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Cyanic

Analysis: Why Steam isn't DRM

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After writing about Steam DRM, I came to a realization about Steam. I noted on the wiki article reasons that developers use Steam DRM. Two in particular stands out for the purpose of this discussion: piracy curbing, and ensuring Steamwork API is initialized. Neither of those two reasons are forced by Steam itself. This is evidenced by the presence of many games on Steam that have no DRM whatsoever, and not even integration with Steamworks. If DRM was forced by Steam, those games wouldn't exist in their DRM-free form. Steam itself is a content delivery system, storefront, and community. The only reasons it can feel DRM-like is because of the choices made by developers and publishers.

 

With regards to curbing piracy, this choice is made by the developers and publishers. DRM is more effective than nothing, and for this purpose games can have Valve's DRM schemes (Steam DRM or CEG) or third party DRM applied. Steamworks can also be a form of DRM, ensuring that Steam is running with an account that actually owns a game. This is developers and publishers explicitly adding DRM. This can be done to games where their executables are originally DRM-free, and can be found DRM-free on other platforms in addition to Steam. In fact, developers can choose to wrap Steam DRM protected executables with another DRM scheme. It's completely up to them.

 

Steamworks integration is a somewhat more interesting approach to DRM. Steamworks in itself is not DRM. It is the developers' insistence that the APIs be available and their reluctance of adding error handling code or code to allow games to run without Steamworks being available that leads Steamworks in becoming a kind of DRM. It is perfectly within the realm of reality to create games that takes advantage of Steamworks features while still working properly when Steam is not found. Examples of such games include Psychonauts, Scribblenauts Unlimited (less custom objects), and various UDK games. In the cases where no additional DRM is present but the game has Steamworks integration, the only reason those games are not DRM-free is because the developer didn't put in any effort to make it DRM-free. Perhaps they wanted a little bit of piracy protection too.

 

In conclusion, you can't call Steam, the platform, a type of DRM. It is not like conventional DRM schemes where the executables have been modified so they can only run being intact and with the DRM system active. Steam poses no such requirements, and it is only through developers and publishers' choices where games become dependent to Steam.

 

Edit: After further discussion, I would like to add that Steam being the sole distributor of some games does not make it DRM either. Again, it is the developer/publisher's choice to distribute solely through Steam, and that Valve does not demand exclusivity. Similarly, lack of refunds and resale is not sufficient to prove that Valve is using technological measures to prevent said refunds and resale. It could simply be that no mechanisms for refunds and resale have been implemented, or that policy dictates so.

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"If DRM was forced by Steam, those games wouldn't exist in their DRM-free form." - Crucial oversight here: You're ignoring games that, even when purchased elsewhere, have to be registered with Steam. I.E., you have no choice but to use the client to access what you just bought, even if just for downloading the data. So there is dependency at play in many cases. The instances of leniency don't excuse the necessity of activations and subsequent account-locking.

 

"The only reasons it can feel DRM-like is because of the choices made by developers and publishers." - Then, frankly, Steamworks and Steam both deserved to be called DRM, because abuse and dependency exists with both of them. Let's also not forget that Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics were DRM-free on GOG before Bethesda got their hands on the IP, and they're still not being sold on that service despite being restored on Steam. So, don't excuse the service as a whole when there are examples of companies forcing it to be used as DRM. That makes it sound as if Valve never made the tools these devs are using the way they are. Steamworks had to come from somewhere after all.

 

"In conclusion, you can't call Steam, the platform, a type of DRM." - Actually, yes you can, and you should, because every game that requires Steam must be attached to an account to be accessed. Even if said game is DRM-free once you attach it to your account, you had to use Steam to get it versus use a DRM-free download from the site/client you bought it through. Amazon, GamersGate, GreenManGaming, etc. And let's not forget that no one can sell the games they attach to their Steam accounts, even though what is often sold on other sites are access keys, not data. So, for a multitude of reasons beyond executable wrappers and Steamworks, Steam as a platform is DRM. 

 

Never forget the "Rights" portion of the DRM acronym.

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<snip>

Good points. I wasn't thinking of digital distribution when I wrote this, only from a technical standpoint. For distribution, the way things are done like that is probably to reduce the work publishers have to do. Single distribution point with easy automatic updates means less hassle trying to tell everyone there has been a patch. I don't see that changing anytime soon. And I don't see how needing a client to download versus a direct download would change much. It is an extra step, and there is potential for problems, but the chances of those problems actually occurring seems small. The end results are the same. As for games being attached to accounts, GOG is such an example, yet it's still championed as one of the best sites for DRM-free gaming. Neither can you sell your games on GOG. If you ignore Steamworks and third party DRM, Steam has no more DRM than GOG, and some may say its community features and ease of use make up for whatever loss there is in flexibility. (Arguably, Humble Bundle may be the least encumbered in any sort of DRM, as you don't even need an account to download, and you can probably sell download page links if you wanted to.)

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So TL;DR to me seems that Steam offers DRM as part of Steamworks which is up to developer/publisher to use or not. 

That means with over 90% of cases Steam is DRM as it's then required to run the client to prove you can access the game. 

 

And as for GOG it gives you installer which you can download with browser and move however you like, Steam requires you to install client to download the game and always installs it into steams own installation folder so even if game is DRM-Free most will simply use it trough steam anyway and won't ever notice it's DRM-Free build. 

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So TL;DR to me seems that Steam offers DRM as part of Steamworks which is up to developer/publisher to use or not. 

That means with over 90% of cases Steam is DRM as it's then required to run the client to prove you can access the game.

 

Well, I can tell you that the percentage of developers who use Steam DRM is not as high as 90%, and Steamworks wasn't designed as DRM. I don't think the original intention of Steamworks was to be DRM-like. And proof of purchase isn't mandatory either. A lot of games that use Steamworks run perfectly fine even if you don't own them if you have Steam open and use a steam_appid.txt file.

 

And as for GOG it gives you installer which you can download with browser and move however you like, Steam requires you to install client to download the game and always installs it into steams own installation folder so even if game is DRM-Free most will simply use it trough steam anyway and won't ever notice it's DRM-Free build.

 

You can install into a different folder if you like. And for DRM-free games it's up to the user to decide whether they want to launch the game with Steam or not. Not noticing the game is DRM-free doesn't make it DRM encumbered. (BTW, a way to tell if a game doesn't use Steamworks is by its lack of any Steamworks feature except for trading cards and Steam Cloud. Steam DRM is easy enough to deal with if you come upon it.)

 

The point is at the end, when you're running the game, Steam is not intrinsically DRM. For DRM-free titles, I think the distribution process isn't as important when in the end you have the freedom to do whatever you want with the game once you have it downloaded.

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So TL;DR to me seems that Steam offers DRM as part of Steamworks which is up to developer/publisher to use or not. 

That means with over 90% of cases Steam is DRM as it's then required to run the client to prove you can access the game. 

 

And as for GOG it gives you installer which you can download with browser and move however you like, Steam requires you to install client to download the game and always installs it into steams own installation folder so even if game is DRM-Free most will simply use it trough steam anyway and won't ever notice it's DRM-Free build. 

I believe it's already more than two years since Steam initial support for custom game folders.

And indeed I have no games installed on the OS hard disk (where the client app itself is installed though)

 

Besides, it could even be that 90% of cases DRM and steam are enforced.... but then you have the other 10%... which void the universality of the hypothesis.

 

And I guess the problem is this:

  • common point of view (I mean.. I would see normal people even enjoying a noob-proof client that don't even need you to select game path)
  • and philosophical POV (richard stallman style concept of freedom, where already games being closed source is seen as a bad thing for example)

Technically yes, I would say that whenever you can't sell single games one by one your digital rights are restricted...

But then even GOG would be DRMed. Steam forces you to use their own client to download games, true, so we could say that's more DRMed..yet neither of them could be called really DRM-free

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Good points. I wasn't thinking of digital distribution when I wrote this, only from a technical standpoint. For distribution, the way things are done like that is probably to reduce the work publishers have to do. Single distribution point with easy automatic updates means less hassle trying to tell everyone there has been a patch. I don't see that changing anytime soon. And I don't see how needing a client to download versus a direct download would change much. It is an extra step, and there is potential for problems, but the chances of those problems actually occurring seems small. The end results are the same. As for games being attached to accounts, GOG is such an example, yet it's still championed as one of the best sites for DRM-free gaming. Neither can you sell your games on GOG. If you ignore Steamworks and third party DRM, Steam has no more DRM than GOG, and some may say its community features and ease of use make up for whatever loss there is in flexibility. (Arguably, Humble Bundle may be the least encumbered in any sort of DRM, as you don't even need an account to download, and you can probably sell download page links if you wanted to.)

 

Three things here.

 

#1 - When you double-click on a game executable from GOG and one from Steam, which one opens a client?

