Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Game Distribution Platforms Becoming Annoyingly Common

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the looking-at-you-games-for-windows-live dept.

Social Networks 349

The Escapist's Shamus Young recently posted an article complaining about the proliferation of distribution platforms and social networks for video games. None of the companies who make these are "quite sure how games will be sold and played ten years from now," he writes, "but they all know they want to be the ones running the community or selling the titles." Young continues, "Remember how these systems usually work: The program sets itself up to run when Windows starts, and it must be running if you want to play the game. If you follow this scheme to its logical conclusion, you'll see that the system tray of every gaming PC would eventually end up clogged with loaders, patchers, helpers, and monitors. Every publisher would have a program for serving up content, connecting players, managing digital licenses, performing patches, and (most importantly) selling stuff. Some people don't mind having 'just one more' program running in the background. But what happens when you have programs from Valve, Stardock, Activision, 2k Games, Take-Two, Codemasters, Microsoft, Eidos, and Ubisoft? Sure, you could disable them. But then when you fire the thing up to play a game, it will want to spend fifteen minutes patching itself and the game before it will let you in. And imagine how fun it would be juggling accounts for all of them."

cancel ×

349 comments

Steam and Electronic Arts (2, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902336)

Actually for once EA is doing it correctly. You have 4 ways to buy their games (that I know of):

1) Physical product from store
2) Steam (where you get the goodness of Steam services and social aspects)
3) Direct2Drive
4) EA's own store and download manager

You can buy your game from any place you prefer. If you buy from other places, you won't get EA's own download manager or things. That's how it should - buyer can choose the platform he prefers. For me that is (unsurprisingly) Steam.

I'm sure not all people like the social gaming aspects of Steam and other platforms, but I do enjoy them. It's easy to play with friends or chat in-game (good with multiplayer games). But for those who don't like them, they can be turned off. I never buy from physical stores anymore, it's a lot more convenient to buy from Steam and almost instantly get to play it. I always keep wishing I could do the same with my PS3 or 360, but they usually only have the smaller games in their stores and I have to order the "real" games via post.

Good example of social aspects in Steam is also that via MW2 I've got many interesting players on my friend list so that theres always someone to play with, but they don't bother me if I'm not playing. It's more fun to play with the people you somewhat, even if very vaguely know.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902404)

Just so we're clear: you're renting the ability to play. When, not if, they go belly up, you've just got a hard drive full of random bits.

Don't get me wrong, I use and love Steam (it even works well through Wine on Ubuntu) but I'm under no illusions about ownership.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902432)

You actually don't own the games you buy physically either. You're getting a license to use them, like with any other software.

But more than that, I don't think that will be such a big issue though. What are the changes that Steam will go away anytime soon? And even if it happens in lets say 20-30 years, that's still many years. Many of the games I bough in 90's are too scratched, lost somewhere along the years or do not work with current operating systems and are unplayable now. Doesn't bother me too much, theres great new games now.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902634)

also your licence doesn't expire. if you manage to borrow a game in a legal way, you can still play it as you have your licence. heck, by their terms i could sign a paper which transfer you my licence to some game and if they found you playing it in some way they have no grasps at you

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902682)

That depends on where you live.

In many countries you actually buy the software contained on the physical medium and are free to do whatever you want with it. This includes reselling it, decompiling it, changing it, whatever.

E.g. in Germany EULAs are only legally binding if you were already presented with them while buying the software. Eulas presented while installing the software or just present in the packaging are unenforcable.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (2, Interesting)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902922)

It depends on your local law as to how enforceable the EULA is. I bought a game, I didn't pay for a license (at least not as far as it was presented to me). If nothing else, physical copies of the game will still work even if you do violate some obscure license clause ("you can't play this game while wearing red socks"), where as Steam and similar DRMed games are dead in the water as soon as your "license" to play is pulled.

As for your old games, just because you've lost or scratched them doesn't mean that everyone else has. Not working in current OSes is normally easily resolved with DOS Box/ScummVM or some other emulator.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903014)

You actually don't own the books you buy physically either. You're getting a license to read them, like with any other information.

But more than that, I don't think that will be such a big issue though. What are the changes that Steam will go away anytime soon? And even if it happens in lets say 20-30 years, that's still many years. Many of the books I bough in 90's are too blotched and water damaged, lost somewhere along the years or the type is too small and are unreadable now. Doesn't bother me too much, theres great new books now.

I think Stallman had a point with his right to read thing.
Bearded hippy though he be.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903076)

Uh what? You do own the books you buy. Immaterial and material products are different cases. You can't compare them directly. Even if the pro-piracy guys always like to point out that copying != stealing or their stupid reasoning that copying something doesn't take anything off from someone and can't really see the larger picture.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (2, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902488)

Valve has stated before that if they do go belly-up they would release a patch so that you could play all of your games without getting onto the steam network. That or I would expect some hackers to crack it.

That is of course assuming Valve doesn't try to sell Steam.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902620)

If there's any video game developer I'd trust to not fuck everyone over, it's definitely Valve. They've got to be the single most community-oriented developer out there right now.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (5, Insightful)

ethorad (840881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902732)

Yes, because if they go belly up they'll definitely have the time and resources to come up with a patch to let you play their games. Plus I very much doubt the insolvency practitioner /debtor / purchaser will be willing to let them have funds.

