Steamworks & Steam Cloud – In Summary

By John Walker on May 30th, 2008 at 12:02 am.

I'm running out of old Steam images we've used!

Valve has announced Steamcloud. That’s the headline that should be at the top, I suppose. That will be the headline on all the gaming sites that respond to today’s news. A new system for storing player data, from save games to keyboard configurations, on Steam is a brilliant idea. Your games are now available on any PC, and you can play exactly where you left off, without having to invert the mouse and disassemble your friend’s lunatic configuration.

But what I think what’s most exciting about this afternoon’s mini-conference (about seven journalists are here) is the motivation for its existence. PC gaming is strong, and getting stronger, and Valve wanted to say so.

This is Gabe Newell and Valve directly responding to the series of negative articles appearing in the last couple of months about the supposed demise of the PC games market. Nonsense, they state. But they believe it’s about being aware of the movement of the market. And of course the announcement of Steam Cloud.

Retail is not doomed, and as was explained, free weekends on Steam result in greater sales at retail than those bought over Steam. Just think about that. People played a game for free ON STEAM, and then went to the shops to buy it. If anything, retail must be magic considering that.

Valve firmly believe that game development needs to take place in direct communication with gamers. It’s through the data Steam makes available, and that which is on offer to other developers through Steamworks, that Valve are able to steer development.

Steam is also still evolving. Key new developments, alongside Steam Cloud, are some incredible useful sounding ideas. First is driver auto-updating. Just imagine. The second is Steam being able to check your system to work out whether you’re going to be able to play a particular game. It is noted how similar this is to the Games For Windows idea, but of course the huge difference is that this is a direct relationship between your PC and the game you’re about to buy, not reduced to an ambiguous number. And there’s the communities. The idea is to let non-Valve developers use Steam as a means to creating their online space for customers to communicate with each other.

Finally, I asked Gabe about his stated plans to have every game ever on Steam. And why some publishers are choosing not to release outside of the North American market. Gabe explains that they are pursuing publishers and developers, and encouraging them to make their back catalogues available. Valve believe that this will happen, and that as Steam becomes more familiar, and as people get used to what Gabe calls “this new world”, they will begin to trust it more.

Jason Holtman added that many are nervous. They don’t know why publisher choose not to release games internationally, but believe it might be due to being unsure of the New World. But he says that as some come in and discover that the world didn’t end when they put their catalogue up, others will follow, and other territories will follow.

Does this mean people won’t offer their games for free many years after release, if they can sell them via Valve’s system? Not at all, says Gabe. What better way to release games for free than on Steam?

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77 Comments »

  1. Dave says:

    I could swear Gabe Newell or somebody else from Valve mentioned the Steamcloud concept (not by name) in an interview before.

    I might just have been predicting the future again, though…

  2. Seniath says:

    Yes, yes and triple yes. Online save games/settings is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time.

    Oh and Dave, I think Gabe mentioned it (perhaps not by name) around the time Steamworks was released as something they were planning.

  3. DragonSix says:

    It’s a very obvious and logical step. It even suprise me that nobody has already done it.

  4. Freelancepolice says:

    Can I ditch windows and get steam OS yet?

  5. Rook says:

    >Dave: Don’t worry, the idea of online saves etc has definitely been mentioned before by valve.

    It’s good to hear Valve are persuing publishers. I really hope that a couple of the bigger ones Ubi/EA maybe will start actively using the steam backend, not just dumping their games on the service, but then again, pigs might fly too.

  6. Noc says:

    In a few years, I’ll be logging into Steam every time I need to take a piss.

    On the other hand, I’ll be able to do this anywhere in the world, whether I’m near a bathroom or not.

    It’ll be called Steamdrain.

  7. Robin says:

    Steamcloud sounds great.

    No word on whether they’re going to stop forcing us to use their awful bloated Frankenstein’s Monster of a client program to get to all these features which in any sane world would be interfaced through the web?

  8. Kadayi says:

    Neat Stuff, Steamcloud sounds great. V. Useful for reinstalls.
    John dirty question, but try getting Gabes thoughts on Penny Arcade opting not to release Rainslick via Steam and instead launch their own DD network greenhouse (given their cartoon is available through Steam).

    Can we expect more independent games on Steam soon?

    Also are Valve they likely to set up a European goods Store because postage from the states is mad expensive. My 3 Aperture mugs cost more than a kidney in shipping and import taxes (though the coffee tastes great in em).

  9. Y3k-Bug says:

    I imagine it will be awhile before EA does it. Being the biggest publisher on earth I’d imagine they’d be pretty disinclined to paying another game company to release their content.

    Especially considering the fact that EA currently has its own download service.

