For Some Reason Steam Now Sells Dev Tutorial Videos

I imagine this is both part of Steam’s gradual drive to become an all-things-digital storefront and reflective of the fact that it’s happy to take 30% of any game anyone wants to sell via it, thus encouraging more people to make games is in its interest, but it’s definitely an odd one.

The latest addition to its digital racks are software tutorial videos; you can pay for instruction in the likes of Blender, zBrush or 3D Studio Max. Conceptually not a terrible idea, but fairly expensive given guides can be found for free and your YouTubes and what not.

Prices at present range from £3.99 to £10.99. I imagine these are the professional tutorials of a higher grade than the average microphone mumbler’s ad-supported effort, so may well be of more use to people who are really serious about getting better at this stuff. Right now there’s not a lot on there, however, which at least puts it in line with Steam’s rather thin general video store. The biggest names on that right now are the Mad Max series and Indie Game: The Movie, accompanied by loads of shorts from aspiring directors.

I suspect it’s all part of a broader plan to make that side of Steam better-populated, but the ongoing lack of a download option seems like a huge oversight. Yeah, I know we’re the Netflix generation and all that, but tutorials especially seem like something you want to have on a hard drive so you can go through on a train journey or something.

Given that Steam is the defacto storefront of indie games (or at least those hoping to earn a bit money) and also many of the leading game dev tools, hosting tutorial vids makes a lot of sense – I’m just not convinced that this is the best approach.

33 Comments

  1. brutaldeluxe09 says:

    this is theoretically not a terrible idea but at a premium price the quality will have to be alot higher than that found on youtube.

    • king0zymandias says:

      Well, people in the industry are used to paying a premium price for quality workshops and courses ever since Gnomon became a thing. Nowadays there are many more places that offer this paid service. Places like Digital Tutors, CmiVFX, CGworkshop, 3dbuzz are very popular. Hell CGworkshop provides workshops that cost upwards of six hundred bucks. And there’s never been a shortage of demand for that.

      The question here however is twofold. First, can steam provide a enough of a visibility boost for trainers to want to come over? And secondly, Will steam’s cut of the profit be fair enough to be worthwhile when there are places like Gumroad that only takes about five percent?

      • jrodman says:

        The question I had, and I think brutaldeluxe did too, is how will the decent content stand out among the possible throwaway random video uploads?

        It seems like Valve really struggles with curation, so how will they succeed here?

        A top-quality introduction to tools is something I’d easily pay 50 to hundreds of dollars on, depending upon what I need it for, but most computer-software videos I’ve encountered online are pretty disorganized and unclear, not to mention that books are often more digestible.

        • king0zymandias says:

          I can’t say how well Valve will curate the store. But based on what you are looking for I would definitely suggest a Digital Tutors subscription, last I checked it was quite reasonable price-wise. And they are pretty good at introduction to software types of video series. They also have these for pretty much every software out there.

  2. AngoraFish says:

    Yep, we can learn everything we need to know from YouTube. Let’s abolish all universities now.

  3. rustybroomhandle says:

    Not a huge fan of video tutorials myself. Text is searchable, can be consumed at your own pace, and can still be supplemented with video and images.

    • king0zymandias says:

      If you are talking about programming, then I agree. But if you are talking about creation of art, say concept art, modelling, sculpting, texturing or animation then I completely disagree. When it comes to art, learning what buttons to push to do something is the trivial part. The real challenge is to understand the creative process and learn how to approach a particular topic. You don’t watch Scott Eaton sculpt to learn how to use Zbrush, you watch it in an attempt to better understand how a professional approaches a concept and what tricks he uses in his everyday work.

      • particlese says:

        I disagree with you, assuming we’re talking about things called “tutorials”. I think those should have specific points to them and are therefore ideal candidates for being searched and consumed pointedly and piecemeal, with plenty of time spent figuring out your own way to wrap your head and fingers around the concepts.

        I’m not quite sure what to call the videos you refer to (maybe “Bob Ross sessions”, which I mean in the best of ways), but I would consider them more…some sort of still-quite-useful smorgasbords of tricks and aesthetic choice-making that you pick up on, depending on your own abilities and mindset. Master class stuff, rather than lesson-based instruction.

