The Steam Review

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Prey enters pre-load on Triton

Crossroads for DiStream's system :: June 29th, 2006 :: Other services :: 35 Responses

Triton was quietly released at E3 this year, though as a “soft launch” nothing really changed except the removal of its beta tags and the sale of a handful of disinteresting budget titles. The system is now starting to move into top gear however, with this week’s launch of the Prey pre-load (thanks Sarkie) starting the push.

Prey Triton pre-order
Triton’s interface has undergone improvement, but is still clunky.

Yes, pre-load: DiStream have sensibly followed Valve’s lead and are offering an encrypted download of the game’s content ahead of its July 11 release. Unlike Valve’s solution however, Triton pre-loaders must also be pre-purchasers; the download will not commence without the billing of the user’s credit card. Perhaps this is a bandwidth-saving move, but for my part I believe that it is to ensure that the inevitable system bottlenecks and bugs do not overwhelm Triton during its first public trial. Certainly, it is an approach that improves on the various baptisms of fire weathered by Valve and their systems.

But for all the benefits requesting card details up-front brings, the issue still remains of enticing users to hand them over. When you pre-order a game through Steam the chances are you already have it safe and secure on your system, and that leads to several subtle psychological effects. Are you really going to let it sit there and rot? Why not slap in your 16-digit string and make your time worthwhile? When you have nothing but a handful of screenshots and a PR blurb in reach, making the leap is much harder.

Add to that the fact that most will never have heard of Triton before seeing its logo in the Prey demo’s nag screen, and an interface that, while having being greatly improved from its original incarnation, is still bulky and inefficient, and you have a recipe for low uptake. Despite my knowledge of DiStream and Triton, I too am finding myself somewhat apprehensive of making the purchase, which comes to £27.35 or $49.95.

The price, like Half-Life 2‘s, is similar to that of the game’s retail release, though probably for different reasons. Valve resolved the issue of enticing buyers without undercutting retailers with it’s Bronze, Silver and Gold packages, but with only one game Human Head and DiStream do not have that luxury, piling on yet another obstacle.

Like Valve, DiStream are unlikely to release sales figures. In all but the most extreme of outcomes we will only be able to speculate on the service’s success: right now, it looks like things are tipping towards under-achievement.

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35 Responses to this post:

  1. Tom Edwards Says:

    I would have liked to have done more on this, but tomorrow I leave for a week away. If anyone reading is thinking of doing anything interesting before next Friday…please don’t. 😉

  2. Sarkie Says:

    I was going to have a party but fine it’ll have to wait.

  3. DiSTuRbEd Says:

    Interface is ewwww….I also don’t like having to enter my CC# on their site and let them keep track of it…

  4. boglito Says:

    There are _very_ few games that would make me become a customer of a service with an interface as attrocious as triton’s, but prey is one. I’ll cough up the USD50 shortly, and will probably find out soon enough wether they deserve my support or not. Online distribution is certainly good, and allthough I would have wished prey (and more titles) on steam I suppose competition might be good in the long run.


  5. Andy Simpson Says:

    Ugh, I’m irritated already. At least Steam doesn’t make you sign-up before you’ve even got round to downloading the thing.

    Also, this is convincing me that Steam should have an “anonymous mode”. There’s a whole bunch of stuff on Steam that’s free, like demos, media, and dedicated servers. You shouldn’t have to have an account to be able to get at that stuff.

  6. Andy Simpson Says:

    Ok, impressions: Apparently my driver is out of date. It uses a Virtual Drive system, the same kind that Steam apparently decided wasn’t worth the hassle. Interesting.

    The interface is excruciatingly ugly. The whole brushed metal effect is just hideous. There are no excuses. It’s, to use a cliché, so last century.

    The UI useability is just broken, too. It’s got the same problem pre-update XBL marketplace did: once I’m downloading, I’m stuck on the downloading page unless I cancel the download. Getting UI right is a hard problem, and Triton seem to have failed rather miserably.

    *Sigh* Wonder why they chose Triton rather than Steam for Prey? It makes no sense.

