Steam Powered

OK. So I'll attempt to gather up my thoughts on this issue, and will manually move responses meant for this topic here. It'll be somewhat chaotic, but then what in life isn't?

If you've been living under a rock, Steam is an online content delivery system for PC games, among other things. Normally I pay zero attention to this sort of thing as I buy all of my stuff retail. I get my nice shiny disc, a decent manual, and usually a cool box to put on the shelf. Thus far I've not had any reason to even care that services like Steam exist.

Up until Fallout 3, I had little reason to change this opinion. That is until all of the DLC for Fallout 3 was being made available via XBox Live. Since I don't own an XBox, I saw little if any reason to have to deal with the hassles of an XBox.

If you've read my Dragon Age:Origins review here, you'll notice that I mentioned a disturbing trend in the gaming world where companies are leaning more and more toward online content delivery. DLCs for Dragon Age can only be obtained this way. While I object to it, they haven't done any DLCs that have been of sufficient quality to make me want to download them. Especially after I was thoroughly gipped by Warden's Keep. I won't be wasting the time on the others especially since I'd be forced to by "Bioware points" which are nothing more than disguised versions of XBox points.

Unfortunately, my reasons for not giving a crap have now been shattered by Bethesda's recent announcement (albeit in blog comments) that Steam will be a required component even for the retail purchase of Fallout: New Vegas. Yep, G. Staff himself (the community manager for Bethesda) confirmed publicly that you will require Steam in order to activate New Vegas before being able to play it. They went on to say that you won't require Steam beyond that, but the fact that I need it at all is highly objectionable to me. At least EA handled their stuff in house and didn't require unwanted 3rd party components.

So I am openly and loudly declaring that if this requirement is maintained when the release date arrives in October 2010, I will not be purchasing a copy of Fallout: New Vegas. I do hope someone over there at Bethesda is listening to this complaint and is taking it to heart, because I don't make this statement lightly. I was very close to snapping up a pre-order, but decided to look into the details once it became apparent that you were using the same promotional tactics EA/Bioware did with DA:O. I am now extremely glad I did, because you're about to save me some money on what is sure to be an unmitigated disaster for your public image.

I am going to be one very VERY upset person if you take this to the next logical step with Elder Scrolls 5. Perhaps this explains why your company is being tight-lipped about anything to do with it. I remain somewhat hopeful you'll see the light and not punish retail purchasing in order to placate your console users.
.........................
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

       
« Oblivion: Creating Compatibility Patches
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Posted on Jul 21, 2010 5:12 pm by Samson in: | 55 comment(s) [Closed]
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Guess Samson won't be happy.

Fallout: New Vegas Fan Interview said:


What does Steamworks mean to you? Senior producer Jason Bergman explains:

"Fallout: New Vegas uses Steamworks for achievements and other features (such as friends lists, cloud storage of user preferences and so on). Use of Steam will be mandatory at retail. So what does that mean? We’ve implemented Steamworks in as light and unobtrusive a way as possible. Yes, you will have to install Steam when you install Fallout: New Vegas if you don’t already have it. And yes, you will have to be online at the time of that initial install. However you can install the game on as many systems as you want (with no restrictions!), and you do not have to be online to play the game after your initial activation. Not only that, but once the game has activated on Steam, you can throw out the game DVD entirely and just download the game over Steam. If you don’t even have a DVD drive, you can just take the CD-Key from the box, enter it into Steam, and download it without ever using the disc at all.

For those concerned, this will have no affect on mod development whatsoever. Modders will still be able to create and distribute their plugins the same way they have in the past.

We made the decision to use Steam after looking at all the various options out there and decided that it provided the best, least intrusive experience for PC gamers. We think you’ll agree."


Which, speaking as somebody who already dealt with any possible angst about Steam like 4 years ago when it sucked more just so I could play Half-Life 2, eh, that's not bad. Not quite as great as no online activation would have been, but the upside is that any possible DLCs aren't going to be gimped by that horrible GFWL bullshit like Fallout 3 was.

       
We think you’ll agree.


I think you're full of shit, Mr. Interviewer. I don't want Steam, so I guess I'll have to pass on your shiny new Fallout game no matter how much I might want to play it. Asinine crap like this is why piracy is on the rise again.

least intrusive experience for PC gamers


The least intrusive experience is to give me a DVD, and leave me alone once I have it. How can you people not see this?

So yes, I am not happy. I was looking forward to NV, but not anymore. This is the biggest dick move they've made yet.

       
Edited by Samson on Jul 21, 2010 10:15 am
I guess I'm failing to see the problem here, but ok.

       
Remember the disturbing trend comment I made in my DA:O review? You're seeing that play out now, and I don't like it. I don't want the functionality of my game being tied down to some nebulous online activation service that may or may not be here next week or next year.

They can make all the claims they want about how it's no big deal, not a hassle, or whatever. I don't believe them and the past has shown us that all accepting this does is encourage them to go deeper with it next time. They clearly have not learned from the XBL fiasco and instead of returning to traditional distribution, they've started down the road of evil intrusive spyware style background applications running while you're trying to play the game.

I complain now because I don't want to see this implemented in TES V and be an even worse intrusion into my privacy and gaming experience. I realize I am but one voice, but that voice will speak out against this practice for as long as doing so is possible.

