Ultra Expensive HTC Vive Pro Out Soon

It’s $1100 for a complete set with the lighthouses, controllers, and all, or $800 if you want to reuse an original Vive setup. You get higher resolution screens, a better headstrap, headphones. Kyle Orland and Sam Machkovech reviewed it for Ars:

Despite the improvements, though, the Vive Pro still includes some of the same basic design problems of the original. The eyepiece housing (which now allows for additional room for eyeglasses, toggled by an easy button press and slider) still ends up pressed up tightly against the front of your face, creating a thick seal that traps heat and puts significant pressure on the sinuses. Any decently long VR session threatens to turn your face into a sweaty, red mess that can lead to significant steam buildup on the lenses. Worse, the front-of-face foam padding feels decidedly non-Pro. HTC has been showing this off at press events with a custom leather face cushion, and for this price, we wish they’d offered the same option as a consumer default.

There’s nothing that sounds more appealing than turning into a sweaty red mess. The resolution bump is the best part of the Vive Pro, but is it really worth paying over twice the price of the base Vive if you’re starting from scratch? Read the rest of their review.

Steam Can Finally Move Games From One Drive to Another

Time was you had to move games from one drive to another by using hacky programs that abused features of Windows’ filesystem to make virtual links from a folder on one drive to another. For Steam games that isn’t a problem anymore. Now that Steam can use multiple game library folders, maybe one for each drive, Valve have added a feature to move games between library folders.

Here’s how it works if you don’t already have a separate library folder on another drive:

  1. Click the Steam menu, and then click on Settings:1 settings
  2. Click on the Downloads tab on the left, then click on the Steam Library Folders button:2a downloads
  3. Click on the Add Library Folder button and add a new folder if you don’t have one on the drive you’d like to move the games to.2b library folders
  4. Click Close and then OK. Right-click on the game you’d like to move to another library folder, click on Properties:3 properties
  5. Click on the Local Files tab, then click on the Move Install Folder button.4 local files
  6. Finally, select the new location for the game you’d like to move, click Move Folder, and then wait:5 move install folder

You Can Ignore Curators on Steam Now

Ignore curator

One thing I find particularly frustrating in Steam is being inundated with curator recommendations from Gamer Gate supporters like Total Biscuit, well the good news is that you can ignore them now. Of course, Valve has made this incredibly frustratingly only accessible from one page, and only when some algorithm decides to recommend that you follow that curator. That’s also the only place to undo ignoring that curator, despite each one having individual curation pages.

Andy Chalk:

Ignoring a curator will ensure that Steam will no longer recommend that curator on your home page. You can take that one step further by ignoring all the top curators recommended by Steam, which will cause Steam to stop recommending any curators at all. It’s a fairly small change, but potentially handy for dedicated Steam users who don’t especially care what other people think. A Valve rep described it as “part of our ongoing efforts to refine the services and features of Steam.” 

Valve’s Disease

Patrick Klepek has a post up on Waypoint, discussing a homophobic game that unsurprisingly managed to get onto Steam. He sums up Valve’s issues with content moderation very well. I’ve trimmed the quote just to remove the name of the game.

…is a symptom of a larger disease. Steam’s “new releases” tab is full of trash, and while you can be generally sympathetic to Valve wanting to allow all sorts of creators an easy path to publishing on their enormous platform, it doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility to make sure it’s a platform that doesn’t promote hateful speech.

The MRA garbage I wrote about last year, Dating Lessons, is still up on Steam as well. Anyone working at Valve should be embarrassed to have their salary funded by getting a cut off of sales of this trash.

Valve Games Were Vulnerable to Software Exploits When Your Character Died

The One Up Security firm, who must be very new because this is their only published research article and their domain name appears to have been registered about 8 months ago, has released information on a vulnerability that Valve patched in their Source engine back in June.

It’s an amusing vulnerability because the exploitation of it occurs when your character dies on a game server, and your character model’s ragdoll is replaced with an exploitative payload that the researcher was able to exploit because certain security flags weren’t set on portions of Steam. This is what you see in action when you watch One Up Security’s video embedded above.

