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|Версия:||55/1053 (8 декабря 2009)|
Steam - сервис цифровой дистрибуции компании Valve, известного разработчика компьютерных игр. Steam выполняет функции службы активации, загрузки через интернет, автоматических обновлений и новостей для игр как самой Valve, так и сторонних разработчиков по соглашению с Valve. Через Steam продаются все игры, выпущенные Valve, а также игры сторонних разработчиков и издателей, таких как Activision, Eidos Interactive, EA Games, Epic Games, GSC Game World, id Software, Majesco, SEGA, THQ, 2K Games, Atari, Rockstar Games, UbiSoft, NCSoft.
На осень 2009 года через Steam распространяется почти тысяча игр и паков, а количество активных пользователей превысило 15 миллионов.
Steam allows users to purchase access to games through a digital distribution system. Instead of receiving a box, disc, or even CD key, purchased software is immediately attached on the Steam servers to the user's Steam account (which is registered for free), from which it can be accessed and downloaded from anywhere that allows the use of the Steam client. Games can either be bought individually (with some exceptions) or as part of a "package" of multiple games.
The system itself works similarly to a feed reader: The user selects the game they want on their computer and Steam then automates the process of downloading the content and keeping it up to date. The latest version of the game is immediately downloaded, and if there are multiple versions (e.g. a 64-bit edition) the correct one will be chosen automatically based on the computer's hardware and/or software environment. This process happens every time Steam is started online, not just when a game is installed, ensuring that as many users as possible have the latest software. Steam connects over its own internet protocol, independent of the HTTP or FTP protocols used by the web. It downloads only from dedicated "content servers" spread out across the world by Valve and authorized third parties, connecting to several at once to try to ensure a fast and stable connection.
Steam can validate its downloaded content for errors, a process that gives many of the benefits of reinstalling in a fraction of the time.
Steam has a Distributed File System that allows a game to launch before it has been completely downloaded. By creating lists of files and requesting them only when about to be needed, a linear game can be begun with only the executable code and a buffer of the first few areas downloaded. In the worst-case scenario, the game will hang while Steam downloads in the background.
Steam-integrated games download to non-compressed archive files with the extension
.gcf. This helps to make games more portable, to stop users from overwriting important files, and can be used to prevent files from being tampered with (for instance, the creation of "pure" servers that do not allow custom textures or player models that may give unfair advantage.
, Valve's proprietary anti-cheat system, has been incorporated into Steam.
Steam's interface treats mods in almost exactly the same way as it does purchased games, including, for some, browsable pages on the official site. This is in contrast with most games that offer no built-in launch utility at all. Mods appear in a user's list of installed games with the icons, developer links and other such details that are used by full games. They can also use VAC, Friends, the server browser, and any other Steam feature supported by their parent game. They cannot currently be distributed through Steam however, and as such do not automatically update or use the GCF or NCF file formats. Currently, mods for Valve’s GoldSrc games, Valve’s games and Red Orchestra can be integrated.
Image:Steam-acceptedpayment.png|thumb|Steam's list of payment options, given during each purchase process.
All purchases are made from the desktop through the Steam client, with an encrypted connection, and users are required to enter their billing details from scratch for each purchase as Steam does not store them between transactions. Users are able to pay via credit card, debit card, PayPal and ClickAndBuy.
Games available on Steam are priced on varying levels, where older games tend to be less expensive, and newer releases are the same as the retail price. Gamers have been critical of Steam for the high prices it charges for games added through the other publishers.
On 2007-09-12, Valve released "The Steam Community" website, a social network that allows Steam users to communicate with each other on a many-to-many scale from both the desktop and through an 'overlay' program within games. Each user's "SteamID" account page contains information such as their Friends (i.e. contacts), how long they have played individual games in the past two weeks, their "Steam Rating" (a 0-10 scale of how much overall playtime has been logged in the past two weeks), and of which groups they are a member. Users that are registered on The Steam Community are currently not able to hide this information from their public profile page, revealing their gaming habits to anyone visiting their profile page. Since the release of Steam Community, complaints about the lack of privacy have been made, and other available exploits such as invitation spamming.
Steam's server browser allows users to search, filter, bookmark and join internet and LAN games for the titles that integrate with it. It works from the desktop and from an integrated game's menu system, and polls Friends to show a list of servers to which a user's contacts are connected.