        • king0zymandias says:

          Sure, call it whatever you will, it’s semantics. My point was that when it comes to art, it’s infinitely more useful to watch someone tackle a real life project and witness the moment to moment decision making and all the potential troubleshooting associated with it. Because it really isn’t all that difficult to learn how to use Zbrush, Substance Designer, or to Keyframe a rig. So usually artists don’t like watching a tutorial that’s about what buttons do what. You can learn that reading the manual, a few days with the software in question and some googling. If you are a sculptor, painter or an animator what you want is to see in a tutorial is an expert actually sculpting, painting or animating. Every brush stroke and every keyframe, irrespective of the software. Since the principle is always the same. However you are right, for this to be meaningful, first one needs to be well versed in the software and the workflow.

          However in a more technical department like coding or rigging, watching videos to learn can be very annoying and counter-productive.

          • particlese says:

            Hmm, yeah, that reply did sound a bit like I was playing with labels, didn’t it? Whoops! But I put it to you that you’re not innocent with your “art” categorization. There’s plenty of middleground to be had with the nature of the task. “Where’s the button” is trivial, as you said. Making decisions on how to solve technical problems, just like solving aesthetic problems, and no matter the knowledge/skill required, can often be conveyed well with words, if enough knowledge and effort is put into it. It’s really great (honestly!) to see someone with massive skills and knowledge try several solutions before arriving at a satisfactory one in both contexts (art and …not-art), but sometimes (still in both contexts) you simply have a specific problem which can be put into words, and that is why having text-based options (perhaps even with a faffing-about video embedded, as appropriate) is nice to have. I think you agreed that having text is nice when possible, but I am not convinced that something can be entirely too artsy for words. That’s right, more semantics. [I’m stopping this line of thought here because it’s already taken me too much time for an article comment. My arguments are currently weak-sauce anyway, especially in the shadow of Whatisartzilla and Definethezilla, those old devourers of the time of the sleepy/cranky.]

            All that said, I’m much more on the technical side of modelling with many more logical/mechanical constraints than aesthetic ones, and sculpting is very much not my thing (though I still have immense respect for those whose thing it is), so apologies for the hand-waving in that department.

          • king0zymandias says:

            Hey I absolutely agree with everything you said in the last post. And I also concede that it was mistake on my part to broadly define something as “artistic” and other things as not; but as you mentioned that’s a whole another can of worms that is perhaps best left unopened. Anyways, it was a good talk, for me every conversation such as this another opportunity to learn something new or at the very least to get acquainted with a new perspective.

          • HidingCat says:

            I use Photoshop a lot. I really hate video tutorials as well – 90% of the tutorials out there can be summed up in an article that’d take 5 minutes to read instead of 20 minutes to watch.

          • particlese says:

            Hey king0zymandias, thanks likewise for the good chat and keeping it civil. I really shouldn’t post so late: I get much more excited about definitions and such. Thinking a bit more clearly (I hope) about what you’ve said, I reckon I’m not at the level or in an appropriate field where I can have a real appreciation for quite how cumbersome words might make an heavily intertwined series of aesthetic choices, predictions, and revisions. (Even that’s not a fit description for art, but I didn’t want to just dismissively write “doing art”.) I’m skilled enough to make and teach others how to do some interesting/useful things with Blender, but I’m far from being a wizard (with whatever software) like some of these video tutorial folks.

            It’s good that we keep learning in whatever way works, though, so thank you, too, for the added perspective!

      • Cederic says:

        Learning the mechanics of a function, how its parameters work, where when to consider using it? Text, accompanying diagrams.

        Then show a professional at work, demonstrate their workflow, use video to bring together multiple functions.

        There’s a place for both but as someone else pointed out, 20 minutes of video is horrific for people capable of scanning down 90 seconds worth of text.

    • particlese says:

      I can’t stand most video tutorials for the reasons you state plus some petty ones, but some of the Blender Institute videos (and surely other professionally made ones) can be really information-dense and nicely separated into sensible sections. Videos are also useful when showing animation tweaks, although now that I think about it, a series of pausable gifs could also do the job without wasting your time, if well-curated.

