Steam May Soon Accept Bitcoins

When it comes to PC gaming, everyone knows the feeling that happens when the Steam sales come on. Your bank account starts to hate you and you wish you didn’t save your card details as you click and drain your funds for games you won’t get to play for a few months if you are lucky. Now it looks like Steam may soon be accepting Bitcoins, draining both your physical and digital money with each sale.

Posted on a Reddit feed, the post appears to come from the Steamworks Development group, a private group for the platforms developers. The post teases that the company is looking to use an external payment provider to help accept bitcoins.

The post makes clear that the calculations will be done all via the external processor, with you still being charged the same amount and the processor acting as the middle man who takes your bitcoins and pays Valve the appropriate amount of traditional currency. Given the unstable nature of digital currency, this means that at no time does Valve hold the bitcoins, making sure they avoid any sudden drops or spikes in prices for the currency.

This process would make sense, but with concerns about the legality of people’s bitcoins and their stability, what happens if people make large purchases with “bad bitcoins”? With no effort on the side of developers or anyone who makes a purchase using the new system, I’m sure many will accept and enjoy the new option for buying all those games you want.

Steam Controller Set for a Hardware Upgrade

Valve’s Steam Controller, the gamepad designed to bridge the gap between regular controllers and mouse and keyboard gamers, is set to receive a hardware revision in the future, despite around 400,000 units already being sold since its release in October, 2015.

During a GDC presentation, Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais revealed that the company is looking at upgrading the design of the Steam Controller, suggesting that the team behind the gamepad have taken some the criticisms levelled that the pad to heart.

“In the future, we are working on a hardware revision to the controller to improve look and feel,” Griffais said. “But we’re pretty happy with the feature set we have now and do not intend to drastically change it, or even change it at all.

“Maybe we’ll throw extra features in here or there, but the controller’s not gonna grow a new touchpad, or a new set of buttons, or a new major feature,” he added.

Since Valve released the CAD files for the Steam Controller – in a .zip file that contains “several eDrawings viewer files: from Creo Express and native Modeling, to neutral exchange and 3D print files – for compatibility with a wide variety of your design tools” – under the Creative Commons licence last month, it will be taking design suggestions from the Steam community when implementing any hardware revisions.

HTC Placing Vive Demos at GameStop and Microsoft Stores

VR is one of those things where you have to experience it to know what it is all about. Without trying it, it really is hard to get a sense of how much you like or detest the whole experience. This is why it is so important to get VR headsets out into the public with demos so show them off. Starting today, HTC is doing just that, placing Vive headset demos throughout stores in the United States and Canada.

Right now, 3 Microsoft Stores already have HTC Vive demos ready for potential customers to experience. These are at New York City, Washington state (Bellevue Square) and Utah (City Creek Center). By the end of next week, 2 more will be added and peak at least at 30 by the end of the year. The other place where you can try out a Vive will at various GameStop locations. The plan is for 10 stores by the end of the month but how many there will be at the end remains to be seen.

For now, we have no idea what kind of demo the Vive will have at these locations. They should be smaller than the room scale demos at Overclockers UK but the idea is the same, to get VR out and into public view. Customers will also be able to order/pre-order the Vive at the locations. You can find out more about the Vive here.

DOTA 2 Could Be Getting a VR Spectating Mode

When it comes to eSports, being able to watch the techniques and strategies used by teams as they compete can be a gripping and thrilling experience. Be it at home or in a stadium, watching people play the game and knowing that in a just a few short seconds the entire game can change excites people, so what would you do if you could get closer to the action? You could soon with Valve teasing a VR spectating mode for the MOBA game, DOTA 2.

The footage was teased by Robert McGregor on twitter, showing off just some of the features. The footage shows a screen, similar to the one you would find watching the game regularly, only looking away from the suspended screen shows you details about the events and characters taking place in the match.

To either side of the screen line up the characters, showing the items they’ve all taken, while straight ahead as if on a table you have the overhead map, complete with markers to show who’s where. Compiled with team network and differences in experience gained, a single glance in any direction can reveal something you might normally miss.

While the new system looks to be made to support the HTC Vive (controllers and all), this is the first it’s been seen in action and if it’s anything to go by, VR spectating could be something that other e-sports look to create in the near future.

Project CARS Falls Victim to the VR War

Slightly Mad Studios has released its 1.3 Oculus Rift SDK support for Project CARS this week, and with it revealed that crossplay between Oculus and HTC Vive users is not possible. While Project CARS supports both VR headsets, the HTC Vive – co-developed by Valve – is locked to Steam, while the Oculus Rift version of the game is only available from the Oculus homestore.

“Hey guys,” wrote Project CARS Director Stephen Viljoen on the game’s official forum. “Regarding MP and the various platforms, they are indeed separate platforms and we cannot support MP matchmaking between these two platforms. It’s not ideal, but that’s just how this platform separation works.”

