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Tuesday, November 23, 2004



Good points. Steam sounds like a major coup for independent publishers, if Gabe Newell's estimates about developer profit per copy are correct. I guess there hasn't been much buzz precisely because Steam is still seen as practically a Valve-exclusive distribution device. Spinning it off as its own company makes a world of sense.

You know, GameSpot's Final Hours of Half-Life 2 points out that Newell is actually quite responsive to e-mails.... :)


Dunno if the Verisign/Thomson pact is going to help in a Steam-like manner, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Dan MacDonald

Steam is a serious threat to the current (broken) retail system. Even now I think people underestimate it's significance. VUG is beginning to realize, hence the lawsuit, but even they "didn't get it" 3 years ago. The other technology I've been really impressed with lately is GuildWars streaming technology. You download a 64kb client that initiates a slightly larger download, but honestly you can be in the game and playing with a newly created character in under 15min.

They haven't really said this publicly, but they would be foolish not to bypass the retail channel for content packs and expansions and sell direct to their customers "in game". Since they have no monthly fees there's nothing to keep a user from coming back and checking out the new content. The technology is such that physical media is really meaningless, installing a content pack is as simple as flipping a switch in the users profile and allowing them to stream the new content. I can see them making big profits selling this way.

Digital distribution has long been the home of small little garage developers, I think it's poised to really shake up the retail industry. If you've got a recognized brand you don't need publishers for anything, customers will come to you.


It's also worth mentioning that Steam effectively negates the possibility of used sales for PC games.


I do not agree with your assement. Let me show show you my post so far at the steamforum:

about if i like it or not:
"NO. It's a waste of time for single players. It won't stop piracy, and their is a good chance it will encourage it with the frustration it has given to legitimate buyers. It will also validate piracy to all those who doesn't have a internet connection, a high speed internet connection. They will want to play this game, and there is no options for them, that are viable and realistic on the PC. When you buy a products it should be a full product. Steam makes HL2, half a game from the start."

"I suppose that a Steam concept will help the PC gaming industry to get new players coming from the console gaming...No, i am just being cynical, because really...it will be the other way around. I already knowed 2-3 poeples who didn't bought HL2 and went to get Metroid2, MGS3 instead, telling me it was so much less hassle and that the game they bought will be playable from the start. Yet the consoles also suffers from piracy and P2P exchange.

Microsoft did an voluntary authorisation process, and give a free software to encourage legitimate buyers registering instead of punishing them for all the pirated copy of XP. And they DO NOT force anyone to installed a software to do the registration (Isn't this the method that use spywares like bunzie, i mean this isn't very far from it...). Why on earth such a powerful Cie would go that way instead of the one Valve decided with Steam ? It is just to show you how is the online registration of Steam for the offline game is so wrong. Valve approached the problem in a complete wrong way.

Don't get me wrong Steam seems a great tool for online content, and even maybe a mod central (Depending if they rule this like the FCC or not). But for offline+retails, they will be cited as something you should never do...Like is said, worst PC game launch ever, before Battefeild2000."

about the file unlocking process:
"I agree with you Addnox. It is a system that do required a high speed connection, even tho some moderators here are speaking of 56k (They must be joking right ?). Even 33kb (Standard DSL) lines aren't ok for this type of file unlocking. With all the trojan, virus, ddos attack that floats on the net every PC connections is reduced by softwares like Norton, firewalls and Prevx (In my case). That's one reason Steam isn't appropriate at this time.

Being ahead of it's time is one thing, doing it in an appropriate way is another, and required judgement. That's why i thing Valve has no business in networking. If it was their first problem i would be more conciliant, but the fact they got their game stole by hackers before this mess on Steam, raise more than one concerns about their abilities to do this in a proper manner."

about steam being a spyware:
"I want to say something about spyware. I deal with trojan and spywares everydays, because part of my work obliged me to do so. So i have a lot of experiences in dealing with them...sadly.

There are a couple of questions that surfaces with Steam.
1- Does Steam is a spyware ?

I have a software here called Prevx, that runs on XP. It protects all the vital areas of windows XP, and to date Prevx didn't send me any reports after the initial installation. That means that prevx didn't access system32, the registry, the memory...at least until now. So i doubt after the initials specs sended via Steam, there was some informations exchanges. At least not outsides there own files.

2- Can it be perceive as a spyware ?

Yes, and very easily. Mostly because it was a forced installation that came with HL2, and that spyware do oftenly the same behavior, forced installation. Spyware do not leave a choice regarding their installations and their informations exchanges, and in that specific sens, neither does Steam. Also the fact that you can't removed it without breaking/removing HL2, is also typical of those types of softwares, where no options are given except to bend t the creator's will. There is a fine line between a software and a spyware, and it mostly involve control over software's behaviors. Even tho, Steam has a certain levelof control, some parts of it are so restrictive that it can only inspire suspicion from general costumers.

3- Could it become a spyware ?

Yes. And since Steam is so borderline in that area, it could be easy to make it an instrument of abuses. That said, if Valve is going that way, they will be reported to such corporation as MS and all the current anti-virus/anti-adware Cie, and also will be confronted the the new spyware law that will be passed one of these days. It could be very detrimental to them to position Steam into the spyware world. They are already at a limit zone, in my point of view, and they can't cross over.