      But yeah, not being searchable stinks big time. Probably my biggest non-petty peeve about them. If the videos had time-stamped transcripts, I reckon that would be nearly perfect, as long as the talking is frequent and the video otherwise well-edited for density.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, although I think blendtuts (plenty of which are free!) make a reasonable counterpoint. The basic rigging one, for example, would be harder to convey if you couldn’t see the effects of Oliver grabbing a bone and yanking it about. Maybe little webm clips interspersed ina text article, or something, would be ideal though, yeah.

  4. Synesthesia says:

    I think this is a pretty good thing. Blender auto updating from the steam client is already a godsend. (for someone who isn’t currently doing a project, ha!)

  5. Siimon says:

    Makes perfect sense to me. What would be a better approach? There are already other options (e.g. YouTube, online/college courses) so I see nothing wrong with Steam’s approach. Being able to buy quality stuff at bite-size pieces seems like a good thing. The only downside I can see is the whole streaming-only part, but I’d be surprised if that actually stuck around.

  6. rochrist says:

    They’ve been working on becoming a development resource for quite awhile. They sell a great deal of development software.

  7. Faults says:

    That Modo Indie 901 link is bordering on misleading. £10.99 you say? Really? Sleazy as fuck.

  8. racccoon says:

    There’s new saying:
    Greeder’s just get greedier & greedier.

  9. manny says:

    The end goal is to get into content delivery like movies and tv shows, ala Netflix. Clearly Valve has always had a heavy interest in film and storytelling. (Half-Life and their Source engine tools) But Valve can barely get the Steam platform to deliver little trailers without stuttering so their video delivery pipeline needs serious work and testing. Offering tutorials is the easiest method to do that.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      I don’t think that’s a plausible end goal, though. Steam could NEVER function like Netflix and its market is too niche to bother. It seems more like their end goal is just to make half-assed gestures toward doing different things with Steam just to distract themselves from making games.

  10. defunct says:

    Amazon used to be a book seller. I joined them early on because I loved to read, and that’s really all they did. Now, they’re a marketing powerhouse of doom. Or something. Not sure why it’s so strange for companies to try to do something else.

    • trjp says:

      Amazon NEVER intended to be a bookshop, the aim was always ‘selling everything’ (hence why they’re not bookshop.com or whatever)

      That said, they joined a firestorm of destruction being rained onto the book industry and which has resulted in the scorched wasteland which is now the book market. Major retailers had already done damage but Amazon just razed the survivors ;0

  11. Assirra says:

    Valve i really like you, but can you please for crying out loud do something about your lacking parts first before you do new things? Your quality control (or lack there off) sux. You have 1 asset flip after the other on your store not to mention companies doing some shady stuff like digital homocide and your costumer support sux. Fix those first please.

  12. Juan Carlo says:

    I don’t know what happened to Valve. It seems like their only new ideas these days involve finding new ways to use steam to monetize stuff that used to be free. It’s really puzzling as they used to have genuinely brilliant and innovative ideas. But then Greenlight happened and it seems it’s all been downhill since then.

    Seems like Valve employees are just pulling stuff out of their asses to make it look like they are busy. I would have loved to have been in the board room meeting with whoever sold this brilliant idea.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      It’s Valve, so in all seriousness, that board room meeting could have been a skype message between two people at 3AM ‘Let’s sell video tutorials!’ ‘Ok!’

      I don’t think it’s an inherently bad idea but as has been mentioned by others, the infrastructure is currently not what it needs to be to host good quality streaming video via Steam without stuttering and other issues. Their player software is years behind YouTube’s as is.

      Valve have issues when it comes to leaping head first into things without laying down the necessary groundwork, but they also end up succeeding at least half the time, so give them a year, this could be a successful store front.

  13. haldolium says:

    I got the Modo introduction videos and am rather disappointed. Not through yet, but the guy is mumbling very much and its very slow. Sometimes it seems that the video was improvised and not by script.

    The choice and time of topics is not so great either, too many time wasted on things that do not become relevant for quite some time when starting new to a tool, like interface customization. The sentence that it is “fully customizable” would’ve been enough…

    I will check out some other videos as well, but that video was not really great. Although they all are comparable cheap, given what really good tutorials do cost. And its still better as much of the free stuff.

  14. Pantalaimon says:

    If I can selectively subscribe to creators channels for a monthly fee, or something, then I might be interested. I’m definitely not interested in getting scalped at ridiculous prices per video. But then the pricing structure for software videos has always been completely nebulous.