Steam: some news, further speculation

The TPV/Developer meeting on the 24th August included an interesting, if brief, discussion on the forthcoming link-up with Steam, in which a little more information was revealed, and comments were passed that allow for further speculation as to how things might be handed.

In keeping with the Steam format, there will be a promotional video for Second Life which will be available for Steam users to view prior to initialising the Steam download / installation process. This video (produced by Linden Lab) apparently does not promote Second Life “intensely as a game”, but rather as a “place with a lot of cool content”, with the overall approach to the video being described as “kaleidoscopic” and fast-paced in terms of images shown.

Perhaps the most interesting comment however, came from Oz Linden in response to a question relaid by Jessica Lyon, on users being able to log-in to SL “from Steam”, in which he said, “Yeah, it creates a Second Life account…I don’t know how the name gets created … the two are connected somehow.”

This sparked a short discussion on how this might be possible, and what the mechanism would be for handling names, with some in the meeting wondering if the link-up would allow them to use their Steam user IDs with SL. I’m going to go right out on a limb here, and suggest that when it comes to creating an SL account “from Steam”, we might already have the answer sitting in front of us.

How Steam Works

For those unfamiliar with Steam, obtaining a new game is a matter of using the Steam client or web page to browse available games (listed in several categories). Individual games can be previewed in a dedicated panel / page, which includes the options for promotional videos and stills to be added, as well as a description of the game provided.

A typical Steam client game preview panel

Should the user opt to play the game, they can start a download / install process from within Steam (on PCs running Windows 7 32-bit, games are installed into C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\ common, for example). Links are created to the user’s Steam library, allowing games to be launched from there as well as through things like short cuts on the desktop, etc.

What is interesting here is that many of the games have some form of sign-up process. However, rather than being incorporated in Steam itself, these generally take the user to an external website to complete the sign-up process. Could Second Life simply take the same route?

The Answer, My Friend, is (Maybe) Written in the Viewer (apologies to Bob Dylan)

Last month, I commented on changes made to the SL Development Viewer’s splash screen – specifically the dialogue box pointing the user to the need to sign-up for an account in order to access SL.

SL Development Viewer 3.4.1.263582, (August 16): initial prompt asking the user to create an account – included for the Steam link-up? (click to enlarge)

This has been included in all subsequent Development viewer releases since August 16th, but is only displayed if there are no avatar account files located on the host PC. Once somone has logged-in to SL and the account files created, the prompt is no longer displayed in starting the viewer.

At the time I reported this update I speculated as to whether it might be related to the upcoming Steam link-up. It’s hard to see why else LL would add such a prompt to the viewer’s splash screen – and the arrival of the update, just a couple of days after the original announcement did seem rather timely (although the splash screen changes have yet to be seen in any other flavours of the official viewer). Certainly, handling things this way would eliminate the need for complicated links between the Steam client / website and the SL website / sign-up page, and eliminate the need for any API interaction between the two.

If this is the case, however, one assumes steps will be taken to update the SL sign-up pages – the final step of which is to download the viewer; as Steam users will have already have effectively done this already, having the prompt without clarification could lead to some confusion.

The potential rebuttal to this is that Oz is involved with the viewer – so if the sign-up process was simply a matter of adding a dialogue to the viewer in order to direct the user to SL’s sign-up page, he’d know? Or is he simply being coy in his response, pending the official launch?

Will SL be Promoted as a Game?

During the TPV/Developer discussion, speculation is voiced that SL will in fact be promoted by Valve as a game on Steam. If correct, then one assumes that SL will be appearing in the Free Games category on Steam. However, this did not apparently come from Linden Lab, but rather from one of the TPV developers at the meeting.

As it is, Valve are due to launch their non-game offerings (described as “creativity and productivity” software this coming Wednesday, September 5th (which some have taken to be the date SL will appear on Steam, although this again is by no means clear) – so we might gain some further insight as to how SL might be pitched then – assuming SL isn’t one of the first offerings on the list.

Given that the original blog-post from the Lab announcing the link-up stated it would be happening in “the next month or so”, it would seem that we may have a couple of weeks yet in which to speculate, rather than perhaps getting a definitive answer this week.

Time will tell, as they say…

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16 thoughts on “Steam: some news, further speculation

  1. beccapet

    Given how this could have gone, this is actually shaping up to be the “least bad” scenario – with SL not being pushed as a game (with all the baggage and expectations that would carry) but instead taking advantage of Steam opening the door to non-game applications.
    There’s still the issue of managing User Expectation and it’s likely that many people giving SL a try will be disappointed as their expectation will likely be “Steam = a game” but if that can be managed then this could (and I emphasise could) be a way of raising the profile of SL in a good way. Certainly you’re more likely to find people on Steam with the kind of PC able to get the best from SL than elsewhere.

    The jury is still very much out on this though. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

    Reply
    1. Inara Pey Post author

      Exactly how SL will be promoted on Steam is still open to question. The comment on it being a game came from a developer, rather than the Lab, and until the new categories on Steam become available, we’ve no idea if there is anywhere else SL can be promoted.

      As you say, it all comes down to promotion and perception as to the level of interest; but I still feel that if LL get it right, while it may not leads to hordes of Steam users flooding into SL – which I don’t believe is the point anyway – but could lead to a nice steady trickle of users who (more importantly) may actually “stick”.