  7. Zips Says:

    I may have opted for this, had it not been cheaper to pre-order a hardcopy from Fry’s Outpost. Even with overnight delivery, it’s still a couple of dollars cheaper.

    Even still, it’s good to see some companies recognize how good a tool a Steam like system is. Though this implementation of it seems a bit wonky.

  8. Tom Edwards Says:

    It uses a Virtual Drive system, the same kind that Steam apparently decided wasn’t worth the hassle.

    That something to do with streaming I think, rather than a filesystem access. Perhaps somebody could investigate the download folder?

  9. Sarkie Says:

    If you are downloading if you cancel or kill the application does it have any sort of CRC checks?
    Does it still download a massive zip file and then unload it?

  10. Andy Simpson Says:

    I *think* the filesystem driver is used to make the application block when it tries to launch a file that hasn’t been downloaded yet.

    Not graceful in the slightest, but better than crashing/weird stuff happening. Marginally.

    I don’t know if the file data is then piped through the virtual driver, which would mean it then suffered the same problems as the Steam one, or it somehow hands the file access back to the native filesystem, incurring no overhead. Too many questions and not enough answers.

    I would say it was a weakness of Triton that it seems to only have one string to its bow, as it were. Programs using the full SteamFS can do things like pre-hinting Steam to grab content early, and do more intelligent things when content isn’t there yet, like going to a progress bar rather than hanging.

  11. Bob Says:

    Wonder why they chose Triton rather than Steam for Prey? It makes no sense.

    Scott Miller’s initial response to Steam was to moan about the prospect of doing business with a direct competitor and to suggest to Valve that Steam would be better spun off to a separate company.

    His most recent comments, though, have focused on Triton’s feature of being able to start playing without a completed download (“within 20-25 minutes of choosing to purchase”, apparently), which he asserts is critical to mass adoption of digital distribution and makes Triton a “next-generation” system”.

  12. ATimson Says:

    And, of course, we’ll ignore that Steam is able to do the same thing if the developers do their jobs right. (You can do it with HL1-engine games easily enough; Source, not so much. :()

  13. Kadayi Says:

    I’m deeply skeptical about the up and playing in ’20-25 minutes’ line.

  14. Andy Simpson Says:

    I really don’t see Scott Miller’s problem. Either Valve’s profiting from his game or a retailer is. Either way he gets his cut.

    Who knows. I’m not even sure he’s competing with Valve. Maybe he’d compete better if he could actually get DNF released.

    If he’d done his research, he would indeed know Steam is capable of the same streaming without a completed download, too.

  15. Royal O'Brien Says:

    Just a heads up.. You may be interested in the new Client… Quickhelp is here:

    and it looks and operates just a ‘tad’ different.

    Network is fully enabled… 32 Gigabit streamer, 48Terabyte CDN assist, no bandwidth caps.

    Oh, and we do not use a virtual filesystem, those are very problematic to say the least.


  16. Andy Simpson Says:

    I just thought about this: so Scott Miller doesn’t mind paying a huge chunk of cash out for the Doom 3 engine to his direct competitor iD, but does mind using Steam from his direct competitor Valve?

  17. Royal O'Brien Says:
  18. boglito Says:

    Looking better there. Any reason my user got deleted? :p


  19. Royal O'Brien Says:

    We flushed out old inactive accounts a couple months ago. So theres a chance it may have been purged. If you sign back up, you should be good to go. I think you’ll be pretty surprised at this client.


  20. Jobye Says:

    I don’t think Canadian (ME) consumers can even purchase anything with Triton. On the website, under billing address, you can’t even input a Province nor a Postal Code and when you put Canada down as your country, it doesn’t change the way of putting in the info. Plus, for the First Name you can’t have a composed name (mine being Jobye-Kyle or Jobye Kyle for my exact c/c info). If the information I provide is abridged or unexact, my c/c will be declined. Seems as though Triton has only been tailored to US consumers up to now… This is dissappointing for me. Nevertheless, I’ve sent in a support e-mail and I hope to receiver a response soon enough.

  21. Jobye Says:

    Thanks for the quickie response by e-mail Royal.

  22. Jobye Says:

    The interface you have shown is from the old client. The new client is much better!

