Summer is here. To celebrate, Steam is having a mind-blowingly brilliant sale. They’re offering discounts on many of their packages – titles from publishers like Valve, Square Enix, Atari, Rockstar, etc. But it doesn’t stop there. Every 24 hours or so, they slash the prices on a few titles. So while normally a game that may interest you may be a bit on the pricey side, if you can catch it during this sale you’ll save a ton of cash. But why spend money on games at all? I mean, sure, you can pick up Torchlight for $5 and have Diablo-flavored fun with fresh graphics and an adorable animal sidekick while you’re waiting for Diablo III to emerge from Blizzard, but why do it through Steam instead of GameStop, for example?
I’m glad you asked.
This has less to do with Steam specifically than it does with PC gaming in general, but for me, the control scheme of keyboard & mouse is superior than those for consoles. By this point, yes, I’ve gotten used to moving one thumb to push my digital avatar forward while the other thumb lets me look around. But when I return to a game like World of Warcraft and have more than a couple buttons at my disposal, the result is actually more immersive and has a great deal of potential for flexibility.
Take Team Fortress 2, for example. On the X-box, one of your precious few controller buttons calls for a medic, another does a taunt. You can hook up a headset to use voice chat, but unless you want your team hearing what you’re yelling at your spouse, you’ll need to move your hand from the controller to flick the mute switch. With the keyboard attached to your PC, you have a lot more options for communication. Many more voice commands are available for your character, and if those aren’t enough, the voice chat option operates with push-to-talk functionality, rather than being on all the time. And all of these are at the fingertips of one hand, while the other controls your viewpoint, combat commands (shootin’, etc) and weapon selection. It just makes more sense to me, but then again, I’m a crotchety old man set in my ways.
What is this DLC you speak of?
Another big difference is that not every developer wants to nickel & dime people for DLC. To Valve, DLC is called ‘updates’. None of the new maps, weapons or headgear available to players of Team Fortress 2 on the PC are accessible on the 360, because Valve doesn’t charge money for them, and they aren’t going to. Those games that do charge for DLC – Borderlands for instance – can do so via Steam if they choose, but it’s not a requirement. This again points to Steam being a more flexible and open-ended engine for content delivery than, say, X-Box Live.
It could just be a matter of perception, but based on my experience, the community around Steam seems more constructive and geared towards fun than that of X-Box Live. There’s nothing wrong with a spirit of competition, but getting yelled at by twelve-year-olds who have nothing better to do than polish their console shooting techniques in preparation for the next Halo title isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. You’ll get the occasional loudmouthed loser on Steam, as well, but at least the admins of those servers can kick said loudmouths with a quick keyboard command. Good luck doing that with a console.
No Motion Controls
I think it’s going to be a long, long time before we see anything like Garry’s Mod hit consoles while developers are so hung up on things like motion controls and 3D. To me, gameplay innovation should about what can be done with the games themselves, not how one sees or controls them. Does nobody else remember the Virtual Boy? Am I the only one who thinks that adding extraneous peripherals to gaming consoles is a path leading to a dead end in development? I guess while everybody’s flailing around their living rooms trying to find ways to make that fun and unembarrassed, I’ll be playing with rag dolls in a physics engine. I’ve even had a couple of series ideas.
So yes. When I’m not writing, watching movies with my wife or playing World of Warcraft with her, I’ll be Steaming things up. Unless something exclusive to the consoles hits, like War for Cybertron. I mean, come on – from what I understand, somebody finally brought back what made the Transformers awesome in the first place.