Friends, Steam's instant messaging tool, supports both one-to-one and many-to-many conversations, held publicly or privately, and VOIP. It provides extended information about what games each user is playing, allowing others to join their contacts in Steam-integrated multiplayer games with a single click.
The Friends system is a popular attack vector for phishers.
Steam is currently available in the following languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, and Thai.
As a centralized system, Steam also allows Valve to enforce regional lockout on their games. This became an issue when some North American customers bought Valve'sfrom Russian and Thai retailers. The retailers were issued authorization codes specific to their regions. When Valve noticed that these codes were in wide use on computers located in other countries, the company disabled their use outside their intended region of sale.
On January 28, 2008, Valve released Steamworks, a freely available development and publishing suite which allows developers to use parts of Steam. In particular, Steamworks allows for auto-updating, game statistics, multiplayer capabilities with voice chat, and access to the Steam community. Developers have access to quick build distribution, crash testing, and usability data. Audiosurf, the first game to use the suite, was released on February 15, 2008.
Guest Passes are allocated to a user when he or she purchases an applicable game. The user can then share the passes with others who have not purchased the game, allowing the new user to play the game for a limited time (which varies depending on the game). Once an activated guest pass expires, the recipient will be prompted to purchase the game in order to continue playing. The number of guest passes available to a game purchaser is determined on a game-by-game basis, and they expire one month after being granted if not used.
Users who already owned either Half-Life 2 or Half-Life 2: Episode One and who purchasedare eligible to give Gifts of these games. Valve does not allow these gifts to be bought, sold or traded because doing so violates the Steam Subscriber Agreement, and Valve may disable the Steam accounts of users who are believed by Valve to have done that.
Free Weekends are multi-player promotions in which a game becomes free to play on Steam for a weekend or so. When the promotion ends participant users can no longer play the game, but the game's files can remain installed on their PC's which would save time in downloading future updates if they purchase the game.
Steam has also allowed Valve to run the subscription-based Valve Cyber Café Program, which is the only legal way for a cyber café to offer Steam-based games. There are two pricing models: a flat-rate per-client fee each month, or the "Valve Time Tracker" system that offers a pay-as-you-go model.
Steam keeps a record of the hardware in the computer it is running on for various purposes, one of which is enabling hardware manufacturers to run after-sale promotions directly to their customers. Both ATi and nVidia use this feature: owners of ATi's Radeon video cards receive Half-Life 2: Lost Coast and Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, while owners of nVidia's GeForce video cards receive Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Portal: First Slice (a demo of Portal) and Peggle Extreme.
Both companies now distribute Steam installers as part of their driver and software installations.
Steam's development began at an uncertain date prior to 2002. Prior to 'Steam', its codenames were 'Grid' and 'Gazelle'. It was revealed to the public on 22 March 2002 at the Game Developers Conference, and was presented purely as a distribution network. To demonstrate the ease of integrating Steam to a game, Relic Entertainment had created a special version of Impossible Creatures.
The client application, Steam version 1.0, was first made available for download in 2002 during the beta period for Counter-Strike 1.4. At that time, it appeared to be a method of streamlining the patch process common in online computer games. Installation and use of the Steam program was mandatory for CS 1.4 beta testers, but Steam remained an optional component. In 2004, the World Opponent Network (WON) was shut down and replaced by Steam.
Recently, Valve has been negotiating contracts with several publishers and independent developers to release their products on Steam, typically with a pre-order discount of 10% off their MSRP. Rag Doll Kung Fu and Darwinia are two examples, and Canadian publisher Strategy First announced in December 2005 that it would be partnering with Valve for digital distribution of current and future titles.
Half-Life 2 release
On November 16, 2004, Half-Life 2 was officially released. The game required activation via Steam in order to play the game. Later on the day of the launch, a significant number of buyers (both through Steam and retail) found themselves unable to play the game, due in part to a bottleneck of Valve's Steam system. The European authentication servers went down for about 5 hours before being fixed, preventing those with accounts stored on them from decrypting or playing the game they had bought. Other problems included long download times, glitches and seemingly unnecessary updates.
Many hacks sprang up following Half-Life 2's launch, each claiming to be able to circumvent Steam and enable the user to get the games for free. Valve responded to these hacks by patching the servers and disabling accounts. It is still possible to download and play some games from Steam, and the games are unrestricted for single-player, LAN play and on illegal 'cracked' servers (as and when they can trick the master server).