    It looks like this:

    You have to login here:

    Then click Downloads, then click download link to download the new client. It is much better than that ugly older one. Plus is resolves the issue I was having =D.

  23. Andy Simpson Says:

    I go there, and it just points me to the old client!

  24. Andy Simpson Says:

    Oh, or not. Excuse me. It just has the same filename as the old client. For some reason.

  25. ATimson Says:

    Well, the new interface is better. I still like Steam better, but I’d consider using it for Prey if I didn’t want a collector’s edition. 🙂

    I don’t like that the default directory changed, nor that it didn’t autoupdate or recognize my old installations. Little things like that make this still feel like a alpha/beta, not a (supposedly) final product….

  26. Tom Edwards Says:

    Kadayi said:

    I’m deeply skeptical about the up and playing in ’20-25 minutes’ line.

    That’s how long the Prey demo took at 2.5Mb/s.

  27. boglito Says:

    Well, I decided to give triton a chance, and am currently downloading the preload. Information is scarce, and the lack of an official triton-board is somewhat daunting, but USD50 isn’t a big deal anyway. I am in no way happy with direct2drive, so it’s going to be interesting to see if triton will be a more worthy competitor to steam in the longer run. I would definately advice them to get a proper discussion-forum set up. They are going to need it once prey is unlocked.


  28. Royal O'Brien Says:

    Just a heads up. Those that were using the MCE client (blue) will notice an upgrade when they run, and it will be replaced with the new TritonPC UI.

    This was for many reasons, and also made the maintenance much easier for us to manage. There will be a replacement 10 foot version in the near future using the current UI engine. If you are interested in making your own from XML and JPEGs/PNGs, I will post instructions on how to very soon.

    Regarding the support forum, we are also working on it as I am typing this message.


  29. gijoe Says:

    I preordered on triton.
    Watched in agony yesterday as pirates got to play the game before me….

    Today i was able to install prey.. albiet the buttons had no word on them in the handy dandy triton installer..

    got game installed and it wants a serial number..

    WTF???!! There is no serial number! I was never GIVEN a serial number..

    this makes no sense.

  30. boglito Says:

    Hi joe.
    I had the same problem but I found the email in my junk folder. For some reason my emailprovider ( thought it was spam.


  31. gijoe Says:

    No big deal because after un-installing everything i get a 119 error in Triton that says i am not connected to the internet.

    This is a bunch of BS. I’m just going to download the Torrent of it. I already paid for it anyhow.

  32. Maverick Says:

    HumanHead should take note: Steam has it’s fair share of bugs. But it also has a team working around the clock taking every measure to improve it’s quality and usability. With every game that gets released on Steam it gets upgrades to accomodate. No developper can go wrong with Steam, Moral of the story: Go with Steam and show you game off to the 5 million and growing players on the Steam Network. Now with Dark Messiah and the Atari Gamer First program in coming, expect those numbers to exponentiate :).

  33. ATimson Says:

    The choice of Triton may have had more to do with 3D Realms than Human Head. 😉

  34. Maverick Says:

    No doubt about it, however, Valve leaves themselves open for getting contacted by the developers as well. Of course if this is anything like the case involving Vivendi and Steam then complications arise, however Human Head or 3D realms does not care what I think, just stating it would have been intelligent to explore the market before they ventured into it (Market of digital distribution of course, not game developing). Strategy First nailed this one on the head bringing their games to Steam and nearly every other DIgital Distibution Service that’s out there, this also let’s the “Steam Haters” Download their copy in whatever fashion they desire. Of course theoretically if every game from now on is released on Steam then chances are every product you release from then on is then made available and advertised to 100% of the market but this is a discussion involving the effetiveness of Steam and Digital Distribution :).

  35. boglito Says:

    Aaaaaaaaand now apparently Triton is belly-up according to Joe Siegler of 3D-realms. (

    Fairly frustrating for those of us who wanted some friendly competition for steam. At least now we get to see how it is handled when digital distribution ends abruptly. The Triton-crew has gone silent over-night. 3D-realms are looking into it knowing they are well advised to treat their customers like, well, customers, but I doubt all those little games you could get through triton (which I never tried) will receive any backing.