So, while Slightly Mad Studios is certainly not to blame, its game is the first high-profile victim of the emerging VR war, which is sure to stoke the ire of gamers during the technology’s embryonic period.

Slightly Mad has been selling the VR capabilities of Project CARS hard for some time now, boasting that the game is one of the most feature-complete titles available for the new wave of headsets.

“Whenever I buy new hardware, whether that’s a new computer or console or sound system, I wanna show it off. And I want something to really test it,” Andy Tudor, the studio’s director, told iDigitalTimes. “So for those that are getting the Rift and wanna have a game that they can really dig their teeth into and pulls out all the stops both technically and graphically, Project CARS is the one for you.”

Hacker Who Created Fake Game Listing On Steam Says More Vulnerabilities Will Be Found

Earlier this week Ruby Nealon became famous on the internet for managing to get a game onto Valve’s steam store without anyone at Valve even knowing about it. The Watch paint dry game raised concerns about the system Valve has in place when it comes to Steams content, with him saying that more vulnerabilities will be found on the platform.

Nealon states that it was an HTML-based attack that let him post the game without anyone at Valve approving or even seeing the game before it went live. With this exploit noted and fixed, Nealon went on to point out a way of inserting scripts into pages, potentially taking details from a Valve administrator who wanted to check out their games page. This second exploit was then fixed, although Nealon doesn’t seem too impressed with Steam’s website.

In discussions with ArsTechnica, Nealon told them that “it looks like their website hasn’t been updated for years” and even went on to say that “Compared to even other smaller Web startups, they’re really lacking. This stuff was like the lowest of the lowest hanging fruit.”.

Nealon wasn’t just upset with the website, though, saying that he won’t be hacking Steam’s platform anymore due to a lack of recognition from Valve on the matter. Nealon wrote on his site saying that the exploit he used for posting the “watching paint dry” game he had tried to contact Valve for months about, but it was only fixed when he publicly demonstrated its viability.

Nealon isn’t happy with Valve’s lack of a bug bounty system, a program where users are rewarded for alerting the company about bugs and issues in their software, something that even apps like Uber have started in recent weeks. In his “won’t be finding bugs anymore for Valve because there are plenty of companies that appreciate the time and effort put in by security researchers” and even went on to explain how the entire process had made him feel like “Valve were exploiting me”.

Steam isn’t a service that’s immune to hacks either, last year it was hacked and allowed people to bypass the two-factor authentication required to log into an account from a new machine. They’ve even accidentally exposed users details before, no external help required for that blunder.

Personally, I feel like anyone who puts time and effort into finding a problem and then revealing it to a company should be rewarded, not brushed under a matt and ignored until it becomes an issue the public are aware of.

Valve Found Guilty of Breaking Australian Consumer Law

Valve is known for creating the popular digital sales platform Steam, which does everything hardware to regular sales on video games. One thing they’ve been keen to improve on for a while has been their refund policy, something which saw the original policy replaced with one that could offer full refunds to people who purchased a game on the platform. The problem is that the original policy wasn’t in place when the court case against Valve was raised, a case which has now ended with Valve being found guilty of breaking Consumer Law in Australia.

In the court case, that was started back in 2014 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Valve was taken to court because it lacked a refund policy, something that is required by Australian consumer law. In their defence they stated that it doesn’t “officially” conduct business, instead offering a portal to video games through clients.

Overlooking the case, Justice Edelman stated that Valve was doing business in Australia and must, therefore, follow Australian law. This is the first time that the term “goods” has been applied to computer software in Australia, something that is bound to have far-reaching impacts in Australia in regards to their legal statement.

With a hearing set for the 15th April to see how much Valve will have to pay in “relief”, including the likely outcome that they will pay the ACCC’s legal fees, it would seem that initial attempts to resolve this matter and follow the law will still cost the company.

JJ Abrams Comfirms Portal and Half-Life Movies Still Happening

During the press junket for Bad Robot’s latest horror suspense movie 10 Cloverfield Lane, the studio’s founder, director, writer, and producer JJ Abrams confirmed that film adaptations of the lauded Valve video games Half-Life and Portal are still in development, and both have writers attached.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens director gave the update during an interview with IGN, assuring fans that Bad Robot’s collaboration with Valve, which was first announced at DICE 2013 summit. Abrams appeared on-stage with Valve founder Gabe Newell three years ago

“Not yet, but they’re in development,” Abrams told IGN, when asked if we’d be seeing the Half-Life and Portal adaptations any time soon. “And we’ve got writers, and we’re working on both those stories. But nothing that would be an exciting update.”

