Blow off some Steam

Okay, I've got a few topics to cover here before I get into a bit of a rant, so we'll do this bullet-style.

-Halo 2 - Basically, it's everything you could have wanted and more. After the hype, I'm still playing way more than I should. I beat the single player in two days, but have played multiple levels over again on legendary and in co-op mode. No complaints about the single player here. Meanwhile, Xbox Live play is smooth as silk, setting a new standard for online gaming as a whole - not just for consoles. The only complaint is the waiting during the matchmaking process, but Bungie claims they're fixing this, along with the 480p widescreen glitch. Can't complain. As predicted, about a million people jumped on Xbox Live, including a number of my friends. If you're gonna test out your free two month subscription you get with the game (and why the hell wouldn't you?!), my gamertag is linked on the right side. And if you've got a Microsoft .NET account, check out my stats on Bungie.net. Seriously, the stat-tracking and specific match stats might be the coolest. Fucking. Thing. Ever.

-G4 Blows - Comcast has just about finished their raping and pillaging of TechTV. Just as I was starting to warm up to host Alex Albrecht, the network decided to can him along with Dan Huard, Yoshi, and Martin Sargent, along with his show, Unscrewed. Only Kevin Rose and Sarah Lane remain. What bullshit. I guess Comcast expected to keep TechTV's decent ratings after canning most of its shows, then got pissed when the ratings went down. Hmmm... I wonder why they went down... Maybe it's because you alienated the viewers who were there in the first place. I seriously don't understand business practices when pride matters more than profit. Comcast wants G4 to succeed just because it created the network, and I guess that's worth wasting a lot of money on buying TechTV and destroying it in hopes of making G4 a successful network. Note to Comcast: G4 will never succeed, because it is terrible.

-Week of heaven (or hell?) - There honestly hasn't been a better time to be a gamer. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Two weeks ago, GTA: San Andreas. Last week, Halo 2. This week... Half-Life 2, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Metroid Prime 2. As if finding the funds wasn't hard enough, what about the free time? The stamina? And the ECW DVD came out this week too. Talk about overloading my geekiness. Note to videogame companies: I know your goal is to consume my life, but it works better if you spread the good games out so I can devote all of my time to one game at a time.

-And more Half-Life 2 - Half-Life 2 is THAT good. Yeah. I actually stopped playing Halo 2 online for it. Much like the first title, this is a new benchmark by which to compare PC titles.

So yeah, with that out of the way, let's get on to something that has really struck a nerve with me. Even a 10 page paper on Cicero and St. Augustine couldn't keep me from staying up until 3 a.m. (midnight PST) to unlock Half-Life 2 from Valve's network software, Steam.

For those of you not familiar, two years ago, Valve introduced a revolutionary piece of software to deliver content and patches to gamers. What Steam does is consolidates all of your Valve games and Half-Life mods into an icon in the system tray. It automatically updates your games for you, makes it easier to find games to play online for Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, or Team Fortress, and it's pretty cool.

Pissed off and involved in a legal wrangling with publisher Vivendi Universal, Valve pretty much created Steam with Half-Life 2 in mind. More specifically, Valve wanted to cut out the middle man so they could get a bigger piece of the Half-Life 2 revenue by selling the game online via Steam. Instead of going out to the store and picking up your copy of the game, you could buy it online through Steam, download it immediately from Valve's blazing fast servers, and receive instant gratification.

It works nicely. Except Half-Life 2 requires online authentication in order to play, even if you bought a hard copy at the store. I would have liked a hard copy for backup purposes, but Valve gave incentives to buying on Steam - buying via Steam was the only way to get the original Half-Life running on the new Source engine, and it was also the only way to get Day of Defeat Source. Plus you could play Counter-Strike Source ahead of time.

So some stores started selling Half-Life 2 early this weekend, but Vivendi Universal refused to let Valve unlock the activation of the game on Steam. So, imagine this: you go to the store, you see Half-Life 2, you pick it up and take it home, but you can't play it. It's locked on your hard drive because it has to authenticate online, and you can't authenticate it.

The idea is to cut down on piracy. Much like Windows XP, if every copy has to register itself online, nobody can steal the game. But if it's much like XP, perhaps Valve should have learned from XP, because pirates will always find a way.

I had a pretty smooth experience with Steam at 3 a.m., despite the fact that the servers were slammed with millions of gamers trying to unlock Half-Life 2. Unfortunately, apparently some gamers did not. Some still couldn't unlock their game, well into the day after 3 a.m. EST. Meanwhile, pirated copies of the game, allegedly hacked so that it would install without authenticating via Steam, rolled out rampant online for anyone to download without price or penalty.

Where's the logic here? Someone who legitimately buys their copy of the game at the store can't play it because of piracy-prevention techniques, yet the pirates are already playing the game. This whole thing reeks of the Sims 2 fiasco from earlier this year, where people couldn't install the Sims 2 if they had CD burning software installed on their computer. Piracy is indeed a problem for software companies, and it is also an enticing avenue to take for a gamer, but alienating people who go out of their way to pay for your product is not the right way to go about doing business.

So I guess the moral here is that the pirates will always win, and if you try to stop them, all you're going to do is hurt those who actually purchase your product, which could, in turn, make them pirate any future software you make. Good going, Valve and Vivendi Universal.

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2003 - 2005
Reverend Hughes