Steam May Come to Linux!

According to a huge scoop from Phoronix, Steam might just come to Linux. That’s right, Valve’s insanely popular video game digital distribution platform will finally see the light of day on /etc/Steam (Linux users please note that I am a newbie and as such am just throwing around filesystem names to appear “cool”)

For those that have doubted the exclusive Phoronix claims for quite a while now that the Steam client and Source Engine are in fact being ported to Linux, the doubts can be nearly laid to rest. Even I began to wonder how long it would take before the clients for their popular games would be publicly released under Linux. However, after confirming the information perhaps a bit too soon, their level of Linux interest is much more clear after spending a day at their offices.

After years of denying Steam on Linux it seems that Gabe Newell has finally let slip the codes of Linux into the fiery pit of an Internet guy. Michael Larabel, the founder of Linux focused website Phoronix had been personally contacted by Newell and subsequently he flew down to Valve’s headquarters and has apparently seen the build in person. How awesome is that? He also says that he will be posting the Linux screenies soon on his twitter feed. Soon, he says. Soon. Which translates to “not soon enough!”

Since the announcement, a barrage of followers and users have pretty much taken down the site where he promised a video will soon be uploaded.

Excellent news? You bet. It is thoroughly welcome after Desura’s Linux-specific game search as well as Steam’s own SteamPlay Mac support. Cannot wait for the video!

Steam Mobile: First Look

A couple of days ago Valve released its Beta Steam Mobile app for Android and iOS. Steam, as we know, is the video game digital distribution platform that has quickly become one of the Internet’s friendliest and also its most used. Valve also slowly rolled out the Beta access to its customers through the Steam Inventory (customers with access can send other customers the invite). The mobile app itself is a little rough around the edges – nothing new here because Steam itself is a little rough around the edges. Moreover, it is to be noted that this is still a work in progress for the most part.

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The Steam Mobile app came as a direct request from Steam’s fans, as Valve President Gabe Newell says:-

The Steam app comes from many direct requests from our customers. Seeing which of your friends are online and playing a game, sending quick messages, looking at screenshots for an upcoming game, or catching a sale — these are all features customers have requested. Mobile is changing way people interact, play games and consume media, and the Steam app is part of our commitment to meet customer demands and expand the service functionality of Steam to make it richer and more accessible for everyone.

The app starts with the a mobile version of the “Friends” window which shows your friend list and also shows who is playing what game. Clicking on a friend’s name will initiate a chat thread with that person (although that did not load completely in my case).

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Pressing the app key on the Android brings up the menu with several options like Catalog, Wishlist, Search, Groups, Steam News and so on listed. Clicking on any one of these options is supposed to display the corresponding option, but that did not happen with me.

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Again, I must remind the readers that this is a beta application so I am not holding any of these against the app. So when it does eventually come out of beta, it should have all of these features.

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In short, Steam Mobile is everything that Steam offers minus the most important thing: the game itself. I imagine people will chat with their friends and set up matches for the evening (instead of talking to them through more conventional means, because obviously a smartphone cannot make calls or send texts) or get that ridiculously low priced sale that is on only for the two minutes that you are browsing Steam Mobile. Snide comments apart, it can be a useful way of spending time with folks you only know through Steam, or buying an impromptu gift for someone discreetly. More on this as it gets better.

Steam Suffers Intrusion, User Database and Other Personal Information Gets Stolen

Couple of days ago Steam Forums, Valve’s digital distribution store discussion board had been broken into and defaced. Today, Gabe Newell, Valve CEO & founder confirmed that the breach goes beyond the forums.

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Gabe has confirmed that the hackers also gained access to the main Steam database in addition to the Steam Forum database. This database contained “information including user names, hashed and salted passwords, game purchases, email addresses, billing addresses and encrypted credit card information”. Gabe clarifies that as of now, there is no evidence that encrypted credit card numbers or other personally identifying information were taken by the intruders, or that the protection on credit card numbers or passwords was cracked.

Although only few forum members’ accounts were compromised, Steam is forcing site-wide password reset for all forum members to be on the safer side. Gabe also makes it clear that no Steam accounts were compromised as of now. However, it goes without saying – if you’re using the same password for the Steam and the Forum account, it’s imperative that you change your password immediately.

Here’s what Gabe had to say about the intrusion:

Dear Steam Users and Steam Forum Users:

Our Steam forums were defaced on the evening of Sunday, November 6. We began investigating and found that the intrusion goes beyond the Steam forums.

We learned that intruders obtained access to a Steam database in addition to the forums. This database contained information including user names, hashed and salted passwords, game purchases, email addresses, billing addresses and encrypted credit card information. We do not have evidence that encrypted credit card numbers or personally identifying information were taken by the intruders, or that the protection on credit card numbers or passwords was cracked. We are still investigating.

We don’t have evidence of credit card misuse at this time. Nonetheless you should watch your credit card activity and statements closely.

