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So You Want to Compete with Steam (fortressofdoors.com)
244 points by eugenekolo2 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 215 comments



Really, Steam seems to be the closest thing Windows has to an application/package manager[0].

It's almost kind of a shame that it's more or less entirely for games and game development software - something like it with sourceforge/github integration or an API for general purpose Windows installers would be nice.

[0]notwithstanding whatever Windows 10 might have, because I still refuse to touch that, but it's probably not as good as the Steam client.


Hell, I wish the Google Play Store/Apple App Store did things half as well as Steam does, like:

- Backing up application data in the cloud (game saves)

- Update priorities (ASAP, before next launch, before everything else)

- Throttling bandwidth use or background updates (because I know you're streaming Youtube and your battery got low and you just want to have enough juice to finish your video, but Google Play Music/TV/Movies/Bloatware must update now, what's a little buffering for the next 20 minutes anyway?)

- Update windows (like when the phone is idle in the middle of the night, not when I'm in the middle of using it)

It doesn't seem like any of these things would be hard to build. I guess "package manager UX" doesn't look good on a product manager resume.


So weird you mention all this, in my experience Google Play does a good job with this. The only thing that really irks me is that if an app while you are using the phone, the foreground app should never get updated. Sure, download the delta patch but wait for me to have stopped using it in order to update (or if I am using the app for hours, pick an update message). To be fair nowadays this only happens when I manually start updating my apps.


Mine is set to update on WiFi only. And everyday, without fail, the moment I plug my phone into a power source in the evening (could even be to my computer for debugging), it'll start going through and applying all available updates. The performance impact is always noticeable during the duration of the updates.

Other common case is when I pull into my driveway/office and happen to be charging my phone in the car and it gets into WiFi range. Boom, update everything time.

Google supposedly knows everything about my daily routine, and yet, somehow can't predict when I won't be using my phone. Even something super dumb like, screen off > 2 hours && battery > 80% && connected to wifi would make my autoupdate life much better.

Apple has the opposite problem. "Hey, your computer needs to restart, [Restart Now], [Remind me tomorrow]". [Remind me tomorrow] doesn't mean, oh I noticed that your computer went into sleep before tomorrow I'm going to restart it now. Thanks Apple, I had unsaved state open.

Ironically enough, Microsoft seems to have gotten the apply updates/restart frustration down. Maybe it's from all the flak they've gotten over the years.


There's also that they treat all wifi as the same. I saw my data allowance for a 2 week cruise in a few weeks, it's 250MB total. I wonder how many people burn through that on updates alone. As annoying as windows can be about applying the updates, at least they let you set if a connection is metered or not so it won't download. If only steam and everything else didn't ignore the setting.

> Ironically enough, Microsoft seems to have gotten the apply updates/restart frustration down. Maybe it's from all the flak they've gotten over the years.

Not IME. When I shutdown my computer to go away for Christmas holidays windows decided that this was the perfect time to apply updates. Fortunately it completed on the bus ride and not the flight.

I think we've gone well passed the point of what computers should do on our behalf, everything they try and automate lately just ends up aggravating me.


> There's also that they treat all wifi as the same.

You can tell the system which Wifi networks are metered, at least since Lollipop if not earlier.


How? Long pressing brings up nothing relevant (and don't get me started on hidden functionality like that), no swipe actions in the wifi settings, if it's there it's not obvious.


On 8.1, it's in Network & Internet/Data usage/Network restrictions. It does seem odd that they put it in the data section, not the wifi section.


Regarding unsaved state when restarting, that sounds like an app problem. macOS has gotten extremely good at state restoration and has great APIs for that. Typically my computer screen looks exactly the same after a restart.

So if your app loses state because of an automatic restart, that is really a problem with the app. The developer should either make use of the state restoration APIs (preferred), or at least implement -applicationShouldTerminate: to prevent the reboot when there are unsaved changes.


Just my anecdotal experience but Windows stopped me while I was doing something by suddenly rebooting the machine. The update took ages, well, more than 30 minutes, still very annoying.

In the end, the visible change was the addition of Edge and Cortana .. A good way to make me decide to never use these 2 apps.


Agree, why is Windows taking that much time to apply some updates? And you can't do anything while the updates are in progress.


A friend of mine joked that a recent Windows update “downloaded the entire internet and then proceeded to install it”. The next day, I watched with horror as my computer restarted with the same Windows update...it took a similar amount of time (45 minutes to download, 30 minutes to install)

I would really like to know what it was downloading, and why it took so long. My entire windows partition is only 100GB, it would have been faster for me to back up my data, download a new ISO and install Windows from scratch than to just update it.


In fairness Steam forces updates too. In the old days you could play games without updating to the latest version. Now game updates are mandatory.

So MS followed Valve on this.


> Update windows (like when the phone is idle in the middle of the night, not when I'm in the middle of using it)

No, no, no. That's how I ended up with a laptop burned screen. Or being woken up by whatever music it was playing at that time. Solution: update when I press the button or when I planned it myself.


Just having interruptible updates and an average time to completion would make me hate MS Windows a little less. Like how hard is it too say "your computer needs updating, it takes 20 minutes on average for other users: continue, snooze, or schedule", then have "complete update later" button.

And do their damnedest to get rid of the half-hour wait on reboot whilst it does unknown evil in the background with no indications of action or time to completion ... yes, I've been burnt!


Google Play already has the option for manual updates. It will prompt that an update is available and you can press the button to install.


The problem is that Windows is designed for the lowest knowledge user, who would never manually prompt for updates because they either think them useless, don't know they are there, or have a "don't fix it if it works" mentality.


> I wish the Google Play Store/Apple App Store did things half as well as Steam does, like: > Backing up application data in the cloud (game saves)

iCloud has been doing that for years, with more features and flexibility for both users as well as developers than Steam.

> Update priorities (ASAP, before next launch, before everything else)

Disable auto-updates and let the user decide. Manually choosing updates works better on the App Store than on Steam.

> Update windows (like when the phone is idle in the middle of the night, not when I'm in the middle of using it)

macOS, iOS, tvOS and watchOS all let you choose whether to download OS updates in the background and when to install them.


I released a game on Steam, they did some testing for me and gave feedback like

  On our tests we saw that the game does not run if the PC does not have following libraries, check those tickboxes on that page to install them as well
It really is a package manager


If you're looking for a package manager on Windows, you might be interested in Chocolatey: https://chocolatey.org/


Chocolatey has some slightly-awkward-feeling freemium thing going on; there was a good discussion of Windows installer stuff recently: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15791781

https://github.com/lukesampson/scoop/wiki/Chocolatey-Compari... (scoop) is an option focused on dev tools, http://boxstarter.org for repaving dev/vm machines.

Proprietary https://ninite.com for normally-installed stuff, not sure if the free edition updates things.


Free edition of Ninite only installs 32-bit applications, unfortunately.


Thanks for the heads-up, it's been quite a while since I've needed it.

How has this limited your experience so far? I'm not really well-versed on even the expected impact this has on commonly used applications... is there any?


Well, no one wants a 32-bit web browser, and IrfanView 32-bit cannot handle large files well, I can't remember if the JRE has a 64-bit mode in the free edition but probably not.

In general you will also lose stability and/or performance with complex or intensive applications. For many suites like GIMP, Blender and LibreOffice this is a deal-breaker for me.


It looks nice, but the whole paradigm of installing software by copying and pasting commands into a root shell is terrible.

And I say that realizing it's only a step removed from downloading an installer and running it, but still.


I've always used Cygwin for installing packages I need on Windows. Unfortunately it doesn't turn it into a proper unix, but it can only do so much under adversarial circumstances.


Never thought about it like that, but you're right about it being a pretty decent package manager.


