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Sunday 19 January 2003

Steamed turd [lurks]

Valve Software. You might recall them from the distant past when they made a good little PC game called Half-Life. Ever since, well, we're not sure exactly what they're doing since they stopped making noises about the ridiculously delayed Team Fortress 2 a long time ago. More recently they've taken it upon themselves to ruin Counter-Strike. They took the mod, created by a coupla lads in their bedroom, on board and fucked it up completely by making all the guns recoil all over the place and screwed with the netcode. So we collectively left the CS scene.

Given there's been a considerable drought of good PC multiplayer games, CS has remained insanely popular and we've returned to check it out for a bit on every point release. You know, we download a CS and possibly a Half-Life update. Maybe put up a server. Have a bit of a run around and get a feel for what's changed. We thought it would be a good idea to do that with CS 1.6 since it seems there's some good changes, giving frags for bombing and defusing. Some cheaper weapons changing the balance of the early games and a funky riot shield too!

OK so what do we need to do, just download it? Well, err, no. Valve have constructed this abortion of an application called Steam. This is some sort of combined content delivery system, server browser and friends list. Despite the fact that no one wanted or needed any of this stuff, this is what you must use if you want to play Counter-Strike.

In short, the application is a biggy steamy (ho ho) pile of excrement. When running it, it frequently just blows out indicating that Valve don't have the server resources (or expertise in running high load content servers) to run the system anyway. After 50 attempts at running it, stalled updates of random dlls, you might get in. Then you register an e-mail address and 'subscribe' to the games you want.

Of course in the process the application is likely to crash a half dozen times. There's absolutely no information on what the application is doing other than kiddy descriptions like 'Preparing to play game'. Apparently I needed to launch a game on one of the servers in the browser (even though I don't want to use their browser) to get it to update the CS. I get some sort of preparing message and a lengthy full HD thrashing file scan of my Half-Life install. Then it says updating but it takes 20 minutes before it even tells me how long it's going to take.

It took around 3 hours on my 1 megabit broadband connection which is not exactly good. The only way I knew it was downloading at all was to monitor the traffic on my router. Then when all this was done, I try to get into CS and it just says it's unavailable. Grrr.

So next day I try again, again loads of failed to connect to servers, connections reset by peer and other clear indications that Valve can't run servers. Eventually I get in. So I try to launch a game, whereupon it runs CS/HL full screen in 640x480 with some progress bar half way through telling me preparing game resources or somesuch. Alt-tabbing refuses to release my screenmode, bring up the task manager and CS/HL is listed as not responding so I nuke it.

Slim tells me that apparently it's still downloading because the system tray icon is animated. Uh huh great, I wouldn't know otherwise, it doesn't say anything. So two days later I still can't get in and I've got some system tray application downloading at 8k/s.

Oh my god, what a joke this is! Beta? Fucking alpha! It's a fundamentally flawed system right the way from their content servers through to the buggy application itself. Valve seem incapable of realising that I do not WANT some permanent buggy application in my system tray downloading stuff at ridiculously slow rates. I don't know whether the goal is to combat cheating or charge for game subscriptions or whatever, I just don't care.

How can Valve go from creating something like Half-Life through to devoting their every waking minute to fucking up one of the few successful online multiplayer games? What a farce! They clearly have no talent for this type of development so why on earth don't they just leave things be and actually go finish Team Fortress 2 for fuck sake?!


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