January 13th, 2010

My recent Bearly Noteworthy post got me thinking about what I’d do to improve Steam. I thought about the features that I’ve wished for over the years, and I compiled them. Most of my suggestions are UI and Steam Community enhancements meant to give we users greater control over how our friends, our games, and our data are organized.

Social & Organizational

  • Allow users to create and name groups in the My Games and Friends lists; make them sortable.
  • Display the number and names of friends who own a game in a column in the My Games list. Also display the size of each game in a column in the My Games list
  • Make the Community Blotter more significant by integrating it with the existing Steam notifications system. On a related note, allow users to disable event notifications for individual groups.
  • Track the played time of non-Steam games launched through Steam.
  • Expand instant messaging features by making chat containers tabbed, and allow group chat rooms to exist inside them; this will encourage users to join group chat rooms. Additionally, expand Steam Friends so users can access other IM accounts (AIM, Windows Live Messenger) through it and through the overlay; tabbed chat containers make this practical.
  • Add user ratings and user reviews to the game store. Only allow users to rate and review games that they own. Allow other users to vote for or against the helpfulness of reviews, and allow users to comment on reviews.
  • Expand Steam Cloud by synchronizing favorite servers and server history. Consider allowing users to define custom sync options for files which Steam Cloud doesn’t officially support.


  • Expand the selection of Source mods hosted by the Steam store.
  • Add an audio player to the Steam overlay.
  • Open the server browser to plug-ins that add support for unsupported games; see Qtracker.
  • Abandon Internet Explorer as the renderer for the store page and as the Community Overlay browser; consider WebKit since it’s open source and multiplatform.

When Steam Community launched in 2007, I thought many of these features would have been added by now, but Steam’s evolution has been stunted. I lost sight of that point — perhaps because the competition’s software seems primitive in comparison, or simply because I’ve become enamored by the sales — but I see again that Steam has maturing to do.

January 6th, 2010

I bought these.$119.01USD — that’s what I spent during Steam’s holiday sale. For less than the price of two new console games, I bought nineteen PC games, all from Steam. Although I was aware of sales at other stores, I bought nothing from them. Steam demanded my undivided attention; its two week store-wide sale grabbed me, and its daily sales held me tightly. Just as a clumsy analogy reinforcing a simple point, Steam’s sale refused to go unnoticed, and it refused to be forgotten. No other digital distributor’s sales accomplished this; apart from some festively redesigned websites, they were unremarkable.
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December 31st, 2009

Neurotic Buddha II by Flickr user BlimpboyI buy a lot of games — responsibly, or so I tell myself. That is, I buy most of my games when they’re discounted, rather than new. Although I buy these games with the intention of playing them, I don’t — not always. I’ve taken to hoarding; I own games that I’ve gone for weeks, months, or years without ever playing.

One such game is World of Goo. I bought it once during a Steam sale, and again during 2D Boy’s pay-what-you-will anniversary promotion ($2). Despite that, I’ve never played World of Goo – not even the demo. Another example is Plants vs. Zombies. My Steam profile claims that I’ve played it for four hours and that I’ve earned some achievements, but those marks where made by a friend who used my computer. I didn’t want to watch him play, but I relented. It looks fun.
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DoSu TeamDoSu Team


December 16th, 2009

I don’t like lists, but I wanted to make one. I like certain things, but I also don’t like certain things. That’s two lists worth of things, but the only thing worse than one list is more than one list, so I’ve combined my two lists of things to make one list of things. Additionally, I’ve disorganized the items.

November 12th, 2009

Resolve.Modern Warfare 2 is out. I’ve shared my criticisms of the game and its creators in my news posts, but I have other thoughts and perspectives that I have yet to share.

The Price

Console games have been $60 for four years now, but that’s only because the platforms are controlled by two companies who agreed on standards. Although the PC platform has no such governing entities, most of this year’s major releases have adhered to the normal $50 price for standard editions (including Prototype, an Activision game), and some games have been even cheaper. Burnout Paradise, Bionic Commando, Street Fighter IV, and Red Faction Guerrilla launched at $40 on PC. With the market being stable and skewing toward cheaper games, $60 for the standard edition of a game is uncalled for, except by greed.

The Multiplayer

I admit that PC gaming could stand to be simpler and more accessible, but we shouldn’t let Activision’s PR blow the issue out of proportion: it isn’t that hard to find and join a server in a server browser. Regardless, there is no technical reason to choose one over the other, and this is a point that I think many people have failed to acknowledge: matchmaking and dedicated servers can co-exist. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Unreal Tournament 3, Left 4 Dead, and World in Conflict are examples of this. Infinity Ward and Activision’s motivator isn’t accessibility, it’s money. The closed ecosystem will not only enable them to sell maps to PC players, but it could also allow them to sell dedicated servers to players directly — such a move would be anti-competitive toward the third-party dedicated hosting services. They haven’t done this yet, of course, but it’s the next logical step in their mission to monetize multiplayer. It’s what their numerous decisions against PC culture have led me to fear.

The Scene

I haven’t seen the scene, and unless some of the things I discussed above change, I will probably never play it, but I have observed and considered the criticisms of others. I’m fine with this scene existing. It has a right to. Video games are products of collaboration, but they’re also products of creative expression; they are art. There’s good art, bad art, and art that we just don’t care for, but art deserves to exist and shouldn’t be stifled, and from this is where my issue with it stems. As I understand it, before the scene begins, players are asked if they want to skip it. I don’t know why this choice exists — whether it’s pressure from Activision, a compromise with the ESRB, or simply Infinity Ward being courteous — but this choice indicates uncertainty on someone’s part. If they’re including the scene, I would rather they commit.

Were I to play it, I’m sure I would enjoy Modern Warfare 2 , but I can’t endorse Infinity Ward and Activision’s decisions with my money. I wish I could be playing Modern Warfare 2 rather than writing this post, but, such as it is, here I am.

November 6th, 2009

My Cup Runneth Over by Flickr user kmevansI commonly experience flashes of euphoria for which I have no account. What I’ve felt over the last several weeks, however, is something different. It’s a sustained state of contentment — something that I can account for. It’s a feeling of fullness, and it’s because of video games.

I am full because of Brutal Legend. This game was almost perfect, from its story, its humor, and Jack Black’s performance, to its RTS and driving systems, and even its side missions — but I did say almost. The rate at which new Solos unlocked disappointed me; I think it was poor design to have four at the beginning, four at the end, but none in the middle. Still, I loved this game. I bought it on release day, and I finished all the missions by the end of the next. I never do that.

I am full because of Defense Grid: The Awakening. Tower Defense is a genre that gets a lot of flack — and it’s true, there are a lot of bad games out there — but if there’s a game that the skeptics should play, it’s Defense Grid. Its difficulty curve is fair, and its challenge modes suit it for repeat play. It even has character, an uncharacteristic attribute for a Tower Defense game that isn’t based on a license.
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September 25th, 2009

The Choices by by Flickr user Zrin ZebestChoices breed indecision, therefore preventing indecision requires identifying and eliminating our choices. This is our boon, our burden, and our charge as PC gamers. We mull over choices such as which video card, which mouse, how many cores, and how many watts. Digital distribution’s increasing popularity has, despite its merits, introduced the choice of where do I buy? The default choice, for most of us, is Steam. We would be justified, but competition is important for an industry to thrive. We must not surrender our opportunity to choose, and we must not surrender to complacency. To consumers and businesses, complacency is a common enemy. As consumers we should act out of self-interest, but we should be mindful of when supporting competition is in our interest. We must do more than merely acknowledge competition — when it’s deserving, and when it’s to our advantage, we must also support it.
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