Steam now reporting client statistics
Eurogamer’s excellent interview with Valve yesterday (mild Episode Two spoilers) has thrown up the long-overdue news that Steam is, at last, being used as an automated upload tool for data as diverse as the weapons we use in Episode One to crash reports and, as last week’s update news suggested, the fragmentation of our GCFs.
One thing we’re going to do with Episode One is extending [playtesting] out to all of the people. Rather than having hundreds of playtesters, there are eight million Steam accounts right now, so we’ll have eight million playtesters. [Steam] tells us which weapons they’re using, so we can say “they’re not using this weapon, why not?”, here’s where people are getting stuck “huh, ok, they’re not supposed to be stuck here”. Here’s the stuff they like, here’s the stuff they don’t like.
Rather than having internal guesses as to what’s going on we’re going to really see how customers play, and really see what’s determining performance in customer’s hands, and that’s going to be big stuff for us.
While server stats have been reported for some time, the principle of client feedback, first suggested by Ritual Entertainment for Sin Episodes: Emergence, is relatively new. Ritual made some use use of the idea, but Valve have taken it a step further, and so far with great results.
The community’s reaction may not be so positive, however. Gabe’s claim that he receives a notification on his desktop every time a copy of Episode One crashes somewhere in the world is either reassuring or sinister depending on your viewpoint, and one noticeable absence from Valve’s implementation is any notification of its existence, let alone a mechanism with which to opt out of it.
But as the general lack of player uproar over Blizzard’s ‘Warden’ anti-cheat tool shows, gamers are accepting of a certain level of ‘intrusion’ if its benefits are clear. With results as visible as defrag tools and data as generic as crash dumps, I would wager that Valve are on safe ground.