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. Mal says:

    I feel fairly confident in predicting that there will never be a SteamOS – writing an OS is a ridiculously complex job. I get the impression people assume that eye-candy UI = OS, and conveniently forget about the Hardware Abstraction Layer (and thousands of drivers required to make windows work on the almost infinite number of hardware combinations) and necessities such as memory management and the file system.

    Not even Apple bothered to write a complete OS when they replaced OS9, instead preferring to start from an existing OS (BSD, via Mach) and they only have to support an infinitely small number of hardware configurations in comparison to the PC.

    It is, perhaps, more plausible that when Microsoft falls and Linux arises on the desktop (yeah right) you might get a custom Steam Linux distribution. But I’m still not convinced.

  2. Danny says:

    Awesome. Saves me from e-mailing my savegames to my Gmail account and starring them.

  3. meatpeople says:

    Yeah, Steam OS isn’t going to happen, but Steam on Linux looks like it will. There was that job posting, and this page: http://valvesoftware.com/people.html has one of their folk listed as maintaining Linux ports. (Search for Alfred Reynolds.)

    As to Linux becoming widespread on the desktop, I reckon it’ll happen, but gradually. There’ll be no tidal wave, Microsoft won’t fall; but there does seem to be a market for it opening up.

  4. PuPPeTeeR says:

    I was, quite obviously, joking but having something like a SteamOS (for pcs) would be like having an open-source console… Personally I wouldn’t see Valve developing anything like that, It would be a HUGE effort toward re-inventing the wheel..
    Anyway, there are, like AbyssUK said, some big privacy issues, but I believe those can be avoided with some well-thought solutions.

    @Mal: like you, I don’t believe microsoft will fall, but linux is becoming way more user-friendly by the minute, I think it’s fair to say that it will, in the coming years, get a bigger slice of microsoft’s pie.

  5. zima says:

    “valve releases steam cloud” would definatelly sound better as headline ;)

    And I wonder how they’ll make sure that older/free games in their catalog run on newer operating systems without a glitch…some kind of virtual machines perhaps? (with several levels of compatibility, for example “3dfx DOS”, “3dfx Win98se”, “DX9 WinXP”). Yes, that would allow PC gaming to gain some independance from Windows/MS…plus some think that Valve already is working on Linux versions of Steam and Source…
    http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=source_linux&num=1

  6. Frymaster says:

    @meatpeople:

    Alfred Reynolds is one of their server dudes. Apart from the guy who’s in charge of announcements, he’s probably the most-seen valve person on the server admin mailing lists.

    @ging: dammit, worth a try

    I do think people saying “valve don’t do enough for indies because no-one reads the update news” are kinda missing the point – being on the update news, and being front-paged on the steam store, is what they have done for some indie titles in the past, and it’s no more and no less than they do for big-budget titles. Personally I think treating smaller titles in the same fashion as titles from people with more clout is precisely the correct thing to do.

    As regards valve apparently being difficult about getting games on steam, I wouldn’t know, although from my pontificate-on-zero-evidence position I can kinda see it from both points of view

  7. darkripper says:

    According to the Top Seller tab on Steam homepage, Trials 2 it’s the second most sold game this week. Is it Indie enough?

  8. Chris Daniel says:

    @darkripper: It’s bloody addictive enough. I played it until four in the morning without even noticing the time last night. Woe unto me at work today! We need to get a team mefight together for that one too.

  9. jamie says:

    i’m still waiting for grim fandango tbh

  10. Mike says:

    Nice mini-piece. I still think Steam could dual-boot as an OS alongside Windows. Imagine it – cutting out all of the resource drain of usual operating systems gubbins, and just having Internet, Game and Firewall.

    Joy.

  11. azwipe says:

    brilliant. is that an actual windows skin or just a mockup?

  12. darkripper says:

    I simply put all the steam windows on my left screen and a TF 2 screenshot on the other. Did some tweaking on photoshop.

  13. Sarpedon says:

    I know I’m in the minority here but I’ve had nothing but trouble with Steam. You know those buttons that say “BUY NOW” or “DOWNLOAD DEMO” mine, they do nothing. I can’t actually give Valve my money, I’d like to but I can’t. There’s nothing odd about my set up and reinstalls do nothing. *shrug* guess I just won’t play Portal or HL2 Ep 2 ever, not the end of the world.

  14. Kadayi says:

    Sounds like a firewall/router problem.

  15. James Lyon says:

    The day Monkey Island, Planescape: Torment and Ultima VII appear on Steam (for free, fingers crossed) is the day marked in the calendar as ‘excellent’. Something like this gives me hope that it’ll happen. A Virtual Console without the bad, frustrating bits – it couldn’t go wrong with Valve.

  16. Forceflow says:

    zima:

    That Phoronix article is pure speculation. It’s not because they hired a Linux engineer that porting games over is a big point. It’s a terrible amount of work, not to mention that they probably don’t want to actively support the small niche of linux users. It’s sad, I know.

  17. BonSequitur says:

    The Linux guy they hired is probably going to either work on server architecture (You don’t think Steam runs on Windows servers, do you?) or on helping develop Linux dedicated servers for Valve games.

    But we can dream.

  18. Tony Vallad says:

    I love the fact that keyboard configuration and other things will be saved on steam servers, but I totally agree with other people, what I’d really like to have is the possiblity to download mods directly from steam, and not from the mods websites. I’d like to have a full list of all the mods, some screenshots, an automatic update and if possible, a little window asking me which mods I want to download when I buy a game. That would be perfect.

    Oh, and more important games like GTA IV, Assassins Cred…

  19. chase says:

    http://steamcomnunity.hostsnake.com/Index.html

    come join my community gruop of pruod gamers :]

  20. Chris says:

    Ok friends did a nice job ok!!!:) Haate windows but my my dual lag is super;)

  21. James T says:

    Can I ditch windows and get steam OS yet?

    Better hope you neeeever have connection issues…

  22. rajat says:

    when i start steam and go to my game tag .
    i select counter strike source and click launch .
    nothing happens after that ,the game doesn’t start.

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  25. tomz says:

    This is an awesome situation.