bookmark_borderCreate a digital game collection

When you buy video games, you may end up with a big game collection quickly. Especially today with all these sales and bundles for each different platform. But how to get your collection organized? How to keep track of which game you played and which one you have to finish? This article shows you, how you can create yourself a digital game collection that helps you to get your games organized.

Why should I use a digital game collection?

If you’re like me and you play and collect on / for multiple systems, you will most likely come to the point where you are going to get problems to keep on track with your constantly growing games collection. I for e.g. collect and play on PC, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. Besides this modern systems I sometimes also buy games for Playstation 1/2/3, Wii (U) and my good old SNES. Over the last years, a lot of games has been added to my collection, physical and digital.
Due to that large range of different systems and different distribution types for the games, I’ve decided to create myself a digital game collection. After adding almost 70% of my games to the catalogue, it was more than clear that I have more games than I initially thought. Some games I abandoned for a reason, but other games I simply forgot about. But a digital game collection is not just about how to keep on track with games. Some of these digital game collection solutions are also providing additional, nice to have features like the time you will need to beat your entire collection or the user scores for a specific game.

Which platforms should you use?

There are a lot of digital game collection platforms available. I’ve tested three ways to organize my games and want to show you my results. Keep in mind that this is my personal opinion and you may want to check other platforms as well. All three tested options here are free to use.

1) HowLongToBeat

HowLongToBeat was brought to the world a few years ago (sadly I don’t have a specific year here). Initially it was created for gamers to share there time they needed to beat a game. Over the time, HowLongToBeat added a lot of other options. One of them is managing your game collection in a digital form.
Registering is fast and easy. Go to HowLongToBeat.com click on Join and enter your mail address along with your desired username and password. After you clicked the activation link which has been sent to you via mail, you can start adding all of your digital and physical games to your game collection.

HowLongToBeat Dashboard
HowLongToBeat games collection Dashboard

On the Dashboard you always see what games you currently set as being played, as well as the recently completed games. To add a new game to your list, you can use the search bar at the top of the page. The good thing with HowLongToBeat is, that you have a database with thousands of games included, which you can use for auto completion. You can add your games to one of the following lists:

  • Playing: A list which contains the games you are actually playing.
  • Backlog: The backlog list contains the games you have already bought but you wasn’t able to play them so far.
  • Replays: You already finished the game but you are considering to replay it for various reasons.
  • Retired: Sometimes you bought a game because it sounded very good to you. However, after playing some hours you found out that this game really isn’t worth the time. You should then move the game from Playing to Retired.
  • Beat: Games you already beaten / finished.

An addition to these lists you also have one custom list / custom tab. You are free to set the name to whatever you want. I for myself set the name to „Whishlist“. I add all the games I want to buy in the future to this list.
Besides this core functionality, HowLongToBeat also offers a forum, overall times the different players needed to either finish a game 100% or for rushing through and a lot of other different features. And if you need to, you can also export your games list with all information provided to a Excel list.

2) Backloggery

Backloggery is another online platform like HowLongToBeatBackloggery went online back in 2004 and was created by one person. The founder of Backloggery made a Spreadsheet for himself back then and decided that he or she wants to provide a better solution for other users as well. Thus Backloggery was born.
In direct comparison to HowLongToBeat, Backloggery is faster but doesn’t provide a database. For a lot of people the simplicity and clarity that Backloggery is providing is exactly fitting their needs. Registering for Backloggery is as easy as for HowLongToBeat. A few minutes and a registration activation mail later you’re ready to add your games to your digital Backloggery collection.

Backloggery Dashboard
Backlogger games collection Dashboard

The dashboard of Backloggery does give you a short overview about the games you’re actually playing. On the right you see a log which is called  „Memory Card“. The usage of such terms really fits into the retro-like appearance that Backloggery is providing. When you’re adding a new game to your digital game collection, you don’t have a database you can make use of, as already stated. However, Backloggery does provide other fields like „Compilation“ where you can enter the name of DLCs you own for the game you want to add or „Progress Notes“ where you can write notes to yourself. You can even rate the game at the end of the form. However, these fields are only available if you activate the „Detailed Mode“ at the upper right of the dialog.
Backlogger dialog for adding a new game
Backloggery games collection dialog for adding a new game

A unique feature for sure is the so called „Stealth Add“. With this feature you can add a game to your game collection but it’s only visible by yourself. Even though this is a feature I personally don’t need, it’s nice to have. A feature I deeply miss in direct comparison to HowLongToBeat is the Excel / CSV export. It’s a good feeling to know that I can always export my digital game collection.

