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September 15, 2010 10:20 AM   Subscribe

PC Gamer: Do you have a good sense of piracy rates with Steam games?
Gabe Newell: They’re low enough that we don’t really spend any time on it.

Gabe Newell on Steam, piracy and DRM, part of PC Gamer's Valve Week.
posted by Artw (153 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
As long as I can buy more Railroader Tycoon expansions, I say, keep 'em comin, Steam!
posted by cavalier at 10:23 AM on September 15, 2010


I was wary of Steam when I bought my release-day boxed copy of Half Life 2. Now it's pulled me back into PC gaming in a way I haven't been since the Playstation2 was released.

And a lot of it has to do with this attitude:
...it’s much harder to justify purchasing software that might just magically disappear and create a huge hassle for you to recover. What you want to do is go the other way, and say, “Anywhere in the world, any time, you can get your software.” It’s even better if you can get it to run on more platforms, which is why Steam Play is cool, so I can buy it on a Mac and play it on a PC and vice versa. That’s a good thing, that moves customers in the direction of thinking, “Oh, my content is more valuable.”
posted by eyeballkid at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2010 [23 favorites]


I love Valve. They give me the warm fuzzies.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2010


Steam is a quality platform. I was suspicious at first, because I'd had such bad experiences with digital distrobution, but it's really won me over.
posted by codacorolla at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2010


Valve is the one company that really gets digital distribution. The MPAA, RIAA and publishing houses should take note of Steam's ease of use, crazy sales and community features and realize that this is the way digital distribution should be done.
posted by joedan at 10:37 AM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


The MPAA, RIAA and publishing houses should take note of Steam's ease of use, crazy sales and community features and realize that this is the way digital distribution should be done.

So you're asking that they exhibit minimal self-awareness, and the tiniest shred of adaptability in the face of unavoidable realities about how the landscape around them has changed? You'll get jetpacks sooner.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:40 AM on September 15, 2010 [18 favorites]


Steam also had a really crappy implementation at the beginning. Even worse than Games For Fucking Windows Live. It seemed intrusive and broken.

But now, it's excellent. Kudos to Valve for continuously improving it and never sitting on their laurels. Such a great counterexample to all those companies scrambling to jump on the latest bandwagon.
posted by breath at 10:41 AM on September 15, 2010


One word for Valve.


Linux.


Then I'll be happy.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:43 AM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yeah, in all seriousness, I think in another thread someone posted the Valve Team Fortress blog post where they had their 119th update to the game.

Think about that:

I bought that game as part of the Orange Box for what, $50, back in September of 2007.

It is now September of 2010. I have not given Valve any more money for that game since the original purchase price. In spite of that, they have tweaked, and added, and enhanced, and worked on the game I bought, giving me free content updates, for three years.

If I wasn't a Valve fanboy, they sure as hell made me into one. If Valve was to say tomorrow "Oh, hey man, we made another game that's just like that game you liked so much, would you like to buy it?" My hand would be in my wallet before I even started seriously considering the gameplay. Gabe really nails it when he talks about positive experience.
posted by cavalier at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


Really interesting - they're selling huge quantities of games in Russia, which seemed to be the land of eternal piracy, thanks to localized versions coming out the same time as the English releases.

This is the message to companies trying to stagger release dates or limit access based on some nebulous concept of "region": the world is already connected, so if you're not offering your products somewhere, (online) piracy will fill the gaps.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2010 [22 favorites]


What you want to do is go the other way, and say, “Anywhere in the world, any time, you can get your software.”

...provided you've got a network connection, an admitted edge-case in this modern world, but one to keep in mind if you're occasionally off-grid.
posted by mhoye at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


One word for Valve. Linux. Then I'll be happy.

Unfortunately it's not even possible to reliably get 3d acceleration and sound to work on Linux, before we even start talking about whether or not there's a big enough market there to justify the effort. Which, to be clear, there isn't.
posted by mhoye at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


... crazy sales ...

This is what I find most interesting about Steam -- not just ease of use, but how frequently they seem to play around with short-time sales. I really wonder what kind of results they have seen, and if they've learned any interesting new things about how to maximize overall profits without feeling the need to try to maxmize profits per sale.

I know that personally, I totally buy into it. I'm someone who loves games but doesn't have a lot of free time, but when they run a weekend sale of a game for 50% or 75% off, I find it hard not to buy it. Even if I don't play the game for weeks, the value is just huge to me, and for the publisher, it's practically free money. I get a game cheap, they get money that would otherwise have never gone their way (with no real added cost to them). What's not to like?

And yet, for some reason, up until Steam came along, for some reason this was crazy talk in the world of video game sales.

Let's face it: after the first 2-4 weeks, very few people are interested in purchasing the game at full retail price. But half price? Quarter price? I'm guessing Steam is proving that you can make a hefty profit that way, and make piracy a lot less interesting in the process.
posted by tocts at 10:51 AM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


I've been running the Steam client + Valve games on Linux for over a year with Wine. Give it a shot, if you haven't already.
posted by word_virus at 10:51 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


...provided you've got a network connection, an admitted edge-case in this modern world, but one to keep in mind if you're occasionally off-grid.

One good thing about Steam is that, true, you can't put new items onto a machine sans connection, but you can still access stuff that's been put on there. It doesn't lock you out whenever you're not connected, which is a pretty big plus.
posted by codacorolla at 10:51 AM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Kudos to Valve for continuously improving it and never sitting on their laurels

Valve's dedication to maintaining and improving games I bought years ago is incredible.

In contrast, Valve has been complaining that Microsoft doesn't allow them to provide updates on Xbox 360 for free, as they do on Steam. I guess Microsoft is thinks it would decrease the percieved monetary value of DLC. Hopefully Sony will force them to do better.

As Valve is a private company, I don't think we have any way of knowing how much money they're sitting on, but I suspect it is Scrooge McDuck territory. I hope they never sell out.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:53 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Steam simply allows the DRM of the game's publisher to install. For instance, BFBC2 installed whatever DRM EA uses. Gabe is just letting publishers do what they want and considers piracy the publisher's problem. On the plus side, some publishers just use the built-in Steamworks DRM instead of pushing out their own.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:55 AM on September 15, 2010


I really like Steam as well. Steam, and to a lesser extent Itunes have really eliminated my desire to pirate stuff. Notice to content producers: I have money, you have stuff I (maybe) want. If you can make your stuff available to me conveniently and without any noxious restrictions I might give you money for it.

Now get more stuff on SteamPlay!
posted by ghharr at 10:55 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pshhh. Get back to me when they have an update on HL2 EP3. I feel like I've been waiting for that shizz for centuries.
posted by orville sash at 10:56 AM on September 15, 2010


The whole concept of DRM in offline games is laughable these days. The only people who encounter DRM are paying customers. Pirates just download a cracked version.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:59 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Salvor: Yeah, me too.
It's strange - Steam apparently has unreleased Linux binaries, and some news articles said they would release a Linux version, but they've officially denied it.

I've also been very happy with Gamersgate.com for digital downloads - you have to authenticate during installation, but that's it. Stardock's Impulse seems okay too, but other than Stardock games it doesn't really offer anything that Steam doesn't.

The other digital game download service everyone should know about is Good Old Games at gog.com - they have a great selection of older games and no DRM.

Games For Windows Live is a horrible abomination and I now avoid any game using it.
posted by dragoon at 11:00 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great interview. I had purchased HL for the PC when it came out but then fell out of interest in PC gaming until recently when a friend got me to try Steam for TF2. Its been nothing be great and dead simple.

I had previously thought the delays when a game is downloading automatic updates was sort of a drag, but the comments above make me rethink that, thanks.
posted by fatbaq at 11:00 AM on September 15, 2010


I love Steam too, but it cracks me up how MeFi runs hot and cold on DRM. Doesn't it bother you that you can't resell a Steam game? If not, why not?

Maybe AutoCad should distribute via Steam.
posted by Nelson at 11:06 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's strange - Steam apparently has unreleased Linux binaries, and some news articles said they would release a Linux version, but they've officially denied it.

