Brad Wardell On The Future Of Impulse

By Jim Rossignol on March 22nd, 2010 at 9:00 am.


Last week I had a chat with Stardock boss Brad Wardell, and I’ve chopped the transcripts into two bits to be posted today and tomorrow. In this first part we talk about Impulse and Stardock’s attempts to rival GFWL and Steamworks with its Impulse Reactor tools. It’s an interesting response to living in the shadow of both Steam and Games For Windows Live, and it’ll be even more interesting to see how many developers and publishers now adopt them. Does all this promise, as one reader mailed in, “Steam, but better?

RPS: So there’s quite a bit of new material to talk about with regards with Impulse. I see Stardock have been busy creating a stack of new features, and you’ve been showing off some of those at GDC…

Wardell: So “Impulse Reactor” is the name we’ve given to our internal development platform, which we’ve been working on for years and years. We’ve started making some of these features available to developers, first of all with GOO, [which was launched at GDC2009] and Paradox and THQ adopted it for their stuff. GOO is basically a way to implement some copy-protection onto a game without being obnoxious to the user. We’ve got the Gamer’s Bill Of Rights, so we wanted to adhere to that while at the same time offering something that was of use to publishers.

RPS: Right. So what does GOO actually do in terms of providing control?

Wardell: It encapsulates the executable and adds activation into the game. A developer can do more than that, if they want, but essentially what happens is that when it pops up you enter an email address and a serial number and that’s the last you hear of it. It’s a one time thing.

RPS: Hmm. So no “always on”. The advantages of that kind of approach do seem pretty obvious, especially given recent events. Anyway, you’ve now released some other tools, which revamp and expand your support for online multiplayer gaming specifically…

Wardell: This year publishers have been coming to us regarding Steamworks. People bellyache about it, but if you’re a game developer this is a feature set you can’t do without. Also it’s also too much to do yourself, unless you’re a really big publisher. Outside EA and a couple of other big guys, adding all this stuff in is often beyond typical capabilities: friends lists, online saves, all that stuff. With Steamworks you have to bundle Steam with it, which is a problem because Steam stuff then pops up in the game. If we were going to come up with a solution to provide a similar feature set then we couldn’t do it in the way that Steam had done it, we had to come up with something else, something more suitable for these developers who were coming to us. So we designed a technology that allows our SDK to be integrated into the developer’s own process. The way it works is that we have created the kind of features you see in Battle.net or Steamworks, except all the developer has to do is include a DLL, and we integrate our stuff in there. What this allows us to do is call up screens with one line of code, without including the distributable as Steamworks has to do. Developers will – it’s in beta right now – be able to use these features for free, as long as they include their game non-exclusively on Impulse.

RPS: Ah, so developers get an instant multiplayer and online feature set for their games, and you benefit from having more games for Impulse users.

Wardell: The fact of the matter is that if we didn’t have Impulse Reactor then Stardock would have to be looking at Steamworks as an alternative. If we had to look at that, you can imagine where everyone else is. If we had to release Elemental with Steam bundled… Imagine it! I’m not even being funny here: what would be my alternatives? Gamespy? Games For Windows Live? Oh, that just gets into a whole other thing.


RPS: PC developers are working in the shadow of either Steam or GFWL, now, it’s true. And I think I know what system the gamers prefer. What you’re saying is that they need alternatives to avoid being completely tied into Valve’s service.

Wardell: Gamers expect a certain level of functionality now, especially having using Xbox Live and the PlayStation network. They expect these tools for online activity to be there right away. Are you on the Starcraft II beta?

RPS: Yes.

Wardell: So you’ve seen what Battle.net is like now? You’ve seen what Blizzard are offering? To me, that’s what players are going to come to expect from their multiplayer games. How many developers have the capability to deliver that? Have you played C&C4 and Supreme Commander 2? Do they offer the same features as Battle.net?

RPS: Yeah, we’ve been discussing that, actually. Battle.net’s front end menus and ladders and stuff are almost more impressive than the game itself.

Wardell: It just works so well: the leagues, the stats, and they have half the stuff turned off right now! So Starcraft 2 comes out and then every strategy game is going to be compared to that. This is our reasoning for Impulse Reactor: developers now need to be able to offer that sort of experience to their users if they want to be competitive. And they need to be able to do it with minimal effort. What’s more they can do that with Impulse Reactor and have it in their game because they can skin our screens to look like their game. I read in our Impulse comments that someone was arguing for uniformity for friend lists and stuff across all games, but hang on for a second: can you imagine what Starcraft 2 would have looked like if it was defaulting to, say, Steamworks, for those screens? It would be a totally different thing, people would expect their experience to fit the game.

RPS: That’s pretty interest as an user-experience observation. I mean, I get annoyed every time I see the GFWL overlay. If that was buried in the game UI then I’d be far less irritated by it. What I want is for a game to store my login and never bother me again. Don’t ask me what profile I want to use, it’s the same damn profile as last time!

Wardell: Games For Windows Live could be described the anti-Impulse Reactor. It’s completely the opposite way of doing it.

RPS: But you are going to have the same kinds of feature sets? Achievements and so on?

Wardell: Yes, but the difference is the developer can call them up. It’s up to them. If you use GFWL you don’t have a say. “Want to use this feature? Go to the overlay.” The players have to go in there and use the GFWL UI, so to the developers. The way we’re doing it is so that a developer can skin this stuff to pop up anywhere they want within their own game. It’s far more natural. Not all overlays are equal! The performance difference for using Impulse Reactor is pretty massive too.

RPS: What about virtually stored savegames and stuff like that, can you actually offer that kind of service in the same way Steamworks can?

Wardell: Yes, although the way we are doing it is to just provide the developer with virtual drives, rather than specific “virtual savegames”. If they want to save some data to the cloud, then they just do that, whatever it might be. Rather than us dictating the way developers implement this stuff, we just say “here’s some space for data online, use it how you want.”

RPS: Have you had any feedback so far on this stuff, actual responses from developers and publishers?

Wardell: Well it was actually developers and publishers who came to us and said “someone needs to provide an alternative”. The big things that these companies really like – and this took us by surprise – is the idea that people can log on with, say, their Facebook account. We’re adding support for Twitter and OpenID too. If the user is forced to create an Impulse store account to use this stuff then it’s as bad as Steamworks. People need to be able to log in with other IDs.

RPS: So no fixed account control? Devs can use whatever suits them?

Wardell: Yes, it avoids the “yet another login” problem by allowing you to use sign up with a Facebook account. It still stores some data on our servers, but it’s anonymised by that point. We don’t store contact data.

RPS: That all sounds pretty interesting, and I can see exactly why this has evolved. Gamers generally seem to regard Steam as the best solution, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way all this stuff can work. So anyway, how is Impulse itself doing?

Wardell: Pretty well. It took us about a year to get to one million users, and we got to three million about a year after that. We’re at about 10% of where Steam is, but we haven’t been out for nearly as long. Where things really started rolling was where we got the major publishers on board. In the last six months we’ve got EA, Activision and Ubisoft on there, and then it’s just an issue of getting the games up there. Things really started happening.