> Really, Steam seems to be the closest thing Windows has to an application/package manager

I don't understand this obsession with package managers. You guys really have less trouble with package managers than Windows installers? It was literally just 2-3 days ago I was trying to update Ubuntu and I couldn't, because of some stupid error (I don't remember exactly) along the lines of "libgl1-mesa-glx depends libglapi-mesa XX.YY but ZZ.WW is present" (again: I don't remember the error exactly). And no matter which packages I tried to upgrade/fix/uninstall/whatever or in what order I tried it, it wouldn't budge. I guess the package dependency graph was somehow impossible to satisfy? I assume because different packages required different versions of the same package? This was not the first time I've ran into problems like this... eventually I just wiped it and restored from a backup. (Which I had made from moments earlier, because, well, did I mention this wasn't the first time this has happened?) To say I don't see what all the fuss and obsession with package managers is about is putting it very... mildly.


> You guys really have less trouble with package managers than Windows installers?

Hell yeah. I remember when I had to set aside entire weekends to reinstall a Windows machine. These days, when I need to reinstall one of my Linux boxes, I just fire up the Arch installer, and instead of installing the "base" package group as the manual instructs you, I install my configuration package for that machine which pulls in all applications (from the kernel and coreutils all the way up to Steam) and contains all configuration. When I recently reinstalled my notebook to enable full-disk encryption, it took me around 30 minutes, of which most time was spent downloading packages, and downloading /home from the backup storage. Net working time was maybe 5 minutes. I actually watched a movie while doing it.

The issues that you're seeing are because the particular package manager you encountered is shit. (Or rather, because Debian's/Ubuntu's byzantine packaging processes create a ton of pathological cases.) I've never had such problems on Arch. (Except for those cases about once a year when they restructure something and the package manager is confused, in which case you go to archlinux.org and the most recent news item contains the magic shell incantation that immediately resolves the issue.)


> I just fire up the Arch installer

I will concede that I usually run into far fewer problems/bugs with Arch's pacman than Ubuntu's apt/dpkg. It seems far more robust, and honestly more intuitive too. On the other hand, (1) getting things set up in Arch in the first place is so much more of a pain that it wastes just as much time, and (2) I have also had bad luck with Arch, when after re-downloading and re-trying the install a couple times, I finally realized the ISO I downloaded just had a broken build. (?) I would follow the setup instructions (yes, the appropriate ones, I know they change over time) but pacman would just somehow choke by the end. Once I realized it was a problem with their build I just went back to an earlier ISO and updated and it was fine. But yes, overall, I've had far better experiences with it.


> I just fire up the Arch installer

When I switched to Linux full time, I basically replaced Ninite with a one line shell script and was done. It also removes any worry that Ninite might go sour in the future.


One wonders why you have to rebuild your "better than reinstalling Windows all the time" system so often as to have invested the time creating a metapackage of your configuration.


1. Because the package acts as a backup, and the commit history explains why I set up stuff the way I did.

2. Because it's really convenient to just link people to its Github repo when they ask questions like "how do you configure MPD to use PulseAudio?".


Wow but that sounds like a problem created solely for the sake of the solution.


Those package dependency graphs are there to protect you. Having to route around the protection is precisely why you should use a package manger properly - to ensure you don't end up with incompatible/borked installation of key elements.

No, I do not think Installers are better than package management. By far, package managers are a key factor in system stability.


> Those package dependency graphs are there to protect you.

I'm sorry, what kind of protection is this that only after trashing my installation Apt decided to inform me that it can't handle the package dependencies?

And on top of that, for some reason you think the only alternative is to _bypass_ the package manager and get an even more borked installation? You don't see a third option?

> Having to route around the protection

which I never did or suggested I should do...?

> is precisely why you should use a package manger properly

and you are insinuating this somehow implies I must be using my package manger "improperly" because... why and how exactly?


>You guys really have less trouble with package managers than Windows installers?

Yes, because:

>(I don't remember exactly)

There is your problem.

Your package manager prevented you installing something which would have caused instability, and you didn't grok it well enough to understand, and somehow this is the fault of package management?

Did you upgrade your dependency graph before deciding it was all too difficult to understand and use the tool to fix the problem? (apt upgrade && apt update)

apt was telling you something important: you chose to just ignore it because "too confusing" or whatever .. maybe because you grew up on the very poor habit of "just install it and who cares whatever may happen afterwards" of installers?

>_bypass_ the package manager and get an even more borked installation? You don't see a third option?

There is a third option - upgrade your dependencies, try again, and if it persists - remove the offending package and replace it with one that works. That dependency graph is there to tell you: your system may become unstable after you install this.

No such luxury happens with the plain ol' installer methods ..

    sudo apt-get autoremove && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
EDIT: A simple solution to your problem, only possible with package management:

https://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2268104


>apt was telling you something important: you chose to just ignore it because "too confusing" or whatever

What "it" are you even talking about? I didn't "choose to ignore" anything. I Marked all Upgrades, clicked Apply, rebooted when it was finished, went to see if there were any more upgrades (there were some), tried to mark & apply them, and was greeted with this error. Apt/Synaptic got me into this broken state and couldn't get me out of it. I don't know what story you're reading, but it doesn't seem to be what I've been writing. There was nothing for me to ignore. The error wasn't something I ignored; it was the problem.


> Apt/Synaptic got me into this broken state and couldn't get me out of it. I don't know what story you're reading, but it doesn't seem to be what I've been writing. There was nothing for me to ignore. The error wasn't something I ignored; it was the problem.

No. Nothing was broken. The updates you had asked for were about to break something if you installed them. The error message was the package manager stopping you from breaking your system.


> No. Nothing was broken. The updates you had asked for were about to break something if you installed them. The error message was the package manager stopping you from breaking your system.

Uhm... two things.

First: you see this screenshot? https://askubuntu.com/q/814380 Aside from the actual package names, the bottom part is the same kind of error I got.

See how it says "You have held __broken___ packages"?

See how the top answer is "You can use Aptitude to automatically __fix__ the __broken__ packages"?

Yeah, I interpret that to mean I had broken packages. After updating. Not before.

Oh, and actually, I think it's basically the same kind of situation as in that link. Notice it has >17k views, only 2 answers, and no accepted answer? Yeah, I guess it's not so easy to resolve.

Second: Even if I ignore the above and pretend nothing there is currently broken, a system that cannot be updated is, uhm, broken. So not only was this system just broken, it was doubly broken.


> First: you see this screenshot? https://askubuntu.com/q/814380 Aside from the actual package names, the bottom part is the same kind of error I got.

I actually don't, imgur is blocked where I work. But I know the error you're talking about.

> Yeah, I interpret that to mean I had broken packages. After updating. Not before.

Yeah the error reporting is bad, which is where the whole unix philosophy of small cooperating programs goes completely wrong. (Or possibly the error is correct and the package is broken - Ubuntu maintainers in particular seem to make bad packages quite often. But the package manager isn't the problem there)

> Notice it has >17k views, only 2 answers, and no accepted answer? Yeah, I guess it's not so easy to resolve.

More likely the user who asked it (3 questions, 0 answers) got bored and never "accepted".

> Even if I ignore the above and pretend nothing there is currently broken, a system that cannot be updated is, uhm, broken.

In as much as you now can't use the package manager to update all your programs? I mean I'd agree that this qualifies as "broken", but it's exactly as broken as a system that doesn't have a package manager in the first place. You could still update all the individual programs manually like you would on windows. Which is what I thought you were advocating?


I'm really enjoying this thread where it seems the complainer is saying they clicked a button provided by the system that resulted in breaking the system and the defenders are saying the complainer not only clicked the button wrong but didn't understand how to click the button correctly. Therefore, the complainer should have realized they are too stupid to understand how to click such an advanced button correctly and should leave it to the professionals next time.


In the separate thread they may later complain about Linux not making it to the desktops of regular users.


I've seen lots of contradictions like that from the community.

"Linux is for haxorz and normies should go away!"

"Why don't more people use Linux?"

But such is expected from a large community though.


As you've hinted at in your last sentence, these things are only contradictions if you look at the Linux community as a single entity, and not a collection of individuals. I doubt a single person could hold both views (at one moment in time, of course people change).


Oh, something has gone wrong at multiple levels here, and the buck should stop with Ubuntu if nowhere else (since their whole value proposition is supposed to be an OS that's easy to install/administer). But the problem here isn't package management; removing package management would not make it better.