I'm guessing that maybe the problem there is that if they released anything they'd have to support it, and that's costly and problematic enough versus the upsides that they're not doing it. A pity though.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on September 15, 2010


Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 10.04 - A look at how far desktop Linux has come. Though, TBH, I think they are crazily overselling Ubuntu on some points, and I say that as a regular user of the thing.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Linux sound and graphics are just bad. They're fine for a desktop, but unless you have an NVidia card with their (closed source!) drivers, you're not likely to have a very good gaming experience. And it doesn't look like it's going to change soon, if ever... the X architecture is probably the oldest windowing system still in active use, designed more or less for timesharing on minicomputers, when PCs weren't much more than pocket calculators. The fact that they've managed to extend it this far is a powerful testament to its basic design, but it IS still 25 years old, and it really, really shows.

More on topic, I loved this quote:
Doug Lombardi: The other thing, too, is that gamers are generally good people. If you’re making a good game and you’ve done a good job both from a quality and on the communications standpoint, they’re more than happy to give you their money. I mean, we get mail all the time. Gabe gets more mail I think directly from customers but EJ and I get a fair amount. And like, after we ship something that’s good, we get mail saying, “I just went out and bought a second copy of it, just because I liked it so much I wanted to pay you guys again.” Or, “I went and bought it from my uncle or brother,” or whatever. So that’s my take on a lot of it, just do your job and people are more than happy to pay for it.
YES, yes yes. They get it. I've actually done that, gone out and bought more copies of a game because I was so impressed with it, or given copies to friends and/or family.

I haven't actually done so, but I'd happily pirate the shit out of UBIsoft's horribly-DRMed offerings... they're so worried you might be a thief that they'll fuck your game up if you don't have a constant network connection, and as soon as their servers die, so does your game. Your single-player game, mind, that doesn't otherwise need a network connection. It's precisely when my network is down that I want to play single-player games! Talk about giant fucking idiots.

(and now UBI is talking about more or less abandoning the PC because their games aren't selling well.... gee, you think? Fuck up your games enough, and people won't buy them. Amazing how that works.)

So, yanno, if an opportunity presented itself to download and play their games for free, I probably would. I wanted to buy them, and if they'd just used Steam DRM, they'd probably have sold me three or four games this year. As is, they've sold zero, and someday I may get around to actively pirating the stupid things. And I don't do that... I don't think I've played a commercial game I haven't paid for in, geeze, fifteen years? But their willingness to fuck me over that much has leached away any and all loyalty I might have had for them, and I'd pirate anything they make with that DRM system without even a twinge of conscience.

Just bought a fantastic little gem called Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, and it's completely DRM-free, at least if you buy it through Gamersgate. I would never pirate that thing in a million years. Yes, it's easy to do, and there's no bloody way I'd take advantage of them that way.

I wish more companies would get this. As Brad Wardell at Stardock put it awhile ago (paraphrasing): "Some people will buy your games, and some people won't. So who should you focus on making happy?"
posted by Malor at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Boy, what a contrast this thread is to when Steam / HL2 were first released. I remember the uproar over the licensing and all the problems people were having. People thought Steam was pretty much the worst thing ever. I think there was even a thread or two about it but I'm unable (read: too lazy) to find it.

See, Apple and Microsoft and pretty much every company ever, this is what happens when you listen to your customers. They end up loving you for it.
posted by bondcliff at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really like Steam as well. Steam, and to a lesser extent Itunes have really eliminated my desire to pirate stuff. Notice to content producers: I have money, you have stuff I (maybe) want. If you can make your stuff available to me conveniently and without any noxious restrictions I might give you money for it.

As someone mentioned above, the RIAA and MPAA should take notice. This is exactly how I feel about music now. I actually felt bad the other day because I couldn't find a place online to order some album I'd just heard of - the recording artist's label's site was flaky and it wasn't on Amazon or iTunes or anywhere else - and I was thinking of finding a bittorrent.

Things have certainly changed - a few years ago it would have been Kazaa first and the store down the road as a last resort. They (the people controlling the music) are coming around, but still not fast enough for my tastes.
posted by komara at 11:17 AM on September 15, 2010


crazy sales

You got that right. I'm such a sucker for that, I've bought stuff I will probably never even install (though to be fair, as part of a bundle wherein some of the other items get played).
posted by juv3nal at 11:21 AM on September 15, 2010


One word for Valve. Linux. Then I'll be happy.

Any words for Linux, then?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:22 AM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


a few years ago it would have been Kazaa first and the store down the road as a last resort.

Yep. The first place I look for a movie is on I-Tunes. If I can rent it, they get my $5.00. If I can't, I find a torrent and they get nothing. It's the same amount of effort for me, in fact the torrent might even be easier, but I'd rather pay for it if I can.
posted by bondcliff at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2010


Just bought a fantastic little gem called Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

Apropos of this thread, it's also available on Steam.
posted by jedicus at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2010


Nelson: Doesn't it bother you that you can't resell a Steam game? If not, why not?

I didn't resell games anyway, even when I could, mostly because Gamespot was the only easy option, and that was obviously a sucker's game.

The advantages of having the electronic library are worth trading away a right I wasn't exercising. In fact, I end up with less clutter, so I rather like their setup.

One thing that worries me is that I have a lot of stuff on Steam, and if they ever decide to get evil, they could hold my library hostage. That would be bad. That's part of why I try to use Impulse and Gamersgate when I can.
posted by Malor at 11:26 AM on September 15, 2010


I'd love to see numbers on how much profit these deep sales get for old games that were probably selling hardly anything. I've purchased many a game in this way and judging from this thread I'm far from the only one. Provide customers with value and something that does what they want it to and they will keep coming back (and be HAPPY to give you their money).
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:28 AM on September 15, 2010


I love Steam too, but it cracks me up how MeFi runs hot and cold on DRM.

It's almost as if there are individuals on MetaFilter instead of one collective consciousness.
posted by ODiV at 11:28 AM on September 15, 2010 [31 favorites]


[...] it cracks me up how MeFi runs hot and cold on DRM

I get where you're coming from. I think the difference is that most people aren't against DRM/copyrights/etc on principle. They just want reasonable copyright rules, which most people agree is what Valve has. I'll happily give up the ability to resell a game if the publisher is going to otherwise treat me with respect.
posted by auto-correct at 11:34 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, at least in my case, Steamworks is so low-impact that I don't even think of it as being DRM. For the most part, it's making my life better in a tiny way, where most DRM schemes make it worse.

It IS DRM, no doubt, but it doesn't feel like it. I can do what I've always thought was fair with software... treat it like a book. That is, I can install it on as many machines as I want, but I can only play it on one at a time. It doesn't have any nonsense with per-machine activations or counts or any of that crap, I just have to be logged in to play my games, and I can only be logged in on one machine at a time. That works for me.

Impulse is slightly better, in that once you've installed the game, you don't need to log onto their system again ever, unless you want updates. Steam will only let you play for something like two weeks without a network connection. I don't care for that very much, and that's another reason I try to use Impulse, but I can tolerate it.
posted by Malor at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hate DRM. Truly, hate the restrictions it places on users. I still have steam though, and a bunch of games on it. It's just so damn convenient. That said, since they switched to pricing games at full retail in sterling (which even the retail shops don't do!) I pretty much only buy games now when they're on at silly sale prices or they're an indie game only on steam, and multiplayer games only if I have no other choice.

The biggest problem is that *all* your games are tied to a single account. If I want to play say, TF2, while my wife plays my copy of UT3, we can't, as they're both online games. Unless I set up entirely separate accounts for each game, with a separate email for each, do the credit card on every single one, and it rather defeats one of the main advantages of steam, that of seeing what your friends are playing and joining their server. Plus, I think it's against their terms of use - and that gets you VAC banned, on all your games.

Valve is like google, in many ways. They create great stuff that you can't help but like using. But the downsides are always there. And I often feel guilty for letting convenience over-ride my better judgement.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:39 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


it cracks me up how MeFi runs hot and cold on DRM

That;s the interesting thing about Steam - sure you can call it DRM, but it shows that if you do it in a way that doesn't fuck with people and provides benefit people are generally actually fairly cool with that.
posted by Artw at 11:39 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The developer of Minecraft on piracy.
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Valve games on Linux isn't that much of a stretch given that both Linux and OSX use OpenGL and cider is largely just a repackaged WiNE.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:45 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Games For Windows Live is a horrible abomination and I now avoid any game using it.

