Steam Spy announced that it will be shutting down. This decision comes as a result of Steam’s new Profile Privacy Settings. The result is that Steam Spy will no longer be able to obtain the information it needs to keep going.
Ars Techinca reported that Steam Spy was a sales-estimate service, born from an Ars data project. The service launched in 2015, nearly a year to the day that Ars senior gaming editor Kyle Orland published his extensive, data-sampling “Steam Gauge” feature. That feature measured game ownership and playtime estimates based on the huge sampling size afforded by Steam’s default privacy settings.
Valve recently updated Steam’s Profile Privacy Settings. The update expanded upon user’s Profile Privacy Settings page, and is intended to give user’s more control over the privacy of their Steam account.
You can now select who can view your profile’s “game details”, which includes the list of games you have purchased or whitelisted, along with achievements and playtime. This setting also controls whether you’re seen as “in-game” and the title of the game you are playing.
Additionally, regardless of which setting you choose for your profile’s game details, you now have the option to keep your total game playtime private.
The Steam Spy Twitter account (which is run by Sergey Galyonkin) posted a tweet in response to Steam’s Profile Privacy Settings update. The tweet said “Valve just made a change to their privacy settings, making games owned by Steam users hidden by default. Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default and won’t be able to operate anymore.”
A follow up tweet provide some clarification. “To reiterate – it’s not because of the new privacy settings. It’s because Steam just made everyone’s gaming library hidden by default (this wasn’t in their blog post).”
Steam announced that it will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method. This news is going to affect players who were purchasing Steam games with Bitcoin, but doesn’t appear to change things for those using other methods of payment.
Steam says it will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on their platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin. In the announcement, Steam points out: “Historically, the value of Bitcoin has been volatile, but the degree of volatility has become extreme in the last few months, losing as much as 25% in value over a period of days.”
This creates a problem for customers trying to purchase games with Bitcoin. When checking out on Steam, a customer will transfer x amount of Bitcoin for the cost of the game, plus y amount of Bitcoin to cover the transaction fee charged by the Bitcoin network. The value of Bitcoin is only guaranteed for a certain period of time, so if the transaction doesn’t complete within that window of time, then the amount of Bitcoin needed to cover the transaction can change. The amount it can change has been increasing recently to a point where it can be significantly different.
Steam points out that when that situation happens, they either have to refund original payment to the user to or ask the user to transfer more funds to cover the remaining balance. The user gets hit with a Bitcoin transaction fee either way. As a result, Steam says it has become untenable to support Bitcoin as a payment option.
Valve announced that they will replace Steam Greenlight with Steam Direct. The reason for the change is to better serve their goal of making customers happy. Steam decided it needed to move away from a small group of people at Valve trying to predict which games would appeal to different groups of customers.
Steam Greenlight was launched because Valve felt it was a useful stepping stone for moving to a more direct distribution system. Greenlight is a community-focused program that uses a voting system to determine which games are published on Steam. Games that got enough community support are “greenlit”.
Valve is replacing Greenlight with a new direct sign-up system for developers to put their games on Steam. It is called Steam Direct.
This new path, which we’re calling “Steam Direct”, is targeted for Spring 2017 and will replace Steam Greenlight. We will ask new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account. Once set up, developers will pay a recoupable application fee for each new title they wish to distribute, which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline.”
At the moment, Valve is still debating what that application fee should be. They talked to several developers and studios about an appropriate fee, and they got a range of responses from $100 to $5,000. Valve wants more feedback before it settles on what the fee will be.
The existence of a fee might dissuade people from trying to get low-quality games onto Steam. That being said, if the fee is too high, it might make it difficult or impossible for small companies, or independent game creators, from being able to afford to get their game on Steam.
It has been said that Minecraft is similar to LEGO. People use small bricks (either physical or the pixilated kind) to build structures and landscapes. That comparison just got a bit more apt with the release of LEGO Worlds. It’s now available on Steam as an Early Access Game.
Steam is offering Early Access right now to the LEGO Worlds game. In some ways, this feels like a beta test. Players can access some of the game now, but it is not complete. The developers plan to add more features as time goes on. They will evaluate a “release candidate” sometime in early 2016 and are seeking feedback from the community about different aspects of the game.
The current Early Access version of the game includes the following features: procedurally generated worlds, terraforming and building tools, discoveries and unlocks, ridable creatures and vehicles, and a day/night cycle.
Players will be able to freely manipulate and dynamically populate LEGO models. There is a brick-by-brick editor tool that players can use as well as some prefabricated LEGO structures. Players can modify the terrain by using a multi-tool. It will be possible to get into the game and play with virtual LEGO sets that match the real-life versions. These sets will be taken from both Classic and current LEGO themes.