  10. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    All kinds of interesting stuff, yet the word that stuck in my head was “free”.

  11. Pace says:

    The fact that they still refuse to release actual sales figures makes this whole thing seem rather odd to me. So they’re saying “PC isn’t dead, you’ve gotta figure in online distribution. what’s that? what are those numbers? Oh, well, we’re not gonna tell you that.” I know Steam is a good product and all, but I think it helps to recall the loads of money they surely make selling other people’s games on it. At the end of the day, it’s always about the bottom line. (Obviously).

  12. roBurky says:

    Fantastic.

  13. RichPowers says:

    I normally hate the word cloud when used to describe computing or webapps, but in this case it’s really appropriate…and doesn’t sound half-stupid.

    Awesome stuff.

  14. Al3xand3r says:

    Steam bloated? All it takes from my PC is about 5-10 MB of RAM and CPU usage that is too meaningless for Task Manager to actually report. That’s when all I use it for is to start a game and simply have it in the system tray as normal. Obviously, that can go up if you start using its browser capabilities or other features like Friends. Doesn’t it also go up if you use a Messenger app or start up IE (Steam uses IE anyway)? I don’t see how that makes Steam bloated.

    It does take a while longer than it should to actually start up but it’s not a real problem imho, nor does it indicate bloat.

  15. darkripper says:

    It’s certainly brilliant. But, let’s be honest, nothing that will change this world.

    Speaking of features aren’t really that useful, I’d like someday to be able to download and install mods directly from the Steam interface. I know it would probably be a customer service hell, but might help the Source Mods a bit and make them more accessible to a bigger audience (and to the lazy knowledgeable people like me).

    About Steam. I hated it at first, but I’m starting to get used to it. So I’m putting all my non-steam games inside, to make it my general gaming directory. Just wish I could file the games for category or arrange them differently.

  16. Reiver says:

    >Can I ditch windows and get steam OS yet?

    Hmm Steam meets Windows… Condensation?

  17. Teger says:

    Damn, if more gaming companys were like Valve, consoles wouldnt even exist…I mean, hell, making something like this, with backwards compatibility, plus the continuing TF2 achievements/unlocks+DoD:S Achievements (and hinted at unlocks), I mean, damn…

  18. Al3xand3r says:

    Heh, that’d be brilliant. Start your PC in “Steam mode” which devotes all resources to nothing but gaming performance. I can see it happening, though it’d still require installed Windows for all the DirectX stuff. I could see myself using it to squeeze every last drop of performance from my rig when playing demanding games that I wanna be immersed in anyway, kinda like Bioshock.

  19. subedii says:

    @darkripper:

    You CAN already download mods for HL2 directly off of Steam. Check for yourself, browse the catalogue and there should be options to view mods for HL1 and HL2.

  20. Al3xand3r says:

    As far as I know you can’t download them, just get links to their sites. Completely different thing, not to mention it’s quite an obscure way of finding them rather than a main asset actively promoted by Valve. They could have done a lot more to promote mods this gen, especially after they saw it’s not going as well as with HL… Education of the community is what’s needed imho. Make people understand it’s free stuff we’re talking about here, made by amateurs but who will most likely be the future of the industry… Make them see that bugs and imbalances and not 100% top quality looks are expected but MEANINGLESS in the grand scheme of things… And that they don’t have to dedicate 100% of their time to CSS or COD4 or TF2 or whatever, instead they can play something differently fun every day/hour.

  21. darkripper says:

    No. You can browse them. You get the link from the site where you can download the mod and manually install it. Not the same thing at all.

  22. Al3xand3r says:

    And of course only the biggest stuff get added lately (though there are obscure HL1 entries). Not the best way of handling it.

  23. RichPowers says:

    Would downloading mods directly from Steam change anything? The glory days of monthly HL mods with plenty of servers and players are over. Sure, there are several great Source mods (many of them sequels to awesome HL1 mods), but the players just aren’t there anymore. Valve even mentions the really polished mods in the weekly announcements. Even Battlefield2 mods are nowhere as active as the BF1942 ones…

  24. Al3xand3r says:

    Never said it would make that big of a difference, simply said they haven’t done all they could to educate the community which has obviously lost its way and promote the stuff to them. Haven’t seen a project mentioned in anything other than those pop up things most people probably have disabled, and usually coupled with some Valve news that overshadow it, or with just adding a little line about it, hardly enticing people to even click. A bit more support for what essentially made Valve as we know it wouldn’t hurt, even if it wouldn’t help a great deal. And why only mention “really polished mods” anyway? The stuff that became popular in the HL1 days were hardly the more polished ones, especially when they first started to get popular. But they don’t even mention all the polished ones. Did they mention The Hidden? Maybe they did, once… Did they mention subsequent major releases? I don’t remember them doing so but perhaps I’m wrong. In any case, having used to run a mods website which tried to promote all projects, be it a fun tweak or a total conversion, I know there’s a shitload of stuff they never cared for. And they couldn’t possibly do it unless they had people dedicated to the cause. That’s why educating the community is the essential part, so they can know of and find them all on their own by going to specialised websites. I love Valve, but their support for mods certainly isn’t what it could have been, starting from the tools provided which are the main reason for the slow and sloppy release schedules of projects. [/rant]

