As part of their warm-up for the Game Developers Conference, Valve have rolled out two new features on Steam today, one for players and one for developers. For those playing games instead of making them, Steam Link is now officially usable outside of home networks, albeit in open beta. Anyone with home streaming set up from their PC and either a Steam Link box or app elsewhere can play their games on the go. Just don’t go expecting instant control response on action games. For developers, the full Steam networking API and infrastructure (as used by CS:GO and Dota 2) is now free and open to all.
The extended Steam Link service (now called Steam Link Anywhere) is currently in early beta, but accessible to all. So long as you’ve got sufficient bandwidth on your home computer and a decent internet connection on the receiving device, you can play anything, anywhere now. Still, it’s a given that this will work better for slower-paced games, thanks to the combination of encoding and network latency. Don’t expect to go improving your DMC5 scores when playing from the other end of the country, but at least you’ll be able to sneak in a lunch break round of Civ via your under-powered work tablet.
For those making games, Valve have opened up the Steam Networking Sockets APIs to all developers. Part of this is better development tools, but more importantly, Valve are letting developers route network traffic through Steam’s own infrastructure now. Valve explain the system here, and among the perks for developers are anonymized network traffic (protecting servers and clients from DDOS attacks) and potentially lower pings through Valve’s networks. Valve have also made some of their networking software open-source and available via GitHub.
Whether intended or just coindidental in its timing, this feels like a logical escalation after Epic made their cross-platform networking tools available to everyone – both moves which benefit everyone involved. With both companies putting better tools and professionally maintained infrastructure in the hands of even smaller developers, everyone seems to come out a winner here. Developers initially, but if Valve’s claims of lower pings and DDOS protection are accurate, then players may yet feel some improvements in time, too.