The only way I'd believe that claim is if the patch had alread been written (and was kept updated with changes to the system) and in the hands of a third party to be released on a list of conditions - such as the servers going dark.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (4, Interesting)

mr_da3m0n (887821) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902790)

Well, I can't seem for the life of me to find the original article, but I recall clearly that Gabe Newell stated that Valve has a decryption key ready to go out, at the press of a button in case they go belly up.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

ethorad (840881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902900)

That's certainly good news, hadn't heard that. I just always get suspicious of companies that promise to do things at a point when they have lost control of their company. It's good if Valve has already written it and so won't need resources to develop.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902906)

The only way I'd believe that claim is if the patch had alread been written

It is.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902934)

Valve has stated before that if they do go belly-up they would release a patch

Or maybe if they go belly-up, they won't have the money to release a patch? Nahhhh....

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902502)

If the company goes belly up some one will step up to the plate and release a liberation patch whether officially or unofficially. Just keep your documentation of purchases and no sane judge will give a damn about what you did to access files that you bought that are on your machine.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902632)

sane judge

They still exist? I thought you could only see their bones in museums and read about them in history texts. huh, Go figure.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902770)

Yes, but at the sight of you they tend to go crazy again and pass irrational judgements against you.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902860)

You have read about the DMCA laws, haven't you? It doesn't matter what your intent is, if you're bypassing copy protection and other physical measures then you're automatically in league with the devil/paedophiles/terrorists. And that's just the start of the law - the big name companies seem to want to push it even further!

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902956)

There needs to BE a company to file the complaint though. DMCA is still semi-civil law (insane penalties withstanding), no owner = no complaint = no problem.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902928)

You're giving them awfully lot of credit. Check the Steam EULA. You don't have ANY right to play the game you bought. According to the EULA, you donate money to Steam and they'll let you play their game should they feel like it. No guarantees though.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902930)

Also to that same tune you're renting those discs you buy. When, not if, those discs go bad you'll just have a glorified plastic coaster.

Now I know most discs have about a natural 7-14 year lifespan unless we're talking special storage. My personal experience tells me 7 years is lucky. So the real question is: Will Steam last longer than my discs?

For me it already has. Curse you NwN:Hoards of the Underdark disk :(

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (2, Informative)

TOGSolid (1412915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903034)

Well, not entirely useless. I keep all of my Steam games backed up to an offline profile so that even if Steam did go tits up, I'll still be playing my games quite happily. Most of the non-Valve games don't even need Steam to be in online mode for their multiplayer to work.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (3, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902484)

Steam usually operates fine in off-line mode for single player games. And the trade-off of getting integral patch updates, being able to delete and restore a game at will, the low cost of downloadable games (especially ancient ones) and being able to transfer games to another client without media are all big advantages for most players. They seem well worth the risk of losing the Steam servers.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902684)

You have excellent points. Unfortunately, when I'm cut off from my games I just go max impotent nerdrage. So, to save the lives of my family, I stay away from Steam.

You said "transfer". (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902690)

being able to transfer games to another client without media

That may work between PCs connected to the same Steam account. But the last time we discussed this, a licensee of a Steam game could not transfer a game to another Steam account. So I don't see buying a game on Steam as wise unless A. the game has substantial replay value, or B. the game is on sale for under $10 like a console game rental.

They seem well worth the risk of losing the Steam servers.

Copyrights last 95 years. Archives have to make sure that the authentic copies that they buy are usable at least until after the copyright has expired.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1, Interesting)

wertigon (1204486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902700)

That's how it should - buyer can choose the platform he prefers.

Amen to that brother, amen.

One can even take it further. I've often wondered what the difference between Steam, iTunes and The pirate bay is. Because the way I see it, there is no *significant* difference. The difference is about the same difference as Verizon, AT&T and T-mobile.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are differences between the three. The pirate bay, for instance, has no control over what floats through their trackers, which means quality often is hit-and-miss, and viruses are rampant. And now I'm only talking about the legal (e.g. filesharing CC-licensed content) aspect, not all the warez and pr0n. But for all intents and purposes, iTunes and TPB is essentially the same service.

So, what happens when lots of similar centralized services appear and we get a giant mess? Answer: Develop some open and decentralized protocols to clean it up! Thankfully, the open protocols are more or less already here (cue XMPP, HTTP and Bittorrent), now all someone needs to do is glue them together in a coherent way, make a nice packaging and release it under one brand. Here's how I'd like it to work:

  1. Joe. A. User opens up his Digital Store(tm) client.
  2. Joe selects one of many interesting stores in his "bookmarks" list. Think of it as a webbrowser.
  3. Joe wants to check out that nifty game, Quake 2037 that he keeps hearing so much about. So Joe clicks on that title.
  4. Joe gets directed to a page where he's asked to fill in his Credit Card details. Joe complies.
  5. Purchase is now completed. Joe is granted access to download the game. The game can be on a server owned by the Digital Store(tm), on a server owned by the game developer, or perhaps on a bittorrent tracker. The "where" is not that important, only that Joe gets his game. Where it is is up to the content deliverer, whom does not have to be the same as the Digital Store(tm).
  6. Joe has now downloaded his game and can start playing it. Happy playing! :D

Before anyone says "WTF, security holes! o_O;;" yes, there are a few in the above scenario, but they can be fixed. The important part here is that there's *one* program to get your music/movies/games/warez/whatever from, and that one connects to a lot of different stores. The stores in turn have deals with content producers, that is, the artists, game developers, writers etc. Since the standard is open, someone will make it dead easy to set up your own store, thus avoiding the big cartels. Voila, the distribution of the future is solved!