It's can be argue that the nature of Steam is too close to the ones of spywares. Isn't it one ? Not for now, not from what i can see on my PC and monitoring softwares."

Sorry if this is a long read, i didn't want to type everything. The way Steam is implemented is too detremental to legitimate buyers and retails, that it is horrible. 75% of retails buyers had a bad experience with Steam (Seen on 2 Half-Life forums). Poeples do not mind the activation and even the account, but the file unlocking and software in the background is plainly abusive. If Steam remains that way, it will sink Valve. It should be run, not by a gaming Cie, but by a networking Cie that are used to manage online stores and costumer support, and that can make more advise decisions. Valve made only poor choices with Steam and the retails versions.


Regarding Steam...

The idea is cool, but I must disagree on a few things.
The physical media being meaningless... Being able to hold the game in your hands has quite some spiritual value - at least to me - and it also means you don't have to wait hours or even days if you have to do a complete reinstall (but I'm aware that you can archive your downloaded content). With that said, I'm still quite angry that we got the game on 5 CDs instead of a DVD in Europe, and that the 'manual' is a joke.

Also, I think that Steam would've been a somewhat better deal, had the game cost about 10-20% less than the retail version. If I have to pay for the download (and broadband isn't dirt cheap everywhere) and I only get the data, then it should be at least a few bucks cheaper. Actually, I was able to buy the boxed game a bit cheaper then the Steam version because I've preordered it. But I suspect that the most likely reason behind the prices is a Vivendi threat.
If it's simply about Valve's greed and they'll sell future games at retail prices as well, then I'm disappointed a bit. They get higher margins from online sales anyway, and they could probably sell more copies at a slightly smaller price IMHO...

About the game, well I'm a bit disappointed about it as well. Best game of all time it certainly isn't; and I'm not sure if I'd call it the game of the year either. It has many cool scenes, some very good ideas and the gravity gun is good fun (for a while). Art direction is perhaps the best I've seen in a shooter, especially compared to the cheesy color parade in some games. Okay, I might be biased here, living in Eastern Europe :) but it goes to show how well they've managed to capture the looks and moods of the cities here.
However, HL2 is totally linear and scripted, and the actual gameplay - the shooting, the weapons and combat system - is almost exactly the same as in the first Half-life. There's been five years and many games in the mean time, including Halo which managed to introduce innovations like the shield system or a far better AI (and that running on a 733MHz CPU) - but it seems that Valve haven't been playing them. And I'm quite angry that there is no real ending, nor any explanations to the story - it's quite clear that Valve wants to sell a sequel or expansions in the near future to everyone who completes the game. I consider that cheating... I deserved an ending after playing through :), and frankly, noone told me that there's gonna be an Episode III here as well.

I'm also worried a bit, because both Doom3 and HL2 were linear and scripted, which could pave the way for similar titles in the future (I've heard DNF will be like this as well). I'd prefer open-ended gameplay instead, that leaves important decisions to the player, that can show you new things even after the third replay - that utilizes CPU power to do more exciting things, and not just the same stuff in a better implementation.
But with games like GTA, Halo, Thief, fortunately, there's some hope left :)


While i like steam as a content distribution system i do not like the way that *I* do not have a game. Even though i purchased one. I bought the DVD retail version of Half Life 2 and am happy with it as a game. However, the reason i bought a retail version of Half life 2 (bearing in mind i pre-ordered it some months before release) was to make sure that i own a game i can play whenever i want - specifically in the future. Now, i don't have this. My DVD is basically as useless as the pre-loaded content downloaded from steam.

I wouldn't have a problem with any of this if i actually had some control over the product i purchased. For instance i have the Half life collector's edition with blueshift, Opposing force etc. I can install and play these without having steam installed. I also registered my CD key of this game with steam allowing me to be able to just install them without wrecking the cd's or having to put the cd's in the drive. I don't have the luxury of actually owning Half life 2. Valve own my game, but allow me to play it at their convenience. If they decide at some point to stop supporting Half life 2, or they "go under" or any other number of reasons, i will not have a game i can play. I kind of expect it with MMOG's, but not a singleplayer experience.


Oh, and it took me 2 and a half hours of trial and error to authorize the game. I was so frustrated I wanted to break something...


Some other important thing going on in digital distribution is Bioware's premium modules for Neverwinter Nights. Those are short and cheap 'expansions' of an episodic nature, sold online only and with a DRM even more intrusive than Steam (they will do an Internet check every time you load a savegame, with no offline mode available, even for single-player modules).

I actually think this idea (cheap, short games) is better suited to online distribution. Unfortunately I wouldn't expect decent sales for Bioware's experiments. Altough the modules are actually pretty good, they are competing with their own already-built community, with a huge library of user-made modules available for free. This would have been a better idea for a new game, before any community is built (or with a game with no public toolset/SDK).


if you buy a MMORPG then if the company goes under your physical disk is useless, AND until then you aid a monthly fee, but people dont whine about that.
Screw havign a physical disk, I have boxes of them already. Steam worked gerat for me, unlocked the files in < 3 minutes and its a superb game.
If valve went under TODAY and I couldnt play the game I'd have no regrets, Ive already got WAY more than £35 of fun from it.
Steam IS the future (or systems like it, its just aglorified download manager anyway). Anything that reduces publisher influence and increases developer financial viability is good.


