Valve Praises Linux as a Game Development Platform

Ubuntu Developer Summit is underway and there have been interesting announcements flowing in all throughout the summit. However, the most exciting announcement made at this USD is perhaps about gaming. Both Valve and Ubuntu are taking gaming on Linux seriously, and this might be the one factor that finally gets more people to use Ubuntu and more importantly, Linux.

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Valve has announced that the Steam client for Ubuntu will land sometime mid-November and it has already given beta access to attendees with a Launchpad account. This shows a high level of preparedness on part of Valve, and a vision from Valve’s Drew Bliss, who says,

Open platforms allowed Steam to exist. If we tried today, it probably wouldn’t be possible. We chose Ubuntu to start because of its broad user-base, strong community, and a strong company backing it in Canonical. Ubuntu was a simple choice to make.

If everything goes well, the Ubuntu platform will save Valve some valuable hours spent on performance tuning of games. Moreover, its openness and community-driven nature will also prove to be fruitful for Valve.

Steam Linux beta will have Team Fortress 2, Portal and Serious Sam 3 available.

The summit has started today, and it is a four-day event full of exciting announcements, especially on Ubuntu 13.04 and on Ubuntu as a game development platform. Head over to the UDS page to know about Ubuntu Developer Summit.

Valve to Kick off a Private Beta of Steam for Linux Next Week

Back in July, Valve started a blog and gave exciting news of Steam being ported over to Linux. This involved porting of Valve’s Steam client and some game titles over to Ubuntu Linux. On making the port, it was seen that Left4Dead 2 runs faster on Linux at a higher FPS, than on Windows. What started as “Steam’d Penguins“ back in July, is nearing its first milestone now, with Steam for Linux ready for internal testing from next week, and due for a private beta testing sometime mid-October.

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In a recent blog-post titled “External Beta News“, the Linux blog at Valve has announced,

Things have been going well. We will be having an internal beta starting next week and a private external beta for 1,000 users sometime in October.

The internal beta will run only until next week, after which the Steam client will be released for a private beta. This private beta will be limited to 1000 users, and it is not confirmed whether the availability is on a first-come first-serve basis. However, Valve has talked about a signup page for the external beta, the link for which will be announced later.

As Valve brings Steam to Linux, gaming on Linux will become more exciting with native games being developed exclusively for Linux. Going further, Valve must also release Linux versions of its own game titles to support its Steam client. This porting of Steam will boost gaming on Linux, and create a new ecosystem for gamers and game-publishers.

Steam Goes Beyond Gaming; Will Feature Software Titles Soon. But Will It Work?

Not quite content with occupying the lion’s share of the digital distribution games market, Valve’s digital delivery service, Steam is now set to expand into non-gaming titles. Making the announcement as a press release, Valve mentions that the first set of software titles are heading to the Steam store for both Mac and PC.

Steam logo

Valve mentions that applications ranging from creativity to productivity will available on Steam. The first set of software titles are set to hit the store from September 5th. What’s even more exciting is that SteamWorks — which allows for Cloud storage on Steam Cloud and auto-updates — will be available to software titles as well.

Will it work?

Steam did experiment with non-gaming media for digital distribution — particularly when Indie Game: The Movie was released on Steam store, which didn’t do too bad.  There are still couple of points that might stick out about software coming to the Steam store:

  • Cross-platform licensing:  Steam for Ubuntu is coming soon, Steam for Mac is already here. SteamPlay allows for a game license to be used across multiple devices and multiple platforms. Software title developers, however, are quite insistent about single-use-only licensing. We’ll have to wait and watch to see how many developers will be going ahead with single-license-multiple-platform approach.
  • Steam’s DRM: The popular opinion about DRM in Steam is that it’s DRM done well. Now I don’t agree that it’s done well — though it’s not that bad either. Steam games require that you stay online when you launch the titles. If you plan to play offline then there’s a “Go offline” option that must be explicitly used before you go offline — without doing this, the probability that you’ll be able to launch a title is less than 1%. These restrictions are unlikely to go well when we’re talking about productivity applications.
  • Going against existing, preloaded marketplace: Windows, OS X, Ubuntu — all feature their own built-in Stores. Windows 8’s Windows store features prominently as a Tile on the Start Screen, the Mac App Store has gained some traction amongst OS X users and with Ubuntu, you’re guaranteed to take a look at the software centre at least once a day. Will these be enough to deter the casual users from loading Steam?
Having said that, Steam’s approach to include software titles will be an interesting change to look at. Now all that I pray is that future Steam Sales will include software titles as well.

Steam for Ubuntu is Coming Soon, This Time for Real

After years and years of rumors, Valve is finally taking the bold step of porting its Source engine to Linux. With this porting, you can also expect Linux to get steamy. Yes, the Steam client is showing its head on Linux too, and all this is happening on our favorite Linux flavor- Ubuntu. The announcement has been done in style with a blog post titled “Steam’d Penguins“, on Valves recently launched Linux Team blog.

