I don’t think about game updates very often. Most of the games I play are on Steam, and because I’ve never shut down my PC, it’s free to do whatever it takes to do it while I’m unconscious. For those who subscribe to the more traditional on-off schedule, however, it is not very simple, and overdue updates can mean waiting for something unexpected before you can jump into whatever you want to play.
The proliferation of non-steam launchers further complicates the matter. I have Steam running full time, but I fire others just like Origin and Uplay when I want to play a particular game. This means more unexpected updates, and more waiting, as the games return the value of potential weeks at once. It’s not really a big problem that millions of gamers struggle with every day, but when it does, it’s a real pain in the ass.
PowerNap is a new utility that aims to reduce that hassle by making the process very simple to ensure that all your updates, across all your launchers, are taken care of simultaneously. It works by starting all the launchers you have installed, allowing them to start their update process, and then keeping their PC from sleeping until they are all finished. Once everything is done, it will either shut down your PC or put it to sleep depending on your selection.
“PowerNap is designed to launch all of your libraries before bed, so that a launcher you haven’t used in two weeks is still updated,” lead designer Nate Denziger told me. “It also gives you the option to sleep your display during PowerNap, for maximum power efficiency. It’s very close to how consoles and phones update their apps at night.”
The first time you run PowerNap, you have to browse to the executable of each launcher installed on your PC. It’s not complicated, as long as you have at least a basic familiarity with Windows Explorer and where your programs are installed, but it’s certainly not the most elegant UI I’ve ever encountered. When you start you have to set all your other launchers to enable automatic game updates.
You’ll note at this point that PowerNap does not fully automate the update process. Steam in particular has its own way of updating the game, and so while PowerPap will launch Steam, it won’t really force the update to begin – you’ll need to manually trigger each one. (PowerNap will warn you to do so when the update process starts.) Steam is the only launcher that performs frequent delayed updates this way, something Danziger believes will prevent its servers from running out of water. For whenever the big game becomes a pure patch.
“Right now, the only way around this is to quickly make sure everything is queued up before putting your monitor to sleep,” he explained. “We fully understand that this is a bit disappointing, but once you get into the habit of manually copying your Steam updates before putting your display to sleep, it becomes second nature.”
He also hoped — perhaps not realistically, but dared to dream — that someday Valve could provide a simple API to enable developers to override Steam’s underlying scheduling, though he clarified that Are not really in contact with the valve about it. “We want to increase our user base a little bit before we ask them to change,” Danziger said.
It’s not a magical app, but, a quick-and-dirty utility for PC gamers who use multiple launchers, but don’t want to keep all of them full-time. For that particular space, it works quite well: once you configure each launcher properly, it forces the application to start, push the button, and whatever Steam updates are queued. There is a simple case to do. Come back the next morning and everything on your PC will be up to date and ready to go, preventing any unexpected internet problems.
PowerNap is currently in beta testing and is scheduled to launch on Steam on March 12 for $ 4.