Steamworks SDK Released

By John Walker on May 2nd, 2008 at 8:54 am.

Valve’s Steamworks SDK is now available.

There's literally nothing funny to write about this image.

This gives developers access to all the gubbins that goes on in Steam, for free, to enormously aid development. Valve explain the features it offers:

“These include product key authentication, copy protection, auto-updating, social networking, matchmaking, anti-cheat technology, and more. The features and services available in Steamworks are offered free of charge and may be used for both electronic and tangible versions of games.”

Of course it also means that Valve get more games on Steam, and greater ubiquity, and will eventually take over the universe. Them or Google. And we, their willing subjects, seem pretty fine with this. I mean, once we thought it would be Microsoft. Brrrrr.

Obligatory quote from the press release, from Jason Holtman, Valve’s director of business development:

“In working with developers on the pre-release SDK, our focus has been on making it as easy as possible for them to integrate Steamworks into their games. They get access to these tools and services in a proven, scalable, and simple to work with package that has already been deployed to millions of gamers worldwide.”

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55 Comments »

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  1. Cruz says:

    I gladly bow before my benevolent PC-lovin Valve corporate masters. Just stay with us Gabe, and you can has all my moneys.

  2. Slappeh says:

    <3 Valve

  3. Valentin Galea says:

    I for one welcome our new Steam overlords!

  4. Jonathan says:

    If Steam gets a-a hack-er we’re all dead. Either way it’ll be still around when we’re dead.

  5. Malibu Stacey says:

    If Steam gets a-a hack-er we’re all dead. Either way it’ll be still around when we’re dead.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the mantra of the hyper-paranoid security ‘conscious’ lobbyists that open source is the holy grail of security? And yes I understand they’re only releasing an SDK not the whole source code.

    This thread needs people decrying VALVe as being the root of all evil & Steam being a very bad piece of software that never works etc just for some balance. Come out wherever you are anti-Steam/VALVe people, we won’t bite (promise).

    I for one welcome our new Steam overlords!

    I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

  6. Jonathan says:

    Well I wasn’t able to play Half Life for 2 years because I didn’t have internet access. But now I do I think it’s great, not needing a CD certainly is a big boost in my eyes and they are building an impressive array of games.

    Also as online activation seems to be growing in popularity, Company of Heroes and Viva Pinata to name just two, I’d rather have one central company than a dozen. But that still means in a couple of monthes time I’ll be moving again and I’m not sure how long it is you can play Steam games offline before they say they need a patch or update.

    Steamworks on the other hand I strongly support. The anti-piracy and free advertising will certainly help the startups and may see a return of proper oldies and abandonware like X-Com.

    But I have to ask, does Valve charge bandwidth for selling games or do they take a percentage of sales? If both they’re just being cheeky.

    Negative enough for you?

  7. Colthor says:

    I still don’t trust them – how do I know they won’t turn my account off for giggles? Or start demanding money to “maintain” it? Etc. – and Stardock’s once-the-game-is-installed-it-works-without-recourse-to-the-internet (without advance notice and annoying pop-up boxes) is better.

    Steam’s pretty good at the download-shopping and multiplayer “community” stuff, but for normal, offline single-player games it’s unnecessary and it does make playing the game slightly more onerous.

    There you go -_-

  8. cliffski says:

    “I’d rather have one central company than a dozen”

    I’m not so sure. monopolies don’t give the customer a good deal. Fortunately there are other systems, like stardocks, and all the casual game portals. Plus any developer can roll his own trivially, by partnering with a card payment and order fulfilment company like BMTMicro or Plimus.
    The only big benefit for everyone using the same system is you don’t need to enter your credit card details for new companies, but even then, so many people (myself included) take paypal as payment, that even that isn’t really a big issue.

  9. Malibu Stacey says:

    Steamworks on the other hand I strongly support. The anti-piracy and free advertising will certainly help the startups and may see a return of proper oldies and abandonware like X-Com.