While Abrams has confirmed the projects are on-going, they don’t sound much further along than when they were revealed three years ago. Back in 2013, Polgyon reported that Bad Robot had attached writers to both projects, but that they were in the early pre-production stages.

a Portal and Half-Life movie are things I want to see,” Abrams said at the time. “We’re also aware of the cautionary tales of movies that became games and vice versa. Our goal here to is to treat the world Valve has created in both these properties like anyone would a book or some great story that comes from a pitch or original script — just to treat it with the respect they treat their games and their players with.”

Abrams, though, did add the caveat, “It’s as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets.”

Image courtesy of Arcade Sushi.

HTC Will Bundle Vive With VR Optimized PCs

Last month, Valve released their SteamVR performance test to check if systems were ready for SteamVR and the HTC Vive. Needless to say, many potential VR users probably found that their systems wouldn’t be able to run VR games that well. Fortunately for those folks, HTC is stepping with Vive optimized gaming PCs that will be bundled with the Vive on their online storefront.

“We’ll have PC bundles with Vive-optimized PCs on our website soon and we’ll tell people they’ll have a great experience,” O’Brien promises. “But I don’t think PC bundles will be a major driver of sales.”

There is no word yet on what kind of PCs and what brands will be sold from the store or what the cost will look like. Given the requirements for VR, these PCs will probably cost more than the Vive headset itself. Nevertheless, some of the less tech-savvy customers may welcome the option to choose PCs they know will work for sure. Given HTC’s cooperation with Valve with the HTC Vive, we may see Steam Machines being a prominent feature.

For most of the top end PC gamers, though, their systems are probably already good enough. If there is any performance lacking, a simple GPU upgrade would probably suffice and with Polaris and Pascal coming, there will be many options.

HTC Sells 15,000 $800 Vive VR Headsets in 10 Minutes

VR is looking more and more like the next goldmine for tech companies as customers are snatching them up as fast as the pre-orders are going up. Just a few hours after the HTC Vive VR headset went up for pre-orders, we’re getting a sense of just how much demand there really is. According to Shen Ye from HTC, 15,000 units were sold in just 10 minutes, or about 25 every second. This netted HTC and partner Valve about $12 million USD at $800 a pop.

Right now, there are only 2 major VR HMD available, both on pre-order. There is the Facebook-backed Oculus Rift selling for $600 and the HTC Vive which comes in $200 more. Given that a PC needed to run such a system for gaming is about $1000, it seems like there are many folks who are really excited VR. That or a lot of scalpers hoping to eBay or Craigslist their purchases.

While 15,000 is a really impressive number, the more important ones are for the total user base for the Rift and Vive. Even though many games and other applications can be adapted for VR quite easily, a good VR requires a lot more work. The question will be if there will be enough users for developers to start looking hard at VR, or will it take the install base of the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One before developers start paying attention.

Vive Now Available for Pre-Order

The Vive virtual reality headset – a collaboration between HTC and Valve – is now available for pre-order, with the first shipments to begin on 5th April, 2016. The HTC Vive, which recently won “Best in Show” at CES 2016,  includes two wireless VR controllers, room scale movement, 360° tracking, and an HMD with a built-in camera, to provide “what many critics are calling the most convincing VR experience launching this year,” according to the official press release.

“We are delighted to help usher in the next generation of virtual reality,” Cher Wang of HTC said. “Launching Vive with Valve has helped us ignite the creativity of thousands of content developers around the world.”

Pre-orders will include the games Tilt Brush from Google, Fantastic Contraption from Northway and Radial Games, and Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives from Owlchemy Labs.

“Our collaboration with HTC and the VR development community has allowed us to create the most compelling and complete VR solution,” Valve’s Gabe Newell added. “In the coming weeks, many of these developers will launch an incredible first generation of VR titles to consumers around the world.”

To test whether your system is equipped to run the HTC Vive, Steam has released the SteamVR application.

The HTC Vive is priced at £746.60/$829, including shipping.

Gabe Newell Personally Explains Why Dota 2 Commentator Was Fired

E-Sports is a large market for anybody, and with a $3 million prize riding on this weeks DOTA 2 tournament in Shanghai, it is no surprise that people have been annoyed by the range of problems that have come out of it. One of which has caught some heat though is the fact that a commentator was fired less than two days into the tournament, something which Gabe Newell personally explains on Reddit why they got rid of the commentator.

The problems ranged from non-existent commentary on the action taking place to cameras being stuck or even the entire stream suddenly dropping, leaving fans and players alike wondering what was happening. James Harding was a commentator for the series, and has been before, but this time, it was short lived with him being fired just over a day into the series.

Valve fired Harding after just a day and a half, with speculation and outcry alike coming from everybody regarding the matter. In his post he stated:

1) James. We’ve had issues with James at previous events. Some Valve people lobbied to bring him back for Shanghai, feeling that he deserved another chance. That was a mistake. James is an ass, and we won’t be working with him again.