> More likely the user who asked it (3 questions, 0 answers) got bored and never "accepted".

Call me, uhm, skeptical. I wonder why he'd get bored, if not for receiving non-working answers. I wonder if it's at all akin to how I'm in the same situation and the answers don't work for me either. That strangely correlates with the lack of an accepted answer. Yeah, "not causation", I know. Doesn't change anything.

> You could still update all the individual programs manually like you would on windows. Which is what I thought you were advocating?

No you can't, which is my point. These programs depend on different versions or libgl/libmesa/whatever is causing the problem. So I can't update anything that needs a newer (or older?) version because it chokes when there are multiple versions needed. That's a non-problem on Windows, and if 10 years ago the story was different that means, well, nothing.


Its not broken. The 'error' in the example you gave is: php comes in many flavours and your distro has (wisely) decided not to make this decision for you.

You have to decide which flavour of php you want to use and install the dependency manually, yourself.

This is a feature, not a bug.

Not knowing how to use package management and why you'd do things this way, does not mean that package management is broken. It means you don't know what you're doing.

Honestly: PEBCAK.


Here's a better idea: build the system such that dependency conflicts aren't possible. This is trivial by having a stable base system and otherwise including any application's dependencies in the same directory as the application, which of course means not spreading the application all over the file tree (and thus avoiding another non-existent problem that package managers solve).

I know, that's really hard for Linux Desktop people to understand, because it goes against their nature of making everything as complicated as possible for no reason. It's not rocket science, lots of systems managed it in the past.


On the contrary, the system you proposed has been implemented many times over the history of Linux .. I can think of GoboLinux as an example, but I think NixOS also does this (may be wrong).

I prefer to just keep the system stable through careful application of well-curated dependency graphs. I've never run into any issue, having used Linux since the very first day, that I couldn't solve by proper application of package manager tools. It seems its easy for newbies and those who don't care enough to get into trouble, but with the right attitude you can easily have systems with years and years of uptime (personal experience).


Gobo and Nix do something similar, but they overengineer the hell out of it (largely because typical Linux software is written very inflexibly). What I'm talking about is so simple it requires no management at all. AppImage is the closest solution Linux has, but sadly hardly any applications are deployed that way.


I remember running in circles trying to install one app on Debian and getting "hey, you need libtrpc, error", ok, apt-get it, "hey, now I need libc6 for libtrpc, error", ok, apt-get it too, "hey, your libc6 already present, what do you want from me, error". Of course each error was 5 lines long. I was doing lots of tries and asked on SE too but in the end it didn't work. And it couldn't even tell me all dependencies together, only on separate tries for each package. So much for glorified protection and usability.


I have run into this kind of package dependency lock-down sometimes when installing updated graphic drivers and build systems (usually from non-official repositories), and I have been able to solve it by reverting the problematic packages to older versions until I hit a well-formed dependency tree.

I only hit a similar problem in Windows once, when it hung up installing a new C++ runtime, and since then I could neither install another C++ runtime nor rollback it (restore system did nothing), resulting in applications randomly crashing or refusing to run because they were loading the wrong C++ libraries, and the only solution I found was reinstalling Windows again.


Thanks! Yeah, this is a great follow-up to what I've been saying.

Right, Windows isn't perfect either. What it does have going for it, though, is that on Windows there are comparatively very few external shared libraries -- in fact, the only ones I can think of are in fact the C, C++, .NET, and SQL runtimes. So, as you confirmed, it means application updates rarely break your system globally. (OS updates can still wreck the system... but that's no worse than Linux distros in my experience... but let's not go on this tangent.) Of course, that comes at the cost of needing to rely on the vendor for updates to their uses of third-party libraries. It's understandable that not everyone would like this trade-off (though mine tends to prefer an out-of-date system that works than a patched system that's broken), so that part (kind of) makes sense, especially if people are extra-worried about security over productivity. The part I find mind-boggling is that Linux users are obsessed with package mangers for the initial installations themselves, not merely updating. Package managers seem (almost?) fundamentally flawed in that regard, and that's what baffles me. Do they really only ever want to install FOSS software blessed by their OS distro, and do they really think it makes sense for a system to break if they install anything unblessed? More power to them if they can live like that, but I can't.

In terms of the problem you faced, do you mind if I ask how recent of a Windows version it occurred on? (i.e. was it on pre-XP, XP, 7, 8/8.1, or 10?) One generic tip I do have is to use VirtualBox to boot into the host OS with an immutable virtual disk, make all the changes, and verify everything works correctly before doing it for real. It can come in handy when installing programs or updates that you suspect might be problematic. I can provide more details on this if you're interested; just let me know.


They are just different approaches, "bundle every library with the binary" vs "make every binary load the system library". And I think it's mostly a distinction of a system designed for final users (Windows), where your priority is making sure the program works with as little unknowns as possible, vs a system designed for production (Linux), where the people in charge wants to know exactly what is running.

Answering your question, I hit that problem on a Windows 7 machine, it was not a suspicious update, just the usual "install C++ redistributable 20xx to make this program work", but it crashed halfway for some reason. After a while I just reinstalled Windows (it was almost a clean install, so nothing starting anew was simply faster).


I'm guessing you don't know what "DLL hell" was.

>The part I find mind-boggling is that Linux users are obsessed with package mangers for the initial installations themselves, not merely updating.

Yes, because it keeps the system functional and operating and - if you use it properly - package management is a hellaciously great way to build a system.

> Do they really only ever want to install FOSS software blessed by their OS distro, and do they really think it makes sense for a system to break if they install anything unblessed? More power to them if they can live like that, but I can't.

Its your system, manage it how you like. But the default of 'safety and stability first' in a package manager is a feature, not a bug. Don't blame the tool if you don't know how to use it properly - its clear that you simply do not know how to use package management to your benefit. This doesn't mean package management is of no benefit; it means your basis of operating/administering the system is flawed. I would suggest this is due to your attitude more than anything else; its certainly not for technical reasons.


> I'm guessing you don't know what "DLL hell" was.

I do. And like you said: "was". That's why I asked which version of Windows parent is talking abomut. Why are you bringing it up so many years later when you explicitly acknowledge it "was" rather than "is"?

> Don't blame the tool if you don't know how to use it properly

So many of you are baselessly claiming this yet none of you are telling me what I could have possibly done "improperly" to get into this mess. I told it to update everything. And there were no packages that had more updates... except these ones which wouldn't budge. If just telling my system to update and letting it do whatever it wants is "not using it properly" then -- to put it as nicely as I can put it -- there is a UI/UX problem. (Read: it would do a good job of explaining why a Linux distro isn't the main desktop OS, wouldn't it.)


When you say you told it to update everything, do you mean this:

    $ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
FWIW, Steam has a long and chequered history with regards to dependency hell - and there are gotcha's with using it on 32-bit systems these days, so it could be that. Your package manager was protecting you from this issue, not limiting you, and I would suggest that the problem you ran into, was more related to Steams' requirements than to your package manager being borked somehow.

The reason you're getting so much push-back on this issue, I feel, is that there are far, far more benefits to package management than disadvantages, and in your special case you managed to get into a state that led you to the wrong conclusion, alas. Your package manager was protecting your system, as it is designed to do - what you needed to do was identify which package had the foul dependencies, and either decide to override the package manager, or uninstall the original app - which I believe was Steam.

Steam on Linux does have gotcha's - one of which, the designers of Steam also don't want to have to maintain a package repo or play nice with distro's efforts to keep peoples systems clean and well-maintained (too expensive to actually play along) .. so the fact that you were being tripped up by Steam, and subsequently blamed Linux-worlds' package management, is double-frustrating for those of us who have been using package management for decades and consider it one of the principle advantages to being Linux users, over the hell of Windows installation that has cropped the industry for decades.


I'm changing my system soon and I can tell you that I'm very, very happy that most of my games are on Steam. I remember that manual installation from DVD used to take minutes to hours, and I just don't have the time for this any longer.

