The Steam Review

Comment and discussion on Valve Software’s digital communications platform.

Player statistics return with a vengeance

Every Steam game now listed :: July 17th, 2008 :: General :: 17 Responses (Feed)

Steam’s player statistics were taken down the other week, to a small amount of wailing and teeth gnashing in the forums. Now they’re back, and better than ever.

Because every damn game on Steam is up there.

Valve are tracking the statistics from the Steam client instead of their master servers now, enabling absolutely everyone to be counted: from the one person playing RIP 3 to the 61 enjoying Bioshock. All that’s missing are mods.

There is an additional discovery waiting beyond the realisation that the stats no longer include those playing pirated games. Could that change be behind the precipitous drop of Counter-Strike 1.6, which now trails CS Source by some ten thousand players? It’s been suggested that the massive piracy of the former in Asia was inflating the actual figures of legitimate players — although it’s arguable that they should be included to create a full picture. There’s something for Zeh to ponder over.

We might not have any sales figures, but at least we now have the most accurate and broad set of playing figures in the world!

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Good Old Games!

Upcoming retro gaming service :: July 10th, 2008 :: Other services :: 8 Responses (Feed)

Impulse isn’t inspiring much writing from me at the moment (executive summary: Steam without residency), but CD Projekt’s freshly-announced Good Old Games is another story. Shacknews has the details:

Located at GOG.com and slated to launch in September, the online store will sell DRM-free digital downloads of old-school PC games at $5.99 or $9.99 a pop. A closed public beta will go live on August 1, with the site currently accepting beta applications.

Each game sports full compatibility with Windows XP and Vista, and does not require any sort of online activation. To eliminate compatibility issues, the team has source code access to most games and will be creating custom installers for each title.

Once purchased, a title can be re-downloaded an unlimited number of times, allowing users to install the game on multiple machines.

In addition to retro game downloads, the site will boast a number of community features, including message boards, user reviews and game guides for select titles.

Ohle revealed that LucasArts’ beloved catalog of PC games represents one of the “holy grails” CD Projekt hopes to offer one day. That lineup includes adventure games such as the Monkey Island series, Sam & Max: Freelance Police and Grim Fandango, along with Totally Games’ space combat simulators X-Wing and TIE Fighter.

Good Old Games sample lineupI’ll buy Sacrifice again any day if I saw widescreen support and revitalised online play for my money.

It’s CD Projekt’s commitment to bringing the games up to modern compatibility standards that shines out here. It can’t be inspiring work, setting up compile environments for and crawling around in the guts of decrepit codebases, most of them unique, and for that I salute them!

Further warming the cockles of my heart are the requests from gamers for CD Projekt to partner with Valve and sell GOG’s games through Steam. But as desirable as that is, it’s stretching the money a little thin. Valve would collect the money and pay CD Projekt a cut, who would pay the game’s publishers a cut, who would finally pay the developers a cut (assuming they’re still around).

With GOG’s prices no higher than $10 that’s hardly worth anyone’s effort, not to mention that fact that it goes a long way to re-introducing the tangle of middle men that bogs retail down. CD Projekt could feasibly have taken the role of a consultancy, collecting a one-off fee and/or modest share of revenues for their compatibility work on each game, but that just hasn’t happened — and fair enough.

If you missed it in the quote above, beta sign-ups are being taken at Good Old Games’ site right now.


Cybercafe hacker arrested

June 29th, 2008 :: Events :: 2 Responses (Feed)

Hurrah!

Found via this Steam Forums thread. TSR’s massively-linked post from the time is here.

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The Steamcloud conference

Steam's next few months laid out :: May 31st, 2008 :: Events, Steam Community, Steam updates :: 15 Responses (Feed)

You’re probably all aware of Valve’s recent “Steam and the PC platform in general” press conference — if not, head over to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for a liveblogged rundown of what happened.

Steamcloud is the headline announcement of course, and very good news it is too. But our old friend John Cook also listed a few other upcoming developments: among them automatic driver updates (once again), “Calendar functions” of some sort, and improvements to the sales process that include displaying prices in the user’s local currency. And these:

Official communities

Any developer, anywhere, will be able to start an official Steam Community, er, community for their game. This is the missing keystone of the Community and something I called for as soon as I realised it wasn’t in.

The game pages will presumably surpass the functionality of today’s Groups, not least in the fact that they will have a group of paid-up developer employees behind them. But will they be used? Developers are notorious (on this site, anyway) for passing over Steam’s benefits. On the one hand creating and maintaining a Steam Community community doesn’t require changes to a game’s code and all of the QA red tape that involves, but on the other, as of yet even Valve haven’t done anything with their network besides create and maintain it.
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Valve considering Steam gamepad

Fighting Microsoft's? :: May 14th, 2008 :: General :: 9 Responses (Feed)

IGN interviewed Doug Lombardi at a recent EA press event, and are now reporting Valve’s interest in providing a gamepad peripheral:

Though there are certainly gamepads out there for PC players to use (the Xbox 360 controller, for example), Lombardi states that Valve is very much interested in producing its own. “It’s actually something that, I mean there’s nothing to announce yet, but it’s something we’re definitely looking at. … There’s a lot of games coming out right now on Steam that might be better [with a controller].”

Doug goes on to explain how Valve are “going to start talking to people who specialize in [the area]”, so this news doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be seeing a hardware division at the company any time soon.

I can’t help but wonder why they want their own gamepad in the first place though, given that the Xbox 360 Controller mentioned by IGN (and long owned by myself, I’m happy to say) has already become the de facto standard. What do they hope to achieve that it hasn’t? A trackball, perhaps?

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New website: Steam Report

No relation! :: May 13th, 2008 :: General :: 4 Responses (Feed)
Steam Report logo
Why didn’t I think of that?

England continues to be the epicentre of writing on Steam with the new Steam Report blog, launched last month by John Griffin and Andy Griffiths. There’s a double-act joke in there somewhere.

The site is much more active than TSR (an acronym I can’t use any more), both because the pair elect to post the contents of the official Steam news feed as well as their own content, and because, well, they have content. The majority is coverage of the games that happen to be on Steam, but there’s a growing Editorials category too.

Best of luck, lads!