The TPV/Developer meeting on the 24th August included an interesting, if brief, discussion on the forthcoming link-up with Steam, in which a little more information was revealed, and comments were passed that allow for further speculation as to how things might be handed.
In keeping with the Steam format, there will be a promotional video for Second Life which will be available for Steam users to view prior to initialising the Steam download / installation process. This video (produced by Linden Lab) apparently does not promote Second Life “intensely as a game”, but rather as a “place with a lot of cool content”, with the overall approach to the video being described as “kaleidoscopic” and fast-paced in terms of images shown.
Perhaps the most interesting comment however, came from Oz Linden in response to a question relaid by Jessica Lyon, on users being able to log-in to SL “from Steam”, in which he said, “Yeah, it creates a Second Life account…I don’t know how the name gets created … the two are connected somehow.”
This sparked a short discussion on how this might be possible, and what the mechanism would be for handling names, with some in the meeting wondering if the link-up would allow them to use their Steam user IDs with SL. I’m going to go right out on a limb here, and suggest that when it comes to creating an SL account “from Steam”, we might already have the answer sitting in front of us.
How Steam Works
For those unfamiliar with Steam, obtaining a new game is a matter of using the Steam client or web page to browse available games (listed in several categories). Individual games can be previewed in a dedicated panel / page, which includes the options for promotional videos and stills to be added, as well as a description of the game provided.
Should the user opt to play the game, they can start a download / install process from within Steam (on PCs running Windows 7 32-bit, games are installed into C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\ common, for example). Links are created to the user’s Steam library, allowing games to be launched from there as well as through things like short cuts on the desktop, etc.
What is interesting here is that many of the games have some form of sign-up process. However, rather than being incorporated in Steam itself, these generally take the user to an external website to complete the sign-up process. Could Second Life simply take the same route?
The Answer, My Friend, is (Maybe) Written in the Viewer (apologies to Bob Dylan)
Last month, I commented on changes made to the SL Development Viewer’s splash screen – specifically the dialogue box pointing the user to the need to sign-up for an account in order to access SL.
This has been included in all subsequent Development viewer releases since August 16th, but is only displayed if there are no avatar account files located on the host PC. Once somone has logged-in to SL and the account files created, the prompt is no longer displayed in starting the viewer.
At the time I reported this update I speculated as to whether it might be related to the upcoming Steam link-up. It’s hard to see why else LL would add such a prompt to the viewer’s splash screen – and the arrival of the update, just a couple of days after the original announcement did seem rather timely (although the splash screen changes have yet to be seen in any other flavours of the official viewer). Certainly, handling things this way would eliminate the need for complicated links between the Steam client / website and the SL website / sign-up page, and eliminate the need for any API interaction between the two.
If this is the case, however, one assumes steps will be taken to update the SL sign-up pages – the final step of which is to download the viewer; as Steam users will have already have effectively done this already, having the prompt without clarification could lead to some confusion.
The potential rebuttal to this is that Oz is involved with the viewer – so if the sign-up process was simply a matter of adding a dialogue to the viewer in order to direct the user to SL’s sign-up page, he’d know? Or is he simply being coy in his response, pending the official launch?
Will SL be Promoted as a Game?
During the TPV/Developer discussion, speculation is voiced that SL will in fact be promoted by Valve as a game on Steam. If correct, then one assumes that SL will be appearing in the Free Games category on Steam. However, this did not apparently come from Linden Lab, but rather from one of the TPV developers at the meeting.
As it is, Valve are due to launch their non-game offerings (described as “creativity and productivity” software this coming Wednesday, September 5th (which some have taken to be the date SL will appear on Steam, although this again is by no means clear) – so we might gain some further insight as to how SL might be pitched then – assuming SL isn’t one of the first offerings on the list.
Given that the original blog-post from the Lab announcing the link-up stated it would be happening in “the next month or so”, it would seem that we may have a couple of weeks yet in which to speculate, rather than perhaps getting a definitive answer this week.
Time will tell, as they say…