RPS: Any thoughts on the PCGA’s report saying that global games software sales had gone up by 3% in 2009?

Wardell: How do they get that stat? How do they know?

RPS: Hard to say with an specificity…

Wardell: I doubt Valve are telling them exactly how they’re doing, right? Valve had huge growth last year and we had huge growth, and I imagine Direct2Drive had huge growth, but is that what they’re basing that on?

RPS: Well, if I recall correctly, they do suggest that the figure encompasses software sold digitally and at retail globally, as researched by some data company. There must be some guesswork in there.

Wardell: Ha! Well I happen to know that the big distributors are making $65 trillion a week! See, I can make up numbers too.

RPS: Okay, but you have to hope that this is an informed report and not just hot air. And the digital games sales frontier does seem to be growing rapidly. Talking to the C&C4 guy on Monday, he was saying how he’d picked up The Witcher because he’d seen it on Steam. That’s going to start happening more and more as people get used to browsing and buying digitally. It’s awesome for PC gaming generally, because it’s a mini-revolution in throwing off the dependence on retail. The Steam sales alone are generating crazy cash.

Wardell: Most of our revenue still comes from retail, but having digital as an option has changed the relationship enormously. They used to have us by the – uh – balls, essentially, and having your business completely dependent on a handful of buyers is not okay. What it used to be like in the United States was that one store pretty much controlled all of sales of software, and they would only buy from a handful of distributors. Maybe your software would get bought, maybe it would get shipped, maybe you would get paid. We’ve not been paid retail revenues for software because there were so many entities between us and the consumer. Digital streamlines that, and it’s good.

RPS: And it’s not just better for companies, it’s better for gamers who want to spend their money on more obscure stuff, more esoteric stuff, more complex stuff…

Wardell: Sure, the strange thing is almost that it has taken so long to happen on PC. I mean look at the iPhone apps store. A few of those guys are now making millions of dollars on their $5 apps, and they’re not hurting by not being at retail. All the matters is that it’s a clean, easy buying experience. And that’s what Impulse and Steam do. It’s streamlined. It’s easy.

RPS: So just to sum up: all this Impulse Reactor stuff is hitting in the summer?

Wardell: Well some of our partners have it now so that we can beta test, but in terms of making it available to indies and so on, yes, it’ll be later in the summer. That’s tied to how we’re doing the multiplayer for Elemental, too. For example, when you play most traditional RTS games you are talking to each other online, and that’s great until someone has a bad connection or something. With Starcraft II what Blizzard have done is to create a gazillion servers and then throws you onto a server with the other people. That’s why there’s no talk about port-forwarding or anything like that, and that’s possible because of the kind of thing we’re doing with Impulse Reactor. We’re just going to connect users on the most local machine to them. And it’s only in the last couple of years that virtual machines have become common. I can put dozens of virtual machines on one server machine, and just a few years ago you couldn’t do that. It’s a major change.

Elemental will be our full showcase of all this stuff.

RPS: And we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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140 Comments »

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  1. terry says:

    Rivalling the stygian awfulness of GFWL is not a solid business plan :-)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Seems like you didn’t actually read what Brad was saying there?

    • Premium User Badge

      Arathain says:

      “Wardell: Games For Windows Live could be described the anti-Impulse Reactor. It’s completely the opposite way of doing it.”

    • Veret says:

      I think the man just knows his selling points. “Impulse Reactor: It’s exactly the opposite of GFWL” is about as solid a business model as they come.

    • terry says:

      Oh I was agreeing with him, but not very clearly in hindsight. I have my reservations about the Facebook tie-in thing but as it’s optional I just won’t opt in. Cloud saves I can take or leave, frankly, because my netbook doesn’t really support my desktop games. Other than that his points are pretty good ones.

  2. Risingson says:

    Extremely interesting conversation, this one.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    I’m sure this is all very interesting from a development standpoint, but when are stardock/publishers on impulse going to open up the gates to the world.

    There are games i can buy on every other service but impulse because of regional lockouts (from the uk). And impulse is often lagging behind in pricing. So while extra features are nice, maybe they could sort out the core?

    • Xocrates says:

      Although to be fair to Stardock, their own games are not only available worldwide, they actually are equally priced worldwide.

      The other publishers using impulse really need to allow their games to be sold worldwide though.

      (wow. I used “worldwide” a lot)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      but when are stardock/publishers on impulse going to open up the gates to the world.

      One of the reasons why I’m interested in Impulse is that they try to fight regional pricing, so to answer your question Helio, hopefully never. I’d rather not be able to buy a game than be able to buy it at 1.5x its American price if it’s going to send a message that it’s about time customers started seeing the benefits of globalisation on the video games market. :P

    • Droniac says:

      I agree with Heliocentric. During the past year Impulse has suddenly changed into the home of regional lockouts.

      I had to buy Settlers 7 on Steam, because Impulse (or more precisely: Ubisoft on Impulse) has my region locked out. This is the prime problem facing Impulse right now: only a small portion of the games they add to their catalogue are available in Europe (or anywhere outside of North America for that matter). They would be earning a lot more money (and gain more customers) if they could convince these publishers (EA, Ubisoft, etc.) to open their catalogue to the rest of the world.

  4. Chris says:

    > We’ve got the Gamer’s Bill Of Rights, so we wanted to adhere to that while at the same time offering something that was of use to publishers.

    >essentially what happens is that when it pops up you enter an email address and a serial number and that’s the last you hear of it. It’s a one time thing.

    What a breath of fresh air, after Ubisoft and EA showed us how to Do It Wrong. It’s nice to hear from someone senior who gets it, and isn’t afraid of their user base.

    – Chris.

  5. frymaster says:

    the only issue I have with GFWL is the massive number of ports you need to forward (or use UPnP), it should only need 0 for clients and 1 port for servers/P2P multiplayer games… other than that, it’s not bad in and of itself (though it got itself introduced via some abysmal console ports of the “tell people to press the blue x” variety, which didn’t help)

    having said that, I’d still rather use steam… and I’ve had my doubts over impulse ever since I had issues tying a paypal-bought game into my exising account simply because they had different email addresses listed. That being said, competition is always good :)

  6. Peter says:

    So what is the problem with Steam? Ive never had too much of a problem, except sometimes with low reseloution settings, the pop up windows can intefere for a few moments with a hud.

    But can you turn that off?

    The only thing id say thats bad about that pop up, is you cant set to who it shows.

    When you start having 100+ friends becuase of a community, you get bombarded with messages, and if you turn it off, you mightnt see when your close friends are online.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      The “problem” with Steam is that it’s a fully integrated store+distribution+multiplayer+matchmaking+cloud storage+instant messenger+authentication system, hardwired to use Valve’s resources. Which is cool for Valve’s stuff, but less so for those wanting to be independent of them.

      The solution would be simple, allow Steamworks to use providers different from Valve’s own.

    • suibhne says:

      The “solution” for whom? Certainly not Valve, who’s providing Steamworks for free because it extends the ubiquity of Steam. The solution, rather, is for a company like Stardock to march in and create an alternative.

