The Steam Review

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Bioshock’s eventful retail release

Steam can still help :: August 23rd, 2007 :: Events, New products :: 25 Responses
Bioshock PC box art
Steam bypasses only a few of the activation issues with Bioshock retail.

You may be forgiven for feeling a touch of déjà vu this week. A cutting-edge single-player game hailed as the greatest ever made has been released on an unprepared online authentication system that insists on downloading updates as well as authentication data before making the game available, and buyers confounded by technical issues and server failures are complaining furiously.

Adding to Bioshock’s woes is an unadvertised two-instance install limit (now up to five) which requires users to uninstall the game while connected to the internet to release each so-called “installation key”. Make the mistake of wiping or throwing away a drive before uninstalling Bioshock twice, and like Windows’ activation scheme you need to ask a human for additional licenses.

I’m not gloating about all this: 2K risked their incredibly important release with an unbaptised activation system for the same reasons they had to artificially price the game higher on Steam than in shops, and most of the authentication system is also present in Steam copies of the game. I’m instead asking why Steam is not being used, even without being present in retail copies, to ease the deactivation issue.

A Proposal

SecuROM‘s authentication technology should allow Steam buyers to activate or deactivate their computers not to play Bioshock, but to play it offline. The same technology that detects when the game is installed and uninstalled can surely detect when it is launched and closed, and combined with Steam’s persistent connection has the capability to limit the need to take an installation key to those who want to play without a connection.

Done right this introduces no lapses in security, and hopefully keeps retailers happy (not that they can do anything about it). It’s an ideal solution that requires only for SecuROM to integrate their activation technology into the Steam client, but will it happen? I think both Valve and 2K have every reason to build such a system at the first chance they had, leaving to my mind any scheme a question purely of SecuROM’s dedication to clients and customers.

25 Responses to this post:


  1. Tom Edwards Says:

    Of course, we’ve already heard the best solution to this ENTIRE issue…

    (I’ve also heard that Bioshock is still not cracked. I’m not willing to spend the time finding out if this is true; can anyone confirm?)

  2. Ortzinator Says:

    It’s been cracked on the 360 but not on the PC.

  3. garry Says:

    Seems like a perfect example of how not to release a game..

  4. Cargo Cult Says:


  5. Cargo Cult Says:


  6. Tom Edwards Says:

    The error was Valve’s fault. Quite why the EU version should have problems at that level after the US version’s release I don’t know.

  7. Andy Simpson Says:

    I’m glad I got this one from Amazon. Cheaper than Steam, and I’ve been playing it solidly since it came through the post this morning. Steam’s great and all, but it’s really being hurt by the arbitrary restrictions imposed by retail.

    Which is the point, I suppose.

  8. Cargo Cult Says:

    Well, I appeared to be missing something – namely, the voice of Atlas. So I verified and re-whatsited my data files, and now it’s re-downloading oodles more data. And I seriously mean oodles – it’s currently at 85%…


    (N.B.: Any future comments contained the above link will most likely contain spoilers. Be warned!)

  9. garry Says:

    Oh I think I’m missing that too. I kept pressing T to play the diary messages but nothing was happening.

    Doh, I’ve just played a big chunk of it and I guess I missed the majority of the story and atmosphere.

  10. Tom Edwards Says:

    Did either of you get the second chunk of the pre-load? 85% is about what it set the progress bar back to when Valve released it.

  11. Cargo Cult Says:

    I got the second preload thingy earlier in the week – I think it re-downloaded a similar-sized chunk of data then too.


    As for the game, it really is System Shock 2, reinvented. The similarities are pretty impressive.

  12. garry Says:

    I don’t think I got the second chunk. When it unlocked it just decrypted and I played it. When were you meant to get the second chunk?

  13. Tom Edwards Says:

    Two or three days ago.

  14. demm Says:

    A friend and I both got the second pre-load part, but we both had to verify the game cache and it set us back to about 85%.
    Honestly I can’t understand how this could happen. Neither Steam nor the game cares if data is missing… wth?

    At least we didn’t get the crappy copy protection here in the EU!

  15. Tom Edwards Says:

    [quote comment=”3475″]At least we didn’t get the crappy copy protection here in the EU![/quote]

    It must be really crappy, because you did get it but you didn’t notice. 😉

  16. garry Says:

    Just vefified the cache and now I’m down to 80% again. Doh.

  17. ATimson Says:

    [quote comment=”3475″]A friend and I both got the second pre-load part, but we both had to verify the game cache and it set us back to about 85%.
    Honestly I can’t understand how this could happen. Neither Steam nor the game cares if data is missing… wth?[/quote]
    The game is doing the smart thing, and continuing as best it can (though it’s probably throwing errors to the console and log files).

    Steam, on the other hand, should have noticed. That’s, well, not good that it didn’t.

  18. demm Says:

    [quote comment=”3476″]
    It must be really crappy, because you did get it but you didn’t notice. ;-)[/quote]
    A little thing called sarcasm… I guess I should be more careful with what I type. 😉

  19. Tom Edwards Says:

    Finished! A truly excellent twenty-four hours of game. 🙂

  20. Andy Says:

    Great game, last night when I went to play AVG called Bioshock a virus and deleted the main .exe file.

    I had to uninstall AVG, install Avast and reinstall the game. I guess the latest AVG update makes it think that Bioshock is a virus.

    Otherwise, great game.

  21. Kapitein Iglo Says: ?! Same placeholder as the one for

    Anyway, when can we expect the steamreview group? I’ve been waiting for it 🙂

  22. toto952 Says:

    Actually, when you uninstall the game, at least on the DVD version, you do not get one “activation credit” back. It is unclear what happens when you clear the Steam cache of this game.

    Moreover, at least on the DVD version, if you use the game on a machine with multiple accounts, it will consume one activation credit per user.

    A few days after release, Take 2 has promised to release a “revoke tool”, but nobody now when it will be available, and it’s not clear how it will work and it will really solve all problems. The lead dev also promise that the online activation may be removed at some points in the future but he also admitted at the same time that he has no decision power on those kind of issue.

    At least, Valve had the decency to had a (small) notice on the product page about the install limit, but it somehow ruins the credibility of the “one account, play anywhere” promise which is the foundation of Steam (and which has never been guaranteed in the Steam Subscriber Agreement by the way).

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