While we only know of a few forum accounts that have been compromised, all forum users will be required to change their passwords the next time they login. If you have used your Steam forum password on other accounts you should change those passwords as well.

We do not know of any compromised Steam accounts, so we are not planning to force a change of Steam account passwords (which are separate from forum passwords). However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to change that as well, especially if it is the same as your Steam forum account password.

We will reopen the forums as soon as we can.

I am truly sorry this happened, and I apologize for the inconvenience.

Gabe.

 

 

Digital Swapping Comes to the Biggest Digital Distributor Near You

I was about to write bestdigital distributor, but I remembered GOG.com and relegated Steam to biggest. It certainly is one of the better modern game digital distributors, of course, what with Valve games being there and nowhere else.

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So, getting back to the topic, Steam has uncorked the finely beta-aged wine of Steam Trading and allowed all Steam users access to its digital trading feature. Steam Trading is, very simply, a digital trading service built atop the Steam client that allows users to trade Team Fortress 2, Spiral Knights and Steam Gifts with one another. Valve have also said that trading of items from Portal 2 will soon be open. Steam Gifts can be traded for other games or TF2 and Spiral Knights items as long as you have not opened the gift:-

Any game you’ve purchased from the store as a gift, or received as an Extra Copy, can be traded to other users. They can be used to trade for other Gifts, or for items in Team Fortress 2 or Spiral Knights

This is quite a lovely step up by Steam and is a boon for many online game trading forums that relied on trust instead of a portal like this for their trading. Of course, you could also stock up a sizable collection of hats from Team Fortress 2 , but that is completely up to you.

Dragon Age II Removed from Steam

A more charming title would have been Dragon Age II Fades Away from Steambut not many readers might get the reference. Nevertheless, the title rings out true. The game has been removed from Valve’s digital distribution platform Steam. This comes on the eve of the launch of the new downloadable content (DLC) Legacyfor the troubled role playing game.

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I say troubled, because it had tremendously huge shoes to fill. The shoes being Dragon Age: Orgins‘. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the game more than the original and its expansion pack Awakening, partly because of how Mass Effect-y the second game felt and the more streamlined quests. It did have a lot of bugs, some tawdry continuity issues and the same I never meant to say thatmoments in the dialogue circles.

On this matter, Electronic Arts’ SVP of Global E-Commerce said:

At EA, we offer our games and content to all major download services including GameStop, Amazon, Direct2Drive and Steam,

Unfortunately, Steam has adopted a set of restrictive terms of service which limit how developers interact with customers to sell downloadable content. No other download service has adopted this practice. Consequently some of our games have been removed by Steam.

We hope to work out an agreement to keep our games on Steam.

So it seems that Valve had some trouble with the DLC being downloaded on the game’s own launcher, or EA could not sort out licensing and payment terms for the game on Steam. Either way, it is sorry to see two large companies bickering about this. I hope more games are not taken down from Steam on the pretext of T&C violation and put on EA’s Origin.

Devious Garry’s Mod “Bug” Catches Pirates

The internet is a very devious and dangerous place. Yet it is as fascinating to watch as a bar brawl from the periphery of the brawl with a cloak of invisibility around yourself. There are many devious and dangerous people in this analogy of a medieval tavern, but the same kind of people populate it merchants, commoners and, of course, pirates of the high seas masquerading as legitimate businessmen. The following account happened at the Valve’s distribution service, Steam:-

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One of Steam’s most well-enjoyed games is Garry’s Mod created by a Mr. G. Newman (not the Gabekind). Since it is so well loved on Steam it is also well-loved in the shady corners of the pirate bays, so Garry thought of a plan and posted an update of the game later. Then he asked a very innocent question on his Twitter account:-

Anyone unable to shade polygon normals?

Apparently a few legitimateusers on the official forums were reporting the same bug, saying that the game crashed on startup with this error code:-

Engine Error:
Unable to shade polygon normals(################)

In a few hours, the user who had the problem was permanently banned from the forums for pirating the game. Also, the the string of numbers (###…) was basically the 64-bit Steam ID of the user, which was not on Steam’s database as a registered user of Garry’s Mod. Guess whose account was going to have some problems?

A very clever way to weed out the pirates. Good going, Garry!

Steam Guard by Valve–Friendly DRM or More Intel Love?

It has been a few days since Valve officially opened the valve on the new kind of identity management service for its digital distribution platform Steam. Named, very creatively, Steam Guard, the service will allow users to locktheir Steam identity semi-permanently to their main computer. More precisely, the gamers can lock their Steam ID to their Intel processors (the second generation kind with the Corebrand name with Sandy Bridge et al).

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This kind of two factor authentication system is akin to what Google has recently given to its users, and what the RSA keys have been to corporates with Enterprise Resource Planning servers and other systems. The Core CPUs will soon be updated with the Identity Protection Technology (IPT) that generates a key every 30 seconds according to some preordained algorithm. Once the Steam account is synced to this processor, it will not be available for use anywhere else. Valve’s CEO Gabe Newell was so confident about this new tech that he freely gave away his username and password for people to try (and fail) at hackinghis account.