    • Flameberge says:

      @ Peter
      It’s not so much a problem, so much as – as was mentioned in the interview – consumers deserve, and developers want, a choice. I really like Steam, and I really like Valve as a company, but even then I’m not totally comfortable with the near-monopoly they seem to have on digital distribution.

    • Ashen says:

      My only beef with Steam is its horrible, awful client. It’ basically a textbook example of how not to write a windows desktop app.

      The entire UI being browser based? Check.
      Visually inconsistent and totally separate from the rest of the OS? Check.
      Single threaded, so any slowdown during network operations brings the entire app to a halt? Check.

      Too bad the client is the only thing where the Impulse wins though.

    • caesarbear says:

      @Peter – You can set the notifications for friends individually in Steam by right clicking on them in the separate Friends window.

  7. billyboob says:

    Hey if they have can get Portal 2 on there I’ll be right on over!

    Some of this stuff is pretty clever though =)

  8. robrob says:

    The situation with digital distribution at the moment is reminiscent of the browser market during the terrible reign of IE 6. There’s a single big distributor which faces so little competition that it has no need to innovate and a lot of the exciting things that it could be offering either take ages to happen (as with Steam’s move to Webkit) or don’t happen at all. The important thing for competition to realise is not only that they need to provide a service to compete with Steam – something which is not difficult given its shortcomings – but also something which integrates with Steam. Steam’s been around long enough now for people to have invested a lot into it, bought lots of games tied to it and have lots of friends on there. Certainly the only way I’d be willing to switch now is if a competing service offered a client that’s going to show all my Steam games and integrate on some level with the community aspect.
    The problem with Steam is that it’s had lots of time to build momentum and now shifting people from the service is going to be extremely difficult. There needs to be some serious competition to either provide a better service or to motivate Steam to improve theirs otherwise digital distribution is going to stagnate and it’s going to have a large impact on PC games in the future.

    • archonsod says:

      Or not use a client.

      Certainly for people like me who have no particular loyalty to a publisher the client less download services (Gamer’s Gate, Good Old Games, Impulse and Direct2Drive) allow me to shop around online just as I would in the high street. Which is bad news for Steam because nine times out of ten they’re generally offering the worst prices (weekend & midweek deals are usually the exception, however virtually all of their competitors do the same thing these days too).

      The other problem is Steam tends to tie you down. If you buy the Steam version then you usually need the Steam version of any patch or expansion. With Gamer’s Gate you can use the retail expansion with the GG version of the main game or vice versa. I don’t know about the others but I’d assume the same was true of those.

    • vecima says:

      @ archonsod, I don’t know if fallout was an exception to the rule, but I bought Fallout 3 on steam, but bought all of the DLC retail, and applied it to my game.

    • Heliosicle says:

      thats just the way bethesda do their expansions – the same goes for oblivion

      I’m finding it difficult to think of any examples of steam games where you need them both on steam (other than the borderlands dlc) I know CoH is all tied to your account ingame.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Heliosicle

      I’m finding it difficult to think of any examples of steam games where you need them both on steam

      Most games with expansion packs on Steam require that both games are on Steam. Specific examples I can vouch for beyond Bethesda titles are Sword of the Stars, Silent Hunter, and the Total War games. I know I’ve overtly avoided buying games on Steam many times because once I had one element of a set on Steam I had no choice but to get them all on Steam.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      And with the Dragon Age expansion counting as DLC on digital distribution platforms, that’s another one to add to your list, Vinraith.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Non-Steam versions of Dragon Age Awakening work fine with the Steam version, according to reports on the forums.

  9. JohnDoe says:

    I used to try and get games on Impulse, instead of Steam, where possible (support the little guy and all that).

    Then I read about Brad Wardell’s personality and some of the things he’s done. Haven’t bought any games on Impulse since.

    • Osmosisch says:

      If you’re going to say stuff like that, at least be specific. As it is it just reads as rumourmongering.

    • Tom O'Bedlam says:

      ?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Can anyone give an example of something he’s done that’s given you this impression? I’ve never received it.

    • Heliocentric says:

      He’s a republican supporter. That makes him evil right? Or are they the good guys now Obama is in office?

    • archonsod says:

      He does come across as being a little arrogant at times, and he’s pretty much the stereotypical conservative American. Couldn’t care less if he was Pol Pot myself though, I buy his games, not his politics.

    • Gap Gen says:

      There was a thing a while back where UPS (amongst other companies) boycotted Glen Beck’s show after he made a comment that Obama was racist (or something). Wardell seemed to assume (incorrectly) that they were boycotting FOX in general, and in response moved to using Fed Ex.

      And yeah, wasn’t there an article a while back on which game developers funded which candidates in the run-up to the US elections?

    • DrGonzo says:

      Since that boycott thingy I haven’t bought any games on Impulse. I hope others did that too. I can’t stand them now personally.

      Again today someone died… People are in mourning after they discovered it wasn’t Glenn Beck.

    • jackflash says:

      Yeah I was a huge supporter of Impulse / Steam before the whole UPS / FedEx thing, too. Haven’t bought a game on there since. I don’t really care what his personal views are, but him airing it like that and changing his business to comport with his conservative views really turned me off.

    • jackflash says:

      Impulse / Wardell, that is. Still a supporter of Steam, of course.

    • Warskull says:

      Demigod’s release was a total and complete trainwreck, the game basically didn’t work at all. Getting games going was a mess. He proceeded to starting banning people for complaining about the state of the game. Not from the forums, but from the game. He would see a post he didn’t like, rage out, and then proceed to ban and forcibly refund people without telling them what he did. He also banned a number of people’s credit cards over rather trivial things. My account got banned for saying that offering only partial refunds to people went in the face of his “Gamers Bill of Rights” when the game’s netcode was so bad it forced a large amount of people to use 3rd party services to get games going.

      I also look at his statements about trying to create his own battle.net with Impulse reactor and think back to Demigod. Stardock handled the lobby code and made it a total nightmare to get 10 people into a game. They screwed up that game hard, before you could even get to the part of the game that Gas Powered Games did. The automatch ended up just putting you against AI most of the time.

      Brad Wardell talks big, but when it comes to actually delivering he falls short. He’s also prone to do things that really hurt his community and customers when things don’t go his way. Even EA or Activision isn’t stupid enough to ban people from their game for criticizing what they did.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Excuse me Warskull, but check your facts. I too was there you know. I had bought the game and tried to play online. I saw it as it happened.

      What happened in fact was that the game was ripe with piracy. Because of the fact there was not DRM, simply a key check, everyone plus their mother was trying to get to their servers on illegal copies. Since the servers couldn’t handle such a tremendous load (the plan was to scale them as sales progressed) they would crash all the time. Pirates ruined Demigod.

      You can argue they should have predicted it, you can argue they should have put in DRM, you can argue they should have fixed all the bugs before launching the game. But you will not be saying anything that is less true of any other game.

      As for the bans, for your information, they started ban people with clearly illegal keys. There was a lot of banning alright. And those making the loudest noise where the scum without a hint of shame that would still protest knowing full well their game was illegal. If you had a legal copy and got caught in the crossfire, well I’m sorry. Life is not fair.