    I think UFO:Enemy Unknown/XCOM:UFO Defense is already on Steam. I certainly saw XCOM:Terror From the Deep available for $4.95 IIRC last night while having a random browse of the available games (at work so I can’t check to make sure).

    One can only hope that this entices more independent dev’s to release on PC as well as XBox Live Arcade/PS Network/whatever the Nintendo equivalent is. Space Giraffe for PC!

  10. Stew says:

    L-l-look at you, ha-ha-hacker. Trying to ch-ch-cheat in a game that I control.

  11. Bidermaier says:

    I don’t think any big publisher is going to use it.

  12. alphaxion says:

    I remember the days when everyone bitched about steam and how damn well slow it used to be.

    I think I still have a pisstake pic kicking around of a cobwebbed skeleton sitting at a desk with a steam progress bar on the monitor!

    Lack of true offline support really does suck – what happens if steam goes out of business? your games then become ticking timebombs waiting to let you know that you can never play it again!

    charmin!

    oh, and shouldn’t the submit button read “opine away” instead of “opinion away”.. I’ll put my pendants hat away ;)

  13. subedii says:

    Valve have have pretty successfully managed to beat Microsoft at their own game with Steam. Which is impressive considering that Microsoft own the OS that their platform is based on.

  14. Alex says:

    But I have to ask, does Valve charge bandwidth for selling games or do they take a percentage of sales?

    Seeing as new games cost about the same as retail copies (or even more in case of COD4), without having to produce any packaging, manuals, DVDs, etc. I’d think that even if third party companies have to pay for bandwith it’s still essentially paid for by the end customer.

  15. Jonathan says:

    Reply to Bidermaier
    Getting rid of Publishers? Thats kind of the point.

    Reply to Cliffski
    Thatcher! Don’t you remember all the stink everyone kicked up about Securom, Company of Heroes or the one about Windows Live? As Broadband becomes more pervalent online activation and downloads will become the norm and I would prefer a single trustworthy company which allows paypal than the gauntlet that exists now. It’s certainly easier to find a game on Steam than to go hunting on the internet to find the developer and hoping they remember to email it.

    Reply to Stew
    Enter 2 Fort, insect, and it will become your grave

  16. araczynski says:

    i still despise steam.

    do they still not allow you to sell any game you’ve bought after 60 days?

    i’m hoping someone starts a class action in that regard.

  17. Rob says:

    @Jonathan

    From reading the site I believe bandwidth is free, but if you take the option of selling through Steam (it didn’t look like you had to) then they take a cut there.

    @alphaxion

    If memory serves the promise was that non-protected .exe’s will be provided by valve if they go out of business.

    Also that should be “pedant’s hat” :P

  18. AbyssUK says:

    Can we have a steam client for Linux now please.

  19. Malibu Stacey says:

    I don’t think any big publisher is going to use it

    I don’t think anyone would disagree with you. The quote about turkeys voting for christmas comes to mind.
    However big developers don’t seem terribly put off by Steam even before this SDK release. id & Epic’s back catalogue are already available some of them even going so far as to create game bundles with their newer offerings.

  20. Crispy says:

    Hopefully Natural Selection 2 will make use of this.

    I’d like to know just how flexible the ‘matchmaking’ system is. On the surface it looks like a regular server filter system with friends list integration. If Valve allowed you to have it feed off the stat-tracker to create a ‘real’ matchmaking system that compared players’ level of accomplishment in the game, Valve would be waaay ahead of the game. Also the server listing needs support for showing the names of any plugins running on the server, but that’s a little lower on the list of priorities.

    P.S. alphaxion, if you’re going to correct, your post should at least include all its required apostrophes and be free of number non sequiturs!

  21. po says:

    Steam could do with a p2p component, then all the bandwidth costs are shifted away from the developers. After all, everyone who has the game already is a potential seed.

    You could give the early adopters (who got slow downloads from the limited number of seeds) and people who are willing to share a lot a little bonus, like a discount for the first 1000 purchases, and discounted future purchases respectively.

