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The Age of Steam 159

Posted by Soulskill
from the stories-that-aren't-about-riverboats dept.
Ant writes "Edge Online has a six-page article titled "The Age of Steam" about Steam's history that begins: 'The name could hardly be more appropriate. Just as railroads swept the US, leaving in their wake a west that was significantly less wild, so has Valve's Steam client spread across the PC, centralising, simplifying and consolidating. What started as a way of administering updates has become a delivery platform so powerful that it has threatened to render even the big publishers' alternatives obsolete, an online community so well-supported that it sets standards even for those found on consoles, and a no-fiddling environment that allows your games, settings and saves to follow you from one PC to the next every time you log in. Looking back, such success seems inevitable, but in reality Steam was far from an obvious idea. Creator Valve was a developer, not a publisher or distributor, and the service's opening months were marred by bottlenecks and a frustrating online registration experiment. More interesting than the triumph, then, is the journey: what has made Steam such a powerful platform? Which forces shape its evolution? And how can it rewire not just the PC market, but the way that games themselves are developed?'"
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The Age of Steam

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  • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:48AM (#27132481)

    It still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of reliability and user-friendliness. Turnaround times alone make steam a hassle at times, just because I remember how quickly I could go from playing TFC to Pirates Vikings and Knights in the old WON clients, and I tended to register FAR more servers for the list than the ~200-500 tops I get now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MR.Mic (937158)
      I used to have the same problem, where the server list refresh would stop at around 200-400. I read somewhere that you have to delete a file and let steam rebuild it on the next run. As I recall, it was one of those .blob files. I did that, and my problem was solved.
    • by discord5 (798235) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:25AM (#27132669)

      It still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of reliability and user-friendliness.

      True in some areas (as the ones you mention about multiplayer), but I have never bought as many games in retail as I have since I've got access to them through steam. The convenience of being able to buy a game I feel like playing and within the hour playing it far outweighs the problems for me. You could argue that I could pirate/steal/whatever the game and be playing it in the same amount of time for free, but by spending a little bit of disposable income I can be entertained for a couple of weeks and I get the added benefits of steam.

      I remember how quickly I could go from playing TFC to Pirates Vikings and Knights in the old WON clients

      I remember how much of a pain in the ass it was setting up a game between a couple of friends (not talking about WON here), and with steam that's done with a few clicks. I'm not going to paint a picture of a utopia here, but it's much improved from the old routine of getting on IRC or some IM client and alt-tabbing back and forth between your game typing "Can you connect now?"

      The criticisms that I'd have on steam is the DRM (although compared to the draconian forms of DRM, Steam's DRM is acceptable) and of course the big question of "What happens if Valve dies and I want to play my games?"

      All in all I'm really happy with Steam. It's made me buy more games than I used to, probably because now I buy on impulse rather than holding a box in a store and saying "Nah, I'll get it through other means", and it's decreased the time wasted on connecting to others.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Valve has promised in the event they go under, they'll release the DRM validation.

        Of course, if they go under, it may not be their call to make. You never know who'll wind up in control. They're privately held now, but if the choice is between going public or going under, they may choose to go public first. Or they may take a loan against some of their IP like Flagship did before they imploded.

        And, of course, who knows what their contracts with third party publishers look like? They're selling first run

        • by k_187 (61692)
          You assume two things

          1) That their current distribution contracts don't include such provisions.
          2) That Valve's employees won't go ahead and release the DRM stripping software anyway.
        • Did they promise this? In their EULA they immediately define their customer as "the subscriber". That suggests to me (hopefully incorrectly) that when Steam is gone, so is the subscription. Hopefully that's just boilerplate cover-your-ass legaleze.

        • by jandrese (485)
          My guess is that if Valve failed to release the no-DRM tool when they went under, then the cracking community would take over and release their own tool. It's these sorts of morally justified situations where you almost invariably see the tool come out.
        • by beta21 (88000)
          Most large companies have their code in escrow. In the event they go under, terrorists take over, the pink unicorn rampages through their offices etc.

          Hopefully this is something like what Valve means.

          On a personal note I'm more a fan of ImpluseDriven from stardock. They have actually given me a refund on a game that crashed on startup, this is a first for me from any game company.
      • by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @08:05AM (#27132877)

        "What happens if Valve dies and I want to play my games?"

        It is, as you point out, a valid concern. But I frame this problem in context of the cost/benefit I have received from a game. For the amount of money that I payed for TF2 and the hours I've spent playing it, I feel like I have already gotten the better end of the deal. Throw in the fact that the game has gotten so many additional updates (free of charge!) and I feel like I have already gotten value. If the game were to evaporate or be gone forever, I take comfort in knowing that I played it a lot, got enormous entertainment value out of it, and if I really missed it *that* bad, there's a cracked version out there to keep playing.