Here's a Wired article clamoring for more Steam-powered games.

By the way, Steam gives you the option of backing up your game files in convenient CD or single-sided DVD size chunks. You can store more than one game in a single backup (I was able to fit HL2, HL: Source, and the Source SDK on a single DVD...more if I wanted).

Goran Grce

As a gamer, I love the concept of Steam. Firstly, it's easy for me to buy games like this, (thanks to a high quality broadband connection that's also affordable) plus I like the fact that I am giving my money to the developer only, rather then the publisher. For this reason I think Steam could be a big hit with the hardcore audience, and perhaps allow developers to free themselves from publishers and thus have more oppertunities to create fun, innovative and fresh games. Which of course benefits us gamers. But I have a few questions:

- It would seem that Steam has a much more limited audience then retail. Just how many people have the ability to download and play these games, practically speaking? The answer to this would seem to be, all considered: not that many.

- Steam has also had some problems. I personally did not expirience any issues unlocking the game (because I had it preloaded beforehand) but many others did. This doesn't seem like something Valve can't fix but if Steam is to grow larger, won't it also have to become more robust to handle even bigger releases then HL2? As far as I know, most people bought this game through a store, not over Steam.

- Because it was an international purchase, there was no tax applied to my HL2: Silver, so thanks to the current value of the Australian/US Dollar exchange I actually paid ten dollars less for this game then I would in a store. But exchange rates fluctuate and at other times Steam might prove a good deal more expensive then a store purchase. So I ask does anyone know if future releases over steam will be priced lower then then Half Life 2?

If things turn positive for Steam in these three respects I see myself being a devoted customer. But will they?


I'm sure everything people are saying about Steam now is what they were saying about Amazon.com eight years ago.

Robert Howarth

>>Is this about as good as it gets for fans of action gaming?<<

Yep. That havoc stuff is what really made the game, imo.

>>I also tried Men of Valor: Vietnam, and it simply doesn't stack up. Not sure if I can push myself to complete it. It's not that it's a bad game, it just doesn't compare to the greatness it finds itself standing in the shadow of.<<

The whole not being able to jump thing kills it for me. I can't finish it either. Visually it looks really snazzy too...

>>What Valve needs to do -- like they're gonna listen to me! -- is spin-off Steam as a separate company. This will give it a better chance to succeed in the long run. A key point in doing this is to avoid the conflict-of-interest inherent in Steam being a division of Valve. Developers and publishers (yes, publishers might even consider Steam in the future) might be concerned about Valve having access to sales numbers. Steam as a separate company removes this as an issue. <<

Good idea.


Just as a little response to HL2 being completely scripted... it's not entirely true. Linear? yes. Static cut-scenes yes. There is some scripting but at the same time it seems to me like a lot of it is one level above scripting. Many events feel like they happen for a reason. The developers have carefully set up the gameworld that something will happen. They aren't forcing it through other means. A good comparison would be Call of Duty and Half-life 2. Both great games but you can see the different level of scripting. In Call of Duty you often found events that seemed to occur by magic regardless of the setup. In Half-life 2 many of these set up events appear to fit much more into the game and I know I've yet to encounter a 'scripted event' that shouldn't have happened given the current game situation.

Also the physics engine is worth more than just the gravity gun. HL2 really brings a good level of puzzle solving into the game through use of the physics and interactivity. In addition to the see-saw puzzles and other such weight relating things being able to barricade doors, and manipulate objects in a variety of ways really expands the gameplay. Not to mention use of the enviroment plays a much bigger part in many game play areas (no examples for no spoilers).

Linear isn't really that bad, it's just a different type of game. HL2 tells a story so there's nothing wrong with guiding the player. The non-linearity of Hl2 comes in multiple ways to solve different problems which happens a lot.


If a developer does scripted events well, it still won't make the game any less linear or more open-ended :) And HL1 had cool scripted sequences too, like when you were crawling in a pipe and suddenly a commando guy opened it in front of you and threw in an explosive, forcing you to run back into a pool of water. It is exciting, it is fun, cinematic and whatever - but it will play out the exact same way if you're going through the game again.

On the other hand, robbing someone in Thief, solving a mission in GTA, or destroying an alien combat group in Halo is a fully dynamic situation, which can play out in many different ways. The only comparable parts in HL2 are some of the physics stuff - because usually, you have to use a few certain objects to solve puzzles - and the combat itself, which is oldschool and boring (we get to use a pistol, a shotgun and two kinds of machinegun? coool ;)

But it's completely understandable if a developer decides to go for a linear gameplay - it guarantees that tha player will se everything they've put into the game on his/her first playing through. However, replay value will be low... like, I don't really want to go through Ravenholm again, for example.