However, this piece of technology is teetering towards the locked down EA-DRM kind of protection. While Steam does not allow for two computers to simultaneously login to the same account, anyone can download as many games as they want on any number of systems from the same account, go offline on their Steam client and play for as long as they want. If this kind of protection eventually becomes mandatory for systems running the Core CPUs, how many PCs can you authenticate? Will this create a problem for the folks on AMD machines and older Intel processors? (Agreed very feeble questions, but questions nevertheless!)

Either way, to hackinto Gabe Newell’s account, login with these details:
Username: [email protected]
Password: moolyftw

(Mooly refers to the nickname of Intel Corp.’s Vice President Shmuel Eden)

Steam Client Updates with Screenshot Manager

(Sigh: If only this were present while I was writing about my first impressions of Dragon Age II.) Valve’s Steam client for digital distribution games just got updated to its newest version. With the latest client, gamers can easily take screenshots and also sync it with Steam’s Cloud (about 1GB of personal space) and display it on their Steam Community profiles. This is similar to what Xfire has been doing for quite a while now. This functionality is available on any game with which Steam’s Overlay works (i.e. even non-Steam games with the Steam Overlay enabled will have this functionality enabled.)

The use is very simple start up a game (wait for it to load), load your save file (wait for that to load) and then start a really cool battle or something (and wait for the enemy to come close to you, become impatient) and then press the mighty twelfth Function key (F12) to hear the beautiful sound of the miniature Steam camera clicking:-

BEHOLD! The mighty Rhodok Lord in a massive assault! Also blotchy JPG.

Sadly though, in some games (such as the above: Mount & Blade: Warband), the F12 key is bound to the autosave function. Although the autosave does not work during battle with Mount & Blade, in other games you might just see a shot of the save-screen when you press F12. Solution: re-bind the autosave to some other key.

The Screenshot Manager is quite a wonderful little thing that sits below the News Itemsfor the currently selected game. Here you can see the screenshots from different games, or your last session. It is here that you can describe the screenshot and upload it to your Steam profile. (For example, this screenie can be seen on my profile here).

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Good stuff from Valve we’d like to see cross-platform Instant Messaging next!

Portal 2 PS3 Version Will Include SteamPlay Version Free

Well this is a first for both Valve and Sony. The highly anticipated successor to the really awesome First Person Puzzle Solver That Ate Your Brains Out While Being Ridiculously Funny Portal will very probably be one of the firsts in gaming history; Portal 2‘s PS3 version will come with an activation key for the Steam version to play on your PC (or Mac), completely free!

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All you need to do is type up the key on Steam and voila, you’ll have Portal 2 waiting to be downloaded and played by you, the gamer on the go. Apparently, this cross-platform gaming will also include PS3-to-PC chatting between players, and might also involve a good deal of cross-platform play (obviously) and will include syncs between your PlayStation Network (PSN) ID and your Steam account.

However, the clincher is that the PS3 version will include SteamCloud support which means that if you save at a certain point on your PS3, it syncs to Steam’s servers, and you can start the game from the exact place on your PC! So, just in case GLaDOS screws you over at a certain level and you decide to throw your controller at your PS3 very forcibly (thereby killing it instantly), fear not for SteamCloud will come to the rescue (of your game, not your console).

Here’s to looking at more console and PC friendships!

Gamertrolls, the commenting area is your arena. Fight!

Recettear Sells a Hundred Thousand Copies. Follow Up Hinted

It’s no secret that I adore the little pseudo JRPG called Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. I call it pseudo because it is not, in fact, a total JRPG. Instead it has this incredible idea of what if the player was an NPC?. More accurately, what if the player was the shopkeeper to whom the heroes of JRPG games came to buy swords, shields, magical amulet and pink toffees from?. Yes, that is exactly what Recettear allows you to do, and while the idea itself may sound half-baked and prone to cause easy boredom, the game is not. It’s been the darling of many reviews, coming from the Japanese stock and westernized by Carpe Fulgur.

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So when a recent Steam sale pushed up their sales to a hundred thousand copies, they are bound to be so happy that they would have stopped developing and gone on a collective vacation, right?

The head business dudeof Carpe Fulgur does not think so. Andrew Dice explains in a blog post about what the sales mean, what they do not mean and what ramifications these figures would have in the future. One of the most important points raised was that the sale was done at an extremely low price. Recettear was sold in a pack for about $1 (five games for $5). Since Valve prefers developers more than publishers, the lion’s share of the profit went to the Japanese developer EasyGameStation. Not that Carpe Fulgur is struggling right now (they are doing very well, but they need to release another game within the next year).

Lastly, Dice very cheekily hints at the next game that would be released by Carpe Fulgur for the world: Another EasyGameStation title called Chantelise.

In all the future of westernized JRPGs looks bright indeed! Yayifications!