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FiOS Grand Tournament: nothing happens

Playlinc client releases with no integration :: June 27th, 2006 :: Events :: 10 Responses (Feed)

To the public, the Steam API currently consists of metadata for mod teams. A “future” Source SDK update will extend it with a Friends SDK for chat plug-ins, but any frameworks for plug-ins to Steam itself remain shrouded. Which made the announcement that the joint CAL-Verizon FiOS Grand Tournament was to be managed through a third party client distributed through Steam, Playlinc, of great interest. What would Playlinc’s “new tricks” be? What would Verizon do to tap Steam’s potential?

The answer to that last question, we now know, is absolutely nothing.

This isn’t as unreasonable as it might seem. Although the chasm that exists between Steam and Playlinc extends to ludicrous extremes, to the point at which tournament members are required to enter manually the results of each match, even when each one takes place on tournament servers, and at which to use the client in the first place one must hold an ICQ or AIM account, there are several factors which could be preventing greater integration, and several more that probably are.

Foremost, Playlinc is an implementation of Orion, which was likely never designed with integration with anything but games in mind. Equally, Steam inflexibilities cannot be ruled out – perhaps a plug-in framework was to be written for the tournament but was not finalised in time. We certainly know what Friends only left its extended beta at the end of May. These things do not excuse the lack of server stat logging, but, in addition to Playlinc’s future as a standalone client, would explain why so much potential has been sidestepped. While it appears ridiculous to demand the use of an external chat service when an internal one is already available and, crucially, extends in-game, it would seem that Verizon have a solid set of excuses.

Elsewhere in the tournament, integration has been more successful. Online events are usually severely limited affairs requiring dedicated clans and strict timetables, and it is only digital distribution and Steam that has allowed FiOS Grand to open itself up to anyone who felt like entering, even if they did not own the game. Playlinc itself allows the dynamic launching of secure servers on Verizon’s hardware, its key feature in fact, rounding off the coupling.

Perhaps the most important piece of wisdom we can take away from FiOS is that it has given concept of plug-ins a boost, no matter how minor it may or may not be. Next time the situation will hopefully be more pliable, and in all likelihood the relevant parts of the Steam API better established. Then we’ll see what can really be achieved.


10 Responses to this post:

0 Comments

  1. Andy Simpson Says:

    Calling the mod metadata stuff an API is kinda innacurate, and real, code-based APIs are still thin on the ground. Publically, Steam exposes almost nothing. Heck, the main way to view files inside a GCF is *still* using a viewer that’s based on reverse-engineering the file format.

    That’s pretty weak. To be honest though, I can’t see it changing at any point. Whilst it would be kinda interesting to see what people would do given integration points into Steam, I can’t see it happening.

  2. Tom Edwards Says:

    Calling the mod metadata stuff an API is kinda innacurate, and real, code-based APIs are still thin on the ground.

    That was what I was trying to imply. I’m still the optimist though. 🙂

  3. wizpig64 Says:

    what exactly would a steam plugin plug into? unless you mean simply reporting match results to the server, then i would understand.

  4. Tom Edwards Says:
  5. wizpig64 Says:

    cool thanks

  6. Jason Henderson Says:

    Man, thanks for the coverage– to let you in on background, we absolutely want to get PlayLinc more integrated with STEAM. This makes total sense because there are more complements to the two platforms than competition; PlayLinc is at its core a method of launching multiplayer titles, especially on dynamic servers, whereas STEAM focuses on distribution and server browsing. But the beta is not there yet; for the tournament we just needed it to successfully let people fire off their HL2DM servers. Thankfully it did that– you’ll note that PlayLinc does know you have STEAM and fires off STEAM to launch the title at the same time it fires off the server.

    -Jay

    Jason Henderson
    Games Product Manager
    Verizon

  7. Tom Edwards Says:

    I’ll keep an eye out. Thanks for dropping by.

  8. The MAZZTer Says:

    I signed up for the FiOS tourney thing but in the end I didn’t participate… they kept having to push the starting date back and back… when the PlayLinc client DID work, it worked for other people but not for me… lobbies were empty, although others swore they were bursting. And then there was the unexplainable inexcusable issue where I could see all my AIM contacts EXCEPT FOR THE ONE I NEEDED TO INVITE TO MY GAME and vice versa!

  9. Mister Chef Says:

    I didn’t play in the tournament but I did follow it closely. Like MAZZTer said, there were a lot of little problems but hopefully it was a good learning experience for all parties involved. With better integration, PlayLinc and Steam can offer end users a very attractive interface for organized play. CAL seems to be committed to running at least one more HL2DM tournament before the year is out and hopefully things will go much more smoothly next time around.

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