 

#2 - If your respective GOG/Steam account log-ins are not active, which one blocks you from playing the games installed on your personal hard drive until it is entered?

 

#3 - Which service allows you to store installers and data offline?

 

GOG is only needed when you need data or the community features. Steam requires it nearly all the time, even after you've installed a game on your hard drive. Hence, GOGs offerings are DRM-free versus Steam's client, or Origin's, or uPlay.

 

I believe it's already more than two years since Steam initial support for custom game folders.

And indeed I have no games installed on the OS hard disk (where the client app itself is installed though)

 

Besides, it could even be that 90% of cases DRM and steam are enforced.... but then you have the other 10%... which void the universality of the hypothesis.

 

And I guess the problem is this:

  • common point of view (I mean.. I would see normal people even enjoying a noob-proof client that don't even need you to select game path)
  • and philosophical POV (richard stallman style concept of freedom, where already games being closed source is seen as a bad thing for example)

Technically yes, I would say that whenever you can't sell single games one by one your digital rights are restricted...

But then even GOG would be DRMed. Steam forces you to use their own client to download games, true, so we could say that's more DRMed..yet neither of them could be called really DRM-free

 

The account-locking alone is not enough to call something DRM in my view. Every GOG game you buy can be freely offered to one or more friends, but not your Steam games, unless your friends have your log-in info and you've allowed their IP addresses and computers to download your games. Of course, if they're logged in, you can't also be.

 

GOG also has a refund policy in place for malfunctioning games, something Valve is unwilling to impliment officially, despite how much money they pull in from everything their service charges you for. They are a retailer, like Gamestop, Amazon and etc., so if you bought something unfit for purpose from them, they should honor a refund for it.

 

The only area where GOG lags against Steam is multiplayer, which is why I'm interested to see Galaxy come more into use. If it does allow cross-client play, as they claim, I'll be very pleased.

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Three things here.

 

#1 - When you double-click on a game executable from GOG and one from Steam, which one opens a client?

 

#2 - If your respective GOG/Steam account log-ins are not active, which one blocks you from playing the games installed on your personal hard drive until it is entered?

 

#3 - Which service allows you to store installers and data offline?

 

The whole discussion started because Cynic rightfully highlighted that there's no inherent reason to have steam games not requiring steam open when opened.

 

And it's not like I'd want to play devils's advocate.. though the notion of "freely offering your games to one or more friends" (while still maintaining the ownership after all) could be both legally and morally interpreted as piracy

Could you also elaborate better what "unfit for purpose" means?

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One thing I would like for us to properly implement in our Availability table is the idea of the 'Install method' which I think is information people are looking for. 

 

ALL Steam games require the Steam client to install.

SOME Steam games require account to connect online in order to play (DRM).

 

ALL GOG games have standalone installers.

 

Humble Store - some game have DRM-free standalone installers, some require Steam/Uplay, etc. to install and may/may not require Steam/Uplay to be active in order to play, some are DRM-free standalone but must have Steam/Uplay for multiplayer.

 

 

I feel like our Availability table should try to capture more of this information - perhaps we can introduce a 'Install method' column to help clarify.

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Three things here.

 

#1 - When you double-click on a game executable from GOG and one from Steam, which one opens a client?

 

#2 - If your respective GOG/Steam account log-ins are not active, which one blocks you from playing the games installed on your personal hard drive until it is entered?

 

#3 - Which service allows you to store installers and data offline?

 

1. It's not a technical requirement for games on Steam to require Steam to be open. It's the developer's choice whether the client is required or not. You're trying to compare DRM-free games with games that may be encumbered with DRM or lazy developers using Steamworks. I'm talking about platforms, where Steam does not intrinsically serve as DRM.

2. Same as point 1. If you've downloaded a DRM-free game off of Steam, then it doesn't require logging in.

3. Let's consider Steam games to not have installers. In fact, most games don't even need installers. As for storing data offline, well, when you've downloaded your data, you're storing it. Steam does not pose any restrictions on what you can do with the data, so you're free to archive and restore it whenever you want. If you want to make an installer with the data, you're free to do so.

 

One thing I would like for us to properly implement in our Availability table is the idea of the 'Install method' which I think is information people are looking for.

I agree with adding a field for distribution method. At least with the current table, those games that have Steam in the DRM column imply that the game requires Steam to play, even though the executables may not be DRM encumbered. Maybe add a few icons, for Steam DRM, CEG, and Steamworks in the case where one of those technologies forces you to have the Steam client open. It would also make tabulating DRM-free games on Steam and games with 3rd party DRM on Steam easier.

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Splitting Steam into the specific implementations is certainly a viable option but there would need to be an easy for editors to work out which DRM method is being used.

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CEG can be identified using SteamDB, most Steam DRM games can be identified with ProtectionID (or just searching for ".bind" within the first 4KB of the EXE files), third party DRM is shown on the game's Steam Store page, and Steamworks games that have to be launched from Steam will start Steam (or error out) when run independently.

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One thing I would like for us to properly implement in our Availability table is the idea of the 'Install method' which I think is information people are looking for. 

 

ALL Steam games require the Steam client to install.

SOME Steam games require account to connect online in order to play (DRM).

 

ALL GOG games have standalone installers.

Well, all Steam games do come with their installation script. For Execution-DRM-Free games on Steam only the literal download is required - you then can make your own installer (I've seen some real die-hards go so far as to argue that this is better than typical DRM-Free solutions).

 

As for refunds and fit for purpose etc. on Steam it is designed to be done at the publisher level through whatever Steam rep they have. Of course in practice this doesn't work out well since it isn't in the publisher's interests to do so.

 

CEG can be identified using SteamDB, most Steam DRM games can be identified with ProtectionID (or just searching for ".bind" within the first 4KB of the EXE files), third party DRM is shown on the game's Steam Store page, and Steamworks games that have to be launched from Steam will start Steam (or error out) when run independently.

 

Indeed. Though outside of CEG you do have those edge cases that actually scan your drive for steam or use the broken hard link to steam.dll method et al.. Would be interesting to note here anyway.

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The whole discussion started because Cynic rightfully highlighted that there's no inherent reason to have steam games not requiring steam open when opened.

 

And it's not like I'd want to play devils's advocate.. though the notion of "freely offering your games to one or more friends" (while still maintaining the ownership after all) could be both legally and morally interpreted as piracy

Could you also elaborate better what "unfit for purpose" means?

 

If you were trying to imply that having Steam running for everything you buy that uses it in some way is perfectly fine, you're displaying part of the reason why I let my account linger since 2012 and have yet to buy a game that requires Steam. This strange mindset that some gamers have that client dependency, in the case of Steam, is perfectly fine and few, if any, PC gamers should question it or refuse it.

 

Otherwise, the way that second sentence was worded...that was a poor attempt at devil's advocacy; "Have you considered the idea that doing such a thing could be seen as piracy?" That's devil's advocacy. Asking questions to test the strength of an argument/point, not depending on subjective suggestions as a response.

 

Still, I'll elaborate: I used that example because, sans GOG purchases, most of my PC gaming library is made up of disk-based games that can be installed on multiple PCs, and handed to friends/colleagues of mine to do likewise if they ask me to try them. (Part of being raised in the late-90's/early-00's gaming period, and being a tabletop gamer as well.) The games I own thanks to GOG are looked at the same way, and I don't consider it "piracy" to treat those purchases the same way I do my disk library. It is only seen as piracy now because of how easy that word is to toss around in relation to poor sales (I'm reminded of Greenheart Games' 'piracy experiment' every time that word comes up), how big gaming budgets have become and how dogmatic some companies are with stopping reselling, trading and borrowing versus occasionaly looking at themselves for answers why their products are not selling as well as they want, or only selling well during deep price-cut periods.

 

As for 'unfit for purpose', to me that is when the netcode is very poor, at launch or otherwise, to the point of making the game unplayable via multiplayer (Rome II: Total War and Battlefield 4), the single-player/main game is excessivly buggy, unstable or so lacking in features that it feels unfinished (Rome II and Battlefield 4 again, and Skyrim on both the PC and PS3), or the installed/required DRM blocks you from playing the game or starts messing with your computer in harmful ways. (Alpha Protocol and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory)

 

1. It's not a technical requirement for games on Steam to require Steam to be open. It's the developer's choice whether the client is required or not. You're trying to compare DRM-free games with games that may be encumbered with DRM or lazy developers using Steamworks. I'm talking about platforms, where Steam does not intrinsically serve as DRM.

2. Same as point 1. If you've downloaded a DRM-free game off of Steam, then it doesn't require logging in.

3. Let's consider Steam games to not have installers. In fact, most games don't even need installers. As for storing data offline, well, when you've downloaded your data, you're storing it. Steam does not pose any restrictions on what you can do with the data, so you're free to archive and restore it whenever you want. If you want to make an installer with the data, you're free to do so.

