Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I Don't Use Steam

Every time it comes up in conversation that I don't use Steam, I get asked why. So this post is an easy link to keep me from explaining myself over and over again.

There are three reasons I don't like Steam.

The first is the one that made me actually stop using Steam: the full-price ($60) games I bought from Steam never seemed to work. They crashed my machine, or they required third party spyware that wouldn't install - just a nightmare. Customer service was never any good - they have the standard "did you try rebooting your computer, I don't actually have any power to do anything like refunds" shit.

So I was getting leery of Steam. I saw the newest Civ available on Steam and said, "No, I'll go buy it from a store." With my shiny physical box, I came home feeling giddy and went through the hour-long installation process only to find... yeah, Civ required Steam, even though I had a physical disk.

Well, okay, that's fucking suspicious. Sure enough, a week later Steam force-fed me an "update" that broke Civ. With no way to roll back.

So fuck Steam.

The other two reasons are less severe, but in the long run they would have probably resulted in me using Steam a whole lot less even if they hadn't actively screwed me.

One is that I really hate the bloatware Steam insists on running in the background at all times, especially when you're trying to run a high-end game that needs all your system resources. I love the way that it is part adware, part spyware - I mean, "piracy prevention". It exists solely to screw the customer, rather than be helpful.

"But it helps you search for games! And manage your downloads!"

Yeah, those things can be done with web pages. Try gog.com or GamersGate - they use no bloatware, no ad server, and I highly recommend them over Steam.

The other reason I hate Steam is because of the fundamental problems with "always on" gaming. This is a blight, and creates dozens of issues. Steam is far from the only offender - all three consoles have the same problem. Always-on gaming really deserves its own post, but I'll quickly mention a few things that are wrong with it.

1) "Piracy prevention" that requires you to have an internet connection, the same computer, be logged in, have the most recent patch, have not modified the game I own, and so on.

2) "Dead man switch": when the central server goes down, nobody can legally play the game. Happens far more frequently than you think.

3) "Social at any price": breaking the immersion of the game to keep reminding you who else is playing the game and what their scores are. The number of games I've bought that I wanted to play with strangers? ZERO. This is also responsible for the rise in "trophy rewards"... my life has been much more peaceful since I learned how to turn them OFF.

4) "Paid DLC". This concept is, on its own, a very serious and horrible nasty shitty thing.

Paid DLC has a lot going against it, despite the fact that many people support it. I'll enumerate those, using letters this time.

a) The first playthrough is the most delicate. It's where the user forms an emotional connection to the setting. Added content is great for extended play, but paid DLC doesn't want to wait, and disrupts the initial playthrough with ads and metagame madness. I think this stunts the player's emotional investment.

b) Paid DLC usually means suppressing non-paid (IE fan-created) DLC. After all, it's competition. While it's theoretically possible to support both, I haven't seen many successful examples and I don't expect to see many.

c) It is often an excuse to release less content and charge for extra. For example, the only reason Sony didn't have my credit card info is because they wanted to charge me the price of the full game for the DLC for Disgaea 3. I love Disgaea, but it's being ruined by DLC.

d) DLC fundamentally doesn't fit into the "flow" of a game. Allowing the game to be extended and twisted at any time only works for certain kinds of games. Most games have a beginning, middle, and end. If you add crap in somewhere, you'll end up with the pacing and balance getting screwed up. This seems like a minor problem until you realize you've quit before the endgame because it's gotten boring.

Anyway, that's why I hate "always on" gaming, and Steam in particular.


Darius Kazemi said...

I use Steam to buy indie games and older AAA titles that are more or less guaranteed to work on my machine, so I've never really run into any of your issues. Sucks about the major new releases, though.

Craig Perko said...

That was how I decided to use it, until the Civ debacle. Having a game I went out of my way to NOT buy on Steam ruined by Steam pushed me over the edge into "FUCK YOU" territory.

Especially because it's one of my favorite franchises.

kane.zach said...

I want to be optimistic for my sake having bought Brink - which I must add I preordered through Amazon, not realizing the Steam connection. Naturally, installing was a clusterfuck and then the game updated for an hour afterwards? I have their disc!?

William said...

Yeah i bought a few games from steam while some worked others never worked and steam would not give a refund. that is just a joke, if i went into a shop and bought some jam went home and found it was off when i opened it they give me a refund. steam are apparently above the laws of traditional commerce and don't have to. I think i will make a complaint to http://www.econsumer.gov

Anonymous said...

I had a old account, maybe 10 years old, had a bunch of games purchased and now I dont have any credit card used when i purchased those games and I lost my account information minus the old email used which I dont have access to and Now I can not retrieve my old steam account, Screw Steam

Anonymous said...

I absolutely despise Steam!!! Their entire way of doing things is totally ridiculous, and I think they should be boycotted...

Anonymous said...

thank you for apparently valid reasons not to start using steam.

Ill try to manage without. and screw the games that need steam even if you buy a cd!

Deswellyn said...

I hate steam, but I use it - kind of the devil's gift of gaming.

For those of you who feel like steam is doing morally corrupt things that should be illegal: they probably are illegal.

The best contact to put the heat on steam will be the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). I urge you to contact steam and demand refunds for issues such as not refunding games that don't work. If they fail to comply, THEN contact the FTC. The FTC will do an investigation and valve should get in line.

The FTC is a very helpful organization and you can find a contact method in the link below.


Note that while the FTC is not there to resolve individual disputes (just to report fraud business practices like steam), the one time I've contacted them, my dispute was swiftly resolved (against kazaa/sprint charging my mom for a service - she doesn't have internet).

Also, the BBB (better business Bureau) is useful, so I hear.

Anonymous said...

I was also disappointed when I found out that you have to use steam for playing civ 5. Even though I had bought the DVD I had to install the game from steam library, that is, download it. That's insane! Especially as I tend to reinstall windows every now and then. That means that I would have to download the whole game again (and believe me, downloading 8gb of data is really pain in the ass at least for my internet connection). And guess what? Last time when I reinstalled my computer I just didn't install civ just because of that.

Frankly, civ 5 (and many other great games) were simply screwed by steam and DRMs in general. Where are good old times when we had everything on disks and no internet was required? And even when games were done so well that they didn't need any patches? It seems to me that games simply don't have the same quality as they used to have. It appears that developers don't spend enough time testing their games before releasing them. We then get buggy, crashing and sometimes even useless games (in my case that was fifa 13). And then you have thousands of patches that need to be applied to fix a game that should work right away. Combine patching with something like steam and you get even more people complaining that nothing is working.

My point is, whosoever has the same problems as I mentioned should really think twice before using steam or buyinga game that requires steam. The whole stuff is just freaking annoying to me.