Blood for the blood god!

Dawn of War II: Retribution dropping GfWL, going Steam only

...which is awesome, because I bloody love that game, but Windows Live was a huge pain in the ass. Now, if they could do something about the instability and epic load times...
posted by Artw at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2010


Steam is pretty light DRM, and it doesn't restrict you in ways that would be an issue when playing games. You can mod your games, you can run them on multiple computers (up to five, which is perfectly reasonable, with plenty of reinstalls(unlimited, IIRC)), etc. And if a game has a Mac version, you can play the Mac version, too. That covers just about any machine you'd want to use, save for a linux one, which is a rarity. And Steam offers many benefits to outweigh the restrictions, like keeping the game patched and up to date and offering social networking and chat with other gamers.

Plus, as far as gaming goes, there's not much more you'd want to do.

Meanwhile, with music, DRM is a royal pain. You want to use it on many platforms (Mac, PC, set top box, mp3 players with a billion different firmwares and manufacturers, car stereo, and so on), and fair use even includes sampling content for your own musical creations. And while a game is just about the same no matter from what program it's launched from, media players are a big deal because of the UI and how they organize the music. To be fair to the user, it's really just more sensible to not even bother with DRM.

So, I guess the moral of the story is that DRM is okay if you don't inconvenience the user. The thing is that it's fairly easy to do that with games (not that every game company knows to keep it light, UBISOFT!), it's not easy to do with music, where people expect more fair use.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love the idea of crazy sales. What motivates game piracy is a combination of boredom and poverty. As long as Steam makes downloading game easy and cheap, and there's always something to get very cheaply, they should be able to capture pretty much all of the money that's genuinely available for games (as opposed to the pie-in-the-sky bullshit what-if-everyone-who-pirated-a-game-paid-full-price numbers).
posted by empath at 11:58 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


it cracks me up how MeFi runs hot and cold on DRM

Not really. Some DRM is just an unbelievable pain in the ass. Steam is really effortless (I accept the fact that non-USA people can have problems and that having multiple online access is problematic, but neither of these affect me). It actually makes my life easier. I don't have to worry about losing the installation disks of games or anything like that.

Imagine if your movie DVDs were automatically replaced if they became scratched, you could watch them anywhere, and you could automatically upgrade to Blu-ray for $5. I don't know about you, but if that sort of service came with some DRM strings attached then I'd be pretty damn happy about DRM.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:58 AM on September 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


(by poverty, i don't mean actual poverty, just lack of money that is available for game purchases)
posted by empath at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2010


Doesn't it bother you that you can't resell a Steam game? If not, why not?

Honestly, I don't really give a shit about the secondary anymore, because the few bucks I might make selling my old games isn't worth my time. That's purely down to my personal economic situation though.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:00 PM on September 15, 2010


it cracks me up how MeFi runs hot and cold on DRM

I'm not against DRM as long as it lets me do what I want to do with what I buy within reasonable limits. I'd philosophically prefer no DRM, but minimally intrusive DRM is fine with me.
posted by empath at 12:00 PM on September 15, 2010


Still $9.99, dammit

Someday they will break and bring it down to $4.99, and I will buy it, or I will break and buy it at that ludicrous price.
posted by Artw at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The biggest problem is that *all* your games are tied to a single account. If I want to play say, TF2, while my wife plays my copy of UT3, we can't, as they're both online games.

This, right here, is going to be the battleground in the next little while. I believe you'll find it's against Steam's TOS for your wife to play your copy of UT3 at all.

Valve hereby grants, and you accept, a limited, terminable, non-exclusive license and right to use the Software for your personal use in accordance with this Agreement and the Subscription Terms. The Software is licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Software.

Right now we don't think anything of letting our significant other or our kid or our cousin or whatever log on and play our copy of a game. This is against the subscriber agreement and I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing some pushback on this in the next five years or so.

The MPAA and RIAA companies dreams of having licensing deals like this. "You have a license to watch Shrek, but your wife doesn't, sorry."

What happens when if I die next week? Do I leave my (substantial) Steam library and DVD collection to my wife? No and yes, respectively.

What happens when I upgrade(?) my DVD collection to an Alliance Atlantis Online account in ten years? Same thing: I'm now licensing instead of owning with similar problems.
posted by ODiV at 12:03 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be honest, I don't get the secondary sales on intangible property. I mean, the whole reason I even justify paying for games in the first place is because the developers deserve to be compensated. Why should a guy who did nothing but buy the game get some money when he sells it? And any resale scheme where the developer gets a cut just seems complicated and arbitrary.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:04 PM on September 15, 2010


It's very rare that I feel affection for a company. But man, I really do love Valve.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:13 PM on September 15, 2010


Why should a guy who did nothing but buy the game get some money when he sells it?

That one's actually easy: when you purchase something, you derive value from it for the life of your ownership. When you sell it and can no longer use it after the sale, you are giving up whatever value you would have gotten for keeping it, and so it is reasonable to be compensated for it.
posted by davejay at 12:18 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


One word for Valve.


Linux.


Then I'll be happy.


5 years later, after Steam on Linux has been released:

One word for Valve.

Gentoo.

Then I'll be happy.


5 years later.

Three "words" for Valve.

Kernel snapshot 12.6.36-rc4-git2

Then I'll be happy.

posted by shmegegge at 12:22 PM on September 15, 2010 [15 favorites]


Introversion, the developer of Darwinia, Multiwinia, Defcon, and a couple other games, had a big Steam blowout sale where you could buy essentially their whole catalog for somewhere between $5-10. According to them, the sale made them over $250,000. I think the crazy sales are probably very much a net good, especially for old or overlooked games.
posted by malthas at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


To be honest, I don't get the secondary sales on intangible property.

Have you ever loaned a book to a realtive or given an old box of CDs to a freind? Have you ever borrowed a DVD from a coworker? From the point of view of the rights-holders these are about the same as a sale. Certainly, to hear the music holders complain about this, they count it as lost sales. Not every "sale" is about a hawking games to a PFY.
posted by bonehead at 12:24 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


What happens when if I die next week? Do I leave my (substantial) Steam library and DVD collection to my wife? No and yes, respectively.

Uh, that's easily two Yeses if you can be bothered to write down your login info before you kick it. It's an awful lot of work, I know.

Wait, does Steam use fingerprinting or retinal scanners or something? In that case, just have some little jars of formaldehyde on the ready.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:28 PM on September 15, 2010


Unfortunately it's not even possible to reliably get 3d acceleration and sound to work on Linux, before we even start talking about whether or not there's a big enough market there to justify the effort. Which, to be clear, there isn't.

Take a look at World of Goo. The thing has a Linux version that's dead-on exactly the same as the PC, Mac and Wii versions. It's distributed via DEBs. It does have some 3D graphics in later levels (though most of the game is 2D, although very flashy 2D). And the sound works great. It made me a believer in the potential of Linux gaming.

And if you don't believe there's a market for Linux gaming then you also believe there isn't a market for Mac gaming, because the audiences are of similar size now.
posted by JHarris at 12:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Another thing for the Linux deniers: the biggest distribution these days is Ubuntu, and it runs using DEB package management. If you focused on Ubuntu/Debian, instead of all of Linux, most of the problems with the multifacted nature of Linux just goes away.
posted by JHarris at 12:52 PM on September 15, 2010


And if you don't believe there's a market for Linux gaming then you also believe there isn't a market for Mac gaming, because the audiences are of similar size now.

I don't know. I'd like to see some numbers on Linux only vs. Mac only. I'd believe that the former audience is smaller than the latter and that Linux users are more likely to use it alongside Windows.
posted by ODiV at 12:54 PM on September 15, 2010


This, right here, is going to be the battleground in the next little while. I believe you'll find it's against Steam's TOS for your wife to play your copy of UT3 at all.

You're a glass half empty type of guy, aren't you.
posted by Allan Gordon at 12:54 PM on September 15, 2010


mhoye: "provided you've got a network connection, an admitted edge-case in this modern world, but one to keep in mind if you're occasionally off-grid."

