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Steam gets me steamed

Video Games | Friday, April 20th, 2007 | 10 years, 1 month ago

–UPDATE–

Readers, please note that this story describes my experience and immediate feelings about one Steam issue which was resolved shortly thereafter with no harm to me nor any other customers. Please note the date this was published and know that I’ve gone on to spend hundreds of dollars as a happy Steam customer. Steam isn’t perfect but in my opinion it’s a better alternative to retail stores who are completely inflexible for matters such as returns.

–END UPDATE–

My readers know that it’s been my pleasure to talk about Valve’s electronic games distribution system, Steam, in a positive light this past year or so. They’ve offered me the convenience of purchasing games without leaving my chair, they’ve enabled me to preload games so that I may play them the moment they are released, and they refunded my money when a game refused to work for me. All in all Steam has provided me unmatched service and convenience and I’ve considered them kings among retailers.

Until today.

Word on the grapevine is that Steam, or possibly a third-party intermediary, has been breached and credit card information is currently in the possession of a malicious individual. I first read about this on Digg, which is more of a sewing circle than a reputable news source, so I took it with a grain of salt. Still, I opened a support ticket with Steam Customer Support to verify:

I read a distressing article today claiming that Steam’s databases were broken into and credit card information was stolen:
http://emp.damage-web.net/viewtopic.php?p=62590

Is this true? Do I need to cancel my credit card? Please advise ASAP!

A lot happens in 18 hours. Stories propegate, rumours amplify, and service tickets go unanswered. All of these were the case in this situation. Thus, I followed up on my Steam support ticket:

Do I really need to tell you that this urgent question is time-sensitive?

http://digg.com/gaming_news/Valve_Hacked_Your_Info_may_be_at_risk

As you can see this issue, rumour or otherwise, is public knowledge and widespread. Valve’s lack of a statement on this is very conspicuous. Please confirm or deny this story so that I can rest at ease.

I then scoured Valve’s user forums for some clue of what was happening. I found a single post on the subject and succintly expressed my displeasure with Steam’s lack of disclosure.

The next morning, having received many replies to my comment on the Slashdot story, I was reminded to check in on my ticket status. I was very, VERY disappointed with what I saw:

steamsucks-custom.PNG

Steam had the audacity, the bat-shit insanity, to consider my support issue resolved without having contacted me at all!!

Furious, I sought to express my concerns on the Steam forum post I’d contributed to the preceding evening. I included a link to the above screenshot.

Less than a couple of minutes later my post was gone. Gone.

I posted again, making my incredulity of this Nazi-esque whitewashing (though I phrased it much more gently), and again my post was deleted, but not before someone replied, disqualifying his words from the flow of the conversation. I hit the back button and clicked Submit to repost my message. I then sought to retort the harsh criticism of the individual who challenged my arguments, and was cheerfully greeted with this message:

steamsucks2-custom.PNG

I’d been banned for a week.

I completed my undergraduate college program in network administration with a supplementary specialization in security. The hot topic during my Intro to Network Security class was the theft of the greater portion of the source code for Valve’s half-a-decade-in-the-making Half Life 2. A cracker somehow installed a remote desktop trojan on a Valve employee’s work PC which granted him unchecked access to the company’s file servers. The individual helped himself to several games and a big chunk of the Source Engine’s code tree. By the time Valve become aware it was too late. The damage was done and Valve spent the next year delaying the release to rewrite the code.

On another occasion someone posted several messages on the official Valve website as founder Gabe Newell, having guessed his password, “GabeN”.

Imagine the leap of faith I took when I finally bought Half Life 2, and went on to purchase many games over Steam. I’d trusted Valve to have learned from their mistakes. What an idiot I was. Those who ignore history…

As of now the only “official” word I’ve heard on this topic is an appended update to a third-party news story insisting that, despite the infiltrator’s own declarations, not Steam but a third-party partner had been breached. I am forced to weigh this announcement against all the neglect and whitewashing I’ve experienced first hand. My instincts tell me Steam has much to hide, and is desperate enough to do so at the cost of their already shoddy reputation. I’ve described all the variables in this equation in this blog article so I see no other logical explanation.