All this is going to do is drive traffic to the console market, and kill PC gaming. I don't want to see that happen, but obviously retailers don't give a crap about PC gamers anymore or they'd stop with this nonsense.

       
Edited by Samson on Jul 21, 2010 10:32 am
Ah. Sorry to hear it Dwip. I seem to recall you having issues with it the first time as it was. Something about being much more complex than you wanted...

I've already got steam installed anyway because it came with another game I'd bought a little while back. Star Trek DAC. :shrug:
Beyond that aspect, I do agree with Samson, though not as emphatically, that if I want to buy a new game, I shouldn't have to go to the store to get an install DVD so that I can then come home and download the actual game, let alone possibly have to play the game online even if it's not a multiplayer game. Unfortunately, that is the trend that gaming companies appear to be heading to. Everyone seems to have fallen head over heels for this whole "cloud computing" concept, including the gaming industry and we're going to be seeing more and more games coming very soon that are either only available via download or, worse, that are only playable via streaming. At least according to CNet. :(

       
Yeah, well, ok.

I'm approaching it like so.

- Insofar as this is now 2010 and trends have changed, you're pretty much always going to be stuck with achievements and social networking stuff. You might not care about it or want it, but that's too bad. Anything new is going to have it.

Given that, our options appear to be:

- Custom opt-in model like DA:O. As best I can tell this basically works because Bioware is backed by EA, who are able and willing to front the not-inconsiderable costs of dealing with accounts and running a storefront and the like. You and I both know that Bethesda's efforts in this regard were only slightly better than an unmitigated disaster, and I for one have the DLC activation scars to prove it.

- Games For Windows Live. No way to opt out, but at least you didn't have to activate it. Remains, however, a buggy, worthless piece of shit that dragged everybody's game down. I got my DLCs retail as part of the GOTY edition of FO3, but I listened to everyone else's bitching about the godawful hell of trying to buy and install DLC from there.

- The Steam most people get, like for Half-Life 2: Online to download AND to play, with Steam running in the background constantly. On the upside, the Steam of 2010 is essentially a flawless system that doesn't degrade performance, the storefront is generally fairly cheap if you catch the sales, and they work in actual dollar amounts for everything, which is pretty refreshing compared to this bullshit points thing most people use.

- The Steam we actually appear to be getting: All the upsides of the Steam I just described, with the only apparent downside being a one-time online activation, which while regrettable is no more problematic than the one you have to go through to install Windows. As best they've said, you won't ever have to deal with Steam ever, ever again.

As far as the spyware thing goes, no more so than what DA:O did, and DA:O is monitoring you while you play. Moreover, the ability to turn Steam off, which we're getting, makes this entire point completely moot. Even if you DID have to run Steam, there are fairly simple ways to turn off all of it.

- Some kind of draconian UbiSoft thing: In which the game would phone home constantly while you played, and if your internet connection ever dropped, you'd be SOL. Alternately, some kind of phone home system with a limited number of activations.

You're aware, I hope, that the console experience is actively worse than almost all of these, and certainly worse than Steam. Considering reality, and considering what we might have gotten, what we're actually getting is pretty good - almost entirely unobtrusive activation, plus a quite good digital backup service, plus autopatching if we want it, plus a proven, trouble-free DLC distribution channel. Instead of some SecuROM crap, there's actual beneficial content add here.

Which is to reiterate that if they were going to do it, and every industry trend I've seen suggests that they and everybody else are, this is about the best possible way it could have happened.

[Edit Re: Conner] The retail DVD will, in fact, have a real game on it, which I guess you could presumably crack to avoid Steam if you cared that much. What retail + Steam will allow you to do is install via DVD OR via Steam, whichever you prefer. Speaking as somebody who's bought a bunch of stuff through Steam, it's not bad as a download service, but it's not necessary to do things that way if you didn't actually buy the thing via Steam.

Oh, and re: the other bit about cloud computing, I doubt you'll see any major publishers move entirely online any time soon, since the benefits of retail are still far too great for them. For small publishers who can't afford to go retail, things like Steam (or Impulse) are obviously to their advantage, since it cuts out the distribution costs pretty much entirely.

       
Edited by Dwip on Jul 21, 2010 11:29 am
Dwip said:

you're pretty much always going to be stuck with achievements and social networking stuff


I get this, I really do, and to be honest the achievements and social networking crap don't bother me at all. As long as I don't have no choice but to activate the online cesspool features I won't complain too much about it. DA:O had the right idea. Don't force it down anyone's throats. I was able to live with that. Since I think most of their DLC is crap anyway I don't need to deal with "Bioware points" to get more since I won't be wasting the money.

Games For Windows Live. No way to opt out, but at least you didn't have to activate it.


Nor do you need to leave Microsoft's spyware installed to play - as I discovered later after installing Fallout 3 and finding the game would still run as happily as ever even though I never registered a Live account or ever used it to connect.

The Steam we actually appear to be getting: All the upsides of the Steam I just described, with the only apparent downside being a one-time online activation, which while regrettable is no more problematic than the one you have to go through to install Windows. As best they've said, you won't ever have to deal with Steam ever, ever again.


