Tobold's Blog
Saturday, March 07, 2009
 
Steam

I know that everything that smells of copy protection isn't very popular on the internet. But the more I use it, the more I like Steam as a way to buy games. I'm currently download Empire: Total War from Steam, I got Call of Duty 2 from Steam, plus a couple of casual and indie games. Without Steam I never would have found the strange wonder that is Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble! (and no, that is not the title of a porn movie). Now I'm not saying Steam is perfect, for example the download speed could be higher (I'm reaching 200 KB/s on a 6 MB ADSL line). But the fact that I need to be online to download or activate some games doesn't bother me at all. Hey, I need to be online to play WoW too!

As copy protection systems go, this is as unobstrusive as it gets. And when I get my new computer next week, I can easily reinstall all the games I bought on Steam without having to hunt for the discs. As long as the only thing copy protection does is well, preventing copies, I'm okay with it.
Comments:
Is there any real community in there? I find it attractive because of the multi-player aspect. It seems to be a way to find groups of people who want to play some of the more interesting non-FPS, non-twich, non-MMO games. I'd love to find a way to play some of the classics like Civ amongst groups of people who genuinely know and like the game. But I must admit I've become a bit pessimistic about finding such communities online...
 
I agree with you, Tobold. At least for the time being.

There are a minimal number of platforms that will play the games that people buy. The market is not like the music industry where the CD you bought might be played on several different machines through out its lifespan. However, the game industry is slowly embracing that model in the form of backwards compatibility. If I remember correctly, the PS3 plays the entire Playstation catalog from year one. Nintendo has worked around its multiple cartridge formats by slowly offering downloads of its back catalog and have made those games playable on the Wii.

In the above instances, I would rather have the ability to transfer an old game from outdated hardware to current hardware at my own leisure. Just like I can copy music from a vinyl or cassette to CD.

Just to play devil's advocate, what if, after purchasing a game from Steam, you wanted to store that game onto a disk? Maybe you're going on a trip where you will have limited internet access but you will be able to play off-line games? You've already paid for the game, can you actually play it offline when purchased from Steam? What if you have a Steam game on a PC but on your trip you can only bring your laptop, can you transfer the game from the PC to the laptop? Can you download the game on more than one machine at a time?

I purchased Portal from Steam but never thought to look this far into the security. In fact, I didn't even know there was a security feature until well after a year of the purchase. I just wanted to play the game...
 
@hound -
Steam can be run in offline mode, which allows you access to nearly every game, bar a few multiplayer-only ones.
You can "backup" your game, take it to a different computer and then run the backup.exe to install it.
You can transfer the games from PC to laptop by installing steam, then copying your "Steamapps" folder to the laptop's steam install directory. You can only be logged into steam from one location at a time, but that's easy enough as a minor security feature.

Steam truly is a great system.
 
I really enjoy Steam as well. And Gabe Newell's (founder of Valve) thoughts on piracy really make me think they are going in the right direction and he is one of the only ones in the industry that "gets it". He basically acknowledges that in many cases pirating the game is faster and easier than buying it. The pirates are providing a better service. So his solution is to provide a better service than the pirates.

He also believes in variable pricing:

“Last weekend, we decided to do an experiment,” he says, referring to this past weekend’s Left 4 Dead sale, which brought the game down to $24.99 through Steam – sales rose 3000 percent, and revenue far eclipsed the game’s sales during its launch window.

I bought Left4Dead during this sale, and also recently bought Lost Planet and World of Goo through Steam when both games dropped to $4.99 for only a weekend each. I have bought more games from Steam in the past 3 months than I've probably bought in a year and a half from other sources, because I don't feel like I'm being screwed by making an effort to purchase the game legitimately.
 
I really do love steam. It's the least intrusive copy protection out there, other companies REALLY need to take a page out of their book. I am one of those people that really resists copy protection based on principle, and have refused to buy certain games after learning how they go about the protection in the past. But I don't mind steam in the least. I've never felt like I am renting games from Steam. I can (and have) transferred between computers before, I've reformatted and reinstalled, and I have the freedom to even share my games with any friends if I wish (Just can't play at the same time, but that is reasonable).