        So that argument from the anti-DRM boogie man doesn't seem to hold too much water with me. I mean, at least some secu-rom rootkit isn't being installed on my machine, right?

        • TF2 wasn't the reason I bought the Orange Box, but since I've spent over 200 hours playing it since I got it, it alone was worth the purchase. I've also taken to posting in my journal when TF2 goes on sale to try to get my friends who haven't yet gotten the game to get it. During the most recent sale, I thought Friday morning about getting it for one of my friends as an early birthday present, but forgot that Valve's "through Friday" means through 12:00:01am Friday.

          I have quite a few games I purchased ove

        • How is it possibly insightful that if you lose games that you've paid for that it's okay because you've played them enough already? I don't understand this.

          • It comes from an understanding that nothing is forever, that there are some things that are completely out of our direct control, and more importantly, that the life of the game is not expected to last longer than Steam. In ten years we'll all be playing something else--it's OK.

            • Hahaha we're just talking video games here, Plato, not the meaning of life. Possibly fortuitously, I was given mod points since last checking /. but I'd hate to kill your flowery philosophical dribbling because it's just so self-righteously, arrogantly brilliant.

              I appreciate that you might simply enjoy the latest and greatest multiplayer-only game until the next new and shiny thing attracts your attention, but some gamers actually possess an attention span. Maybe it's a single player gamer thing, Steam actu

        • For the amount of money that I payed for TF2 and the hours I've spent playing it, I feel like I have already gotten the better end of the deal.

          I will never understand why someone would ever think that it's ok for a random company to both install unneccessary software on your computer and then require that you phone home and report to them every time you use a piece of software developed by another company. It's not that some of the features of Steam aren't useful - it's that many of them are absolutely not

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lord Ender (156273)

        Steam's DRM certainly is NOT acceptable. I purchased a game, boxed, at Best Buy. When I installed, it would not let me play until I activated it through Steam.

        Guess what? Steam's activation server was down for the entire evening! Steam kept me from playing a game I purchased in a retail store! Utterly unacceptable.

        • Steam Objector (Score:2, Interesting)

          by vincanis (1496217)

          As with Lord Ender, my complaints with steam derive from the online activation component on retail titles. Half-Life 2 was the first and last Steam title I ever purchased. While I can appreciate Valve's frustration at the HL2 code thefts, I still have an encrypted, unplayable DVD of Half-Life 2 sitting on my office shelf. While I can see the utility of Steam, I simply haven't recovered from this insult.

          That being said, I have no qualms about a one-time authentication process for games purchased online, o

          • Try L4d before you give up on Steam. Seriously, its an amazing game.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Creepy (93888)

            true - it'd be nice if they had some phone number you could call to activate it like Windows in case you didn't want to use the service for privacy reasons, but since games tend to be less of a sure thing than Windows (well, at least until Vista...) or MS Office releases, I don't think the game companies always have that luxury (maybe Activision Blizzard could do it, but companies like Midway or NCSoft are struggling too much as it is).

            Privacy issues aside, I've actually had some pleasant surprises with Ste

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            I'd much rather have online transparent validation than crap like Starforce or Securom infecting my store purchases.

            I love Steam. Yeah, it has issues. As DRM goes, I'm happy with the compromise. However, what I am increasingly unhappy with is Steam allowing other companies to bundle junk like TAGES with games on Steam. Valve could clearly take the high ground and say no since they're the 800 pound gorilla of online game distribution right now, and could use their power for good, but they don't.

            What's doubly

            • by Kalriath (849904) *

              What's doubly sad is around Christmas they started listing on the games pages if it had third party infections likes TAGES. That information has quietly disappeared again I've noticed, making buying new games on Steam a much riskier proposition. (The new X3 game had TAGES listed for example, a listing which disappeared shortly after Christmas, despite it still being bundled with the game as far as I'm aware.)

              I like Steam because it has spared me from the system damaging issues of Starforce and the like (own one system that Starforce damaged, and a friend owns two), but now that cancerous malware like TAGES, Securom etc... is slowly spreading on there, I am no longer as enthusiastic as I once was.

              They only did that because Stardock did it, and it's a bad idea to have a competitor doing something better than you.