Right now, my biggest nightmare are VST plugins. They are in fact the reason why I didn't upgrade my PC from an i7 920 for years. I estimate it will take me at least a week of full spare time use to deinstall them on the old machine and re-install them on the new machine. Steam would make many people a huge favor if they managed to enter the pro audio market, which still comes with their own installers, licensing schemes, DRM, spurious hidden support services, etc. All the bad stuff, exclusively for honest customers.


You need a pretty hefty net connection to download a complete library in a reasonable time. My computer is a little under powered so i look at lighter games, they're all over 6GB, some are 25GB ... there's at least 3 times I've gone to buy a game, following email offers, and thought it was just too large.

I probably need to look into QoS again, but my ISP's router has it locked down.


A better option is to backup your games to an external drive and then restore to the new system.


Well the problem is it sounds like you are dealing with a proprietary gl package. Which sucks because the package mangers can't do anything about that. Blame your graphics chip provider.

You wouldn't have this problem if you didn't give up your freedoms to mega corps (only some snark).


Which of these packages is proprietary? I was doing this in VirtualBox without guest additions installed, and while I used to boot this installation on an NVIDIA system, I don't believe I had any NVIDIA-specific packages on it. Let me know the proprietary package name(s) you think I had and I'll search to see if I had any of them installed.


Well there is your problem. You have the NVIDIA graphics drivers / GL shim "installed". Likely manually because that's the only way they can be used (maybe your distribution did it automatically, but I find that doubtful); you can tell you did it through this simple question: did you use the video card's acceleration at any point? if you did (and I assume you did, since you called it a system by the brand of your video card) you have effectively told your package manager (probably through some "convenient" NVIDIA provided "installer" script):

"I really really want this package and do whatever other proprietary shit this script I didn't read thought was a good idea (like maybe put it into the system with some bizarre name) on a system that will always have this NVIDIA card in it"

And now you are trying to upgrade to something (the proper mesa gl library) which conflicts with that request. But because the package you "installed" has no information (because it's not a real package; because it's a bundle of proprietary code that NVIDIA refuses to properly support) the package manager can't really help you (it can't remove a package it doesn't know how to, so it can't remove the dependencies it's providing, so it can't add a new package with the same provided dependencies). You have to undo whatever shit that script did before you can proceed with a stable system.

Also note, what you are trying, is basically impossible with a Windows system (e.g. installing an arbitrary video driver; moving a system - without re-installation - from hardware to a virtual box system, or even hardware to hardware). So if it doesn't work... it's not like you had any other options anyway. NVIDIA assumes the Windows paradigm here, the open source systems you bludgeon with their proprietary code can do nothing to stop the bad actors you force on them from doing bad things.

I don't know the list of NVIDIA driver packages off the top of my head, or whatever bizarre shit they did to your installation, and it's not the responsibility of the Linux community to provide tech support for your hardware manufacturer. I had considered trying to be more helpful, and do some cursory research into your problem, but your attitude towards someone else that was being extremely helpful showed you don't want to be helped, you want to angry at someone. We are not your tech support, so I can tell you: Fuck off.


> Well there is your problem. You have the NVIDIA graphics drivers / GL shim "installed".

Not in Virtualbox without the guest additions installed. Even with them, it would be a different binary blob. I mean, don't let me get in the way of your profane, unhelpful, and extremely unnecessary rant, but...


I mean. Based off of his posts, he implied he took an image from a physical machine with Nvidia hardware and put it in a virtual machine (on an unspecified system with out guest additions anyway). Are you claiming a disk image of an OS running with Nvidia hardware (that used the acceleration) - with that shim installed - is not going to have that package added anymore if I just stick it in a VM? If so what mechanism would have done that?

As to your effort question. Because I want people to use these systems. As I was writing a detailed response he started writing troll responses (implying the people had read some other story and responded to his for some reason he couldn't fathom; and requiring excessive amounts of evidence) to people offering honest explanations and differing opinions. So I wrote an ending paragraph to what I had that called him out on trolling these people for "tech support" as that as the most charitable way I could view his actions.

It's frustrating when trolls take advantage of people's willingness to help with technical requests as a way to disguise shutting down disagreement by asking questions with large burdens. And then also his changing his story once they respond (often editing his posts without EDIT markers), implying they got everything about his vague statements wrong and that his evidence - his anecdotal setup - disagrees. He has set up a situation where it is easy for his anecdotal evidence to be infallible unless someone can somehow figure out his vague error which is a symptom of his misunderstanding more than it is the system, but his response to attempts to explain the system have been met with his trolling about how they are reading something different. I suspect now that his trollish behavior is a way to defend his argument and incompetence from being challenged.


If your concern is with making Linux on the desktop more appealing, it may be worth your while to consider whether your discursive style, in the role of (presumably self-appointed) community representative, might make it more likely or less likely that people will want to participate in the community you claim to represent.

As it happens, my own experience with the Linux community suggests that you do not accurately represent it at all, at least not when you act as badly as you have here. Someone with no such prior experience, faced with your execrable behavior here and your claim to represent that community in so behaving, could not reasonably be blamed for the conclusion that attempting to engage with that community would be a terrible mistake.


I never claimed to be a member, let alone some sort of representative, I'm not nearly nice enough. It was more of a "leave those nice people alone with your trolling" than a "leave us alone".

Surprising is, that no one seems to have a problem with the technical side of what I posted. Just the fact I said a bad word. To wit, I have news for you, the guy who runs linux swears all the time at all kinds of people. I wouldn't touch the stuff if I were you.

Also still waiting to hear how a disk image looses a package when placed in a VM.


Torvalds doesn't represent the Linux community to current or prospective users. He doesn't even represent the Linux community to devs who aren't on LKML. So pleading his style doesn't help your case here. As for

> I never claimed to be a member, let alone some sort of representative

Earlier, you said:

> We are not your tech support

Whom, then, did you mean by "we"?

And as far as the technical side, well, who knows? You're very quick to assume you understand exactly what's going on, but I don't see why that means I should be likewise.


> We are not your tech support, so I can tell you: [expletive] off.

1. I wasn't here to seek tech support at all. The discussion was on package managers and I was sharing an experience I had. Users such as you decided to issue judgments that I must have necessarily ignored apt and broken my system by... installing non-OSS software (?!) without any information on my actual system setup. As I said in the very beginning, I already reverted to my backup. Nowhere did I solicit tech support, and nowhere did I expect any, especially based on almost complete lack of knowledge about the actual system configuration.

2. Flagged. This is the first time I've seen such an attack on HN. And you can imagine I have no interest in replying after this.


You were asking to be provided tech support here:

> Which of these packages is proprietary? I was doing this in VirtualBox without guest additions installed, and while I used to boot this installation on an NVIDIA system, I don't believe I had any NVIDIA-specific packages on it. Let me know the proprietary package name(s) you think I had and I'll search to see if I had any of them installed.

(Also, how would you do that if it was already wiped? Edit 2: yea.... because as not tech support I have read everything you have posted on your problem and am aware you have backups)

You were acting pretty entitled to this other person's help here:

> What "it" are you even talking about? I didn't "choose to ignore" anything. I Marked all Upgrades, clicked Apply, rebooted when it was finished, went to see if there were any more upgrades (there were some), tried to mark & apply them, and was greeted with this error. Apt/Synaptic got me into this broken state and couldn't get me out of it. I don't know what story you're reading, but it doesn't seem to be what I've been writing. There was nothing for me to ignore. The error wasn't something I ignored; it was the problem.

Edit: Oh and that's a perfectly civil response to you continuing to tell people who know how these systems actually work (which does not include you) that they are incapable of understanding what you are writing and implying that they are somehow delusional.


I'll reply to this because you posted it after I was finished editing my reply above, but as I said there, I have no interest in replying to your profanity beyond this:

>> You were asking to be provided tech support here:

> Which of these packages is proprietary? [...] Let me know the proprietary package name(s) you think I had and I'll search to see if I had any of them installed.