Steam_LogoThe purpose of this blog is best explained as,

Our mission is to strengthen the gaming scene on Linux, both for players and developers. This includes Linux ports of Steam and Valve games, as well as partner games. We are also investigating open source initiatives that could benefit the community and game developers.

The first time we heard rumors of Source being ported to Linux was back in 2008, when Phoronix started reporting about it. The leaked Valve handbook showed the world how flat their management structure is. Years went by, and finally, the rumors started getting stronger this year. earlier in April, Valve’s Gabe Newell confirmed (to Phoronix, again) that there will indeed be a ported Source engine and a Steam client for Linux, and here we are!

Linux will prove to be a prospective platform for obvious reasons of openness. Although Valve is working on Steam for Ubuntu 12..04 currently, they also have plans for other Linux distros in near future. The flagship game to be ported to Linux will be Left 4 Dead 2, and it will run on OpenGL.

Finally, Linux will have its own native Valve games and its users will not have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of Wine or any other compatibility layer anymore. Last month, EA started betting big on Linux too, and their choice of distro too was ubuntu. It is good to see that Ubuntu is being seen as a platform of choice for pilot projects like these. Nonetheless, gaming on Linux too is entering a new era.

Blizzard Legally Opposes Valve’s Move to Trademark the “DOTA” Name

Well this had to happen, but not in the way it actually did. Blizzard sought to stop Valve from trademarking the “DOTA” name, associated with a custom map for its highly successful Warcraft III franchise that eventually broke off from its parent game and is being developed by Valve as DOTA 2. Blizzard, till now, had no problems with this since Valve was not taking anything that was explicitly its own to use – considering that DOTA was fan-made and fan-enjoyed from start to finish. However, Blizzard does have a problem with Valve trying to trademark the DOTA name.

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The gist is that Blizzard never owned or wanted to own the DOTA name. It merely exuded goodwill to its fans and wishes to let the name be open and free for anyone to use. It’s a lot like the name “chess”. If Zynga decided to suddenly trademark the name “Chess” for one of its absurd Facebook games, it would look odd and many people will call foul. That is exactly what Blizzard is doing:-

By attempting to register the mark DOTA Valve seeks to appropriate the more than seven years of goodwill that Blizzard has developed in the mark DOTA and in its Warcraft 3 computer game and take for itself a name that has come to signify the product of years of time and energy expended by Blizzard and by fans of Warcraft 3. Valve has no right to the registration it seeks. If such registration is issued, it not only will damage Blizzard, but also the legions of Blizzard fans that have worked for years with Blizzard and its products, including by causing consumers to falsely believe that Valve’s products are affiliated, sponsored or endorsed by Blizzard and are related or connected to Warcraft 3.

This surprising turn of events also had a tow of die-hard Valve fans calling foul on Blizz because Valve Cannot Do Anything Wrong®

Valve Says that Encrypted Credit Card Data May Have Been Stolen From Steam

Valve’s Gabe Newell issued a statement on the digital distribution giant’s news portal regarding the hacker intrusion of its systems last year. Newell, the CEO of the gaming company, stated that amongst other harmless data the intruders may have stolen logs that contain credit card numbers and other such things – encrypted mind – and data of all the transactions done between 2004-2008. He further advises everyone to monitor their credit card statements carefully and change the Steam passwords.

Valve-logo-the-bald-guy

Recently we learned that it is probable that the intruders obtained a copy of a backup file with information about Steam transactions between 2004 and 2008. This backup file contained user names, email addresses, encrypted billing addresses and encrypted credit card information. It did not include Steam passwords.
We do not have any evidence that the encrypted credit card numbers or billing addresses have been compromised. However as I said in November it’s a good idea to watch your credit card activity and statements. And of course keeping Steam Guard on is a good idea as well.

Steam Guard is the secondary authentication token provided directly to your registered email ID when you sign it to Steam from a new computer. This is like Google’s authentication and provides a code that you have to enter after typing in your username and password. This is to ensure that unauthorized access to your Steam account is not easy.

As always, we ask our readers to remain vigilant against these threats as well as phishing scams and other things that have been talked about recently on Techie Buzz.

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.

Steam

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.

 

 

First Batch of Dota 2 Beta Invites to Be Sent Soon

A while back fellow techie-buzzer Kaushik had written about how to apply to be a beta tester for DoTA 2. Now if you had signed up for the beta, you might want to check your email – Valve has just sent an email confirming that the beta testers’ pool is about to be expanded.

Dota 2

The email reads as below:

You recently indicated you want to play Dota2. Before we send the first batch of invites we need to collect a little more information from you about your level of gaming experience and your gaming rig.

To begin the survey go to the machine on which you intend to play Dota2, start Steam and click this link: steam://takesurvey/1/ (if you haven’t restarted your Steam client for a few days, you might need to do that before clicking that link).