2) As long as we’re firing people, we are also firing the production company that we’ve been working with on the Shanghai Major. They will be replaced, and we hope to get this turned around before the main event.

Harding himself replied, posting that he would be releasing a statement regarding the matter, something which we eagerly look forward to reading.

Xbox Steam Page is Reportedly in Development

Microsoft’s initial unveiling of the Xbox One received a fairly polarizing reception due to the hefty price point and disdain surrounding its TV focus. Furthermore, the console’s lacklustre specification resulted in cross-platform games running at a lower resolution than the PlayStation 4. Microsoft also angered their core fan base with plans to block second-hand sales and underestimate the huge number of people who rely on cheaper, used games. Arguably, Sony had similar plans, and cancelled them after witnessing the chaotic backlash. All of this contributed to Microsoft’s poor market share in the current console generation and it looks unlikely that the Xbox One will recover from this poor start.

Perhaps the Xbox One’s situation has made Microsoft more open to PC gaming and cross play between the two platforms. Recently, the company announced it would release Quantum Break on the Windows Store at the same time as the Xbox One version. This is fantastic news for PC gamers, and showcases Microsoft’s new inclusive policy. However, some might argue they are doing this because of the weak market position of the Xbox One. Whatever the case, this new approach is commendable and suggests other key Xbox One titles might come to the PC including Halo and Forza.

According to Reddit, the domain name “xbox.steampowered.com” has been in development recently and fuelled rumours about a very exciting announcement. The most logical theory revolves around the idea that Microsoft is bringing Steam to the Xbox One and allowing its user base to play PC games. This would massively expand the console’s library and might encourage PC players to use the Xbox One as a secondary console. I doubt this move is anything to do with bringing Xbox games to Steam, because Microsoft wants to push their own Windows Store exclusively on Windows 10. Hopefully, the advent of Steam on Xbox is the start of a closer relationship between PC gaming and the Xbox brand.

Half Life 3 File Names Found in SteamVR Performance Tool

Yesterday, Valve released a performance utility which measures your system’s readiness for SteamVR. This tool scans your PC’s hardware configuration and provides a simple grading to inform the user about VR requirements in an easy to understand manner. The application contains various strings referring to Half Life 3 and could suggest the fabled game is actually in development:

“c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\shared\hl3\hl3_vscriptgamesystem.cpp…….VScr iptServerHL3
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\npc_quest_citizen.cpp…CNPC_QuestCi tizen::DisplayDialogString..m_DialogStringDisplayD ropShadow
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\partial_entity_manager.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procedural_spawn_constraint.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\utllogicconstraintsolver.h
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procedural_spawn_manager.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\entity_persist.h
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procedural_spawn_target.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procedural_spawn_template.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procedural_spawn_volume.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procspawn_bias_line.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procspawn_modifier.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\procspawn_variable.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\shared\hl3\imposter_manager.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\npc_turret_ceiling_pulse.cpp
particles/vortigaunt_fx/vortigaunt_charge_token.vpcf
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\point_quest_goal.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\prop_fixed.cpp
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\server\hl3\gravity_vortex_controller.h
#HL3_SpyGrenadeHint1
#HL3_SpyGrenadeHint2
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\ga me\shared\hl3\hl3_vscriptgamesystem.cpp”

Reddit member ‘DuckyDays‘ also discovered multiple mentions of Half Life 3:

“There is 1671 matches of hl, 14 of hl3, 97 of hl2, 11 of HalfLife2, 0 of HalfLife3
c:\buildslave\vrgdc2015_staging_win64\build\src\game\client\hl3\c_point_quest_goal
BaseHLBludgeonWeapon
HLSelectFireMachineGun
C_BaseHLPlayer::Schema_VerifyBindingIsRegistered
client\hl2\c_strider.cpp
\client\hl2\c_npc_manhack.cpp
And this is just a few, I found alot of weopons and npcs mostly HL2 what I could find. Now I am not a programer or anything, so I dont know what any of this means. I just found it in the code
EDIT Under the server.dll I found some more text
GameSystemReallocatingFactory@VCHL3VScriptGameSystem
HL3_SpyGrenadeHint¨
game\server\hl3\gravity_vortex_controller
\game\server\hl3\info_quest_dialog
game\server\hl3\procedural_spawn_target
game\server\hl3\npc_turret_ceiling_pulse
CLASS_PLAYER CLASS_ANTLION CLASS_APCDRIVER CLASS_BARNACLE CLASS_BLOB CLASS_BULLSEYE CLASS_CITIZEN_PASSIVE CLASS_CITIZEN_REBEL CLASS_COMBINE CLASS_COMBINE_GUNSHIP CLASS_COMBINE_HUNTER CLASS_CONSCRIPT CLASS_HEADCRAB CLASS_MANHACK
But more then anything I found HL2 refrences all over the code.
EDIT2:
In the file “readyonly_tools_asset_info.bin” under /steamVRPerformanceTest/vr.
core vr portal2_imported left4dead3 hl3
Al in one string.”