 

 

I agree with adding a field for distribution method. At least with the current table, those games that have Steam in the DRM column imply that the game requires Steam to play, even though the executables may not be DRM encumbered. Maybe add a few icons, for Steam DRM, CEG, and Steamworks in the case where one of those technologies forces you to have the Steam client open. It would also make tabulating DRM-free games on Steam and games with 3rd party DRM on Steam easier.

 

You're ignoring a difference between GOG's installer system and Steam's. The former only needs the installer and the data packets, and sometimes patches, to be downloaded from the site; after you're done with them, save them to an external drive for later access. (All my purchases are backed-up this way.) The latter, sans making your own offline installer after you're done, requires client installation and account access to get and, from what I've tried, place the data every time a new install is requested.

 

If it didn't serve as DRM by itself, then there would be no instances of games where, no matter how you buy it, disk-based and IndieBox included, you must use it to access your game. (I was a subscriber to IndieBox before I found out most of their game offerings require Steam to install. Even MouseCraft, which has a GOG variant.) 

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You're ignoring a difference between GOG's installer system and Steam's. The former only needs the installer and the data packets, and sometimes patches, to be downloaded from the site; after you're done with them, save them to an external drive for later access. (All my purchases are backed-up this way.) The latter, sans making your own offline installer after you're done, requires client installation and account access to get and, from what I've tried, place the data every time a new install is requested.

Restoring a Steam game was, and still is quite easy. Back up the game files and associated ACF file, and when you restore it Steam would recognize it, and the next time you launch it'll grab updates and what not. In the case of non-DRM-encumbered games you don't need to install the client to play if you have a backup. I've also heard that for certain retail games you can just drop the game files into the SteamApps folder and they would be recognized, though I have not verified this myself.

 

If it didn't serve as DRM by itself, then there would be no instances of games where, no matter how you buy it, disk-based and IndieBox included, you must use it to access your game. (I was a subscriber to IndieBox before I found out most of their game offerings require Steam to install. Even MouseCraft, which has a GOG variant.)

I'd like to remind you that my primary argument was that all of the things you are claiming is wrong with Steam (less refunds and reselling) are due to the decisions of developers and publishers rather than being intrinsically required by Steam (i.e. Valve is not trying to force Steam to be a DRM platform). I'll also reiterate that I consider distribution to be a minor factor for the end enjoyment of a game, that it does not matter how you've obtained a game so long as you are able to actually play the game.

 

If we were to argue about how distribution contributes to whether or not a platform is DRM, I'd argue GOG can be considered DRM, as you need to log in before you can download your games. As for installers, think of it this way: you need to download a program from GOG to install your game. You also need to download a program to install a game from Steam. Both deliver data, they just differ slightly in their approach. Both services require signing in, but GOG requires signing in before downloading and Steam requires so in the client. In the end, it's the exact same result for DRM-free games: you install your game, and you run your game executable. No more is required. Having Steam installed is a side effect, just as having an uninstaller created by the GOG installer is a side effect. Both do nothing to prevent you from enjoying your game. You can remove the Steam client if you wish after obtaining your DRM-free game. Having optional steps after installation does not turn a platform into DRM. Neither do the choices of developers and publishers. Yes, it may be annoying to require the installation of Steam even though you may have physical media to install from, but give me an instance where Valve told a publisher that unless they forced Steam on to their retail copies they may not put the game on Steam. It happens because developers and publishers choose so, might it be from their game using Steamworks (which naturally requires Steam for its intended functions, but of course implementing Steamworks is optional), or that it is easier to keep track of distribution with only one platform to tend to.

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One thing I would like for us to properly implement in our Availability table is the idea of the 'Install method' which I think is information people are looking for. [...] I feel like our Availability table should try to capture more of this information - perhaps we can introduce a 'Install method' column to help clarify.

 

This could be accomplished by adjusting the Steam indicator. I have made an example of this at User:Garrett/Availability/sandbox.

 

The Steam types link to what would be sections on the Steam page briefly explaining the behaviour of each type of DRM. CEG and Steam DRM currently use the same image in this example but are otherwise handled separately by the template.

 

Steam games with third-party DRM would still have that listed as usual.

 

Humble Store - some game have DRM-free standalone installers, some require Steam/Uplay, etc. to install and may/may not require Steam/Uplay to be active in order to play, some are DRM-free standalone but must have Steam/Uplay for multiplayer.

 

The DRM version does not act as an upgrade or unlock for the DRM-free installation, so this isn't a DRM issue.

 

Differences are already mentioned under availability when known.

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Restoring a Steam game was, and still is quite easy. Back up the game files and associated ACF file, and when you restore it Steam would recognize it, and the next time you launch it'll grab updates and what not. In the case of non-DRM-encumbered games you don't need to install the client to play if you have a backup. I've also heard that for certain retail games you can just drop the game files into the SteamApps folder and they would be recognized, though I have not verified this myself.

 

I'd like to remind you that my primary argument was that all of the things you are claiming is wrong with Steam (less refunds and reselling) are due to the decisions of developers and publishers rather than being intrinsically required by Steam (i.e. Valve is not trying to force Steam to be a DRM platform). I'll also reiterate that I consider distribution to be a minor factor for the end enjoyment of a game, that it does not matter how you've obtained a game so long as you are able to actually play the game.

 

If we were to argue about how distribution contributes to whether or not a platform is DRM, I'd argue GOG can be considered DRM, as you need to log in before you can download your games. As for installers, think of it this way: you need to download a program from GOG to install your game. You also need to download a program to install a game from Steam. Both deliver data, they just differ slightly in their approach. Both services require signing in, but GOG requires signing in before downloading and Steam requires so in the client. In the end, it's the exact same result for DRM-free games: you install your game, and you run your game executable. No more is required. Having Steam installed is a side effect, just as having an uninstaller created by the GOG installer is a side effect. Both do nothing to prevent you from enjoying your game. You can remove the Steam client if you wish after obtaining your DRM-free game. Having optional steps after installation does not turn a platform into DRM. Neither do the choices of developers and publishers. Yes, it may be annoying to require the installation of Steam even though you may have physical media to install from, but give me an instance where Valve told a publisher that unless they forced Steam on to their retail copies they may not put the game on Steam. It happens because developers and publishers choose so, might it be from their game using Steamworks (which naturally requires Steam for its intended functions, but of course implementing Steamworks is optional), or that it is easier to keep track of distribution with only one platform to tend to.

 

This I disagree with, full-stop: "I'd like to remind you that my primary argument was that all of the things you are claiming is wrong with Steam (less refunds and reselling) are due to the decisions of developers and publishers rather than being intrinsically required by Steam (i.e. Valve is not trying to force Steam to be a DRM platform). I'll also reiterate that I consider distribution to be a minor factor for the end enjoyment of a game, that it does not matter how you've obtained a game so long as you are able to actually play the game."

 

Refunds are something Valve will have to allow in the future, given how many games are bought and sold digitally these days, especially with them; as a retailer, even one of digital media, what they allow to be sold on their storefront is their responsibility, along with the dev/publisher of that game. If a company allows something to be sold that turns out to be faulty, after they give a refund, they take those losses to the company that made the product and get their money back. That's how all retailers work; refusing refunds, for what logic I don't know, will only be allowable for as long Valve keeps their users occupied with other things. 

 

And that's what worries me about clients as big as Steam and the parent companies behind them when they refuse customer service practices like that. I remember Gabe talking about the chances of Steam being a self-publishing service, and speaking as a self-publishing author, that's only possible in the sense of how easy it is to get something on the client to sell. So long as Valve makes a profit on things that get sold/bought with the client they made and own, they have liabilities and obligations to their users. 

 

As for reselling, the ability to refuse the reselling of digital games does not lie with the publishers/devs who use Steam. Why? Because the client is not their property. Yes, they can choose what kinds of Steam-DRM to anchor their games with beyond the Steam default of account-locking, but they're using tools Valve made and offered. If Valve did allow key reselling between users, the only way I can see publishers stopping it is a full removal of the product from the storefront, which, given Steam's widespread use these days, would cost every legitimate future buyer, and current owner, access to the product. (See also: the removal of Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics from GOG and its current availability, for those who didn't get it there, only through Steam.)

 

On that note, here's a question: Because devs/publishers can make Steam the sole way of getting their game, what assurance is there that Steam will never become a client that is a necessity for gamers to use? What's stopping publishers from pulling their games from every other service and forcing users to go through Steam, like Bethesda seems to do currently? (Look up their ESAnthology release to see what I mean.)

 

You may consider distribution to be a minor factor here, but that means you're willing to ignore how dependent PC gaming is becoming on that client/service for game access, even when it's possible to not depend on it, and when alternatives for purchasing and owning those games are not offered or allowed. That kind of thing I consider problematic and more important to pay attention to as a PC gamer versus the "goodwill" of Valve, sales, or mods. (The latter two will always be around and the initial one is subjective in my view, given what I've stated already in these posts.)

