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).

SteamGuard

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!

Portal 2 Demoed with Razer Sixense, Motion Controller for PC Gamers

CES is not the place where you would normally expect news about upcoming games. However, Neowin and 1Up has managed to pick up an interesting tid-bit about Portal 2.

Motion Controllers are quite the rage these days. Kinects have been flying off shelves ever since it was introduced, and Sony is trying its best cash-in with PlayStation Move. However, PC users need not feel left out. Razer has developed a motion controller targeted at PC gamers. Unlike other motion controllers, Razer’s Sixense doesn’t use ultrasonic rays or cameras. Instead it uses magnetic sensors. The Sixense, which seemed to be genuinely fun and interesting, was demoed at Quakecon ’09 and at last year’s CES.

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At CES 2011, Razer is showing off Sixense once again. This time around the game being used for the demo is Portal 2. Although it’s possible that a modified version of Portal 2 was used for the demo, we are hoping that the final release version will also include support for Sixense. Valve had earlier stated that Portal 2 won’t support the PlayStation Move. But, you never know. If they do include motion control in the PC version, it might be added to the console version too.

Valve Delays Portal 2 to April

Bad news folks. Portal 2, the sequel to the mind-bendingly awesome Portal, has been delayed to April 18, 2011. This will undoubtedly upset the fans of the original innovative puzzle game that edged out many high-budget blockbusters to win over 30 game of the year awards. But then, this is Valve we are talking about. Did any of you actually expect them to deliver this on time? Heck, the two months delay is a pretty small deal when compared with some of Valve’s previous schedule slippages. Here’s Valve’s tongue-in-cheek press release:

Valve today announced that Portal 2— the sequel to the ground-breaking title that won over 30 game of the year awards, despite missing its original ship date—will now be available the week of April 18th, 2011. This two month slip not only marks the shortest delay in Valve’s proud tradition of delays, it represents the approaching convergence of Valve Time and Real Time. Though this convergence spells doom for humanity, it will not affect the new Portal 2 release date.

Valve might not be known for delivering games on time, but they are definitely known for their quality. Let’s hope that Portal 2 will truly live up to Valve’s reputation.

Steam grows beyond 30 million accounts.

Valve’s digital distribution service Steam has always been at the forefront of video games and digital distribution. Their store stocks the best in AAA games as well as indie surprises with a a discount sale almost every week. In the eight years that it has been operational, Steam has seen phenomenal growth especially in recent times, due partly to the addition of Mac OSX as a platform for many games.

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Said Gabe Newell, president of Valve:

Steam is on track to record the biggest year in its six year history. The year has marked major development advances to the platform with the introduction of support for Mac titles, the Steam Wallet and in-game item buying support, and more. We believe the growth in accounts, sales, and player numbers is completely tied to this work and we plan to continue to develop the platform to offer more marketing, sales, and design tools for developers and publishers of games and digital entertainment

To meet the demand of sales, which grew by about 200%, Steam upgraded its infrastructure thoroughly-

Steam sales during the trailing 12 months increased by more than 200%, putting it on track for a sixth straight year of realizing over 100% year-over-year growth in unit sales. To meet this demand, the Steam infrastructure has been increased and now has ability to run at 400Gps, enough bandwidth to ship a digitized version of the Oxford English Dictionary 92.6 times per second.

That is great work, Valve. Kudos!

Portal 2 Co-op Screenies!

Do you have a thing for robots? Specifically robot cuddling? No? Well, Valve does (click for more screenshots!). After releasing quite a few Portal 2 videos Valve has decided to tease gamers a bit more by releasing screenshots of the upcoming game’s cooperative gameplay-ish-ness.

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While the original Portal was, simply put, a puzzle first person platformer, Portal 2 wishes to ante up the awesomeness bar as a sequel by introducing more psuedo-physics-based gadgetry and newer gaming modes to keep interest levels high. Cooperative play was a much desired addition to the Portal series and Valve has showered their fans with this goodie-goodie multiplayer mode to their much touted sequel.

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The robots in question are the Personality Core endowing robot along with a Sentry Gun robot (or so it seems) and each carries one half of the Portal gun. Players take control of either one of the robots while their pal controls the other and they have to work together to leave the room. I can already see myself dying over and over and over at the hands of my co-op partner. Sigh.