3) Excel Spreadsheet

This is obviously the most direct way to maintain yourself a digital game collection. Start a Spreadsheet with Google Docs, Excel, LibeOffice or whatever other software solution you prefer. The benefits are clear here. You can style and create a spreadsheet which fits your needs. You’re also free to save the Spreadsheet where ever you want to. This gives you totally freedom in any manner.
On the other hand, there are cons here as well. The presentation isn’t mostly looking as good as it does with one of the two platforms. You’re also limited in sharing your digital collection with other people. And there is no database which you could use like you can with HowLongToBeat.
Before you start by zero and making your own Spreadsheet, you can also use some of the templates made by other people. If you search through the web you will find plenty of Excel Spreadsheet Templates available. One of the more prominent examples is the one created by the user ReverendAwesomo on reddit. This Excel Spreadsheet truly is near perfection.

Finalizing words

In times where you most likely buy a lot of games digital, a (digital) game collection will help you to keep track of your games so that you don’t buy them twice or simply forget about them. With that being said, it doesn’t matter which platform / solution you’re going to use. Simply use the platform that fits your needs!
Personally, I’ve decided to go with HowLongToBeat. I like the information about how long somebody needs to finish a game, as well as the database auto and the completion functionality whenever I add a game to my game collection. But as I already said, it’s a matter for personal taste. All the presented solutions are free, so you literally can’t do anything wrong here.
Do you have other platforms I should mention here as well? Which platform or solution do you use and why? Let me know in the comments.

Further links

bookmark_borderSteam Proton compatibility layer: The holy grail for Linux gaming?

On 21th August 2018, Valve announced that they are soon start to distribute a new compatibility layer. It’s exclusive for Linux and is called Proton. Proton can be compared to WINE but it comes with support from Valve. That means that if a game is official listed as „supported by Proton“ (the real name of the feature is Steam Link) it will work with your Linux gaming machine. This is unlike WINE where you don’t get support for games you want to play. After some days of testing and reading through opinions on the internet about this compatibilty layer, I want to make a statement how I think and feel about Proton.

About Proton

Proton is developed by Valve in cooperation with Codeweavers. Codeweavers is a long time WINE supporter and offers the software Crossover for MAC and Linux. Crossover is WINE bundled with a easy to use GUI and some additional features like guided setup. Codeweavers does support dozens of programs and games which are guaranteed to work with Crossover. Therefore it just makes sense that Valve created Proton with the help of the professionals from Codeweavers.

Why not simply use WINE?

This might be something a lot of people are questioning themselves. Why not simply use WINE? Well, Proton has some great advantages in direct comparison to WINE. In my short period of testing, I can say that selected DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 games are working with Proton while they fail to start with WINE. A popular example here is The Witcher 3. Also the integration of a wireless XBox 360 controller is flawlessly. You simply plug in your controller and use it. You don’t have to remap buttons or tell the driver to mimic as an x-pad or something get it working. But these two things are just small parts of a whole bigger picture of exciting features in direct comparison to WINE.

It really feels like a native application

Ever game I’ve tested so far (including Blood Bowl 2, Warhammer 40k Dawn of War: Soulstorm and Dead by Daylight) was simply installed like a „normal“ Steam game. Click install, wait for the download and click „Play“ afterwards. Dependencies (like DirectX or Microsofts Visual C++ Runtime) are automatically installed and prepared. This is totally different from installing every single game in a different WINE Prefix in order to install the needed DLLs clean and separated. With that being said, you could see Proton as a modified WINE which also maintains and controls each prefix on it’s own. For me, this is fantastic. I really abhorred that I had to create a new WINE prefix for every Steam game I wanted to install. I know that I could have installed all games in just one WINE prefix as well. But sometimes the different needed DLLs for each game came in each others way which resulted in a game crashing or simply being unplayable.

Performance, performance, performance …

The performance with Proton is really good keeping in mind that this is a compatibility layer. Is it better than with WINE? I would say Yes at least for the games I’ve tested so far. Is it equals to  Windows? I doubt it. But for somebody who uses WINE for a long time, I was happy to get at least up to 60% of the performance in direct comparison to Windows. With Proton however, I would say we are near 80-85% of the performance. That’s impressive and I’m excited to see the further development.

Is this the end for native ports?