    • Kestrel says:

      @ Mario,

      Warskull didn’t get banned for having an illicit copy. He got the forced refund because of a complaint post he wrote on the Demigod forums, several weeks after release.

      Here’s the link: http://forums.demigodthegame.com/350858/page/2/

      Reply # 38. FWIW, Stardock Mod Istari issued the refund, not Wardell..

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Thanks for that information Kestrel. Although I never assumed he had an ilegal copy.

      In any case, in truth it still pains me to see the Demigod flame surfacing once and a while. Demigod, for what is worth, is one of the few recent games introducing true innovation into gameplay. It is also a heck of a lot fun to play with. The game clearly had many issues during release. None worse than the server flooding problem that occurred due to a proliferation of pirated copies. As so many other games, it got patched, and the server issues eventually solved by forcing validation and removing/banning illegal accounts.

      During the time when things were going wrong, stardock forums became a battle ground displaying the worst humankind has to offer. People with illegal copies were actually making posts calling for everyone to rebel against what they called Stardock’s lack of support, their shit service, and that they were being unjustly banned. It was one of the worst shows of hypocrisy I have ever witnessed in my life.

      For a company like Stardock that have always developed and produced games of the best quality, who helped write the Gamers Bill of Rights, who always voiced their position against DRM, and because of this often ridiculed by other studios, this behavior surely hit them like a veritable bite on the hand they were feeding. Some less well trained moderators and customer support crew ended up becoming sensitive.

      So, I repeat, if Warskull got caught in the crossfire of the chaos that was ensuing back then, I’m sorry. But life is unfair. He should have learned to shut up like I did, and at least show a little, just an hint, minimal, enough, respect for a company that always without flinching put their customers ahead of everything else.

    • Warskull says:

      You can cry “pirates” all you want with Demigod, but being an apologist doesn’t change things. The game had problems with people connecting to lobbies back in beta. Everyone in the beta knew the game wasn’t ready for release. People expected it to be delayed because it was so bad, they chose to simply release with the problems. The big problem was horrible peer-to-peer netcode for the lobbies. People randomly couldn’t connect to each other or connect to games for no good reason. Initially if someone tried to join your game, but couldn’t it poisoned the game and prevented anyone else from joining. The whole piracy issue with the servers was a problem for one day only. Past that the game continues to have unacceptable issues. It was honestly one of the worst game releases I have ever seen.

      You can label all the people complaining as pirates if it helps you sleep. The truth is, the only people who could play the game properly were the pirates. Third party software such as game ranger that bypassed Stardock’s horrific lobby code got to actually play and enjoy the game. People who tried to play via impulse reactor were greeted with a horrible mess that made playing with friends near impossible.

      The whole point is Demigod clearly show’s that Stardock’s “Gamers Bill of Rights” is just words. They don’t back those words up when they release a game in such a truly atrocious state and ban people who complained about the game’s persistent problems. Used car dealers don’t sell someone a lemon and stand dumbfounded when that person calls back angry. They don’t blame the community for their car’s failings. Of course people are going to complain when you sell them a game with that many problems. People are going to continue to complain when you don’t fix it in a reasonable time frame.

      Take off the fanboy glasses and really look at Demigod. That was an unacceptably terrible release. The problems existed in beta and they chose to release anyway. With the way they then proceeded to handle their community, I wouldn’t trust them as a platform.

    • archonsod says:

      They did back it up. You got a refund which is what they offered in the bill if you were unhappy with a game. That’s more than most companies will give you. It’s more than most retailers will give you these days.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Warskull,

      Take a step back, a deep breath and read my post again. Do not exaggerate my claims, avoid calling me a fanboy (you have no idea how wrong you are) and try to acknowledge I do say things like “The game clearly had many issues during release”, which clearly indicate I know the game had many problems.

      It makes any debate much easier when all involved make an effort to understand each other. They don’t need to agree, but they should respect and understand the other positions. The first step is to actually read what is being said.

      When you say things like “You can label all people complaining as pirates” and other similar allegations when I definitely never said anything even remotely close to that, you reveal the attitude of someone who isn’t willing to debate and makes me wish to stop talking to you.

    • woppin says:

      I don’t like the way Stardock trumpet their anti-DRM stance…you have to use the impulse client in order to download updates for (broken) Demigod, how is this any different from Steam? Or any other online activation scheme? The answer is that it really isn’t, it’s just PR spin.

      Mario,

      “Demigod, for what is worth, is one of the few recent games introducing true innovation into gameplay.”

      would indicate you are a fanboy to most who played the game. I played it, it was a slower version of DotA with less variety in the gameplay and the addition of a flags mechanic which wasn’t necessarily an improvement. Games were frequently decided within the first 5 minutes and the remaining 15 would be a procession. Demigod was not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, and I am loathe to label it as innovative when it was essentially a slight twist on DotA.

      I commend Stardock for backing Ironclad to make Sins, which did actually try something a little different, and I’ll likely pick up Elemental since it looks pretty sweet too, but Demigod was a failure on a number of levels and parroting that Stardock are somehow the victim is ridiculous.

    • qrter says:

      I had completely missed that UPS/Brad Wardell story.

      A lot of people understandably took Wardell’s decision to drop UPS as support for Beck and his political views, which didn’t sit too well with Wardell either and prompted him to issue a statement clarifying that his reasons for boycotting UPS have nothing at to do with Beck himself.

      “My Facebook comment was taken considerably out of context. I could care less about Glenn Beck or whether someone advertises on their show or not,” he said. “But UPS is boycotting the entire channel which annoyed me enough to ask my publishing director to look into whether it was true (it was) and have them look into Fed Ex which provided competitive pricing and make use of them for our uses.”

      “Frankly, I wouldn’t have cared if UPS had pulled their ads from Fox if they had done so quietly. But they didn’t. They had to ‘take a stance’,” he explained further on his personal blog at JoeUser.com. “I’m not a huge fan of FOX. But as a conservative, it is nice that there’s one station where my values aren’t ridiculed. I don’t have some ‘thing’ for Fox. But Fox makes an easy target and it irritated me to see UPS playing such games.”

      Personally, I don’t really care what Wardell’s personal views are – granted, trying to defend Fox News does make him look faintly ridiculous, but allright.

      Where it gets weird is when he says he would’ve been fine with UPS pulling their ads quietly – “They had to ‘take a stance'”. In return Wardell himself then doesn’t take away his business from UPS quietly, but does it publicly – he had to ‘take a stance’.

      Saying Fox is an “easy target” makes my body itch – there’s so much to say there, how Fox News thrives on hitting easy targets itself, but I’ll leave it at that.

    • qrter says:

      Oops, the whole shebang from “A lot of people understandably took…” to “But Fox makes an easy target and it irritated me to see UPS playing such games.” should’ve been a ‘blockquote’..

    • Starky says:

      Wow, that Warskull post has just ensured that I will NEVER buy a game from impulse…

      Forced refunding and banning based on one forum comment? One that isn’t swear filled hate-speech, or insulting to anyone personally – just a standard angry comment from an unsatisfied customer…

      So basically their service is one which if you say anything negative about it you get banned? Nice, very nice.
      God imagine if Blizzard did the same, half there customers would vanish within a month.

