Steam Clouds Are Forecast (Ha Ha!)

By John Walker on November 4th, 2008 at 6:00 am.

I'm too tired and jetlagged to think of a good joke for tihs image.

You may remember that back in May, RPS was the first place in the world to announce Valve’s new addition to Steam, Steam Cloud. Today Valve have declared that it’s finished, and ready to go live.

Steam Cloud is a feature for Steam which, when implemented, allows players to store their save games and game configurations on Steam’s servers, rather than their own computers. With Steam you can access your games from any computer, so long as you’ve bought them on your account, but you’d have to start the game from scratch or carry your saves around with you. So the idea is, with your saves and configs stored on Steam, you can just pick up and carry on whichever computer you use.

The first roll-out of the system is going to be focusing only on the config stuff. Valve explain,

“Steam Cloud support will ship with Valve’s Left 4 Dead demo later this week and the full game on November 18. In this first release, the information stored and accessible through the Steam Cloud includes keyboard, mouse, and gamepad configurations, as well as multiplayer settings such as spraypaint images.”

Of course, with Left 4 Dead not having saving, there’s no need for the other half of the Cloud feature. But there’s currently no word on when that function will be available. However, it’s also become more clear that it won’t be annoyingly fiddly.

“The Steam Cloud will “just work,” meaning any user changes to their game options will propagate to the Cloud by default. Upon logging into Steam from another PC, these settings will be brought down from the Cloud and automatically leveraged by the game. Any configuration changes on this second machine are then synced to the Cloud for future sessions.”

It’s free to users, and perhaps more importantly, to developers and publishers, and it’s available to be retrospectively added to previously released games. It seems like an idea good enough that it would be quite ridiculous not to include it in any future games. Although you might wonder about the reaction from publishers who seek to prevent customers from installing games on more than one computer. Ideally, the Cloud system becoming commonplace would make such draconian thinking look sillier.

Valve say they have plans to expand the features in the near future, which hopefully means an announcement on save games.

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75 Comments »

  1. PanzerKnacker says:

    Weee!! I love steam :D

  2. Fumarole says:

    A small, but welcome, addition to PC gaming.

  3. Dyscharge says:

    I remember reading this in (if I recall correctly) the latest Steam Update you get upon login to it.

    Seems like a terrific idea, and I do hope publishers/developers, besides Valve, have the pants to implement this into their games.

    The first game that could benefit well from this would be STALKER. I almost completely changed the keyboard configuration in this game, and I’ve installed in on three different computers (not simultaneously, though) and it was a huge pain in the arse to try and remember the configuration each time, thus leading to a tedious trial-and-error-esque cycle until I got them correct (or comfortable) again.

    I can see no use for the multiplayer configuration, though. What else, besides the username, can be needed? … Yet it will be a small relief not having to go to the options tab to change the name.

    Again, Valve is completely full of win. I guess… I guess I am a Valve whore!

  4. Death by Toast says:

    Makes you wonder why game developers didn’t think of this sooner…

  5. RichPowers says:

    Valve spoils us rotten with awesome stuff like easy-to-use server browsers, Steam Cloud, and community features. I wish more games would either use Steamworks or just copy Valve’s formula. There’s no excuse for shoddy in-house server browsers or Gamespy these days.

  6. SKACE says:

    VALVE ROX!!!

  7. Leeks! says:

    Free internet hugs for Valve!

  8. Tolkienfanatic says:

    @Dyscharge

    A lot of more serious players of games such as CS 1.6 and TF2 change their autoconfigs drastically from the default settings for optimal performance. Trust me, it is a pain to have to do it on each new computer.

  9. Wedge says:

    YES PLZ. This’ll make me have to worry a lot less about reinstalls or moving to new computers. I just hope it gets support from non-Valve products. Now if it could just let me transfer graphic settings from HL2 to any mods by default…

  10. Premium User Badge TRS-80 says:

    Hopefully this will fix the way certain TF2 achievements are per-install, while others are per-account.