What is Steam's Offline Mode and how do I use it?
posted by boo_radley at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2010


Doesn't it bother you that you can't resell a Steam game? If not, why not?

I can't resell Netflix movies, either. Games (like movies) are generally something I want to provide me temporary entertainment. Music and productivity software (like Photoshop) are things I need to own for the (fairly) longterm.

I'm very interested in hearing others' answers to your question, though. It's a good one.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:00 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be honest, I don't get the secondary sales on intangible property. I mean, the whole reason I even justify paying for games in the first place is because the developers deserve to be compensated. Why should a guy who did nothing but buy the game get some money when he sells it?

Because he paid more for it when he first bought it. A tremendous amount of the price of a new game is actually the ability to lend it to your friends, or even sell it.

Nobody wants to believe this. But the PSP Go proved it fairly clearly.
posted by effugas at 1:02 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're a glass half empty type of guy, aren't you.

What does this mean? I'm not making this clause up; it's in the agreement.

Are you saying I'm being unrealistically pessimistic in thinking that a company might someday soon take steps towards enforcing sections of their TOS?
posted by ODiV at 1:06 PM on September 15, 2010


Pshhh. Get back to me when they have an update on HL2 EP3.

Their waiting for Kevin Shields to finish the score.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:06 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]




I don't see how any of you can even talk about playing other games right now. Civ 5 drops in 8 days!!!

Just one more...my first archer unit pops...animal husbandry completes...the armory will be done...this next turn will change everything...just...one...more. Shit, I hear birds outside.

Did I mention I took the 22nd off?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


You can lend friends your Steam account details. My mates and I do that fairly often when there's a 'big' game out that most of us are gonna buy, the fence sitters get to try it out before they buy. Obviously you can't give it away once you're "done" with it unless you want to ditch your whole account, but it's not as anti-social as you'd think?
posted by Submiqent at 1:22 PM on September 15, 2010


Someday they will break and bring it down to $4.99, and I will buy it, or I will break and buy it at that ludicrous price.
Check in on Steam's a-maz-ing Holiday Sale a little later in the year. I'm sure it'll be on sale then.
posted by word_virus at 1:23 PM on September 15, 2010


Guys, Steam isn't perfect in every way, so I think we should all avoid it completely.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:23 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I'd like to see some numbers on Linux only vs. Mac only.

I don't have them, and it's likely no one does. Most figures come from browser user agent reporting from websites, which is tremendously biased depending on the demographics of those sites. Anyway, lots of people have multiple computers now. I myself have three, and I'm not exactly rolling in dough right now.

A comment in an earlier thread (don't have the URL right now) states that Microsoft's own reporting of their competitors puts Linux's userbase on a par with Mac OS/X. That's good enough for me. I myself would be Linux only except for Game Maker and XNA, and that one of my computers is a PowerPC Mac Mini (it CAN run Linux, but OS/X is a novelty for me right now). Ubuntu is better in many respects for me now than Windows 7; native PDF handling and print-as-PDF handling is terrifically useful, the UI is cleaner (it seems Gnome has been chasing OS/X instead of Windows for a while now), the filesystem is laid out more sensibly, I actually have less trouble with removable USB media on Linux than Windows, and it uses dramatically less memory than Windows.

And I've never gotten spyware on Linux, while I've had Windows get infected three times now just from browsing random sites, partly thanks to Adobe Reader. That alone, I predict, is the biggest driver of Linux's adoption rate.
posted by JHarris at 1:25 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can lend friends your Steam account details. My mates and I do that fairly often when there's a 'big' game out that most of us are gonna buy, the fence sitters get to try it out before they buy. Obviously you can't give it away once you're "done" with it unless you want to ditch your whole account, but it's not as anti-social as you'd think?

Heh. Wow. You're THAT GUY! The one who turns up on messagebaords complaining about their ban despite having done nothing wrong, rage on and on about it and then after a while they'll sheepishly admit to having "lent" their account or somesuch and maybe, just maybe accidentally letting their user details slip out.

Good luck!
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody wants to believe this. But the PSP Go proved it fairly clearly.

It's not like the regular PSP is lighting the world on fire with its popularity. My personal take is that they are trying to sell a portable gaming device while their target market has moved on to playing games on phones.

Pricing comes into play, but mostly because they are trying to sell very expensive (to make and to buy) games while Apple lowered the price of a portable game to 99 cents. Some of that price difference comes from the ability to lend, but not nearly all of it.
posted by Gary at 1:29 PM on September 15, 2010


Linux deniers

JHarris -I think you'll find that cross belongs to the Mac fanbois and they're going to get pretty pissed if you try and shove them off and steal it from them. Plus some of them may actually be welded to it.
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on September 15, 2010


It's not like the regular PSP is lighting the world on fire with its popularity.

this is true and also incomplete. It is not lighting the world on fire. It IS lighting japan on fire, and has since day one. It is far and away the most popular mobile platform in Japan, largely because of Monster Hunter and a few other must have games for japanese players. The DS, which eclipses damn near everything in the states and Europe, gets routinely shit on by PSP sales in Japan.

The PSP Go, I'm not totally sure about. I only see the general playstation store figures and overall psp(whatever) console sales figures, so I'm not sure how they pan out from one psp to the next. But all those special edition psps? the ones that come with final fantasy figures stenciled on and whatnot? Japanese gamers own multiples of them. And the games blow all other competitors out of the water, sales-wise, in that market.

The problem with the psp is that they're not focused on what other markets want. So when they release lukewarm Metal Gear portable game number N, and we're all like "yeah, it's probably good but I'm not gonna lose my shit getting it," the Japanese gamers are eating it up. Sony is very simply most focused on the Japanese market. They care about the US and Europe, but they're not letting it affect their general focus as a global company very much.
posted by shmegegge at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2010


5 years later, after Steam on Linux has been released:

One word for Valve.

Gentoo.

Then I'll be happy.

5 years later.

Three "words" for Valve.

Kernel snapshot 12.6.36-rc4-git2

Then I'll be happy.


Hey look, it's a straw penguin!
posted by kmz at 1:43 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've spent more money on Games in the past 3 months than in the previous decade. And it is all down to Steam.
posted by fullerine at 1:49 PM on September 15, 2010


I used to use a PC for games and bought (er, licensed) a few Steam titles. Later, I switched to Macs. When Valve offered me free Mac ports of my previously purchased titles, I was a happy and unproductive camper. Then they had some ridiculous sale, like Team Fortress 2 for $10 or maybe less, and there I was, spending money on games for the first time I'm three or four years.

They know how to make customers happy and how to wring blood from a stone. Brilliant, is what they are.
posted by zippy at 1:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


this is true and also incomplete. It is not lighting the world on fire. It IS lighting japan on fire, and has since day one. ... The PSP Go, I'm not totally sure about

I'm surprised how well the PSP is doing over there. It looks like the PSPGo is doing terrible, but a quick search indicates that has more to do with costing way more than the regular PSP. I'm not sure how much a a used game market or lack of sharing would hurt it in a fair fight.
posted by Gary at 1:57 PM on September 15, 2010


Aww! I would have bought L4D if I'd known it was on sale, it's just not going to be played that much by me. Are there any services that watch Steam and notify on event of a sale -- kind of like AppShopper for iOS Stuff?
posted by cavalier at 1:59 PM on September 15, 2010


Digital Distribution Deals keeps track of these things.

Also, L4D, being a Valve title, goes on sale pretty regularly.
posted by ODiV at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, L4D, being a Valve title, goes on sale pretty regularly.

I got mind packaged with a ton of stuff. IIRC Portal was actually the thing I was after.