      Banning on the forums (a tamp ban at that) might have been understandable… but man.

      If any other form of service provider did that (internet, mobile phone so on), refund or no they’d find their arses in court.

      Insane.

  10. Vague-rant says:

    Hmmm, I think I’m getting to the stage now I’m probably going to stick with Steam exclusively. The thing is, so far I’ve only ever bought online games via steam, or a DRM free source, and my steam account has basically become as essential as my e-mail etc. to the extent where I have it on autostart.

    No matter how convenient a new piece of software is, theres still going to be the hassle of changing over and using something else, whilst still keeping steam for the other games I own. Unless there would be someway to integrate the steam account and steam games into an alternative (nigh on impossible I know), I can’t see myself changing over anytime soon.

    I fear in some ways that Steam has been given too much of a headstart with the user base, but then again my unwillingness to use two launchers probably puts me in the minority.

    • cliffski says:

      I remember when online was a free market, and people didn’t dictate that games could only be purchased through a third party who took a big chunk of the money.
      Those were happy days.

    • suibhne says:

      You mean when the DD market was tiny and sales were a fraction of what they are now, cliffski? Yeah, that was awesome for everybody. ;)

      Just saying, two sides to that coin.

    • Premium User Badge

      Flimgoblin says:

      Well, they’re giving reactor away free if you sell via Impulse – note the “non-exclusively” in there too. So you can sell your game (including Reactor) on your own site as well.

      Really like how open they’re going for this – openauth/facebook login/twitter login – if it pulls in your friends lists too that’d be pretty neat.

      I’m a big fan of Steam, but alternatives are good – the problem with steamworks is that it comes with the full steam store. For Impulse, D2D etc. it’s like Waterstone’s selling books with amazon vouchers inside…

      A version of Steamworks without the entire store (that also plays nicely if you already have the full steam installed) would be a good thing ™.

  11. Joe says:

    I think pretty much anyone in the world could tell you the future of Impulse, and that is always playing second (or third) fiddle to Steam.

    • Premium User Badge

      Flimgoblin says:

      IE6 is great and Netscape 4 is a bit rubbish…

      Let us appreciate there being a bit of competition out there :)

  12. TheApologist says:

    I agree with this. A lot of what Wardell said made sense – I like the skinnable overlays, and the principles of more developer flexibility. I really do, but…

    I am happy with Steam. It works, practically all of my recent game purchases are on there, I have a friends list, and (I know this is weird) I like that I and my friends can see what each other have been buying and playing.

    It has got to a point where a game not being on Steam is an active disincentive to me buying it and I get frustrated that developers aren’t giving me the option of Steamcloud save and so on. So yes, Steam integration matters to me, too, more than competition at this point.

  13. TheApologist says:

    This was a reply to robrob

  14. James G says:

    So Starcraft 2 comes out and then every strategy game is going to be compared to that.

    But… but.. nothing compares to Starcraft 2!

    Sorry. Sadly, this was the first thing that went though my head on reading that sentence.

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    It’s important to keep Steam in check with an alternative that tries to create equal or better options to gamers and developers. Nothing good ever comes from a monopoly. Especially on a market that is such an easy prey to customer religious fanboyism.

    Impulse is the little guy showing it too can be big. And its company, Stardock, is also the company that has been one of the most active voices against disproportionate DRM measures and who regularly releases their own titles with no DRM at all. A company that develops and produces games and speaks against DRM. Go find many others like this…

    Impulse still has a few problems though. But definitely this has been my platform of choice since 2 years ago. And I also have Steam. I just don’t see why having more than one platform on my machine is any sort of trouble. I’m just glad, as a consumer, I have the opportunity to choose and not be stuck to one giant alone controlling the market and dictating the rules to consumers and developers simply because they have no competition to speak of. That is consumer suicide.

  16. bill says:

    You missed the chance to ask them why so much stuff on impulse is region-locked, when it’s region-free on loads of other services.
    I’ve been to their site loads of times, but almost without fail the game i want isn’t available to me.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      That’s one of the problems with impulse so far. It’s not their fault though. They aren’t just big enough yet to force publishers to adopt their worldwide distribution as Steam does. The fact you see region locks on Impulse is because publishers require it.

    • zeddo says:

      I agree – this is the only reason I’ve not yet purchased any titles on Impulse.

    • archonsod says:

      Half the time it isn’t. Steam automatically filters it’s content based on a RDNS lookup on your IP or the location specified in your account; if a game is not available in your region you simply won’t see it. Direct2Drive will show it if you switch between regions, and go even further by having the US version of a game discounted while the UK and EU version remains at full price and similar shenanigans.

  17. Evo says:

    I think the biggest hurdle for Impulse is the level of mind share that Steam has among PC gamers. When people think of digital distribution on the PC they think of Steam. Many use the phrase ‘digital distribution’ interchangeably with the word ‘Steam’. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of people who buy new releases from Steam for over £10 more than the common online price. A recent example of this is Dawn of War: Chaos Rising which is £30 on Steam but less than £20 in several online stores. It’s going to be extremely difficult for Impulse to compete with Steam’s popularity, especially when people aren’t looking for an alternative.

  18. Wahngrok says:

    It must be true then that a happy slave is the most fierce enemy of freedom.

    • Wahngrok says:

      That was a reply to TheApologist… strange things afoot here.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      And one hell of a good reply.

    • Grunt says:

      I’ve been consistently vocal in my Steam opposition. I have a few small games on Steam (budget purchases mostly) but I don’t like many of the ways it does things, in the same way I don’t buy Apple products because I don’t want to be locked into their products and the same way I keep Google at bay with their constant need to be peering over my digital shoulder. I value Freedom, and Steam has already robbed me of some of the freedom I enjoyed in gaming pre-digital distribution, e.g being able to play games without a client’s permission to do so, my games being mine (what happens if I cancel my Steam account, will I be able to play the games still?) and, as someone mentioned, the ability to use standard patches instead of Steam-branded ones.

      For those that have invested time and effort in Steam, we understand but please don’t allow inertia to keep you beholden to a way of doing things that isn’t the BEST way of doing things. As much as you value their service you should value yourself and your shopping/gaming experience more.

    • DrGonzo says:

      So you don’t use windows then I presume? As you value your freedom. Do you shop in Tesco? I really don’t understand the anti Steam thing. I cannot see how using it stops your freedom in the slightest. Please explain.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      He didn’t say using Steam makes you a slave. That wouldn’t make sense. He did say however that wanting to use nothing else than Steam because, and I quote “It has got to a point where a game not being on Steam is an active disincentive to me buying it”, does make you a slave.

      It’s the happy slave argument. Or the greedy consumer, if you will, completely defeated by their Needs, and joyfully joining the ranks of consumer zombies. They don’t realize or equate there’s alternatives that can coexist with their favorites. That having a favorite, doesn’t mean not having anything else. Especially when they can even save money somewhere else. It’s sad, but with age (and I don’t apologize for the bluntness) they will hopefully mature into more aware consumers.

      Have a nice day.

    • jalf says:

      I really don’t understand the anti Steam thing. I cannot see how using it stops your freedom in the slightest. Please explain.