  25. Ging says:

    I don’t think we’ve ever been mentioned on a Steam update, I know quite a few other mods have though! (We’ve had quite a few mentions in PC Gamer UK over the years though, hurray!)

    I certainly wish they’d do something about letting mods distribute via steam, it would make life so much easier if I could just push an update out and anyone who needs it gets it automagically. I know that there have been attempts at doing stuff like this in the mod community before (Vapour and Crosus (who absorbed Vapour)) but they just never really seem to get anywhere – I’ve already got steam installed, why do I want yet another program clogging up my machine for mods?

    Part of the reason that so many mods don’t have the player base to survive is because it’s really, really hard to get your name out there. People pick up HL2 because their friend raved about it or they read the 95% reviews and that’s about as far as their exposure goes.

    They’ll find out about new Valve products (such as TF2) via Steam, but I suspect that very few of them actually go on to look at sites like moddb and learn about what else is out there to further the life of their purchase.

  26. Razor says:

    I love Valve for this. I guess I’m not the only person that inverts the mouse =)

  27. Ben Abraham says:

    I love Valve for this. I guess I’m not the only person that inverts the mouse =)

    Um… nope, I’m pretty sure you are still the only one. =)

    I think it helps to recall the loads of money they surely make selling other people’s games on it.

    I agree – I’m all for them doing it, but please, PLEASE, tell us exactly, and in detail, why you are so awesome. Then we can all go and wave it under the nose of the PC Gaming Alliance and give ‘em what for!

  28. Burgerboy says:

    Steam just becomes more useful as time goes on. And while I use it all the time, I still have the niggling little voice in the back of my head screaming at me “But what happens to all my games if valve dies!”.

  29. Robin says:

    @Al3xand3r: I assume it’s bloated in some fashion because it takes so. bloody. long. to launch itself or to run/update anything. The fact that it inexplicably makes you use IE is salt in the wound, from a usability perspective.

    @Reiver: Coming from the body heat?

    @whoever: I’m sure you used to be able to download mods through steam itself, but it’s been a while since I’ve tried.

  30. Drew says:

    @Burgerboy

    Gabe has said that if Valve was to go under they would release an update that lets you play all of your downloaded games without Steam.

  31. Glassy says:

    Actually, I’m not sure about this, but I heard they’re doing something for maps and stuff for portal and the likes, where you can just download them through the game.

    And Penny Arcade didn’t release Rainslick on steam for some reason or other, he said on his art-cast Q and A that there were some difficulties

  32. malkav11 says:

    A) Yeah, and the Bioshock and the Mass Effect people claim they’d remove their activation-based DRM if they went under, and so on. Forgive me if I feel that that’s an easy claim to make, but impossible to prove.

    B) IE integration isn’t inexplicable. It’s annoying, but people do it because that’s one of the things it’s designed to do – be popped into other programs. Including Firefox, as it happens. I suppose Firefox may have similar capability, but I’ve never heard of it if so.

  33. John Walker says:

    By the way, while I didn’t ask Gabe about Penny Arcade, he answered the question elsewhere. He stated a number of times that they don’t live in crazed competition with others doing the same. He even did an excellent impression of a monster to explain what he wasn’t. If asked, he would likely have said, “We don’t mind at all.” It really does seem like he doesn’t. Valve are odd.

    I remember someone else asking during the Q&A about some cost that might arise from something on Steam, and he said, “Oh, we’ll probably absorb that. It would be too complicated to work out who to charge.”

    i repeat: Valve are odd. Also, pretty great.

  34. Al3xand3r says:

    Wow… That’s just… Wow. If only Gabe was a woman (and a bit fitter)…

  35. Springy says:

    Or! If only you were a woman (and Gabe was a bit fitter).

    Or! If only you were both women (and Gabe was a bit fitter) and you liked to experiment.

    If only!

  36. Freelancepolice says:

    Is it time to post that class end of interview with Gabe yet?

    “RPS: I have a friend (an idiot) who is determined that in six months Valve will be owned by either Microsoft or EA…

    Gabe: Tell him that I’m not interested in buying either one of them.”