It's too bad MAFIAA won't ever let it happen... :(

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902806)

I really dislike Steam, because even games bought in store that use it depend on Valve deciding whether or not you're allowed to play the game. See people who imported Modern Warfare 2 which is perfectly legal to do but Valve revoking their access to the game because they didn't buy it from the retail channels Valve/Activision wanted them to buy it through or didn't just buy it through Steam.

Other than that, I just don't like the way Valve is going. It started off great- bare minimum DRM, fixed prices in US dollars worldwide. Nowadays however, the DRM has gotten worse and Valve has got to the point where they're leveraging their strong downloadable games platform to try and price gouge (see above MW2 example) which is not a good thing.

I hate the fact Steam just randomly downloads updates chewing up every last byte of my bandwidth with no way to control it too meaning it eats up some of my peak time bandwidth allowance that I have to suffer in the UK. For this reason I keep Steam closed most the time.

Personally I still just order disc-based games online to come through the post where I can, I really don't want to deal with companies that try and remove my ability to shop around for a lower price, and who force me to register with them to play, and who force me to let them choose when I can/can't play.

"I always keep wishing I could do the same with my PS3 or 360, but they usually only have the smaller games in their stores and I have to order the "real" games via post."

The XBox 360 has sold retail games from the marketplace for about 6 months now, but I don't know about the PS3. The selection isn't as big as it could be, but it's got plenty of top games on there. I don't know if they intend to ramp this up or not to start including the latest releases, but it'd be nice if they did.

Re:Steam and Electronic Arts (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902926)

See people who imported Modern Warfare 2 which is perfectly legal to do but Valve revoking their access to the game because they didn't buy it from the retail channels Valve/Activision wanted them to buy it through or didn't just buy it through Steam.

The issue wasn't that simple. This is what g2play replied to me after asking why MW2 was removed from my steam account:

Hello mate

Recently we have aquired Call of Duty MW2 keys from a supplier who showed up to get them in unlegitimate way.
We had unfortunatley no idea about this since the price offered to us was notcheap and the profit margin for us on these transactions is very low.

We may offer you 3 possible solutions for this issue:
1. Eiether we refund your payment via PayPal
2. We give you any other game in similar value
3. We will recieve another pack of Call of Duty MW2 keys from verified supplier probably in 48 hours (max after weekend ). We can then replace you your current key of course.

Best
G2PLAY.net Team

I also bough left4dead 2 the same day from them and Valve didn't do anything about that, nor have I heard they're doing anything about the new keys sold by g2play. If a reseller has acquired and sold stolen/hacked/whatever keys (not blaming g2play here but their supplier!), I think it's withing Valve's right to revoke those keys. And Valve just revoked the key and told to ask for refund from the reseller.

Microsoft and X-Box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902940)

MS can't stop people releasing games on PC, but they sure can make it difficult for people to PLAY games on PC.

GFWL is ***NOT*** needed in the majority of cases but you see how the game industry abide by that unwritten (or non-disclosure) rule --- you wanna get your game distributed? You have to run GWFL or else !

5, 10, 20 years down the road (4, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902338)

Another thing to worry about is that in 10+ years we will have a whole generation of games (not just MMOs) that will no longer be able to be played on emulators, etc. because the networks they connect with will be gone.

I think people will get fed up with it and the game publishers will have to change eventually, but not before a lot of damage will be done.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902378)

I don't think so. 20 years is lot of years. Even the TV I bough 10 years ago doesn't work anymore (not showing tv channels at least), because digital TV got instructed. Did it really bother me that much? Not really. I just bough a new one with lots of new fancy features and HD picture.

Not everything in life last forever. The pizza I ate yesterday is gone. It was still good and I enjoyed the experience. So is my ex but I enjoyed that experience too and now its time to move into new things.

And theres always private servers, if the player base actually is large enough.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (2, Interesting)

Amarantine (1100187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902434)

But i can still pay the games i bought for a NES or Mega Drive. I think the PS2 is the last console before the new generation where patches, firmware upgrades and whatnot became the norm.

I have no problem with not being able to play the games i bought now in 10 years or so, but perhaps they shouldn't be priced as such then. Games now cost the same as 20 years ago, yet they don't have the same lifespan.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902474)

But they have a lot larger costs to make than 20 years ago. And to be honest, in terms of dollars spend per hour games as an entertainment are really cheap. Two hour movie ticket with popcorn and cola costs at least $10 per person (and then possible a dinner in restaurant $40). One night out in a bar can easily cost $100.