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean Half Life 3 is confirmed, and it might simply be trolling on Valve’s part. Perhaps, it’s a coincidence or to do with another Valve title like Dota 2. Clearly, this doesn’t prove anything but I’d like to think positively and hope Half Life 3 is going to eventually come out. Although, I do think it’s impossible to meet everyone’s expectations due to the lengthy development period and uncertainty if Valve has any interest in releasing a sequel.

Valve Releases SteamVR Performance Test Utility

SteamVR is a virtual reality platform developed by Valve which offers an immersive 360 degrees full room experience and designed with the HTC Vive in mind. This incredible feat of technology uses laser-bases positional tracking and a detection system to prevents users from walking into physical objects in their environment. Virtual reality is often praised for its potential to revolutionize entertainment in a way never thought possible. Even though 2016 is the year when VR begins to really take off, it’s still a very expensive proposition which makes the HTC Vive a niche device. Recently, HTC announced the Vive would cost $799 which almost defies belief. Despite this, there is a great deal of potential and the prices will come down eventually.

As you might expect, VR devices require a fairly high specification PC, which alienates the potential user base. Both HTC and Oculus have released the minimum system requirements to achieve an optimal VR experience and inform users in the best possible way. However, to simplify the process even further, Valve has released a tool which scans your PC and provides a rating based on its suitability for SteamVR. The tool isn’t officially available on the Steam store right now because it keeps refreshing back to the main page. However, you can install it via steam://install/323910.

Reddit users have already been sharing the results and comparing various scores. Here we can see a really good configuration with a Fury X, and Intel Core i5-6600K. This showcases that the i5 variant without Hyperthreading isn’t a major issue when it comes to VR.

Here’s a slightly lower-end specification featuring an 8 core AMD FX 8320 processor and R9 380 graphics card. The wording of capable is interesting because this system’s GPU is technically below the HTC Vive’s requirements. It’s unclear what the difference will be between a capable and ready system. Perhaps, it’s to do with a smoother frame-rate, but surely Valve wants the VR experience to be consistent.

Is your system ready for VR?

Team Fortress 2 Prepares for Entrance Into eSports

eSports is a big market, with every game looking to get in on the action with their own competitions and every game that’s released seeming to include competitive multiplayer in order to drag you into the world of competitive gaming. eSports are a serious sport for many with players being banned for everything from cheating to throwing games. It’s rare though to see well-established games enter the scene, no matter how much their gameplay leads to competitive gaming, but since when have Valve been ones to follow the trend and not do something different.

The popular game of Team Fortress 2 was made free to play in 2011 in the hopes of attracting more players to the fast paced (and sometimes comedic) gameplay of the class based shooter. You can now be selected for the Competitive beta stream group if you are randomly selected, but you will need three things first.

  1. You need to have either made a purchase from the Mann Co. Store or purchased Team Fortress 2 before June 23rd, 2011
  2. You will need to have Steam Guard Mobile Authenticator enabled on your account
  3. You will need to have a phone number associated with your Steam account.

With these measures in place, you could soon see yourself playing competitive games against other people of the same skill level, offering everything from the wacky life of the pyro to the expensive trading of hats. With competitive gaming being a big market for both gamers and developers alike, and with Valve already in the market with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, do you think Team Fortress will make with so many other games all striving to be King of eSports?

CS:GO Players Being Permabanned Due to AMD Hardware Glitch

If you are one of the millions of CS:GO players out there and also use AMD hardware, then you should read this or risk getting permabanned. Yesterday there was a big and anticipated update to CS:GO that added seven new community maps in competitive matchmaking and a lot more. That in itself is great news, but it looks like that update causes a lot of trouble for AMD users.

Reddit is already full of threads on the issue and luckily there seems to be a workaround for now. The most important thing for you as a CS:GO player and AMD user is that you don’t attempt to rejoin and rejoin after your game crashes you out, or you risk the bans that a lot of people are experiencing.

It looks like the issue ends up in the graphic settings and it isn’t limited to the new maps as first suggested. Older maps such as Nuke and Dust are equally affected by this bug. The easy way to work around this, at least for now, is to simply set your graphics settings to low. This has been reported to fix the issue. Other users are reporting that it is enough to set Shader to medium and potentially also turn off multi-core rendering.

We can be pretty sure that all bans issued by this bug will be lifted again, but it is still a major bug that will have quite an influence on people. They can’t play their ranked matches until it has been resolved and generally risk missing out.

