Want a content delivery engine for your games? Think Steam does a pretty good job? Why not use it?
It would be too easy for me to comment on Valve’s launch of its latest project, Steamworks – vis-à-vis “ha, oh no it doesn’t”. Of course such a joke is a tad puerile and these days, for the most part, it isn’t actually true, so in actual fact the principle behind Steamworks is a pretty good one – namely that small developers can basically use the workings of the Steam network in their own games.
This stretches as far as auto-updating games, social networking (using the Steam community) and the server browsing facilities. Copy and piracy protection and CD key authentication are also built in. In fact, basically, anything you notice built into Steam at the moment is available to be bundled into a separate platform.
I’m no games developer, but I hear tell that these aspects of a game are pretty time consuming so having Valve effectively gift-wrap them for public consumption is a pretty generous move. Better yet, these services aren’t tied into the Steam network at all; the infrastructure’s the same but you don’t have to sign a distribution deal with Valve – thus it could prove a significantly more cost effective method of distribution.
Personally if Valve’s move here can stop developer upon developer shoe-horning GameSpy’s server backend into their games then it can only be a good thing. For all its shortcomings, early-day quibbles and present-day quirks the system does work very well, and there’s no harm in assimilating a decent technology – just ask The Borg.
Steamworks micro site.