Oh sure, Bethesda is making some rather bold and grand promises... NOW... but the fact remains that even though Bethesda won't leverage it to be an asshole to you, I still need it to begin with, and I don't want it doing whatever else it does to spy on me in the background. I don't care that they've streamlined it to be less intrusive. There's nothing less intrusive than not having it at all. It's just one more piece of shit I'd have to actively forbid access to the internet for.

As far as the spyware thing goes, no more so than what DA:O did, and DA:O is monitoring you while you play.


Yes, but it can't do anything with that information unless you let it. I don't get the sense that Steam will allow me this choice so I'd have to take extraordinary measures to block it from accessing the net. Which I'm given to understand breaks it and pisses it off, but fuck them.

Instead of some SecuROM crap, there's actual beneficial content add here.


Only if their DLC offered won't suck. Only if they actually fix the bugs they know the game still has. Only if you think digital backup is a sane thing in this economy. In short, give me the retail disc with a disc check any day and you've won me. Oblivion has this, and I'm quite happy with it. I don't mind needing to leave it in the drive. I don't want to be tied to some online entity that may not exist later.

this is about the best possible way it could have happened.


No. The best possible way this could have happened is to drop this bullshit entirely. The game will run fine without it, so there's absolutely no need for it. Bethesda's trends in this area are extremely disturbing since they couldn't even get XBL to work right for DLC.

You're aware, I hope, that the console experience is actively worse than almost all of these, and certainly worse than Steam.


Since PC gaming is apparently dying anyway, and the market is actively pursuing its death, if I want to continue gaming I may as well get a console. They're turning my PC games into console games anyway since they're not bothering to take full advantage of what a PC can do in terms of graphics and audio and user interfaces. I once more point to Oblivion, which needs monster amounts of texture packs and stereo sound files to bring it to what it should have been even back in 2006. They catered to the XBox crowd, and we all suffered for it. They held Fallout 3 back for the XBox 360 users, and we've suffered greatly for it. I cannot see this fixing itself with New Vegas since they're very clearly targeting it for console users as well. We're getting console crap games now anyway, so why not just game on a console?

This whole thing really should have been its own blog post. I shall endeavor to fix this oversight later.

       
Samson said:

This whole thing really should have been its own blog post. I shall endeavor to fix this oversight later.


On that note, we're at 450+ posts for this thread, so, you know. Whatever's happening with that.

Also, on a Sandbox note, that editing I did for Conner reminds me: What are the chances we could get inline comment editing, like we have for actual comment posting, so I can see who I'm replying to instead of having to keep another window open? This sort of thing happens an awful lot, I find. Dunno if it's just me.

As far as the Steam thing goes, if we're going to be arguing this in another thread I don't want to spend too much time on it, but:

- Oh, I'd LIKE there to be nothing but disc check with optional online stuff, but given Bethesda's track record on this, I don't really trust them to pull it off competently. They did that, sort of, with the Oblivion DLC, and it was atrocious. As I say, EA took it seriously enough with DA:O, but I don't think that's the case here. Given the alternatives, Steam is definitely the least bad option.

Nor do you need to leave Microsoft's spyware installed to play - as I discovered later after installing Fallout 3 and finding the game would still run as happily as ever even though I never registered a Live account or ever used it to connect.


I thought it got really angry with you if you attempted to uninstall GFWL. In any event, the version of Steam we're actually getting with FNV appears to be more or less this, except without the horrendous bugs.


Oh sure, Bethesda is making some rather bold and grand promises... NOW... but the fact remains that even though Bethesda won't leverage it to be an asshole to you, I still need it to begin with, and I don't want it doing whatever else it does to spy on me in the background. I don't care that they've streamlined it to be less intrusive. There's nothing less intrusive than not having it at all. It's just one more piece of shit I'd have to actively forbid access to the internet for.


Well, online activation is going to be what it is. You can either deal with that or you can't. As I said before, though, assuming you even have to have Steam up to run the game, which it sounds like you don't, you can fairly easily tell it to not monitor anything. Which monitoring isn't particularly bothersome in any case - achievements and system specs, I think. Valve's own games pay attention to where you die. That's about it. For that matter, I'm pretty sure I got an opt-out for it on Steam install, which, well, that's as it ought to be.


Yes, but it can't do anything with that information unless you let it. I don't get the sense that Steam will allow me this choice so I'd have to take extraordinary measures to block it from accessing the net. Which I'm given to understand breaks it and pisses it off, but fuck them.


The chief way Steam's offline mode gets pissy at all ever is with autopatching, which we're not even sure FNV will even have, as opposed to a more traditional method. I've already mentioned the monitoring stuff.


No. The best possible way this could have happened is to drop this bullshit entirely. The game will run fine without it, so there's absolutely no need for it. Bethesda's trends in this area are extremely disturbing since they couldn't even get XBL to work right for DLC.


As I say, I don't think you're going to get rid of this sytem, unless you're EA and can afford to do it right, which Bethesda has consistently shown they can't.

As far as GFWL, is that even Bethesda's fault outside of their poor decision to use it in the first place? Seems to me that most of the blame for that particular debacle rests on Microsoft's shoulders. In the event, Steam is of a much higher caliber than GFWL.


Since PC gaming is apparently dying anyway, and the market is actively pursuing its death, if I want to continue gaming I may as well get a console.