It is a bit of a pain to have to redownload all your games when you switch computers. A HUGE pain to not have the CDs with that. But then again...you don't really have to. You can transfer the data and sign in with your account and, bam, all your games will work when they realize everything is fine. So the biggest problem isn't a problem at all.

That being said, the frequent and good deals drain my bank accounts sometimes...I have about 7 games I played once or twice and then just stopped playing completely. I only got them because steam blares their "HEY YOU! THIS GAME IS LUDICROUSLY PERCENT OFF! YOU WOULD HAVE TO HAVE SUBHUMAN INTELLIGENCE TO NOT PURCHASE THIS!" all the time...Damn you steam, I already have bioshock, why did you convince me to buy it for $10? Dick...

Anyway. Tobold, you really need to give TF2 a try. I guarantee you will have more fun with it than any other shooter.
 
Oh god dammit Derek, I just dropped $5 on world of goo now. I hate you.
 
http://store.steampowered.com/app/1520/ is my personal favorite on Steam.
 
I really do love Steam, but the whole 1€=1$ is awful. The pricing of games on Steam here in europe is horrible. I wanted to buy Empire Total War on the release day but by doing that I would have paid around 10€ more than going to my local store. Guess what I ended up doing? Well it didn't involve spending extra money for a game without manual, discs and such.
There's a group created in protest against this in Steam with almost 18k members at the moment. If you want to join here's the link: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/1e1us
 
Steams download speed differs quite alot depending on which random content server you get connected to. Yesterday i installed UT3 and it downloaded with 1,8MB/s (usually only get around half that).
 
Steam has indeed some advantages. I also like Stardock's Impulse.

But it has drawbacks. Especially for single player games, you cannot re-sell them. You are still required to run steam to play an offline game, not really good.

I think Sins of a Solar Empire does it better on Impulse. They are shrewd, if you buy all micro expansions they planned, you pay even more money than the usual 40-50 bucks...^^

Regarding Empire: Total War.
I have followed the entire series from the beginning, and except the better Sieges the best tactics and challenge was playing Medieval 1. You can set the game to hard of course, but it just gives the AI some defense and attack advantages and more resources, it does not get smarter at all.

Despite the stunning looks, I hate the loading times and the slow camera - and I really have a fast system. The diplomacy system is more complex, which is not really much of a problem as it was horrible in all Total War games so far. Nations still declare war for unknown reasons now and then, even if they are far behind me in military power.

The new "Age of Rifles" strategies are really good, but combat is still too fast, too cinematic, almost predetermined results. The interface got improved considerably, on the other hand.

Sieges are basically not existant, as the AI places artillery outside in the woods or scatters troops around in small villages, not in the fortress. Thanks god you are not able to round up all enemy troops after another with just one cavalry, player losses are significantly higher than in the previous games.

Bottom line, for some reason I cannot get excited about the game. I really adore King's Bounty, I cannot tell you what's wrong with ETW, but I just do not like it. I will comment on naval combat later on, it looks good, plays a bit like Sid Meier'S Pirates. You have to keep the winds in mind when maneuvering.
 
One drawback is that all your games are tied to an a single account, so if someone else gets into your account and mucks about with it you get flagged as a cheater for all of your purchased multiplayer steam games. Getting something like this rescinded is very difficult (This happened to a friend of mine).

Valve also takes no responsibility for a game not working. You have no consumer protections, you cannot return a game. If you dispute this with your credit card company they will flag your account as being compromised and shut it down. This means losing access to all purchased games (This happened to me).

I've found Steam to be a great service, but that Valve's *customer service* and policies on the back end leave a lot to be desired.
 
I love Steam too.
Also I've noticed how in some countries is hard to find PC games in retail shops. Even the specialized ones.

And many titles even don't arrive on the shelves or are withdrawn quickly so you can't buy something that is a couple month old. How often you get to know of a good title just speaking with a friend at the bar? Or how often you don't have time to play a game now, but may be sometime in the future you will?

Also for DRM, Steam is a good compromise. You can play offline, you can backup your titles if you don't want to download them again. And software for DRM checks aren't installed as system drivers messing with your system.

No limitation on how often you can reinstall or re-download titles you bought are also essential....

