Yesterday the Orange Box was released. It included several games, including Half-Life Episode 1. Reader Trigear already had that, so when he picked up the Orange Box he had two copies. He was able to “give” me one of his copies through Steam. (Thanks Trigear!) In order to get the game I had to renew my relationship with Steam. I’ve been very harsh on the service in the past, but most of that happened three years ago. Time to see how things have changed.
Steam now has a bunch of social stuff: Friend lists, homepages, personal icons, and instant messaging. It looks like they want to turn it into MySpace for Valve customers. Nothing wrong with that, although for an introvert like me the social features have all the practical usefulness as a shiny new pair of rollerskates for Dr. Xavier. One thing it adds is the ability for others to see what games you own and how long you’ve played them. It shares this information without asking and indeed without giving you a way (that I’ve seen) to choose to not share it. I don’t know if this information is available to everyone or just those on your friend list, but the whole thing made me mildly uncomfortable. If it was an option, I might switch it on, but the inability to hide it gives the whole thing a Big Brother kind of vibe that gets firmly lodged in my craw.
Shamus! It took you HOW LONG to beat that game? Man, you suck! I beat it in half that time. On Expert! Using a joystick! While drunk!
Also part of your personal profile is your “Steam Rating”. When I loaded it up it was at “0.2 – teh suck”. I figured this was some sort of rating I gave to Steam in the past as part of a long-forgotten feedback program. I thought it was there to remind me how I’d rated the service, in case I wanted to change it. Then as I played the number went up and I realized that this was not my rating for Steam, but Steam’s appraisal of me. After playing for a few hours my rating is now “3.3 – Shooting Blanks.” Hey Steam: Same to you, buddy!
So in my experience with the new Steam, it started off invading my privacy and followed that with direct personal insults.
Its puerile fanboi attitude aside, Steam is indeed a better service now than when I was first dragged into it. The fact that Trigear was able to “give” me his license for the game is a major concession on their part. It’s not as good as just letting me do as I please with “my” things, but it’s better than similar schemes and moving in the right direction.
I will never love it, but at least the thing isn’t a bother now. Acquiring stuff through Steam is now less of a headache than just pirating* it, so they have that much of it working right. The DRM stays out of the way and is more or less seamless. I do hate to make this concession and accept this sort of thing, but I have to admit that after the recent BioShock / 2KGames debacle Steam looks downright reasonable in comparison. Yes, I know: Thin end of the wedge, boiling a frog, the camel’s nose. Sigh. I know.
* I don’t pirate games, but I’m aware of the process and how it works. It can be a hassle, but if it’s less of a hassle than paying for the game then the publisher is doing something very wrong.
Why Google sucks, and what made me switch to crowdfunding for this site.
Here is a 13 part series where I talk about programming games, programming languages, and programming problems.
Dead or Alive 5 Last Round
I'm not surprised a fighting game has an absurd story. I just can't figure out why they bothered with the story at all.
A stream-of-gameplay review of Dead Island. This game is a cavalcade of bugs and bad design choices.
The Brilliance of Mass Effect
What is "Domino Worldbuilding" and how did it help to make Mass Effect one of the most interesting settings in modern RPGs?