And if people stop buying PC games, that's not going to help things any. Also that whole deal with mods, and we both know what the console experience is with THAT.


They're turning my PC games into console games anyway since they're not bothering to take full advantage of what a PC can do in terms of graphics and audio and user interfaces. I once more point to Oblivion, which needs monster amounts of texture packs and stereo sound files to bring it to what it should have been even back in 2006. They catered to the XBox crowd, and we all suffered for it.


Now you're just talking crazy talk. The only real problem with Oblivion's graphics in 2006 was the HDR + AA thing, and HDR was, what, 5 months publicly available since Valve did their first implementations of it? We're damn lucky we got it in the first place, and in any event that's long since moot with Fallout 3. Beyond that I give you maybe face textures.

Beyond that, we should both of us be aware that PC game texturing has to take into account both low end and high end systems, and that high end texture mods aren't particularly new when it comes to 3D games. That's got nothing to do with consoles so much as it does with people like us with hugely powerful systems that can handle heavy duty graphics mods. Beauty of modding right there.

Main issue with Oblivion was that crap ass console interface, which they rightly took all kinds of flak for. Again, notice that a lot of this was rectified in Fallout 3.

       
I'm not even thrilled with gae start-up disc checks, but at least I can understand and live with those, the need to involve online activations and downloads and such bother me terribly. Not only do I have existing bandwidth issues that could seriously come into conflict with those sort of arrangements but frankly, as Samson says "I don't want to be tied to some online entity that may not exist later.", and that's really the greatest concrn of all. I've had games that required a phone home at start-up and then the company went under and now the game is entirely useless short of hacking into it to disable that protection measure.

I was wondering how long it'd take for someone to mention the post count in this thread that was created to alleviate the post count in the last thread beause it'd gotten near this level... :lol:

Inline comment editing would be awesome. I thought I'd suggested it once before, but maybe I am mistaken. I'd even be totally cool with having the edit comment link take you to a new page that had your post to be edited and under that had only the last 3-5 comments before yours displayed in reverse order (newest first), but it does sort of suck to need two tabs to be able to see what you clicked the edit link for in the first place.

I'll concede that Steam is one of the least of the evils that are being presented to us as potential options at this point, my biggest concern is the disturbing direction this is leading us toward.

       
Specifically re:


as Samson says "I don't want to be tied to some online entity that may not exist later.", and that's really the greatest concrn of all. I've had games that required a phone home at start-up and then the company went under and now the game is entirely useless short of hacking into it to disable that protection measure.


Not that I don't also have the concern, just I don't think you're going to get away from this. Specifically with respect to Steam, I have a lot less of an issue with the online thing, since:

- Valve, unlike some other software developers, isn't a festering sore of cockery and assholery;

- This isn't going to be one of those things where the company sets up activation servers and then randomly takes them down later;

- Valve is pretty unlikely to go under. If nothing else, the combination of the Half-Life series and Portal is something akin to a license to print money (probably Steam is too, but), and even if they did, Steam is a big enough asset that I can't imagine it wouldn't be picked up by somebody else;

- This is probably going to be a moot argument for one reason or another in ten years anyway.


Inline comment editing would be awesome. I thought I'd suggested it once before, but maybe I am mistaken. I'd even be totally cool with having the edit comment link take you to a new page that had your post to be edited and under that had only the last 3-5 comments before yours displayed in reverse order (newest first), but it does sort of suck to need two tabs to be able to see what you clicked the edit link for in the first place.


5-10 would be better, if only because of the huge political threads. Inline obviously better. For that matter, I wouldn't mind having the post editing box be about 25%-50% bigger for many of the same reasons.

       
Dwip said:

Oh, I'd LIKE there to be nothing but disc check with optional online stuff, but given Bethesda's track record on this, I don't really trust them to pull it off competently.


What track record is this? The one where they pulled off that exact thing with Morrowind? Where if you wanted their free DLC, you went and downloaded it? Or the way they pulled it off rather nicely with Oblivion and the DLC before they shut down the online store? Your point is entirely valid when applied to Fallout 3, so it seems they're not learning the lesson and instead traveling down the slippery slope. Given this trend and their announced total reliance on Steam, I see this coming out very badly in the end for everyone. TES V via Steam-only download? Sounds absurd, but the track record you speak of is screaming volumes about this becoming reality. It's not a reality I want to be facing when the time comes.

I thought it got really angry with you if you attempted to uninstall GFWL.


So we were told, but my game worked just fine anyway once I uninstalled it. It's an unwanted 3rd party application. Pure and simple. So I got rid of it.

Well, online activation is going to be what it is. You can either deal with that or you can't.


You might recall I've been actively protesting online activation since M$ decided to do it with Windows. I do not buy games that openly advertise that they require it. DA:O did *NOT* openly advertise this fact and you only find out *AFTER* you've breached the seal on the package. Had I known before, I would have rejected it out of hand, and was planning to do just that when people said it was going to have the invasive form of SecuROM that spies on your user habits. So now I have a game where if the company folds - and Bioware could easily do so - I can no longer play it because it won't be able to phone home. There are ways of dealing with this issue, but such ways are entirely illegal and also pose a high risk of infection for your system. However, PC game companies seem to be deliberately steering us all into this iceberg while denying said iceberg even exists.