    They’d need to have something like punkbuster scan the Steam software though, to make sure people haven’t modified it to get higher discounts (more like give other people higher discounts, as you’d inform the master server that you got so many blocks from a certain other peer, and would have no way of saying you provided bandwidth yourself).

  22. alphaxion says:

    @rob: problem with that being how would you obtain those files in the event of steam going under?

    Even if they release the news within a timely period, the sheer strain on their connection would bring the service to its knees.

    Still, it’s only hypothetical anyway as I highly doubt they would go bust, it’d take something major to cause that.

    ps: come on, you have to add errors to comments like that in order to wring out a bit of entertainment/light relief from it. :)

  23. nakke says:

    This is great. Everybody crying about monopoly: jesus, it’s not a monopoly. It’s competition. This’ll force Steam’s competitors to make similar, and hopefully better stuff if they want to stay as viable alternatives to Steam. Can’t see anything wrong in that. In a monopoly Steam wouldn’t have to do anything new, they’d still have all the customers. The fact that Valve has to develop new technologies for Steam shows it’s not a “monopoly”.

  24. Rob says:

    @alphaxion

    Actually the concern I have with it isn’t so much the bandwidth issues but licensing ones. While the promise seemed plausible when the only games on Steam were Valve ones, I can’t see other publishers being happy to see unprotected .exes going up in case of disaster.

    As you say though, it’s likely moot, no sign of them folding anytime soon.

  25. Kadayi says:

    Incorporating the Steamworks technology into your game release doesn’t obligate you to sell your product through Steam. It’s just simply a case that Valve have used these tools to combat 0 day piracy of their products successfully and felt it would be good to offer them up to other PC developers, in a move to help the industry. It’s a move that certainly is aimed at encouraging other developers to consider Steam itself as a release platform for sure, and Valve have been very up front about that, but it’s also a move to help developers combat the problem of 0 day piracy, which has critically effected the industry (consider CoD4 and Crysis, both pirated extensively before retail release). There are always going to be people who pirate, that is a certainty, but successfully combating pre-release piracy (which always occurs these days) dramatically reduces the number of opportunistic pirates. Gamers are generally so hyped for a game that the notion of not playing it, when others are is often too much for them to take. Sure they might well buy the game legitimately down the road, but if they bargain bin it 6 months later that’s a lot of revenue lost in the interim.

    I don’t hold with the notion that other publishers won’t consider it. Piracy is a real problem and if there is a means there to combat it, and one that also provides you with sales feedback, you’d have to be very foolish to not at least investigate it’s potential.

  26. Theory says:

    But I have to ask, does Valve charge bandwidth for selling games or do they take a percentage of sales?

    Valve take a cut of sales done through the Steam store, said to be 40%. If you generate sales through other channels they don’t take anything.

    Steam could do with a p2p component

    It already has one. It’s just not out yet. :)

  27. Driadan says:

    @AbyssUK “Can we have a steam client for Linux now please.”

    I’d love to see that happen, but steam is only the distribution platform, so it wouldn’t make its games run under Linux (if they are thought to be windows-only). It would be a nice move, anyway.

  28. Nahual says:

    @Theory

    Valve take a cut of sales done through the Steam store, said to be 40%. If you generate sales through other channels they don’t take anything.

    Valve’s cut for games sold via Steam is 30%, it slipped out from Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, recently, when he was a guest in the GFW podcast and was talking about his new Steam like platform, Impulse, and how they once considered selling SoSE through Steam.

    It was a very interesting podcast and everyone should listen to it, even if it’s a little potty mouthed, but unless you’re easily offended it’s just hilarious.

  29. Kadayi says:

    Yeah GFW podcast is pretty good (go on RPS ..you need a podcast ;)), I listen to it a lot and I heard that comment. 30% isn’t that bad really given it’s their network and they offer up support, certainly a considerably better deal than what you get from a retail publisher.