With a good game you can top hundreds of hours of gameplay, which makes the per hour price come down to like $0.10-$0.20. Not much, if you ask me.

Redbox (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902736)

Two hour movie ticket with popcorn and cola costs at least $10 per person.

Here, physical media still have the advantage: DVD rental + 2-liter soda cost no more than $3 at any grocery store with a Redbox. And you don't have to worry about cell phones, crying small children, etc.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (2, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902612)

So you'd be ok with that book not being readable in 10 years? (Self-destructing a la Mission Impossible)

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902656)

Not self-destructing, that would be just silly. But if there are valid reasons like MMO player base dying, DVD's getting scratched, or new technology making old devices obsolete, I'll live on and do something else.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902882)

Not self-destructing, that would be just silly. But if there are valid reasons like MMO player base dying, DVD's getting scratched, or new technology making old devices obsolete, I'll live on and do something else.

Player base dying is a legitimate reason (after all, the whole point of the game is that the game is there to be played with others. However, the vendor should open up the game to private servers once it takes down its own.) DVD's getting scratched and new technology making old devices obsolete are "self-destructive a la Mission Impossible"

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902714)

I don't think so. 20 years is lot of years. Even the TV I bough 10 years ago doesn't work anymore (not showing tv channels at least), because digital TV got instructed.

Yeah, but you bought it right before a big shift in technology, the biggest in the history of TV. And besides, that old TV still works if you just get a converter. I used my standard def TV up until 2 months ago when I decided I wanted to have a nice HTPC and Blu ray player.

Getting back to video games, I think the video game makers that only think of their games as short term profit makers would have a hard time justifying them as art. I can go into a media store and buy music and movies and books from decades past but video games only go back 5-10 years or so before they get termed "abandonware" anymore. There are a few exceptions, like Diablo 2 still being sold and rereleases of Myst. And then there is the Wii offering older games through the Wii shopping channel. But for the most part the industry have put itself into a situation where games aren't cared for after just a few years. Which is sad because a lot of classic games are still played and still entertaining. yeah, yeah, I know, there is the technology factor, but it doesn't have to be that way. If they put more care into making games that followed coding standards and didn't do stupid stuff like contact central servers in order to play, then they could end up selling for 10 years or more like Diablo has.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902766)

And then there is the Wii offering older games through the Wii shopping channel.

That's an interesting point actually. Steam also offers old games made to work with current operating systems and computers. Then there's GOG [gog.com] , and PS3 and 360 also offer such. It might just be that the trend is continuing and we will see much more such in future. Sure in most cases you need to pay the $5-$9 again even if you own the game, but if you think the game is good its not really that much, and it comes with somewhat improved graphics and making it work in newer systems (or other platforms, like your console).

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (2, Funny)

IsisTheDamned (1128657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902526)

you don't have to wait that long - hellgate london achieved this in less than five years...

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902992)

They forgot to bury it below crossroads, it's coming back again [eurogamer.net] .

Then again Hellgate at least has a singleplayer mode so it remains playable in some form.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902574)

"Another thing to worry about is that in 10+ years we will have a whole generation of games (not just MMOs) that will no longer be able to be played on emulators, etc. because the networks they connect with will be gone."

There is an easy fix for this situation.

Don't buy a game unless there is a crack for it somewhere. Most cracked games get around the "phone-home" syndrome. TPB is a good place to start.

I've got two games that I haven't even taken out of the box as I prefer to use the non-DRM versions available as a torrent.

The developers have a work-around for this though. It is called the "MMO".

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902804)

That doesn't really fix the underlying problems, as the problem really isn't so much a money issue, but an preservation of history one. I kind of like to be able to be able to play the games I grew up with. When you however have stuff DRM'ed and depending on servers staying online to be usable, you will quickly run into situations where history is just getting lost, as you are no longer able to play past games.

On PS3, Xbox360 and a PC games you might still work around that issue by hacking, cracking and that kind of stuff, but that is constantly getting harder. And when it comes to things like OnLive its flat out impossible, unless you break into their servers and manage to steal the game data.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902576)

Another thing to worry about is that in 10+ years we will have a whole generation of games (not just MMOs) that will no longer be able to be played on emulators, etc. because the networks they connect with will be gone.

So, today the warez versions that don't connect to the network are merely better than the official versions, but in 10+ years, they'll not only be better, but be the only way to play? No problemo.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902660)

Yeah I can't say I really see the issue - well maybe on consoles, but for the PC we already have the situation where online gaming has been around for almost two decades, and sure it's not so easy to find players for the really old games, but there are fan groups out there you can hook up with and play, it's not impossible. Okay you weren't locked down to a particular network back then, but as OP indicates, that's easily patched, especially once the game drops off the radar enough that nobody really cares (and if they do care enough, i.e. they think there's still money to be made, then it won't be an issue because they'll still be supporting their network or releasing their own patch to allow users to play on their own servers, etc).