I was fact-checking your (unsolicited) diagnosis, which you had already provided despite my lack of request for any kind of support. You made a claim seemingly out of the blue that caught me off-guard (it seemed unfounded and I had neither requested support nor a diagnosis), and in response I said if you wanted to check your facts I would provide you with information to confirm or disprove your (again: unsolicited) diagnosis. I thought maybe you would be interested in seeing whether you are correct. Of course I won't anymore, after your profane verbal abuse.

> (Also, how would you do that if it was already wiped?)

Because as I said multiple times since the beginning, I had a backup from before the update, which I ended up restoring to. Apparently you are not reading?


> I was fact-checking your (unsolicited) diagnosis, which you had already provided despite my lack of request for any kind of support.

Yes, I posted a general response to the class of problems that your anecdotal story appeared to apply to. In an informal discussion of anecdotal evidence, what sort of fact checking do you seriously think could be performed? It's basically impossible. You are trying to set an impossible bar for anyone to comment on anything you say.

> I said if you wanted to check your facts I would provide you with information to confirm or disprove you

That's... not how any of this could possibly ever work. You want me to perform research so that you can tell me whether I got it right or not? My original response stands regardless of if it effects your system: proprietary code is often a problem for package managers.

But further more, as the one holding the anecdotal (and physical) evidence, the onus is on you to agree or disagree with facts using it. Your request for me to do original research specific to your problem is at it's most charitable a tech support style question (even if phrased along the lines "what technical knowledge do I need to prove you wrong?"). Because if it were a request for evidence in a discussion it would be an unreasonable request positioned to stifle all disagreement with you by placing unnecessarily large (e.g. ridiculous) burdens on anyone who comments (to which my response would be much stronger).

If alternatively you had said "I doubt that because I never installed NVIDIA code on the system." or nothing at all. I wouldn't have cared or responded.


Why did it mean so much to you? What made this particular expenditure of all that effort worthwhile?


I side with mehrdadn here. It would have been a "perfectly civil response" without the last paragraph, especially the "Fuck off". Likewise, in your last paragraph above you label him "incapable of understanding" and "delusional". That is not "perfectly civil".


No I said he implied that about other people. When he said they weren't reading what he was saying and were instead talking about some other story. If a person wrote a response exactly about his scenario, then saying what he did in response would imply that he thought that person was delusional. Which is what happened. I quoted it.

That was the point I gave up on him being an honest participant.


That's okay, I'm sure many of us gave up on your side of the discussion as well.


> Really, Steam seems to be the closest thing Windows has to an application/package manager

OneCore does have a package manager.

Windows Store (Win10, WP10, Xbox OS) use it and it works great but with old win32 apps, nothing is "standardized" in terms of storage, app state and versioning so that's an open challenge still.


If we're counting third parties, what about chocolatey? It's not my favorite package manager around, but it does do the job.


The convenience of having your game licenses all in one place over the long term is too great. The only way you could shut down Steam at this point is create an open industry standard that would allow a license to play a game to transfer seamlessly across platforms. No one wants to buy a game from a website that isn't going to exist in a year and will take your game with you. And no one wants to have 10 different platforms on their computer. And certainly no one wants to have different platforms offer different games that can only be accessed from that platform. But of course the gaming industry has an entire business model built on exactly that: console gaming. It's kind of a miracle that Steam even exists and people are going to be very resistant to replacing it with a completely fractured system of owning PC games.


GOG links to your Steam Account and will add games to your library that exist in your Steam Library. It only does this for participating publishers but it's still an effective way to copy your library.


The best thing about GOG is that I am actually able to find interesting games I did not knew they exist before there. Discovery on steam is atrocious.


Discovery seems good on Steam to me - shows games your 'friends' have and are playing, search by tags/keywords, stream of game suggestions you can work through, easy to browse library ... what's it need extra IYO?


I would prefer games I might like instead of those my 'friends' (virtually non existent on steam and those who are having different preferences) have.

I am mostly unable to find puzzle games that are not rpgs nor adventures. No matter what I do I see same most popular games I don't happen to be interested in.


Like Portal, World of Goo, Talos Principle? Or are those too RPG/adventurey?

Seems most people want puzzles in a context, rather than just raw?

If I go to search and put "puzzle" I get pages of puzzles and can choose a tighter genre to narrow it down. If I go to Portal 2, say, I get "more like this" (Qube looks interesting).

What's your best puzzle game?


Well, I guess that explains why people like GOG and hate Origin.


GOG also has no DRM'd games, at all. It's truly amazing, and if possible, I always buy from them.


Yes, GOG is the only place I buy games from. I don't want to have spyware installed on my PC in a form of DRM or be able to play games only while connected to Internet, so I don't use Steam at all.


Agreed, some DRM solutions are so bad, they’re worse than simple spyware – for example, Sony’s DRM Rootkit in the past.


DRM isn't even worst for me, I can always use a fresh virtual machine for a game and wipe it out afterwards, but constant Internet connection requirement totally kills it, as I don't have time for games often and these rare moments I play something is usually on a laptop when I'm on vacation out of town with no reliable Internet connection. GOG is great, I can buy, own and play a game whenever I want, wherever I want and expect it to be playable many years in future, even when official servers are long dead.


Yes! The most interesting part is that I bought the collectors edition of some Ubisoft games back when they were released, the DRM servers were shut down, and now they won’t work – but I bought them on GOG again, and the GOG version, without DRM, works just fine.


Well, GOG also gives you an executable which is rare these days.

You can click and drag it onto your friends' computers for a quick LAN party or to let your girlfriend play alongside you on a airplane.

I never hated Steam more than the time I was on a 18 hour bus ride only to find out Steam wouldn't even launch if it decided it needed to check for updates and you had no internet connection. And there was no way then to play the games you paid for.

If a game you want is available on both GOG and Steam, it's almost irresponsible to get the Steam version.

Oh yeah, on that same bus ride, I found out that .azw-formatted ebooks are locked to a single Kindle. I'm ready for GOG Books.


Not exactly. Quite a few EA games on Steam will give you a license key that can be activated on Origin. In some instances they might use a generic key that might not activate, but you can ask Origin Support to activate it on Origin for you.

The hate for Origin was mostly hate for EA's greedy practices and some privacy related stuff that came out when their client was released.


I have found that Origin and Ubisoft's thing scan your HDD and add their Steam games to their respective libraries.


Origin does it as well but only with EA games. Ubisoft does it for their abomination as well.


origin has something similar. Letting you activate old games on their.


But GOG has weird standards for what it will and will not allow on its store. Yatzee had some game he made denied, and Zachtronic's Opus Magnum was also denied.


GOG still does curation. Valve used to decide what got on their store too but they opened the floodgates for any old crap.

Mind you Valve still has a policy against porn. Lots of games still have to link to uncensored patches.


Really?! Oh wow, how did I not know this? Thank you!


It's more of a promotional event they have once in a while.

https://www.gogwiki.com/wiki/GOG_Connect has a history of games and dates. If you miss the owning that game on that then, and remember to check the website, you miss it.


I rarely use GoG but every couple months when I log in there's a notification that a game or two from my Steam library was added to GoG.


Oh, it's just for single games. Eh, much less useful then, thanks for the info.


No one wants a game that requires a "platform", they just don't realize it or care enough to boycott over it.


Gamers love relay servers, NAT punching, automatic updates, matchmaking, friend lists, achievements, community forums, screenshot sharing, streaming and more.

Gamers love platforms and what they provide at least as much as they love games themselves.


This. Nobody will ever leave Steam now because they lose their library and social media.

Steam is a lot like Facebook, leaving Steam for the competition would be like deleting years of your life.


I think it's only possible to say this now the most hated platform, GFWL, is dead.


Those are all features a platform should provide. Nothing about those features require that the game itself becomes unavailable should your Steam account be disabled or if Steam disappears, or that the game cannot be moved to another PC based platform. Creating a platform that allowed for/encouraged that would be a serious competitor to Steam in my opinion.


Nothing? Steam provides these features in order to maintain the network effects; losing the library exclusivity would be a crushing blow to that strategy.


They'd have hundreds more of my dollars if they worked that way. GOG gets most of my money now and I get none of those, admittedly very nice, networking and social features Steam is so great at providing.


