In Europe? Here’s the trick I used when Civ 5 was first released to get it a few days early… it’ll probably work for Gods & Kings, too.

This link was originally posted to /r/civ. See more things from Dan's Reddit account.

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I’ve just tried this and it works; thought I’d share my results with you so that any fellow Europeans can give it a go too.

  1. Pre-order the game in your own country (I’m in the UK and bought my copy months and months ago; paid in £)

  2. Pre-load the game (shocked if you haven’t already done this), so Steam says “Pre-load complete; unreleased”

  3. Get yourself a US-based VPN provider. I’m using VyprVPN because I had an account with them already, but if you’re just after an ultra-short subscription for this one thing then you can probably get a better deal: here’s a starting point.

  4. In Steam -> Settings -> Download + Cloud, change your “Download region” to one of the US ones. Save, and shut down Steam.

  5. Connect to your VPN.

  6. Open up Steam again: by the combination of (a) the VPN and (b) the download region, Valve will believe that you’re in the USA and activate your game! Hooray!

  7. Play!

I hope you all appreciate the time I spent typing this when I could have been playing Civ 5! See you online!

Last year I bought a ton of Left 4 Dead 2 copies…

This self-post was originally posted to /r/playitforward. See more things from Dan's Reddit account.

…for several of my friends. They all got redeemed, apart from one. I keep reminding the guy, but he never gets around to redeeming it, so I reckon he doesn’t want it.

So: if you want it, it’s yours. Just PM me your Steam username.

Gone! To Swiisha.

Copy-Pasting Passwords into Steam

Just want to know how to ‘fix’ Steam’s password field? Scroll down to “How to Fix It”

Steam & Security Theatre

You’re a smart guy. You’re not stupid about computer security. And that’s why you always make sure that you use a different password for every service you use, right? You might even use a different password for every account, even when you have different passwords on the same service. You know that there are really, really good reasons why it’s simply not good enough to, for example, have “high-security”, “general use” and “low security” passwords, and re-use each of them in several places. And if you don’t know that: well, take my word for it and I’ll explain it in detail later.

It’s no great hardship to have lots of long, complex, effectively-random passwords, these days. Tools like SuperGenPass, LastPass, and KeePass, among others, mean that nowadays it’s so easy to use a different password for every service that there’s no excuse not to. So you probably use one of those (or something similar), and everything’s great.
Except for that one application – Steam. I have Steam save my password on my desktop PC (by the time somebody steals my desktop PC and breaks into the encrypted partition on which my data files lie, I have bigger problems than somebody stealing my Just Cause 2 achievements), but it forgets the password every time that Ruth uses her Steam account on my computer. No problem, I think: I can easily copy-paste it from my password manager… nope: Steam won’t let you paste in to the password field.

What? If you ask Valve (Steam’s creators) about this, they’ll say that it’s a security feature, but that’s bullshit: it’s security theatre, at best. And at worst, it means that people like me are inclined to use less-secure passwords because it’s harder to memorize and to type out that a more-secure password would be.

How to Fix It

Well, obviously the best way to fix it would be to successfully persuade Valve that they’re being stupid: others are already trying that. But what would be nice in the meantime would be a workaround. So here is is:

  1. Edit Program FilesSteamPublicSteamLoginDialog.res (Program FilesSteamPublicSteamLoginDialog.res on 64-bit Windows, somewhere else entirely on a Mac) using your favourite text editor (or Notepad if you don’t have a favourite). Take a backup of the file if you’re worried you’ll break it.
  2. In the "PasswordEdit" section (starting at about line 42), you’ll see name/value pairs. Make sure that the following values are set thusly:
  • "tabPosition" "1"
  • "textHidden" "0"
  • style="TextEntry"

The next time you load Steam, you’ll be able to paste passwords into the password field. The passwords won’t be masked (i.e. you’ll see the actual passwords, rather than asterisks), but the dialog never loads with a password pre-populated anyway, so as long as you make sure that nobody’s looking over your shoulder while you type, you’re set!

Update: let’s face it, Valve’s security policies suck in other ways, too. Please read the tale of a friend-of-a-friend who’s desperate to change her Steam username.

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.

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2. The most immersive first-person shooter I’ve ever played. From it’s “throw you in at the deep end” beginning – chased around the streets of the overpowering City 17 by Combine agents, rushing through apartments as raids go on all around you – to it’s immensely clever, multi-faceted puzzles – how do I get past that guard? I could creep by him: I wonder if he’s paying attention… or throw that can to make a noise… maybe I could knock him in the back of the head before the security camera sees me… can he swim? – it’s a thrilling game. In the Half-Life tradition, very little is given away, and the player is left to make many of thier own assumptions about the way the world around them works; I find this a little frustrating (I’d like to hear more back-story), but this is soon taken away when I’m drawn into another firefight. The game is gorgeously detailed – the characters around you frown, smile, wink, raise an eyebrow… and genuinely look relieved, scared, upset, etc. Meanwhile, explosions outside are rendered beautifully, water reacts like it should, and the ‘Havok’ physics engine means that if you can imagine it, you really can build it out of the myriad small items around you.

Despite Paul and my complaints about the Steam distribution system, it’s all seemed very good – owing to it’s modular design, I was able to start playing the game when it was just 69% downloaded (and when I ‘caught up’ with it, I only had to wait a few seconds for more content to be downloaded). Paul may be relieved to hear that once the game is downloaded (or activated, if it’s store-bought) it can be played in “offline mode”, and never accesses the internet without permission, it won’t auto-update unless you let it, and there is an option to back up the version you currently have installed – to CDs, for example – so that you could, if you wished, reformat and reinstall Windows and re-install the game without having to download it again. In addition, the modular design meant that my download was ready sooner than it might otherwise be, as it took advantage of the files I’d already downloaded as part of the demo version. I’m still not sure of any way to install to a different drive, which I’d particularly like to be able to do, but nonetheless I’m more impressed with Steam than I expected to be.

I managed to play Half-Life 2 for four hours… before I began to feel motion sick (I’d recently had a plasma cannon installed on my hovercraft, and driving it [with my left hand] while aiming and firing the weapon [with my right] left my poor eyes sufficiently confused that I’m now taking a quick break). I’ll probably go in again and blast some more Combine scum before I go to Sian and Andy‘s New Year’s Party. Yeah!

Update: Fixed link to Paul’s new blog after he moved it, breaking a universe of links. Old content was at http://www.livejournal.com/users/thepacifist/202607.html