Steam, Valve and Trial by Fire


Steam will come out of beta Wednesday, just in time for the launch of Half-Life 2. It's also rather timely for the original Half-Life, as a patch in the near future will require use of Steam to play Half-Life online, replacing the WonID system the game has used since it's release. You have to wonder if like every massive online gaming service that has ran before it, Steam will crash and burn when people actually start using it. Sure it's had a lengthy beta but thats a pittance compared to the stress the servers will face once it becomes required.

That's not what I find to be interesting speculation however. After all, bandwidth problems can all be eventually solved with money and time. Valve has plenty of both. What I do find interesting is this, Steam is much more powerful and complex than a simple WonID/CDkey based system. Steam can deliver only parts of the game at a time letting you load only what you need while downloading the rest later, keep track of your progress remotely and give you instant access to anything Valve publishes over Steam. What most people don't seem to realize is that it can also refuse to do these things. What happens when Steam tells you no? Surely it won't do that, right?Now as I reach for my tinfoil hat I realize how you're all probably looking at me right now, through some government orbital cameras that are in use by the Illuminati. You've also got this expression on your face that goes something like Â"He's finally snapped, call the straitjacket patrol.Â" However before they take me away I'd just like you to keep two things in mind, this is all speculation with a hefty portion of paranoia and I snapped a long time ago.

With that out of the way and my mind secured from invasion by my trusty tinfoil hat, let's figure out exactly what this means. From the Steam FAQ, Â"Communicating with the Steam backend servers, digital rights management allow access to subscription (pay or free) content while at the same time ensuring the user always has current content.Â" While not exactly free of typos the sentence highlights my point. Digital Rights Management, the bane of the computing world, is going to become required to play Half-Life or Half-Life 2. That's the real dilemma and the reason most people I know aren't to keen on buying Half-Life 2 from Steam, there's no guarantee they won't revoke your rights.

Before they could simply ban your CD key, keeping you from playing online. The CD Key was stored in your registry though, you had control over it. If some jackass from your local LAN party hijacked your CD key you could always find another one online and use that (not that I'm advocating that, not at all :). The point still remains that control over your rights to access Half-Life resided on your hard drive, soon it won't. Valve will decide when and what you can access. It can even control single-player content, all from behind their comfy server administrator panels. Using their anti-cheat software they can even control what other programs are running in the background. There's a saying in computer security that goes Â"If there is something on your computer that you can't access and someone else can, it is no longer your computer.Â"

So this is the real trial by fire, at least to me. What will Valve do with all this power? Valve up until this point has been one of the most generous developers out there, right up with Epic and their endless Unreal Tournament addons. Their SDK and mod support is top notch, in fact most of their profits can arguably be attributed to fan created content. Valve treats their community pretty well all things considered, they could charge everybody for the mod SDK at this point and still make a profit with Half-Life 2, or charge everybody who wants to play a mod. Now with Steam, they actually can. Valve practically invented the business model of charging for mods at retail, who's to say they won't try it over Steam?

In the end it really comes down to trust. Do you trust Valve to not screw you? As I've said in several speeches made to my dog while we were hiding from the government mind control beams, Digital Rights Management is a technology ripe for abuse that only works if it's not abused. For every Apple iTunes store there are 30 BuyMusic.coms. DRM has a horrible track record of benevolent enforcement with other media. However Valve has a great track record with regards to community. They treat their fans well and give all kinds of content away, if any developer can pull this off it's them. Really though, it's about trust. Who do you trust?



I don't think you're insane. At least not because of this post, and I don't have enough data on the rest of your behavior. There's no reason for Valve to have put the resources into developing Steam that it has unless there was a potential for profit somewhere. Maybe they can save some money on packaging with on-line distribution, but at a guess that's not a big enough motivation. Unlimited options for charging your users, however, are. Especially with a game like Half-Life 2 that 95% of all PC gamers will want to own.

And how much longer until I'm no longer a freakin' mail boy?

I don't know, all I know is that comments on the front page don't count towards your posts because postnuke comments suck. It's one of the few things on the site we haven't fixed yet. Yet.

Just a nitpick, but isn't it straight-jacket?

Always, ALWAYS, assume every corporation is trying to do one thing - make money.  If that involves screwing you over, oh well.  I don't see how Steam can make Valve money except one of two ways - 1. Subscriptions (tangible) or 2. Cheat protection so more people will buy with warm and fuzzies (intangible PR).  

Based on the comments I saw somewhere else about Valve pushing subscriptions for people who want expansions, I would go with number 1.

As much as we all hate it, we all know that subscription-based software is the model of the future. That being said, I would much prefer Valve proving out the model than, say, SOE or Microsoft. I think that the biggest hurdle Valve needs to overcome is simple demographics. Isn't roughly 60-80% of the USA still on Dial-Up? It will be interesting to see what goodies they will offer those of us who are able to subscribe.