        • by HTH NE1 (675604)

          i bought a box set of games from Circuit City I think it was Half Life, Blue Shift, Opposing Force, Team Fortress, and Counter-Strike. I installed it, and it needed to call home to activate. But the activation software version in the packaging was old, so I had to upgrade to the latest version. Did so, ran it again, and it gave me a terse alert telling me I still needed to upgrade, but it was the latest version, and it didn't even tell me where to go to get a newer version. The software sat unused for month

      • I remember how much of a pain in the ass it was setting up a game between a couple of friends (not talking about WON here), and with steam that's done with a few clicks. I'm not going to paint a picture of a utopia here, but it's much improved from the old routine of getting on IRC or some IM client and alt-tabbing back and forth between your game typing "Can you connect now?"

        You'll still have these problems with non-Valve (or at least non-FPS) games.

        Steam makes it easier for games that use simple server lists where the game-play permits joining an already running server, but you're still mostly on your own for RTS and other games where lobbies are more appropriate (eg. hosting / joining game rooms, games where it doesn't make sense for late-joining, etc).

        It does nothing to help you deal with router and firewall issues that cause major problems with these games.

        The connection pr

  • Good sales : (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I just bought World of Goo for $5 on Steam and it is every bit as fun as the reviews have said. That's probably the third game I've bought for $5 in the last few months.

    Almost every weekend they have another game going up for anywhere from 5% to 75% off. Bought GTA4 for $35 when it's still full price everywhere else and it plays fine for me.

    Steam has a lot of benefits but when you don't have a large game budget those sales are nice.

    • by rcuhljr (1132713)
      Is there some super cool deal on steam I'm missing? cause it's still 20 bucks for me right now.
      • It was one of their weekend sales that they have, well, every week. It's no longer the weekend, ergo, it's no longer on sale.
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      How do you find out about these deals? I Googled and found a few of the old ones, but don't see anywhere to find out about future ones as they happen?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chabil Ha' (875116)

        A lot of these deals will pop up on your Steam client when you first start it up. Also, they typically show up with much fanfare on the 'Store' page. I picked up L4D for 50% off on President's Day weekend.

        There was an interesting article on Valve's sales strategies [slashdot.org] of late.

        • by Slider451 (514881)

          Same here. L4D for $24.99. First time using Steam. Made it really easy to connect and chat with a couple 40-something buddies. We've been killing zombies a couple times a week ever since. Good times.

      • Most weeks, it pops up in their RSS feed [steampowered.com], though for some reason there was no entry for World of Goo.
    • I did the same 2 days ago, £4.24 off Steam.

      These days, if a games NOT on Steam, I don't buy it.

      Oh yeah, World Of Goo rocks, If any of you don't have it, buy it!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:17AM (#27132615)

    I bought a physical copy of the first Half-Life back when it was released. When Steam entered the picture, I registered Half-Life to it, making the CD-Key useless since at least the online portion of the game was now completely tied to the Steam account. Then I forgot my Steam password and was unable to recover it - for five years. So I couldn't do much with the boxed copy of the game I had, nor could I access it through Steam.

    However, a week ago I suddenly remembered my Steam password, and installed Steam to see if my account was still alive. Not only did I find Half-Life associated with the account, but also several commercial mods and two expansion packs that I had never bought. All of these automatically downloaded/installed with just a click of a mouse. Turns out that the commercial mods/expansions were awarded at some point for free to those who bought Half-Life before Steam existed. On top of that I noticed the (apparently long-running) NVIDIA [steampowered.com] and ATI [steampowered.com] campaigns on Steam, through which you get a couple of games for free if you have their graphics card, most interestingly for me Half-Life 2: Deathmatch. And all of this works flawlessly through Wine on Linux.

    All in all, I must say I'm quite impressed with Steam, as long as you don't lose your account credentials.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I hear you on the credentials...

      I forgot my steam password, once, when setting up a new machine. The old one wasn't exactly functioning, and I'd simply copied all of the files off the hard drive, assuming that would be enough for anything I needed. Fortunately, I also had a disk image, which i convinced to run in a virtual machine, then downloaded and ran a small utility to find my password (from a very isolated virtual machine, so no way it could send it to anyone).

      I'm sure it's possible to do it without a

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Khelder (34398)

      I think I must be misunderstanding, because it sounds like the company broke your physical copy because you used their on-line service, and you think this is a good thing.

      I'd like to thank you for helping me understand Steam better. Now I'm *sure* I want no part of it.

      • by Binestar (28861)

        When you register your physical disk key with steam they let you know in no uncertain terms that you'll need to login to steam to use those games from that point forward. This isn't hidden information.

      • It's utter bollocks. Half-Life would still work as it's primarily a single player game and had no online verification of CD key. The online stuff like TFC may have been tied to Steam, but I doubt the WON servers were still active anyway, and if they were, that they were somehow able to nuke your key in WON so you had to use Steam seems somewhat unlikely to me.

