Project Ascension logo
Annoyed Reddit users have created a project to make their own open source game launcher, in protest of Steam's paid mod initiative Samura1I3, Deviant Art

Fans of PC gaming on social bookmarking website Reddit have decided to create their own open source game launcher in protest at Valve's monopoly over the PC gaming market.

Developers and PC gaming fans have launched Project Ascension, in order to make a new open source gaming client where users can launch games that have been bought and downloaded from anywhere – whether they be Steam games, Origin games, games downloaded direct from indie developer websites or DVD-Rom games.

Steam's monopoly over PC gaming

Steam currently has 125 million active users and over 4,500 games can be bought on the service. Games are often discounted to attract more sales screenshot by Chris Norstrom

Valve-owned Steam is a popular online gaming platform that enables users to install and automatically update games they have bought on multiple computers, as well as providing social networking, like friends lists, in-game voice and chat, and the ability to modify items or features in a game and share them with other users (known as "mods").

Steam has 125 million active users and over 4,500 games can be bought on the service. According to 2013 statistics by Screen Digest, 75% of games bought online to play on the PC are now downloaded through Steam.

On the plus side, Steam has revolutionised the PC gaming industry in that if you lose your game discs, by having an account with the service, Steam recognises that you have paid for the game previously and you can re-download it again, which would not have been possible in the past.

However, on the downside, Steam is also designed to deal with the digital rights management (DRM) problem, so the software works in such a way that users can only install games through the Steam client, to deter game piracy.

Many big developers have signed up to only allow their games to be downloaded through Steam or its rival Origin, for this reason.

Controversy over Steam's paid mod initiative

Steam's paid mod initiative
Steam's paid mod initiative for Skyrim items. Vale has now decided to remove the prices and keep mods free after a public backlash from gamers Steam

The decision to create an open source game launcher has risen due to controversy over Steam's paid mod initiative announced on 23 April.

Valve announced that it would be allowing mod makers to set a price to their creations, so in essence, if you wanted to download a specially-designed sword for your game, you'd now have to pay between $0.30 to $7 (£0.19 to £4.53) for it.

While it seems like a small amount on its own, users who like to download mods could quickly find themselves paying a lot of money, and users have been complaining both on Steam and Reddit in droves, concerned that even mods will become subject to DRM restrictions and licensing.

Although Valve decided to backtrack and remove the paid mod initiative on 27 April, by then, the damage had been done.

On the same day, Reddit user ComradePutinCCCP1917 decided to take matters into his own hands, announcing his vision of an open source game launcher built on C++ that would work on every single PC operating system.

His plan would allow users to buy games from all different stores at the same time, activate their games and then launch them in the Project Ascension game launcher, and mod makers could make mods for all the games they wanted, which would then be available to download for free.

ComradePutinCCCP1917 posted: "I know there are a lot of other platforms, launchers, and widgets to "sort out" our games in libraries, but Steam was the s**t. We can support alternatives, but doing so will be acting like what we did with Steam. We've been baited with sales, just to give them a monopoly on PC gaming.

"As a C++ / C# developper, an idea came to my mind: What if we create our own platform?"

Is Project Ascension feasible though?

Project Ascension concept art
User Interface concept design for Project Ascension by Reddit user seerven Reddit user seerven

In the last 48 hours, a Project Ascension sub-Reddit has been created, and developers are discussing how they will code the project, while graphic designers are already coming up with sample user interface designs.

The sub-Reddit is now trending, but not everyone is convinced, as many people are used to buying their games through Steam or Origin just to make it simpler.

"A lot of people need Steam because they are invested in it. I have moved away from Steam quite a bit as I realised I was already stuck and wanted to move away from it," user tree103 posted on Reddit.

"Using myself as an example due to my own foolishness of buying games on sale without thinking about when I have time to play them, plus the humble bundles which provided Steam keys I have over 400 games on Steam, even if I never buy a game on Steam again I'll still going to need that client around."

However, other users say that they are tired of the way that DRM has sneaked up on the PC gaming industry and that they feel they are being forced to pay through the nose more and more for endless expansion packs and mods, which should be free.