I know plenty of people who like Steam, including myself. Netflix also does DRM but it Just Works (tm). What sucks is having many platforms.

For example, cable TV (from whereever you are from), Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime is 4 already.

For gaming, there is Steam, Origin, Battle.net, GOG that's 4 already.

If you take a smaller "app store" like Origin the question arises why does this even exist? It brings nothing on top of Steam.

If you want to compete with a product you need to compete on price or features. Well, price is zero, so you gotta compete on features. They can't compete on features, so EA enforces you to use Origin. Screw that. I want all my games in one managing app.

The reason Origin and Battle.net exist is because EA and Blizzard want control and keep people within their own infrastructure and offerings. I do get that from Blizzard's PoV. From EA's, not so much.

Plus that only works because they're reasonably big, and I doubt it works on the long term.

Valve, instead, choose to not only distribute their own games but also provide a complete platform for other publishers. They even allow you to import games which aren't on Steam such as Battle.net ones.

GOG specialises in DRM-free games which Steam doesn't.


> Well, price is zero

Except it isn't - Steam reportedly charges a chunky 43% extra on top of what the publisher gets (30% of the retail price you pay goes to Valve).

Other platforms try to charge the same, but for a near-zero-marginal-cost good, it is a bit strange that there is no price competition yet...


True, my bad -- it isn't from a developer PoV, and if the developer forwards the cut to the consumer, Steam is more expensive. This actually regularly happens.

The article does mention this, and also mentions a platform who don't take a cut, and explains how it is difficult to compete with these.

I'd argue though that if you self host instead of outsource (to e.g. Steam), this also has costs. So the reasoning that you'd save that 30% would be unreasonable.


I do.

Before Steam, when I bought a game, the purchase was tied to a physical disc. I'm very bad with physical things: I break them, misplace them, give them to friends and forget about it forever. I don't have any of those physical games now.

I still have Half-life 2 that I bought in 2004 on Steam though.


Sure they do, this idea is yet another example of how disparate gaming culture is from FOSS.

The identity of belonging to a specific platform, which games are exclusives and social events promoted for gamers and devs alike by the platform holder, are very important facets.


I wonder if you could write a wrapper over Steam (and other services) that allows the same benefits of them, but lets you have your own store too. You'd have a launcher that could launch any game on your computer, whether it's on Steam or GOG or Itch or your own service, and a global storefront that merges them all (and prioritizes yours). Would that even be legal?


there have been plenty of meta launchers, but the social aspect and mods, etc are much more important than that and are never provided.


There are plenty of businesses where you can just roll up, make a better yet not more innovative version of the leading app, and just take all of the customers.

Game distribution is NOT one of them, at all, by any stretch of the imagination, at this point in time.

I've saved this article to share every time I hear that pitch.


Could you give us a few examples of such businesses? Do customers really switch for marginal improvements?


The usual example of switching Uber for Lyft when the rates on one app are lower than in another


I can give a few more examples where marginal improvements are not enough, which really boils down to "anything with network effects".

- Messaging (WhatsApp, SMS)

- Social Media (Facebook)


Steam entrenchement goes so much deeper than "just" network effect: DRM (and even DRM-less, to some extent, for convenience) requires trust and despite a choppy start, Steam has definitely built a lot of trust. Maybe even earned (debatable, but I tend to agree), but definitely built. Trust that they are likely to still be around n years down the line, and trust that they don't shove every imaginable profit maximization down their captive audience's throat.

They have a headstart of more than a decade to any upstart and the growing of trust cannot be artificially accelerated. On top of that there are financials. Valve are not expected to disappear any time soon because of their huge earnings. Again, impossible to replicate. And they are a private, mostly (or exclusively?) founder-owned corporation, so there is at least a possibility of making "good enough" money, which is important for the "not shoving unwanted features down customers' throats" part. A VC funded startup, or worse, a publicly traded company could never reach "good enough" profits. It's the goose that lays golden eggs: a publicly traded company would inevitably keep rising into overvaluation until it eventually reaches the point where the only way to justify it is to cut up the goose in search of even higher profitability.


Valve made Steam literally into a Facebook and WhatsApp for gamers...


Consumables are pretty easy to dive into but often don't leave room for improvement (already been done). Restaurants are similar. Thing is, these aren't businesses to dive into. The more "free" the customer, the more competition that already exists. Remember, if its easy to eat someone else's lunch, it's easy to have your lunch eaten.


Discord could do it. Discord SHOULD do it.

There needs to be a serious competitor to Steam, something with significant enough market share that Steam gets scared. Steam could be so much better than it is -- I'm not saying that it's a bad product, just that it could be better.

Discord seems perfectly positioned to take on Steam. They already have incredible adoption in the gaming community. And they have quite a bit of experience at this rate too. (Maybe I should go work for them and push this line from within...)


I really hope they don't, they have a crappy memory and cpu hog client which takes an age to start up, a very questionable privacy policy and monetization method, and their software just annoys me. I don't want my programs to spam memes at me.


I haven't experienced those issues with the client (on iOS or Windows). What's wrong with their privacy policy as compared to other chat services? Same question for monetization. And I don't understand the memes comment.


Isn't their "native" desktop client an Electron app? Because if so, I think that's where the resource usage concern comes from. (And rightly so! I still can't get over the fact that Slack on my work laptop weighs more than Emacs.)


probably talking about the hilarious update release notes


Twitch is trying to do it.

They turned the Curse application into a game/mod store that also integrated custom servers that essentially mirrored Discord's application.

They also are using Twitch Prime and other service integrations to promote it. And they are well backed, which isn't something that could be said about Discord.


Well backed as in owned by Amazon...


Twitch/Curse hasn't really taken off with the community as much as Discord has. It's hard for me to pin down exactly what has put people off of it...


I wasn't even aware it does VC/text chat. Discord puts it front and center and does it extremely well.


Isn't GOG already starting to compete with Steam? (Of course, from the DRM-free angle).

They're an ever growing market, backed by a publisher with a strong lineup, just like Steam was in its early days.


(Author here)

GOG is a great service; their main limitations is that many AAA publishers absolutely refuse to release without DRM, though this is sloooooowly eroding, somewhat. GOG can't go back on their DRM-free promise without a revolt from their audience, but it also limits what big-ticket games they can sign.

I like GOG a lot, they've carved out a nice niche for themselves, but from every developer I've talked to, they're still a fraction of Steam's market share. I don't expect them to take over anytime soon, but I'll always support them and hope they continue to grow.


I think from financial POV gog makes sense for CD Projekt even if it's never becoming big - simply because they can publish their games there and get 100% instead of 70% of the price. They have lots of fanboys (me included ;) ), and on PC they sold more through gog than through steam (at least in 2015, haven't seen later data).

I hope they never go back on no-DRM, it's not worth it.


> many AAA publishers absolutely refuse to release without DRM

Why, though? It doesn't even work. Denuvo sort of worked, had a GIANT performance hit due to running on a VM, and even it was cracked before long.


I think HumbleBundle could do it. They already have a store, they just have built it on Steam's platform and/or standalone apps. I don't think it'd be THAT difficult for them to pivot, would it?


Humble has already pivoted, towards a subscription service. They're doing pretty well for themselves, but they're moving away from trying to compete head-on with Steam. IMHO, this is an excellent move for them. That said, they are extremely reliant on Steam keys for their business so anything they do that might directly antagonize Valve would put their business in mortal jeopardy.


How likely do you think it would be for Valve to buy Discord?


Depends on how much funding Discord has already raised, I bet. Their VCs are generally going to want a massive exit, and I bet the valuations after previous raises are non-trivial. Guessing that Valve is adverse to acquisitions in general too, for their weird cultural reasons.

EDIT: $725 million. Not cheap.

https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/07/discord/


I'm surprised Amazon hasn't bought them. Seems like it would fit well with their twitch property.


Twitch (and thus Amazon) is currently making a big play to compete head to head with Discord. At least among the people I talk to, it's an abject, miserable, flaming disaster, but I think it's a bit early for Amazon to walk away from it just yet. And they might yet pull it off; they have the resources.