      Try playing any of your Steam games if your account gets hacked (or banned). Try activating a new game you just bought, if Steam’s servers are down/busy. Try retaining access to your game if Steam changes its terms of service (say, adding a subscription fee, perhaps)

      Anything “bought” on Steam belongs to Steam. You’re just getting their permission to play it until further notice.

      Now, if Valve were some kind of saints of perfection, that wouldn’t be too bad. But they do have a history of 1) sketchy security, 2) terrible support for users whose accounts have been hacked, and 3) difficulty keeping their servers responsive under heavy load.

      Yes, I prefer games to not involve Steam. That doesn’t mean I refuse to deal with Steam, just that when given the choice, I buy the non-Steam version.

    • Grunt says:

      Dr Gonzo, said “So you don’t use windows then I presume? As you value your freedom. Do you shop in Tesco?”

      Thanks for replying, Gonz. The rest of your points have been adequately covered by Mario and Jalf (as well as the three seperate instances in my own post you appear to have missed) so I’ll just take what’s left:

      I use Windows AND Linux. FREEDOM. I do not shop in Tesco’s, mostly because it’s too far away from where I live but also because I found the choice of goods in my local 24hr ‘megastore’ to be very poor. I shop in Sainsburys, Somerfield/Co-op, Morrisons, Marks & Spencers, Iceland, very occassionally Farmfoods and I try to grab the International Market when it swings into town. FREEDOM.

      It’s called ‘making full use of what’s available to you’. Try it sometime.

    • Fumarole says:

      Calling people zombies and immature does your argument no credit, especially considering your previous comment a ways up thread.

  19. Javaguy says:

    I think impulse is being a lot more savvy here than people are giving them credit for. Publishers (and/or devs), I’m sure, use Steam and Steamworks only because it is the most convenient way to integrate DRM and some online matchmaking. They don’t use it because they love to have Steam branded overlays and popups all over their games. By providing a lot of the back-end functionality while allowing publishers and devs to create a more tailored system I reckon impulse might start becoming preferable to Steamworks, at least for boxed copies.

    The idea of using any old account is also quite a nice one.

    • archonsod says:

      Not many developers make use of Steamworks at all considering how many use Steam in the first place. Stardock seem to be banking on the main disincentive to be the tie in to Steam exclusively, which kinda makes sense (after all, why restrict yourself to one digital provider, large though they may be, when you can get the game on every provider for no cost?), but I suspect it may be more the case that most developers still prefer to come up with their own back end systems rather than rely on a third party. If that’s true then it’ll be a draw for the smaller companies who can’t afford to dedicate time or resources to community features/multiplayer et al, but I can’t see any of the big companies hopping on anytime soon.

  20. suibhne says:

    Granted, I’m sure Wardell has access to some numbers here, but I think it’s funny that he accuses the PCGA of blowing hot air because Steam won’t release any real data, then says himself “We’re at about 10% of where Steam is.” Given that D2D and others have ridiculed Stardock’s inflated idea of its own importance, I found this noteworthy. Even if it’s accurate – and who knows, really? – it’s still another round in the ongoing (rhetorical and real) struggle between “other” DD platforms for the non-Steam market.

  21. SuperNashwan says:

    A game will have to prise my facebook login from my cold dead hands. No way.

  22. Shadowcat says:

    It has got to a point where a game not being on Steam is an active disincentive to me buying it

    I certainly have nothing against games being available on Steam, but Steamworks is an active disincentive for me to buy a game.

    If the game requires Steam no matter where I get it from, then I’m just not interested at all. I might spend a maximum of $5 to get it in some future sale, if the reviews were good enough, but even then there are probably other games without this issue that I could play instead.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      My home Internet was down most of last week (I eventually tracked it down to workmen painting the front of the house having cut the Internet cable in two and then stuck it together with tape!). I tried that ‘clicking on the game exe’s in the steam folder’ and it worked! I wasn’t blocked out of the games I had bought! Then I tried Bob Came In Pieces, which uses Steamcloud, and I couldn’t access my save games! RAGE! I RAGED! DRM POISON EVIL THEFT PIRACY CORPORATE EVIL POISON RAGE!!! I totally felt what all those horrible angry men felt.

      But it’s alright, I fixed the cable and, once I’d caught up on my masturbation, I had a lovely game of Bob. It was very relaxing. Maybe all these angry internet men need to play Bob to calm down? I can’t believe it’s because they aren’t getting enough masturbation.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @Shadowcat: …other games? But… but… nothing compares to Team Fortess 2!!

      Maybe except for Starcraft 2, but Battle.net 2.0 is quite similar to Steam in most respects, anyway.

  23. KikiJiki says:

    Suibhne – I believe that the 10% of what Steam is relates to accounts/users, rather than revenue that the growth of the DD market is based on.

  24. DazzeL says:

    I know monopolies are bad and all that but I wonder if Valve are corruptable?

    Part of me just wishes that every game was released on Steam and that was the end of it. It’s just the best service and life is so much easier with everything on one platform. Having to shuffle through friends lists of people on Steam, GF F****** WL and Impulse is not ideal – no to mention all the Blizzard people on their seperate systems too.

    PC gaming would benefit from a unified system, like Xbox Live, and Steam is our best option.

  25. BooleanBob says:

    Brad Wardell is one smooth operator. I think he could even teach Peter Moore how to do PR while resembling a human being!

    Some of that stuff about the selectiveness of the Impulse middleware seemed, as someone whose PC is regularly crippled by the impositions of the in-game Steam overlay and confounded by the myriad inconsistent functionality frustrations, enormously compelling. Not all overlays are equal, indeed, and online PC gaming can only benefit from companies being able to tailor the UI experience.

  26. bookwormat says:

    And it’s only in the last couple of years that virtual machines have become common.

    bullshit

    • Premium User Badge

      PeopleLikeFrank says:

      Not really. VMs have been around for years, but the ubiquity of server virtualization that has enabled the cloud computing trend is recent.

  27. Cooper says:

    I like this, and desperately hope it gets a good take-up by developers.

    I’m sick to death of gamespy or GfWL on top of steam and other systems. Hopefully the expandability of this will appeal.

    What I would desperately like, though, is for either steam or impulse to be useful as a games library.

    We’re still missing the ‘iTunes’ of games. The windows games explorer is dire. The new Steam UI has a huge disjuncture between how it treats native steam games and shortcuts whilst impulse is really clunky for launching games, and fairly ugly.

  28. Ingix says:

    First, there exists lots of middleware for gaming in general and has for a considerable time. What I don’t understand is why the things that Brad mentions to be too complicated for most teams to do themselves (friend lists, online saves) haven’t been done before? Obviously, there is demand for it.

    Next, it should be explicitly documented what data exists where and how it is used. If you use Steam, then you know that the data exists with Valve. If Valve/Steam goes down, then your data is lost. This may be a better option than relying on some small company (and their servers) being around in 3-4 years. OTOH, if Impulse Reactor requires Impulse servers *and* some of said company’s servers, then it might actually not be such a good idea. For example, will the online save games be part of Impulse’s servers or the company’s servers? Are there any company servers involved at all?