  30. Jonathan says:

    Reply to Kadayi

    Damn straight especially when you think how much the cost of publishing is reduced, no box no website no bandwidth for the publisher to pay. No need for a publisher full stop really and the sooner we get rid of them the better. Nothing kills a good developer or series quite as surely as bad publisher. Another thing to note is the amount of traffic you’ll get by selling through Steam. I don’t know many websites, let alone independent game sites, which get 15 million hits and an inch tall ad in there will get seen by more people than any billboard or most tv ads .

    Just such a shame all this is for a dying platform isn’t it RPS?

  31. Leeks! says:

    I love that the word they chose was “tangible.” For some reason, that kind of language just implies that all games, at some point, are born from dark voodoo.

  32. Frymaster says:

    “I’m not sure how long it is you can play Steam games offline before they say they need a patch or update.” – indefinately – it won’t let you play a game in an “inconsitent” state ie if it’s part-downloaded an update for it. But if you aren’t online it can’t check for updates, problem solved :)

    “The only big benefit for everyone using the same system is you don’t need to enter your credit card details for new companies” – I disagree, I _like_ having all my downloadable games selectable from one interface. If i ever need to reinstall stardock, i’d better not have lost my email history because there’s no danger of me ever remembering my account details; this would get worse the more companies there are. God knows how many random accounts I have scattered all over the place for multiplayer, for instance. Also, unlike stardock, I don’t have to email tech support every time I buy a game just because I have the temerity to have my stardock account with a different email address to my paypal account.

    Steam client for linux: early versions of the dedicated server installer were essentially that – it asked you for a password and everything. Of course, later versions are ALOS exactly that, they just don’t ask for a password ;)

    “then all the bandwidth costs are shifted away from the developers” – only valve pay for the bandwidth, apart from sponsored servers which is quite a few of them. Some ISPs have valve content servers configured to only server to their own customers as well, to save THEIR bandwidth costs.

    30% is a damn good deal, especially considering how indie-friendly valve is. Make a polished game and you’re guarenteed to be shown on the Friday news pop-up from steam (the only “advertising pop-up” that doesn’t annoy me). It did wonders for audiosurf, Egosoft’s X games, and Garry’s mod, to name three.

  33. Rob says:

    I seem to remember that Valve got 50% on Garry’s Mod in exchange for letting him at the Source Engine.

  34. RichPowers says:

    “Come out wherever you are anti-Steam/VALVe people, we won’t bite (promise).”

    If you insist :)

    “How do I know they won’t turn my account off for giggles? Or start demanding money to “maintain” it?”

    You don’t, and that’s my issue with Steam as well. If I spend $500 on games and Valve unfairly bans my account, what recourse do I have? There’s no third party arbitrator, contractual protection, or guarantee that I can access my games in perpetuity.

    “If memory serves the promise was that non-protected .exe’s will be provided by valve if they go out of business.”

    Nothing in the EULA says that Valve will unlock the games if the system tanks. For once I would like to see the mythical post where Gabe assures us that the .exe files will be released before Steam armageddon. Otherwise this is just a legend that needs to die.

    Steam is awesome for server browsing, community features, demo downloads, etc. But it’s still DRM with all the inherent problems. Microsoft is pulling the plug on its DRM-music service, leaving customers with no way of accessing the music they “own” after the servers go down. How is Steam any different? You don’t own the games just like you don’t own your copy of Windows or your mp3s from Microsoft. With Steam, you’re renting games from Valve and crossing your fingers.

  35. Jonathan says:

    Reply to RichPowers
    So Valve will hack into your computer and delete the files you downloaded? Because if you can play the game offline being banned from the online service, or the signal to say you’re banned, you won’t lose your games. Also it isn’t hard to send out the .exe’s. A confirmation code and an email from the developer/publisher isn’t the end of the world. Finally, this is Valve, a developer that’s always been close to it’s community. In fact it’s largely built on this reputation and losing it could really cripple it.

    Also after reading Boing Boing too often I just tend to black out when DRM is mentioned.

  36. RichPowers says:

    Trust when it comes to businesses is a funny thing. I’m sure the poor saps who bought mp3s from Microsoft thought they’d have access to their files forever. After all, a big company like MS should have no problem keeping the DRM servers running, right?

