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Valve Steam to evolve multiplayer - major steam updates
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Sun Jun 01, 2008 5:02 pm Reply and quote this post
Valve has an odd way of getting the news about big developments out into the open. At a recent press event, with around seven journalists in attendance,Gabe Newell spoke about PC gaming and announced an exciting new featurefor Steam. You see, your personal computer may become the leastimportant part of your PC gaming experience. Steam Cloud hopes to keepeverything from your purchased games, to your saved game files andcontrol configurations, on a central server so you can log onto youraccount from anywhere and pick up exactly where you left off; you won'teven have to invert your mouse.

Valve's plan for Steam doesn't lack ambition; the company wants as manygames as humanly possible on the service, and they want as manydevelopers as possible taking advantage of what the platform offers.These seem like lofty goals, but it's also hard to argue with the stepsbeing taken to achieve them. The Steamworks SDK allows developers to drop Steam and its benefits into games quickly and easily, and hardly a week goes by without news of more games being added to the service. The independent title Audiosurf was a big hit at last year's Game Developers Conference, and became a surprise hit on the service.
The social aspects of Steam are also well-implemented, creating theXbox Live-type experience on the PC that Microsoft desperately wanted,and failed to deliver. Even worse for the competition, Steam is freeand, with a wide user-base of entrenched PC gamers, it's going to behard to compete with the service. The growing pains seem to be over.
While all these developments make sense, the Steam Cloudannouncement doesn't appear part of the rather linear growth offeatures Steam has already enjoyed. The SDK helps developers get onboard, the social networking and cross-game invitation system createsgamer loyalty, but how many people have ever wanted to play Half-Life 2at a friend's house? The obvious winners will be LAN centers, whoseusers will now be able to play their own games seamlessly, but that's amarket that exists largely outside of North America. There is a demandto make content such as music and video portable to be used on multipledevices, but it's hard to say how many serious PC gamers wish to sitdown at locations away from their home to play their games. It's awelcome feature, but it may not have the broad impact that Valvehopes.


The Medic was the first TF2 class to see dramatic updates

What Steam does easily is allow games to evolve, and Valve's Robin Walker told Next Generation that's the direction that the company is moving towards. Team Fortress 2is a game that launched with a smaller number of maps than mostmultiplayer games, but the title has seen a staggering 53 updates sincelaunch. Valve is watching the community and making constant, smallnudges to improve the game based on the constant feedback it receives.These updates add new content and change existing strategies,keeping the game fresh for players. This is an interesting blueprintfor Valve: smaller games that both expand and focus on what playerswant as time goes on.
No one in the PC gaming industry has ever tried to create somethingas ambitious as Steam, and Valve seems to want it all for its service.Blazing this trail means missteps and odd choices, and it's possiblethat Steam Cloud may be more useful than it at first appears. What isclear is that Steam has done more things right than wrong, and PCgaming is changing with it.  
Related
Valve Steam Cloud - Online storage for saved games like CS:S

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