This is something which came up in my mind several times. A lot of Linux enthusiasts are calling this argument as their number one reason against Proton. Is such a implementation really the end for future native game ports under Linux? In my humble opinion the following three scenarios could happen:

  1. If Microsoft doesn’t fully lock up their operating system (something Valve was afraid of when they started to work on Steam OS), Proton could be the future for a lot of Linux games, because the developers don’t want to put in that much effort in a port for the 1% of Linux users. With Proton these developers are at least „ready“ to support Linux that way.
  2. Proton is the entry point for developers to create native Linux ports in the future. Every game bought with a Linux client and played with Proton is counted as a Linux sale (according to a question from GamingOnLinux to Valve). With the increasing number of sales, developers start to provide native ports because it’s „worth it“.
  3. Proton will be terminated due to the lack of interest by the users or game developers.

If I would have to pick one of these scenarios, I would say that it’s most likely that the first one will happen. And I would be totally fine with that.

When is Proton finally released?

Proton is in the latest Steam Beta client. Everyone can participate in this beta be enabling it in the settings section of the Steam client:
Setting to enable Valve Proton
Afterwards you will be able to install and play the official supported games which are at the time of writing:

  • Beat Saber
  • Bejeweled 2 Deluxe
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!
  • DOOM
  • DOOM II: Hell on Earth
  • DOOM VFR
  • Fallout Shelter
  • FATE
  • FINAL FANTASY VI
  • Geometry Dash
  • Google Earth VR
  • Into The Breach
  • Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012
  • Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
  • Mount & Blade
  • Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword
  • NieR: Automata
  • PAYDAY: The Heist
  • QUAKE
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
  • Star Wars: Battlefront 2
  • Tekken 7
  • The Last Remnant
  • Tropico 4
  • Ultimate Doom
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War – Dark Crusade
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War – Soulstorm

If you want to start all Windows games with Proton, you have to check the additional checkbox in the Steam settings:
Settings to enable Valve Proton for all games

What about „non-steam“ games?

I also tried to add a „non-steam“ Windows executable. In this case it was Guild Wars 2. Right now it seems like this isn’t working. Steam tries to start the Guild Wars 2 executable as a Linux executable which results in an error of course. However, Valve is providing a build instruction on their official GitHub repository. After this build is done, you should be able to use Proton on the command line just like WINE.

Is Steam Link / Streaming supported?

I’ve tested Blood Bowl 2 on Linux with Proton on a Steam Link in my local network. It worked and was handled like starting a native Linux game. I didn’t found a note in the official release statement from Valve, but it seems like Valve considered Proton to work over Steam Link / Streaming in the first place. This is great and just one more reason to feel that Valve means it serious with Proton in the future.

The Windows game XYZ runs with Proton. How to get it white listed?

Valve is actively asking users for their help with testing and reporting games. If you tested a game with Proton (that isn’t official supported right now) and it works, you can go to the GitHub repository of Proton and report a white list request under the issues section. However, there are a lot of people actually reporting bugs and white list request. Thus it can take some time until your request is processed.

Conclusion

Will Proton push developers to use the compatibility layer instead of providing native ports? A lot of them might actually go this route. But is this bad for Linux gaming in general? In my humble opinion: No!
I can remember of statements made by Bethesda that native Linux ports aren’t worth it (right now) and therefore they will not support it. Jon Carmack (former developer at ID software) stated similar things and recommended to improve WINE instead of native ports back in 2013. With Proton we might see games by such developers coming to Linux as well. Think about it, a company could reach an additional ~1% of the whole Steam user base with an additional time effort of round about 10 hours or so. A native port would be way more time consuming and thus expensive. Therefore they are not providing a native port but they are welcoming such a solution like Proton. You see where this is going, right? Hopefully we will see a lot of developers welcoming this solution and therefore supporting Linux. However, we will also see a lot of developers saying „Why a native port when we can use Proton?“. To be honest, I really don’t care anymore, as long as Proton is giving me a overall good to ok performance and the game runs as excepted (especially multiplayer games with anti cheat systems like „Easy Anti Cheat“ could be a obstacle here). Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see more native Linux ports. However, I simply waited too long for companies to support Linux. My patience has been reduced to a minimum now. Even companies like SI Games which are developing the Football Manager and Football Manger Touch series are dropping Linux support. With the 2019 release of Football Manager and the Touch variant they will provide no more Linux version. The reason? The low sales didn’t covered the additional dev costs.

Further links

bookmark_borderHow to setup a 7 Days to Die server under Linux

Setting up a 7 Days to Die server under Linux isn’t as difficulty as you may think. The Steam developer Valve is providing a tool which makes it easier, even for people who aren’t that familiar with the Linux command line. This article is covering how you setup your own 7 Days to Die server under a Ubuntu or Debian installation.

