With the rise of mainstream internet and increased bandwidth the world over, gaming has taken on a new form of creating interaction between players from across the globe. Online multiplayer is all the rage these days, with entire games focused on the concept of bringing together players to work either cooperatively or compete against each other in order to achieve the best results. Additionally, single-player games have also benefited from the online market through services that allow them to market and distribute their games in regions where retail copies are hard to come by. This month, we take a look at Steam and Kongregate — two online services which enjoy a great deal of traffic from users and are popular among the gaming community.
Valve’s Steam platform certainly needs no introduction, The software was first released back in 2003 and was packaged with Half-Life 2, forcing many people to install the add-on in order to enjoy the game. While it was initially considered little more than bloat-ware, Steam has risen over the years to become the world’s foremost digital distribution platform for both PC and Mac, and has its sights set on Linux as well. The primary service of Steam is to allow players to browse through a huge library of games ranging from different eras and genres, and download them directly to their platform of choice.
The Steam client allocates specific folders in drives for this purpose where it maintains a library of games that are stored on your computer. Steam accomplishes this by providing various technologies that reduce the overall size for game downloads and fragmentation within files, allowing for faster access to your favorite titles. It also regularly updates software with key patches pushed by developers and can validate file integrity to fix any corruptions of critical game files. Additionally, the Steam client provides users the ability to back-up and restore their favorite games on to any portable media.
In-game, the Steam client uses various technologies to help integrate a social layer into the games that we play. The site has its own instant messaging service and voice communication technology, which is also present in most of the games available on the platform. There is an option to enable a Steam UI overlay for all games imported into the client, which provides access to your friends list, messaging service and client settings, along with providing a simplistic web-browser for looking up resources online. Games supported for the platform also include partial and full-gamepad support, which helps those more accustomed to consoles. There’s Steam Achievements to unlock by completing certain objectives in-game. Many first-party and third-party games such as Team Fortress 2 and Spiral Knights also make use of the Inventory system within Steam, whereby you can acquire items from playing the game.
Finally, Steam also boasts one of the most active gaming communities online, with millions of players logging in every day to play and contribute to their favorite games. To this extent, Steam has started various initiatives such as the Game Hub where posts, news and updates on all the games are posted. There’s also the Workshop, where players can submit their own user-generated content to be incorporated into the game (and receive monetary benefit from every sale). Discussions acts as a gaming forum to post messages and interact with the community; the recent Greenlight program, which has the community vote on games that should make it onto the Steam platform for sale; and Market, which allows players to sell off their Inventory items for a fee to other players. Unfortunately, the client is also sometimes prone to slowdowns, bugs and crashes, so fair warning to those who choose to install it.
Steam houses plenty of paid and free-to-play games, and boasts a strong online community while providing benefits for single and multiplayer games. Steam is a very good alternative to acquire a large selection of games from the comfort of your armchair. Steam works with all major Visa, MasterCard and American Express debit/credit cards, and hosts sales on holidays and special events. For a PC gamer, there really is no reason not to install the application on your computer.
Developers can use the Kongregate API when making their games, which allows them to create online leader-boards, set achievements for players to earn while playing, and earn currency for the site called Kreds. The service also features a smartphone app that houses a sizeable portion of its online games optimized for mobile phones. Like all other gaming services, Kongregate hosts an active community through its forums and community page. Additionally, users can also sign up for the Kongregate Plus program, which offers a host of premium features such as ad-free gameplay, profile customization options, exclusive VIP chat rooms, and bonus Kreds. You can also purchase Kongregate Plus as a gift for a friend, and the subscription service lasts a full year.
The games are highly addictive and come in a great variety, all playable through your web browser. The huge variety of quality titles offer hours of gameplay that you can enjoy during those brief sessions when you’re waiting for pages to load or tasks to be performed. There’s plenty of multiplayer games afloat, and with hundreds of thousands of users checking in everyday, you’ll find many people to play with. Being one of the foremost web-based gaming services with strong Facebook integration, gamers should check out the wide variety of titles that Kongregate has to offer.