    • I had kind of the same situation but I still don't remember my original Steam account info, but I contacted their service and jumped through a couple of hoops and was able to re-register the counter strike pack on my new Steam account
    • I was under the impression that using your CD key was one of the ways of retrieving your old account name and password.

      In fact, I'm pretty sure that's how I retrieved my old information, although, to be honest, I still had my old email account as well.

      P.S. I got the same mods and things for having HL1 registered.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      Man can't access game for 5 years, says he's impressed.

      Really? is the excitement of finally being able to play your game completely wipe away the fact that you couldn't play it for 5 years?

      Shit, I wish I could fuck up for 5 years, then be competent one time to impress everyone.

  • by Xiroth (917768) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:24AM (#27132649)

    Creator Valve was a developer, not a publisher or distributor, and the service's opening months were marred by bottlenecks and a frustrating online registration experiment.

    And in fact, the problems stemming from Valve being historically corporate-facing (publisher-facing) rather than direct consumer-facing company are still being felt. Their customer service is infamously bad, and their policies when things go wrong seem almost specifically tailored to piss off the customer as much as possible.

    The software is decent (although I'm still quite unhappy with the intrusiveness of the DRM), but software alone won't take them all the way. I'd suggest that there needs to be a near-complete split in the company - one which focuses on game development and one which focuses on game delivery, as the two are completely different in the approach they need: product development vs service delivery.

  • Steam and retailers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xest (935314) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:24AM (#27132657)

    It's odd how different retailers are taking different stances with Steam. But also, here's why I think retailers are stupid to support Steam as is.

    Gamestop in the US I believe refused to stock Dawn of War II because of the fact it forced the user to register, update, and play the game via Steam. This is understandable as they'd basically be selling a game that forces a competitors sales tool on their system.

    Here in the UK though, I purchased it online from GAME. They shipped me it to arrive on the Thursday before the Friday release and although GAME got it me early, I couldn't play it because I couldn't activate it via Steam.

    I still personally think Valve are in the wrong here, just because I have to register with them does not mean I should have to activate via them and activation was not mentioned on the box or GAME's website. Still, who is in the wrong is debatable, neither did anything legally wrong, but one thing is clear, you might as well just buy via Steam anyway as you can still preload it and download as many times as you want from them.

    But here's the twist, I complained to GAME because I was still pretty pissed that I'd bought a GAME off them that I couldn't play until Valve decided that I could so I complained to them and oddly, rather than having Gamestop's stance, that they agree, it's bad for their customers to have to deal with Steam they actually wholeheartedly supported Steam and their DRM and actually took responsibility saying they shipped it early to ensure I got it for release but that it shouldn't have got to me before release but that if they'd shipped it a day later I might have got it after release, blah blah blah. I also made the point that their website didn't at the time mention Steam, Windows Live activation and also complained that this is important because should Steam ever go titsup and not have chance to release a patch (which wouldn't be an impossible scenario for any company as the current economic situation has taught us) that I may never be able to reinstall or play the product again after that point.

    I find that stance rather interesting, it's almost as if GAME actually wants to be destroyed and replaced by the likes of Steam. So is there more to this? Do they think they can actually benefit from Steam in some way? Was it just political correctness in that they wouldn't want to slag off a company whom they sell software for or is there something else to it altogether (maybe they only care about console sales?)? I as a customer sided entirely with them stating that I felt the activation and such was stupid but rather than seize that, they turned around and agreed with their competitor (Valve) that their method of distribution and service was effectively inferior even though there's no reason they actually needed do so.

    For what it's worth I also contacted trading standards who agreed that my complaint regarding the DRM was valid, and that it was not illegal for GAME to ship me the game early and as such I should've been able to play it at that point. They are looking at taking action at very least for the fact the game box and GAME didn't advertise that the game was only usable when a 3rd party (Valve) states it can (or can't) be used through activation even if it did mention registration is required.

    I also pointed out that the alternative is that many may just resort to piracy if it's difficult or troublesome to play legitimately purchased games. I received a rather amusing response that contained the ultimate freudian slip (or perhaps not??) stating:

    "The DRM software that must be installed is designed to prevent privacy"

    I'd imagine they meant piracy, but privacy works for me too.

    Still the crux of it is this, I'd like Steam a lot more if it avoided DRM. You can do preloading without DRM- just give people the entire game except the executable needed to run it. I'll also never buy from GAME again, not particularly out of spite, but more because the only feeling I got from them was one of arrogance, effectively the

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mewsenews (251487)

      Here in the UK though, I purchased it online from GAME. They shipped me it to arrive on the Thursday before the Friday release and although GAME got it me early, I couldn't play it because I couldn't activate it via Steam.