And if people stop buying PC games, that's not going to help things any. Also that whole deal with mods, and we both know what the console experience is with THAT.


They don't want us buying PC games or they'd be making us PC games and not PC ports of console games. Also, outside of Bethesda, modding of games isn't nearly as big a thing as you seem to think. Combined with modding tools that make the TES CS look like a gift from the Gods. It's fairly clear that most companies look at modding as an after thought if they bother at all.

Now you're just talking crazy talk.


Nope. It's been mentioned before that the PC was capable of far more than what we got. They gimped us on graphic detail. They gimped us on full stereo audio. They gimped us on the AI system. Of the 3, the only one they seem to have legitimately gimped us on was the AI because even the gimped version is bloated and slow. Morrowind and Oblivion both were not targeted toward casual gamers. If they were, we'd have gotten even less of a game out of either one of them.

Conner said:

I'll concede that Steam is one of the least of the evils that are being presented to us as potential options at this point, my biggest concern is the disturbing direction this is leading us toward.


Exactly. It's a slippery slope. We once had games with no copy protection. The industry made billions. Then they whined that some folks copied the discs. So we got copy protection, and they swore up and down that disc checks were as intrusive as they'd ever get. They lied. Copy protection kept getting worse and worse, culminating in the Sony rootkit incident.

Now we're being told "it'll only be used to activate the game" and people aren't speaking up. Pretty soon, all games will be actively monitoring what you do and how you play to "target DLC to your tastes, and nothing more". Then we'll have games that simply won't run at all unless you're online at all times, and if you try and firewall them out, you'll be accused of piracy. Not much longer after that, they'll quit making retail boxes and shove PC gaming out of the stores entirely. We'll be forced to download the games we want to play, at a substantial hit to bandwidth. We won't be able to reformat our drives for fear of losing access to all the games we've paid for, because the system will call us software pirates and block our access to it. They'll use the data they illegally mine from you to target ads at you, whether you're playing or not, and they'll call it a privilege. It'll get so bad that even a momentary lapse in your internet connection will result in you having to fill out several forms and swear on 10 stacks of Bibles that you're not a thief.

Dwip, if you think this is crazy talk, well, you're simply not paying attention. If gaming ever gets to the point of stupidity I've outlined, I'll just stop gaming. Or play shit on the console, which is what they really want.

       
Edited by Samson on Jul 21, 2010 5:13 pm
So now that I've made a complete mess of things, let the Steam discussion continue here.

       
[edit] Of course I would post when you're making a new topic. Whee.

In lieu of all the other arguments I was going to write, briefly:

1. I find it astounding that you appear to be arguing in favor of SecuROM of all the damned things as opposed to something as seemingly innocuous as a simple one time online activation and never being bothered again. SecuROM.

Speaking as somebody with experience with SecuROM games and Steam games, SecuROM games have given me vastly more problems, by huge orders of magnitude.

2. You're never going to convince me, as regards the Oblivion DLC experience, that it was anything less than a complete debacle. Missing a storefront for I don't even remember how long, plus an activation scheme that not only required the thing to phone home, actually required me on several occasions to pick up a phone and do the phoning home thing MYSELF. Surely you remember this.

3. Speaking of slippery slopes, which remain a logical fallacy, in the comparison between SecuROM and Steam, I think SecuROM pretty handily wins any potential draconian bullshit competition. Rootkits, disabling other software, limited activations, epic bugs, I can't even keep track anymore. The worst Steam can possibly do to you is require you to get online...once. Not even once every time the game starts. Once.

On that same slippery slope note, the whole active monitoring/must be online at all times thing is already here, or did you miss the whole Assassin's Creed 2 thing? I mean, Bethesda COULD have gone that route, I guess, but they didn't. Contrary to your linear dystopian view of the future, I suspect that there are reasons for this, among which are a historic Bethesda aversion to overly intrusive DRM. But.

4. I don't really want to get into modding community dick size wars here, but I can think of several other games that have pretty big modding scenes, including the various Half-Life titles and the Civilization series. They've all taken some pains to keep their games moddable. Companies do care.

Whole point here is, I don't think your dystopian future holds water, and I don't buy your slippery slope argument. Do as you're gonna do, but I don't buy your arguments much at all.

       
Edited by Dwip on Jul 21, 2010 5:53 pm
Also, just to make note of this, there's been a sticky about the Steam thing on the forums since at least June 8th. So, you know.

       
Yes, I made a new topic, and I've forced your response over to it now too. See, people were right, I'm a draconian nazi! Or... yeah... anyway....

1. Seemingly innocuous about describes it. Call it what you will, it's an unwanted intrusion from a 3rd party application. Now granted the copy protection in and of itself is also this, but you'll note that short of the Sony rootkit incident that SecuROM did not phone home. Since I've also never had any actual problems with games protected by it, other than the slight inconvenience of needing the disc handy, any additional burned Steam places on me is unwarranted.

2. Well, see, here's the problem. I did the smart thing and bought all of my DLCs other than Battlehorn Castle on the Knights of the Nine CD. No phoning home. No having to call anyone. No activation codes. Just pure bliss in the form of retail installers. So when I say Bethesda did Oblivion DLC right, I'm talking right in terms of a proper distribution channel one could opt for rather than being forced to go online to get them. In the case of Battlehorn, I did the smart thing and made backups of the unpacked files once I had them installed. I haven't used a single DLC installer since the day I bought the CD.

