Eurogamer


Valve co-founder and CEO Gabe Newell believes piracy stems not from price, but from convenience. And as Steam boasts fast access to a dizzying selection of games, so piracy has become "basically a non-issue" for Valve.


"In general, we think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy," Newell told The Cambridge Student, via VG247. "Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem.


"For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24x7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty.


"Our goal is to create greater service value than pirates, and this has been successful enough for us that piracy is basically a non-issue for our company.


"For example," Newell added, "prior to entering the Russian market, we were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become our largest market in Europe.

"We were told that Russia was a waste of time because everyone would pirate our products. Russia is now about to become our largest market in Europe."

Gabe Newell, CEO and co-founder, Valve


Steam's digital distribution platform requires you download and log into a Steam application each time you wish to play a game. This simple check performs a service many DRM services are criticised for. Steam also ensures games are up to date, as well as offers multiplayer matchmaking facilities, friend lists, achievements and various other platform-based community features.


Such is Steam's persuasion that many top-tier publishers and developers now opt for Steamworks tools to be implemented deep within their games. This packages Steam's clever bits - multiplayer, cloud saving, authentication, etc. - so that developers can build them into games early on.


Half-Life 2 effectively launched Steam in 2004, but it wasn't until 2005 that the service welcomed its first third-party games. Today, seven years after HL2, Steam dominates the PC (and Mac) digital distribution video game market.

Eurogamer


Team Fortress 2 item makers have made over $2 million selling their digital creations, Valve has announced.


Yesterday marked the first full year of the in-game Mann Co. Store, and during that time user-generated content creators have made millions selling their virtual wares.


The Mann Co. Store is where the community designs, buys, sells and trades items TF2 characters can wear, such as hats.


"The 'Mann Co. Store' represents an important new direction for games and game makers," said Valve boss Gabe Newell.


"By leveraging and extending the platform features of Steam, Team Fortress 2 has enabled a viable marketplace for independent content creators and significantly extended the gameplay experience in an incredibly short amount of time."


Meanwhile, Valve has made live the Steam Workshop, an improved submission hub for community-created content. It's designed to make it easy to upload entries, check their status and get feedback from Valve. The Team Fortress community can view, comment on and rate items there, too.


Valve's added 30 new hats and cosmetic items, an item decal system, a "try before you buy" system, loadout presets, improved game performance and a new taunt as part of the Manniversary Update, which the company describes as "one of the largest and most ambitious in TF2's four-year history".

Video:

Eurogamer


Pre-purchasing Football Manager 2012 from Steam gets you a handful of exclusive in-game Team Fortress 2 extras, Valve has announced.

Put down your £29.99 now ahead of the Sega footie sim's release later this month and you'll receive the following:

  • The Merc's Pride Scarf can be worn by each class.
  • The Ball-Kicking Boots are available for the Scout and spawn a team-colored ball that everyone can play with.
  • Vuvuzela Noise maker.
Eurogamer


For some, a video game doesn't stop when the power is turned off - their gaming experiences are bleeding into their day-to-day lives.


This can lead to video game-like reactions to real-life situations, Nottingham Trent University and Stockholm University have discovered.


It's called Game Transfer Phenomena.


The study - Game Transfer Phenomena in Video Game Playing: A Qualitative Interview Study - interviewed 42 "frequent" gamers aged between 15 and 21 years old. "Many" of the subjects "appeared to integrate elements of video game playing into their real lives".


The full study must be bought for $30. One amusing excerpt reported on The Metro website describe a 15 year-old boy wanting to use a gravity gun from Half-Life 2 to fetch something from the fridge. And why not?


One 19-year-old Price of Persia: Sands of Time enthusiast dropped his sandwich and immediately his finger used to press the rewind-time button twitched. A natural response.


Another 19-year-old thought he could use World of Warcraft's search function to locate his brother in a crowd. What a good idea.


Apparently half of the gamers interviewed said they'd looked for something from a video game to solve a real-life issue. One interviewee apparently saw a menu of topics available for him to think about (Heavy Rain?); another formulated a list of possible responses after being insulted (Mass Effect 2?).


Of course, there is a darker side to all of this. Use of aggressive, criminal and/or violent fantasies as solutions to real-life problems were reported by "a few" of the players.