    Yes, playing offline would be splendid for games like Team Fortress 2 or CS:S. I suppose I’d also have to burn backup copies as well in case my hard drive crashes. Is it even possible to make back up .isos like I do with my retail games?

    Sending out the .exe’s would probably be easy. But that doesn’t mean Valve is obligated to do it. Have the third-party folks agreed to this imaginary .exe deployment too?

    And you can black out all you want when DRM is mentioned, but that doesn’t change the fact that it exists and Steam is a form of it. A rather awesome form of it, but DRM nonetheless.

  37. Rob says:

    You can make backups in Steam, yes.

    Just out of interest, how can you make working .iso backups of copy-protected retail games?

  38. Kadayi says:

    Rich it’s highly debatable whether in 10 years or so the operating systems we will use then will still support the games and software we buy now, whether they are brought through Steam or retail, so although I acknowledge your points about entitlement and longevity I don’t think your looking at the wider picture, and many of your concerns are moot as a result. When buying any piece of software one has to accept it contains an inherent life cycle that is subject to outside forces. Electronic formats are no different than their hard copy equivalents , they are ultimately dependent upon having a means to play them. Recently I made the jump to 64 bit, which suits my needs better professionally, but does mean I had to say goodbye to playing monkey island and a whole host of other 16 bit games in the process because they are incompatible with the OS. 2 more versions of Windows down the line, it’s highly debatable whether XP based software will still be a compatible format. Your fear mongering on the basis of no changes within the wider context.

  39. Rob says:

    @Kadayi

    ScummVM for all your Monkey Island needs :)

  40. Optimaximal says:

    Just out of interest, how can you make working .iso backups of copy-protected retail games?

    Easy… a proper iso creator will make a raw dump of the original disc that will contain all hidden sectors, imperfections and other items that copy-protection programs look out for.

    The only reason cracked warez games don’t work all the time is that the crack group fuggers around with the disc structure when they add their crack directories/modified files – even removing that folder and recompiling the iso won’t leave you with a genuine disc structure anymore.

  41. Rob says:

    Do you have an example of a proper iso creator for me? I like Steam and all but I have plenty of games on CD which I’d sooner not lose if I had the chance to keep a backup.

  42. Optimaximal says:

    I’ve never had any problems with Alcohol 120%, provided its told to make RAW backups.

  43. Crispy says:

    it’s highly debatable whether in 10 years or so the operating systems we will use then will still support the games and software we buy now

    Kadayi, that comment misses the point. The point is I still own a Gameboy solus that I can play games on, I still own an Amstrad that I could play a game on if I really wanted to.

    The difference with Steam is that if you want to play your game you need Steam to be there. I don’t know of a way to backup a Steam game and then somehow reinstall it without using Steam to back it up and reinstall it (paradox). It doesn’t matter if in 10 years’ time my latest PC might not run Half-Life 2, the fact is I may still have my old PC, which is capable of running it but -due to a lack of Steam- would not be able to be played.

  44. Kadayi says:

    There is no more difference between that and dilemma people would face with say authenticating Adobe Creative suite in the event Adobe went to the wall. No company, no authentication, no running software. Do you honestly think if that happened, no other software manufacturer is going to pick up their product line and continue to offer up support?

    Valve own a whole bunch of profitable and valuable IPs with a proven track record of success, and a software distribution system that reaches an unprecedented number of gamers. even if they were to go tits up over night without warning, someone (EA , Activision, Ubisoft, Vivendi even) would buy them up in an instant. Let’s say EA bought them (the most likely), do you think it’s realistic to envisage that EA would shut down Steam wholesale and alienate 15 million gamers in the process? Or do you think they’d build upon it? It’s a delivery system that works and works well, both for games and patches. As long as whomever owns Steam offers up support for older OS systems the white elephant argument is moot.

  45. RichPowers says:

    But none of that is guaranteed in the EULA; you’re merely speculating.

