We've reported on Steam keeping track of statistics about how people are playing Half-Life 2 Episode 1, but this one is a thinker. Valve has released an update to the game, and it seems as if the biggest point was to make the game easier during the elevator scene. Remember, the game already has multiple levels of difficulty, but based on their numbers, this section was too hard for many players. Enough to change the game for everyone?
I loved the elevator portion of the game—it got my blood pumping. While I died more than once, when I was finally able to beat that section I got a nice sense of accomplishment. There's nothing worse than being stuck in one area in a game, but of course there's nothing better than finally getting past it and continuing on. You can't have one without the other. While I like the fact that Valve is trying to keep their customers happy, couldn't they have added this only to the lower difficulty levels and allowed those of us who like a challenge to enjoy the game as it was originally designed?
It's also worth nothing that this update is applied when you start Steam up, whether you want it or not. Outside of unhooking your internet connecton whenever you start Steam, there's nothing you can do to keep this out of your system. The idea of patches that are near mandatory makes me more than a little nervous, and it's a side of digital distribution we haven't really talked about. I know a lot of people who play a lot of games that they keep at a very specific version number, simply because they dislike what certain patches do to the game. If we lose that ability and a bum patch or update is released, you're going to have some grumpy people playing your game. Especially if you like a higher level of difficulty.