Steam Greenlight Shutdown; Direct Starts June 13th

Valve’s Steam Greenlight program has finally been shut down in favor of Steam Direct (which launches June 13th) after months without clarity about when this changeover would occur and what the cost would be to developers submitting their games into the new Steam Direct program.

There’s this interesting note in the announcement from Valve’s Alden Kroll:

Over the next week, a team here at Valve will be reviewing the list of titles that have not yet been Greenlit and will be selecting the final batch of titles to pass through the Greenlight process. Our goal is to Greenlight as many of the remaining games as we have confidence in.

It’s good that Valve are trying to help anyone who had been in the process, but I feel bad for anyone who had a game in Greenlight, or was considering submitting one, during the past 6 months.

Steam Direct Update from Valve

Back in February Valve announced that they were going to replace Steam Greenlight with Steam Direct. There was some confusion because Valve had not yet decided on a price per game for submissions, or a timeframe for this change to occur. The original announcement only gave a vague date of “Spring 2017.” Well, Summer starts on June 21st, so Valve’s Alden Kroll has an update for us on the transition to Direct.

The fee for a submissions to Direct is going to be $100, which is thankfully far lower than the top end that Valve had been considering of $5000. However, that is still kind of ridiculous when some of their competitors charge $0 for a game to be hosted on their service.

I don’t doubt that hosting a game incurs a cost to Valve but what they are doing is hosting a few web pages, downloads, maintaining the Steam application and APIs, and handling payments. Support is passed off to the developer or publisher of the game as is community management.

For all of this, Valve will still get a cut of sales, although they do not discuss what that cut is, it has been speculated to be about 30%.

I really wish that Valve had decided to get rid of this fee entirely, or had it straight to begin with instead of threatening developers with the possibility of a $5000 hit for each game submission back in February and then remained silent for five months while they sorted things out. Could you imagine being a game developer considering submitting your game to Steam in this time frame?

With the clarity of the $100 fee we can now know that this is really going to be a discount on Valve’s commission from 30% of the first $1000 in sales to 20%. Games that want to be distributed entirely freely on Steam will just lose out on that $100, and small developers will be punished by the hundred for each game they submit.

This will absolutely not keep out people who want to abuse Steam, which was Valve’s stated reason for the charge as they will just factor the $100 into the cost of doing bad business on Steam. Just like anti-piracy schemes that only hurt people who want to play games they have purchased, this fee will only hurt good people who want to release more games on Steam and not necessarily charge an arm and a leg for them.

It’s no surprise that Bungie and Activision’s Destiny 2 is going to be exclusive (on Windows) to the Blizzard Launcher (nèe Battle.net) instead of going onto Steam and letting Valve take their cut.

That’s not an option for most smaller developers who don’t have the name recognition of Bungie and Blizzard to make their own store and go it alone. They’re going to go to itch for free or Steam for the players and take the hit.

We still don’t have a date for when Direct will actually replace Greenlight. 

So many of the features of Valve’s platform are also passed off to their community of players. Players are encouraged to write reviews, moderate them with votes, and go through the “Discovery queue” that shows you games in a fashion roughly equivalent to walking down a candy aisle to get to the checkout at a store.

This update also included information for Steam Curators, Valve’s other favorite free labor taskforce. People who make videos about games are going to be able to embed their videos alongside the game review snippets displayed on game pages. Journalists and critics who include their reviews Valve’s curator abandoned it long ago, as did I. The curation system never directed enough readers to our websites. At least with the video embeds you should get a proper “view” on your video.

All I want out of the curation system is for nazis and other trolls to be blocked from it, which Valve seems loathe to do when they still allow games from MRA assholes onto their platform.

Valve Destroys Steam Gifting

Valve’s Kristian (no surname given) with a Steam blog post titled “Steam Gifting Changes”:

Today we’re announcing changes to gifts on Steam. The gifting process has had a bunch of friction in it for a while, and we want to make it easier for you to share the games you love with friends. Steam Gifting will now be a system of direct exchange from gift buyer to gift receiver, and we will be retiring the Gift to E-mail and Gift to Inventory options.