TBH, though it seems like it's a lovely game, wandering online and trying to play it with people made me realize that I will never again have the time required to get good enough to play online multiplayer games anymore.
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on September 15, 2010


I'm not sure how much a a used game market or lack of sharing would hurt it in a fair fight.

for my own experience, sony's prices on the playstation network for the psp are insane. Games that still cost the full retail price (an example is Disgaea 2) for a digital release? feh. prices that don't go down even after years on the market? feh. I'm not paying $40 for a license to play a game on one machine. It's why I don't bother with their downloadable games, even though I have a huge damn memory stick in my psp. I actually love that little bastard device. love it to death. I use it for a ton of shit, and I'm lucky enough that I have a 1st generation so it's not as crippled as all the other ones and has a better battery life. But I'll be damned if I'm paying that much for a drm'd digital release of an old (or older) retail game. I think sony has shot themselves in the foot where that's concerned.
posted by shmegegge at 2:22 PM on September 15, 2010




Damn you, ODiV!
posted by absalom at 2:24 PM on September 15, 2010


My fiancé and I each have a Steam account. If he buys a game (like Bioshock or Bioshock 2) that I kind of want to play, I use his account to play it, and vice versa. For games that we both play, or that we'll be playing together(like Left 4 Dead 2), we each buy a copy -- usually when it's on sale. It's not usually a big deal, because the games tend to be on the account for the "primary player" anyway, and we're in the same house, so it's not like it's a huge hassle to switch around.

Of course, when the game in question is something like a $2.50 copy of KOTOR, as was available yesterday, we both snatch it up individually, just for the convenience of having it on both of our accounts. Incidentally, KOTOR is probably a game that we'd have never bought normally, and yet yesterday we bought 2 copies of it, so make of that what you will.

I don't so much mind being unable to resell the games, for two reasons. I've never been much on trade-ins. I would rather be able to someday dust off an old game, rather than get $5-10 credit. Aside from that, though, it's hard to find a secondhand place that will deal with PC games, simply because of all the headaches involved anyway, what with DRM, or people installing the game, copying the discs, and then selling the game back, etc.

It does still kind of suck that I can't lend Steam games to a friend, though. For example, right now, I'm borrowing a friend's copy of Mass Effect 1, while he's borrowing my copy of Fable 2. You can't really do that with Steam so well. But as a few other people have said, for the price and convenience of the games on Steam, I'm okay with that.
posted by Katrel at 2:38 PM on September 15, 2010


One good thing about Steam is that, true, you can't put new items onto a machine sans connection, but you can still access stuff that's been put on there. It doesn't lock you out whenever you're not connected, which is a pretty big plus.

This is one of the big ones for me, and more importantly it speaks to Valve's whole attitude towards their customers. Where they could legally go "we can't be sure your account is authenticated, so NO GAMES FOR YOU until it is", they instead go "huh, we can't authenticate that this really is you right now. OK, go ahead and play anyway, and let us know when you next get a network connection, OK?"

It's an attitude that implicitly trusts the customer instead of treating them like a criminal, and they're reaping the benefits. Long may it continue.
posted by ZsigE at 2:42 PM on September 15, 2010


I generally like Steam, but there's the €1:$1 issue if you live in Europe. Valve blames the publishers, but I really feel they should push harder to even the prices.
Also, the (probably overworked) mods @ Steampowered.com don't seem to match the customer friendly image Valve likes to assume.
posted by kittenstew at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2010


A comment in an earlier thread (don't have the URL right now) states that Microsoft's own reporting of their competitors puts Linux's userbase on a par with Mac OS/X.

Are those desktop or server numbers? Because I would be shocked if 'linux on the desktop' has a tenth the market penetration that mac does.

Also, Mac has a significant percentage of the laptop market.
posted by empath at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2010


According to this chart, iPhone alone is almost as popular as Linux.
posted by empath at 2:58 PM on September 15, 2010


TBH, though it seems like it's a lovely game, wandering online and trying to play it with people made me realize that I will never again have the time required to get good enough to play online multiplayer games anymore.


I realized this when I went from being dominant at TFC after playing it all through high school to being a second rate schlub in TF2.
posted by codacorolla at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2010


And just anecdotally, I work in IT, and out of dozens of IT people I know, only a few use linux as their primary desktop PC. The better paid folks and 'creatives' tend to use Macs, and the gamers use windows.

On the other hand, lots of of my friends, including me, have Linux servers that they use for stuff like Boxee, game servers, file servers, web servers, and so on. None of us would use the linux boxes to play games, though, because they're generally underpowered, cheap boxes that don't even have monitors or keyboards connected to them.
posted by empath at 3:04 PM on September 15, 2010


I like companies that listen to the players. Stardock's Galactic Civilizations was like that. They'd taken many many suggestions from the player base and incorporated as many of them into the game as were possible, until they got to the point that they said that "this is good, stable, balanced and we're finished poking with it." Downloadable through Impulse too. Great game, tons of support and no DRM - if someone else is using your copy, they won't have your license key and can't get updates to it. Otherwise it'll work just fine.

Starwraith's Evochron: Legends is the same way - open to player suggestions, no DRM, and has one more thing that REALLY inspires loyalty, taken from the website...
"Thank you for supporting my efforts:
Your support helps future game development, which is entirely self funded. Future game projects are a possibility only if it remains feasible to continue. If you like what you see and want more, buying one of these games directly helps provide the necessary time to develop new games and updates for current games. Your purchase does make a big impact on my ability to work on this and other projects. I am the programmer, artist, 3D modeller, musician, audio technician, marketing person, website designer, and technical support person for these games."
(emphasis mine)

I bought "Legends" 5 weeks ago, and the newest version of the game "Mercenaries" comes out in the next few days. I'll pay the money for that too because the games are very well done, and although they're available on Impulse and Steam, I'll just use the purchase link off of the designer's website so he gets the money directly.
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:10 PM on September 15, 2010


I too know dozens of IT people and only a few use Linux as their primary desktop PC. The competent ones.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:13 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


this is true and also incomplete. It is not lighting the world on fire. It IS lighting japan on fire, and has since day one. It is far and away the most popular mobile platform in Japan, largely because of Monster Hunter and a few other must have games for japanese players. The DS, which eclipses damn near everything in the states and Europe, gets routinely shit on by PSP sales in Japan.

Ah ... not to turn this into one of those threads, but I don't think that's really accurate. Yes, the PSP is doing much better in Japan than Europe or the US, but in 2009, the DS beat the PSP in Japan by 3,978,953 to 2,248,171 units; so far in 2010, the DS is ahead again, though only by about 150k (I expect because of the 3DS lurking in the wings for a possible November launch there, and the PSP had the Monster Hunter-esque "God Eater" earlier this year). It's possible the PSP was leading the pack by a huge margin two or three years ago, but I'm not really sensing that from the lifetime to date numbers.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised how well the PSP is doing over there. It looks like the PSPGo is doing terrible, but a quick search indicates that has more to do with costing way more than the regular PSP. I'm not sure how much a a used game market or lack of sharing would hurt it in a fair fight.

It's a 25% or so premium to buy a PSPGo over a PSP. Not minimal, but not enough at all to explain a 60x sales differential. Remember, this is a market that's willing to buy multiple PSPs just for a cheap stencil! That's a 2x increase.

Here's the base data:

1) The product that made the biggest bet on full price digital delivery, continues to fail month after month.
2) XBox Games On Demand has, as far as I can tell, released *no* sales data.
3) iPhone is huge, on games from 99c to $10.

That being said, lets look at weekly data from Steam:

1. R.U.S.E. - Eugen Systems/Ubisoft ($49.99)
2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent - Frictional Games ($19.99)
3. Sid Meier's Civilization V - Firaxis Games/2K Games ($49.99)
4. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale - EasyGameStation ($19.99)
5. Mafia II: Jimmy's Vendetta DLC - 2K Czech/2K Games ($9.99)
6. Battlefield Bad Company 2 - Digital Illusions/EA ($29.99)
7. Mafia II - 2K Czeck/2K Games ($49.99)
8. Blood Bowl - Cyanide Studio/Focus Home Interactive ($39.99)
9. Worms Reloaded - Team17 ($19.99)
10. Company of Heroes Complete Pack - Relic/THQ ($49.99)

So, it's possible to sell some AAA games at full price. But what I'm taking from this data is that, a non-AAA game sold at a non-AAA price will in fact push quite a few units.
posted by effugas at 3:27 PM on September 15, 2010


The DS, which eclipses damn near everything in the states and Europe, gets routinely shit on by PSP sales in Japan.

