Valve may one day let you play games while they download

A new patent filed by Valve suggests the Steam platform company may be working on technology to allow you to begin playing games well before they've finished downloading. This sort of technology is already available in some guises, with some games, on some consoles, but this would be the first time such technology would be made viable on PC, if realised.

The patent was originally filed in March 2020 but has only just been published, giving us some intriguing details about Valve's "Tracking file system read operations" technology. It would, as originally suggested, allow for near instantaneous play of games by downloading only what is most important right away and wouldn't even require any game developers to make changes to their games to enable it.

However, the technology goes far further than that. Another potential use for this tech would be in deleting unused portions of a game. Finished the early levels and don't plan to return to them? In theory they and their assets could be deleted to save space. Only downloading portions of a game when it launches could also ease load on servers which are typically inundated at big launches.

Another interesting use could be in prefetching game data so that it's ready to go as loading sequences approach, thereby massively limiting the time spent waiting for new content to load.

Valve has trialled a system like this in the past. It previously allowed the download of Mortal Kombat 10, in 2015, in smaller chunks, but it went awry and caused more problems than it solved. The system hasn't been trialled since.

If Valve has perfected it though, that could be very exciting indeed.

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