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I have purchased and finished playing Portal and Portal 2 (on disc for PC) both of which used Steam. This was my first exposure to Steam. Now I have just installed Skyrim (again I bought the physical game) which turns out to be also associated with Steam. From what I have read, this means I can't give the Portal game discs to my husband to play on his computer while I play Skyrim on my computer.

So my question - is there any way to play Skyrim without having to interface with Steam? I am under the impression that Portal games are stored in the Steam cloud but is this true of Skyrim? How do I escape Steam's clutches?

I saw something in a post about playing "offline" but I am not sure how to set this up. I've played video games since 1981 (go Atari!) and they were always by default "offline" so I am not used to online gaming. I miss the good old days when we could pass games on when we finish with them.

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If you've logged into Steam once and saved your credentials, you can use this to go offline any time without needing to log in again. I prefer it over the official method (see agent86's answer) even when I have internet access, since I don't need to restart Steam. –  Matthew Read Jan 23 '12 at 22:04
    
Thanks, but that sounds a little complicated - I think I will try the official method. –  Cindy Jan 23 '12 at 23:43

2 Answers 2

If the game requires Steam you must install Steam in order to use it, and you must be logged into the Steam account associated with the game's key (the code you got in the box/on the manual/etc) in order to play it. All Valve titles, including Portal and Portal 2 require Steam, as does Skyrim, Civilization V, and many other games. The key that comes with the game discs is only allowed to be activated and attached to a single account, and cannot be transfered once used.

This may be confusing if you're thinking in terms of discs - up to this point we've been mostly trained to associate "disc" with "game" - but that's not the way it works with Steam. You may as well throw the discs out when you buy a boxed copy and just keep the key (not literally! just employing hyperbole ;) - the discs are next to useless for most of these games. In some cases, Steam will just download it from the internet, even if the disc is present in the drive!

That having been said, if you're not interested in the online components of Steam for a given game (ie, Portal 2's co-op mode, and certain game achievements), it is possible to play multiple games -including multiple copies of the same game - from a single account on multiple computers at once. You'll have to put Steam into "offline mode" on all but one of the machines you plan to play on.

Offline mode is described in the Steam Support Docs:

  1. Start Steam online - make sure the Remember my password box on the login window is checked
  2. Verify that all game files are completely updated - you can see the update status for a game under the Library section (when the game shows as 100% - Ready it is ready to be played in Offline Mode)
  3. Launch the game you would like to play offline to verify that there are no further updates to download - shut down the game and return to Steam once you have confirmed that the game can be played
  4. Go to Steam > Settings to ensure the Don't save account credentials on this computer option is not selected
  5. From the main Steam window, go to the Steam menu and select Go Offline
  6. Click Restart in Offline Mode to restart Steam in Offline Mode
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Thanks, that is the kind of advice I was looking for. I just have to figure out how to do step 3 - launch the game in offline mode. When I launch the game Steam automatically runs. –  Cindy Jan 23 '12 at 23:50
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"Offline mode" is not "without Steam" - it just means that Steam won't connect to the Steam servers when it is running, and so it won't make you log out if your Steam account is logged in elsewhere. –  agent86 Jan 24 '12 at 0:26
    
So as to your comment "you must be logged into the Steam account associated with the game's key in order to play it" - I have to be logged in but can still play offline? It's confusing because I assumed if I am logged in that I am online. I'll try it out - all this may be a moot point since I am not sure my husband's computer will even run the games anyway! Thanks for the help. –  Cindy Jan 24 '12 at 0:47
    
@Cindy, yes, the procedure above logs you into Steam in offline mode. Your account information is stored on your computer temporarily in this case, rather than Steam's servers. While you're in offline mode, you can't use the online features of Steam (ie, multiplayer/friends lists/automatic updates) but you can still play games. –  agent86 Jan 24 '12 at 0:52
    
Great, I've never been interested in multiplayer games anyway. –  Cindy Jan 24 '12 at 1:26

The answer to the question in the title is "depends on what game". There are many games today that still work in the "old fashioned" way. However, some games do indeed require Steam. Steam games are non-transferable, so you can't really resell them or even give them away. That's just the nature of the beast. If you want to avoid that in the future, carefully check the wording on the cover of physical games you buy and make sure they do not require Steam or similar services.

Also see this related question:

Is it possible to play two different Steam games on the same account at the same time?

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Thanks, I had read that thread, but I wasn't sure it applied since I had bought the physical discs. –  Cindy Jan 23 '12 at 23:51

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