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SirPrimalform

Bah! What happened to consumer choice?

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From Double Fine's twitter feed:

Double Fine bundle is now available for download on Amazon. And is on sale for super cheap!!

Woohoo, somewhere other than Steam sells it! So off I go, credit card in hand.

I discover that Amazon doesn't like anyone outside of the US... but as it turns out, that's pretty much irrelevant to me. Further down the page, just below the system requirements:

"Steam account required for game activation and installation".

Oh...

So my two choices are a place with horrible DRM, or a place that refuses to sell me keys for the place with horrible DRM.

Come on guys, you can do better than this! What about Desura, GamersGate, GOG.com?

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Hi, SirPrimalform. Our Steam releases are designed to be as customer-friendly as possible. Psychonauts does not use any of the (optional!) DRM features of Steamworks, nor does it use any non-Steamworks-based DRM. It has been tested in Steam offline mode. I can't speak to Stacking or Costume Quest, but it is even possible to run Psychonauts without the Steam client running (which requirement might be considered "DRM" as well, despite the availability of offline mode).

I should stress that that latter is an unsupported configuration; it disables features like cloud saves, achievements, rich presence, crash reporting, and so on. IIRC, saves get written to a different directory. If casual users start tripping over this too much and losing saves or achievements then I will probably make it more difficult to run Psychonauts without the Steam client -- ie, make it opt-in via a config flag or something like that. This is a tension between providing a robust experience for users who rely on services like cloud saves, and providing a way to opt-out of Steam absolutely and entirely.

I don't believe Steam is a haven for customer-unfriendly practices. If you listen to Gabe Newell's recent comments on Origin, you can tell what he thinks of the "customer as adversary" way of thinking. I can't promise anything, but if you describe what the the horrible aspects of Steam are (and why you consider them horrible) we can use that to inform our future Steam implementations. I'm especially interested in the distinction between steam offline mode and running without the Steam client.

Thanks!

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(snip)

Thanks!

Hey thanks for the info about Psychonauts! I probably should have mentioned that I already have it on GOG.com though and that I was more thinking about the other two games when I wrote the post.

And yeah, having to run the client is DRM whether or not there's an offline mode (even if the offline mode is working properly at that point :B). I'm well aware that I'm in a minority here, but I just don't like Steam at all. I have used it for a few years and it (and other DRM systems) have made me pretty much swear off buying anything that I can't download and backup at the time of purchase and install whenever without an internet connection. I realise Steam has a backup function, but if you've ever tried using it, it still requires you to be signed into your account.

-

So I'm afraid it's not something to do with your particular implementation of Steam features, I just really hate online activation/account based DRM. Partially because of past experiences, but kind of just on principle now because I realised "Why should I have to ask permission to install or play something I have bought a licence for?". I realise I probably sound like I'm wearing a tinfoil hat by this point. :P

Anyway, I'd love it if you released Costume Quest and Stacking somewhere like GamersGate, GOG.com or even Desura (they have a client but also host direct downloads of installers, best of both worlds). Anyway, I understand that I'm in a minority and I don't expect you to cater to us but it would be nice to see the games available in more than one place.

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I should probably point out that I'm one of the DFA backers who mercilessly pestered about the game being Steam only for the first couple of days. I am really grateful for the fact you listened to us!

-

p.s. Just thought of another great store: The Humble Store! Run by the HIB guys, it doesn't seem to have an actual storefront but instead provides a widget that you embed on your own site.

Examples:

http://www.grimrock.net/store/

http://trine2.com/site/index.php?page=buy

http://botanicula.net/buy.html

Edited to break up the wall of text a bit.

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(snip)

Ok, I've thought of a good question. Is there a particular reason that Stacking and Costume Quest are only on Steam?

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Is there a particular reason that Stacking and Costume Quest are only on Steam?

Good question. Every distribution channel requires a certain amount of work from us and we need to make sure that investment is worth it. For example, every new channel is a new contract for our biz/production folks to negotiate, payments for our finance people to audit, new build variants that our tech team has to make and our QA has to support, etc.

This last point is the one that I care about the most, as I'm responsible for our technical support and engineering teams. Our primary goal is to ensure that our customers have a great experience with our games no matter what platform they play it on or how they bought it. Unfortunately, that gets harder to do as we add more variants of the game, especially on PC. As you know, PC computers constantly evolve and often that means that things break, games need to be patched, etc. Often each distribution channel wants something different in their build (DRM, achievements, installer, config, languages, etc). It gets pretty crazy pretty quickly when makign a patch means rebuilding and re-posting a half dozen different variations of a game (some of which may have time consuming certification processes to boot). Similarly, it's much harder to do customer support a game that's slightly different depending on where you bought it (let alone what OS/CPU/GPU/etc you're running on).

In short, we have nothing against other channels. In fact, we like pretty much all digital distribution channels that are out there and have games on many of them. It's just that we need to be thoughtful about when and how we add new ones for a given game and make sure that we're going to be able to justify the investment it'll take to make sure that variant of the game is just as good and well supported as any other.

To finally answer your question, it's really just that Steam currently makes up a very significant part of the PC market and is very developer friendly. It makes a lot of sense to publish games on that platform first, and as Paul says we take a very light touch regarding offline play and other "DRM". Steam games through Amazon are also great because it's a huge market but without any additional tech/support burden. We'll add support for other platforms/channels just as soon as we can do so without spreading ourselves so thin that we can't support them properly.

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...

Thanks, that's as detailed an answer as I could possibly hope for.

I totally understand about the fact that it makes support more complicated and I also don't blame you at all for going for Steam first considering what a vast market share they have. Since I get the impression you'll probably release them elsewhere eventually, I'm happy to wait.

Again, thanks for the explanations DF Du Bois and DF Nathan!

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I can understand that people sometimes are annoyed by the Steam client, but it´s so much more than just "horrible DRM", and the PC games market would be a far worse place without it.

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I can understand that people sometimes are annoyed by the Steam client, but it´s so much more than just "horrible DRM", and the PC games market would be a far worse place without it.

While I agree it's more than just DRM, none of the other features are anything I want and thus don't make the DRM any more 'palatable'. Besides, I certainly don't wish it didn't exist, I just don't like monopolies and alternatives can only exist if companies release their games in multiple places.

Anyway, it sounds like Tim Schafer is open to the idea of releasing them on GOG.com so that's great news for me.

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I too am not a fan of Steam, but I cope. I bought that DF pack on Steam, and Iron Brigade's dual-DRM pushes it over the limit of what I will endure for fun. Running that makes you log into Steam, and then log into Windows Live (or XBox Live, or whatever-stupid-else-next Live). That's just obnoxious. I know it's a MS game, and you probably don't have a choice in the matter there. But I do have to say it is very irritating.

I appreciate the "we have to choose carefully" idea... But that wasn't.

On the bright side, it's not as bad as the Batman: Arkham games which require Steam, GFWL, *and* a SecureROM install (online registration, constant monitoring, and *still* can only install 5 times? Warner Paranoia, huzzah).

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Also, Stacking is awesome, yes! That alone was easily worth the price of the set.

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