A big announcement was made by – ah well, it is my favorite game developer after all – the great Valve yesterday. They are going to release the back-end resources which have proven to work in their recent high-profile titles to other developers, for free.

Steamworks will be a platform for developers to access the server system, copy-protection and community system from within their game. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun , Doug Lombardi mentions that this combination will be seamless: all steam dialogs can be integrated within the game. Another important point is that the game doesn’t have to be distributed in the Steam store.

It makes sense for developers to just have access to this stuff that is essential, but no great design challenge – the copy protection, the server browser – and the motivation for us is that if a game uses our encryption and sells millions of copies, all those people who didn’t already have a Steam account have to make one. Once they’re there we can talk to them and turn them on to all the other games on Steam.

That’s essentially what this is about, and it sure isn’t a bad motivation. But things can get even better.

  • Unified gaming: With the current load of console systems having full internet capability, there’s no reason not to allow cross-platform gaming. Sure, Microsoft tried it with Shadowrun, but that never really hit it. You have published two of the most succesful games of the last decade. If anyone can pull off the cross-platform trick …
  • Mod distribution: This was vaguely promised in the very first steam releases (which ironically didnt work – pun intended). Community-made modifications have always been one of the cornerstones of the Half-Life series, and it’s a bit of a shame that mod developers still have to write an external installer to install these mods. Most certainly, if you’re going for the release early, release often development cycle, some way of pushing out updates without hosting and mirroring small incremental patches would be nice.