That's not telling the whole story. If my memory holds, the DS did amazingly, astoundingly well earlier, enough that it saturated the userbase. The PSP is still catching up.
posted by JHarris at 3:42 PM on September 15, 2010


While we're loving Steam, three shouts out for their system survey. They collect lots of detailed data on their users' machines and publish it freely. Used to be mostly hardware focussed: NVidia has 2x the market share of ATI, for instance. They recently added software. 97% of Steam-running Windows PCs have Flash installed, 53% have Silverlight. 63% of PCs have Firefox. 30% have uTorrent. Etc. Fascinating data.
posted by Nelson at 3:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


And just anecdotally, I work in IT, and out of dozens of IT people I know, only a few use linux as their primary desktop PC. The better paid folks and 'creatives' tend to use Macs, and the gamers use windows.

The vast majority of Windows users are, of course, "normals" to whom none of these things apply. (!IT !betterpaid !creative !gamer) That is potentially the big outreach market for Ubuntu.

I know a LOT of Windows users who have (or had) spyware on their computer and don't know it, who think having a slow machine that regularly pops up fake virus scan screens and advertisements is just part of having a computer. If I clean their system, they'll probably just get another bug a short while later. Most of these people use their machines for web browsing and flash gaming alone.

I'm amazed Canonical doesn't make some kind of outreach to these people, maybe involving television ad buys. There is amazing potential there. I've seen spyware that has survived every damn thing I've thrown at it, including Microsoft's own Security Essentials scanner and Malware Bytes. There is a huge opportunity out there for a system that isn't as vulnerable.

(One could uncharitably change that to "a system that isn't as targeted." Granted. Not to say that Linux spyware is impossible, but it's harder to write and ensure it works everywhere, and it's easier to find and remove, since it doesn't have as many hidden, registry-like vectors to wedge itself into.)
posted by JHarris at 3:53 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to VGChartz the PSP has only sold 15.13 Million in Japan the compared to 31.12 Million for the DS.

Although, in the Americas the PSP has sold 19.68M (to the DS's 48.8M), which is way more than I would have guessed.
posted by Gary at 3:55 PM on September 15, 2010


I think the first rule of decent DRM is to see if, ignoring price, your product is better than the pirated version. Early itunes DRM failed this, I could choose to pay for a music file that I could only play on my ipod or itunes PC, or I could pirate an mp3 which would play anywhere, including my linux HTPC, my mobile phone, whatever. I would have paid more for that version, and itstead it was the free one.

See also, for example, DVDs where the purchased version has a bunch of unskippable crap at the start and the pirated version doesn't. The pirated version is actually better than the paid version before you even look at the prices. With Bluray and HDCP, I don't think I can even set up a "trusted path" on my linux HTPC to play bluray discs in hi def. Not a problem with the pirated versions.

Finally some of the PC DRM schemes basically hacked your PC and made parts of it not work. And you had limited installs and that sort of thing.

Then we have Steam (and their Steam DRM, I'll ignore where companies still include additional DRM over Steam). All I need is my Steam login and I can play every game I've ever bought on any PC, all my games are kept automatically patched and up to date and I can uninstall them and reinstall with the click of a button. That, at last, is better than the pirated version.

It's not perfect, you can't sell your games (something I never did and don't care about, but there it is, in Australia Steam games are probably cheap enough that it works out better than buying in a store and then selling) and once my phone line (and hence ADSL) went down, and because I hadn't turned on off line mode (I didn't know I was going to be off line) I couldn't play any of my games. But on balance it beats pirated versions of games. Was that really so hard?
posted by markr at 4:47 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Coo, they just added a ton of old Sega stuff.
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2010


There is also a wonderful Greasemonkey script that will highlight any extra DRM on the game page at the Steam store. It even includes games which claim no DRM but are reported to have some. I don't buy games without it, personally.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


The vast majority of Windows users are, of course, "normals" to whom none of these things apply. (!IT !betterpaid !creative !gamer) That is potentially the big outreach market for Ubuntu.

If you think IT people are LESS likely to use Linux than average people, then I don't even know what to say to you. Linux is an awesome server. It sucks as a desktop. It will always suck as a desktop. It sucks as a game machine. It will always suck at those things. I don't know why people keep wanting it to be something it's not. Is it just because it's free/open source?
posted by empath at 5:13 PM on September 15, 2010


Katrel: It does still kind of suck that I can't lend Steam games to a friend, though. For example, right now, I'm borrowing a friend's copy of Mass Effect 1, while he's borrowing my copy of Fable 2. You can't really do that with Steam so well. But as a few other people have said, for the price and convenience of the games on Steam, I'm okay with that.

This is pretty much my biggest gripe with Steam. My whole library is managed and stored server side already, it wouldn't be hard to just lock me out of Just Cause 2 for a week or whatever, and let you have access to it instead. A week later just lock out the borrowed copy and give me access again, why not? Sure, I could use offline mode and get around that, but I could now, so it's pretty much the same.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:21 PM on September 15, 2010


If you think IT people are LESS likely to use Linux than average people, then I don't even know what to say to you.

It depends. There are plenty of IT people who are not that flavor of IT person. Really, Microsoft certifies professionals, who are pretty invested in that system. That seems to indicate the IT field isn't as monolithic as you suggest.

Further, I negated those categories specifically because I was excluding them from the point I was about to make, which was to talk about "normals." If you can't understand English then I don't know what to say to you. I mean, sheesh

As for Linux's suitability as a desktop... okay, if that's what you want. I directly contradict you. I love Linux as a desktop. I've introduced two people to Linux as a desktop in the past month, both the "normals" I referred to before, and I received no complains from either of them. It has nothing to do with it being free or open source. You are simply wrong here, and I base my statement from direct experience.
posted by JHarris at 5:23 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to say that I love Steamand have bought many games on sale there, it's awesome!
posted by Vindaloo at 5:37 PM on September 15, 2010


Linux is an awesome server. It sucks as a desktop. It will always suck as a desktop.

Yah I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one too. I'm not going to try and tell you that linux is a better desktop than its alternatives, but saying it sucks is totally silly.

I personally use arch linux, and xmonad is the basis of my interface WHICH FITS ME LIKE A GLOVE AND YOU CAN PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS. My intense geekery aside though Ubuntu really keeps getting better and better. It still doesn't have the level of polish of a mac, but it's getting pretty damn close.

Open source does have a lot of advantages. Like, package repos. With a simple command, you can query nearly all software that is available to you, and have it fully installed, depending on your internet connection, in a few seconds to a few minutes. Finding and installing software does not get any easier or better than this, but its only really feasible in an open source environment.

Tech support doesn't really get any better than the resouces a linux community can provide you, nevermind that for serious issues, you can often simply email the developer of the software you're having issues with.
posted by Alex404 at 6:03 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


It still doesn't have the level of polish of a mac, but it's getting pretty damn close.

OS X is not a stationary target.
posted by empath at 6:10 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


empath: It sucks as a desktop

It really doesn't. I much, much prefer my personal machines at work to run Linux. It's like sitting down in front of a symphony orchestra, as opposed to tootling along on the Windows recorder. It takes a bunch of effort to get a Windows machine to the point that I feel moderately productive, where I can have a Linux box pretty much ready to go in about thirty minutes. Among other strengths, the ability to tie remote Unix-style machines into your desktop is incredibly powerful once you understand it. You can't do that well with Windows. You can get very good terminal programs, like SecureCRT, but it's not native, and you can't use remote machines as extensions of your own in the same way.

For the narrow specification of 'running games', Linux does indeed suck. You can do okay with it if you've got an NVidia card and their proprietary drivers, and if the game or emulation system in question happens to use whichever of the fourteen or so sound systems that are out. (none of which are particularly good). Graphics and sound are SO much smoother in Windows that I greatly prefer that OS for gaming, and since I do a fair bit of that, it's easier just to keep my main home machine Windows-based.

Other than gaming, though, Linux is an excellent desktop. I'd call it clearly better than XP, and nearly as good as Win7 in most ways. I've been using it that way for, god, at least eight years, and it was adequate even back then. As long as you want to work, as opposed to game, it does an outstanding job.
posted by Malor at 6:11 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and on failure to preview:

empath: OS X is not a stationary target.