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What's stopping publishers from pulling their games from every other service and forcing users to go through Steam, like Bethesda seems to do currently? (Look up their ESAnthology release to see what I mean.)

 

The Fallout games have returned to every service except GOG, all in the form of Steam keys (where some previously had DRM-free versions). The lack of a non-Steam Skyrim for The Elder Scrolls Anthology is disappointing but at least the other games in the Anthology don't require Steam.

 

This year saw a much worse example: GamersGate replaced DRM-free downloads with Steam keys for various titles, affecting customers' accounts retroactively. The official answer is that they were contractually obligated to do so. Some publishers have since restored their downloads (e.g. Viva Media).

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The Fallout games have returned to every service except GOG, all in the form of Steam keys (where some previously had DRM-free versions). The lack of a non-Steam Skyrim for The Elder Scrolls Anthology is disappointing but at least the other games in the Anthology don't require Steam.

 

This year saw a much worse example: GamersGate replaced DRM-free downloads with Steam keys for various titles, affecting customers' accounts retroactively. The official answer is that they were contractually obligated to do so. Some publishers have since restored their downloads (e.g. Viva Media).

Don't require it, but they give a key for them anyway. (The Divinity Anthology also did that.) Never understood that logic, but it helps showcase what Steam keys are really worth. What goaded about the ES release though was they printed the floppy version of Arena to the disk versus the CD-ROM version, and the Daggerfall disk contained the DaggerfallSetup installer that someone outside the company made, likely for no profit.

 

As for the GamersGate situation, that was why I brought up that idea of companies taking away versions of games and making Steam the only option afterward. My copy of Medieval II: Total War was affected that way, so I got the UK disk instead. Well worth it, I say.

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You may consider distribution to be a minor factor here, but that means you're willing to ignore how dependent PC gaming is becoming on that client/service for game access, even when it's possible to not depend on it, and when alternatives for purchasing and owning those games are not offered or allowed. That kind of thing I consider problematic and more important to pay attention to as a PC gamer versus the "goodwill" of Valve, sales, or mods. (The latter two will always be around and the initial one is subjective in my view, given what I've stated already in these posts.)

 

Refunds and reselling is a policy problem, not a technical one. Per Wikipedia, the definition of DRM is "a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale". By the time you get to refunds and resale, usage is already possible, and isn't restricted by the lack of refunds or resale. While they may affect customer experience, they don't factor into whether a platform is intrinsically DRM.

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Indeed. Though outside of CEG you do have those edge cases that actually scan your drive for steam or use the broken hard link to steam.dll method et al.. Would be interesting to note here anyway.

 

Scan your drive for steam.. this seems worrying.. Do you have any example?

 

If you were trying to imply that having Steam running for everything you buy that uses it in some way is perfectly fine, you're displaying part of the reason why I let my account linger since 2012 and have yet to buy a game that requires Steam. This strange mindset that some gamers have that client dependency, in the case of Steam, is perfectly fine and few, if any, PC gamers should question it or refuse it.

I'm not implying that. Even though I don't really hate Steam (I appreciate some of its services) I know how bitching it can be.

For example I have this computer at school, without internet access and I'd really love to play civilization V demo.. if only it wasn't only on steam..

Still, I'll elaborate: I used that example because, sans GOG purchases, most of my PC gaming library is made up of disk-based games that can be installed on multiple PCs, and handed to friends/colleagues of mine to do likewise if they ask me to try them. (Part of being raised in the late-90's/early-00's gaming period, and being a tabletop gamer as well.) The games I own thanks to GOG are looked at the same way, and I don't consider it "piracy" to treat those purchases the same way I do my disk library. It is only seen as piracy now because of how easy that word is to toss around in relation to poor sales (I'm reminded of Greenheart Games' 'piracy experiment' every time that word comes up), how big gaming budgets have become and how dogmatic some companies are with stopping reselling, trading and borrowing versus occasionaly looking at themselves for answers why their products are not selling as well as they want, or only selling well during deep price-cut periods.

Ok, I really understand your points.

And as I said it's not like I trust companies. And even less I believe to their biased "piracy reports".

Though not being able to play the same game simultaneously by different people is not between the rights I consider fair. And I'm not talking of judjes and law. Just ideally and morally.

As for 'unfit for purpose', to me that is when the netcode is very poor, at launch or otherwise, to the point of making the game unplayable via multiplayer (Rome II: Total War and Battlefield 4), the single-player/main game is excessivly buggy, unstable or so lacking in features that it feels unfinished (Rome II and Battlefield 4 again, and Skyrim on both the PC and PS3), or the installed/required DRM blocks you from playing the game or starts messing with your computer in harmful ways. (Alpha Protocol and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory)

Oh, this is certainly something I wish to have. You can't even imagine how I felt cheated with both CoD 6 (MW2 for common people) and BF3...

 

And if there really was a problem (which even GOG has though) is this. I want to be able to resell my games, just like the good old times. And I don't have to provide reasons (even though I'd have many with those crappy examples). Money to buy other games/things is already itself a valid reason.

You're ignoring a difference between GOG's installer system and Steam's. The former only needs the installer and the data packets, and sometimes patches, to be downloaded from the site; after you're done with them, save them to an external drive for later access. (All my purchases are backed-up this way.) The latter, sans making your own offline installer after you're done, requires client installation and account access to get and, from what I've tried, place the data every time a new install is requested.

 

If it didn't serve as DRM by itself, then there would be no instances of games where, no matter how you buy it, disk-based and IndieBox included, you must use it to access your game. (I was a subscriber to IndieBox before I found out most of their game offerings require Steam to install. Even MouseCraft, which has a GOG variant.)

Again. You seem to fly over this every time.

First of all, I hope at least you understood that there are games that doesn't require steam opened (they are not DRMed).

Then, since games themselves really cannot be condemned (you can't move them whereever you desire) I suppose you are attacking Steam as distribution platform, that indeed requires their client to do so.

But if we are looking for right managements techniques applied before even the game is ours (i.e. downloaded) the account must be considered as one (similarly to CD-key)

 

In this case, though, the problem is that neither GOG (which I myself find almost perfect) is flawless.

Thus, for ease's sake I'd just focus on DRM applied to the game

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Scan your drive for steam.. this seems worrying.. Do you have any example?

 

I don't have a "scan your drive" example, but an example of a hard link to Steam.dll is Uplink, where they have a separate DLL solely for the purpose of determining if you own the game, and does the check through Steam.dll. (Note this game was pre-Steamworks.)

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Refunds and reselling is a policy problem, not a technical one. Per Wikipedia, the definition of DRM is "a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale". By the time you get to refunds and resale, usage is already possible, and isn't restricted by the lack of refunds or resale. While they may affect customer experience, they don't factor into whether a platform is intrinsically DRM.

 

The DRM tools Steam has were made by Valve, and are offered by them to whoever uses their service/client. The definition you used doesn't account for that, and it gives me the impression that you're implying Valve's approach to the DRM they make and offer should not be related to their client. If the Steam-DRM systems like CEG and Steamworks were made by a third-party that Valve had endorsed while solely operating their client service, you'd have a point by using that definition.

 

The '...after sale' part of that definition also holds true with Steam sans the DRM. If the client wasn't DRM by itself, it would never be necessary for any PCGamingWiki contributor to type the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the table showcasing where to buy these games digitally.

 

Lastly, if the platform is not DRM by itself, then what is preventing Valve, a very well-known middleman company that is profiting from games being sold on a service they own, operate, and produce tools for, from making refunds a company and client standard like GOG and Origin do? They will turn down games from going onto their service, as TechRaptor just revealed while I was typing this up -- http://techraptor.net/content/valve-removes-hatred-steam-greenlight -- so they have final say over what goes onto their service.

 

I'm not implying that. Even though I don't really hate Steam (I appreciate some of its services) I know how bitching it can be.

For example I have this computer at school, without internet access and I'd really love to play civilization V demo.. if only it wasn't only on steam..

 

----------------

 

Ok, I really understand your points.

And as I said it's not like I trust companies. And even less I believe to their biased "piracy reports".

Though not being able to play the same game simultaneously by different people is not between the rights I consider fair. And I'm not talking of judjes and law. Just ideally and morally.

 

--------------------

 

Oh, this is certainly something I wish to have. You can't even imagine how I felt cheated with both CoD 6 (MW2 for common people) and BF3...

 

And if there really was a problem (which even GOG has though) is this. I want to be able to resell my games, just like the good old times. And I don't have to provide reasons (even though I'd have many with those crappy examples). Money to buy other games/things is already itself a valid reason.

 

------------------

 

Again. You seem to fly over this every time.

First of all, I hope at least you understood that there are games that doesn't require steam opened (they are not DRMed).

Then, since games themselves really cannot be condemned (you can't move them whereever you desire) I suppose you are attacking Steam as distribution platform, that indeed requires their client to do so.

