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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Could Valve Return Me To PC Gaming?

And by PC, I mean Mac.

I had just gotten done complaining about the lack of Portal 2 for the PS3 when Valve drops the hammer down. And by hammer, I mean glorious news for Mac users - the Source library of games and Steam? Interoperability with PC users? Kinda the best thing to happen to Mac gamers since Romero admitted he once used one.

I started to abandon PC gaming around the time Bioshock was released. I'm actually struggling to think of the last game I finished on the old CheapBox++, but I think it might have been Oblivion. I had been a gamer on the PC since ... ok, technically I guess since playing Parsec on a TI-99. Or Wizardy on an Apple? When you get this old, the memory is a bit fuzzy, people.

My point being - I don't have the old CheapBox++ around anymore not because I was some console fanboy nut raised on NES games. I stopped playing PC games because they started being too much of a pain in the ass. I've gone on and on at length in other posts so let me sum it up with: too much instability, too much playing with video settings, too much dependence on buying increasingly powerful hardware.

And folks, you can agree or disagree with my logic - but I've been pretty happy with it. Even with what might have been a karmically induced PS3 bricking which caused me to restart Fallout 3 not once, but twice ... I'll take that over fighting with a video card installation or getting booted off the Sony forums for complaining about PlanetSide any day.

So let's look at those key points, in semi-random order.

Too much playing with video settings
What video settings? Resolution? There's a total of like two video cards you can get for your Mac. Not to mention my current Mac library consists of a MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini. Video drivers on the Mac? They work. They work well.

Too much instability
The Lenovo Thinkpad I used before my trusty MBP would lock up like Fort Knox and occasionally require a 20 minute head start before it really get to work. The MBP has occasionally bouts of flakiness, but in part because of the reason above ... it is a damn solid machine.

Buying increasingly powerful hardware
This one is mostly self-defeating ... because it is not going to happen. I'm not likely to enter the desktop world again anytime soon (I don't know where it would go). Truth is, this MBP is in the "from my cold dead hands" arena for me. I don't even technically own it, it belongs to the office ... but I snarl at IT anytime they come near it.

So it comes down to the following questions:

How well will Steam run on OS X?
My issues with Steam are a matter of record. Literally, I think, since I contacted the Better Business Bureau when Valve refused to offer a refund. I've also frequently admitted that my many problems with the service appear to be abnormal and there are many a PC gamer who swears by it. I don't know how many technical problems Windows caused for Steam ... but it will be interesting to see.

Is Steam more consumer friendly?
Even if you love Steam, you should realize that it is wildly consumer unfriendly. You get billed for goods before delivery. Delivery? Not guaranteed. Technical support? Last I looked it was an utter joke. Some of this is the difference between digital and disc based goods, but some of it is just Valve being overly protective of their own ass. If that has not changed, and I honestly doubt it has, I'll probably only dip my toes in the Steam water for special occasions like Portal 2.

I'm optimistic ... though not wildly so. I don't see how it can be a bad thing, assuming it will be a good to great thing - but guessing the vast majority of my gaming will still be done on the old plasma TV.

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