  11. bemo56 says:

    What we really need is EA to adopt this so when we post bad comments on their forums not only can they remove access to our games, they can delete our savegames while they’re at it!

    Sorry for the troll, but i couldn’t resist :)

  12. noexes says:

    @ bemo56: No worries, I loled.

  13. Ginger Yellow says:

    “Upon logging into Steam from another PC, these settings will be brought down from the Cloud and automatically leveraged by the game. ”

    “Leveraged”? What the fuck is wrong with “used”?

  14. Lars Westergren says:

    >“Leveraged”? What the fuck is wrong with “used”?

    Not enough synergy for the win-win.

    I hope it is better implemented than Microsoft’s horrible Gears of War stuff. You HAD to be online to be able to save there. Also, the server was so poorly implemented there was only one save file per player, and saves where not atomic. So if the client crashed during a checkpoint save (which happened to me) the save file got corrupted and you had to restart the game from the beginning again. Whee.

    Still, since we are talking about Valve here I’m pretty sure they are going to get it right (optional, safe and non-intrusive).

  15. Jeremy says:

    Just out of curiosity, but how many people actually play on more than one machine?

    I can see a use for this by people migrating to a new machine or protection against disk crashes (both of which I’ve experienced the past couple months – always back up, boys and girls), but I can’t see it being a daily part of my gaming life.

    It’s a good idea, but I don’t see myself personally having a huge use for it. Anyone else?

  16. C0nt1nu1ty says:

    This seems like a pretty logical way to get round the old piracy issue, bascially make it so piracy is irrelivant. Big problem was that games are singular products and so it was worth copying.
    Here its not a “disk licence” its a “user licence” you as a user ar authorised to use the software and so it doesnt matter where you play it.

    The Cloud just makes it a killer app, now as you can drag everything with you wherever you go the muppet who pirated feels like a tit and the regular users actually get a better experiance for a change

    This could cause problems later on when Steam goes tits up (because it will go tits up) but hopefully someone will take it on or valve will release some of the locks on software or soemthing. But dont count on it.

  17. Dood says:

    Now that is how you fight piracy. (Yes, I said the p-Word)
    Give the players who paid for the game access to features everyone likes to have (well except the privacy-nazis perhaps), instead of punishing the players who bought your game with ludicrous resrtictions.

    Go Valve !

  18. Adam Hepton says:

    That’s great: I just hope they’ve implemented some sort of packeting, so that only the bits that have changed since your last downloaded save file get downloaded when you log in, otherwise it’s going to consume a lot of bandwidth, and slow down the experience to the point where it’s useless.

    I can see me using this for playing a Football Manager save spanning home and work in a better way than keeping it on a memory card like I do now, but only if I don’t have to download 200MB or so of savegame before I can get going every time.

  19. Jp1138 says:

    Well, I usually play on two different computers, desktop and laptop, so I will be using this feature at least on some games : )

  20. tom@nullpointer.co.uk says:

    Pretty sure blizzard do something like this already for WoW. Your actionbar setups and macros are now stored on the server so you dont get quite as messed up from loggin with different machines. Unfortunatey this doesnt solve the problem with all the addons I use :(

    It definitely makes sense tho, I often play the same game from 2 machines.

  21. Stuk says:

    I have most of my Steam games installed on my desktop and laptop, so this is a welcome addition.

    Now all I’d like is if they could automatically work out what resolution you want based on other Steam games. That’s a pain to set up every time.

    Thank you, Valve.

  22. Rob says:

    @Ginger Yellow

    I was a bit aghast at that particular tidbit of business speak; I can only assume it somehow permeated from an earlier internal meeting and someone forgot to edit it out.

    I was leveraged by a synergy once. I got better.