But if we are looking for right managements techniques applied before even the game is ours (i.e. downloaded) the account must be considered as one (similarly to CD-key)

 

--------------

 

In this case, though, the problem is that neither GOG (which I myself find almost perfect) is flawless.

Thus, for ease's sake I'd just focus on DRM applied to the game

 

Me, I don't trust one company, irrespective of how others may interpret things, becoming a majority distributor of so much media in one entertainment sector. (The Civ V demo caught me by surprise too, but I've played enough to not want any of Firaxis's new stuff, and Valve having such control over so much gaming data...what assurance is there that their users are not at risk of being burned en-masse by something they chose to do?)

 

As I've pointed out already, the DRM being applied to many Steam games, beyond the user account alone, are Valve's own creations. As such, I don't consider publisher/dev choice about whether to use Steam DRM or not to be an excusal of the Steam client itself as not DRM. If it never was DRM by its lonesome, buyers would have a choice about where to download games they buy on other sites and there would be no reason for PCGamingWiki to have to display the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the Availability charts.

 

That phrase is there because the respective publisher/dev make the choice to make buyers dependent on Steam, despite the many other options available for distribution, DRM-free or not.

 

As for reselling, as much as companies would like to say otherwise, the less ability consumers have to sell off/get credit for things they don't want anymore, the less, on average, we'll be willing to spend on these things because there's more risk involved in buying things you can't ever resell, much less get refunded for. And let's not forget how common digital distribution is becoming in gaming, so if these two things continue to conflict like this, well, we'll continue to see more homogenization and yearly releases.

 

On that note, I find it very unsettling that the gaming industry is one where it's normal among major game makers/sellers to think that the idea of allowing reselling, something which has been allowed for decades in gaming, will harm them. It will if they're offering products that don't work or have poor value to many of their potential buyers. That's how competition works in the free market system of New versus Used/Second-Hand.

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The DRM tools Steam has were made by Valve, and are offered by them to whoever uses their service/client. The definition you used doesn't account for that, and it gives me the impression that you're implying Valve's approach to the DRM they make and offer should not be related to their client. If the Steam-DRM systems like CEG and Steamworks were made by a third-party that Valve had endorsed while solely operating their client service, you'd have a point by using that definition.

That is what I am claiming. Imagine that no one chose to use Steam DRM, CEG, and third party DRM, and all those who integrate Steamworks does so such that the games will still function fully without Steam. In this case, how would Steam differ from GOG? There is nothing in the client that forces programs to run under it.

 

The '...after sale' part of that definition also holds true with Steam sans the DRM. If the client wasn't DRM by itself, it would never be necessary for any PCGamingWiki contributor to type the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the table showcasing where to buy these games digitally.

OK. So what if a game was only downloadable via GOG, and no matter where you've bought it you only get a GOG key? Does that make GOG DRM? Or maybe a developer only wanted you to download a game from their website, regardless of where you bought it from, but once you've downloaded it you can do whatever you want with the game. Does that make the developer's site DRM? The Steam client is part of the delivery process, just like the website you try to download a game from. How a game is distributed is the choice of the publisher. In fact, Valve has explicitly stated that they do not require exclusive distribution rights:

 

Steamworks - Frequently Asked Questions

8. Do you require exclusivity for titles you sell on Steam?

We think you should get your game in front of as many people as you can, therefore we do not require exclusivity on titles.

 

Lastly, if the platform is not DRM by itself, then what is preventing Valve, a very well-known middleman company that is profiting from games being sold on a service they own, operate, and produce tools for, from making refunds a company and client standard like GOG and Origin do? They will turn down games from going onto their service, as TechRaptor just revealed while I was typing this up -- http://techraptor.net/content/valve-removes-hatred-steam-greenlight -- so they have final say over what goes onto their service.

 

If you look at retail stores and their policies regarding returns of software products, many of them will have the condition that such products may only be returned if unopened, and if opened, only exchangeable for the same product. You can't return games once you potentially had access to the data. Would you say the store is levying DRM on you? Again, it's more of a policy issue than a technological one. A distributor has every right to determine what they will and will not distribute, just as a store can choose to not carry certain products. Which games Steam carries is unrelated to whether it is DRM.

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That is what I am claiming. Imagine that no one chose to use Steam DRM, CEG, and third party DRM, and all those who integrate Steamworks does so such that the games will still function fully without Steam. In this case, how would Steam differ from GOG? There is nothing in the client that forces programs to run under it.

 

And yet in a majority of cases, including DRM-free games like Crusader Kings II, you're funneled to the service to get what you paid for. Until that changes, Valve's client is very much DRM by itself.

 

More so because, in cases like Crusader Kings II and Medieval II: Total War, the respective publishers have retroactively forced sellers to change the game listings to Steam-only, even though the games are DRM-free otherwise.

 

OK. So what if a game was only downloadable via GOG, and no matter where you've bought it you only get a GOG key? Does that make GOG DRM? Or maybe a developer only wanted you to download a game from their website, regardless of where you bought it from, but once you've downloaded it you can do whatever you want with the game. Does that make the developer's site DRM? The Steam client is part of the delivery process, just like the website you try to download a game from. How a game is distributed is the choice of the publisher. In fact, Valve has explicitly stated that they do not require exclusive distribution rights:

 

Steamworks - Frequently Asked Questions

 

Certainly not, like I said back here: http://community.pcgamingwiki.com/topic/1075-analysis-why-steam-isnt-drm/?p=4896 - " The account-locking alone is not enough to call something DRM in my view." It's when your choice of how to get what you buy is restricted to a single client, when the game is DRM-free otherwise. (The FAQs from Steam don't help your case here because the exclusivity is put in place by devs/publishers, hence they're making the Steam client, and your account, into DRM.)

 

I make that case for Steam and not for GOG precisely because GOG's installers and data can be stored offline, recovered at any time if stored this way, and access post-install is never limited by a client account log-in. Also posted back here was my reasoning for saying that: http://community.pcgamingwiki.com/topic/1075-analysis-why-steam-isnt-drm/?p=4910

 

If you look at retail stores and their policies regarding returns of software products, many of them will have the condition that such products may only be returned if unopened, and if opened, only exchangeable for the same product. You can't return games once you potentially had access to the data. Would you say the store is levying DRM on you? Again, it's more of a policy issue than a technological one. A distributor has every right to determine what they will and will not distribute, just as a store can choose to not carry certain products. Which games Steam carries is unrelated to whether it is DRM.

 

Considering I used to work for Gamestop, we made exceptions very rarely in terms of PC game returns, but I worked for them from 2008 onwards, when you could make that case about software returns more easily. Thing is, that was before Steam was a standard on PC game releases, and after we had stopped taking PC game trades. (They didn't sell very well, even if they only needed the CD Key, so we stopped taking trades of them.) 

 

As I've said multiple times already, if Steam is the only way to get access to what you buy in a majority of cases, regardless of how much DRM there is in the data you get, the client itself is DRM. It may not be Valve's doing, but it is someone's and that makes the client a form of DRM.

 

-----

 

Before you respond further, think about this: Let's say both Steam and GOG are to shut down in a week. Now, considering that, which service lets you keep the full installers of the games you bought from them somewhere offline? Not data packets. Installers. 

 

That distinction matters because when you are dependent on Steam, which loads data for you in specific locations as a form of installation, for a majority of your games, that means you're dependent on them for access to your legal purchases every time a new install is requested. If Steam were to shut down, it would be very difficult to move your games to another system, because the way you got them was with a piece of software Valve made that did the installs, not the installer that came with the game itself.

 

And I've yet to see them address that fact, which is very worrying with how much money they pull in with that service.

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The case I'm making is that the actions of developers and publishers make Steam appear DRM-like, but Steam itself does not intrinsically contain any DRM restrictions. Hence why I didn't factor in distribution, because that is still a publisher decision and not something required by Steam itself. If the Steam client itself actively prevents you from installing games purchased from non-Steam sources and also actively prevents you from attempting refunds or resale, then I'll factor those into DRM. Technically Steam is not DRM, and people should stop claiming it is. If someone has an issue with DRM or distribution, they should take it up with developers and publishers, because it was their choice.

 

Before you respond further, think about this: Let's say both Steam and GOG are to shut down in a week. Now, considering that, which service lets you keep the full installers of the games you bought from them somewhere offline? Not data packets. Installers. 

 

That distinction matters because when you are dependent on Steam, which loads data for you in specific locations as a form of installation, for a majority of your games, that means you're dependent on them for access to your legal purchases every time a new install is requested. If Steam were to shut down, it would be very difficult to move your games to another system, because the way you got them was with a piece of software Valve made that did the installs, not the installer that came with the game itself.

 

And I've yet to see them address that fact, which is very worrying with how much money they pull in with that service.

