Saturday, October 27, 2007

Justifying my Dislike

I have yet to play Half-Life 2. I loved the first game although I don't consider God's greatest gift to mankind like some people do. I'm rather certain that I would greatly enjoy the sequel and many of the attached products. I've seen a bit of it played and it looks like fun. My problem is that I can't get around Steam.

Steam, for those who are not aware of it, is Valve's online service that acts as copy protection and software distributor. To play the game, even if you purchased the disk in a store, you have to connect to their service and register the game with it. This is done the first time you play and at regular often intervals after that when you want to play. This is not when you want to play multiplayer online, this is for any play through.

My problem with this is that I'm no longer purchasing a game, I'm renting it. Valve has the ability to turn off your access to their product any time they feel like it. If the Steam servers go away (as they did for an extended period several months go) then the games I've purchased might as well be frisbees. In addition if you can't connect to Steam to confirm your account you can't play the game. I know in our constantly online society its hard to believe but there are times when you won't have an internet connection. I have a friend in the Navy, for example, who can't play their games for this reason.

And this week Valve stepped far over the line. They disable the games of people who purchased legitimate copies of their games in Russia and Thailand who then played the games outside of those countries. Valve justified this by saying that copies purchased in those countries were for use in only those countries and anyone who tried to use them elsewhere was a criminal (really). Their reasoning is that they charge less for copies in those countries so they should not be used elsewhere. Never mind that Valve set the price and the people purchasing the games paid it, Valve controls access to their product even after you purchase it and they closed the gate.

This is something that people who like Steam have sworn up and down would never happen. The claim was that there was no danger of being locked out even if Valve suddenly went bankrupt or were taken over by Evil Corp (makers of fine evil since 1922) and yet there it is. Valve didn't like what some of the purchasers of their product did so they denied them access to the product that they already bought.

There is no reason why I should put control over media that I purchase in external hands. So as much as I know I would enjoy Half-Life 2 I just let it go. There's other things that I can spend my time on. I'm aware that there are people who don't mind this arrangement, who tend to think of their entertainment value as more ephemeral than I do, and as a result don't care

And I'm not getting it for the X-Box 360 since I can't stand playing first person shooters on console systems. Even if it does lack Steam.