This year's Steam Summer Sale comes with a twist: an entire game you can play to unlock new deals, trading cards, and the like. There's just one problem: it's not really doing the whole "working" thing at the moment.
Monster Game, as it's known, is playable in your browser. It's kinda like once-you-pop-the-fun-don't-stop-infesting-your-life-like-a-flesh-devouring-bacteria sensation Clicker Heroes, except you play on servers with hundreds of other people. The more people click, the more special deals they unlock for everyone on Steam. Problem is, the aforementioned servers haven't been doing a great job of supporting the aforementioned fuckloads of people mashing their mouses into bits theoretically edible by actual mice.
People have been reporting that the game's been up and down all day. I've been playing for the past two hours, and I've seen it go down twice. I could still click on stuff, but nothing would happen. No monster clobbering, no item purchasing — nothing. Refreshing didn't help. I just had to wait it out.
It's a peculiar problem, considering that you'd think Valve would be prepared for Steam Sale apocalyimplosion traffic by now. Then again, Steam keeps getting markedly bigger every year, and a game isn't the same thing as a series of store pages. There are also more than 1.5 million people playing right now. To put it in perspective, DOTA 2 — the most-played game on Steam — usually tops out at about 800,000 players at once. Perhaps it's not as easy for Valve to reinforce their walls as it might seem.
As for Monster Game itself, it's... alright, you know, when it's working. As I said, it's a lot like Clicker Heroes — click on things (or don't) until they die, make money, buy stuff to become more powerful, face new monsters, repeat — but without fleeting, oh-so-satisfying moments of being ludicrously overpowered. At least, so far. I imagine it will stay that way, though, given that anything else would unbalance the game. Problem is, because you're playing with so many other people, it's hard to feel like you're having much of an impact. Enemy life meters drain like liquid from a busted snowglobe — with or without your help.
My other problem is that Monster Game doesn't give you an easy way to socialise with other players. There's an activity feed of what they're doing — using healing items, etc — but you can't coordinate with your team or even just shoot the shit. Given that you can die (unlike in Clicker Heroes) and death means sitting out for a spell, that kinda sucks.
The health meter also makes Monster Game more attention-intensive than Clicker Heroes. You can still leave it running in the background and do other stuff, but you can't just check in at your leisure. Clicker Heroes is like a well-behaved, industrious child who only needs to be checked on every once in a while. Monster Game is always minutes away from a meltdown, so you've got to — [clicks away to check on it] — click away to check on it a lot.
Also, in case you were worried, the overriding message of the whole thing is definitely BUY STUFF.
But then, it's a sale. What else do you expect?
Still, like Clicker Heroes, it's still a decent-ish productivity killer, and it even adds a couple of its own twists on the formula — for instance, an elemental system. Valve certainly could've done worse with a throwaway Summer Sale minigame. At the same time, though, it's Valve. We've come to expect high-calibre, best-in-genre games from them, and this really isn't one. I know it's a silly expectation to have of something like this, but I can't entirely banish a feeling of slight disappointment.
A lot of the monsters have cute little names, though. That's something.
Now if only it would stay working long enough for people to properly dig in.
Case in point: hello there, city_destroyed_12. How do ya do?