 

I don't see why you make a distinction between an installer and installed game data. Most games these days don't require specific installers to be run before they can be played. As long as their files are available, they can be run. It is an unfair comparison to make between GOG and Steam because Steam does not use distinct installers. After a game has been downloaded (and in the case of GOG, installed), the files can be moved around freely unless the game depends on installed Registry entries or files in esoteric locations. In this case, where it is somewhat more difficult to find with a GOG installer, Steam has the necessary install script put alongside the game files in a human-readable form. You can easily move a game to another machine, read through the install script, and add whatever is necessary to make the game run. Steam does not prevent you from accessing your installed game files. In fact, there is a button in each game's properties box that takes you directly to the game files. If Steam was to shut down in a week, I'd download all of my games and archive them. If I want to play them, I'll find a Steam emulator to replace Steamworks' dependency on the Steam client. If the game was DRM free, I'd still be able to play it just fine, as if I got it from GOG (and for games with Steam DRM but not Steamworks, I've got a private solution for that).

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The case I'm making is that the actions of developers and publishers make Steam appear DRM-like, but Steam itself does not intrinsically contain any DRM restrictions. Hence why I didn't factor in distribution, because that is still a publisher decision and not something required by Steam itself. If the Steam client itself actively prevents you from installing games purchased from non-Steam sources and also actively prevents you from attempting refunds or resale, then I'll factor those into DRM. Technically Steam is not DRM, and people should stop claiming it is. If someone has an issue with DRM or distribution, they should take it up with developers and publishers, because it was their choice.

 

I prefer to simply not buy a game that forces me to use a service I'd rather not use. Games are not essential to own, and if refunds remain off the table in spite of numerous buggy releases, better to avoid spending the money at all, I say.

 

As for the rest of this part, if Valve was not the creator of the DRM-systems Steam is know for, and if Steam wasn't being used more and more as the sole place to get so much game access, despite some games being DRM-free otherwise, I'd agree with you. Until such time, I have to consider the service, which is software that must be installed on your PC, as much DRM as Origin and uPlay.

 

I don't see why you make a distinction between an installer and installed game data. Most games these days don't require specific installers to be run before they can be played. As long as their files are available, they can be run. It is an unfair comparison to make between GOG and Steam because Steam does not use distinct installers. After a game has been downloaded (and in the case of GOG, installed), the files can be moved around freely unless the game depends on installed Registry entries or files in esoteric locations. In this case, where it is somewhat more difficult to find with a GOG installer, Steam has the necessary install script put alongside the game files in a human-readable form. You can easily move a game to another machine, read through the install script, and add whatever is necessary to make the game run. Steam does not prevent you from accessing your installed game files. In fact, there is a button in each game's properties box that takes you directly to the game files. If Steam was to shut down in a week, I'd download all of my games and archive them. If I want to play them, I'll find a Steam emulator to replace Steamworks' dependency on the Steam client. If the game was DRM free, I'd still be able to play it just fine, as if I got it from GOG (and for games with Steam DRM but not Steamworks, I've got a private solution for that).

 

I make the distinction because there is one to be made, and it means the difference between depending on a client more than once versus downloading my purchases once and using them as I need offline; ignoring the install script possibility, specific installers are not used as much now due to widespread client use, and those software programs can be considered installers themselves.

 

What's the major distinction? Steam we don't own. GOG purchases? Those we own, and they're as close to disk-based purchases, without further tampering, as anyone can get in digital-only form.

 

Your mention of 'registry' files is another fair distinction between these two, as is the idea of having to 'emulate' Steam to allow playing a game. In the latter case, you're circumventing something that, without access to the emulator or the client, would leave your game unusable. (DOSBox, even though GOG games install it in many instances, I don't count in this regard because the extent of its use is to get old games running on modern systems.)

 

As for "Steam does not prevent you from accessing your installed game files," it never will have the capacity to do this unless Steam all-of-a-sudden allowed Valve to remotely restrict your control over those files, so it's a moot point to attempt to make.

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The case I'm making is that the actions of developers and publishers make Steam appear DRM-like, but Steam itself does not intrinsically contain any DRM restrictions.

 

You don't make something 'appear DRM-like'. Either it is or it isn't. And in this case, it is. If it's the choice of the developer or Valve (who created the service and respective tools) is completely irrelevant.

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 And yet in a majority of cases, including DRM-free games like Crusader Kings II, you're funneled to the service to get what you paid for. Until that changes, Valve's client is very much DRM by itself.

 

I make that case for Steam and not for GOG precisely because GOG's installers and data can be stored offline, recovered at any time if stored this way, and access post-install is never limited by a client account log-in. Also posted back here was my reasoning for saying that: http://community.pcgamingwiki.com/topic/1075-analysis-why-steam-isnt-drm/?p=4910

 

 

 

As I've said multiple times already, if Steam is the only way to get access to what you buy in a majority of cases, regardless of how much DRM there is in the data you get, the client itself is DRM. It may not be Valve's doing, but it is someone's and that makes the client a form of DRM.

 

-----

 

Before you respond further, think about this: Let's say both Steam and GOG are to shut down in a week. Now, considering that, which service lets you keep the full installers of the games you bought from them somewhere offline? Not data packets. Installers. 

I consider that I would still be able to play my games and transfer them between my computers.

With GOG, of course, this applies to all games. With Steam only with those publishers allowed DRM-free versions on the platform.

Does it mean that Steam itself is a DRM? No as usual, there will always be good publishers and rogue publishers.

 

The DRM tools Steam has were made by Valve, and are offered by them to whoever uses their service/client. The definition you used doesn't account for that, and it gives me the impression that you're implying Valve's approach to the DRM they make and offer should not be related to their client. If the Steam-DRM systems like CEG and Steamworks were made by a third-party that Valve had endorsed while solely operating their client service, you'd have a point by using that definition.

 

As I've pointed out already, the DRM being applied to many Steam games, beyond the user account alone, are Valve's own creations.

So.. if DRM was applied to few games could a rose it be called differently? :/

That's not the point. The point is that nobody is enforcing anybody.

 

The '...after sale' part of that definition also holds true with Steam sans the DRM. If the client wasn't DRM by itself, it would never be necessary for any PCGamingWiki contributor to type the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the table showcasing where to buy these games digitally.
 
As such, I don't consider publisher/dev choice about whether to use Steam DRM or not to be an excusal of the Steam client itself as not DRM. If it never was DRM by its lonesome, buyers would have a choice about where to download games they buy on other sites and there would be no reason for PCGamingWiki to have to display the phrase "All versions require Steam" underneath the Availability charts.
 
That phrase is there because the respective publisher/dev make the choice to make buyers dependent on Steam, despite the many other options available for distribution, DRM-free or not.

Developers are lazy. That's why almost everything tends to be standardized (be it the physics/audio engine or the multiplayer framework)

Now, tell me that this even applies to games like Trine.

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I make the distinction because there is one to be made, and it means the difference between depending on a client more than once versus downloading my purchases once and using them as I need offline; ignoring the install script possibility, specific installers are not used as much now due to widespread client use, and those software programs can be considered installers themselves.

Installers are not used as much because they're becoming unnecessary. There are numerous games I downloaded from ShinyLoot that merely came in a .zip file with the game files.

 

What's the major distinction? Steam we don't own. GOG purchases? Those we own, and they're as close to disk-based purchases, without further tampering, as anyone can get in digital-only form.

 

Your mention of 'registry' files is another fair distinction between these two, as is the idea of having to 'emulate' Steam to allow playing a game. In the latter case, you're circumventing something that, without access to the emulator or the client, would leave your game unusable. (DOSBox, even though GOG games install it in many instances, I don't count in this regard because the extent of its use is to get old games running on modern systems.)

We were talking about DRM-free games, right? You can only make the comparison while talking about DRM-free games, where your argument about Steam emulation doesn't apply. As for games with Steamworks/DRM, I've already said that was the developer's choice, and not anything forced by Steam. And it's not as if games from GOG can't depend on Registry entries. I'd prefer to know what's getting installed rather than with an installer hiding it from me.

 

As for "Steam does not prevent you from accessing your installed game files," it never will have the capacity to do this unless Steam all-of-a-sudden allowed Valve to remotely restrict your control over those files, so it's a moot point to attempt to make.

That was in response to "That distinction matters because when you are dependent on Steam, which loads data for you in specific locations as a form of installation, for a majority of your games, that means you're dependent on them for access to your legal purchases every time a new install is requested." It sounded as if you were claiming that it would somehow be difficult to obtain and transfer the game files once they were downloaded.

 

You don't make something 'appear DRM-like'. Either it is or it isn't. And in this case, it is. If it's the choice of the developer or Valve (who created the service and respective tools) is completely irrelevant.

There's no technical reason for Steam to be DRM, and it wouldn't be if developers would behave. Compare that to common DRM solutions, where their entire purpose is to control the use of the software they protect.