  29. DMJ says:

    Does the lack of Impulse Reactor exclusivity mean that we can now look forward to games with Steamworks, GfWL AND Impulse Reactor overlays popping up every few seconds to inform is that “Random Acquaintance 217″ has come online, the GfWL servers are down, and Impulse Reactor wants my Facebook login?

  30. Serenegoose says:

    Recently, I’ve been limiting my game buys on steam. Simply because, I am me! and I have a girlfriend that I live with, which makes 2 people. She is a gamer. I am a gamer. But if all of our games are on steam, then there’s a sizeable chunks of games she -can’t- play whilst I am playing any other game on that list, unless we use offline mode sneakiness to allow 2 people to access the same account simultaneously. And really, “you can’t play monster shooter X, because I’m playing mage and sorceror Y” sounds a bit rubbish.

    • Fumarole says:

      Are two accounts for two people unreasonable? Put the shooty games on one and the stabby games on the other.

  31. jalf says:

    OpenID? Delicious. If only the rest of the games industry would follow suit.

  32. DrGonzo says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    Does the lack of Impulse Reactor exclusivity mean that we can now look forward to games with Steamworks, GfWL AND Impulse Reactor overlays popping up every few seconds to inform is that “Random Acquaintance 217″ has come online, the GfWL servers are down, and Impulse Reactor wants my Facebook login?

    That is a most horrific thought.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Isn’t the point of the Impulse one that developers can opt out of this stuff?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      @Anonymous Coward,

      But you have a Facebook account!? That’s your problem, right there. What do you think facebook stands for?

      Besides as mentioned right here, you can opt out. That’s the whole strategy behind Impulse. Use another account, use OpenID, use your email, whatever. Just don’t use Facebook. You know, it actually pays to read the entire article… slowly.

    • jalf says:

      Impulse wants *A* login. But unlike Steam, it allows you to *choose* which login to use. You can login with your Facebook account if you’re so inclined. Or you can use an OpenID or whatever else floats your boat. I’d say it’s a damn good idea. I don’t particularly *want* to have 80 different usernames, accounts and passwords just to be able to access my various games.

      If they all agreed to let me log in with my *one* single OpenID, I’d be happy. That’s not likely to happen any time soon, but at least Impulse has taken the first step.

    • MWoody says:

      Oddly enough, that’s my largest problem – well, after the Fox News stuff – with Stardock Central and, later, Impulse. I somehow manage to get two different e-mail addresses attached to my accounts, then a third username that’s NOT an address, and it screwed my purchases all up. I’ve got some games registered under one, some under another, some disappeared entirely… I think it’s a result of buying through that token-based site they used to have that seemed to be run by a different company. Their support, the last time I bothered to try, was very polite, and I can usually get a newly purchase game to a playable state, but it’s just a huge hassle.

      One login per service, one unique password. Shared or multiple logins are the bane of proper security and unnecessarily obfuscate and complicate the process in the name of simplification.

    • qrter says:

      Yeah, shared logins for important stuff (e-mail, banking details, purchased goods, etc.) is a really, REALLY bad idea from a security perspective.

  33. Hmm says:

    As a gamer who purchases vast majority of games in a boxed form, I’d love Impulse Reactor to become widely adopted. I can’t stand the fact a game I buy in a store forces me to install Steam, be online while installing and then wait for hours for some missing data that aren’t on the disc to finish downloading. I mean, even oh-so-hated Ubisoft’s DRM is less restrictive and annoying in my book and it has an advantage of being “removable with a patch” eventually. With Steam, I’m stuck with Valve’s service for good.

    The faster developers abandon Steamworks, the better in my opinion. I have nothing against Steam, I find it OK for buying games that are only available digitally (frankly, I’m likely to switch to Impulse from now on), I just want it to stay away from retail editions.

  34. cjlr says:

    “To me, that’s what players are going to come to expect from their multiplayer games…”
    Hey, you know what I expect from multiplayer games? Fucking LAN. In no way does that have anything against Stardock, who are awesome, but I remain annoyed. Right. Moving on.

    When it comes to digital retailers, I’ve used Steam and Impulse fairly evenly, and of course dropped a bundle on Good Old Games. Gamersgate hates my credit card so that’s been a no-go, though not for lack of trying, and I heard some horror stories about Direct2Drive when it first launched which have (rather foolishly) kept me away from it in all the years since.

    In this as all things it’s damn important to avoid a monopoly. When that happens we all lose.

  35. Bowlby says:

    I’m glad Impulse is growing in subscriber numbers. I always liked their attitude towards the consumer and DRM. If there are two things they could improve upon, however, it’s polishing up the storefront page and getting themselves more widely publicised across gaming websites/blogs. Just my 10c.

  36. kyrieee says:

    Half the time I go to buy something on Impulse they say it’s not available in my region.

    They even send me offers for stuff that they won’t sell me. Their service is shit for all I care

  37. invisiblejesus says:

    Sweet, while I’m reasonably happy with Steam it’s always a good thing to have more options and more competition. Even for those who stick with Steam this is a good thing, as it’ll hopefully push Valve to ratchet up their game a bit and really work to maintain their position in the market.

  38. Vinraith says:

    I swear, I love digital distributors whose sole interest is providing games with a minimum of baggage and interference. No matchmaking, no online checks, no cloud saves, no achievements, no overlays, no clients, and nothing getting between me and my game. It’s clearly not the way things are going, and I expect to be deprived of the option completely at some point in the future, but for now I’m sticking with distributors that stay out of my way and let me play the game.

    • Uhm says:

      That’s all I’ve ever wanted too. GOG with recent releases or piracy-but-with-money. I’d even be less concerned with the DRM on those games if I don’t also have to use a third-party client.

    • Guhndahb says:

      @Vinraith & @Uhm: I agree. GOG’s platform, while not practical for new games since few (no) big publishers are likely to go without DRM, is digital distribution perfection to my eyes.

    • Shadowcat says:

      I love digital distributors whose sole interest is providing games with a minimum of baggage and interference.

      Agreed. I noted elsewhere that the focus of this Impulse Reactor thingamy seems to be almost entirely on elements that I care about, so the appeal is largely lost on me.

      And speaking of baggage and interference, Ubisoft and EA appear to be making my purchase decisions easier. Not that I was interested in C&C4, but apparently that marks the start of EA using the same kind of DRM that Ubisoft just introduced. That clearly wasn’t a snap decision, so obviously they were both working on much the same thing at the same time. It’s interesting that Ubisoft announced the measure ahead of time, and EA just slipped it in as quietly as they could. Anyways, now that I can completely ignore the output of both those companies, the question of which game to buy at any given time becomes more manageable than it was before.

  39. Radiant says:

    Brad Wardell seems like a very bullishly moral man.

    I’m pretty glad that there are other avenues to buying my stuff.
    Hopefully they all learn to use unified logins so I don’t have to remember what my name is.

    • Radiant says:

      And in the game too.

    • Tei says:

      The techies that created Internet did a better job than the bussines men are doing.