They bought Curse instead. Using it's former Curse Voice client and turning it into a games store.


Mind you the USERS don't even want a lot of Steam's competition. The GOG downloader is...okay? Origin is almost universally hated and every time one of these big companies announces $NewNotSteam the collective community rolls their eyes and groans, dreading the new application that has to be installed, and kept running so it can update, to accomplish the exact same thing that Steam, GOG, Origin, and uPlay already accomplish because $NewNotSteam's parent company has an executive somewhere that is tired of giving Valve money and had sufficient pull to change it.


True.

The best thing Steam has ever done was allowing(but not requiring) importing of other games to it. We (as in myself and other users) will voluntarily move to Steam in many cases, just to avoid dealing with whatever download site the game had before, or to get the automatic updates. I've done that with KSP and Elite Dangerous (which has a non-shitty site).

And then Steam added VR - a very good implementation at that, which also supports Oculus Rift.

Updates just work flawlessly, download speeds are good in general, one can move games around, you can backup them if needed, etc.

Other competitors would not only have to match that, but do it better. And still most people wouldn't bother, because of their existing friends and libraries.

The article is spot on.

(Also, Origin is garbage, the only good thing is the name)


I just wish the interface was better for browsing. It's at the point where I'd rather use my browser than their official apps (on both phone and desktop) since at least that way I can open a bunch of recommendations in different tabs.


Contrarian anecdote.

I've had no issues with Origin.

It downloads/updates the games and launches them, and hasn't failed at that yet. I don't much care for any other feature.


Origin is the worse. While downloading games, it would often roll back the progress stretching the process into hours. A complete piece of shit that.


My girlfriend uses it for the Sims. On at least 3 occasions it's taken over an hour to get the game running due to Origin issues. It's truly garbage.


I kinda like the Origin Access model though. Subscribe for $5 per month, get access to a library of games.


I dunno, not a huge fan of those. I'd rather spend $60 on a game I actually want (or likely a lot less via Steam) than just get a ton of games I don't even play.


I endure it for Titanfall. If it wasn't required, I'd drop it so incredibly fast...


Really though... other than perhaps Blizzard... is there any secondary store worth looking into?

Outside of Windows/Android/iStore... There's nothing worth switching.

I've passed up on purchasing games (IE: Mass Effect 3) because it's tied to a shitty NotSteam...


It's not avoiding Steam, because plenty of games there are given as Steam keys, but I have a $12/mo Humble Monthly subscription. It's literally more games than I could ever play, but there are some really good gems every month. They also have the "Trove", which is a bunch of DRM-free downloads that cycle in and out over time.

I also use GOG when the GOG-tuned Dosbox version of a game is better than the Steam one. I don't use their downloader app.


Blizzard's client is pretty but has its own drawbacks. I uninstalled it recently after it tabbed me out of a competitive match with a UAC prompt to update itself. The Bnet forums are full of people complaining about that particular issue.


Just Gog. I find it interesting that it's basically killed a lot of the old abandonware rings that were out there. I played a lot of stuff I discovered on abandonia or homeoftheunderdogs back when I had an old computer that couldn't handle what was on the shelves in stores


Again GOG's is ok. It's not great, but it's also not an obstruction like Origin is.


Same here, I won't buy Titanfall as long as it requires Origin.


Don't wanna be that guy, but you really should. It's quite awesome and you don't need to deal with Origin hardly at all, just let it run in the background and it's 99% fine.


We sell our game on itch http://QuantumPilot.me Developer chooses what cut to pay to itch, which is nice. DRM free, easy to setup -- 5 minutes compare to 5 hours with Steam.

Itch supports indie game dev by letting community manage "Game Jams": http://itch.io/jams

Their site + client is open source: https://github.com/itchio


The client seems to be open source but their site doesn't. https://github.com/itchio/itch.io is just an issue tracker.


My mistake, thank you


Steam has lost that "discovery" aspect to it. It's now mainly weaboo garbage, early access and PUBG clogging up the trending and leaderboards.

I feel like I can no longer discover cool titles or great things people are buying on the site.


Yes, an entire industry of youtubers volunteered to take care of discovery and curation for games, valve saw that and decided to "just" be the video game version of Amazon and take care of sales and distribution.


Which is a decision I agree with. I feel like the ones who sell the products and the ones who recommend the good products shouldn't be the same people.


You can subscribe to curators whose recommendations will populate the main page.

One I like: 'Weird games for your pleasure' http://store.steampowered.com/curator/7099409-Weird-Games-fo...


I really don't feel like there is a better way to handle it than the curators system. I mean, look at Youtube and Amazon recommendations, they're awful.


Also a huge point to consider is that games also have to be as cheap as Steam. I used to buy pirated DVDs once upon a time because the real thing would cost about a month salary. Now Steam games in third world countries are so cheap I just buy a bunch I don't intend to play.

Even the discount sites and Humble Bundle aren't able to match up against Steam in third world countries.


https://isthereanydeal.com/ regularly shows me titles on my wishlist that are cheaper on somewhere other than on Steam.


Steam sells up to 4 times cheaper to people who live in certain poorer regions, and this also gets the usual discount. So some old game sold for $10, might get a 75% winter sales discount, plus a further 75% off in poor countries, down to about 60 cents.

It's clever because it takes purchasing power into account. So a game that's about 1 hour salary in the US would cost about 1 hour on a Indonesian salary as well.

This is going to be really hard for many competitors to match.


This article is full of good observations. A shorter way to say it is that the distance between Steam and "perfect" is not very large, and there isn't enough margin to be had to justify the cost of building something to close that gap. And that's assuming you can identify the features that would bring you to perfect from where Steam is.

I cannot even imagine a game distribution product that would get me to switch from Steam, unless there were Very Important games on it I couldn't get on Steam, or unless the prices were at least 10-15% lower.


> unless the prices were at least 10-15% lower.

Article's author here :) You couldn't even do this, because every distributor I've ever heard of reserves the right to match your full retail price. So you can't even cut your margins in a bid to pass on the savings to the consumer.

So yeah, it's tough out there.


The article takes pains to point out that itch.io pretty much has better tooling, but Steam has walled-garden effects that probably even "perfect" is not good enough.


I wonder if CD Projekt heard the same arguments when they started GOG? Certainly they leveraged The Witcher and anger around DRM to gain traction. But they've found a sustainable niche that does not depend on going head to head with Steam's colossal network effect.

Steam is generally pretty great. But off the top of my head I can think of two areas where Steam arent delivering;

- Greenlight. Good idea, didnt work as planned. Room in the market for some kind of Greenlight/Kickstarter hybrid?

- Gaming for kids and educational software. A Kahn Academy approach but with games instead of lessons.


There’s a fundamental difference in how GOG got started though, and it’s buried in their acronym, which used to stand for “Good Old Games”. They were focused on providing access to classic/retro PC and DOS games, something that Steam didn’t do and much more in the “blue ocean” territory. It’s only later that they started to accept modern games on the service.


Article's author here.

GOG.com got started in 2008, which was critical to their success. Steam had much lower market share back then. If GOG started today I would give them much, much, lower odds of succeeding.

And consider also that Desura, Direct2Drive, Impulse, etc, which also were around in that rough time period, are all dead and gone.


GOG only started selling newer games in 2012, and even then it started only selling a few. Before that, it was a place to buy old games (hence the original name, Good Old Games). I think GOG's success was because for its first few years, it was selling games that simply weren't available on Steam or anywhere else at the time. When it did finally go up against Steam, it already had a decently large customer base, and was able to set itself up well a a DRM-free Steam alternative.


Indeed. First they got a market which was unserved (old games), then they got the CD Project Red games (Witcher series), then they branched into third-party games.


I agree with all of this!


Also, let's not forget another point, is that CD Projekt was already a large distributor/localizer in Poland long before they had their RED division: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD_Projekt

So they didn't really start out of nothing when it comes to having connections with game developers.


- DRM-free standalone binaries. That was a big draw for me at least.


