Steam took a lot of stick when it was first rolled out as an online distribution platform for Half Life 2. Whilst this idea was not new, the scale of it was – and so was the game it was pushing out. Steam had severs ready to unlock a hardcopy of the game, or preload it fully (a few gigs worth of game, huge at the time for net transfer) before release, allow a complete distribution service including content provision and payment systems.
Now that the jargonish bit is over, lets go back to the day of release – November 16th, 2004. It took 3 days for the software to fully download, unlock and give me access. Longer still for Counter Strike to be available. Finally however it worked, and Half Life 2 was awesome. However, some things did not work, including the notorious ‘friends service’ – an in-joke being that it was the ‘no-friends service’, given that until recently you could add no-one.
More importantly, Steam in the beginning offered very little, apart from a slightly buggy experience and frustrations involving not being able to play Half Life 2 if an update was part way through. Now though, that has changed. Steam has become a full-service content provider, offering demos of the latest games, screensavers, videos, screenshots, review links, new and of course the ability to purchase games. It updates quickly, provides access to innovative, quality games (including the brilliant Darwinia) and I now use it reasonably regularly to find new stuff. So far, I have downloaded:
- Minerva: Metastasis 2 – A Half Life 2 mod with great action, set on a combine island.
- Medieval 2: Total War – The latest demo for the newest (and best RTS) available.
- Dark Messiah of Might and Magic – I got the demo of this, along with a few gameplay videos. Interesting enough, but not an Oblivion beater.
So there we are, good stuff on Steam. For those of you who like The Ship you can now get the single player version for a shade under ten dollars. The next big thing though of course will be Portal. Keep your eyes out for this one folks, it’s gonna be good!