About 7 Days to Die

7 Days to Die is a zombie apocalypse survival crafting game which has been initially released in December 2013. The game is still in a „Early Access“ stage. 7 Days to Die is similar to Minecraft in the way it is played, but provides better graphics and a different scenario. There are also some quests included like treasure hunting. In the latest version (as of written in June 2018) the developer The Fun Pimps also integrated vehicles into the game. Like in Minecraft, the real fun with 7 Days to Die starts when you start playing with friends. Surviving, building and creating in a random generated world can bring you hours of fun and a long lasting motivation to go on in the things you wanna achieve.

Install requirements

On a freshly Debian or Ubuntu installation, we need to install some requirements in the first place. With the following command we will update the package repositories and install the necessary requirements:

user@machine:~$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install screen wget

Adding 32-Bit libraries

The Steam command line tool is only available as a 32-Bit program. As of today most of the systems are 64-Bit based. Ubuntu for e.g. isn’t even supporting 32-Bit anymore. If you’re running an 32-Bit system, you can skip this part. To find out if you have a 32-Bit system installed, just issue the following command on your system:

user@machine:~$ arch

If the output of this command is i386 or i586, you have a 32-Bit system. If it’s x86_64 you’re using a 64-Bit system. In this case you have to issue the following two commands as well:

user@machine:~$ sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
user@machine:~$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install lib32gcc1

This installs the lib32gcc1 file which is a 32-Bit library. This library is needed by the Steam command line tool. If this library isn’t installed, the following commands will fail.

Download and extract Steam

As next, we acquire the Steam command line tool for Linux machines in order to download the server files via the Steam network. Before that we create a separate folder (which is called steamcmd) were we are going to download the Steam command line tool to:

user@machine:~$ mkdir steamcmd
user@machine:~$ cd steamcmd
user@machine:~/steamcmd$ wget http://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/client/installer/steamcmd_linux.tar.gz

The wget command is now downloading the Steam Linux command line tool. After the download is finished, we can extract this tool (it is compressed right now) like this:

user@machine:~/steamcmd$ tar -xvzf steamcmd_linux.tar.gz

Updating the Steam tool

You can now start updating the Steam tool. Execute the following command to start the update:

user@machine:~/steamcmd$ ./steamcmd.sh

This process will take some time. In the meanwhile, you will see a lot of output on the console like this:

Redirecting stderr to '/home/user/.steam/logs/stderr.txt'
ILocalize::AddFile() failed to load file "public/steambootstrapper_english.txt".
[ 0%] Checking for available update...
[----] Downloading update (0 of 13.028 KB)...
[ 0%] Downloading update (38 of 13.028 KB)...
[ 0%] Downloading update (38 of 13.028 KB)...
[ 0%] Downloading update (38 of 13.028 KB)...
[ 0%] Downloading update (38 of 13.028 KB)...
[...]

When the process is finished you will see a output which looks like this:

Steam Console Client (c) Valve Corporation
-- type 'quit' to exit --
Loading Steam API...OK.
Steam>

The last line Steam> tells you that the Steam command line tool is actually opened and Steam waits for you to enter a command.

Login into Steam

When using the Steam command line tool, you have to login just like with the graphical desktop version. Enter the command login followed by your Steam username to login. Steam will then ask you for your password and Two Factor Authentication (if enabled). When you enter your password there will be no input shown. But this is normal, just like in almost every Linux / UNIX software:

Steam> login <USERNAME>
Logging in user '<USERNAME>' to Steam Public...
password:
Enter the current code from your Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator app
Two-factor code:XXXXX
Logged in OK
Waiting for user info...OK

Download and install the 7 Days to Die server files

Now that you’re logged in, you can finally start downloading and installing your 7 Days to Die server. With the first of the following two commands we enforce Steam to install the 7 Days to Die server files into the directory 7dtd_server. The second one is starting the actual installation process of the server files. The number 294420 is the ID for the 7 Days to Die server files:

Steam> force_install_dir 7dtd_server
Steam> app_update 294420

Alternatively, if you want to use the latest BETA of the dedicated server, us the following two commands instead:

Steam> force_install_dir 7dtd_server
Steam> app_update 294420 -beta latest_experimental

This will download the latest BETA experimental branch the developers are providing to the public audience.
You can see again an output which will show you the actual progress:

Update state (0x5) validating, progress: 2.19 (75656327 / 3459239207)
Update state (0x61) downloading, progress: 0.21 (7340032 / 3459239207)
Update state (0x61) downloading, progress: 1.02 (35228112 / 3459239207)
Update state (0x61) downloading, progress: 2.75 (95064875 / 3459239207)
[...]