3. The worst Steam can do is require your internet connection to remain active at all times, and there are games that require this. There are also non-Steam titles that do this. All you need to do is a quick Google search to find them. Some of which die in a horrible rain of fire if your net goes out and it can't call home.

Yes, I missed the whole Assassins Creed 2 thing. You know why? Because I didn't want to get involved in that bullshit. I never even mentioned it because the whole mess was simply too ridiculous to spend time on. If Bethesda had gone the same route with Fallout 3, I would have marched right out and returned it, license agreement in hand, with my declaration of non-agreement ready. This sort of thing is why I am now extremely cautious about what I buy, even at the retail level.

4. Valve and Firaxis are shining exceptions in a sea of otherwise ass modding examples. Bethesda falls somewhere above Firaxis IMO in terms of capabilities and ease of use. DA:O is orders of magnitude beyond ridiculous with an 800MB+ toolkit install and epic numbers of bugs in the process that can shred your game if you aren't careful. Not all companies care as much as Valve, Bethesda, and Firaxis.

Yes, I gathered you aren't buying the slippery slope argument. That does not change the obvious. Gaming companies are out to put an end to retail sales of PC games. Walk into your local Gamestop sometime and count the number of shelves of PC games. Out here, no Gamestop store has more than 1/2 of a shelf of old PC game titles - and nothing recent at all. It's already here, you're just not paying attention.

Contrasted with that, the entire store (and these places are not small) is lined wall to wall with XBox 360 and PS3 titles. Don't let anyone tell you "PS3 has no games" because it's a lie. They dedicated half a store to PS3 games.

The only bastion of PC game purchasing left is Fry's Electronics. Even Best Buy has all but closed out their PC game sections. You either drive to Anaheim, or mail order your retail box games. The only other option is to declare defeat and install Steam and then suffer the endless spam that results from it.

As for the sticky about Steam, I pay no attention to the F:NV forum. I only went to see the post when you linked it. It confirms Bethesda has joined the anti-PC gaming crowd.

       
Edited by Samson on Jul 21, 2010 6:15 pm
As a followup, I went looking for what I knew would be there - Steam discussion topics. Quickly scanning through several posts, I am delighted to note I'm not alone in my hatred of this business model. It appears Firaxis (or whoever owns Civ these days) is also going down this dark road. I weep for PC gaming.

       
Edited by Samson on Jul 21, 2010 6:50 pm
Wow, we got a new topic and a slew of posts since I was online earlier..

Dwip said:

Not that I don't also have the concern, just I don't think you're going to get away from this. Specifically with respect to Steam, I have a lot less of an issue with the online thing, since:

- Valve, unlike some other software developers, isn't a festering sore of cockery and assholery;

- This isn't going to be one of those things where the company sets up activation servers and then randomly takes them down later;

- Valve is pretty unlikely to go under. If nothing else, the combination of the Half-Life series and Portal is something akin to a license to print money (probably Steam is too, but), and even if they did, Steam is a big enough asset that I can't imagine it wouldn't be picked up by somebody else;

- This is probably going to be a moot argument for one reason or another in ten years anyway.

So, in summary, you figure Valve is going to be around for the duration, but within ten years it won't matter anyway. Is that because within ten years you expect that we'll all have always on broadband that makes current tech look slow or because we'll be on a whole new set of games anyway by then or because by then even Valve will have gone under and taken their servers with them too?

Dwip said:

Conner said:

Inline comment editing would be awesome. I thought I'd suggested it once before, but maybe I am mistaken. I'd even be totally cool with having the edit comment link take you to a new page that had your post to be edited and under that had only the last 3-5 comments before yours displayed in reverse order (newest first), but it does sort of suck to need two tabs to be able to see what you clicked the edit link for in the first place.

5-10 would be better, if only because of the huge political threads. Inline obviously better. For that matter, I wouldn't mind having the post editing box be about 25%-50% bigger for many of the same reasons.

I was offering an olive branch saying that even just displaying the last few posts below the comment edit field would be enough as a minimum, more would definitely be better still, though I don't think we need the extreme of having the entire topic displayed that way, particularly when we've got topics that are 450+ comments long.

Samson said:

Exactly. It's a slippery slope. We once had games with no copy protection. The industry made billions. Then they whined that some folks copied the discs. So we got copy protection, and they swore up and down that disc checks were as intrusive as they'd ever get. They lied. Copy protection kept getting worse and worse, culminating in the Sony rootkit incident.

Maybe we could just take a few steps back in the whole copy-protection racket and go back to the nifty code wheels? :tongue:

Dwip said:

Speaking as somebody with experience with SecuROM games and Steam games, SecuROM games have given me vastly more problems, by huge orders of magnitude.