  23. Premium User Badge mickiscoole says:

    “Although you might wonder about the reaction from publishers who seek to prevent customers from installing games on more than one computer.”
    It wouldn’t make a difference, as the publishers who only want a game to be played on a single machine probably wouldn’t have it on steam anyway.

  24. Aftershock says:

    “just works”

    Sounds disturbingly mac-esque

  25. windlab says:

    Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory servers (yes, people still play it!) store your keyboard config and all such settings – but that’s the only similar thing I can think of.

    It’s quite a welcome addition to steam, I only wish that other developers would stop being so – behind the times, and catch up.
    Better still, put their games on steam. xD

  26. Rei Onryou says:

    Once again, Valve continue to make other publishers look bad. I have concerns about implementation of things like system settings (i.e. if I play on a powerhouse PC and a low-spec laptop, I don’t want my graphics settings copied) and save game file sizes. Some games have stupidly big save games (whether thats due to no optimization or necessary I don’t know) and that could pose issues for playing anywhere.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to this!

  27. Rob K-L says:

    This is not only great for those who play accross several machines. It is also useful to those of us who periodically wipe their reg-bloated windows install and re-install everything.
    I have learned to hate certain games that scatter their save game and config info through half a dozen obscure locations and encrypted files.

  28. egg says:

    I for one would be thrilled with this idea, had it been announced, what, 5 years ago?

    Nowadays my so-called CS career has ended and my LAN days are over, so I have little use for this cute little feature.

    Still, I’m always prone to blowing up a piece of two of rig due to misusage, so having everything backed up is a relief. :D

  29. Premium User Badge Eonwe says:

    As a student, i migrate between my hometown and uni-town every weekend, and sometimes i play on my brother’s laptop, so this is great news indeed. Was getting tired of constantly copying my savegames to the USB and back.

  30. Rii says:

    Blizzard implemented a similar system in WoW a few weeks back. Config Settings, Keybinds, Macros, etc. are all stored server-side.

  31. Crispy says:

    “Just out of curiosity, but how many people actually play on more than one machine?

    I can see a use for this by people migrating to a new machine or protection against disk crashes (both of which I’ve experienced the past couple months – always back up, boys and girls), but I can’t see it being a daily part of my gaming life.

    It’s a good idea, but I don’t see myself personally having a huge use for it. Anyone else?”

    You seem to have missed the point where you can migrate your FPS settings to the next FPS game you buy (provided it’s on Steam). As a left-hander, this saves me roughly 30 seconds the first time I install a game to change from WASD to Keypad, and to invert the mouse buttons.

    Migration of config settings other than mouse and keyboard controls is the really useful side. I just hope Valve lets you distinguish between different genres: an FPS setup being pretty useless in an RTS game. Also I can’t see how this ‘leveraging’ is going to work for games not made by Valve or using the Source engine, will they force new publishers to put their games through ‘conversion filters’ to change “player_jump” to “+jump”, “item_back” to “invprev”, and so on (just made up examples). On the surface of it, it looks like only Valve-made and Source engine games are going to be able to offer this particular Steam Cloud feature.


    Another thing: when do you think Valve will start charging for all these great, free services?

  32. Heliocentric says:

    ESDF users rejoice! Its not a big deal but its nice. Carries potential issuses. For example empire total war, those saves carry alot of info. Potentially too much for zero footprint steaming.

  33. cHeal says:

    I wonder is they will utilise information on user controls and other settings to determine better key layouts and graphical settings. A resounding ‘meh’ from me tbh, but it does seem like a feature that will be very useful to some people.

    If they could make it that all their games would come with my custom key layout already set, then I’d be impressed :P

  34. subedii says:

    Although you might wonder about the reaction from publishers who seek to prevent customers from installing games on more than one computer. Ideally, the Cloud system becoming commonplace would make such draconian thinking look sillier.

    The heck are you talking about? Install limits are a completely rational method of combating piracy. As a measure it’s show tremendous success to date.

    Somebody else back me up on this!