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902968)

I don't know about you, but two decades ago I was still searching through instruction manuals for the third word of the second paragraph on the eighth page in order to load my games. Online gaming, even remotely related to the current forms and standards, isn't even old enough for kindergarten class yet.

OldSchool emulation (2, Insightful)

DrYak (748999) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902876)

Old school emulation suffers from this too :
- most of the original purchased magnetic-media have bit-rotten by now and/or the necessary hardware to read them (ALONG WITH all the protection weirdness - not just any reading drive, but one producing exactly the glitches on which the protection scheme relies) might be broken.

Meanwhile
- all the pirated versions are still around fully enjoying digital mortality (once a soft is only a bunch of bits - with no physical media or protection attached - it costs almost zero to copy it). Want to rediscover some long-lost gem ? No problem, just don't pay much attention to the "crack-tro" tacked at the beginning. And, as a bonus, you usually even got a "trainer" built-it so you can still enjoy the game even if our modern-day tastes are less into games were you constantly die.

"Pirates" are todays most corporate-hated criminal, but tomorrow people-loved archivists.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

GF678 (1453005) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902654)

Another thing to worry about is that in 10+ years we will have a whole generation of games (not just MMOs) that will no longer be able to be played on emulators, etc. because the networks they connect with will be gone.

Your concern is something that a lot of gamers have yet to appreciate the ramifications of. Sure, the logic of not being able to play games in the future due to the activation server being down is sound, but damnit, it's Bioshock 2! BIOSHOCK 2!!! I simply cannot pass up playing ! Or put another way, logic is defeated when emotion gets in the way.

Having said that, this is where cracks will prove very useful. They'll be our savor for when the authentication servers are finally disconnected, and you can always rely on cracks being available due to the desire for breaking the uncrackable.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902864)

In other words, these are DRM schemes, with all the inherent problems. My rule is simple: if I can't download it to my own machine and be able to ensure I can still run it 10 years from now, connected only to my own local network, I'm not interested. Doesn't matter whether it's movies, music, software, or games. There's no excuse for making these things dependent on something still existing and running thousands of miles from here.

Re:5, 10, 20 years down the road (1)

DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902964)

Personally, I think that's exactly what they want... absolute control over the distribution of their software. It sucks for those of us who are genuinely interested in the history of gaming.

Game distribution (5, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902348)

Game distribution
A tragic solution
The most horrid trick
Since the disposable Bic
Burma Shave

Tell me about it! (1, Insightful)

gravyface (592485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902408)

Steam is such a huge PITA! Right-click > Exit. The nerve of them! And if I don't want it to load at startup? I have to (again) right-click, go to Settings, and uncheck that option. All this just so I can download games at almost 9Mb/s, whenever I want, at really competitive prices? BS, says I!

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

Tukz (664339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902500)

Competitive prices?

I never buy new games on Steam, because they are more expensive than ordinary retail, with psychical media.
Steam god awesome offers though, and I got about 60 games on my account because of those awesome weekend or holiday deals.

But they don't have competitive prices, not in my country anyway.
It's by far cheaper to order em from an online shop.

And that's including shipping...

The only reason I would actually pay a bit more on steam, is if the game couldn't be added to steam by retail key and I wanted to play it online with my steambuddies.

Re:Tell me about it! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902580)

psychical media

Now that's a whole new distribution paradigm ;-)

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902628)

Get ready for thought DRM in 3... 2... 1...

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902606)

The full prices aren't that great but they do often run deals and occasionally there'll be a pretty competitively priced game - considering the fact that you get to play sooner, it's not always the worst option. I've never bought one that way though (I refuse to have a credit card and it seems they don't, or didn't when I last tried, accept debit cards in the UK).

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902938)

The full prices aren't that great but they do often run deals and occasionally there'll be a pretty competitively priced game - considering the fact that you get to play sooner, it's not always the worst option. I've never bought one that way though (I refuse to have a credit card and it seems they don't, or didn't when I last tried, accept debit cards in the UK).

My Lloyds TSB debit card has worked absolutely fine with Steam for as long as I can remember.

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903054)

There's ClicknBuy that allows you to make Steam do direct debit to your bank account, provided you trust them enough (then again you can reverse direct debits like that if you think they're fraudulent)

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903026)

The only reason I would actually pay a bit more on steam, is if the game couldn't be added to steam by retail key and I wanted to play it online with my steambuddies.

You can link external applications to Steam and it'll give you the overlay stuff, just no invite functionality. Of course many games lack that even in their Steam versions.

Re:Tell me about it! (3, Informative)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902516)

Steam isn't a problem, it's when you've got 12 Steam clones from different publishers all of which are required for you to be able to play different parts of your games library.

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902692)

These kind of services tend towards convergence in the long run. The more successful schemes such as Steam will continue to grow and absorb the lesser services - it's not like the market can support a massive number of service providers, and if it ever gets to the point where it's too much hassle, gamers will just avoid games outside their existing networks. I can't see many publishers happily throwing away potential customers on a shrinking platform for the possibility of some control in the future, except maybe the really big players such as MS.