The Daily Mail focused on one particular 15-year-old who said that "sometimes" he wants to be able to get a gun and "shoot down" people. "Irritating people", mind you.


"A recurring trend suggests that intensive gaming may lead to negative psychological, emotional or behavioural consequences," concluded report author professor Mark Griffiths, "with enormous implications for software developers, parents, policy makers and mental health professionals."


This research is being followed up by a study of 2000 gamers.


The Game Transfer Phenomena report hits headlines a day after Grand Theft Auto was linked to a shooting spree and eventually a murder onboard a Royal Navy submarine.

Video: What a useful tool the Gravity Gun would be.

Eurogamer


Code possibly belonging to Half-Life 2: Episode 3 has been spotted in the leaked beta client for Dota 2.


The lines of code are for something called "ep3". Take a leap and transform that to Episode 3, and the code suggests the project lives on.


Not only that, we're also given an insight into some weaponry - an ice gun, a flamethrower and a "weaponizer".


    /src/game/server/ep3/weapon_icegun.cpp
    /src/game/server/ep3/weaponizer_concrete.cpp
    /src/game/server/ep3/weaponizer_liquid.cpp
    /src/game/server/ep3/weaponizer_metal.cpp
    /src/game/server/ep3/weapon_flamethrower.cpp


Half-Life 2 was released in 2004; Episode 1 in 2006; Episode 2 in 2007.


Four years and many Valve games - Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2 - have passed since. And now Valve concentrates on Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.


The absence of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 from Valve press releases, coupled with suggestions that the runaway success of Steam may have impeded Valve's game development, have led many to give up hope.


Has the boat sailed for Episode 3? Should Valve instead concentrate on Half-Life 3?


The Dota 2 beta client link comes from Vietnam. Lambda Generation has rounded up the data mined from the leak.

Video: Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

Eurogamer


Inspired first-person puzzle game Portal is free to download on Steam until 20th September.


Maker Valve is running the deal to showcase how Portal and Portal 2 can and have helped kids grasp trickier aspects of science in an enjoyable way.

Apparently Portal makes things like physics and problem solving "cool and fun". And that "gets us one step closer to our goal: engaged, thoughtful kids!"


Portal, a short game, is a calm and bullet-free puzzle solving experience. Twists of humour and taxing, portal-based conundrums made it one of the best games of 2007.


Eurogamer's Portal review awarded 9/10.

Video: Portal finished in nine minutes. It's not always that short.

Eurogamer


Steam has officially launched its new Trading feature today following last month's open beta.


Thanks to an auto update which has just gone live, you can now trade Steam Gifts and in-game items from Team Fortress 2, Portal 2 and Sega adventure Spiral Knights with other members of the Steam community.


Valve is apparently working with other developers to incorporate the service in their games, with further announcements expected over the coming months.


For the full lowdown on how item trading works, check out the Steam FAQ.

Eurogamer


Quake mod Team Fortress launched 15 years ago today. To celebrate, Valve is giving anyone who plays Team Fortress 2 today a goody bag of TF2 swag.


What do you get? A free hat, naturally - of the party variety. A free noisemaker - which you can use as much as you like today and then not again for another year. Plus free cake and gifts (remodelled health kits and ammo packs).


Valve has also turned on Birthday mode - meaning levels get a "Happy Birthday Team Fortress" beach ball.


The Celebration Gib is also active, which turns exploded players' blood and guts into showers of balloons and confetti.


Team Fortress, a mod for id Software classic Quake, was followed by Team Fortress 2 in 2007. Valve has been tinkering with it ever since, and earlier this year made it free-to-play.

Eurogamer


Valve wants the Xbox Live Arcade version of upcoming shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to feature Steamworks integration.


But it faces a tough job convincing Microsoft to let it do so.


"We certainly can deliver a lot of value to customers to the degree to which we have those capabilities," Valve boss Gabe Newell told Eurogamer.


"The PS3, obviously we made a lot more progress with that. The PS3 customers of Portal 2 are going to start to see the benefits of that with Portal 2 DLC coming out in September. So we'd really like to be able to do that for Xbox customers as well."


The PS3 version of Portal 2 features a number of exclusive features as a result of Steamworks integration, including cross-platform play with the PC version.


