comes the often arduous task of reinstalling applications.

dual-boot or not dual-boot?

On my last two PCs I’ve always set up a dual-boot environment. One partition (C:) was for day-to-day applications (email, web browsing, web development, image editing, etc.), the next (D:) was for games. My reasoning was:

  1. Clean installation of Windows with minimal, and only essential, drivers.
  2. Less distracting. If I wanted to play games then I would need to reboot the PC into the games partition.

However, in practice what it meant was:

  1. Twice as much work, keeping two versions of Windows up-to-date, with both Windows updates and driver upgrades.
  2. It was such a hassle to shut down everything and reboot that I rarely ever played any games. The only people to play were Reuben and Joshua when they played the LEGO Star Wars games.

So I decided on this PC to single-boot (Windows 8 Pro, 64-bit) and install everything side-by-side across two hard drives: my main applications are on C: (120 GB SSD); most of my data plus games are on D: (1 TB Western Digital SATA drive).

So far, so good. I’ve played games more in the last couple of weeks than in the last couple of years, but contrary to my fears it’s not distracted me from my main work on my PC.

However, this evening I realised after installing the Steam client for the first time that it was about to install all 7.8 GB of Call of Duty: Black Ops onto C.

No, no, no, no, no!

Moving Steam to a second hard drive

It turned out to be a pretty easy task to move Steam from C to D. I found the instructions on the Steam support website.

By default Steam installs to C:\Program Files\Steam (or C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam on 64-bit editions of Windows) and the games install to C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps.

“During the installation of Steam, you have the option to install Steam to a location other than the default. Since Steam relies on the game files residing in the SteamApps folder, your game files will go to whatever folder you have Steam installed in. The game files must be in the SteamApps folder in order to function.”

So, here’s what to do, assuming that you’ve already installed Steam to C:.

  1. Log out and exit Steam.
  2. Navigate to the folder where Steam is installed (by default: C:\Program Files\Steam\; or C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\ on 64-bit).
  3. Delete all of the files and folders except the SteamApps folder and Steam.exe.
  4. Cut and paste your Steam folder to the new location, for example: D:\Program Files\Steam\.
  5. Launch Steam.
  6. Steam will briefly update and then you will be ready to play.

Conclusion

I’ve just done this and it worked.

Dear Esther

Last night I stumbled across a new computer game, Dear Esther, released only last week (14 February) on Steam for GBP £6.99, that has me captivated all day. I can’t stop thinking about its haunting beauty, its simplicity.

“A deserted island…a lost man…memories of a fatal crash…a book written by a dying explorer.” Two years in the making, the highly anticipated Indie remake of the cult mod Dear Esther arrives on PC. Dear Esther immerses you in a stunningly realised world, a remote and desolate island somewhere in the outer Hebrides.

A scene from Dear Esther, on the shoreline with the beacon in the distance.
A scene from Dear Esther, on the shoreline with the beacon in the distance.

I’m not a prolific computer games’ player. I have a handful of titles: LEGO Star Wars 1 and 2, Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2, Battlefield 2, Bad Company 2and some of the later Call of Duty games: Modern Warfare, MW2 and Black Ops.

The more hostile titles I like for the cinematic experience—it’s like seeing a film but you get to control the main characters. I never play them online, I don’t like the idea of trying to ‘kill’ the characters of other humans. I prefer to challenge the computer instead. It’s a fine line, I know, but its a line I chose to draw and stand by.

Dear Esther has none of that. The main character—the only character—in the game walks everywhere. No running, jumping or climbing trees. No weapons. No picking up items. Just looking. And yet it’s the most beautiful, most cinematic, most immersive game I’ve ever seen.

The game began as a mod for Half Life 2 but was picked up in 2009 “by a professional game artist, Robert Briscoe, for a complete overhaul of the visuals and level design, in the hopes that it would be able to overcome it’s early shortcomings as a mod and be able to fulfil its true potential.”

In my opinion it has more than achieved its vision. Not only is the artwork breath-taking, the music (by Jessica Curry) is gorgeous, and the in-game narration (by Nigel Carrington) is sublime.

Dear Esther was created by Dan Pinchbeck, listed as Writer and Producer, a researcher based at the University of Portsmouth as part of a project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council to explore experimental game play and storytelling.

Which is where some of the controversy lies. Many are claiming that Dear Esther isn’t a computer game, that it is rather an interactive story or simply art. Whatever it is I think it’s beautiful and mournful and intriguing. I can’t wait to start playing it for myself.