The Dota 2 blog has a new post where they mention that they’ve expanded the server capacity – keeping the upcoming beta pool expansion in mind. And to keep things interesting, they’ve released a comic, Tales from the Secret Shop.

We’ve just finished our first significant expansion of Dota 2 server capacity around the world, and that means it’s time to kick this thing up a notch. Starting this week, we’ll be handing out Dota 2 in increasing volumes. To celebrate, we’re releasing the first part of the official Dota 2 comic, Tales from the Secret Shop

Once you’ve read today’s part, make sure you fill out the Dota 2 Survey in Steam to secure your place in the upcoming invitations (if you haven’t restarted your Steam client for a few days, you might need to do that before clicking that link). The extra data the survey provides will allow us to ensure we invite a wide spread of players and hardware.

And if that hasn’t gotten you excited yet, Valve mentions that everyone who gets an invite to the beta will get two extra copies that they can handout.  Good news all around! So head over to this link and take the survey, if you’ve signed up for the beta. And if you’re facing problems with the link – make sure you’ve Steam installed and have updated to the latest version.

DotA 2 System Specifications Revealed

DotA (short for Defence of the Ancients) is a custom scenario (a programmed map) for the brilliant strategy game of yesteryear called Warcraft III. In essence DotA is an elaborate strategy game (with some elements of role playing) with many layers of complexity added on to it. The wiki description is quite adequate at this point:-

Defense of the Ancients pits two teams of players against each other: the Sentinel and the Scourge. Players on the Sentinel team are based at the southwest corner of the map, and those on the Scourge team are based at the northeast corner. Each base is defended by towers and waves of units which guard the main paths leading to their base. In the center of each base is the “Ancient”, a building that must be destroyed to win the game.

DotA All Stars is the most widely known map based off this concept, and has become a staple in many gaming competitions across the world.

DotA2

It has been under development for quite a while now under a programmer who is known to the internet simply as IceFrog (he/she maintains his/her public anonymity). In 2010 we were overjoyed to hear that Valve has taken up IceFrog to create a sequel’ to DotA. I put sequel within quotes because from what is public knowledge until now, it seems that the original map of DotA All Stars and its roster of 100+ heroes will be copied and pasted onto DotA 2, which will run on Valve’s Source engine.

Not only does this mean that the game will look prettier freed from Warcraft III‘s ageing engine but it will also feature support for the Steamworks API and will have moderately achievable system requirements:-

DotA 2 Minimum System Requirements:  

  • OS: Windows ® 7 / Vista / Vista64 / XP
  • Processor: Pentium 4 3.0GHz
  • Memory: 1 GB for XP / 2GB for Vista
  • Graphics: DirectX 9 compatible video card with 128 MB, Shader model 2.0. ATI X800, NVidia 6600 or better
  • Hard Drive: At least 2.5 GB of free space
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

DotA 2 Recommended System Requirements:

  • OS: Windows ® 7 / Vista / Vista64 / XP
  • Processor: Intel core 2 duo 2.4GHz
  • Memory: 1 GB for XP / 2GB for Vista
  • Graphics: DirectX 9 compatible video card with Shader model 3.0. NVidia 7600, ATI X1600 or better
  • Hard Drive: At least 2.5 GB of free space
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

In other words if you can play Alien Swarm a free multiplayer game from Valve you can play DotA 2.

I cannot wait.

Team Fortress 2 Goes Free to Play, Queue Your Download for the Weekend

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2,  one of the most actively played multiplayer game received an even bigger boost following Valve’s announcement to make Team Fortress 2 free – forever. Released as part of the  Ãœber  update, Valve has made it clear that Team Fortress 2 will henceforth be free to download and play.

In addition to the free to play piece, the  Ãœber  update brings in a new map, redesigned crafting and training screens and a one-click start to play option. This will let you jump directly into a game after selection of the gameplay mode. The player will be pitted against random opponents into the best available server.

If you’re like me who had spent $50 and purchased the retail edition who might be grumbling against the game being free to play – it’s worth noting that your premium account will have access to rare  items by means of item drops. Premium players will also be able to store more items in the backpack, and will have access to more powerful trading and crafting abilities as compared to the free account.

Team Fortress 2 Accounts Comparison

Having said that, credit must be given to Valve for keeping Team Fortress 2 actively updated. To give you a bit of perspective, Team Fortress 2 was released way back in October 2007 after several delays and significant changes in art direction.

Team Fortress 2 - back in the old days

In an age where most developers are pushing out half complete games and then  demanding additional moolah for “unlocking” “premium” content – Valve has always been prompt in keeping Team Fortress 2 updated with fresh content, maps and gamestyles – all for free.

So Team Fortress 2 fans who have been holding back on getting it because of lack of funds – your time has come. Go download it from Steam. Get ready for some fryin’.

(Team Fortress old style image courtesy The Wikipedia)