Alien Swarm’s SDK – a weak response to UDK

Oh my, first this article, and now this new one. One could say that I am holding a grudge against Valve.

In the article I mentioned before, I was complaining that Valve had no reaction to both Unity and UDK taking by storm the indie development market. Then, I was thrilled to read the following article:

Apparently, Valve is finally giving an answer to Epic’s UDK.

Unfortunately, the answer is weak. Read ahead to find out why.

They’re almost the same.

Now, I can understand why a lot of people got excited by the fact that both the game and the SDK were released for free. If you look at the broad picture, this is what you get:

  • the Source Engine runtime, for free
  • a set of tools, to allow the creation of user content for that said runtime
  • code related to the mentioned runtime, to implement other changes in the mentioned runtime

That’s not very different from the Unity package, right? I mean in Unity you also get an editor, a free to use runtime and some code samples. Same for UDK, right?

Except for one thing: distribution rights

After downloading both the game and SDK, I looked for an EULA. Something like this, for Unity, or like this, for UDK. I was hoping to find something, an official document that would tell me “you can make games on this and sell them”.

Unfortunately, the only thing I came across is the Steam’s subscriber agreement. And points (C) and (E) say it loud and clear: “You may use, reproduce and modify the SDK on a non-commercial basis solely to develop a modified game (a “Mod”) for Half-Life 2 or other Valve products compatible with and using the Source Engine”

This means no stand alone game. And definitely not being able to sell it.

That’s why UDK and Unity still win.

Because without the rights to redistribute the runtime along with the newly created contents, you can’t really say you’re making stand alone games. You’re still making mods, albeit for a (so far) free game. And for HL2 modders, the Alien Swarm and its SDK mean absolutely nothing. Because the market the HL2 modders are targeting already own HL2.

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