Have you been affected by this issue or are you already running the game on low graphics settings? What’s your opinion on a release this buggy? This is a bug that should have been caught before release considering the amount of players that are affected by it. How should Valve make this up their users again? Let us know in the comments.

https://twitter.com/JTGhawk137/status/700201753224962048

Fan Made Half-Life Game ‘Prospekt’ to be Released With Valve’s Blessing

Many PC gaming fans eagerly await the day when the next game in Valve’s flagship FPS franchise, Half-Life, will be released. Perhaps such fans will be sated for a time by the newest ‘Half-Life’ game, Prospekt, which is not a product of Valve, instead being a fan-made creation. This hasn’t stopped Valve from giving the game their full approval and as a result, it is set to be released on their Steam service on February 11th.

Prospekt is set up as a sequel to the 1999 Half-Life spin-off game, Half-Life: Opposing Force. Players will reprise the role of US Marine Corporal Adrian Shepherd, who made his debut (and only) appearance in the original Opposing Force as he explored the Black Mesa Research Facility. This time, Corporal Shepherd will be delving into the Nova Prospekt prison, a location featured in Half-Life 2, at the behest of the Vortigaunts in order to save Gordon Freeman from being overrun by soldiers inside the facility. The mission will take place across 13 levels with gameplay time said to be comparable to that of Half-Life 2: Episode 1.

The game is the long time project of a single developer, Richard Seabrook, who has put over 2,500 hours into creating the game. Being approved by Valve allows Seabrook to sell his game, that makes use of Valve’s licensed Half-Life 2 assets. This is in contrast to most fan-made Source engine games, which are often either free or have to be careful to use unlicensed assets if they wish to profit from its sale. It isn’t the first fangame to receive Valve’s approval, that honour going to Black Mesa, a full remake of the original Half-Life making use of the power of Half-Life 2’s Source Engine. Prospekt also promises a number of enhancements over the original Half-Life 2, offering a slew of graphical, audio and even AI improvements.

“I’m hugely grateful for the immense support from the Half-Life 2 and PC gaming community”, said Seabrook. “I can’t wait to hear what they think of the finished game and work the feedback into my next project, no doubt developed while we all wait for Half-Life 3.!”

The game will be on sale on Steam from February 11th for £7.50 ($9.99/€9.99), but if you pre-purchase from today there will be a 10% discount to the standard price, only paying £6.75($8.99/ €8.99). I think this is a great precedent for Valve to be setting, allowing fans to officially build and expand on their established franchise story and lore. It is doubtful Steam would allow a compromise in quality for such games, but it is a step better than the typical approach of license holders shutting down or banning the sale of such products.

Valve Increasing Steam’s Speed With 100 Gbps Connections

Steam is a global name in video games. As a platform for everything from selling games to networking players, the service enables you to download a small client and regain access to a collection of thousands of games. Not surprising then that they’ve recruited Level 3 communications to increase their network speed.

Level 3 deliver a collection of high-speed connections all around the world, a service that Steam users will be able to enjoy soon as Valve has approached Level 3 to upgrade their network to include their “100 gigabits per second” connection. They state several good reasons for this upgrade, the first of which is the service’s growth year on year. With a 75% increase year on year, you can imagine how their servers must be with new games released causing massive spikes of downloads. 400-500 petabytes of data are downloaded worldwide per month with 4-5 exabytes being downloaded per year, a figure that will only increase with games increasing in average size year on year. With Steam games coming from MB’s to GB’s the “standard” for Steam is roughly 10-40 gigabytes per user download. This is quite hefty given the service has over 100 million users, with users often being online at peak times such as during sales in which it’s not uncommon for millions of users to be online at the same time.

During those busy times, you may quickly notice that your connection stays at peak performance with such an array of upgrades coming soon. Now if only we could all get stable, fast internet at homes it would help make that game time less stressful.

Steam Sets New Concurrent Online User Record

Valve’s Steam platform has set many records over the years and this holiday sale managed to create a new one for them yesterday in the form of a new concurrent online user record. The previous record in this regard was set back in October where they managed to have 10.7 million users online at the same time. Current stats from Steam now show that they had an impressive 12.3 million concurrent users logged in at the same time yesterday.

The new record is undoubtedly aided by the ongoing holiday sale coming to an end. There haven’t been any daily deal or flash deals this year, so it is fair to assume that a lot of people have been holding off until the end with their purchases. The profile badge surely also had something to do with it and people were logging in to get the last few cards, either to sell or trade them, or complete the next level of their Winter Holiday 2015 badge.

The 12,332,504 concurrent users that were logged in at the same time is an impressive milestone and something that probably also was aided by the general increase of Chinese users. They now have about as many active users as the UK, but a total overall of 600 million user accounts. The US is still leading with about 25 million users at any given time where the UK and China come in around 5.5 and 6 million each. However, the average UK player owns five times the games according to SteamSpy statistics

It is also easy to see which games help steam on a daily basis with Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ranking the top two spots daily with around 950,000 and 650,000 users playing the games respectively at the same time.

