I don’t really consider myself much of a gamer and as such I don’t tend to cover many game related issues in these articles. However a colleague of mine showed me an online gaming distribution network “Steam” and it seemed like an interesting premise.
Steam is a multiplayer, games distribution and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation (famous for games such as Half Life and Day of Defeat) which has been designed to distribute a wide range of games and related media entirely over the Internet. At present there are 667 games available on Steam and over 20 million user accounts.
Steam users can instantly try out and if suitably impress buy the games digitally thus doing away with having to purchase the games on disc with the accompanying packaging, manual and CD key. The game is immediately associated to the users’ free Steam account meaning that it can be played on any computer currently connected to the internet that has Steam installed. So not only can you play any purchased games from any applicable computer, but as the software is downloaded whenever needed, players will always be using the most up to date version.
Downloads are dealt with by hundreds of dedicated servers at various placed around the world and a fast connection is almost assured due to the software connecting multiple servers at once. Based upon your hardware the most compatible game version will be automatically be downloaded so issues can be kept to a minimal, no matter what computer you are playing on.
As well as allowing these games to be played in single player mode, Steam also works as a very effective multiplayer platform so that you can search, filter and bookmark Internet and LAN servers in order to locate others to play with. A friend list means that you can easily locate and play with others you have challenged before as well as finding others based on their interests. An inbuilt chat system means you can talk to others during the game and an inbuilt anti-cheat system ensures that all users participate fairly.
With regards to the actual games on offer, Steam encompasses both independent labels and the major publishers with prices varying depending very much on the game in question. Some smaller games are available for just over a fiver however those by the major publishers will often be the same price, if not a little more, than you would find them for in the shops. With hundreds of games available it’s not possible to cover the entire scope of the games on offer however for a full list check out www.steampowered.com to see a full list of games which can be filtered based on the game category, number sold or the rating given by the community. Current top rated games include Half Life 2, Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Unreal Tournament and Team Fortress 2 – all titles that any gamer will recognise.