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Users of Steam or other direct download games systems - opinions required!

Discussion in 'PC Games' started by thor, 2 May 2006.

  1. thor

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 6 Nov 2003

    Posts: 2,089

    Location: West London

    As part of a university assignment I have to design a user interface for some sort of software system of my choosing. I've decided to design an interface for a direct download games system - something along the lines of Steam or Xbox Live Arcade.

    To aid my design process, I would really appreciate it if people who have used these type of systems could post in here, PM, or even email me with their thoughts and opinions on the system. I'm not looking for loads of replies to this - I would much prefer a handful of replies but with a wealth of information within each one if possible. The more detail the better, everything from installing the software, how it runs, what it looks like, the options available, what's good, what's bad etc

    I got a great response to a recent survey I posted on here relating to who uses these systems, and the comments I got are a huge help. I was going to do a similar thing with this but I would rather more open-ended comments, pretty much anything you can think of.

    So anyway, if anyone would like to give me their thoughts I would be hugely appreciative.

  2. fini


    Joined: 26 Aug 2004

    Posts: 7,569

    Location: London

    Install needs to be quick and easy - I don't want to be waiting ages just so I can browse for a game to download and then wait for it to download.

    Program needs to be as lightweight and easy to use as possible - I don't want a million options of how to do things I just want to browse for a game to download. I like the way steam uses a webpage interface, but I don't like the navigation - if you don't know what you're looking for you could be there for ages.

    Downloads and updates should occur in the background (though not whilst I'm actually playing a game), with the program able to minimise to task bar. With that in mind it shouldn't be a resource hog.

    For the purchasing side of things treat it like a website and you shouldn't go to far wrong. Once the games are bought remember the program becomes a portal to load up your games, I don't want to have to click 12 times to load a game.

    The part that allows you to run the games you bought should be skinnable too - and create a couple of skins out of the box.

    There should be some sort of chat program, allowing you to see when your friends are online and then challenge them to whichever game you've brought. You should also be able to see what games your friends have so if they keep on telling you how great 'the train game' is you can go into it from their profile and the buy it instead of having to go through the whole shop.

  3. kdd


    Joined: 29 Oct 2005

    Posts: 3,660

    Location: Kent

    Discrete but with as much useful and simple functionality as necessary.
  4. DaveyD

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 19 Jan 2003

    Posts: 12,647

    Location: Warwickshire

    I'll give you a nice reasonably long post on Steam this afternoon, as everybody knows I'm Mr. SteamyD :o :p, got uni to go to now, so give me a couple of hours ;)
  5. thor

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 6 Nov 2003

    Posts: 2,089

    Location: West London

    Cheers mate, your thoughts would be most appreciated :)
  6. Darkwave


    Joined: 25 Oct 2005

    Posts: 13,780

    Must be discrete and must have a feature to back up downloaded files to DVD disc or compressed archive file. I use Steam for Half Life 2 / Counter Strike Source and EA downloader for Battlefield 2 / Special Forces, Steam luckily has this feature but EA Downloader likes to bloat itself to a good few gigabytes and just sit on my HDD, and I have to do this every time if I reinstall Windows. :mad:
  7. DaveyD

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 19 Jan 2003

    Posts: 12,647

    Location: Warwickshire

    Righty ho, bit of detail, just a bit of general ramblings really:

    To begin with. Simplicity. An application of this sorts really needs to be a simple to use, so even the most dim users should be able to pick up the whole user interface within a few seconds.

    Instructions for bought games that require Steam, for example, should detail how and why the system is needed, as people don't want to go on the internet all the time to play their games.

    The actual application shouldn't take up much space at all, and shouldn't hog memory or CPU, so a very basic application running in your background that you don't have to worry about.

    It needs to be secure, for purchases of games as well as keeping your personal details safe and not available to anybody or 3rd parties.


    Nobody likes to have lots of accounts. If one account full stop was possible for everything, I'd guess a lot of people would be happy. The problem is, if we get lots of developers and Steam-like packages, we're going to try and keep the same account names and systems to help people not forgetting, but I don't think that's a massive problem as long as you can retrieve account information via telephone or e-mail support with a little proof from you.

    Having an account of sorts is a massive advantage to those people that don't want to lose their games or get them damaged. Your account is never going to forget what games you own or are entitled to.


    Steams update system does annoy some people. Your main advantage to a content delivery system like Steam is that you don't need to worry about finding the latest patches for your games, just switch on and you'll be up to date. Problem is, some people don't want to be forced to update their game to play it. On a slow connection, it could take hours to get a big update, meaning that they've got to wait quite a while for this sytem to finish downloading.

    What should be implemented is a system that prompts the user to say if they want to update their game to the latest version, or if they are happy with what version they are playing. It doesn't really matter for single player games.

    Problems & Quibbles

    This is where the fundamental problems come up with this kind of system. Traditionally, games and the internet meant that you'd be playing multiplayer, no single player. If you weren't on the internet, you'd be playing single player. But these systems like Steam need you to be on the internet pretty much constantly to get it working.

    This means you could argue that you want to play your new single player game offline, without having to get onto the internet to validate the game. I would agree with that. For example with Half-Life 2, some people got the game, not aware that you needed the internet connected to even play the game. If the game is going to be just single player, it needs to be fully workable offline. Then any online capabilities should be activated or installed in the form of Steam etc, so that you have your account and all that sorted only when you want to install patches or play multiplayer.

    The Future

    One big problem you have with any content delivery application such as Steam, is look ahead 5 or even 10 years, which is a long time for gaming, and many things can change over that time. If Valve go bust or get absorbed, you've got the issue of what happens to all these Steam servers, are they going to run on indefinately? Or will the system get merged into another content delivery tool?

    What you don't want to see is the service just being disconnected. You'll have a lot of people getting rather angry that they can't even play their games they own because they can't get onto their account, as the servers are all off. In this extreme case, there would need to be a contingency plan, where owners were given special patches / applications to run all their own games locally, or all the games made freeware or similar. It would be very, very difficult if that day ever came, so hopefully wont in the near future.

    Other problems in the future is that I think a lot of publishers are going to get onto the bandwagon and have their own content delivery systems. What we really don't want to see is a system in place for each minor developer and game, meaning having 10+ different systems all with different accounts and passwords. Each major publisher really needs to have a good think about these systems, as there is money to be made from them, but also a lot to be lost if the systems are not capable and games not popular.
  8. thor

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 6 Nov 2003

    Posts: 2,089

    Location: West London

    Thanks a lot for all the replies guys! A couple more questions for you all though... :D

    What sort of interface would you like to see in a system of this type? Do you think the small-scale web-like interface, as used by Steam, is appropriate?
    Fini, you say you don't like the navigation of the Steam interface - are you able to tell me exactly what you don't like about it and/or what you would prefer?

    What would be the first screen you would want to see when you open the client (assuming you've already logged in of course)? Eg, the first screen visible when you load up Steam is "Store" (although it's more of an advert screen for the latest games). Do you think this is appropriate or would you rather see something else? Your list of games for example?

    Also, don't feel you need to comment on Steam at all - if you have examples of other systems, good or bad, feel free to share your thoughts.

    Thanks again!