    Somebody?

    Anybody?

  35. Dawlight says:

    I’d love to see this in Call of Duty 4 on Steam, since storing ranks and weapon unlocks locally is the worst idea ever. I know it’s a console port, and you don’t format consoles and whatever, but still.
    And Fallout 3 could use something like this too.

  36. theleif says:

    Nice news for all of you!
    Unfortunately my steam account just got highjacked. The day after i bought Fallout 3. Yes it sucks. And i’ve been waiting 3 days for a response from steam support.
    Feel sorry for me.
    I do.

  37. AbyssUK says:

    @theleif

    Now ladies and gentlemen this is why you don’t store all your eggs in one basket. Steam is a bad idea.. cloud computing is a bad idea. Chicken farmers in the dark ages knew this.. but you guys can’t see it???

  38. Heliocentric says:

    Jeez, thats harsh. Good luck dude. I’d forgotten that was even possible. I’ll go change my pw later.

    Install limits are to combat resale, i know i’d never buy mass effect or spore etc second hand. They effect piracy in no way what so ever once a crack is in effect.

  39. Vagueism says:

    Gametap is using this for their services. No save-files are stored locally (as far as I know). I’ve been using their free games a little and the combination of no save-files and “try for a limited time” has made me go out and buy the games (Thief and Fallout). I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but the games just felt borrowed.

    I hope Steam’s Cloud will have locally saved games IN ADDITION to uploading them to their server.

  40. GiGinge says:

    bloody brilliant idea, hooray for Valve, yet again!

  41. mashakos says:

    Steam Cloud is a feature for Steam which, when implemented, allows players to store their save games and game configurations on Steam’s servers, rather than their own computers.

    OMG! It doesn’t do that already??

    I formatted the drive that had steam installed last month, and didn’t back up anything! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

  42. x25killa says:

    Awesome. This would be very handy for all LAN cafes that have Steam on thier computers. Now, what was the password…

  43. James G says:

    @mashakos

    Don’t worry, it appears that even if you use the ‘back-up’ function it doesn’t back-up your saves, as I found out to my detriment recently. (It also seems to fail to back-up some of the software.) So at least in your ignorance you didn’t waste several DVDs and a fair amount of time. (Plus, it couldn’t restore the backup from the DVD directly, and still expected me to re-download steam. Actually, come to think of it now, I’m pretty sure something went wrong.)

  44. mashakos says:

    oh well, time to play 11 games all over again… :’(

  45. Charlie says:

    Hate to tell you this but you didn’t have to be online to save Gears. I played it all the way through and didn’t have to go online once to save the game.

  46. Mman says:

    Steam Cloud sounds really great, although I’m wondering about some of the specifics that could be an issue (stuff like it loading too-high settings on a weaker computer that someone else mentioned). Hopefully there are options to avert that.

  47. Tom says:

    Now if only Steam wouldn’t be so painstakingly slow. There’s just no excuse in the world that a modern game takes like 3-4min to load (that’s steamlogin + gameloading time + connection time).
    The cloud maybe a nice feature, but before they get the speed problem sorted, I’m not impressed.

  48. Tei says:

    This was a obviuous feature back wen Counter-Strike was popular, and people roamed from home to a cybercafe, to another different cybercafe. More the settings, than the savegames ( I feel better with my savegames where I can backup then). *buzzword alert* this may help adding web2.0 features to gamming *buzzword alert*. Is also a double edge sword.

  49. StormTec says:

    @AbyssUK

    You mean like how keeping everything I own inside my house is a bad idea? I mean, my house can easily burn down, and then I’d have lost everything! Ironically though, in such a situation, I’d still have the games I’d bought off Steam…

  50. Moonracer says:

    I wonder if devs will have access to (and use) this information stored on game servers? While looking at game save might not be that informative, I imagine having a vast pool of game config files could be very useful for streamlining and improving default settings for future games.