Indeed. The one remaining guy they have working on it is coding as fast as he can. :-)
posted by Malor at 6:13 PM on September 15, 2010


I feel like I should say I use linux daily. I'm logged into it right now, monitoring my minecraft server. I've got tons of webapps and custom coded scripts on it. If I ever want to do anything involving manipulating data, I'll use a linux server before anything else. It's amazing, rock-solid technology, I couldn't live without it. However, I've installed Ubuntu Server on about 4 different boxes at this point, and I never bothered even installing the desktop since the first one, which I never used. I've got a Windows laptop from work and my personal Macbook, and I can't imagine a situation where I would rather be using a Linux desktop. Windows runs all the games I want, and Mac has all the good productivity software (including all the amazing unix command line magic).
posted by empath at 6:18 PM on September 15, 2010


Guys are you really having the Linux vs Windows debate right now? What decade is this? These are tired arguments. The answer is always the same: it depends.
posted by tracert at 6:18 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Among other strengths, the ability to tie remote Unix-style machines into your desktop is incredibly powerful once you understand it.

I will say that if you live in the unix world, the obviously a linux desktop is better than windows. But then we are back to IT people again, and not normals.
posted by empath at 6:20 PM on September 15, 2010


I wonder what Ignatius J. Reilly would think of Valve week?
posted by juiceCake at 6:21 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I much, much prefer my personal machines at work to run Linux. It's like sitting down in front of a symphony orchestra, as opposed to tootling along on the Windows recorder.

You mean because it requires a highly trained conductor for it to work properly?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:24 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


(Hey-o!)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You mean because it requires a highly trained conductor for it to work properly?
posted by Sys Rq


That reminds me of the scenes in Minority Report where Tom Cruise is "conducting" his computer with elaborate (and extremely tiring looking) arm movements. Awesome looking? Sure. But damn is a mouse so eassssssssssy.
posted by haveanicesummer at 6:37 PM on September 15, 2010


I work on Linux machines, as does everyone I work with. Most of these devs/ops people do not use Linux desktops. (Most use OSX, which may be Unixy under the hood but is certainly a league or two above Linux in UI, I use both Linux and Windows depending on what I'm doing at work, and Windows at home).

As for Steam, I can't get over wanting physical copies of games. I know I can make that work indefinitely (given access to a computer running an appropriate OS version). Even if Valve is great now, management can change and so could policies, they can't take away my CD/DVD/whatever. I can still play PC games from the 90's that I have on CD.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:15 PM on September 15, 2010


As for Steam, I can't get over wanting physical copies of games. I know I can make that work indefinitely (given access to a computer running an appropriate OS version).

It's actually more than that. The average lifespan of a DRM server base is a couple of years -- then, invariably, the servers get shut off.

This isn't a rare thing -- see DivX, Yahoo, MSN, Walmart, and even the original XBox Live (essentially, the multiplayer component of a bunch of games was destroyed).

It's, in fact, guaranteed by simple economics. A fixed price up front cannot support a guaranteed expense into the indefinite future. At some point, the costs of supporting the old code will be too high to bear. Then poof. Always poof.
posted by effugas at 7:55 PM on September 15, 2010


Count me as someone who actually really does not enjoy the inability to resell or even just gift Steam games. I'd have no real complaints about the platform if I could just send my copy of Jade Empire or Psychonauts to a friend who wants to play it instead of having to consider giving them my login.

It also kind of annoys me that they don't seem to do a lot of verification. It's possible to buy games on Steam that just flatly do not run, and that's no good at all.
posted by kafziel at 8:16 PM on September 15, 2010


You must have much better storage discipline than me, wildcrdj. My physical copy of Half-Life stopped working about four years ago, but I can still install it from Steam just fine.
posted by ODiV at 8:16 PM on September 15, 2010


The crazy sales are what makes me love Steam.

PC games here are US$50 for ages after their release. In contrast, I've never paid more than $10 for a game in Steam (well, almost never, I did get Recettear at pre-order price, same with Torchlight, because I wanted to support the developers).

I can't afford or justify $50 for a game, but $5 or even $10 once in a while? Sure.
posted by Memo at 8:17 PM on September 15, 2010


Nothing like nerds trying to convince other nerds something's bad because it isn't popular.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:20 PM on September 15, 2010


Well, there's good, there's popular and there's worth launching and supporting a major product for.
posted by Artw at 8:47 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just a quick obligatory note that if this thread got you to install Steam and get into gaming, and you haven't done so yet, come join us at MefightClub for happyfun times. We play pretty much everything.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:55 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


The average lifespan of a DRM server base is a couple of years -- then, invariably, the servers get shut off.

Now, I'm not claiming here that Valve is a company that loves us and is all about hugs and rainbows... but. Gabe has said that there is a switch that they can flick that will eliminate the requirement to check with the server before playing a game, so if the company vanishes they could remove the DRM for everyone instantly. I don't know that this is an official promise, but they have planned for exactly this eventuality.

You've got to admit that that's cool. Not perfect, but if this is how a company decides they are going to screw me over then I'll happily supply the champagne and Barry White albums for the evening, because I think I like their style.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:41 PM on September 15, 2010


And just anecdotally, I work in IT, and out of dozens of IT people I know, only a few use linux as their primary desktop PC. The better paid folks and 'creatives' tend to use Macs, and the gamers use windows.

Funny thing about that; as a better paid 'creative' person, I use a mac at work, but I used to use Linux. I moved to mac for three reasons:

1. Mac laptop power management beats any Linux or Windows PC I've ever used, hands down;
2. When my company said "Windows or Linux" I chose Linux, because I can't get my work done on Windows, but when they thew in "oh, hey, have a Mac laptop too", who's gonna turn that down?
3. Once I had the Mac laptop, I discovered I could do all same things on it I needed Linux for.

Of those three, if it weren't for the first one, I would have just wiped the Mac laptop and put Debian on it, and I'm not the only one in my office in that position.

Then again, I've since installed Steam, for the sole purpose of getting Portal, so now you'll have to pry this Mac from my cold, dead hands.
posted by davejay at 9:55 PM on September 15, 2010


I hated Steam at first. In fact, I wrote an online petition* called "Asking Valve to Fix Steam Petition" (or along those lines, anyway) which I emailed to Gabe Newell at 600 signatures. The original implementation of Steam was terrible, and it seemed like such a step down from the WON ID servers that we had been using for HL mods (primarily Day of Defeat for me) for a long time. There were crashes, some games didn't work, the update servers were always going down, every update broke something... in short, it was terribly frustrating.

Now, though? I love Steam. I would never buy so many games if it wasn't for Steam. I have old favorite games I haven't even installed yet (Loom!), but I bought it on some crazy sale. I gift games to friends, and get gifts back. It's a great way to keep up with what games my friends are playing at any given time, and what they have been playing lately. And my shelves are no longer stuffed to bursting with old game disks that might not even run anymore. Yes there are drawbacks, but the convenience and utility outweighs them all for me.

* I knew better, really, even back in early 2004. But it seemed like the thing to do...
posted by gemmy at 9:57 PM on September 15, 2010


Y'all also know that pretty much any non-Valve game you buy on Steam you can run without Steam using the same no-CD crack that you'd use when you buy a game on disc and don't want to have to put it in the drive every time you want to play it?

And even for the Steam games on your hard drive? If Valve were to die tonight without throwing the switch to disable the DRM locking you out of Half-Life 2 and Portal? There would be cracks available by tomorrow afternoon at the latest to unlock them.
posted by straight at 11:17 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


... you know that using those no-cd cracks is a violation of the DMCA, and thus illegal, right?

I mean, yeah, you can just pirate the game and say "I bought a copy on Steam before they went under", but I don't think that's going to matter.
posted by kafziel at 12:10 AM on September 16, 2010


Effugas, at least two of the games on your list (Blood Bowl and Company of Heroes) were on sale on Steam last weekend. The price-point you listed is not the price they were sold under to get onto the top ten list. Both were 75% if I recall. I was waiting for Company of Heroes to go on sale again (happens every 6 months or so) to pick up the last expansion and Blood Bowl seemed to be close enough to Mutant League Football to almost get a sale from me at $10.

