Half-Life 2 Has Me Steamed
Before I go into my rant, let me say that I've been playing now for about 3-4 hours and the game's excellent so far. The graphics are unbelievable, gameplay is smooth. The story's a bit...well, weird...maybe once things are explained a bit, it'll make more sense.
My big beef with this game is the installation procedure. You don't get a manual or book with this game, only a card with key commands on one side and installation instructions on the other. The actual instructions are deceptively simple:
A Steam account is required to play Half-Life 2 and an internet connection is required to create your Steam account. During installation you will be prompted to create your Steam account and validate your CD key, once this is complete you can play Half-Life 2.
This sounds like every other game, but these instructions are extremely misleading...make that a bold faced lie! What I went through was more painful than my last Windows operating system installation - and no, I'm not kidding.
The actual install from the 5 CDs was smooth. Early on I got a prompt to register my copy, which I clicked. But after entering all my data I found myself on the Vivendi University site, where I had to tell them not to send me any game product email...so we'll see what interesting spam I get out of this.
Now comes creating your Steam account, which is in no way clear or automatically prompted. More like, I clicked on the Steam icon on my desktop (while online) to get this going. Now maybe it's because of the incredible server lag on this first day of release, or because I'm on dial-up, but it took over an hour to create my account! I kept getting an error that the connection was reset by peer...over and over and over again.
*whew* That's over, now I can log on to Steam and start Half-Life 2. It took over 30 minutes to log on to my Steam account. We're talking a simple handshake here, just like logging onto your web account or into a server. But for whatever reason Steam moves very slowly and seems to hang up at the distant end.
Then I register my CD key, but get a message that the server's too busy but it can be done later - do I want to play Half-Life 2? I say "Hell yeah!" and up pops the main menu.
I click play Half-Life 2, nothing happens. I highlight and click it several more times, finally getting quite spastic, still nothing. In disgust I close the window, only to find that the CD key registry window has reopened in the background. I finally register my CD key.
Now Steam starts to unlock the Half-Life 2 game files. I suppose if I'd been waaay smarter and preordered this online, I'd get to start at this step. That would have been nice, but still not entirely painless.
Now I'm ready to play, but Half-Life 2 has detected an old video driver. Old? I just reloaded all my stuff with new drivers 6 months ago. It doesn't help that the automatic driver detection fails to identify my NVIDIA GeForce 4. No matter, I download the driver (which takes 1.5 hours) and restart my computer. By the way, make sure to turn off Steam...it's a bandwidth hog.
So now I'm ready to go, right? Not quite. I get the main menu. I click Play Half-Life 2 - nothing happens.
I open up the game menu on Steam and select Half-Life 2 to play, but get an error that says "This game is not ready to be played in offline mode."
You see, there's another piece of instruction on that card: An "Offline Mode" will also be available if the "Remember my password" box is checked on the Steam login screen. I had this box checked every time I logged into Steam, but I don't think it actually remembers anything until the first time you actually play Half-Life 2...so this means I have to log into my Steam acount again! That's another 30 minutes or so.
This time Steam needs to validate the game files. Will this never end?
Once that's over, I go the the Steam icon in my system tray, select Play then Play Half-Life 2. Now I get a dialogue box saying it wants to install Half-Life 2! WHAT?!? In frustration, I click OK, then get another box telling me it's preparing to play...about damn time.
All told, 5 hours from start of installation to actual gameplay.
I'm really enjoying Half-Life 2 so far, but want to wring someone's neck at Steam. I mean, what were they thinking? By creating the need for a Steam account to install, register, unlock, verify, and play for the first time, they've created a huge bottleneck that the entire gameplaying community has to fit into.