Humble Bundle

Psychonauts running in Ubuntu 12.04. Full-screen mode is even better.

EVERYONE needs a break. For some folks, it’s a game of Solitaire, Mah Jong or, heaven forbid, Farmville. Others are more serious about their leisure computing and buy the latest games online or from their favorite software stores.

For a number of reasons, I haven’t spent too much time playing on my computer recently. The type of games I enjoyed in my youth, epic role playing fantasies (Ultima and Baldur’s Gate) and clever point-and-click adventures (Broken Sword, The Neverhood), no longer seem to be in vogue, replaced by a seemingly endless parade of mindless first-person shooters. The graphics have improved tremendously, but as far as I’m concerned, the game play has not.

Another reason I stopped playing was my migration from Windows some years back. Linux is a wonderful operating system with excellent applications—all free—but there haven’t been many commercial-quality games written for it. And running Windows games using Wine, a compatibility tool, has always been an iffy proposition at best.

This week, however, I felt the urge to play again after receiving an offer that was difficult to refuse. A company called Humble Bundle (http://www.humblebundle.com/) had put together five excellent games that would run on Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. The prospect of being able to play the same games that were running on Windows and Mac was intriguing.

Just as amazing, for a limited time of two weeks, I could pay whatever I wanted for the bundle—as little as 1 US dollar if I were so cheaply inclined—and download the games, free of any copy protection, on any platform that I wanted. Purchased separately, the games would be worth about $110, so this was a bargain by any standard.

There’s an incentive for not being too cheap, though. You get only four games if you pay less than the average price offered by all buyers (in this case, $7.86) but get the fifth game—an action role-playing game—if you pay over that price.

Another unique feature of the Humble Bundle is that a portion of the proceeds go to charities—in this case, Child’s Play, which donates game systems for sick children in hospitals, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that defends individual rights in the digital world to protect privacy and free expression online and throughout the world. You can even specify what portion of your purchase goes to the charities (or simply use the default setting of 55 percent for the developer, 30 percent to the charities and 15 percent to Humble Bundle to pay for bandwidth costs).

I plunked down $8—just over the average—and got the entire bundle.

So what do you get? Humble Indie Bundle V—the fifth such offering—includes:

• Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a first-person, survival horror adventure from Frictional Games that pits a weaponless protagonist (that would be you) against the darkest secrets of a castle.

• Psychonauts, an action-platform game originally released on the XBox from Double Fine in which you play Raz, a psychically gifted kid at a summer camp-slash-training facility for mentalist super agents. When the camp falls to a dastardly deception, it’s up to Raz to traverse through the minds of various camp characters to save himself and his friends.

• Limbo, a puzzle-platform game from the Danish indie studio Playdead that puts you in control of a boy’s journey through a dark and hostile world. Keep your cool or lose your head.

• Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, an exploratory action adventure video game from Superbrothers Inc. in which you traverse a mythic little realm, use a sword to do battle and evoke sorcery to solve mystical musical mysteries.

• Bastion, an award-winning action role-playing game from Supergiant Games in which you play the Kid, who must restore the world after a disastrous calamity. The game, which is the bonus for paying above the average price, has been widely praised by reviewers, primarily for its story, art direction, narration, and music.

I haven’t had time to download and play all the games yet, but the prospect of copy-protection-free, multi-platform games at an attractive price was too good to pass up.

Apparently, many other people think so. Humble Bundle V racked up $2 million in sales in just 24 hours. In what might be seen as a sign that there’s a market just waiting for the right product, Linux users offered to pay more (average of $12.23) than Mac ($9.47) and Windows ($7.26) users.

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