Adding to your analysis, through Steam a AAA game (or any game really) game can push a lot of units well after its normal sales window has passed if you put it on sale on the front page of the Steam Store.

I also like how Steam puts Metacritic scores front and center in its store, even making it a searchable category. It's helped make up my mind on a few purchases, especially when the game in question is one I wouldn't even of thought of buying were it not available on sale for under $10.
posted by thecjm at 12:43 AM on September 16, 2010


It sucks as a desktop. It will always suck as a desktop.

Eh, speak for yourself. I was going to comment on the xmonad and the cold dead hands and all, but Alex404 beat me to it.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:56 AM on September 16, 2010


So I accidentally opened Steam just now and what do I find?

They just made updating my video card driver easy.

Holy fuck, I love Valve.
posted by joedan at 4:41 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hated Steam at first. In fact, I wrote an online petition* called "Asking Valve to Fix Steam Petition" (or along those lines, anyway) which I emailed to Gabe Newell at 600 signatures. The original implementation of Steam was terrible, and it seemed like such a step down from the WON ID servers that we had been using for HL mods (primarily Day of Defeat for me) for a long time. There were crashes, some games didn't work, the update servers were always going down, every update broke something... in short, it was terribly frustrating.

I remember that! The 1.6 Counter-strike patch was a hundred twenty megs instead of the usual 5-20, and it took forever to download over dialup. I figured they'd made some massive changes, but instead, here was this bloated green mess of a program that wasn't clear about what it was. Suddenly, I went from 150-300 pings to 500 being the minimum, my framerates dropped precipitously (Steam's basically nothing now, but when you're working off half a gigahertz, 192 MB RAM, and Windows 98, even Steam is lethal to performance) and so I stopped playing CS entirely. The worst part was that the interface didn't work- the scrollbars did nothing at all- so it was impossible to actually use Steam productively.

I didn't see Steam again until I got Half-Life 2 in 2005, and by then they'd already worked out most of the kinks. I started buying games on it in 2007 (I really wanted to play Deus Ex, couldn't find my disc, and it was $10), and nowadays I'm a pretty big fan of the system, to the point where if they've got a particularly good deal I'll tell anyone I know that likes games.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:18 AM on September 16, 2010


Gabe has said that there is a switch that they can flick that will eliminate the requirement to check with the server before playing a game, so if the company vanishes they could remove the DRM for everyone instantly. I don't know that this is an official promise, but they have planned for exactly this eventuality.

As I recall, he said that back in the days when 90% of everything on Steam was Valve titles. Today the situation is a bit different, with a lot of games from different publishers. I highly doubt they have the authority to de-DRM every game on Steam with the click of a button.

Also, offline mode is great in theory, but it breaks far too often, and is unreliable when you simply just lose your net connection instead of manually entering offline mode.
posted by ymgve at 6:18 AM on September 16, 2010


I find that Steam is a very good fit for me: I used to be a hardcore gamer, but have other priorities in life now, but still like to pick up yesterday's hot now game a a reduced price and mess around with it. I just bought GTA IV off Steam the other day (which kind of annoyed me by insisting I make a Windows Live account!)

But now the rest of my gaming life will be dedicated to Minecraft.
posted by Harald74 at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, man, Notch met Valve. Why isn't Minecraft on Steam yet? This PayPal business has got to end.

Not that I truly care, my copy is purchased and I'm too busy building things to worry about other games right now.
posted by komara at 7:24 AM on September 16, 2010


"As I recall, he said that back in the days when 90% of everything on Steam was Valve titles. Today the situation is a bit different, with a lot of games from different publishers. I highly doubt they have the authority to de-DRM every game on Steam with the click of a button."

I have my doubts simply because this would be an awfully low hanging fruit for crackers to attack. Activating a DRM turn off switch installed by the DRM writer has to be the easiest crack there is. It is also telling that this is just "Something someone in power said" and not an official policy. Push comes to shove they can excuse it away or even claim that was then and things changed and there won't be anything anyone can do. If they were serious about this, even just for Valve titles, they would have put the kill the DRM code into escrow and then made it official policy.
posted by Mitheral at 7:25 AM on September 16, 2010


3) iPhone is huge, on games from 99c to $10.

Serious question, because I'm still undecided as to what to replace my iPod Video with when it breaks (as it's been threatening to do for the last six months): are iPhone/iPod Touch games actually any good? I mean, as long and involving as games like Valkyria Chronicles or Monster Hunter or Metal Gear Solid?

I kind of want an excuse to buy one of the new iPods with the daft high-res screen, but games are really the only thing that would justify the extra expense; otherwise I'll just get a second-hand Android device for my music, video and books.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:08 AM on September 16, 2010


are iPhone/iPod Touch games actually any good?

Sure.

I mean, as long and involving as games like Valkyria Chronicles or Monster Hunter or Metal Gear Solid?

Not really. I mean there are long and involving games, but as far as 3rd person action is concerned the UI/controls are often lacking because it seems designers haven't really figured out a good way to deal with the lack of buttons/d-pad.

The games that are good tend to be tower defense, puzzle, or point and click adventure games that generally don't involve you directly controlling the movement of an avatar. Oh there's also a bunch of adventure gamebooks on it now which are fun if you like those.
posted by juv3nal at 12:35 PM on September 16, 2010


Mitheral, what I was pointing out above was that those cracks already exist for the most part. There are probably cracks for all the Valve games available too, but I wouldn't want to mess with that stuff because it might screw up the updates they release, whereas I don't think Valve cares if I use a different, non-Steam executable to run Deus Ex so that I can get mods to work, and they're not going to be releasing any more updates for Deus Ex.
posted by straight at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2010


are iPhone/iPod Touch games actually any good? I mean, as long and involving as games like Valkyria Chronicles or Monster Hunter or Metal Gear Solid?

They're good, but mostly not "long and involving". The most popular games are usually "Casual Games" like Angry Birds, Flight Control or Plants Vs Zombies. There are some RPGs at the moment which are sort of Zelda-like (Zenonia) or Diablo-like (Dungeon Hunter).

This is changing as more of the big publishers are taking notice of the iPhone. Also, the newer model phones (3GS and 4) are much more powerful. The first attempts at big 3D games ran like a dog on the 3G.

I've heard good things about Chaos Rings which is a iOS only RPG by Square Enix. The tech demo Epic Citadel is really impressive and hints at good things to come.
posted by Gary at 12:52 PM on September 16, 2010


Thanks, that's a lot to research and think about :)

I may have to deliberately break my iPod Video now...
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:06 PM on September 16, 2010


I really, really like 100 Rogues. Assides from all the crashing
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on September 16, 2010


Incidentally, speaking of crazy deals, the iphone/ipod versions of Monkey Island 1 and 2 are 99 cents each right now on the app store.
posted by juv3nal at 2:28 PM on September 16, 2010


iPod / iPhone game apps that keep me busy and some of which have free trial versions:
1.) Ragdoll Blaster (not Ragdoll Blaster II)
2.) Sword of Fargoal
3.) Hook Champ (not Super QuickHook)
4.) Eliss
5.) Helsing's Fire

Fargoal is the most time-consuming - it's a standard dungeon crawler. The rest you can pick up and put down at random.
posted by komara at 2:47 PM on September 16, 2010


I'm still undecided as to what to replace my iPod Video with when it breaks

It don't play games or nothin', but I **ADORE** my little Cowon O2. Plays damn near anything you throw at it, just mounts as a USB drive, simple, easy. Takes SD cards too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:06 PM on September 16, 2010


The rest of the interviews are equally fantastic.

Gabe Newell: the idea that we’re anywhere close to the potential of games as a medium is… we’re so far from [that]. We as an industry, we’ve barely even taken our first steps.

I love these guys because they really get it.
posted by joedan at 3:24 PM on September 16, 2010


Kieron Gillen on the APB disaster - touches very briefly on Valve.
posted by Artw at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2010


Not Coming Soon: Half-Life 2 the Movie
posted by homunculus at 1:18 PM on September 21, 2010


Thanks for the game recommendations, people -- someone sweet got me an iTouch 4th gen for my birthday!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:51 AM on October 5, 2010


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