Criticism of Steam
It is necessary to validate every Steam game online before it can be launched, although an offline mode is available. There are no alternate methods of activation such as via telephone or fax, which causes the system to deny access to those without Internet connections. According to the Steam Subscriber Agreement, Steam's availability is not guaranteed and Valve is under no legal obligation to release an update disabling the authentication system in the event that Steam becomes permanently unavailable.
Temporary system failures may occur preventing users from activating their games. The first temporary system failure affected Europe on November 2004 just after Half-Life 2 was released, and in December 2006 the root authentication servers were unavailable due to storms in Seattle. These temporary failures must currently be weathered by users wishing to play online or make new purchases.
By default, to play a game offline, Steam and the game itself must be fully updated. When Steam starts online, the system checks to see if there are updates available. If there are, the user is forced to wait for update process to finish before being able to play again, though games can be streamed online. These updates cannot be rolled back by the user, which prevents users with unusual or unrecognized issues reverting their software to its previous, functional state. Steam can be set to stay offline and not attempt a connection, but this offline mode has its own restrictions and limitations, including preventing games which have not been updated from running in offline mode.
Auto-updating can be turned off by the user, on a game by game basis. Doing this will cause multiplayer games to not function due to the users version being out of date compared to both other users who took the update, and game servers. Choosing to update the game is possible without re-activating the auto-update feature.
Changes to minimum specifications
On June 30, 2007, users who ran Windows 98 or Windows Me were no longer allowed to run Steam or any games that previously supported those operating systems. Additionally, users without SSE processors were warned thatgames would no longer function "within the next few months" if they did not upgrade their computer hardware (due to the impending release of its multiprocessor update). However, only a small percentage of Steam users were affected by these changes. Installing Steam on either of these operating systems results in an error forwarding the user to the Steam support website.
Gaming sites have criticized Valve for not making Steam natively available on Mac OS X or Linux; Valve describes the system as "strictly a Windows application". Despite this, Steam can run with most of its functionality under Wine. There is also an announcement from Valve that Steam and the Source Engine are being ported to other operating systems.
The only known example of this undisclosed collection of data has been that of the level of internal fragmentation of Steam's files. The data was used to justify the development of an internal defragmentation utility to reverse the performance-degrading process. "Rather than having to guess or estimate performance bottle-necks", a Steam Update News entry said at the time, "Steam gave us the ability to precisely solve the real-world problem."
Games bought through Steam cannot legally be resold due to the unsuitability of current Proof of Purchase laws. The only valid proof in an entirely digital transaction is the credit card used during the process, but as ownership of credit cards cannot be transferred, neither can that of Steam-bought games.
When a buyer purchases a boxed game, they must authenticate it with the registration of a CD Key. In the event that the CD Key that they have registered is already in Steam's database, the user is required to submit an image of the physical purchased CD Key for verification purposes, as well as a purchase receipt less than 90 days old.
Due to Steam products' ephemeral nature and Steam's resultant susceptibility to fraud, billing details entered must match exactly with those held by the bank. Similarly, certain types of failed transactions (such as chargebacks) will cause the user’s Steam account to be disabled until audited by support staff.
Blocked international imports
Whenwas released, users that bought their game from international sellers found their game to be blocked with an error message stating that they were in an "incorrect territory." Valve responded saying that games bought from Russian and Asian sources were the only ones affected.
Region restricted games
As Steam has the ability to sell games on a region by region basis, this has led to a number of popular publishers selling their titles only within certain regions around the world. This led to a large number of people voicing their concerns about region restricted games on Steam. Supported by the media, a Steam community group called "Rest of World." was set up on April 1st (after Ubisoft announced the sale of their titles on Steam, but only to North American territories) with the intention of lobbying to Valve and other publishers about releasing games region free.
Steam allows the publisher to charge a different price depending on the location of the customer. One justification for this is that it allows the game to be sold for a lower price in regions of the world that cannot afford the higher prices in the first world nations. However, as a result of regional differences and economic currency fluctuations, these prices may be dramatically different, as in the case of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare costs $49.95 USD in the United States, but costs $88.50 USD in Australia, as of April 2008.