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There's no technical reason for Steam to be DRM, and it wouldn't be if developers would behave. Compare that to common DRM solutions, where their entire purpose is to control the use of the software they protect.

 

Same thing here. It's not like Steam informs or gives you a choice for an actual DRM-free download not dependable on its client and/or servers for the games some declare to be DRM-free there. It is DRM. Blaming it on the devs, Valve or both doesn't change that fact.

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Same thing here. It's not like Steam informs or gives you a choice for an actual DRM-free download not dependable on its client and/or servers for the games some declare to be DRM-free there. It is DRM. Blaming it on the devs, Valve or both doesn't change that fact.

 

Sorry, I'm having trouble understanding you. Are you saying Steam should be considered DRM because even for DRM-free games distributed on Steam you can only download them with the client?

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Sorry, I'm having trouble understanding you. Are you saying Steam should be considered DRM because even for DRM-free games distributed on Steam you can only download them with the client?

 

I'm saying that the requirement of using their client to download/install the game you rented bought is DRM since it's a form of control over the use of the software you paid for. The fact that they don't offer a simple and clean way to actually download a DRM-free installer/files is proof that they are not ignorant or innocent about this issue.

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I consider that I would still be able to play my games and transfer them between my computers.

With GOG, of course, this applies to all games. With Steam only with those publishers allowed DRM-free versions on the platform.

Does it mean that Steam itself is a DRM? No as usual, there will always be good publishers and rogue publishers.

 

You're ignoring the fact that access to your legal purchases on Steam can be yanked at any time by request of the companies that put them on there, which is control of product post-point-of-sale, a DRM quality, and there are cases of games on GamersGate and other sites that are retroactively made Steam dependent.

 

Need I bring up Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics and what happened during and after the IP transfer to Bethesda, or how Medieval II: Total War, Crusader Kings II, and others are no longer being sold non-Steam-dependent on GamersGate anymore?

 

So.. if DRM was applied to few games could a rose it be called differently? :/

That's not the point. The point is that nobody is enforcing anybody.

 

And yet it is becoming more necessary with each passing year, turning Steam more into a digital monopoly despite the existence of GOG. And that leads to...

 

Developers are lazy. That's why almost everything tends to be standardized (be it the physics/audio engine or the multiplayer framework)

Now, tell me that this even applies to games like Trine.

 

No, they're not. (Bethesda notwithstanding, obviously.) One, or many, within the dev/publishing companies that release Steam-only games have to make a conscience choice to, starting from a DRM-free build, only offer the game through one client and then distribute keys to other sellers. That's not laziness, that's business choice, and by going that route, yes, the client becomes the DRM because it's the only software through which you're allowed access your legal purchase.

 

Because I'm about to become a self-publishing author, here's a similar situation using that media field: If the only way I made my book available for sale was through Kindle, Amazon's service, and I didn't offer it on other services, offer physical copies, or DRM-free downloads elsewhere, that would be the same situation. Kindle may not be DRM by itself, but by forcing buyers to use it, however popular it is, I've made it into DRM by making it the sole way to get and read legal copies. (Kindle also allows removal of e-books post-sale, even from the devices they're loaded on. How's that for unsettling?)

 

Now, if these dev/publishing companies outsourced their game creation and distribution choices to a third party, kind of like what Gearbox did with A:CM, and then accepted whatever they were given back, you'd be right. Their decisions were not made by them in those instances, but I've yet to hear of that kind of thing.

 

Installers are not used as much because they're becoming unnecessary. There are numerous games I downloaded from ShinyLoot that merely came in a .zip file with the game files.

 

I'm aware, and Humble does this sometimes. Them I have no issue with because, post-sale, we own that game data and I make a habit of backing up my DRM-free Humble purchases.

 

We were talking about DRM-free games, right? You can only make the comparison while talking about DRM-free games, where your argument about Steam emulation doesn't apply. As for games with Steamworks/DRM, I've already said that was the developer's choice, and not anything forced by Steam. And it's not as if games from GOG can't depend on Registry entries. I'd prefer to know what's getting installed rather than with an installer hiding it from me.

 

No, we were discussing the differences between the Steam client, which does a number of things related to game access and installation, and GOG's installer+data packets model, which is a digital-only variant of disk-based installers.

 

The Steam emulation point applies in this situation because it's something that, given the loss of the client that some games depended on, would have to be worked around to let you use what was a legal purchase. 

 

As for that last pair of sentences, the initial release of Defender's Quest on GOG, which installed Adobe Air to the dismay of a number of buyers, would be an example in favor of what you're claiming. GOG pulled the game and the devs fixed it within a few days, but as for me, I've seen no instances of registry files being added by games I buy from GOG. 

 

That was in response to "That distinction matters because when you are dependent on Steam, which loads data for you in specific locations as a form of installation, for a majority of your games, that means you're dependent on them for access to your legal purchases every time a new install is requested." It sounded as if you were claiming that it would somehow be difficult to obtain and transfer the game files once they were downloaded.

 

And in turn, are you claiming that this is possible with all games offered by Steam? If so, then why the dependency on the client in the first place, or your statement that you might need to emulate Steam if the client suddenly became useless?

 

There's no technical reason for Steam to be DRM, and it wouldn't be if developers would behave. Compare that to common DRM solutions, where their entire purpose is to control the use of the software they protect.

 

Aside from what I've already pointed out in this post, among others, it sounds like you're claiming with this that because Steam is a client gateway to data you legally purchased, rather than software built into a game's code, it's distinguishable from DRM like SecuROM. 

 

That logic, if true, doesn't work here. Steam, as I said, lets devs/publishers remove game access remotely at their decision, or Valve's, regardless of the use of Steamworks, CEG and the like, and it is not comparable to a similar situation on GOG. Why?

 

Because your account is not a listing of data you can own, like a disk, at all times post-sale after one download. This is why I make the distinction between Steam's client and GOG's installers, because GOG's installers are, given the availability of everything you need to make them work, self-contained. In contrast to Steam downloads. 

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I'm saying that the requirement of using their client to download/install the game you rented bought is DRM since it's a form of control over the use of the software you paid for. The fact that they don't offer a simple and clean way to actually download a DRM-free installer/files is proof that they are not ignorant or innocent about this issue.

The fact is... that you would have a real problem just whenever steam would be down.

This may happen with every website in the world. Including GOG.

 

Now, you have installers ok. But with steam (assuming you did installed/downloaded) the game you would still have your files.

If you didn't downloaded the game.. well, why we should assume that you had done with GOG?

 

No, they're not. (Bethesda notwithstanding, obviously.) One, or many, within the dev/publishing companies that release Steam-only games have to make a conscience choice to, starting from a DRM-free build, only offer the game through one client and then distribute keys to other sellers. That's not laziness, that's business choice, and by going that route, yes, the client becomes the DRM because it's the only software through which you're allowed access your legal purchase.

Yes they are. Trine is a damn example of how to publish a game on different platforms.

Whilst even a crappy game as GTA:SA is an example of DRM-free game on steam.

And yes, I'm able to play it without steam opened. And yes, technically afaik it's the first ever drm-free version of the game. And it's on the Valve's platform.

 

That logic, if true, doesn't work here. Steam, as I said, lets devs/publishers remove game access remotely at their decision, or Valve's, regardless of the use of Steamworks, CEG and the like, and it is not comparable to a similar situation on GOG. Why?

 

Because your account is not a listing of data you can own, like a disk, at all times post-sale after one download. This is why I make the distinction between Steam's client and GOG's installers, because GOG's installers are, given the availability of everything you need to make them work, self-contained. In contrast to Steam downloads.

You know what "I can play certain games with client closed" means, right?

And you understand that you are free as wind to copy wherever you want the damn installed files.. right?

 

The Steam emulation point applies in this situation because it's something that, given the loss of the client that some games depended on, would have to be worked around to let you use what was a legal purchase.

Case closed.

Steam badness depends on whoever publish the game

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I'm saying that the requirement of using their client to download/install the game you rented bought is DRM since it's a form of control over the use of the software you paid for. The fact that they don't offer a simple and clean way to actually download a DRM-free installer/files is proof that they are not ignorant or innocent about this issue.

 

How does downloading from a website differ from downloading from a client? In the end you still get your game files. It's not like Steam prevents you from downloading your games once you've purchased them.

 

You're ignoring the fact that access to your legal purchases on Steam can be yanked at any time by request of the companies that put them on there, which is control of product post-point-of-sale, a DRM quality, and there are cases of games on GamersGate and other sites that are retroactively made Steam dependent.

 

Need I bring up Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics and what happened during and after the IP transfer to Bethesda, or how Medieval II: Total War, Crusader Kings II, and others are no longer being sold non-Steam-dependent on GamersGate anymore?

And does Steam prevent you from playing Fallout 1 and 2 (obtained from Steam) if you don't have the client running? Reports around the Internet say no. If you have the game installed before it was pulled and it contained no additional DRM, you could still continue playing it. In this case Steam did not pose any additional restrictions on what you can do with the game, merely having downloads redirected through the client.