What if Steam had to, by law, share your game library with other services?

i.e., just like you can take your phone number to any other phone company, or how banks in europe have to share info, you were able to take your game library with you to any other game distribution service?

Perhaps the same could be done for iOS/Android portability


I've often wished that this would happen for movies / music. When I buy a streaming movie on Amazon I'd like to be able to transfer it to Google Play or vice versa.


Except the way the movie/music folks look at it is probably the same way they look at VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and BR 4K and so forth or vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, etc... Apple, Amazon and Google are yet another "format" as it were. More platforms means more money for them.

It's not about the customer--none of them cares, except at that moment in time the customer forks over the cash for it.


You wouldn't transfer a car to Google Play, would you?


I'm not sure what that means. Every way that I can think of to compare movie ownership and car ownership suggests that I should be able to transfer a movie from one service to another.



Check out Movies Anywhere.


How do you transfer from movies anywhere to eg your itunes account?

Because otherwise they seem like just another walled garden.


You can connect your Movies Anywhere account to Vudu, Amazon, Google, and/or iTunes. Then your library shows up on those services.


Wow, I stand corrected, that actually seems pretty useful!


Any (participating?) movie on any linked account is automatically added to all linked account libraries (as I remember it).


>What if Steam had to, by law, share your game library with other services?

Then players would move all their games from crap clients like Origin and Uplay to Steam.


I would love this.

Could be extended to a lot of services tbh : Music Libraries in Spotify Contacts in Facebook

One of the reasons I love GOG is Connect : got a game on Steam ? Now you have it on GOG too.


That would be great...

Assuming it would work both ways, I would consolidate, on Steam, all the games I currently have on Origin, Bethesda Launcher, Battle.Net Launcher, Epic Games Launcher, uPlay, Twitch Desktop App, a few I've forgotten, and whateverthefuck Rockstar's GTAV launcher is called.. Though that's probably not what you had in mind.


You'd need to pay Steam a librarian fee, or something. People would buy games on the low cost markets with the crap management and low user numbers, then transfer to eg Steam. Steam pick up the costs of updating, managing users, etc., and the other sellers get the money from sales.


Amos has been doing some insanely great work with the itch.io app and butler.

If you are interested in how it works, I highly encourage you to read his blog [1].

[1]: https://amos.me/blog/2017/efficient-game-updates/


As someone who does video games in his spare time, this was a very enjoyable read.


At some point itch was one of the 99%.

Maybe taking on newgrounds or miniclip with a wasm based gaming platform is the niche?


> At some point itch was one of the 99%.

It sounds like itch is more of a lifestyle business than something trying to compete with Steam. And maybe they got started with indies back when that was more of a "blue ocean" (Steam used to be quite anti-indie in the early days).

> Maybe taking on newgrounds or miniclip with a wasm based gaming platform is the niche?

Now that is a good idea.


Newgrounds is run at a loss, for the record.


I wish Steam supported hidpi.

It's kind of ridiculous they don't.


The day you try to contact Steam support, you'll know how to compete with Steam.


Their support is truly worthless.

I bought an add-on to a game, it downloaded to 99% and refused to finish. I mailed support, perhaps 2 weeks later I received a generic did you try to reboot your PC response. So I listed the 10 different (including and up to complicated) things I had tried up to then and mailed back.

Another 2 weeks later I get another response along the lines of whether I've tried restarting my Steam client.

After a 3rd round I just gave up. In the end it was a network issue on their side that auto-magically resolved itself (after 1.x months)


Their support is pretty bad from what I hear, but then again, so is Microsoft's. Bad support doesn't seem to be the kind of thing anyone is making decisions based on, no matter how much people like to bitch about it.


Excellent write-up.


As specific as this is to steam competitors this seems like good advice for trying to get into any crowded niche market. A friend of mine lately found the random hobby of promoting dog toys and such through instagram. He started with pretty much nothing but pictures of his dog and over a few months has begun working with different manufacturers and distributors to make and sell custom products and to distribute existing products and I've watched him do almost everything described in this article to succeed.

He's spent his own time and money to help big name companies get more customers, helped smaller companies expand their business without much incentive to himself at first other than a mention here or there or some free products, in turn he used those products to gain more business for those companies and eventually became well known enough to start getting small amounts of cash and more expensive products. Eventually these companies trusted him enough to make some of his custom designed things and get commission on their sales.

I'm kind of getting sick of hearing about instagram but it's been cool watching him grow this weird little business he's been doing.


I'm actually pretty cynical when it comes to this kind of thing (for example, I don't think anyone can really compete with Google Search anymore), but I need to disagree with this article. It fundamentally misunderstands a few crucial elements of how game publishing (and consumption) works. Keep in mind that I am a long-time user of Steam (my account is 14 years old, having signed up literally the day it came out).

1. The gamers

Gamers are by definition quasi-technical and, by their very nature, will be welcome to (at least) trying out a new client or platform. I, and most of my friends, and probably most of Twitch, have not only Steam, but also GOG, and also the God-awful Origin, and Epic's launcher, etc. So installing a new client so I could play some games I like is really not that big of a deal. Steams social aspects were always secondary to its game delivery platform -- besides, most people use Discord to keep in touch, no one really takes Steam's "social network" seriously. I think that's a non-issue.

2. The developers

If you're an indie dev that's toiled for the past 3 years on a small game that you hope will make it big, you will release it on every platform -- let me say that again: you'll release on Steam, on Itch, etc. On every. Single. Platform. If you (really) want to sell AAA games, you can just be a run-of-the-mill distributor at first, and just sell keys. Worrying about developer friction I think is fundamentally misguided.

3. How to win

Imo, winning would look something like this: scout indie developers building the next big thing (they'll be a lot of false positives, so a lot of $$$ helps here). Make them sign contracts to only distribute through your platform. Do this for like 10 or 20 games, even if the contracts suck for you (hell, I'd give them > 100% revenue share). Now you're funneling people through your platform to play the newest "Cuphead" or "Super Meatboy" or "Dark Souls" -- obviously this isn't easy, but I do think you could hypothetically compete.and slow.


2. Speaking as somebody who's had to make builds for pc/mac/linux and bundle them up into each special back-end for each store and then test each one for every single patch, multiplying the process by adding more platforms is a hard sell. Why bother with Desura or whatever when 95% of your sales are gonna come through Steam?

Especially for the model of early access & building community gradually instead of risking it all on a big release --- since you're sometimes putting out new builds weekly the update pipeline becomes a real time factor.

3. If it was a numerically advantageous proposition to scout & invest in indies, we'd see more people doing that. Try for a month going through new releases on Steam and predicting which ones are gonna be successes. It's a near-impossible game, much less if each bet cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

Plus, if somebody offered me such a contract, I'd be deeply skeptical that 100% of their revenue share (plus a straight-up cash bonus even) would beat out what I could get by going with established avenues --- especially if I had something I had good reason to believe was the next Cuphead.


> If it was a numerically advantageous proposition to scout & invest in indies, we'd see more people doing that. Try for a month going through new releases on Steam and predicting which ones are gonna be successes. It's a near-impossible game, much less if each bet cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

I think you forget you're posting on YC's forum. YC literally does this (with much higher stakes, by the way). Obviously, the great majority of YC companies don't end up being unicorns, but every now and then you get a Dropbox.

And to address your first point, Steam's SDK (for anyone that's worked with it) obviously sucks. But Valve can afford to release a crappy SDK because they're the big player and they don't care. Obviously, if I made a game distribution platform, the back-end would be minimal and packaging would be programmatic. E.g.: upload your binary, we'll package it and deploy. You don't need half the crap Valve peddles anyway (Steam overlay, chat, etc.)


Over 100 new games are released on Steam every week. I hardly think YC invests in that many companies.


If an indie game that gets crazily popular is on both your own store and steam, everyone will buy it on steam because they have no incentive to buy it from your store.


Have you read (3)? Contracts would stipulate to only distribute through your platform.


As far as #3 goes: congratulations, you've invented Nintendo.


If it's only distributed through your platform then their game won't become crazily popular.




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