Re:Tell me about it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902898)

Thing is the best answer is why would you bother? At best there are only a few titles that are different. With Steam its the Half-Life series and spin offs, Impulse its the stardock library. The vast majority of publishers are on both. People will become centric on one and honestly ignore the others so this "problem" isn't going to exist. I've choosen to go with Steam, mostly because I was on it before Impulse and my library of games on it is up to 300 now(okay, okay, I'm a little OCD about having everything, but I can afford to). The weekend deals and other specials they run are an amazing value. I checked out Impulse but really besides a couple of titles I see no reason to bother with a second distribution system.

Re:Tell me about it! (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902872)

Steam prices are far from competitive, they're standard maximum retail prices sure, but in the UK games that sell for around £20 - £23 on Amazon etc. brand new are £29.99 or £34.99 Steam.

Steam prices do mirror those in retail stores like GAME and HMV, but these places are rediculously overpriced too when again compared to places like Amazon.

No need for 16GB of memory? (1)

lehphyro (1465921) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902452)

Who said 4gb of memory would be enough for anyone?

Thanks pirates! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902476)

You fucking cunts.

Ah yes (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902486)

One of the reasons I quit PC gaming.

Alternatives (0, Troll)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902522)

I think the scenario could play out that way, and it would truly suck for gaming.

But we should keep perspective. Here are some ways you can still have fun even if/when this nightmare scenario occurs:

  • Go for a walk / bike ride / swim.
  • Grab a beer / coffee / soda with a friend you haven't seen in a while
  • Read a good, paper book.
  • Learn to cook your favorite food: Thai drunken noodles, some curry dish, a kick-butt chili recipe, chocolate chip cookies, etc.
  • Finally learn to play whatever instrument you've always wanted to learn.
  • Ask a local soup kitchen if they could use your help, even just once and for just a few hours.
  • Visit your parents. If they're getting older, ask if they could use any help with the house, yard, etc.
  • Sign up for a college course or some other course that might benefit you later on. Maybe take an introductory course at a trade school for basic plumbing, electrical, welding, etc.
  • If you have some nagging question about politics, medicine, religion, or economics: Crystallize the question into something specific, and hunt down an answer.
  • If you have a S.O., take him/her out for a date.

All I'm saying is that even if we lose computer gaming from our lives, most of us can still be just as happy, as long as we get off our butts.

Re:Alternatives (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902960)

I think the scenario could play out that way, and it would truly suck for gaming.

But we should keep perspective. Here are some ways you can still have fun even if/when this nightmare scenario occurs:

  • Read a good, paper book.

Or even a good, DRM-free e-book [webscription.net] .

Re:Alternatives (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902980)

That's the most depressing list I've ever read.

Typical /. BS (0, Offtopic)

Eirenarch (1099517) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902534)

Somehow keeping your games up to date with an unified process is a bad thing? My CDs with old games no longer work but Steam still supports old games. You go buy useless plastic crap I'll buy my games from Steam. Lets see whose games will last longer.

Re:Typical /. BS (3, Interesting)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902598)

I own a Nintendo, Super Nintendo and tons of games I loved when I was a kid. I still play with my Nintendo and Super Nintendo, which still work almost 25 years later. When the systems eventually don't work anymore, I have Emulators and ROMs for all my games that let me play the games on my laptop and PS3 (with Linux installed on it). Let me know in 20 years how all those Steam games are working and what you can play them on. Should be interesting.

Re:Typical /. BS (2, Informative)

MORB (793798) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902678)

Typical /. kneejerk reaction comment from someone too lazy to read even the summary.

If you did so, you'd have found out that what the guy complains about is in fact the lack of unification of the process, where every other game company seems to be rolling their own distribution platform with the assorted bundle of crapware to run the games on it.

Heck, you can even run into these problems even if you install games only from steam.

Re:Typical /. BS (1)

lupis42 (1048492) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902698)

Ah but what about the games that use Impulse, Direct2Drive, etc. The problem isn't Steam per se, the problem is that each publisher has at least one option, and sometimes two or three. For example, I own Red Alert 3, which I bought through Steam. But in order to play multiplayer, I need some stupid Gamespy program as well? I have Supreme commander, which I bought through Impulse, and which also requires Games for Windows Live. Why do I need 4 helper apps for 2 games?

Why the fuck do you think PC gaming is dying (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902554)

Greedy motherfucking bastards, that's why.

Re:Why the fuck do you think PC gaming is dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902642)

Yeah, its dying just like video killed the radio star. Its not dying jackass, its shifting. Todays pc games are not bout pushing the graphics or genres forward. Its about playing farmville will your professor lectures.

Re:Why the fuck do you think PC gaming is dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902920)

Is it still dying? I wish it'd hurry up, it's been on its last legs since 1986, apparently.

One of the many reasons I only play pirated games (1)

GuyFawkes (729054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902608)

If I double-click awesomegame.exe I DO NOT either expect or agree to awesomegame.exe launching three other TSR applications, modifying my system start up, filling up my taskbar, or anything else.

The cracked / pirated version is simply superior.

As long as game companies give me ZERO options, at any price bracket, just ZERO options, as though they are administrator of my computers and I am a mere user, then this will continue to be my policy.