The greatest parts of HL1 would be what I'd name the set pieces. For example you're about to enter a room, you vs. 6 marines. The strategy of the pieces was variable enough that very few encounters through that set piece would work out the same. The strategy was totally up to you - what weapon(s)/cover would I use, what would the marines do to get at me? I was watching a friend play a room with 6-7 marines and they must have killed him 12-16 times. But he was having the time of his life as every encounter turned out differently.

In HL2 its all neatly paced and scripted for you (and as it feels to mostly give time to the new glossy elements, e.g. physics+vehicles+tightly coupled scripted elements). In the beginning you have no weapons and they introduce you to the physics. Enter a ton of physics puzzles. My experience was that 90% of physics use was in the first 40-50% of the game.

But then after the initial physics run you get your first weapons, but before you can begin to really enjoy any encounter with them they thrust you into the first vehicle. You enjoy it for the first 30 minutes, wonder how long its going to still go on for the next 30, and then in the last 30 you realise you've now spent more time in this thing than on foot in the game so far. Sure you got off it a few times but never for too long.

Then later in the game you obtain the gravity gun. Next level they force you to use only it, because there is no ammo anywhere. Even later you gain control of the ant lions. But then you only get to use them again for pretty much a level or two as the creators see fit. They're very much like overgrown snarks, but at least the snarks I could use anywhere I pleased.

IMO the physics should have been used everywhere, don't treat it like just another weapon to obtain and when it runs out of ammo you can no longer use it. HL2 is great, make no mistake. But it just overall didn't feel like HL1. It actually felt more like Call of Duty or any other modern scripted game that turns out to be almost 100% linear, but just neatly tries to hide that fact from you.

Nicolas Quijano

Tom, solving a mission in GTA is totally linear gameplay :)
The open ended nature of GTA3, Vice City (and I guess San Andreas, but don't know yet ;)) vaunted by everyone, is the ability to play without following the linear storyline (having extra missions doable in any order does not make the mission based gameplay non linear..)
The missions themselves are totally standard, linear gameplay.


Nicolas: this is not true. While I understand the difference between linearity in storyline or mission based gameplay, I must point out that in GTA you DO have have a choice to succeed in your mission anyway you want it. If I had to "erase" a car I could do it anyway I wanted: Smash my car into the other one, push it over a cliff, shoot it to bits, whatever. As long as the mission objective is achieved.


Tom I live in Eastern Europe as well and have purchased the DVD version from an online shop in Austria. My only problem with Steam is that I don't know what data are they sending over the network, it could include a keylogger for all I know...

I'm surprised nobody mentioned one quite original aspect HL2 introduced to games: an *ugly* lead female character :-) (yes I mean Alyx)


Completely off-topic in this thread, but appropriate for this blog (I think):

Atari sold the Civilization franchise for over 22 million dollars. Just goes to show how much succesful IP is worth...



if you buy a MMORPG then if the company goes under your physical disk is useless, AND until then you aid a monthly fee, but people dont whine about that.
Screw havign a physical disk, I have boxes of them already. Steam worked gerat for me, unlocked the files in < 3 minutes and its a superb game.
If valve went under TODAY and I couldnt play the game I'd have no regrets, Ive already got WAY more than £35 of fun from it.
Steam IS the future (or systems like it, its just aglorified download manager anyway). Anything that reduces publisher influence and increases developer financial viability is good."

Yes, but a MMOG is supported properly, with no bandwidth problems. You go into the "agreement" knowing that the game will not be under your direct control or will last forever. A singleplayer game is different.

I know for a fact that even upon reinstallation that i have to get "permission" from valve to play a game that i "own". For instance, if this was required of Duke3D, the game would never have been as popular as it was due to the inherent difficulties involved with property management in the human psyche. There was no point in me buying this game that specified to me that the game would not be available to me as i am effectively renting the software as i am with MMOG's. The only difference is that i pay less than premium price for a MMOG (at least where i live) for constant free content updates and other stuff, with the understanding that this agreement will end when the publisher / developer decides to stop supporting the game. This is not the case with Half life 2. Half life 2 is a singleplayer extravaganza, but it does not let the developer screw the customer over as they have done.

"If valve went under TODAY and I couldnt play the game I'd have no regrets, Ive already got WAY more than £35 of fun from it."

You must like getting screwed by companies then. If valve went under today i've only had one play through of the game (on hard) and haven't had my money's worth. I've had my money's worth when i decide that i have. I don't stop using a product i have bought just because the manufacturer has gone bust or because they have decided to stop making/supporting the product.


As a very small independent developer who decided to go with the online model (due to repeatedly bad expiriences with publishers), I welcome anything that would make the online market more mainstream. After I had decided that online distribution seemed like a sane choice, I was pleased that steam/HL2 could do good things for that distribution model.

However all this authenication stuff, and logging on to steam everytime you play etc. I don't like it at all, I hope that it isn't counter productive for the process of making online distribution more common/accepted.

It's not about if the authentication went totally smooth or not. It's a matter of principle. You buy a (stand-alone) product, it's yours. I find it a bit strange that people are so happy/defensive about it. I see people bashing those who don't approve of the steam authentication. Just because they think Valve is cool and HL2 is the best game ever, isn't really an excuse.