      Reply
      1. tarnix

        I tend to think that SL would be -in the best marketing decision pattern- promoted as a « Sandbox Application » because that’s exactly what it is. A sandbox application with a rather active real money auction/market, we could even say. Because if Second Life gets announced as a “Game”, it WILL confuse traditional gamers in quest of growing their collection. It doesn’t feel like, it doesn’t offer the performances of, and it doesn’t even LOOK like a game. This is a mid/high-end sandbox application with real money market. It could be categorized as the following: “Sandbox, Virtual Reality, Real Money Market, Social Meeting, PG 16″. But certainly not as a Game, even those CCS and CS² systems are far from providing performances and feeling of FPS shooters.

        Don’t take me wrong, Linden Lab: I am all-in for Steam interaction (I already use the overlay in SL via non-steam shortcuts), however I simply desire Second Life to be presented as what it truly is.

        Reply
        1. Inara Pey Post author

          The problem there being that currently, there isn’t any category for Virtual Worlds, VR or sandboxes in Steam (or at least, not one that is immediately obvious through the current client / webpage. Whether this will change from September 5th onwards, remains to be seen.

          One of the ways in which misconceptions could be overcome is for the space in which SL can be described is used properly and wisely, and that the image / video space is properly used to give a clear insight into SL as a platform. The concern is that LL hasn’t really been that good in promoting SL in the past (and very often their videos have swayed to the “miss” side of the “hit-and-miss” equation). For my part, I’m hopefully but apprehensive where the presentation of SL is concerned if it does end up in an unsuitable category.

          Reply
    2. Shug Maitland

      “Certainly you’re more likely to find people on Steam with the kind of PC able to get the best from SL than elsewhere.”
      I think this is the crux of what is going on. At this point in the development cycle LL is playing to high-end hardware. It seems the technology is not available to significantly help those with old or low-end equipment. Hopefully the next cycle (post Rod?) will address the fact that the new wave of computers like tablets are decidedly not friendly to the way SL is currently delivered.

      Reply
      1. Inara Pey Post author

        Alina Lyvette has been doing amazing work demonstrating what can be achieved in running a full 3D view of SL on Android mobile devices and tablets through her Lumiya product. There is a way to go before avatars are rendered anywhere near the quality for options like this would be acceptable for routine use, but it shows the technology is potentially there. Recently we’ve also had people looking at Unity 3D as a means of accessing SL (initial results weren’t great, but the technology has moved on), and there was also LL’s own re-dabble into presenting SL through a browser.

        Whether any of this means they’re actively doing anything to broaden SL’s ability to run on emerging hardware is hard to say, but they can’t be unaware as to what is going on around them. As you say, “Over to you, Rod…”

        Reply
  2. foneco zuzu (@ZZBottomHL)

    Where my doubts come is that no steam user will stay for more then 3 min if it will connect with the current LL viewer and i hope that the 1 that will be launched with steam at least will be as good on graphics as some tpv’s!
    And for sure, the fight on lag must be adressed!
    Mesh was not the salvation, path find needs still to be tweeked a lot and navmesh as well, and time is some that LL is starting to not have!
    http://iliveisl.com/375-private-sl-sims-gone-in-one-month/

    Reply
    1. Inara Pey Post author

      If you’re having lag issues, you might want to look at your own system and settings first. The vast majority of lag occurs in the user’s computer, and is beyond anything LL can help with (and it is fair to say they have been dealing with causes of server-side lag for a good while now, as well as working on broader issues such as region crossings). Things like setting your draw distance to 1024m, for example, can have an adverse effect on performance.

      Mesh really wasn’t intended to be SL “salvation”. For one thing, SL isn’t in need of “salvation” (which is not to say LL have to face up to a number of issues in the future). For another, mesh was a capability content creators had been requesting for a very long time. As such, and while LL’s failure to understand the potential market for mesh with clothing is unfathomable, the delivery of mesh was a response to a very long-standing demand fro users.

      Reply
  3. Aliasi Stonebender

    It’s not as if sandbox programs don’t already exist on Steam, after all. Universe Sandbox isn’t much of a game, but I really doubt it’s confused many of the users.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Steam: some news, further speculation | Living in the Modem World | Second Life and Virtual Worlds | Scoop.it

  5. Wolf Baginski

    On past performance, I wouldn’t want to rely on Oz Linden
    Your suggestions make sense, but that’s not much of a guarantee of anything.

    Reply
  6. Amiryu Hosoi

    Teaming up with Steam is a very good move, People bothered with lag or bad graphics should upgrade their PC’s I have a 4 year old Dell XPS and I run SL on ful graphics and lowest frame rate on my islands is 18. So, yeas hardware is important. About vierwer 3, works great for me. For gamers, check out Exodus viewers.

    Ami

    Reply
  7. Amiryu Hosoi

    Did I mention our islands are ready for Steam. I run 2 Edo Period Japanese roleplay sims. Some people tell me that our sims are the best in SL… but thats up to you to check out. Anyway, In the last days I have merged 2 of our best sims into one big roleplay area. The regions feature a full Matsumoto Castle complex, Harusaki Onsen, the old town of Hosoi Mura and a lot more. All of these gems are surrounded by the best scenery you can get. Check out and loose yourself in the stories of Samurai and Geisha.

    Now the rebuilding is done we are looking for people that want to join our community. We are looking for peasants, samurai, geisha, fishermen, travelers, etc. Especially we have open positions for dedicated people that will be responsable for running our Sake House, Harusaki Onsen, Yakuza harbour and Hamaguri Sushi bar. If you would like to be part of our community, please visit us and contact Eien Sachin, Kai Serapis, Akiko Omizu or Amiryu Hosoi.

    Ami

    Reply
    1. Inara Pey Post author

      I’m very familiar with your regions, Ami. Have visited a number of times. Was sorry about the Great Wall; had a piece in prep on that for my Destinations features, but time slipped away from me before I got it finished :(.

      Good luck with the role-play venture.

      Reply

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