 

The Steam emulation point applies in this situation because it's something that, given the loss of the client that some games depended on, would have to be worked around to let you use what was a legal purchase.

If any emulation was necessary, it was because of developer/publisher choices. Does that make Steam inherently DRM-encumbered?

 

And in turn, are you claiming that this is possible with all games offered by Steam? If so, then why the dependency on the client in the first place, or your statement that you might need to emulate Steam if the client suddenly became useless?

Of course it's possible to transfer the data with any game on Steam. They're just files. I lay no claim to whether or not they can be played without Steam, as any such dependency is by developer's/publisher's choice.

 

Aside from what I've already pointed out in this post, among others, it sounds like you're claiming with this that because Steam is a client gateway to data you legally purchased, rather than software built into a game's code, it's distinguishable from DRM like SecuROM.

That is correct. There is no requirement for a game's code to be modified to work with Steam, while for other DRM solutions the code must be modified for the DRM solution to be used. To clarify what I mean by modifying game code, I don't mean modifying the source code, but the compiled code. Many DRM systems work by modifying the compiled executable so that the original code is obfuscated and requires the DRM solution to run. On Steam, such modifications are not required unless the developer chooses to use Steam DRM, CEG, or another DRM solution.

 

That logic, if true, doesn't work here. Steam, as I said, lets devs/publishers remove game access remotely at their decision, or Valve's, regardless of the use of Steamworks, CEG and the like, and it is not comparable to a similar situation on GOG. Why?

 

Because your account is not a listing of data you can own, like a disk, at all times post-sale after one download. This is why I make the distinction between Steam's client and GOG's installers, because GOG's installers are, given the availability of everything you need to make them work, self-contained. In contrast to Steam downloads.

Note I keep on using the qualifier "DRM-free". There is no analog on GOG for Steam games with DRM, and any comparison between games that contain DRM and those that do not will be unbalanced. If we only focus on DRM-free titles, all such downloads on Steam are also self-contained. Although you may need to do some installation steps manually, there are no requirements for an external program to conduct that installation. For any game with DRM, there is no requirement for them to have DRM directly imposed by Steam. If Valve all of a sudden required every game on Steam to be DRM free, no changes whatsoever will need to be made to the Steam client because it is not DRM or have an inherent need to enforce DRM.

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This may happen with every website in the world. Including GOG.

 

Now, you have installers ok. But with steam (assuming you did installed/downloaded) the game you would still have your files.

If you didn't downloaded the game.. well, why we should assume that you had done with GOG?

 

Difference being if you have everything you purchased from GOG stored offline, the site going down wouldn't hurt you. You have the installers and the data packets. If Steam had this happen, every game you'd yet to download, or that you lost crucial files for, would be lost to you. Both services need servers for data access by users, it's true, but one needs to install a client to allow you access while the other only demands the installer and data downloads from their website.

 

Make sense?

 

Yes they are. Trine is a damn example of how to publish a game on different platforms.

Whilst even a crappy game as GTA:SA is an example of DRM-free game on steam.

And yes, I'm able to play it without steam opened. And yes, technically afaik it's the first ever drm-free version of the game. And it's on the Valve's platform.

 

http://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Trine - And yet, looking at this site's entry for it, and GameCopyWorld's, Trine has Steam DRM for that platform and SecuROM through retail. The Desura and Humble stores both funnel buyers to Steam, even though Desura is also a client service and Humble at one point in the past allowed a DRM-free download directly from them.

 

The San Andreas example you had is also the only example of the Steam version being patched to DRM-free that I can find, whereas I have named at least five games which have done the opposite.

 

You know what "I can play certain games with client closed" means, right?

And you understand that you are free as wind to copy wherever you want the damn installed files.. right?

 

It means you're willing to not acknowledge this part of what you said: "...with client closed." That distinction shouldn't be as necessary as it is.

 

Case closed.

Steam badness depends on whoever publish the game

 

If that was true, this site would not have a DRM listing within the first few lines of text on this page: http://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Steam

 

By making it essential, despite DRM-free games being sold on it, the client becomes the DRM. It's extra software that needs to be installed and log-ins processed through, just like Origin and uPlay. (Desura never requires client execution after your games are installed with it, so I make an exception for it here.)

 

How does downloading from a website differ from downloading from a client? In the end you still get your game files. It's not like Steam prevents you from downloading your games once you've purchased them.

 

I think that first part is obvious, but: Direct download versus third-party software installation for access. The last part is hyperbole, and non-sensical; What Steam, like Origin and uPlay, can do is block you from playing games installed on your hard drive without the client running and your account accessed.

 

And does Steam prevent you from playing Fallout 1 and 2 (obtained from Steam) if you don't have the client running? Reports around the Internet say no. If you have the game installed before it was pulled and it contained no additional DRM, you could still continue playing it. In this case Steam did not pose any additional restrictions on what you can do with the game, merely having downloads redirected through the client.

 

Steam doesn't in their cases, so what's stopping Bethesda from restoring GOG's ability to sell the version they already had? If Steam alone isn't DRM, this shouldn't be happening.

 

If any emulation was necessary, it was because of developer/publisher choices. Does that make Steam inherently DRM-encumbered?

 

Are you allowed to download games that need it without the client installed, yes or no?

 

Of course it's possible to transfer the data with any game on Steam. They're just files. I lay no claim to whether or not they can be played without Steam, as any such dependency is by developer's/publisher's choice.

 

As I said, if you have no choice but to use the client, even though the game is DRM-free, the client is the DRM.

 

That is correct. There is no requirement for a game's code to be modified to work with Steam, while for other DRM solutions the code must be modified for the DRM solution to be used. To clarify what I mean by modifying game code, I don't mean modifying the source code, but the compiled code. Many DRM systems work by modifying the compiled executable so that the original code is obfuscated and requires the DRM solution to run. On Steam, such modifications are not required unless the developer chooses to use Steam DRM, CEG, or another DRM solution.

 

It's unnecessary software in either case, unlike drivers and the like, and it's being made into necessary software more and more each year, despite the existence of GOG, Desura, Humble, GamersGate and DRM-free games being sold with it.

 

Note I keep on using the qualifier "DRM-free". There is no analog on GOG for Steam games with DRM, and any comparison between games that contain DRM and those that do not will be unbalanced. If we only focus on DRM-free titles, all such downloads on Steam are also self-contained. Although you may need to do some installation steps manually, there are no requirements for an external program to conduct that installation. For any game with DRM, there is no requirement for them to have DRM directly imposed by Steam. If Valve all of a sudden required every game on Steam to be DRM free, no changes whatsoever will need to be made to the Steam client because it is not DRM or have an inherent need to enforce DRM.

 

Same as the response I gave two instances above. If we always had a choice about how to get games we buy, and were not so dependent as a PC market on this one service, I'd agree with you.

 

I'm not one to allow Valve's service leeway here; they control a lot of game and data access, by choice or not, so they have market control. And, frankly, I don't trust a sole company in their position with digital distribution as widespread as it is. 

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By making it essential, despite DRM-free games being sold on it, the client becomes the DRM. It's extra software that needs to be installed and log-ins processed through, just like Origin and uPlay. (Desura never requires client execution after your games are installed with it, so I make an exception for it here.)

 

Steam doesn't in their cases, so what's stopping Bethesda from restoring GOG's ability to sell the version they already had? If Steam alone isn't DRM, this shouldn't be happening.

 

Are you allowed to download games that need it without the client installed, yes or no?

 

As I said, if you have no choice but to use the client, even though the game is DRM-free, the client is the DRM.

 

It's unnecessary software in either case, unlike drivers and the like, and it's being made into necessary software more and more each year, despite the existence of GOG, Desura, Humble, GamersGate and DRM-free games being sold with it.

 

There's nothing stopping Bethesda from pulling their games from Steam and forcing everyone to use GOG either. That still leaves you with reduced choices of where to purchase from, but would you complain about it? You're basically simplifying to any unnecessary software you are required to use at some point is DRM. By that logic, what if there was a site that offered DRM-free downloads, but only worked with Firefox? Would you consider Firefox to be DRM? What if the site required you to use a download manager, but after downloading, didn't need to be running to play the game. Is that DRM? Now, what if some game developers decided it'd be cool if the download manager was running while the game is running, and for some reason wouldn't allow the game to run if the download manager wasn't running? Now we're approaching games encumbered with DRM, but who's imposing the DRM? Not the download site, for certain. I'll reiterate, Steam is a platform that has no inherent DRM requirements, and developer/publisher choices do not change that fact. Developers and publishers are free to add DRM to their games on Steam; that still doesn't change the fact that none was required in the first place. If developers and publishers decided to distribute only via Steam, that's their freedom; no one is forcing them to distribute solely through Steam.

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