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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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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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