Where There's Smoke...

Here’s the thing, game developers: I don’t want to buy your game if it isn’t on Steam.

I’m exaggerating, of course. When I say “on Steam,” what I really mean is “I don’t want to buy your game if I can’t buy it and immediately download it to my hard drive, on any number of arbitrary desktops and laptops that I own, via a service that keeps track of whether or not I bought the game forever.”

I came to this realization only slowly. Like the rest of the PC gaming world, I was distrustrful of Steam at first. It was subject to network issues. There were the inevitable worries about DRM-style lockouts. But after the complete disaster that was my purchase, last year, of Spore, I’m basically at peace with the idea that I will never buy a PC game that ships on a disc again.(footnote 1)

The irony is that in practice Steam has proven, over the past 6 years, to be way more reliable than any of my CDs. Now, while I’m sure many gamers are more OCD than me, here is the situation:

This came to my attention tonight when for some obscure reason I wanted to re- play parts of The Temple of Elemental Evil and, of course, I can only find one goddamned disc of the 2 goddamned disc set. So, no game for me.

Meanwhile, I still remember, like a religious experience, when I installed Steam on a new computer sometime in 2005. I had long since lost my Half-Life disc, and in fact was installing Steam to pick up a completely different game. I logged into my account, and saw, to my utter shock, all of the Half-Life games I had previously bought. Waiting for me. Steam has reminded me of games that I forgot I owned.

Even better than Steam, of course, are DRM-unencumbered direct digital downloads. As long as the game is self-contained, backing it up myself is no big deal. But some game developers don’t like this, so: use Steam (or Impulse, or Good Old Games, or gamersgate, or whatever).

For me, this urge to avoid discs is so strong that I have actually re-bought games that I already own via Steam, just so that I can throw away the goddamned discs. I plan on doing that with Jagged Alliance 2, next, which you can buy direct from the publisher, Strategy First.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Footnote 1: Unless I’m being paid to write a review. I’m not proud.