Steam...why are you letting me down?
So, I finished Star Trek on PC with my buddy on our weekly game night. Man, what a stinker that ended up being. I usually can find something good about most games, but that was really a piece of crap. It really wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t so bloody full of bugs. Shame on Namco for releasing something so crappy and broken. It is too bad too, you can see the glint of something competent beneath the piles of dung.
So, after that, my friend and I started the Lord of the Rings: War in the North on PC. I’m fairly impressed so far, well for $5 off Steam the bar is obviously set a little lower. I quite liked Snowblind’s Champions of Norrath games and really loved Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, so I was excited to get back to that style of game with Snowblind Studios at the helm. So far it has been enjoyable, looks nice and controls well. Great combat with loads of enemies on screen at once. I’m excited to play more next week, it was a great hack and slash experience once we got going.
Seriously Steam, what the hell!? I loves ya, love ya lots, but you have to work out the failings of your voice chat system.
We took 45 minutes to figure out how to get an acceptable chat system going and I put 99% of the blame on Steam. Now, normally my friend and I just use Google’s voice chat that is built into Gmail. We don’t play online with others and there is only two of us, so voice chat in Gmail serves us just fine and is of great quality.
The problem we ran into was that LotR: War in the North automatically uses Steam’s own chat system and has no options to control any of the voice chat within the game. No problem, we’ll just configure Steam’s chat and use that.
No...no we won’t.
What an awful user experience that ended up being. This panel pictured here:
Yeah, none of that does anything. Changing any of these options does bupkis, they simply don’t affect any of the things they claim to affect. That’s ok, we’ll just mute the player in and go back to Google Chat.
No...no we won’t.
You can’t do that either. At least not that we could see. We searched high and low for options, searched the web and Steam forums for a fix and there was nothing. I should expand on the issue. We use headsets for playing and want to have the voice in the earpiece speaker and the rest of the sound coming through the home theatre speakers. Steam wouldn’t let us do this and without this option the voice chat was coming out of home theater speakers with poor quality, no way to mix the volume, and with a very pronounced echo on the voices. It was pretty much useless. We tried for a while but after 20 minutes of “Sorry, what?” “What did you say?” “Repeat please?” that got old really quick.
So you know what we ended up doing? Turning on our 360s and chatting via that while playing on the PC. Also not ideal as the 360 controller goes to sleep after a while and you have to turn it back on every so many minutes.
Steam really needs to work this out and fix the chat system. I saw loads of people saying LotR: War in the North was unplayable co-op and blaming the devs and EA for the problem. While I would have loved to have an option to turn off voice chat in game, I think the blame is squarely on Steam here. They offer a control panel to allow users to adjust things and we should be using the built in chat with Steam. It would make life simpler for everyone involved in PC gaming if we had a more or less unified chat system for Steam games. However, this control panel is utterly useless. As I did more digging, I see hundreds of people complaining about this issue. How is this not addressed by now? Apparently DOTA 2 has a mute system that they may start using for Steam itself, but come on, 10 years for Steam now...we shouldn’t have to deal with crap like this.
Had it just been me, I would not complain, I have a strange sound setup with my Auzentech HTHD sound card daisy chained into my HDMI out from my video card to pass sound along the same cable and it may have just been an anomalous issue for me. However, the same Steam control panel does absolutely nothing for my friend on his Alienware laptop and nothing at all for the hundreds of others I saw complaining about the exact same issue.
Am I just missing something? Does anyone have a solution to this problem and/or is that chat control panel in Steam working for others? I wonder if it is an OS related problem. So, that’s really aggravating and not very friendly for trying to offer a console-like experience for PC games. Please, someone tell me I am just a big dummy and that there is some fix for this.
Other than that, this was a slow week for gaming. I played a little bit more Rayman: Origins with my son. I told him we have to finish Origins before we can even consider Legends (which he has been playing the crap out of the demo on the WiiU). I’m not sure what system I want Legends for, but Digital Foundry’s assessment has me leaning towards the WiiU version.
I had another good session with The Conduit on Wii. I’ll be glad when it is over, I hope this weekend will see it done. It is ok, certainly feels like a masterpiece after Star Trek, but I’ve run into loads of bugs in The Conduit as well. The AI is still the biggest downer in the game though.
The real bright spot of the week was more Tomb Raider. The last section we played through was very exciting indeed. It is still too easy overall, but everything comes together for a really fantastic experience. I’m excited to play more of that this weekend if my wife and I can find the time.
So, what are you playing this weekend?