The post goes on to elaborate about enabling the scheduling of Steam gifts, which is new and should have been in years ago, but also has a few more changes that aren’t good:

Declined Gifts Resolve The Way They Should
In the old system, a declined gift would sneak back into the giver’s inventory and remain on their bill. Now, if a recipient already has the title, or just doesn’t want it, they can click decline and the purchase is refunded directly to the gift giver.

A refund of a declined gift should be an option, but it shouldn’t be the default.

Picture this: Sally buys Fran Civilization V on sale. Fran decides she doesn’t want Civilization V. The only thing that can happen now is that Sally gets her money back.

Two other things that should be options, in addition to a refund for the gift purchaser, are:

  1. Fran gets the refund as Steam credit (or cash, which is probably better), so that Fran can decide what she would rather have. This is what normally happens if Fran gets a gift that she returns from a store.
  2. Fran sends the gift back to Sally. Sally is presented with the options of keeping the gift in her gift inventory to decide what to do with it later, or Sally can keep the gift for herself, or Sally can return it for a refund. This means that Sally doesn’t miss out if she bought Civilization V during a sale and would like to do something else with the gift without losing out on the sale price.

I also wonder how this will work out for developers. If a gift is refunded 5 months or a year from now, how is Valve going to claw those dollars back from the developer’s future profits?

Safe Cross-Country Gifting
No more worrying if a Gift to E-mail or Gift to Inventory is going to work for a friend, gifts sent through the new system will always work on the receiver’s account. When there is a large difference in pricing between countries, gifting won’t be available and you’ll know before purchase.

This is Valve working around a problem they had where people in countries that had lower prices on games could purchase games for people living in countries where game prices were artificially inflated.

For example, games can be very expensive in Australia or Canada so folks in the United States would buy games for their friends overseas. There’s absolutely no good reason for the price of games to be inflated elsewhere, they’re digital goods and aren’t extra difficult to virtually ship. It does make sense in some cases to drop the price when the local economy can’t support purchases, however.

Either way, this is a really shitty move on Valve’s part. They talk a lot about decisions only being made in favor of the people buying games from them. This is not benefiting anyone but Valve and publishers.

Valve’s War on “Fake Games”

Nathan Grayson:

Valve is about to overhaul Steam in order to ensure that good games are visible and lazily developed games created for the purpose of making a quick buck—which Valve apparently calls “fake games”—sink beneath a sea of algorithms.

I’m not sure how this works, Valve have gone from saying that they want to take a more hands-off approach (back in 2014) to this new war on “fake games.”

The problem with this system, of course, is that it risks burying a handful of good games, as well. To combat this issue, Valve is going to introduce a program called Steam Explorers. Explorers will play through queues of games that haven’t been selling super well. If they dig a game, they can flag it. The more games get flagged, the more the algorithmic gods will smile upon them.

Anybody will be able to be an Explorer, much like Steam Curators. They’ll also get their own forum, so they can do things like arrange multiplayer matches in games that nobody else is playing.

The solution to all problems is unpaid labor from their community while they’re raking in profits. If this were EA with Origin, or Ubisoft’s uPlay, or basically anyone besides Valve, there would be a lot more people upset about not being paid to work. Or you would hope that people would be upset about their passion for games being exploited when Valve could just hire people to help curate the service.

Andy Kelly’s Steam Link Review

PC Gamer’s Andy Kelly also posted his review of the Steam Link. In addition to having some success with playing over wi-fi, he’s also got a different perspective on what kind of game play it’s suitable for:

I’ve also noticed the Link having a positive impact on my terrible attention span. When I’m playing at my desk I’m forever alt-tabbing to check Twitter or any number of stupid distractions. And I’ll usually last an hour in a game before quitting and doing something else. But camped out on the sofa, my attention doesn’t wander as much. I pay more attention to what I’m playing, and play it for longer, which is a discipline I thought I’d lost.