How would it look if other media, that have issues with piracy, did the same. What if you had to ask for permission every time you want to watch a DVD movie, or listen to a music CD, or maybe even read a book.

To me the steam authentication of retail copies crossed the line of consumer rights, however convinient it may all work or not.

(PS. the above only applies to single player games, online games is a completely different matter)

Max Szlagor

While I agree that a distribution mechanism such as Steam is a great idea for the industry overall, I believe the current implementation of Steam is very broken. I have to say that installing HL 2 was the worst experience I have ever had in getting a game to work and at one point after spending about an hour trying to get it to authenticate properly I almost decided to return the game.

People have been lamenting the demise of the PC game market for a while and I honestly feel that the experience of just getting to play the game is almost too much effort. Between making sure you have all the latest drivers for all your components, the long install times, patching, and now Steam related issues I'd almost rather stick to console games. This doesn't even touch on the fact that keeping PC hardware current with games is far more expensive than buying a console system.

Steam has a number of issues that I can't stand that need to be fixed ASAP - the authentication should take no longer than XP and should allow you to be playing within a minute or two of installing. It should not need to run in the background nor should I have to be connected to the net in order to play a single player game. The full CD key registration didn't occur until almost 24 hours later and during that entire time if your internet connection went out you could not play the game. In addition, when Steam needs to update itself I can not launch HL 2. At first I thought it was just taking a long time to load then I noticed the icon in the task tray animating and hovered over it to find out that Steam was updating - it never even bothered to tell me that it was updating or that I couldn't play HL until it finished. Furthermore, many people on various HL forums have made what I consider a fairly legitimate argument in that if you buy a game you should be able to play it almost immediately - this has been reinforced by consoles and the existing models of most PC games.

While I think HL 2 is a great game, I don't know that it is SO much better than Doom or Halo to justify all the effort needed to run the game. Online distribution needs to be seamless and painless for it to work properly - Blizzard was also getting a lot of nasty posts on its WoW forums yesterday for a variety of server issues and that is even considered almost normal for the launch of an MMO. I personally didn't have a lot of issues but I don't like my gaming to be interrupted when I play - people have lives and other things to do. We play games to have fun and enjoy ourselves, not to troubleshoot tech issues. The whole issue is compounded by something you also mentioned in your initial post - there are a ton of great games out there to play. If I know I can just buy one and be playing it in no time while another may take a lot of setup I may simply opt for the slightly inferior(note - still AAA) game. I don't know if the sales will reflect this but I think Steam wasn't ready for prime time and given how negative the reaction has been it could end up being ammo against them in their lawsuit. I know at least a few customers went to Vivendi's forums and slammed them for the Steam install even though they didn't want to have anything to do with it.


I have faith that Valve will fix/adjust Steam to meet a lot of complaints/demands. It's their first major launch via Steam: they're allowed to screw up a bit.

I will say, however, that Half-Life 2 is indeed SO much better than Doom 3 and Halo 2. And all the people on a forum I frequent, despite having issues running the game for as long as several days and feeling quite angry about it, immediately melt in the face of Half-Life 2's goodness. It really is that good. Not without flaws, but very, very good.


"You must like getting screwed by companies then"

err no...
You have already completed the game? how many hours did that take? how much were you paying 'per hour' to play the game? at the MOST it would be maybe $4 or $5 right?
Compare that with the cost per hour of watching a hollywood blockbuster movie, with NO interaction, in a cinema where you have to sit next to people chomping popcorn while they try and sell you food.
You really think that a $40 million game isnt worth $35 to play through it for mayber 6 hours?
Just because in the past you have got 200 hours gameplay out of a $35 game doesnt mean that the same holds today with higher production costs.
I dont like getting screwed by companies, but if Im honest, I'd happily have paid $7 an hour to play HL2, because its THAT much more fun that watching a movie at that price.
Have some perspective. Or dont buy the damned game. nobody forces you to buy Hl2 for christs sake.

Suresh V.S.

I think many of the comments on this thread about Steam neatly ties into what we've all been discussing in Scott's previous post about marketing.

Steam appears to be a love-it or hate-it kind of system. However, what people are not entirely sure about is "what IS steam"?

For those who hate it, Steam is an "online authentication system". Every single person who hates Steam has taken Valve to task only for this issue - authentication. However, they're not really complaining about Steam as an online distribution system. That's either because they didn't buy it online, or because they didn't have problems while preloading the game.

People who are praising Steam look at it as an "online distribution system" - the future of distribution, the next wave. They're talking about how helpful it will be to bypass the publisher, go direct to consumer, etc. To them, that's what Steam really does. The authentication is "just another feature of Steam".

So, is Steam good or bad? Depends on what you think it does!

Gabby Dizon


Would you consider approaching Valve about releasing your future games on Steam?

Gabby Dizon

Sorry, thinking about the wrong guy. I meant Scott =)

Scott Miller

Gabby, I'm trying to discuss this issue with them, but with Thanksgiving, most of the people who can answer my questions are out of the office. Let me just say that we will explore the option of using Steam.