Samson said:

you'll note that short of the Sony rootkit incident that SecuROM did not phone home

Agreed, oddly enough, with both points. SecuROM sucked and caused all sorts of problems, whereas Steam does seem to work much more reliably, but even so, at least SecuROM didn't need to phone home in general. If the only choice was between those two, I'd take Steam because I'd rather sacrifice a call home than give up on even being able to complete install because of conflicts between secuROM and everything else. Fortunately, there have been LOTS of other options though and I far favor the ones that didn't require the phone home and didn't conflict with stuff during install before activation stage was even an issue. IF we must go a route like Steam, as long as it's strictly a one time activation call, I can live with it, the concern is that the current trend is leading to it becoming far more than that very soon.

       
You guys do both realize that Oblivion, and Fallout 3 use SecuROM based protection for the disc check, right? The Shivering Isles disc also used it to protect the installer. That's the company responsible for the copy protection disc checks on 90% of the games out there today. Some are worse than others, but it's nowhere as sinister as either of you are making it out to be. Unless it's an Ubisoft game, but who in their right mind plays those? Especially after the debacle that was Pools of Radiance.

Someone made the comment that Steam is the best online authentication system available. This may be true. I despise all forms of online authentication, including the one in DA:O that I was unaware existed when I bought the thing.

All of the reading I've done on Steamworks lately bears out that it's being used primarily for DLC distribution, with the added benefit that it also functions as a DRM system. You must allow it to connect to the internet and you must allow it to transmit information about your setup to their servers. Bethesda fell all over themselves trying to reassure people that it won't be necessary to maintain that logged in connection through the use of Steamworks' offline gaming mode. That's a lie though, because everything I can find on the subject says that even in offline mode, it must still be allowed to connect to the servers to verify you have a legit copy of the game. It just doesn't use any of the other functions normally associated with Steam games. Besides the asinine achievements and such.

In this regard, Games For Windows Live is a far less intrusive system because you can physically uninstall it after the game does whatever it does with it. At least in the case of Fallout 3, and from what I can tell, plenty of other titles too. GFWL doesn't phone home to regularly verify your legitimacy, and if you get your DLC with a GOTY edition of the game, you never have to deal with that part of it either.

So given the choice, I would have preferred they stick with GFWL since you never have to register with the service to play the game. We are not being given a choice on whether we want a Steam account or not, it's a mandatory requirement before the game will even install. I have no use for a Steam account and likely never will. So since this choice is being forced on us, my response is to not buy the game. I'll miss out on what otherwise looks to be a good one, but hopefully someone at Bethesda will listen to me and others and reconsider this disaster when TES V comes out.

       
Edited by Samson on Jul 22, 2010 12:43 pm
:shrug: I don't like the idea of buying a game from a nice respectable company and having it decide to tie itself to Microsoft for me, but I've got GFWL installed on both of my Windows computers already anyway, along with SecuROM and Steam, at this point. I'm past the issues SecuROM produced initially. Given my current lack of enough funds to bother with a budget and my present feelings about the ending of Fallout III, I probably won't be buying this one anyway. So maybe none of it matters. On the other hand, I really don't care for any of these options and would be quite happy if these gaming companies would realize that even the old code wheels did work reasonably adequately and were far less intrusive. Why is it that Google gets in all sorts of trouble for collecting data about local wireless networks as they drive by taking pictures but no one seems to feel it's a problem for gaming companies to use copy protection techniques that phone home and report on your machine statistics (which very well could include far more information about your computer habits than gaming alone) and gaming habits and could just as easily also collect your network information regardless of whether you're using wireless or not, let alone whether you've got your wifi router set loosely enough for someone on the street to get info about it?

       
There's also the fact that these online clients have a proven track record of insecure behavior, so Steam is simply giving hackers another vector of attack into your system that you can't block if you want to be able to play your games.

If that's not enough, the Big Brother aspects should scare the hell out of you. "Please sir, may I play my game today?"

       
I'm not sure that I wanted to know that, Samson.

It does, but I don't know what other choice I've got if I want to be able to play any of the games that are coming out in the future.

       
Your choice is simple. Buy an XBox or PS3 and play on those instead. Or, just boycott the release all together until a GOTY edition shows up with the online bullshit removed. The second option isn't terribly likely, no Steam game has ever had the online component removed.

I've also seen mention now that the real primary reason companies are switching to Steam is to block second-hand resale of games. So much for the eBay market.

       
Edited by Samson on Jul 22, 2010 6:51 pm
I've got a PS2, but can't afford an XBox nor a PS3, though I'm not sure I'd want either even if I could afford one of them. So, basically we're back to my dealing with Steam anyway?

That actually makes some sense, but it's not any better a reason than the big brother concept.

       
Typing this from Sarah's place in DC. How she manages to use this liliputian display is beyond me. This box is like an inch square.

Which is all to say that this comment will suck,

@Samson -

1. I'm perfectly aware of what the copy protection on Oblivion, SI, and FO3, which is why I brought up SecuROM in the first place. The point I'm trying to make here is that if you're going down the slippery slope between, which I think is a BS argument in the first place, the rootkit/phone home/software interference aspects of SecuROM are far worse than the very worst Steam can possibly force on you. Moreover, since companies aren't all rushing out to use the most draconian versions of either system, your slippery slope argument is bogus.

2. It's pretty probable that any FNV DLCs will come on CD too, but we're talking about downloading, you know, DLC here. And systems to do that. Retail discs aren't a form of DLC distribution, and we both know it. Which is to state again that as a form of DLC distribution, Steam is pretty superior to the alternatives.