      So to be clear, you received a game before the street date and got upset that you couldn't play it early. Were you aware that you ran into one of the huge assets of Steam, that games can't be played by those who beg/bribe/steal the game early?

      It was a HUGE victory for Valve when Half-Life

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FinchWorld (845331)
        It was a HUGE victory for Valve when Half-Life 2 was released and paying customers were the first to play it, rather than pirates downloading leaked gold master copies two weeks before the street date.

        I don't recall that at all. I do recall not being able to activate it via steam, because the servers were too busy. Luckly by this point a crack had been released.

        If I'd had payed for the game (I got a coupen for it bundled with my ATI 9600xt) I would have been annoyed. But I can assure you, many people wh

      • by Xest (935314)

        Er you are kidding right?

        The only people who can play it early are those with pirated copies as pirated copies bypass Steam activation.

        I as a legitimate customer however, who did nothing illegal and who got a legitimate copy from a supplier who did nothing illegal (even if some may disagree it's bad practice, it's not illegal) am the only one who got screwed, whilst a friend who pirated it was playing it.

        I'm amazed that anyone in this day and age would be ignorant enough to believe that people who get games

      • by Zerth (26112)

        It was a HUGE victory for Valve when Half-Life 2 was released and paying customers were the first to play it, rather than pirates downloading leaked gold master copies two weeks before the street date.

        .

        That's funny. I remember my roommate being able to play it 3 days before I could. And he pirated it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brkello (642429)
      I think people find bizarre things to complain about. GAME got you the game before they were supposed to so that you could play it the instant the activation servers allowed it (i.e. its official release date). They could have sent it later and made you potentially wait a day or two to play the game, but they didn't. I agree that they should state on the box that you can't play it until the activation server is up. But really, you are complaining about getting really good service. I really can't believ
      • by Xest (935314)

        I think you've missed the point entirely, I didn't once state I was unhappy with GAME's service in getting me the game early and if you notice you'll see I was actually supportive of GAME's stance in getting the game to me early because I do think that's good service. It was both GAME and Valve who said that GAME was at fault for getting me the game early.

        The overall point was this, I buy a game from company a) made by company b) and it's company c) with whom I have no agreement other than to register with

        • by brkello (642429)
          But they didn't create a problem, they just have a technical mechanism in place that doesn't allow you to play a game before a release date. If the game didn't work, or if the activation server isn't up on release date, or a million other things, I could understand complaining. You try to work the system so you can get the games before it is actually intended to be released by the company. This would be a non-issue if you weren't trying to get something before you are supposed to.
          • by Xest (935314)

            There's nothing legally binding to say I'm not allowed it before that date though, if the suppliers are shipping it to them and they're shipping it to me, there's nothing illegal going on there. As a legit customer there's no legal reason I shouldn't be allowed to play this game other than a 3rd party who has no legal right to prevent me, preventing me from doing so.

            As I say I've even reported it to trading standards and agree and are looking into see if they can take action. UK consumer law agrees that the

  • are painful. It took me 3 days to download unreal III during the free weekend and cut off very shortly after i got it downloaded because steam didn't have the servers/bandwidth. I would rather stand online all night for a midnight release then babysit a download from steam for 3 days again.
  • 1. Yeah until Steam is no longer around and you find yourself without any of the games you paid for. Sure most people wouldn't care about decade old games they paid for, hey they hadn't played it in awhile, they'd never miss it. Same business model as those DRMed music stores that go bye bye with your songs, which you would miss. We're back to not owning our purchases and leasing it.

    2. And I never tried it without internet access, but I know when you try to run a game (even one that's not online to play)

    • 1: Steam going under affects games you've bought online, yes. But using steam doesn't proscribe buying discs at all. Sure, it's missing a bit of the point, but your 1. is exactly why I do it. And you can (or at least could last time I checked) install the game off the disc without using Steam.
      2: Works with no issues. I quite regularly play while offline.
      3: This is where it's great - serial reformatters. Install steam, select all the games, hit 'Install' and go to bed. Wake up, all your games are there. No d

    • See, this attitude on Slashdot cracks me up.

      1) A game ships with Starforce, Securom etc... Stealth copy protection... You complain.

      2) A game ships with activation with Steam, a totally transparent process that doesn't install hidden kernel mangling drivers, is easy to uninstall etc... You complain.

      Software makers have a right to protect their goods. Do I agree with DRM? No. The reason I suppose Stardock is because they ship their games without DRM. You need your serial number to access game updates.

