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Steam Is 10 Today. Remember When It Sucked?

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#1 +Frank B.

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 04:43

Steam Is 10 Today. Remember When It Sucked?

Birthdays are normally a time for celebration, but you know what? People heap adulation on Steam every day of the year. So let's flip it, and spend today remembering when Steam was new, and was just about the worst thing ever.

Launching ten years ago today, Steam had a relatively inauspicious beginning. The games business was in the last days of an old-fashioned era, before iOS, before Facebook, before, well, Steam. You either bought console games on a disc, or you bought PC games on CD/DVD. That was it!

Steam, though, was trying something different.

Known today as a retail and multiplayer gaming juggernaut, the origins of Steam are actually a little more innocent. The idea at its time of inception was that Valve, struggling to keep on top of online updates (and stay one step ahead of cheaters) for its multiplayer shooter Counter-Strike, would create a service that could do all that sort of stuff for them.

You would run the game through that service and all the updating, and anti-cheat protection, would be baked-in, providing consistent and reliable support for gamers.

Development on the platform began in 2002, and after a successful beta it launched on September 12, 2003. It wasn't that big a deal. The service wasn't mandatory for all Valve games, and was only really useful if you were playing a game (or mod) like Counter-Strike or Day of Defeat.

That changed in 2004. The release of Half-Life 2, one of the biggest games of all time, also saw Steam step up from being an optional gaming extra to a necessity. Here's Valve's Doug Lombardi (still in the job, btw) prior to the game's release:


All versions require an Internet connection upon installation. This is for authentication/anti-piracy purposes. Once this has been completed, the owner of either the retail or the Steam version can play Half-Life 2 single player in offline mode.

So Steam was mandatory for everyone buying Half-Life 2. Everyone was buying Half-Life 2, and when Half-Life 2 launched...Steam fell over. So badly it even made the BBC.

Valve's servers simply weren't ready for the flood of users trying to play the game at launch, and for days, people around the world struggled to even start the game, a real kick in the teeth considering they'd waited over five years for the oft-delayed sequel.

We accept server issues at a game's launch as an unfortunate standard today, but that's for multiplayer games, and that's in 2013. In 2004, the idea that a singleplayer experience had to be "unlocked" remotely, even though you held the discs in your hand, was seen by many as an unnecessary intrusion, a roadblock to their enjoyment of a game.

It was SimCity, before SimCity. Only for a new Half-Life game. If you weren't involved or around at the time, doesn't matter, I'm sure you can imagine.

This left a bad taste in people's mouths. While Valve swiftly sorted out the server issues, and most people had got their games working after only a few days, the memory of that forced installation and subsequent failure would linger for years.

You can still find, if you look, forum posts from the time complaining about Steam, complaining about Valve, talking about how the service would ruin PC gaming, how it had ruined Half-Life. In hindsight, these prophets of doom turned out to be so wrong it's adorable.

It's not like Half-Life 2 was fixed and Steam suddenly found itself King of the PC gaming world, though. From 2003-2005, Steam was really only relevant to Valve's games, and then only as a means of updating and launching them (or buying them, if you somehow hadn't done that already).

It wasn't until 2005, when Valve began signing on external publishers, that the service began to change, not just in its priorities, but in people's perception. By 2007, Valve had convinced many of PC gaming's biggest and most important companies, from id Software to Activision, Eidos to Capcom, that selling their games on Steam was a good idea.

It had also, very quietly, improved its quality of service to the point where it was, in online gaming terms, almost bulletproof. Where Half-Life 2's launch was a disaster, by 2007, the thought of the same thing happening for Modern Warfare's release seemed impossible. And it had only been three years!

By 2008, a service begun as a way to patch online shooters had become a marketplace. From there, you know the rest. 

Source: Kotaku

#2 virtorio


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 04:54

I remember it taking longer to get Half-Life 2 working than it did to complete it.

#3 Raa


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 05:02

No. It didn't.


In any case, happy birthday Steam! :fun:

#4 trek


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 05:10

I wonder if we get another badge tomorrow lol...


#5 Darrian


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 05:28

I never had any trouble with Half-Life 2.  I didn't buy it on launch day, though; I waited a few months.  Once I knew that even if I bought a disc I would still have to install Steam I just installed Steam and bought it digitally.  I was hesitant, though, like everybody else.  I preferred my shiny discs and physical packaging.  However, today I buy 99% of my games through Steam.  I also get games on Origin, which isn't nearly as bad as everybody seems to think it is (I like it just as well as Steam, but do not like having to have 2 different game distribution platforms installed), but guess what those games are?  Games that aren't available on Steam. If I could transfer all my Steam games to Origin would I switch?  I don't know, but either way, physical copies are as good as dead.

#6 Shahrad


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 05:28

Man an example of how an app can get good over time and maintain its clout!! Happy bday steam!

#7 Nashy


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 05:38

It used to suck the life out of gaming.  Now days, it's amazing.  And Origin just proves how good it is.

#8 +Lingwo


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 09:53

I remember when Half-Life 2 came out. Not for one moment did i think this would be how i would do all my PC gaming in 10 years time.

#9 Luc2k


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 11:52

I still remember when 1$ used to equal 1€. That sucked a lot. Now they're not equal but they still overcharge Europeans.  Maybe they will figure out the exchange rate in another 10 years.

#10 Growled


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 15:28

Happy Birthday Steam! I'm happy that now I can run it natively in Linux! :)

#11 MillionVoltss


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Posted 12 September 2013 - 15:33

14th Sep  . 6 Digit steam ID

#12 vetGeoffrey B.

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 15:41

i remember when it was a peice of crap,

#13 Deihmos



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Posted 12 September 2013 - 15:51

I wonder if Steam will continue to be relevant. SO many people are dropping PCs for gaming. I did that like 2 years ago.

#14 firey



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Posted 12 September 2013 - 15:55

I remember back in the day using cracked Steam Clients that let you have access to all steam games.  You had to use special logins, special clients, and change your mac address so that it would think you were a steam cafe.

#15 ReptileX



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Posted 12 September 2013 - 16:09

Ah my first time with Steam, I  bought my first video card from ATi and it came with a free copy of HL2


I remember it being an radical concept at the time.