I like the way Walter put it, in that this is their first major release and there's a lot of reason to believe that Valve will fine tune the process, and address a lot of the key concerns.

Frankly, the authentication side of Steam is fine with me, as I'm strongly opposed to piracy (duh!), and we'll ALL benefit if piracy can be significantly reduced.

I'd rather play a game via Steam than have to worry about sticking the game's disc in my CD drive -- that to me is far more annoying.

Piracy, sadly, is going to force all of us to go through a little pain, regardless of whether we buy through Steam or retail. I imagine, too, that after a period when sales diminish, maybe 2-3 years, Valve will patch HL2 so that it no longer needs online authentication. This way the game will truly be ours from that point onward. At least, this is how 3DR would do it if we were running Steam.


Personally I don't think it will reduce piracy signifficantly (enough to justify the "harm" on consumers). The normal consumer will get less rights and the people pirating will still priate. I mean I saw the news spread over the net of a cracked HL2 version within hours. To me copy protection is something to filter out the most casual copiers, and a normal CD protection scheme will do that, everything else is not going to work too much. I'm a developer too, so it's not that I'm all happy about piracy, but I'm also a consumer and I don't want to forget that.

I just think it's fundamentally wrong that if I go out and buy a single player game (in a store) for full price, but it still doesn't really belong to me (for at least another couple of years).



a) not having your game on the net a week prior to official release, especially if it's a highly anticipated title

b) having people who pirate the game jumping through hoops to get it to work properly (which from what I've read was the case for almost the whole first week after release of HL2)

c) the knowledge that all updates and new content will be delivered through Steam, meaning that if you pirate the game and want updates, you will have to wait for one of those pirate groups to issue an update for you

add up to a significant reduction of piracy? I don't really know, but I strongly suspect so.

Yes, not everything has been hunky-dory even for owners of legitimate copies, but then again, HL2 as the first major release is bound to put enormous pressure on the system. Things will surely improve.

But the bottom line is, if a system like Steam can bring more revenue to developers and thus better games to consumers...isn't that what really matters?

Also, 'people pirating will still pirate' is a false dichotomy. If it's convenient to pirate a game, people are a hell of lot more likely to do it. If it's not convenient, and especially if you know that the inconveniencies are long term, I think you are a lot more likely to purchase.


I don't really agree with a) and b), but let's assume it for a second. The solution should then be to release a patch that removes any authentication of your retail copy within weeks (not months or years). That way the consumer can either wait or buy knowing that he/she will really own the product very shortly.

About c) I don't see much of a problem using Steam to deliver those additional services, that's fine. That could work exactly the same whether you require steam or not for playing a retail copy.

Like I said before, my issue is that you buy something (at full price) and it's not really yours anyway. For example if you one fine day wanted to install it out of boredom because your net connection is dead, you can't, but you bought the darn CDs/DVD, you should be able to.

Anything outside of that is not the issue, patches and additional content is very nice of the developers to provide and they can do that in what form they please.

In any case I don't beleive anyone will change their minds so I'll just agree to disagree :)
and I do wholeheartedly welcome the online distribution part of steam


Yes, i completed the game in about 12-13 hours on hard. I didn't even sit through it in one go, but spaced it out as i don't have time to be playing games 24/7. Which works out around £2-3 per hour, which is much more expensive than watching or renting a single film.

You tell me to get some perspective. But you are the one with flawed perspectives. A film is interactive in many other ways than a game. Some are common to both but i still get a personal reaction from watching a good film as i do from playing a good game. We interact through the fact that we watch and listen to a film as much as we play through a game. Plus, i tend to buy more DVD's than renting or watching films in the cinema. I own my films and so can watch them as many times as i want for the price i paid.

"You really think that a $40 million game isnt worth $35 to play through it for
mayber 6 hours?"

No, i don't. I think if a game is that short and cost that much then there were production problems within the firm. You don't have to throw money at something to make it the best experience it can be. It seems more and more people (and companies) forget that these days.

"Just because in the past you have got 200 hours gameplay out of a $35 game doesnt
mean that the same holds today with higher production costs."

Yes, i have played RPG's. I never expect a FPS to be long. However, i have never complained about the price or length of the game HL2. My complaint is in the fact that i do not own or control the game i have spent money on. I respect the fact that 3DRealms would let the user "own" the game through a patch eventually. However, looking at valve's record over the last two years i find this hard to believe.

"I dont like getting screwed by companies, but if Im honest, I'd happily have paid
$7 an hour to play HL2, because its THAT much more fun that watching a movie at
that price."

What? Even MMOG's don't charge that much. They cost as much, have as much development time AND have MUCH more content and story than Half life 2 does. I would never pay that much for something that is basically not worth what you are paying for it.

"Have some perspective. Or dont buy the damned game. nobody forces you to buy Hl2
for christs sake."

I don't see how any of these three sentances are related. Or how you have a balanced perspective on anything you have written. It is obvious you are intrinsically biased towards one end of the spectrum and refuse to see other points of view.


Nice to see some less biased opinions on Steam. We are currently trying to raise an unofficial Steam forum where people can say freely what they think about this platform.

