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The Age of Steam 159

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 mewsenews ( 251487 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:44AM (#27132753) Homepage

    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 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.

    Steam isn't going away because you are upset you couldn't play a game a day before its release date. And your retailer was right, if they had shipped you the game later it would probably have arrived days after the release date, and for a guy so concerned about 1 day of waiting that probably would have infuriated you even more.

  • 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?

  • 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.



    Fix it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @08:42AM (#27133089)

    Well, since a good portion of Valves profits comes from their slice of the game-sales, I'd say they would welcome their competitors with open arms. A way to make money off of SOMEONE ELSE'S game.

    They might bump the steam release date a week if they are releasing something too, but I doubt it. They compete with gamestop for distribution, and every other developer for game sales, but nobody for both.

  • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @09:44AM (#27133717) Homepage

    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.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:58AM (#27135819) Homepage Journal

    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 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.

  • by Clovis42 ( 1229086 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @12:12PM (#27136077)

    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 this (ie, capitalism) is text messaging. That basicaly costs nothing, but the cell phone companies charge up to $.25. Why? Because hordes of morons pay for it.

    Valve does a pretty good job about listening to its customers, but when it comes to pricing, they aren't going to listen to a few forum users boo-hooing about it.

  • by brkello ( 642429 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @12:24PM (#27136255)
    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 believe how anal people are on this site sometimes. You got the game before the date, you got to play it when you were supposed to be able to play it, yet you are still unhappy.
  • 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

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?