The app_update commands can take even longer than the Steam update process. It basically depends on your internet connection speed. After this command was successful, you will get yet again another message about it:

Success! App '294420' fully installed.

You can now quit the Steam command line tools by simply entering quit. Congratulations, you successfully downloaded and installed a 7 Days to Die server under Linux.

Configuring your server

You have a lot of options to configure your 7 Days to Die server to your wishes. The file to do so is the serverconfig.xml which is in the same directory as your 7 Days to Die server files. So change into the 7 Day to Die server directory:

user@machine:~/steamcmd$ cd 7dtd_server

Within this directory, there is already an example serverconfig.xml. While this file should work already, you should take at least some tweaks. To edit this file you can use the editor nano:

user@machine:~/steamcmd/7dtd_server$ nano serverconfig.xml

With CTRL+W you can search for a string. With CTRL+O you can save the file. And with CTRL+X you close the editor. The following parameters are a suggestion how you should modify your serverconfig.xml.
[table id=1 /]
You can always come back and change the parameters to your desire. However, you always have to restart the server after each change. For a full list of all possible values, check out this list.

Starting the server

Puh, lot of stuff right? But now the time has come to start your server. In order to have your server running constantly, you have to use screenscreen is a tool which runs programs even while you logged out. But first, ensure that you’re still in the 7dtd_server directory and enter the following commands:

user@machine:~/steamcmd/7dtd_server$ screen -S 7dtd
user@machine:~/steamcmd/7dtd_server$ ./7DaysToDieServer.x86_64 -logfile output.log -configfile=$HOME/steamcmd/7dtd/serverconfig.xml -dedicated

Your server will now start. This can take up to 5 minutes. You get no output when the server is ready. If you want to know more about what is hapenning, take a look at the output.log file within your 7dtd_server directory. To close the screen session (and therefore let the server run in the background), press CTRL+A followed by the D key for detaching. You can now close your remote session to your server without shutting down your 7 Days to Die server itself. If you want to attach to the screen session again, simply enter this command:

user@machine:~$ screen -r 7dtd

You can now start 7 Days to Die on your desktop / gaming machine, click on Connect To Server and enter either die IP address / name of your server (FQDN) and click on the connect symbol or search for your server name in the upper left (if you set your server to public at the step before):

7 Days to Die server connect
Connection field in 7 Days to Die

If you can’t connect at this point, you may have to check your firewall or the firewall on your server (if you use one). On default, the 7 Days to Die server listens on port 26900. This port has to be accessible from the internet.

Stopping the server

To stop your server, simply resume your screen session like this:

user@machine:~$ screen -r 7dtd

And press CTRL+C afterwards. It can take a few seconds up to a minute before the server shuts down.

How to become an admin?

In order to become an admin, you have to tell your server your Steam ID. Otherwise the server can’t decide which player really should get admin rights. To get your Steam ID, simply open Steam, click on your profile and copy the long number within the URL:

7 Days to Die server Steam ID
Steam ID

On your server, change into the following directory and create a file called serveradmin.xml. Open it afterwards with an text editor (we use nano again in this case):

user@machine:~$ cd $HOME/.local/share/7DaysToDie/Saves/
user@machine:~/.local/share/7DaysToDie/Saves$ touch serveradmin.xml
user@machine:~/.local/share/7DaysToDie/Saves$ nano serveradmin.xml

Enter at least the following lines:

<adminTools>
  <admins>
    <admin steamID="12345YourSteamID" permission_level="0" />
  </admins>
</adminTools>

Don’t forget to change the value 12345YourSteamID to your Steam ID! Press CTRL+O to save and CTRL+X to close the file. Afterwards, stop and start the 7 Days to Die server and that’s it. You could even create moderators and give each of them specific rights. However, this would definitely burst this article. If you want to know more about the possible rights management on a 7 Days to Die server, check out this link.

Last words …

As you can see, with a little bit of work you can setup your own 7 Days to Die server on a cheap Linux VPS for example. Of course you could also go with a hosted one and don’t bother about all the setup stuff, but this is way more costly. And if you’re interested in working with Linux machines, this is a good way to learn a little bit about how to maintain and setup server software under Linux in general. If you have any comments, wishes or notes, please let me know down below in the comments.