As you may be aware, we recently passed Steam Greenlight which means Gods and Idols is cleared to be put up on Steam.
There are two ways I can go about this:
Make Steam a requirement
Maintain both a Steam version and a non-Steam version
Gods and Idols is Free to play, and will remain so. Being on Steam does not affect that. Creating a Steam account is free, and does not require more work for the player than creating an account in Gods and Idols right now. The main difference is that instead of the Gods and Idols Launcher, you'd instead use Steam to launch the game.
There are pros and cons with each approach, but the main issues are: If Steam is required:
Con: Some people do not want to create a Steam account
Pro: No separate account needed for the game, it would just use your Steam account
If I maintain both a Steam and non-Steam version:
Con: Maintaining two versions of the game requires a fair bit of extra work
Pro: People who don't want a Steam account don't have to make one
At the moment I am strongly in favor of full Steam integration. Which means you must have a Steam account to play Gods and Idols. That said, if there are strong arguments against it, I can change my mind.
I support full steam integration as maintaining two different versions will probably be time consuming and be better spent just working on the game.
This is my opinion because: 1. I already have a steam account, most people do and constantly look at the store 2. Although an issue for some, I feel that the issue of a steam DRM is not a big deal with the majority of the casual player base 3. Steam integration can provide many opportunities in growing the game
However, I feel as though there are many ways to approach this. Although I do not have much experience in how setting up a mmo game on steam works, but from my observations, there appears to be two ways of possibly going about integrating steam.
I've seen many mmos just use steam as a platform to download and launch their launcher, which I believe should just resolve the issue with maintaining different versions as you would be updating through the launcher as normal. Depending on how it is implemented, it may however limit some possibilities of steam integration which could be a missed opportunity. This method would allow be best suited to allow you to have a non-steam and steam way to play the game.
Full steam integration in using steam to update the base game can also provide many benefits. Other than the use of the steam overlay which may be useful for some in connecting to the steam discussions page, steam allows various methods of control of presentation. In addition to providing a wider exposure to the steam audience, I believe you can also provide different versions of the game to certain groups of people, so if you want to have a version for people that can access the test server and beta test various codes/client alterations, then you can give a code or give an option for players to opt into this client. Then the default version can be the stable version. Although you're doing this now with the test server, this allows you to make sure that the people who are barely interested or passing by can see all the stable stuff before they even touch the possibly extremely broken stuff in the test server. This will help avoid negative reviews from those who accidentally enter the test server expecting a full experience which in the early period of marketing a game can hurt it. Unfortunately choosing this option makes the option of having a non steam version difficult, as you said, you will most likely will have to deal with two versions, the steam version, and the stand alone patcher, with the main issue being to make sure that everyone is up to date when they play online using two different update platforms.
I think it is possible to have both a steam version and a non steam version with little or minimal effort. However, that depends on what you intend to do with the steam integration, as doing so can provide several benefits.
I suppose I should ask what are your larger plans with steam integration?
Well, I have a steam account, but I know nothing about what it is to be a developer working with Steam. The way I see it, the reason you approached steam in the first place was to broaden your exposure to potential players, and maybe take advantage of whatever tools Steam offers devs to make things easier. Maintaining two separate versions would increase your workload in the effort to have your cake and eat it, too.
I'm sure that there exists a non-zero number of people who despise Steam, or at least do not wish to make an account with Steam, but I believe the overlap of that population with the population of people who enjoy Gods and Idols is quite small. After being greenlighted by Steam, the vast majority of people who find your game would hold Steam accounts by default. I found your game after no less that 30 minutes of searching for an mmorts, any mmorts. At the moment, you need the exposure.
In short: go with Steam. You'd lose some people, but not enough to matter, and you'd gain so much more.