Several honest and earnest attempts to start such discussions in the official steam forums have been put down by banning forum members, closing and deleting posts on the moderators side.

We'd be humbled if you visit us for some chatter. Beware, freedom of speech is mandatory. (Click on my nick to get there)

A link to this site has been placed into the news section of the forum.


About HL2 and piracy...

There really was no cracked version prior to the auth servers going online, whereas Vampire was available days before its release (as usual with games today, unfortunately).

There certainly are problems with the crack that basically tried to trick Steam to get the game running - this lead to the erasing of some 20.000 accounts.
However, there are other cracks as well that work totally offline. This was to be expected, and it seems that Valve planed another counter for such cases - many people with such pirated copies report various problems, like the AI getting disabled upon loading a level, or the failure of some important scripted events (like an NPC opening a door for the player). I don't know if these can be fixed; but I think we can assume that the pirated copy has at least as many problems as the legal ;), but it's just as well true that only the Starforce protection system has produced uncrackable games so far.

Oh well, and if you want to play CS:Source, you really have to buy the game :)

So the whole Steam thing certainly had an effect here on the number of legal copies - I've seen very few people on the various forums talking about their problems with the pirated copy, but many others have been complaining about Steam. Usually even hit games have very low sales here, the greatest success was one of the Harry Potter games... HL2 might be able to beat it though, we'll see.

Max Szlagor

Another interesting thing I noticed about Steam in the forums was that people expressed more interest in pirating the game after they couldn't get Steam to run properly. They had purchased legitimate copies of the game but said they would return it and wait until a crack was available to play. I bet most of them probably just got the game running the following day but it is interesting to note the degree to which people were upset with the service.

The other major issue I would like to see resolved is being able to play the game as you download. I know this was heralded as being a possibility once but has been dropped in favor of the pre-load. After spending over a day and a half downloading the WoW beta over my dsl line I decided I didn't want to go through Steam because I don't like to leave my computer running all the time. Obviously for anyone that doesn't have broadband or even more restricted access to the internet this won't work.

I think another important thing to remember in going to an online distribution model is that your company transforms a bit into a service one versus a packaged goods one. I don't think many companies fully embrace this change because they don't have the proper support to do so. Many of the complaints I saw about Steam and then later about WoW were never addressed by people at those companies and I think that leads a lot of people to believe that they don't care about the customer experience. That is a really bad idea this early in the game of online distribution and I think that one thing could go a long way towards encouraging people to give it a try in the future.

All that being said, I would love to see Steam provide a viable alternative to publishers and I am rooting for Valve to make this system into a great one. I also agree that spinning off Steam as a company may be a good idea. I think doing so would allow a core group of people to focus on making that experience the best it can possibly be as well as eliminate some of the developer/publisher conflicts that may emerge by having both be the same entity.


Scott, id seem to have a much shorter idea of 'when sales diminish' than you - they tend to patch the copy protection system out of their games within I think six months, certainly a year. What do you think of this? Just different markets?


There's nothing that Steam does that isn't done by other software packages individually; it's just the first modular distribution, accounting, billing and matchmaking service all in once. Steam as a separate company would be nice, but I don't see how it helps Valve and I don't see Valve looking to be the savior of anyone other than those who would become their thralls.

And Men of Valor was never going to be all that great. 2015 isn't much of a real company anymore since Grant Collier picked up pretty much everyone from the original Medal of Honor team and shipped them off to California to start Infinity Ward.

Gabby Dizon


Thanks for answering my question.

They probably wouldn't have any problems with bringing a potential blockbuster like DNF to Steam, but will they be willing to let the whole indie games industry into it? Anyway, you were complaining about a lack of blog posts about Steam, so I blogged about it - Steam as a means of "long tail" distribution for the games industry.


to the guy boasting about finishing the game in 12 hours. just grow up.
dont buy the game. if all you are going to do is whine. just dont buy it.
$7 an hour for something thats extremely fun is fine. How much do you spend on beer in a bar per hour?
Jesus man you need to calm down. go meet some chicks. relax.

Scott Miller

Adam, really depends on how sales of the game is going. For Half-Life, they sustained for a good 2-3 years. But for most games releasing a patch within a year is probably fine.


Scott - well, I think id's idea is more that anyone who buys a game six months after its release isn't likely to pirate it even if that's possible. I'm not sure if they have any support for the theory, but I know for e.g. Q3A was still prominently displayed on store shelves (and according to people I know who work in game stores, still sold reasonably well) long after the copy protection was patched out.


I never boasted about anything. I merely stated a fact to point out how much money was "spent" per hour.

All i do is not just moaning. This happens to be a subject that i am complaining about because i have issue with it.

"just grow up. seriously."

Just because my view differs from yours doesn't mean i'm immature. I don't see how i need to grow up considering i haven't done anything childish.
I probably spend more than $7 an hour in the pub. But that's because i'm buying rounds and interacting with people. Playing a game IMO is no comparison to real life. I would never trade the ability to interact with other people for the cheaper option of playing a game.

"Jesus man you need to calm down. go meet some chicks. relax."

I like the way you talk to me as if you know me. It reminds me that people make so many assumptions on the internet and that they are usually wrong.