      However

  • by GReaper (86963) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:40AM (#27132735)

    They might do some great offers if you manage to catch them, however any long term users of Steam know that if you want to get the best deal for a game then sometimes you have to look elsewhere. This is starting to build up a lack of trust for customers, games on Steam are often more expensive even though it costs less to sell than a physical box - customers will end up doing Google searches for the cheapest deal elsewhere. It reminds me of people going into stores to find the product they like, then ordering off the Internet to get the best deal.

    Apart from pricing it's a nice platform.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by east coast (590680)
      I see your point but the fact that it appears that you have unlimited downloads of purchased games that makes it more valuable, IMHO, than a store bought game. I have no less than 4 box games that I'm missing a disc from or a disc is no longer readable to. I could get a new disc if I pay a price (assuming it's an unreadable disc, with a missing disc I'm SOL) or I can use Pirate Bay if they have it there but with Steam it's just a legal and fast download away.

      I will buy a Steam version before a box version
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You can play copies of games (even inexpertly made ones) by using no-CD check patches. But if Steam goes away, you won't be able to download anything. Make backup copies (as you have a legal right to do) and you will be able to keep your games.

    • My experience in the US is that Steam is usually the same price or less than retail stores..

      I've heard it's just the opposite in Europe, though...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dapendragon (832274)
      Steam pricing in Europe went from good to poor after they decided to implement the 1 € = 1 $ pricing scheme around new year.

      This happened at the same time that they introduced the € as currency for everyone in Europe but UK residents, even for countries that do not use the euro. There's a long topic [steampowered.com] of complaints and documentation about this on the Steam forums.

      Up until this change I would usually buy from Steam since it was cheaper or the same price as any other place, with the digital di
    • by mackil (668039)

      Apart from pricing it's a nice platform

      I agree 100% with you here, which is why I wait for the weekend sale! (Left 4 Dead was 50% off a couple weeks ago)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Clovis42 (1229086)

      This is starting to build up a lack of trust for customers, games on Steam are often more expensive even though it costs less to sell than a physical box

      The production cost of an item has little to do with how much it is sold for. The selling price is determined by how much people are willing to pay for it. Why should Steam offer lower prices when people are buying the games at a higher price? There's no need for Valve to pass along the digital distribution savings to their customers. The best example of t

      • by mmalove (919245)

        1. Production costs do influence how much an item is sold for. It's what makes software piracy rampant - what makes it work. Short of the arbitrary copyright laws, the sheer means to reproduce software is readily available to every computer user and effectively costs nothing. The only game titles that have managed to score more than 50-60 dollars a copy are the subscription based MMOs which, because they maintain massive server banks to sustain the persistent world, have higher production costs.

        2. Dema

    • by balthan (130165)

      Steam will need more clout before this changes. Publishers right now don't want to risk pissing off brick & mortar retailers by offering cheaper software online. This probably won't change until online distribution of games is more popular than B&M and publishers can risk losing the shelf space.

  • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @08:12AM (#27132917)

    Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    I love Steam, I love Valve, and I loves me some HL, but I've been trying to walk through that door in "Opposing Force" since LAST SEPTEMBER without crashing the game.

    Seriously.

    September.

    Fix it.

    • by therufus (677843)

      Had that once in a HL title. Uninstall the game, re-install it and delete that save game file. Works every time. It's usually a glitch in when the map changes after a corrupted savegame has been loaded.

      • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @09:14AM (#27133371)

        It's not a corrupted save, according to the Steam forums. It's a long-standing bug in the game that no one seems to want to address. You can work around it by bringing up the console and doing a bunch of tinkering, but this is the sort of thing that Steam was supposed to make obsolete. One coder should be able to fix this in a day and have the patch rolled out to the entire userbase within hours, so it's quite frustrating to still be waiting to open that door for the past six months.

    • Are you talking about the original Opposing Forces (I don't know if there is a Source version)? I bought and played it off Steam over the holidays and didn't have any issues.
  • Steam is great for the masses, but I mostly play games which are good enough that I will be playing them on and off for some time to come. As long as the general crap is all that's tied to it, I don't care that much. However, I am afraid that DD (Steam or otherwise) and its equivalents on consoles may take over completely, which would threaten the longevity of those games I do wish to play. So, in the interest of games which are more than transient time wasters, I hope physical distribution stays strong, an

  • if only the support channels weren't selective about their service and at least attempted to answer every question. Or at least reasonable ones. For example I have been attempting to address their pricing changes since late last year. Us AMERICAN soldiers stationed overseas are subjected to whatever pricing options they deem appropriate for our area, rather than change the prices for those of us coming from American-owned ips. You see, us soldiers have internet through a specific company here in germany,
    • Funny—I didn't think they had a phone number to call.
    • by cbhacking (979169)

      Screw long-distance charges - that's what Skype is for. If it's a toll-free number, you don't even need to buy SkypeOut credit. If it isn't, it costs 3 cents a minute or something. Seriously, Skype is perfect for this.