Re:One of the many reasons I only play pirated gam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902702)

Good for you, snowflake.

Re:One of the many reasons I only play pirated gam (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903012)

The biggest problem is that you buy a game and you have the a PC of more than the minimum spec ..and then you spend ages getting it to run because of all the verification, patches, upgrades it needs to run

What happened to the games you could run from the disk, or install in 5 minutes ....

And on the day you internet connection goes down you cannot play them not because you no longer have a licence or it is unpatched, but simply because it cannot get access to the server to verify itself

Stardock (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902624)

I didn't think the Stardock games needed the Stardock client running when you play the game?

(I'd check but it's been a few months since I played GalCiv and I deleted it just the other day to save space.)

Re:Stardock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902724)

I just installed Sins of a solar empire after buying their trilogy pack through impulse. It even picked up my existing pirated copy of Sins, installed the updates and entrenchment and away I was playing. Though it was only yesterday and I didn't really look for it specifically I'm pretty sure impulse does not have to be running to play. The whole transaction was surprisingly smooth.

Anyway, most of the games will move over to Good Old Games [gog.com] once they get old (and of course, were good).

Game distribution (1)

TDyl (862130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902680)

I don't really go in for early adoption of anything so I found my perfect game distributor in the shape of gog.com. Since I've been a member I've picked up DRM free versions of: Tex Murphy - Mean Streets, Martian Memorandum, Under A Killing Moon, The Pandora Directive and Overseer. Myst Masterpiece Edition, Riven, RealMyst and Uru Chronicles:Complete Collection. The Manhole: Masterpiece Edition (for the tripped-out stoner kid in me) and three freebies, the latter two I downloaded just for the hell of it - Beneath a Steel Sky, Lure of the Temptress and Teenagent. All this for about $40. Sometimes I do splash out though; I've bought all the Neverwinter Nights games and add-ons on release. MW2? What's that?

GTA4 (1)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902740)

Ah, memories of having to sign up for, and have running, both "Games for Windows" and "

This sort of junk reduces my willingness to pay good money for games. Going to the pub or buying a cheap DVD are both much less hassle ways to spend a little free time...

Re:GTA4 (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902840)

And....and what? I MUST KNOW! Although, if one of them is GfWL then maybe the other one was censored for our sanity and it is best kept secret!

I agree, though. Why put so much junk on games? The only way not to be treated like a criminal these days is to be a criminal and pirate the game! There's something seriously wrong when it gets to that. They need to focus on the important stuff (producing good stuff) rather than on the pointless arms race that is "defeating the pirates". If you make stuff good enough then people will pay for it, and if they're not going to pay for it then they're not part of your target audience, so stop wasting money on them.

Re:GTA4 (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903016)

The name of the game was obviously ^H.

Re:GTA4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903070)

The other one is Rockstar social club. If you get the steam version you will still get games for windows live, rockstar social club and one of the two forms of securom it uses along with steam. fun.

This is not about distribution it's about control (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902746)

Where did Shamus Young ever get the idea this was about publishers wanting to be the leader in 'serving content'. Nothing could be further from reality. I think he has fallen for the public relations excuses. If there was a list of priorities for these various systems, being the leader is way down the list.

These so called distributors or publishers want two or three main things from this.
1) Increased Profits. Only this tops the list and is the prime motivator. There are several things to follow that help ensure they reach the prime motive.

Following that come other reasons for the creation of these customer frustrating systems. Publishers are moving to the rental model for games. You don't ever get a complete copy of the game you paid for and are always under the control of their authentication system. This may at the moment primarily be if you wish to go online to play but is slowly extending those tentacles to every game. Even now some games you purchase on cd require you either login or phone to have the game authorized before it will play. They have even demonstrated cd versions lacking extra content unless you register before you may download. The obvious next step goes beyond authentication into missing content required just to start the game.

The importance of getting the public to accept these streaming authentication systems, is key to exercising full control over their product. They have had the desire for many years to enforce the part of the license where you don't own the game, but only license to use it. As this has progressed we have seen companies like EA begin to turn off games like the madden series. If people just think that only online support is where it ends they are living in a dream world. This is all about pay to play and finding business models that keep the revenue steam coming in. It is easy to see other entertainment industries moving in this same direction by controlling what you can do with content and where and when you may use/view that content you paid for.

Games are a hassle (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902750)

Copy protection, cd lock, server authentication, or a combination there of have made PC games more annoying then fun over the years. I miss the old days when shareware was everywhere and games were just more fun to play.

What do you do? (1)

Max(10) (1716458) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902768)

But what happens when you have programs from Valve, Stardock, Activision, 2k Games, Take-Two, Codemasters, Microsoft, Eidos, and Ubisoft?

You check yourself into a video game addiction clinic [netaddictionrecovery.com] .

System tray (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30902792)

I know this is somewhat OT, but:
It's not called system tray
It's called "Taskbar Notification Area"

http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2003/09/10/54831.aspx

Simple solution... (1)

irchs (752829) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902812)

Simple solution: Just buy Valve/Steam games :D

Re:Simple solution... (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902994)

That was my solution, but for the sake of the argument you probably shouldn't phrase it like that.

