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Game Distribution Platforms Becoming Annoyingly Common 349

The Escapist's Shamus Young recently posted an article complaining about the proliferation of distribution platforms and social networks for video games. None of the companies who make these are "quite sure how games will be sold and played ten years from now," he writes, "but they all know they want to be the ones running the community or selling the titles." Young continues, "Remember how these systems usually work: The program sets itself up to run when Windows starts, and it must be running if you want to play the game. If you follow this scheme to its logical conclusion, you'll see that the system tray of every gaming PC would eventually end up clogged with loaders, patchers, helpers, and monitors. Every publisher would have a program for serving up content, connecting players, managing digital licenses, performing patches, and (most importantly) selling stuff. Some people don't mind having 'just one more' program running in the background. But what happens when you have programs from Valve, Stardock, Activision, 2k Games, Take-Two, Codemasters, Microsoft, Eidos, and Ubisoft? Sure, you could disable them. But then when you fire the thing up to play a game, it will want to spend fifteen minutes patching itself and the game before it will let you in. And imagine how fun it would be juggling accounts for all of them."
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Game Distribution Platforms Becoming Annoyingly Common

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  • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @08:10AM (#30902488)

    Valve has stated before that if they do go belly-up they would release a patch so that you could play all of your games without getting onto the steam network. That or I would expect some hackers to crack it.

    That is of course assuming Valve doesn't try to sell Steam.

  • Re:Tell me about it! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @08:16AM (#30902516) Homepage

    Steam isn't a problem, it's when you've got 12 Steam clones from different publishers all of which are required for you to be able to play different parts of your games library.

  • Re:Typical /. BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by MORB ( 793798 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @08:41AM (#30902678)

    Typical /. kneejerk reaction comment from someone too lazy to read even the summary.

    If you did so, you'd have found out that what the guy complains about is in fact the lack of unification of the process, where every other game company seems to be rolling their own distribution platform with the assorted bundle of crapware to run the games on it.

    Heck, you can even run into these problems even if you install games only from steam.

  • by TOGSolid ( 1412915 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @09:26AM (#30903034)
    Well, not entirely useless. I keep all of my Steam games backed up to an offline profile so that even if Steam did go tits up, I'll still be playing my games quite happily. Most of the non-Valve games don't even need Steam to be in online mode for their multiplayer to work.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @09:29AM (#30903094)

    Don't forget that companies are already shutting down their own game servers [slashdot.org] to get people to play the newer games. Madden 07 and 08 are already being shut down...

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @09:39AM (#30903212) Journal

    What are the changes that Steam will go away anytime soon?

    I said the same thing when I bought my 2008 Pontiac Solstice.

    I remember some years ago a friend bought a bunch of music from a music service from Microsoft. I've forgotten the name now (or maybe I've blocked it out). The friend told me it was easy to use and they had all sorts of labels and artists. The only catch was that Microsoft had to "refresh" your licenses to keep the music files playing. I remember telling him it didn't seem like a good idea, and he said "what are the chances that Microsoft would go away any time soon?"

    Today, he's got an external hard drive full of bits that he can't listen to. I've seen this with my own eyes. When he tries to open them, some dialog box pops up telling him that he has to connect to some Microsoft service to refresh his licenses and then he tries and nothing happens.

    Many of the games I bough in 90's are too scratched

    That's why we'd like to be able to make copies of our game disks, including the ones for consoles.

  • by Vitani ( 1219376 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @09:45AM (#30903288) Homepage
    With Steam you can just use Offline mode. I did this when moving house and was without an Internet connection for a few weeks and could happily play Portal, HL2, etc. without any issues. (Not sure about other games which use non-Steam DRM though!)

    Also should you want to format, it provides a way to back-up your games to a DVD/similar so you don't have to re-download.

    I can't say anything about the other providers as I've never used them.
  • by dcoe ( 136896 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:09AM (#30903574)

    ... for those of you who don't recall


  • Re:Typical /. BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by imakemusic ( 1164993 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:24AM (#30903808)

    Yeah, I bought GTA IV through steam the other day. As well as it running like a bag of shite I also have to have the rockstar social club running (as well as steam). Also I had to sign up for the social club just to play the game. And then link that account to a windows Live games account. I tried using my existing windows Live account but it wouldn't let me link them (for some reason...it didn't tell me why) so I had to create a new one. So two new accounts in two software systems that are duplicating the functionality of Steam WHICH I'M ALREADY USING AS WELL!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:32PM (#30905910)

    Gabe did not say that. There is no universal decryption key for the system they use. He said he expects he would make available a method to enable the games if the masters went offline. His wording was careful to avoid a legally binding statement. The reality is that it would not be in his control if they went belly up, as it would be a trustee's call with the creditors as the IP would be under their control. Something short of chapter 11 and it would be factors such as goodwill upon deciding there is no reason to continue the system for a given product. In other words there is no IP left that is profitable and as a gesture of goodwill and if within his control, it would likely happen. End of story.

  • by elzurawka ( 671029 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:33PM (#30905930)

    Not sure if the OP meant this, but I like the fact that if I have a game I like, for example L4D2 which is around 7 gigs, and a friend picks it up, I can bring over the backup files from my computer, and install the game using those. He does not have to go and waste a few hours re-downloading the games. All of my games are backed up to an external NAS at my house, and whenever I install them, its just a matter of clicking on the files on the NAS, and running the install. Then once its installed, the game is automatically patched to the latest version by steam( I can re-backup with this patch for next time ).
    I can then bring my NAS with my to my friends, and as long as he owns the license he can still use the same install files. Very much like when games were bought on physical media. The advantage? No Stupid CD/DVD protection, i can give him a COPY of the backup file on DVD if I like.
    No Key to remember. How many old games do I have that I no longer have the original packaging for? That means I have to crack the game to get around the activation key.
    Also I can keep redundant copies of the game at home, and if my house burns down, steam still has a copy for me. If I own all my games on DVD and my house burns down, I'm S.O.L.

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @01:48PM (#30907074)

    Except that I'm not normally paying for a license to read the copyrighted text. I'm paying for a copy. If I were paying for a license, I would have the right to read the text even if my purchased copy were destroyed, and I don't. Moreover, if I were to find a book that somebody abandoned, I wouldn't have the right to read it, not having acquired a license. In fact, I can own a book, but there are limitations on what I can do with it. There's some limitations on what I can do with a lot of my property, so this is nothing unusual.

    Now, some software is sold with a EULA, and the legal system has not completely rejected that idea as it should have, so in many cases when you use software you've agreed that you don't own it, only license it. That does not in general happen with books, which are sold outright, and come with no restrictions other than copyright.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers