Steam takes off into the cloud

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Seattle (CA) – Entertainment is going to make its first careful steps in cloud computing as Half-Life creator Valve is rolling out a free cloud-based extension to its Steam network that will enable players to store their game settings and controller configurations online.

Steam Cloud support will ship with Valve's Left 4 Dead demo later this week and the full game on November 18. In this first release, the information stored and accessible through the Steam Cloud includes keyboard, mouse, and gamepad configurations, as well as multiplayer settings such as spraypaint images, the company said.  

"For some time now, Steam has allowed gamers to log on from any computer in the world and access their applications. This also makes it easy to upgrade a PC without worrying about losing your games," said Gabe Newell, president and co-founder of Valve. "Steam Cloud is a natural extension of the portability Steam affords gamers and developers, and we intend to expand its feature set as it is used in Left 4 Dead and other games coming to Steam."

Valve said that Steam Cloud will be offered free of charge to developers who use Steam. Valve also pledged to Steam Cloud support to its own catalog of Steam-compatible titles, meaning legacy titles (purchased on physical media and downloaded games) will automatically see the benefits of a centralized online data storage service.

The move marks another significant milestone for the cloud-everything trend. Keep in mind that videogames are one of the last bastions that have been mostly ignoring the cloud initiative, despite the fact that online gaming is quasi ubiquitous today. Steam Cloud provides a glimpse of what is cooking in the game industry kitchen and offer a first impression of what will be possible when game developers take advantage of a cloud-based computing and online storage to add value to games. Valve said it will add more features to Steam Cloud in future updates.

Initially, Valve promises that Steam Cloud will "just work," meaning any user changes to their game options will propagate to the Cloud by default. Upon logging into Steam from another PC, these settings will be brought down from the Cloud and automatically leveraged by the game. Any configuration changes on this second machine are then synced to the Cloud for future sessions.