Have you been splurging on this years Steam Winter Sale or have you been holding back for one reason or another? Let us know what you got as well as what you had hoped to get but didn’t because the proper deal was missing.

French Consumer Group Sue Valve Over Steam User Agreement

In an unexpected turn of events, a French consumer group, UFC-Que Choisir, have chosen to begin legal action against Valve over the user agreement for their popular game distribution platform, Steam. The decision to sue was revealed in a French letter, in which they explained that Steam’s subscriber agreement contains elements deemed to be “detrimental to consumer interests.”

The points that the UFC bring against Steam were outlined on the Games sub-Reddit, where user ‘Silencement’ translated the letter. Shockingly, this translation may bring to light some questionable business practices you didn’t know about Valve, as many simply click-through the countless license agreements:

  • It is expressly forbidden for customers to resell their digital games, which is contrary to French law, which allows the transfer of digital products and licenses.
  • Valve refuse to accept any responsibility if they are hacked and customer data is leaked, or user accounts are compromised.
  • Valve has ownership to the rights to any user-created content uploaded to Steam.
  • Customers cannot get funds added to their Steam account refunded if their account is closed, deleted or banned.

In short, Valve applies Luxembourg’s consumer law, regardless of the laws of the user’s country.

Steam is often considered one of the best game digital distribution platforms in terms of customer service, especially compared to that of consoles, this lawsuit outlines some worrying issues. So while it may be unreasonable for Valve to keep an array of user agreements to account for every country’s consumer laws, we have to hope that Valve will respond to these accusations by adjusting their practices for the sake of their customers. Considering their track record in the past, however, Valve stands a good chance of coming out on top should they choose to fight the legal battle to the end.

77,000 Steam Accounts “Hijacked” Each Month

The rise of Steam’s digital distribution store is almost indescribable and way beyond Valve’s most optimistic expectations. Some users have even argued Valve saved PC gaming from the depths of despair and made it a popular platform. However, I’m not entirely convinced by this argument and believe the PC would have a strong foothold in the market with or without Valve’s assistance. On the other hand, Valve have done wonders for the PC gaming market and while Steam is far from perfect, it’s a wonderful invention which keeps your entirely game library in one client. A byproduct of this success, is the amount of cyber criminals targeting user accounts. More specifically, Valve’s introduction of the community market with tradable items makes Steam accounts a valuable proposition.

In a blog post, Valve addressed the security concerns and outlined their plans to tackle stolen community items:

“Account theft has been around since Steam began, but with the introduction of Steam Trading, the problem has increased twenty-fold as the number one complaint from our users. Having your account stolen, and your items traded away, is a terrible experience, and we hated that it was becoming more common for our customers.”

“Once an account was compromised, the items would be quickly cleaned out. They’d then be traded again and again, eventually being sold to an innocent user. Looking at their account activity, it wasn’t too hard to figure out what happened, but undoing it was harder because we don’t want to take things away from innocent users. We decided to err on the side of protecting them: we left the stolen goods, and we created duplicates on the original compromised account to replace them. We were fully aware of the tradeoff here. Duplicating the stolen items devalues all the other equivalent items in the economy. This might be fairly minor for common items, but for rare items this had the potential to significantly increase the number in existence.”

“First, enough money now moves around the system that stealing virtual Steam goods has become a real business for skilled hackers. Second, practically every active Steam account is now involved in the economy, via items or trading cards, with enough value to be worth a hacker’s time. Essentially all Steam accounts are now targets.”

“What used to be a handful of hackers is now a highly effective, organized network, in the business of stealing and selling items. It would be easier for them to go after the users who don’t understand how to stay secure online, but the prevalence of items make it worthwhile to target everyone. We see around 77,000 accounts hijacked and pillaged each month. These are not new or naïve users; these are professional CS:GO players, reddit contributors, item traders, etc.”

This is clearly becoming a massive problem for Valve, and it’s quite difficult to trace the individuals in question. The emergence of two-factor authentication should help matters but this relies on the end-user setting up enhanced security. Perhaps in time, Valve will enforce this measure and make it mandatory. Although, some users might feel this is a little too heavy-handed.

Screenshots From Cancelled Half Life 2: Episode Four Revealed

Despite Half-Life 2: Episode Three being the most infamous vaporware ever (not yet) made, Valve was also planning another game in the series, often referred to as Half-Life 2: Episode Four, between 2007 and 2008, despite the game being intended as stand-alone. The tie-in game, more commonly called Return to Ravenholm, was being produced by Arkane Studios in collaboration with Valve and was to take place between Half-Life 2: Episode One and Episode Two. The game was cancelled by Valve due to the creative constraints of making the game stand-alone yet fit into existing continuity.

