I never mentioned that the way I got Half-Life 2 was online via Steam. Now, say what you will about the whole online authentication thing (actually, don't, but I'll get to that later), I feel it's my God-given right to buy videogames without leaving the house. I was one of the few adopters of Interplay's online thingy; I've tried the Yahoo games-on-demand thing; and now Steam. The whole thing went as smoothly as I might have hoped; it took a good long time (overnight, pretty much) but it would have taken longer to get it from Amazon.
Awesome. Big win for Valve, because they can
a) write Vivendi out of the equation. Instead of whatever scraps Vivendi throws them after they've "covered their marketing and administrative overhead" or whatever, they get FIFTY WHOLE DOLLARS PER GAME. Go Valve.
b) hide from the rest of the world just exactly how much money they're making.
c) automatic patches. Just a fringe benefit.
What didn't go smoothly was the online validation. It worked the first time I played it, and then my bizarre firewall software decided to refuse contact with Valve in the future, and I had no idea it could do that, and Valve's only tech support was through e-mail, which took a few days of back-and-forth before they finally figured out it was my firewall software.
So that sucks, right? I should be hopping up and down, mad, bitching about how I can't get to play the game I already paid for. Well, my biggest complaint would be that they could spend more on tech support. Like, maybe have phones. And enough people to answer them. Maybe some day they will.
But I totally support the online validation thing, because PC game sales are in the toilet--have been steadily declining for years--and part of the reason is piracy. It's driving everybody to make MMO's, for Christ's sake, and I don't particularly enjoy MMO's. I'd like to see a day when all PC games are online validated, and PC games are making money again, and developers could maybe afford to take a risk developing a game that might not be the best PC game ever.
On the other hand, I'd like to see them eventually, some day, once HL2 isn't making that much money for them anymore, (or if they looked like they might suddenly go out of business), release a patch that disabled the online validation. Because it's hard enough to go back and play classic games, without things like this on top of everything.