Okay fellow haxors!

Yes I have legit copies of XP, all games. Yes I have it all shut down all services off and all my games are cracked why?  They belong to me that's why.

U wanna check on me Good freaking luck getting thru my spoofer now if your

the FBI,CIA or something yea I imagine if your determined you'll slice right thru there.  If your Valve got news not gonna happen and frankly, not that big a deal.

Try as they may back door spyware is fixed fast over here but I must say the Gamespy stuff had me calling in the experts over at 2600 to kill the spyware

yet keep me playing MOH took a freaking week but we got it!

Wanna sell me a t-shirt? STICKY I think is the marketing term...gamers hate that sh*t but love how we kill this stuff ban together solve the problem.  Don't build biz models make games and leave the Microsoft tactics to Billly G!

I hope this is'nt as big a pain as it's sounding like!


I don't know, I didn't understand a word you said? Honestly can you rephrase this, please?

"subscription-based software is the model of the future"

Only because software companies are telling us it is.  Which, by the way, I think is a total farce.  Sure, software companies *want* a subscription model to become the norm; they rake in more money while users are unaware of the total cost of ownership of their games going through the roof.  Compared to movies, games already make a lot more money per sale (fifty bucks versus 12), and countless reports have shown how powerful a force the gaming industry has become.  I view this push for subscription models as an attempt to strike while the iron's hot and shift our perception of how a game's content should be viewed while the genre is still young in the mainstream.  They want us to think newspapers and magazines, I still compare games to movies.  And if I buy a movie on DVD, I don't want to have to pay to have it in my DVD player each month. 

Gute Morgen:

Langsam Bitte:

Try This: Ripped from Gome Gold:


Brian Whalen (Muad Dib) sent me an interesting e-mail with his thoughts about Steam. He said that it will go far beyond reducing the role of publishers--Valve will actually become a publisher, and they could use the same distribution model for the games of other developers. That's an excellent point. Gathering of Developers tried to break off on their own a few years ago, but they were still using a conventional distribution model. I like Valve's chances this time because they have a distribution mechanism to allow them to break away.

I think it's a bad idea loaded with junk that will mess up your computer and cause





Basically I think he's saying that as long as he controls the OS there's no way Valve is going to tell him what to do. The problem with that is now that they can shut you off at the server, the server you have to authenticate with in order to play. Exercising your fair use rights has become ridiculously harder. You'll basically have to hack Steam out of the game, which is a much more complicated process than removing SafeDisc since the game is designed around Steam.

Chris:Brian Whalen (Muad Dib) schickte mir eine interessante E-mail mit seinen Gedanken über Dampf. Er sagte, daß es über dem Verringern der Rolle der Verleger hinaus weit geht -- Ventil steht wirklich einem Verleger, und sie konnten das gleiche Verteilung Modell für die Spiele anderer Entwickler benutzen. Der ist ein ausgezeichneter Punkt. Vor Versammlung der Entwickler versuchte, auf ihren Selbst einigen Jahren abzubrechen, aber sie benutzten noch ein herkömmliches Verteilung Modell. Ich mag Wahrscheinlichkeiten des Ventils dieses mal, weil sie eine Verteilung Einheit haben, zum sie weg brechen zu lassen. Ich denke sie bin eine schlechte Idee, die mit Trödel geladen wird, der herauf Ihren Computer und Ursache verwirrt Probleme!

You just gotta love Babelfish

thanks for clearing this up. I agree with Pyro on this issue, especially as soon as Palladium or whatever it is called arrives.

To be fair here, your assessment of the software industry has a big gaping hole in it: piracy.  In the US, and moreso in other countries, software companies are losing lots and lots of money to piracy.  Many copy protection methods have been tried, all have failed.  So now the last resort of the industry is to keep the software on their computers.  This has the benefits of stopping piracy (hopefully) and providing a more robust infrastructure for applying patches.


Given all that, I still find Steam extremely worrying because I don't trust these companies, but one has to appreciate the situation software companies are in.

In other words, Valve is planning to create a whole AOL experience thing out of Steam.

But, while we're on a related subject, HL2 ain't gonna ship on September 30 anyway, Steam or otherwise. So, there.

Your assertion would suggest that movie piracy isn't rampant, in the US and in foreign countries.  This couldn't be farther from the truth:

Yet, they still manage to turn enormous profits at a lower price point. 



Born in Bingen but yea i used balefish LOL!



Sort of. 'Straightjacket' is a neologism from the original 'straitjacket.'

Regarding Steam and DRM - my pride and joy is my extensive software collection. When I buy a game, it stays purchased until death do us part. No as-and-when downloading for me in the near future.