There's also cross-platform chat, Steam Achievements (earned in synch with Trophies), player profiles and game invites. You can even play Portal 2 on a PC or Mac - Valve grants a free PC/Mac Steam edition of the game to PS3 gamers.


Xbox Live, however, remains a closed platform, with Microsoft employing strict guidelines on what publishers can and cannot do.


"The main thing is having Microsoft get comfortable with it and let us do it," Newell said of the challenges Valve faces bringing Steamworks to Xbox.


"Right now, there's a huge amount of updates and free content we've been able to deliver to people who have The Orange Box that we haven't been able to deliver to the Xbox because of the restrictions that have been placed on us on Xbox Live.


"We'd love to see those relaxed. Other developers on the PS3 are starting to benefit from Sony's more open approach. Hopefully that will help Microsoft see that's a good strategy for making customers happy, that the barbarians won't tear down the walls of Xbox and turn it into some chaotic wasteland."


One game making use of Sony's more relaxed policy is Dust 514, from Eve Online developer CCP.


"Let's just say that with Sony at least they have policies that allow us to build the game the way we want," CCP CTO Halldor Fannar said during an E3 presentation attended by Eurogamer in June. "That is one of the reasons why we've gone with PSN."


Valve isn't the first MMO developer to find Xbox Live troublesome.


Last year Final Fantasy XIV Online creator and director Hiromichi Tanaka told Eurogamer that a "closed" Xbox Live blocked the game from appearing on Xbox 360.


"The main reason why we couldn't go with Xbox 360 was the Xbox Live system," he explained. "[Live is] different to the normal internet environment, so when we wanted to introduce this game in the same environment as Windows PC it had to be PS3, so that was our choice.


"Microsoft has a different point of view: they want to have a closed environment for Xbox Live. We're still talking to... We couldn't come to an agreement on Xbox Live."


MMO developer Cryptic chucked in the towel on an Xbox 360 version of Champions Online in early 2010. Producer Craig Zinkievich told Eurogamer he was frustrated with the business side of getting an MMO on Xbox Live; the game itself, he said, ran just fine.


Sony, however, seems more open to the idea of allowing MMO developers to play by their own rules on the Network.


"Sony allows us to use our systems," Fannar explained. "Microsoft has Xbox Live. They're very strict on that. There are a lot of issues we run into. It may be a basic thing people don't realise, but with Dust and Eve on Sony's network, we can allow them to chat together. Voice chat, text chat, that's all one world.


"One of the reasons for the partnership with Sony is because they're opening up new ways to do these things. We're going to be managing most of it. We're using PlayStation just for credentials, stuff like that. Then it's all our stuff.


"With our agreement with Sony they seem to be fine with our three month expansion cycle. They've been looking at the MMO space for a while, trying to understand why something like that hasn't still happened on the console. They're coming to terms with it. There are certain things they have to relax just to allow these things to function."


Still, there appears to be hope for Xbox 360 owners - a report in June claimed free-to-play games were coming to the console and that Microsoft was talking with developers to discuss free-to-play game deals.


And last month Hi-Rez Studios boss Todd Harris, who is making Tribes: Ascend, told Eurogamer free-to-play games supported by micro-transactions on Xbox 360 were "inevitable".


Valve is yet to decide how to monetise CS: GO - indeed it may end up free to play, as its other shooter, Team Fortress 2, is.

Video:

Eurogamer


Square Enix will release the latest game from former Valve designer and Portal co-creator Kim Swift, with an official unveiling due this weekend.


The game, which Square's tease dubs "incredibly fascinating and quirky", is being developed at Dark Void developer Airtight Games, where Swift is now a project lead. We'll find out more about the title this Saturday at the PAX Prime show in Seattle.


Swift joined Valve straight out of Washington tech college DigiPen in 2005, where she co-developed Narbacular Drop - the direct inspiration for Portal's basic mechanics. As well as Portal, she also worked on Left 4 Dead 2 before leaving for Airtight back in December 2009.


Airtight's last effort, Capcom-published jet-pack actioner Dark Void, missed the mark when it launched back in January 2010, picking up a scrappy 5/10 from Eurogamer's Dan Pearson.

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