A common annoyance, not just in gaming (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902816)

It seems every little crappy program or tool these days wants to install their own "helper" thingy, either hidden or in the task bar. I wish all software companies would be a little more responsible about the cruft they load our computers down with.
5 Simple rules:
- only run stuff in the background if there's a good reason for the job to run continuously.
- for stuff that doesn't need to run all the time (and checking for updates most definitely belongs in this category), perform the task(s) when the associated program itself starts.
- if it runs in the background, it goes on the task bar (so we know it's there)
- if it runs at startup, there's a simple way (config setting) to disable it.
- if running at startup is disabled but the job is essential for the associated program, the job is started automatically when the program is launched.

Re:A common annoyance, not just in gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903038)

The biggest problem with Windows is that there is no central update system.

On a Linux box you have your one-stop-shop Package Manager that updates everything on your system all at once when you ask. On Windows, you end up with every vendor creating their own update tool which generally includes a background service (Windows does have a cron daemon builtin but no-one bothers to use the damn thing!). MS really need to include some sort of central update system so program's can register a URL to download an XML file [or equivalent] containing information about updates from the vendor then that thing can have ONE service that checks all the programs on the system and prompts the user to agree to them ALL AT ONCE rather than one at a goddamn time [list of checkboxes]. (Actually installing updates is more problematic, a batch program that the update service can launch in the background provided by the vendor is probably the easiest way to go if you aren't using MSIs)

It's like Betamax vs VHS only worse (2, Insightful)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902820)

The natural conclusion from the article is that Game Distribution Platforms seem to be affected by networking effects - buyers gravitate to the one with the most games, sellers gravitate to the one where most buyers go to. This means that the market will move towards a situation where there are only one or two winners.

This might seem like a good thing (fewer random background tasks running in people's PCs) until you think about those people that bought games in what turned out not to be one of the winning platforms: the games that they bought in that/those platforms typically will stop working when the servers are turned off (or, at best, you won't be able to do a new install ever again due to online activation).

This is a bit like VHS vs Betamax (or HD-DVD vs Blueray) only much worse: anybody that bought movies in Betamax format can still play them as long as their Betamax player works, but anybody that buys a game that authenticates with a platform that later goes down will quite likelly be unable to play that game ever again once the authentication servers are stopped.

Considering that the really good games are still played 5 or 10 years later (pretty much any gamer over 30 will be well aquainted with the experience of rediscovering an "oldy but goody" and playing it again), and that the game publishers rarelly have any interest in keeping the game going once they stop selling it, even those whose games which where bought in a platform that is still going 5 of 10 years in the future still run the risk of having their games killed by after-sale, arbitrary planned obsolescence.

Me, I vote with my wallet and refuse to buy any games that have online activation and/or authentication for single player gaming (currently playing "X3:Terran Conflict" on the PC, bought after they removed DRM with patch 2.5): if others did the same the industry would give up on this.

There are other content delivery systems... (1)

DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902868)

...that will probably exist to meet the needs of us gamers who can't be bothered with having to jump through hoops to play a game. For example, I'm frequently on the go, my gaming PC is a laptop, and there is nothing more annoying than having to rely on finding a sketchy wi-fi signal coming from somewhere just to be able to play my Steam-powered games. (And no, realistically, offline mode in steam is simply not reliable). So, given the choice to buy say for example Bioshock off of steam or from a system such as Direct2Drive that gives me a download and an install key, I'll avoid Steam when I can.

Dawn of War 2 (1)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30902984)

I loved the original - I met a guy playing it in an apartment I rented in Amsterdam's red light district after Expedia failed to book my hotel - thought "wow, someone made an awesome looking 40k game!" and thus my foray into RTS' began. Didn't play a great deal online, mostly over the LAN with friends and beer, had a great time, and this served as a nice intro to Relic's superb WW2 RTS Company of Heroes, which I also love.

I was looking forward to the DoW sequel... until I found out that it would not only require Steam but also the obnoxious Games for Windows bullshit; not one but two annoying programs wanting to run and check up on me every time I want to boot into a game just to watch a 20 minute replay. Bioshock 2 was going to be a sure fire purchase until I found out it was getting Games for Windows as well - for a single player game?!

Fuck this whole "we'll dictate the terms in which we'll allow you to get value for the money you give us from now until the end of time!" attitude, games publishes seem to have contracted an acute case of Zeus syndrome; they think they're gods, they love playing absurd little mind games with all their paeons, they expect worship and sacrifice and they'll fuck you in the arse if they don't get it.

Console gaming is getting just as bad; my the next gen of consoles everything will be "rental" only, whether it's delivered on physical media or not.

Re:Dawn of War 2 (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903052)

To be fair the first BioShock ran about the same kind of system. History showed us that they disabled the GFWL and SecurRom phone home if you bought it off Steam a few months after release. It's mostly just there to give headaches to the people that are cracking the game.

What do you mean "eventually"? (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903064)

...would eventually end up clogged with loaders, patchers, helpers, and monitors.

They'd have to join the queue, then. This has long been a headache with all software and device drivers, not just games.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...