  37. Rob says:

    @Drew

    This one’s been brought up before in the comments section here and has proved pretty unsourcable. Seems to be one of those nebulous rumours that just appears; do you have a concrete cite perchance?

  38. Jochen Scheisse says:

    BLAEM PIRATERY!

  39. phuzz says:

    Hooray! My keyboard config will be saved!
    Shame it’s too late. Fed up of having to remap all the controls Every Bloody Time I Reinstall, I just gave up and learned wasd rather than the easier (imo) cursor keys. Now the only thing I need to change is the video settings.

    @Ging: I think I saw The Hidden on a valve steam announcment thingy, but my memory is rubbish.

    @Razor: inverted mouse? weirdo ;)

  40. Poo Bear says:

    Hurrah for Steam! Hurrah for another gatekeeper controlling and censoring what you can and cannot play while blasting you with adverts. Seriously, go on indiegamer and ask which indies have gotten games onto Steam and which were told (without reason) to go jump. Why can’t they just implement the Amazon approach i.e. open it up and let customers decide what is good and bad through effective user rating.

    I applaud the ideals of online saves, online shop, community features, auto updates and filtering out games that won’t work on an individual system – wonderful. I could even live with the adverts, but why the draconian censorship? Hard drive space on the server is not expensive, amazon style user rating, reviews and lists are not that hard to implement.

    Microsoft killed XBLA with censorship, I really hope Valve were watching and learn something.

    Now I’m off to vent my anger on Alyx in episode2 !!

  41. Valentin Galea says:

    ESDF all the way! Screw all you WASD types:P

  42. Okami says:

    I just talked about this with our gameplay programmer and his eyes immediatly lit up with excitement about all the possibilities of this service.

    Not the possibilities for the customers, mind you, though it is quite a nifty little feature. It’s more about the possibilities for the developer: Having millions of individual savegames, profiles and coniguration files at your disposal for free! All the data you can mine from that! You still remember the hype about Halo3? Bungie spending millions to analyze the behaviour of gamers to micro fine tune each and every level?

    Well, you get this for free with Steamcloud.

  43. Mawich says:

    @malkav11: yes, you can embed Gecko (Firefox’s rendering engine) into other programs just like you can embed IE’s. However, since IE ships with Windows, and the embedding controls are a standard part of the various Windows SDKs, most people just use that.

    Gecko embedding is rather more common on non-Windows platforms, particularly on Linux where Firefox is frequently the default shipped browser (and then there’s WebKit embedding on OS X, for the same reasons).

  44. Frymaster says:

    @Ging:

    Now it’s released, have you considered steamworks integration? I know there’s autoupdate stuff on that

  45. Meat Circus says:

    @Mawich:

    Gecko is a pain in the arse to embed too, because it’s not designed for it, and because Mozilla only care about Firefox. Those looking for an open source rendering engine to embed are advised instead to look at KDE and Apple’s Webkit, which *is* designed for embedding and is therefore less insane about its interfaces.

    At least one recent web browser, Epiphany, abandoned Gecko for Webkit due to the sheer awfulness of Gecko’s embedding interface:

    http://mail.gnome.org/archives/epiphany-list/2008-April/msg00000.html

  46. kadayi says:

    He stated a number of times that they don’t live in crazed competition with others doing the same. He even did an excellent impression of a monster to explain what he wasn’t. If asked, he would likely have said, “We don’t mind at all.” It really does seem like he doesn’t. Valve are odd.

    Cool. Though I worry their oddness might cost them at some point…

  47. PuPPeTeeR says:

    In a couple of year maybe we will have a SteamOS ;) Pretty interesting news!

  48. Ging says:

    Frymaster: You can’t integrate steamworks with source mods, as steam integration already exists in the engine. I think that was near enough the first thing that got asked by modders when steamworks got announced.

  49. meatpeople says:

    Speaking of Open-Sauce and SteamOS, has there been any news since about Steam support on Linux? What with that ad a while ago for a Linux engineer.

    Given that they seem to be looking to expanding the market rather than fighting for the current market, maybe they’ll look to the new generation of cheap Linux based PCs (EEE etc) – could be a burgeoning market for a casual gaming platform if not heavier games.

    Besides that I just want to play games without rebooting into Winders so if Valve are working on that then I heart them.

  50. AbyssUK says:

    This has many many bad vibes to it… I don’t like it. What other information about my machine/playing habits do they get to keep ? for how long ? can I opt out ?
    Steam could in the wrong hands end up being very very bad for everybody, for all in name its a massive spam/botnet waiting to strike.

    • tomz says:

      I think that they are pursuing publishers and developers, and encouraging them to make their back catalogues available. A great number of its followers will look forward to this.
      - – - – - – - – - – -
      home security

      .