On This Day In 2004

A little bit tongue-in-cheek, this one.

Looking Back

On this day in 2004, I’d just finished my first marathon session of playing Half-Life 2, a spectacular new video game that quickly became one of the best-selling computer games ever. Despite New Year celebrations and other distractions, I managed to sit and play the game for a couple of days and finished it very soon after.

The launch of the game was delayed – I’d pre-ordered it 17 months before it eventually got released – after being plagued with development difficulties. One of the many delays to it’s launch was blamed on the theft of part of the source code: I remember joking, after the thief had been caught, that now that they’d got the code back they’d be able to release the game, right?

Meanwhile, Paul swore that he would have nothing to do with the digital distribution platform – Steam – that remains the only way to get a legitimate copy of Half-Life 2. On his blog – then on LiveJournal – he listed all of the many problems that he saw with Steam, and I countered a few of them in an argument in the comments. For years to come, he’d go on to refuse to play some of the most fantastic computer games to be released on principle.

Looking Forward

Things change. I can’t remember the last time I saw Paul playing a video game that he didn’t buy on Steam, for one (except for a handful that he bought from Good Old Games – which is well worth visiting, if you haven’t already).

Some things stay the same: Half-Life 2 remains one of the best first-person shooters ever made, and has been followed by two spectacular sequels (Episode 1 and Episode 2) and a number of spin-offs (including the mind-blowingly awesome Portal, which stole my life for a while, although not for long enough to make my 2007 list of life-stealing games). We’re still all waiting on the much-delayed Episode 3, though…

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.


  1. The Pacifist The Pacifist says:

    To be fair, Steam had a lot of problems back in 2004, many of which have since been fixed :-

    Well, okay, you still have to have Steam installed, but I’m less bothered about that now because it’s not as buggy. I still feel bad for the people who buy retail games and have to install Steam to play them (eg FEAR 2)
    The high-polygon count models for GoldSrc Half-Life have been implemented. Yay.
    Dodgy behaviour. Well, apparently you can play on servers which don’t enforce VAC if you choose so if you’re planning on cheating then it won’t ban your account as long as you stay away from the VAC servers. Since I don’t play multiplayer, this is kind of a moot point anyway…
    They no longer use IE in the client
    You can now sort of play a Steam game whilst another one is downloading, although it does pause it to free up bandwidth for the active game..
    You can move the Steam directory, although you still can’t split it across multiple hard drives. Apparently junction points will work fine, but that’s getting a little messy. I don’t really have room to complain about 4Gb games now I’ve got FEAR 2 which is 13847Mb…
    You CAN transfer cached files between users – they’ll just be verified online before you can use them
    Even though you can tie your CD keys in to your account, if you were to lose your Steam account under mysterious circumstances, there’s nothing stopping you installing the original non-Steam version of the game with the same CD-key, is there?
    The encryption is typically only for games until the release date, whereupon they get decrypted. And only Source games seem to do this anyway – nearly every other game I’ve come across just sticks the unencrypted files in the ‘common’ directory

    So yeah. I no longer have a beef with Steam. Games for Windows Live however…

    Erm.. I shall expect a reply in 2016 I guess.


  2. Ele Ele says:

    I love Half Life 2 and Portal! Roll on is it April for Portal 2 release date now? And Episode 3….

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