The Steamworks Situation

Posted 1 decade ago by squeek.
Steamworks is an API intended to help with developing and publishing a game or mod. If Valve gives you access, it means that your game/mod will be distributed by Steam and will have access to features like achievements and matchmaking, among other things. Essentially, though, if we were granted access, it'd mean you could update or install Fortress Forever using Steam just as you would update or install a commercial Valve title. Unfortunately, Valve never contacted us about being included when they were inviting other Source mods to be part of the program.

After a lot of uncertainty surrounding the issue, we now have something definitive. This is the last correspondence with Valve we have had regarding Steamworks. I replied and asked for some clarification but have gotten no response.

Originally posted by ValveThank you for submitting “Fortress Forever” for potential Steam distribution. We have taken a look at the information provided and determined that Steam is not a good fit for distribution. It is our company policy not to provide specific feedback on a submission but we would like you to consider Steam distribution for your future products.

The way I see it, this can mean one of a few things:
  1. Fortress Forever is ineligible for Steamworks for some specific reason

    Reasons could include things like:

    • We need to be on the 2007 engine to be eligible for Steamworks support
      • I don't believe this is a requirement for Steamworks, as I think a mod has gotten Steamworks support while on the 2006 engine

    • We are not popular/established enough to be eligible for Steamworks support
      • If the mods that have received Steamworks support are any indication, this (hopefully) shouldn't apply to Fortress Forever. We've been actively developing the game for almost 5 years and have maintained a small but loyal playerbase

    Whatever the reason, though, it seems like if there is some requirement that we do not meet, then it'd be nothing but beneficial for them to let us know what that is so that we could work on those specific aspects and re-apply.

  2. Valve has some sort of grudge against this mod specifically and/or doesn't want it to "compete" with TF2

    While this would make for a good pity party/movie plot, I don't think there is any evidence to support this.

  3. Valve is moving away from supporting mods in general

    Unfortunately, I think this is the most likely answer. Mod support from Valve has been getting increasingly small over the past years. Here's a select few things that point to this:

    • Zero mods have received Steamworks support since around 2009
    • When using Create a Mod in Source SDK to create a 2007 (OB) engine mod, it gives you source code that doesn't compile because it is missing files. This has been the case for a while and has not been fixed
    • The 2009 engine update has not received mod support (the Portal 2 engine with Mac support); it seems likely at this point that it never will
    • Mods are somewhat buried in the Steam store (as a "fun" game, try to find Fortress Forever's Steam store listing without searching for it directly), and the Steamworks mods have been removed from the Library tab if they are not installed
    • The hlcoders mailing list, where you used to be able to get responses from Valve employees about Source mod programming, has been almost entirely abandoned by Valve

Essentially, this boils down to the fact that we probably won't be getting Steamworks support. However, Steamworks support isn't as big of a deal as it once was and is more likely to get worse for mods over time (due to #3 above) rather than better. It seems unclear at this point if getting on Steamworks would even increase FF's visibility in the Steam UI.

I'd love to be proven wrong and see Valve release updated tools and a new mod-supported engine version. In the meantime, though, we'll keep plugging away at improving Fortress Forever. With Steamworks no longer in the picture, we must make our own way forward, meaning that community support is as necessary as it's ever been. If you'd like to help us out with anything, let us know on the forums.

Also, be on the look out for a new patch in the near future (give or take a few soon's).
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