So, what do you think, gamers? Will Portal 2′s cooperative multiplayer increase the longevity of the game, or will it just bring down the sequel entirely?

Apparently, Steam on Linux was just a Rumor, Says Valve Marketing VP

A few months ago, Phoronix posted an article saying that Valve is working on a  Steam version for Linux. This got the Linux community excited and people speculated about the development of state of the art games on the Linux platform too. However, this joy did not last long as Valve has now put an end to the rumor. Valve confirmed that there is no Steam for Linux being developed and has not mentioned of any future developments on this either.

Steam is a complete platform of flagship game technologies and Valve values its ownership of Steam. It has released two big hits Counter Strike and Half Life based on the same Valve engine. The engine is extremely customizable and powers the award winning game Portal.

However, Doug Lombardi, the Marketing VP of Valve has confirmed to gameindustry.biz that they are not working on any Linux version of steam.

Now, Linux users who were too excited about this will not get to play any Counter Strike or Half Life on their Linux powered rigs. On the other hand, Valve has planned to release Steam for Mac as it can generate good revenues.  However, when Phoronix reported this earlier; they posted  some evidence that cannot be ignored totally.

Did they start building for Linux and left it midway? Are those traces of changes made in some files? Clearly, something is cooking at Valve and it smells good. Just that, Mr. Lombardi is not ready to spill the beans about it yet.

(Source)

Alien Swarm Mini Review

Why I term this a mini review is because I have not played this game online. Considering the fact that this is mostly an online-only co-op game, I have not played much. Nevertheless, the little bit of Alien Swarm that I have played shows that this game is pretty much one of the most generous gifts by Valve to the modding community at large. It’s also a pretty cool free game. Completely, utterly free.

AlienSwarmLogo

What’s that? Access to a modding community, did you say?
Yes, sir. Alien Swarm is a decent game on its own right, but the included Source SDK as well as a level editor pretty much makes this game infinite. It also allows anyone to dive into some of the best games and mods available these days. I’d personally recommend FLIPSIDE and Weekday Warrior for anyone looking for a different gaming experience. Note: Mods that rely on existing content of Source-based games such as Half Life 2 or Team Fortress 2 will, of course, remain unavailable to those who only have Alien Swarm.

That’s all very good but how good is the game? Get on with the review man!
Oh yes, the game is very good. Pretty good in fact. Considering that this was originally an Unreal Tournament mod, the game has turned out to be something that we can waste lazy afternoons with!
The basic premise has you being in control of one of four classes of soldiers:-

AlienSwarmCharacters

The Officer with passive boosting aurasand access to the class-restricted shotgun.
The Special Weapons soldier dealing massive amounts of damage with autoguns.
The Medic the game’s healer who is invaluable when fighting Parasites and other aliens in general.
The Tech who has access to special weapons as well as the person who can open locked doors with a mini game. (I can imagine how flustering the experience would be when playing under hard mode!)

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The game features quite a lot of weapons most of which I sadly have not unlocked. They will be opened in due time with online play and leveling up, I am sure!

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The game is quite good to look at, with soft bounced lights, realistic shadows of unrealistic things (see next screenshot) and some great effects. There is talk about how you can play this game in first person and the video does not look bad at all!

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In all, this game is pretty awesome and I can’t wait to see some Indian servers go up. Not until they stop playing Counter Strike: Source, of course.

Get Alien Swarm today!

Alien Swarm: New Free Shooter From Valve

If the name Alien Swarm sounds familiar to you, that is because there was a fairly popular mod of the same name for Unreal Tournament. Apparently, while no one was looking, Valve quietly hired the team behind the mod – Black Cat Games.

For the past two years, they have been working on major Valve projects like Left 4 Dead and Portal 2. However, at the same time, they also continued working on their pet project, a sequel to their original claim to fame.

The new Alien Swarm runs on Valve’s Source engine and will be made available tomorrow for free. The game is a top-down shoot-em-up, which supports up to 4-player co-op mode. Alien Swarm will also have four unique classes of characters, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Like in the original game, the player will be tasked with killing waves of aliens.

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Modders will be pleased to know that Valve will release the full game code, in addition to releasing the SDK. Head over to the official website for more screenshots and trailers.

Hat tip: Rock, Paper, Shotgun