My only fear is that Steam will catch on, but instead of everyone using Steam, they'll make their own version. In the end every publisher/studio/creator will have a Steam-like app that sits on my computer. Keeping track of which app goes with which game will become cumbersome and I'll delete them all. Now if they are smart and all go with one technology (like Steam), I can see it working for everyone.


From what I've seen over the last week or two, the launch of HL2 has been extremely poorly handled. This has been largely the fault of Steam. Servers have gone down, people have taken days to get their game authenticated. It is all very well to say that 'this is the first test of Steam, so problems should be expected', the reality has been that large numbers of people have been prevented from playing their game immediately due to poor service from Valve. IMHO Valve should have sub-contracted the whole Steam thing to someone who knew what they were doing vis-a-vis secure online distribution. The authentication process should have taken about 2 minutes, and from then on there should have been an easily selectable offline mode that doesn't require some sort of phantom connection to Steam, that simply takes up more time before you can actually play the game. It has been posted elsewhere, that once steam is installed on a pc, anyone can use it by accessing the executable - it will simply log on using the account details it already has. I wonder how many of the 20,000 banned accounts have occurred through this exploit within Steam itself?
While I do applaud Valve for having the guts to go with an online distribution system and reward themselves witha larger amount of the cake, their methodology leaves an immense amount to be desired. How many gamers have been turned off by the trouble they've had with Steam? How many copies of HL2 have been returned due to problems with activation? These are things we are unlikely to find out in a hurry.
Even then, there has been a consistent bug within the game to do with 'sound stuttering' at save and load points. The 'sound-stuttering' issue on the HL2 forum at steampowered.com has had over 400,000 views. As of the other day, for me at least, it would appear that this issue has been solved - but by using 'beta' Ati drivers that get the 'unsigned by microsoft' message come up for them. Hardly an ideal scenario for the average pc gamer, who while normally more savvy than the ordinary home user, shouldn't really be expected to be taking risks with their hardware simply to get a game running.
Within these various issues has been, to me at least, a conspicuous lack of assistance from Valve employees. Before anyone wishes to say to me 'well obviously you've had problems with Steam and are bitter about it' - I haven't personally at all, and I did download through Steam. I seriously doubt that Steam, without large modifications, is the 'way to go' for online content distribution.


Well to be fair think of the sheer number of people trying to use steam for a) loading the game and b) authenticating. Considering almost EVERY PC gamer brought Hl2 because well it's HL2 and a new CS and that appeals to almost everyone. It's probably a bit understandable that some people will have had problems.

I preloaded the game ahead of time, autheticated when the servers went up, never had a problem.

Also the mish mash talk about time to complete game and MMORPGS vs other genres is just silly. Suggesting that all games should be long is like suggesting all movies should be comedies. Some game types have certain lenghts while others have different lengths.

MP2 or Call of Duty would be good examples. They are paced to tell a story (or in CoDs go through a single campaign) without dragging on for long periods of time. Both were 'short' but both also took just the right amount of time to complete without feeling like the game was dragging on. It's all about how long it takes to tell the story while keeping the player interactive.

Also about HL2 not supporting weapon choices I think it does a lot more than HL1 in parts. There is a lot of flexibility afforded to you with the use of the gravity gun and other weapons. It's not as appearent as HL1 was but there's still almost always a good use of the grav gun in any fight (that I've seen so far). Just to provide a spoiler free example (though I can think of better but I'd rather not give anything away) is how you can often use the grav gun and object to have mobile cover keeping you protected while advancing where you want.

If you are reading this site and not playing Hl2 on hard then you're probably robbing yourself of the experience (though maybe some of you are really bad at FPS games... I dunno...). Honestly though if you play games such a HL and the like and don't put the difficulty at a competetive level you're really going to miss out on many gameplay elements that become superfilious because your good aim, comfort with the enviroment (FPS), and movement skills will make a lot of finer elements useless.


Logo - I don't understand that attitude at all. Steam authentication does absolutely bloody nothing for *you*, the player - you've bought the game, you have an absolute right to play it. If it doesn't work FIRST time COMPLETELY transparently you absolutely have a right to complain. Sure, from an ENGINEERING point of view it's obvious that such a system will likely have problems, but that doesn't *excuse* them. If you can't engineer such a system so that it is transparent to your customers you have absolutely no right to expect your customers to just 'grin and bear it'.

Take this, for example - DVD encryption is annoying enough, but can you imagine if the DVD player decided to phone home every time you play a DVD and check it's legal, and if the servers were overloaded you just had to wait? Hey, lots of people want to play DVDs, of course they'll have problems! Just grin and bear it. Would you accept that? Then why will you accept the same for a computer game?


Oh I agree it's no perfect I'm just trying to say I think it wasn't a problem for the majority of people and it was more problematic than other games would be given the highly anticipated nature of the game and the sheer number of people trying to authenticate the game in a short amount of time.

Maybe playing a lot of MMORPGS has given me an overly large patience for this sort of thing, who knows.


Steam just got some problem from an update that stops HL2 from running. Valve has already shut down their forums...

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