The LEGO website has some further information. They note that LEGO Worlds is safe for children to play, but that some of the other content on Steam might not be. As such, they encourage parents to view the parental controls on Steam before granting their children Early Access to LEGO Worlds.
Steam has come up with a unique way to fight against spam. Steam users need to spend at least $5.00 USD in order to have full access to all of Steam’s features. The purpose is to limit what spammers and “malicious users” can do. The reasoning behind this decision is explained by Steam as:
We’ve chosen to limit access to these features as a means of protecting our customers from those who abuse Steam for purposes such as spamming and phishing.
Malicious users often operate in the community on accounts which have not spent any money, reducing the individual risk of performing the actions they do. One of the best pieces of information we can compare between regular users and malicious users are their spending habits as typically the accounts being used have no investment in their longevity. Due to this being a common scenario we have decided to restrict certain community features until an account has met or exceeded $5.00 USD in Steam.
It’s easy for “regular users” to avoid ending up with a limited account. You can add $5.00 USD to your Steam Wallet. You can buy a game(s) that are equal to $5.00 USD or more from the Steam store. Or, you can purchase a Steam gift that is equal to $5.00 USD from the Steam store and give it to a friend who also uses Steam. To me, it seems that $5.00 USD is a low enough amount so as not to be cost prohibitive for people who are using Steam in the way it was intended.
Those who have a limited account will be prevented from accessing several features. Some of those features include: sending friend invites, opening group chat, participating in the Steam Market, and posting frequently in the Steam Discussions. Those who have a limited account will not be able to vote on Greenlight, Steam Reviews, and Workshop items.
When people think of gaming systems, they often imagine large beige or black boxes overflowing with cables and accessories. And while these types of rigs may be fine with a certain class of gamer, there are many who’d prefer something compact and sleek to take them into their preferred virtual worlds of play. For those who’d like to devote a little less real estate to diodes and PC boards, Maingear offers its new DRIFT gaming system.
DRIFT is compact but speedy with an F-1 engine featuring a stylish unibody aluminum chassis that is whisper quiet thanks to an Epic 120 liquid cooling system and superbly engineered airflow. Powered by the latest in gaming technology, including Intel Core i7-4790K CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 or AMD Radeon R9 290X GPUs, the DRIFT may look small but it’s definitely a might machine.
4K gaming is possible with DRIFT and its compact design is versatile enough that it can be placed either vertically or horizontally. It supports up to 16 GB of DDR memory, can hold 2 1TB SSD’s and a 6TB HDD, and can be fully upgraded and customized with Maingear’s automotive paint finish available in many colors and combinations.
DRIFT can be configured to boot directly into STEAM big picture mode with Windows and the system is now available for purchase directly from Maingear. Pricing begins at $949.00 without an operating system.
Steam has launched the beta for Steam Broadcasting. I think it is clear that this will put Steam in direct competition with Twitch for both viewers and streamers of video gaming content.
Steam Broadcasting is currently in beta. As of December 2, 2014, people can watch their friends play video games on Steam “with the click of a button”. The beta is open to everyone on Steam who wants to participate in it.
To get started, all you need to do is opt-in to the Steam Client beta through the Steam Settings panel. For now, concurrent viewing may be limited as the beta is scaled up to support a broader audience.
To watch a friend’s game via Steam Broadcasting, visit their profile and click on “Watch Game”. Or, you can use the Steam Client Friend’s List to open a window into a friend’s gameplay. Watching someone else’s game play through Steam Broadcasting does not require the viewer to own the game. There are no special fees attached for viewers, and it does not require the use of any additional app.
You can automatically broadcast your gaming session through Steam Broadcasting. Streamers get the option of choosing how open they want their stream to be. It ranges from allowing “anyone” to watch your games to limiting your viewers to only the friends that you specifically invite.
Steam is looking for feedback and suggestions on how to make Steam Broadcasting better. Visit the Steam Broadcasting Discussions forum if you would like to report a bug, ask a question, or share your experience with the Steam Broadcasting beta.
Two popular Valve games, Portal and Portal 2, have arrived on Steam for Linux. The two games, released in 2007 and 2011 respectively, have previously been available for the Windows and Mac platforms.
This latest Valve game release for Linux is very good news at a time when Steam for Linux usage has been sinking. The April figures for the Steam hardware survey are now public and they indicate further losses. In March the Linux usage was at 1.6-1.7% and now, for April, it’s down to 1.5-1.6%.
Portal is selling for $9.99, while the newer Portal 2 retails for $19.99. The Portal series is a very popular first-person puzzle-platform game. Other big releases such as Left 4 Dead 2 are expected to be coming soon.