  • by PHPNerd (1039992) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @09:08AM (#27133313) Homepage
    I remember when they first pushed Steam with Counter Strike 1.5 (or was it 1.6?) oh well. Before you could launch CS without Steam in a stand-alone client and after you had to have Steam. I was in college at the time and everyone (with but few exceptions) in my entire dorm hall played CS together at nights. Then Steam came out. Everyone hated Steam at first because it was clunky, slow, and impeded our play. It would frequently crash and sometimes kick people for no reason. It was Steam that killed dorm CS and left a bad taste in my mouth. Several years later when HL2 came out along with CS:S and I saw that they were still using Steam, I almost didn't buy it. When I found out what they had done with Steam (improved it substantially, made it actually work, added an online community, etc) I was happily surprised. Today I use Steam all the time and just last night downloaded a new game (UT3). Steam allows me to play with my friends in just a few clicks, keep tabs on their achievements and progress, and voice chat rather easily. I have real-life friends scattered all across the country now, and we can still very easiloy get on and play CS together. I know of no other platform that allows such seamless play for such a variety of games. Just my 2 copper coins.
  • Everyone talked about there being some sort of central online organization of downloads 20 years ago.

    Steam is still a clunky POS that does more to impead my play then add to the experience. I also wander why it says it deletes something, but still keeps all the files on my system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chabo (880571)

      I also wander why it says it deletes something, but still keeps all the files on my system.

      I think I know what you mean.

      When you right-click a game in Steam and select "Delete game files", or whatever the option is, it deletes the .gcf (game cache file) associated with that game. The GCF is a large archive file that contains the game files created and sent to you by Valve. When you install a game, only GCFs are created.

      When you run a game for the first time, a folder is created in your account directory that contains downloaded files (third-party files downloaded from multiplayer servers), saved

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @12:02PM (#27135887) Homepage Journal

    Steam was created to prevent you from exercising your First-Sale Rights [wikipedia.org]. Not coincidentally, it also prevents you from exercising your Fair Use Rights [copyright.gov] to make an archival copy (specifically 17 USC 117 (a)(2).) Steam has a backup process but you can't play the backups until your Steam installation has been updated and blessed, by connecting to the Steam network. Steam backups are no backups at all! They are backups of game content but you can't really call it a game until you are able to play it. Until then it's just a collection of files taking up disk space.

    Those who purchase a Steam-"powered" game while Steam does not permit both the immediate play of a restored game backup and the transfer of Steam games from one account to another are voting to give up their legal rights in the only way which matters in a capitalist society - with their money.

    • People give up their legal rights all the time. Every fly on an airplane? You're agreeing to cursory searches without probable cause, in direct violation of the 4th amendment. It's a tradeoff - the convenience of air travel is, for most, enough to outweigh the negligable infringement of a right. Same with Steam.
  • I'm from Argentina and I bought Left 4 Dead for $37 during the holiday sale deal.
    I already had the pirated version but wanted to play online (hassle free) and have the latest future patches or (free) DLC from the moment they are released.
    You could say I bought not content but a license to play it buy I'm fine with that given that I played countless hours online so far (compared to the offline-only/buggy/abuse-cheat online servers from the pirate version).
    Another odd remark is that the retail version was not

  • Try having hard disk failure someday. The fact that I can rebuild a system, log into my Steam account, click a few links, go to bed, and wake up with 15 games installed, patched, and ready to play, cannot be beat.

    Steam Cloud is promising to be even better. All of your saved games are stored on Valve's servers. You can log into your Steam account from any PC with internet access in the world, and within an hour, be playing one of your own saved games.

    Frankly, the most of the people I hear complaining abo

    • by Chabo (880571)

      With Steam Cloud, also the fact that you can have your key configuration bound to your account, so that two people can share a computer, where one uses a really funky keybinding layout.

      Man, I hate those people.

  • by admiral201 (562265) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:44PM (#27137533)

    So I read about a new RTS game, Dawn of War II, and since Strategy games are my favorite type of PC game, I picked it up at Best Buy while on vacation.

    I've been a computer programmer for 26 years (professionally for 22). I was part of the Microsoft team which put out the first version of Windows NT. I know how computers work, inside and out. I know how operating systems work, although I will admit I don't use Vista for anything except playing games so I'm not very good with it.

