Steam sputters

Also: Newell says ATI is tops!

With what appear to be significant motions towards preparing for the release of Half-Life 2, Valve Software took its first tiny stumble towards the relaunch of its Steam content delivery system this week.

Originally, users were supposed to be able to download the new Steam 1.0 client yesterday, when the service was due to go live and require users to own a Half-Life CD key to log in. However, when even the site itself disappeared offline for a time during the day it became obvious something was up. Rumours circulated of a DoS (Denial of Service) attack on the Steam site, but an eventual statement from Valve's Doug Lombardi only revealed that Valve had "been making final changes to the Steam network throughout the night. Unfortunately, it's taken longer than we planned". He went on to state that the dedicated server software would still see the release yesterday evening, with the client following today.

This isn't where the story ends. The Steam server still didn't show up on the official site yesterday, nor has it appeared up there now. However, one particularly sharp user of the Steam forums revealed that update software had actually appeared on Valve's FTP server, and we can confirm that this does indeed appear to be the case. Hopefully all this faffing about is indicative of a real effort to get things ready for the still-anticipated September 30th release (on Steam at least) of Half-Life 2.

In other HL2 related news, Gabe Newell - Valve's big, round face of publicity - conducted a small press event in Seattle yesterday which focussed on the game's technical performance. The developer has previously been quite loud about the "scalable" performance its Source engine is capable of, helping it to run well on a wide range of different PC setups. Indeed, Microsoft itself had nice things to say about it, proclaiming Half-Life 2 "as a new benchmark for the type of amazing experiences that can be delivered on the Windows platform" in a press release yesterday, while reaching over to clasp Valve's hand in a tender, beautiful moment.

The fact that HL2 is the "most complete DirectX 9 benchmark to date" will apparently be put to the test when Valve releases the standalone Half-Life 2 benchmark software later this month. Got a date for that? Oh! The 30th. How interesting. Anyway, we digress (quite a lot, in fact). The press event quite significantly highlighted that ATI cards are the choice for running Half-Life 2 as it was intended, with all of its DX9 malarkey enabled; some charts and figures available in this article at Gamers Depot go a long way to prove this.

Valve has apparently taken issue with various "optimisations" made by NVIDIA that have resulted in its cards actually performing far better as DX8.1 hardware, to the point that Half-Life 2 will treat the cards as such with its default settings. To this end, Newell quite sternly backed ATI's cards as the choice for gamers wishing to upgrade in time for HL2.

Still no official, solid word on that sodding release date yet though.

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Martin Taylor

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