      Email work everywhere, and my Sendmail can talk with your Postfix, and your Exchange, not problem. I don’t even have to know you are using Exhange, and I am using Sendmail.

      Now the bussines suits are the new driving force, and are creating countless systems, that are like small warden gardens with lawyers guarding the area. And these small warden gardens can’t talk to each another.

      Clearly the techie dudes did a better work. What whas the secret? Open protocols with not string attached (not payment or patents or stuff like that). Something I don’t see Steam or Impulse even dreaming to do in the future. Helll… It was obvious with the IM networks and still these networks can’t properly interconnect.

  40. Confus says:

    So according to the denizens of RPS, VALVe are big bad guys now, and Steam is draconian DRM coming to rape our mothers.

    Interesting.

  41. Guhndahb says:

    I desperately hope that using online saves is <b>always</b> optional, as I’m completely against the practice. If I choose to enable it, let me use online saves but let me be able to export them to file and be able to use them offline. Otherwise, it’s just another always-on internet DRM to me. Additionally, I like to keep my saves long-term in case I want to replay a game 5-10 years down the line and want things unlocked that I’d already unlocked, etc. I don’t want to rely on any service still existing to play the games for which I’ve paid.
    Edit: Actually, ideally, just have both offline and online saves constantly synced. Offline saves should always work and take priority over online saves. If there is a sync issue, such as saves existing online that aren’t offline or saves existing offline that aren’t online (or both), then it syncs such that they are copied to where they are missing. Saves should never ever be overwritten without player permission.

  42. GT3000 says:

    I guess the real question is can I transfer over my Steam games to Impulse and if so without selling my soul to do it. If they can master a seamless transfer then they’ll get more to head to their side.

    • GT3000 says:

      Building on that if they manage to build on the service by allowing uninterrupted offline play.

    • caesarbear says:

      Why can’t you run both clients?

  43. linger says:

    Competition is always good. However, it seems now that Steam is large they have more detractors who believe they are the big bad guys now that need to be taken down (a la Microsoft, Apple, etc). Natural progression of these things I guess.

    • Grunt says:

      It must be nice to live in a world where events march through nice, simple, predictable patterns.

      As one who has always – and I stress ‘from the very beginning’ – found Steam to be objectionable on many levels I believe I am running entirely counter to your little theory of “the bigger they are,the more haters they have”. What you are seeing now is a thread happily devoid of the frankly insane numbers of Steam religious devotees fapping themselves over its glory, allowing a more balanced discussion to take place over its advantages and disadvantages. All that’s happened here is the nuts are being quieter than usual and voices that would have normally been shouted down or plain ignored are now being heard.

      Criticising Steam not naturally progress into a desire to take Valve down, either. You’d have to be just as insane as the Steam nuts not to see what Valve do to keep their customers happy, and applaud it. Frankly, every other game publisher out there would benefit from taking a leaf or two out of Valve’s business model and respect for their customers, and so would we as gamers.

    • Confus says:

      “Everyone who likes Steam is a nut job! Only I and a few others see the truth!”

    • linger says:

      thanks confus for summarizing grunt’s longwinding post down to his basic argument. very accurate summarization too!

  44. Sonic Goo says:

    That’s exactly what they need to get bigger, I’d say. I have Impulse because of the awesomeness that is Sins of a Solar Empire, but so far it’s the only game I have on there. A few more exclusives or superdeals would certainly help, since I really like their philosophy and we do need some competition for Steam.

  45. reginald says:

    the main problem I see with other online distribution systems is that they wont have Valve games available, ever . I’m sure this isn’t a concern for a lot of people, but Valve are basically THE reason I game on the PC. They’re one of the few big game developers I can actually respect. Ubisoft, EA and Activision are all garbage shovelers that don’t deserve a dime from me, in my harshly-worded opinion.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Ubisoft, EA and Activision are all garbage shovelers that don’t deserve a dime from me, in my harshly-worded opinion.

      So, you don’t buy Ubisoft, EA and Activision games when buying on Steam, right?

  46. RedFred says:

    I think that regions other than the US and the UK/Europe tend to get shafted a bit by online ‘download your paid’ game type programs.

    I live in New Zealand where you can’t get uncapped internet, meaning when I download/upload over a certain amount every month my speed gets reduced to 56k unless I pay more. I just don’t have the cap to download a 10Gb game even if I can afford it from a money perspective.

    I’m not sure what your internet deals are like but I feel NZ is pretty behind by still having download/upload caps.

    • zeddo says:

      Telecom’s Big Time plan works for me… but on a bad day their port throttling can kill Steam

  47. duffster says:

    I’m very happy that steam has competitors, and I hope they do well. Don’t get me wrong, I buy a shedload of stuff on Steam, but I wouldn’t want a company (even Valve) to have a monopoly.

  48. malkav11 says:

    Unfortunately, Valve -does- have a monopoly on digital sales of their games. As Impulse does on Stardock games, and Gamersgate does on some other titles (not Paradox games, though, those have been appearing on Steam in what I believe to be an enlightened policy).

    As for Impulse GOO… SecuROM activation works pretty much like Brad describes – one window pops up, you punch in your keycode, and you never see it again….but the whole problem I have with it is that it’s activating off some company’s servers. Sounds to me like he’s making another version of the second (well, third) worst kind of DRM on the market and trying to sell us on it as an anti-DRM maneuver. Fuck that. And that’s the -basic- model. He says that companies can add to that if they want.

    Thirdly… I hate to be the resident GFWL apologist, especially since I’m not super happy with its current implementation (push to talk voice chat and a streamlined game invite system would be nice, for starters), but… GFWL -does- store your profile. You just select the “automatically sign me in” checkbox and from there on out you’re autosigned in to any GFWL game you happen to play.

    • archonsod says:

      I don’t think Gamer’s Gate have anything as an exclusive. They do tend to pick up on a lot more of the European stuff for obvious reasons, and since they partnered up with 1C a lot of the Eastern European games tend to show up there, most of which probably flies under the radar of people like Valve.

      Tends to lead to one’s game list being decidedly more quirky.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s probably not any sort of formal exclusive arrangement, but the fact remains that Gamersgate is the only place I know of (at least in the US) to buy Pathologic digitally, and I suspect a fair few of the other European titles. This makes for defacto exclusives and I am thoroughly annoyed by how compartmentalized and fragmented digital game distribution is. You know how many games are exclusive to one particular store at retail? …yeah, neither do I, but I can think of only two offhand, both Walmart exclusives, and it’s been regarded as a rather scummy move on their part.

    • Vinraith says:

      @malkav11

      FYI, I got my copy of Pathologic off DIrect2Drive.

      I’m actually alright with different digital distributors having different catalogues, it forces people to go against their natural instinct to consolidate their collection in one location. Too many people buy all their games from Steam as it is.

    • malkav11 says:

      Having different catalogues is one thing. Having games exclusive to one point of sale is another, sometimes overlapping thing and it’s anticonsumer as it denies one the ability to choose where to shop based on factors other than simple availability.

  49. vash47 says:

    It’s nice to see Impulse going more for the way of unintrusive DD unlike Steam.

  50. Rizzmond says:

    Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that Mario Figueiredo is actually Brad Wardell?