    I go to install it on my MacBook Pro with 3G RAM and 512MB video card running Vista 32 Home Basic (I have MSDN with all the Vista versions, but this is the smallest install so that's what I used).

    First, it makes me install something called "Steam." This is something I have assiduously avoided installing because I have heard it is very intrusive and prevents you from actually owning any game you own, but since I was on vacation and could easily wipe my Boot Camp if it did something unsavory, I decided to go with it. This Steam install seems to take a very, very long time (an hour or two) and forces me to create some sort of Steam account, which I do because it didn't ask for any information other than name and e-mail address. (I would have given it a fake name too, except for the fact that my e-mail address is a give-away for my name anyway.)

    Finally, it gets Steam installed, which does lots of back and forth on the Internet and then keeps running in the background. Mind you, I'm trying to install a single-player game for which I own the DVD and it's sitting in the drive. But, the game is not installed, I learn, when I tell it I want to play the game and there are no games listed in the "My Games" section. Well, that's stupid, so somehow I figure out how to tell it to install the actual game Dawn of War II.

    This goes amazingly slowly. I mean, it's already been over an hour and I don't even have a game installed. This takes about two hours - no joke - to install 3.6 GB of game from a DVD. I can watch a 2 hour 7 GB DVD in the same amount of time, so I have no idea why copying files takes 2x as long as viewing them. Hard drives just aren't that slow.

    So, I eventually gave up and let it install overnight and came back to it the next day.

    There is no desktop icon for Dawn of War II, so I hunt around the hard drive to try to run the installed game. I finally found it, and all it seems to do is run Steam, connect to the Internet and hang. I try running it a handful of times, and then I run the Steam program (which was actually running the whole time in the system tray, wasting my memory and CPU resources). There, it says Dawn of War II is installed so I attempt to launch it (with the launch button). It shows some multiplayer code on the screen and says I need to enter it into the game to get it to work. I ignore it because I couldn't give a damn about multiplayer, I just want to play the game already after several hours now in the second day of trying.

    The game hangs for a long while. I cancel it and re-launch several times. Finally I just give up and let it sit there for like 30 minutes. It does something about patching, or installing, or updating, and pops up a command line window which then disappears again after a while, and finally dumps me back at the Steam games list which now has a button saying "news" and some comment about it being fully installed. You mean, it's only now fully installed after three hours?

    Anyway, so I launch it again, and nothing. I kill the program, exit Steam, and try again. Still nothing. After a few more tries it turns out it was popping up an error message underneath all the other windows, saying that my Windows Paging File size must be at least 1.5GB. Wait, what? Why? I have 3GB of RAM and I don't want any virtual memory being used. But, it doesn't care, and eventually I give in and tell Windows that it can allocate a paging file anywhere between 16M and 1536M (1.5GB). I re-launch the game and, guess what... Same thing! So I tell Windows it can create a paging fil

    • by Raptoer (984438)

      Usually steam alone works fine for people, DOWII has a fatal flaw in that it requires both steam and windows Live (which doesn't work on my uni's dorm network). However it sounds like most of your problems are with DOWII itself, which while a good game generally, it runs on a pretty finicky engine. Their decision to make the cutscenes at the start impossible to bypass via a button was stupid, I had a bug with the beta where the game didn't like my video drivers, and I ended up having to watch those opening

  • To many, Steam is an acceptable form of DRM but often I find the DRM gets in the way. There are many potential problems. I do not like the fact that your account and access to all your purchases can be locked out. I do not like that they do not have a support phone line where you can talk to a real person, only email.
    • First Sale Rights and Non Transferable License
      Steam prevents resale of games, effectively stopping the used market. I can't even give them away and their EULA prohibits transferring the ent
  • I prefer Impulse. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ifandbut (1328775)

    I'v used steam alot, and still do (I wanted to get Left 4 Dead a few weeks back an no local store had it so I bought it from steam instead).

    When Stardock launched their Impulse I was a little bit annoyed that I had to download another application just to update Galactic Civilizations 2. However, I am quickly becoming a fan of it. I pre-ordered Sins of a Solar Empire and was able to play the beta immediately. When the full version was released the Impulse client took care of everything for me. I recently bou

    • by Zan Lynx (87672)

      I tried Impulse and wanted to like it.

      But it's hideous.

      Their developers need to actually run it on a 64-bit Vista machine. I mean, really, they must have never seen one.

      I wrote them a big pile of complaints, comparing their crap to how Steam got everything right. I suppose I should try it again at some point to see if they improved anything. Possibly they'll have Vista supported by the time Win 7 arrives.

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