I don't say that Steam is perfect, but I do love it :)
 
I can't believe how many Steam supporters there are out there now! Does anyone remember the pitch forks and life threats when Valve first started Steam? It certainly was not as well received as it is today. Steam is awesome and seems to only be getting better. It has gone beyond the "buy a game from us" that Direct2Drive is and I have to commend them for that. Steam is a community and is even adding an achievement system that I think will be huge if they continue to develop it. As the others mentioned above, the sales are great and you can get great games for a great price if you keep your eye out. Right now you can pick up UT3 for 12 bucks!

Considering Steam probably could have done just fine by offering games for download, I am very pleased with the community features they have added. The downside, as others have mentioned, is that you can't resell individual games. This is true but I haven't really sold any games so it hasn't bugged me too much. One thing that is a huge upside to me though, is that it keeps track of all the games you buy on there. I just recently reinstalled a copy of counter-strike that I bought but havent played in years. If I had to find the disk I would be in trouble but it was waiting right there for me on Steam.

It works great and I hope more copy them...or better yet, I just want Steam to capture more titles. If Steam has everything I want to play then I don't have to mess with any BS DRM and can be apart of a community that isn't game dependent!
 
Tobold. are you enjoying Dangerous High School Girls? It is intriguing me, with its classic look and promised different style of play. Is it worth a look, or do you think you will drop it fairly quickly?
 
Something else worth noting about Steam is their introduction of their Steam Cloud service. The idea, though not fully implemented yet, is that all your settings and save games will be uploaded to their servers. So that when you go to reinstall your games on your new computer, all your keymappings and save games will be there too. Now THAT is worth spending money for!
 
Looking at it from an economic perspective, if all Publishers only offer a steam-type of platform to sell their games, what would all the wholesalers and game shops do?
 
Yup I love Steam too although I don't really understand why "new releases" are generally more expensive on Steam than in bricks and mortar shops. Hopefully Valve's successful experiments with discounting and sales will lead to lower prices generally (in case you missed it, Gabe Newell recently talked about Valves sales and how they discovered that discounting prices is a big win for them in terms of sales revenue).

Mind you this wasn't love at first sight. Back in the days of Half Life 2 I was still in 56k modem land and I was not impressed that I had to download umpteen megabytes of patches over Steam before I could play the game. For the first few weeks until the game settled down I generally had to allow 30 minutes to an hour of patching before I could start playing.
 
@mdp
Steam game can be a bit more expensive at release because prices are set by publishers.
And publishers don't want to go against "bricks and mortar shops". They still sell a lot and give "visibility" of games for a few weeks until shelve space is used for other titles.

@gadget
Same thing is happening to DVD's rental with online services. just like Netflix, iTunes, XBox360 live rental service and so on.
 
The only thing that bugs me about Steam is that it takes a while to load each game - as opposed to the retail or pirated version.
 
Steam will never see another penny from me. One day, I suffered an internet outage. This was bad, because I was deeply deeply addicted to WoW at the time. Desperate for something to do, I thought "I know! I'll play Half-life 2 again!" I'd bought it on release, quite enthusiastic about Steam at that time since it was cheaper and more convenient than buying a box at an Australian game shop.

No dice. Could not start it up without an internet connection. Sorry mate, your single-player game that you paid good money for is a coaster until your internet is fixed.

I know it's allegedly possible to play some single-player Steam games offline, Half-life 2 isn't one of them. Or if it is now, it certainly wasn't a couple of years ago when this happened.

So having been burned once by Valve's shoddy "broken-by-design" product, I'll never buy another game from them.
 
I enjoy using steam, it's a very easy system with a copy protection system that's not standing in the way.

My major problem with Steam is its pricing model. For starters, us Europeans are getting ripped of. A 1 dollar = 1 euro price conversion? We're paying 25% more for our games! The games are more expensive then I can buy them from play.com. And that comes with a box and printed manual while from steam I'm just getting bits and bytes. A downloadable version should be 10% cheaper then a boxed version, then I'd buy more games from steam.

But I do enjoy the weekend deals. Although seeing World of goo for €5 while I paid €20 does feel like being ripped of again... Their advice seems to be to never buy at full price?
 
I enjoy Steam, but for some reason it would NOT connect last night. After trying everything but the kitchen sink (re-install of Steam and games) nothing worked! I'll probably play with it some more tonight, but it's cases like that I don't like =/
 
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