Back in 2012, Valve designer Marc Laidlaw told fansite Lambda Generation that:

“[T]here was indeed a project called Return to Ravenholm. We are big fans of Arkane and wanted to come up with a project we could work on together. We threw ideas around, they built some cool stuff, but we eventually decided that it didn’t make sense to pursue it at the time. As I recall, we felt like a lot of the staples of Ravenholm–headcrabs and zombies!–were pretty much played out, and the fact that it would have to take place sometime before the end of Episode 2 (so as not to advance beyond where Valve had pushed the story) was a creative constraint that would hamper the project…and Arkane.”

The cancelled title was thought lost to the ether, but Robert Wilinski, Senior Environment Artist at Arcane during development of the game, has released some screenshots, via ValveTime. A sad glimpse at what could have been:

Developers Increased Steam Game Prices Before Autumn Sale!

The Steam Autumn Sale has finally begun and it can be extremely tempting to purchase a huge array of games across various genres. Bizarrely, the current sale doesn’t feature any flash or daily deals and critics have argued this could be a result of Steam’s Refund Policy. Arguably, Valve is concerned about people purchasing something at a specific price, using the Refund Policy and re-purchasing 24 hours later at a cheaper rate. As with any promotion, it’s important to be skeptical and realize the majority of sale events are a marketing exercise. You only need to look at Black Friday to see the tricks employed to make people overspend.

According to Steam Spy, a number of games have increased their base price just before the sale began. As a result, the discounted percentage is larger and makes the consumer feel they are getting a better deal. It also explains why 75% off doesn’t equate to £2-3 anymore.

While this is pretty dishonest, it’s been going on for some time and I cannot see it changing anytime soon. Developers are implementing every possible trick to maximize profits from each purchase. It’s a sorry situation, but you have to take into account the poor discoverability on Steam and huge quantity of games. This means it’s very difficult for smaller studios to remain in business.

On the other hand, honesty is always the best policy and developers should respect consumers more by avoiding these sort of marketing tricks. It once again shows how Steam is simply becoming a client to play games while a huge number of people purchase codes from third-party resellers.

Steam Autumn and Winter Sales Leaked: No more Flash/Daily Sales

For those of you looking to pick up games at a bargain price, it’s time to get your wallet ready. According to a report from the Steamworks developer group, the Steam Autumn sale will run from November 25th 10am PT to December 1st 10am PT. For the Winter/Holiday sale, the leaked duration is from December 22nd at 10am PT all the way till January 4th at 10am PT. The biggest change from past sales, however, will be the absence of the Flash and Daily sales.

In past Steam sales, games usually went on sale at an okay rate for the duration of the event. If you wanted a great deal like 50% or even more off, you would have to check in every day for the Daily deals. If you wanted an even steeper discount, there were multiple Flash sales which only lasted a few hours, meaning customers had to check in multiple times a day.

With the loss of the Daily and Flash deals, one discount price will last for the entire sale. This means customers will not have to check in all the time and see if their wishlist games got any cheaper that day. On the other hand, it does mean that even for those willing to put in the effort to check, there won’t be any extra steep discounts to be had. It will be interesting to see if Valve ends up going with this leaked plan and how it all turns out at the end.

SteamOS Games Perform up to 58 Percent Worse Than Windows 10 Versions

Valve originally unveiled SteamOS to enhance the capabilities of hardware configurations and provide a more customizable user-interface. Gabe Newell criticized Windows 8 and famously said:

“Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.”

Additionally, early indications were very positive and Valve managed to attain large performance increases on an OpenGL-powered Linux version of Left 4 Dead 2. However, according to Ars Technica, various developers claim Linux drivers and sub-par OpenGL tools are not adequate to match DirectX performance on Windows. Valve recently launched their new range of Steam Machines designed to run a gaming-optimized version of Linux. As a result, it seemed the opportune moment to test performance variation between the two operating systems. Ars Technica conducted a number of benchmarks and they make for some interesting reading:

Bizarrely, the source engine titles on Valve’s own operating system perform quite badly compared to the Windows 10 versions. This is surprising as you would expect Valve’s game engine to perform much better and even exceed the Windows 10 results.

Here we can see the results scale across each graphics preset, and SteamOS struggles to properly utilize the bench system’s GPU.

Once the resolution is increased, there isn’t a change to the overall pattern, and Windows 10 still manages to leap ahead by a significant margin. Why? As previously mentioned, drivers are just nowhere near good enough, and Linux still suffers from a complete lack of software support. On another note, as DirectX 12 games become the norm, I can only see the gap increasing. Perhaps the highly-anticipated Vulkan API can change things, but for the meantime SteamOS is not an operating system to use if you care about pure performance numbers.