3. Citation needed. In the event, this is not the version of Steam we are getting, so the whole thing is irrelevant. This goes back to my first point.

4. More or less what you said wrt modding, although ultimately Civ IV's SDK allows a lot more power than even OBSE gives Oblivion. Too, Bioware has released better toolsets than DA:O's in the past, and at least they're making some fairly ambitious stabs at a better architecture than they had, shaky though they may now be. Point being that I don't disagree with you, but I think this modding thing is a lot bigger than you're giving it credit for.

A digression here to note that laptop touchpads are the worst sort of bullshit, and how Sarah is able to get anything at all done on this laptop is completely beyond me.

As far as Gamestop goes, this has been true as far back as 6 or 7 years ago, and that's more or less Gamestop's choice that I can tell. And that's fine. I'm more than happy to take my business to Amazon or Newegg.

@Conner -

My point re: ten years from now is that sometime in the next ten years SOMETHING will change. Steam activation will be disabled, somebody will have picked it up, we'll al be on broadband and won't care, nobody will be playing FNV anyway, something. This is to say that of the games from 2000 that I'm still playing, almost none of them are still installed and played in the same fashion I did in 2000.

Either way I think Steam (and Valve) will still be with us. As I said before, they make games that are essentially licenses to print money, and that also don't suck. That bodes well.

Conner said:


Maybe we could just take a few steps back in the whole copy-protection racket and go back to the nifty code wheels?


I want that code sheet with the boxes that came with the original Sim City.

As far as SecuROM goes, my experiences roughly mirror your own. I think my favorite was the train wreck that was installing Medieval II Total War under Vista - You either figured out the precise way to get SecuROM to behave, or you installed it five times like I did.

Granted that SecuROM mostly just works on most of my games, but it works a lot less than the 100% working my Steam games have.

@Samson -

Have you ever in your life used Steam? Do you have any first hand knowledge of any of the claims you're making about it? Because you're saying a bunch of stuff here that's plain wrong.

- Can't speak about needing to transmit information about your setup, at least for that one time activation thing. I am, however, perfectly aware that you can turn this off if you want.

- As far as that whole logging in thing goes, you have to get online ONCE and log in ONCE. After that you can go into offline mode and ignore it, if indeed you can't just ignore it entirely as Bethesda believes. Again, I've used Steam enough to know that this is how things work.

- While it's possible to be spammed by Steam, you can just as easily NOT be spammed by Steam if you don't want through the use of two very simple checkboxes. Uncheck the friends thing, uncheck the news thing, ride off into the sunset with the game in your arms.

Or is that girl? One of those.

Now then. Enough of this godawful touchpad BS.

       
Dwip said:

A digression here to note that laptop touchpads are the worst sort of bullshit, and how Sarah is able to get anything at all done on this laptop is completely beyond me.

Welcome to my world. :lol: You really do eventually get used to compensating for it's super-sensitivity while you're trying to type, but it never stops being a pain in the ass. I find that using an external mouse (USB wireless) helps tremendously, but you still occasionally brush the mousepad with your palm and find yourself typing where you didn't intend to. :shrug:

Btw, tell Sarah 'Hello' from all of us and, if she hasn't already, that she needs to give you a tour of the area. The Air & Space Museum (original on the mall or the new one in Dulles, both are really cool) is probably the coolest, but there are plenty of other cool things there too. If she knows about it, have her show you the statue of Einstein, he's really cool and has a neat special effect if you read his placard. ;) ...on the other hand, this weekend in particular might not be a great time to spend outdoors if you can avoid it, the DC area is under a bad air quality advisory and a heat advisory through Saturday night.

Dwip said:

My point re: ten years from now is that sometime in the next ten years SOMETHING will change. Steam activation will be disabled, somebody will have picked it up, we'll al be on broadband and won't care, nobody will be playing FNV anyway, something. This is to say that of the games from 2000 that I'm still playing, almost none of them are still installed and played in the same fashion I did in 2000.

You may be right, though I still every once in a blue moon fire up the original Doom or Heretic or a few of the others that I like and still have installed from the 80s, so I don't know.

Dwip said:

I want that code sheet with the boxes that came with the original Sim City.

Yes, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Give me copy protection that just meant I needed to reference something that came with the game on hard copy any day over needing to keep the damn game CD/DVD/Diskette in the drive all the time, let alone over something that needs to check in with the mothership back at corporate HQ every time I launch it, let alone as I play it.

Dwip said:

I think my favorite was the train wreck that was installing Medieval II Total War under Vista - You either figured out the precise way to get SecuROM to behave, or you installed it five times like I did.

Yup, I had a couple of games I had to install/uninstall/install... repeatedly because they featured SecuROM technology, I think one of the worst was when Dragona and I beta'd Sacred II, because, at that point, all the instructions and assistance we could get was only available in German and neither of us speak German, then once we got it mostly right we had to fight with the fact that all the servers involved were in Germany and had certain parts of America firewalled so we had to get SecuROM to go through proxies to find a viable route too. Talk about frustrating. We almost didn't bother with the damn game once it went retail at all because of it, even though we both love that particular franchise and the game sequel was actually really good too. :evil:

       
Edited by Conner on Jul 23, 2010 10:44 am
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