    By purchasing all of your games through Steam, you have one point of failure. If I bought Sid’s Railroads! and UTIII separately in store, for example, one couldn’t revoke permission to access the other. But if I bought both of those games through Steam, and my account goes poof, then they’re both disabled.

    And you’re right: it’s no different than Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft’s DRM’d mp3s. I fail to see how the makes it fine, though.

  46. Kadayi says:

    But your doom mongering is based an unrealistic scenario, it’s a white elephant argument that has no weight, because it deliberately fails to take account of accurate external factors, as I’ve already demonstrated. Also although Steam is the delivery mechanism, I’m not entirely convinced that the actual publishers of 3rd party games are devoid of responsibility to you the purchaser in the event of unforeseen problems. If you buy Doom 3 through Steam, your still buying it from Activision.

  47. RichPowers says:

    The catastrophic collapse of Steam is unlikely; the closure of individual accounts happens all the time. It’s all about risk evaluation: do you trust Valve to maintain your (rental) account with Steam in perpetuity? Or is there a chance your account will be closed, thereby denying you access to all games purchased through Steam? Valve doesn’t even have a customer support number…

    Valve has a “zero-tolerance policy for any violations of the Steam Subscriber Agreement and Online Code of Conduct.” How many other games have such a draconian system? How many users actually read the Subscriber Agreement and Code of Conduct? And even if a certain game used an equally draconian DRM scheme, it would only effect said game. With Steam, all games your purchase through it are subject to Valve’s DRM.

    And I made a mistake: the Adobe example is different. You can purchase most Steam games in-store, thereby avoiding the entire system. No such luck with Adobe Creative Suite.

    My evaluation is simple: retail games often cost less than their Steam counterparts and aren’t tied into one system with one point of failure. Buying games over Steam entails paying more money for less control over your investments.

  48. Kadayi says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble but Steam does have Customer support (www.steampowered.com). Sure they don’t have a universal phone number, but then again email is a lot cheaper than international call rates, and the staffing required to man them. As we’ve already established Steam isn’t going anywhere, it’s also unlikely that Steam support is going to disappear either.

    Frankly if they wholesale ban peoples’ Steam accounts for abuses I’m all for it. Forfeiting access to your entire collection of games seems like a pretty good incentive to keep people from cheating online (and no one likes a cheater). Unless you’ve a penchant for using wallhacks, you shouldn’t be in any danger in my experience. Please no fictious ‘My Brother installed hacks on my machine’ scenarios.

    Certainly there are plenty of games available on Steam that are available for less elsewhere. Valve don’t actually set the price of the 3rd party games available through Steam though, that’s something decided upon by the publishers. If they choose to mark it up higher than it’s available elsewhere, they’ve only themselves to blame when they see less sales. Steam is merely an option for purchasing 3rd party games, it isn’t a requisite.

    Any more fight left in the tank, or are you just going to repeat the same one legged indian ‘what ifs’ that come up whenever (Grr, Boo, Hiss!!) Steam and Valve gets a mention in the press? Or perhaps you’ll surprise us and comment on the actual Steamworks toolset itself? Good idea? Bad idea? Potential to save the PC platform in the face of insurmountable gaming piracy? Perhaps elaborate on the whys and wherefores of that subject?

  49. Jonathan says:

    I think a ban only blocks you from the online content, including the shop and auto patching. Like I said before you can play steam games off line and all the data is kept on your computer so being banned from the online aspect won’t stop you playing single player and multiplayer outside Valve. But I’ve never been banned and don’t know anyone who has been. Anyone else know?

    So you don’t actually lose the games you paid for. It just stops you from playing TF2 if you’ve been a dick.

  50. KillahInstinct says:

    @ RichPowers
    Actually, there is not even the need to ‘release’ updated .exe’s, various Valve employees have stated that they only have to turn the switch (as in the authentication servers for Steam go offline) and the games keep working. This has been tested and -will- be (undoubtly) done if Valve were to go out of bussiness.

    PS It’s not exactly easy searching the forums, I hope to be able to find a link to it.