Steam could soon let you play games while they're downloading


Posts: 7,171   +65
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Why it matters: Given the enormous size of many of today's games and the fact that not everyone has high-speed internet connections, downloading a title from Steam can be a lengthy and frustrating process. Wouldn't it be great if we could play them before they've finished making their way onto our PCs? Based on a new Valve patent, such a feature could become a reality.

As spotted by SteamDB creator Pavel Djundik, United States Patent 11123634 was filed by Valve in March and published yesterday. It describes a Steam mechanic called "instant play" that would allow users to start playing a game as soon as it starts downloading.

The patent describes being able to "utilize a file system proxy component that is configured to track read operations made by the game executable during a game session." This would allow Steam to prioritize certain game files throughout the download.

The patent also mentions removing unused blocks of game data—perhaps levels players have already completed—to free up local resources, as well as local prefetching of game data for reducing latency during gameplay.

Consoles have been using this play-while-downloading feature since the PS4 and Xbox One, and it will be familiar to Origin and users. The caveat is usually that only part of the game is playable until the entire title has downloaded. Valve's patent, however, uses the phrase 'without limitation.' Exactly what that entails is unclear, but it certainly sounds promising.

Another intriguing element of Valve's implementation is that developers don't need to add anything extra to their games; it would all be handled by Valve and Steam.

Like all patents, there's no guarantee that the instant play feature will ever become a reality, but it looks as if Valve is preparing to unleash it on grateful gamers.

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Posts: 4,964   +3,838
TechSpot Elite
Other developers have started implementing this directly into the launcher or they go even further, and add the feature into the game itself like with Eve Online. The assets are dynamically dowloaded as you move around in the game and you play making the initial install size very small.

When I had some driver issues I reinstalled the game several times thinking that the game was the problem. It saved me so much time :)


Posts: 65   +85
I wonder how this would work for games like GTA where all the files sit on massive compressed archives, and all that Steam could infer is that the same is asking for archive 1 of X, and not what's inside it, especially if they say that this feature would need no modifications to the game from the developer


Posts: 43   +53
Meanwhile Activision still hasn't discovered this magical thing called file compression so warzone is 97gb.


Posts: 256   +272
Ummm.....considering your hdd/ssd and cpu are being hammered while downloading at max speed......this will be a poor performing experience. I'll wait.


Posts: 473   +596
So what about if a game/software on Steam has file system access, will Valve also see that?


Posts: 1,679   +1,731
TechSpot Elite
A good thing I guess, but if they really want to impress they should find a way to allow the games to run without the client running in the background once installed like Game pass.