In summation, Steam is unethical, cowardly, and does not care one tiny iota about my safety, wellbeing, peace of mind, or patronage. Thus I will offer them none of these things again. I will reluctantly purchase any Half Life products they release, because I love that series, but I will do so in brick-and-mortar stores and probably assign them to a dummy Steam account.

The PC games industry looked to Valve as a beacon; a fearless icebreaker forging a path through frozen, inhospitable, foreign waters, and they were making real progress. At the first sign of danger Valve put its tail between its legs, rolled up in a little ass ball, and meekly batted away all questions with its little paws. Not much of a role model in my books.

Yet another strike against this troubled publisher and developer. What’s the count, ump?

Narcissist that I am, Steam’s public face is of no interest to me. All I know is that I’m done with them. If Valve is so inept as to drop the ball while dealing with supposedly false accusations, how on earth can I trust them should a real calamity ensue?

Sayonara Steam.

— UPDATE —

Steam has closed my support ticket yet again without contacting me, and again considered the matter “Resolved”.� I’ve just emailed Gabe Newell in a calm and factual fashion in the hopes of helping him empathise with his customers.� If you are a Steam customer and this matter is of concern to you I advise you to do the same.

Email Gabe Newell here.

>> ATH0 -- NO CARRIER <<



15 Comments

  1. Having myself been banned for posting for a few days, I know what it takes to irritate a few short-fused mods and given your propensity to jackassory when you’re highly disgruntled, I can imagine the type of diatribe you posted. Of course, that alone got deleted but you went ahead and reposted it verbatim, a general no-no. You could have easily reworded it to circumvent the system. The fact that you hit the back button and reposted shows you were impatient and to the server, a potential spammer…

    Ceterus parabus….the essence is a legitimate concern but when you’re irate, you have an innate tendency to paint yourself as a martyr against an immoral cooperate entity that is personally out to make your existence a living hell.

    Comment by Bianca — April 20, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  2. I’m new to trolling so I guess I didn’t do it right. Regardless, my words weren’t terribly scathing but I did include a link to one of the screenshots above.

    It’s my opinion that valid customer complaints should not be deleted from a company’s official support forums. If it were a private forum I wouldn’t be so annoyed, but it’s clear that Valve is trying their darndest to come out smelling like roses by spraying perfume on weeds.

    Comment by brian — April 20, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  3. Valve’s forums are not public domain, even though they are opened to the public. Simply because something is open to the public doesn’t make it inherently public domain. NationStates forums, likewise, are open to the public too but are privately owned.

    As a customer, nevertheless, you are entitled to your opinions, no matter the degree of dissatisfactions resonates within the words. However, deliberately seeking to inflame other people is a sign of trolling.

    Your first sentence is not the best wording one could have used. Whether or not it was your intended connotation, you came came as being extremely condescending. That is he last thing you want when trying to get an issue resolved.

    Comment by Bianca — April 20, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  4. Perhaps, but considering a million credit card numbers were on the line I think we as Steam customers were justified in being upset at the lack of disclosure. If I were running Valve I’d sooner issue a statement at least reassuring those customers that, regardless of what happens, Valve was there for support. Instead they issued no statements and deleted any comments.

    That being said, I’m not really sure what you mean when you say my first sentence was not the best wording I could have used. In my article I quote my letters to Steam Support but did not include what I posted on the forums. Here’s the one comment I left that wasn’t deleted, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it is not inflammatory or hot-headed:

    “Even if there is no danger to Steam subscribers I am very annoyed that my support ticket went unanswered for 18 hours and counting. Anything could have happened to my credit card in that time.

    I’m much angrier about Steam’s customer neglect than any security issues. I don’t think I’ll ever buy anything over Steam again. Box or nothing from now on.

    Shame on you Steam. I was one of your biggest supporters but you let me down when it mattered most.”

    Comment by brian — April 20, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  5. yeah steam is all hot air, no need to get heated up though, just get a debit card you can use online, no sweat. ;)

    Comment by mick — April 20, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  6. That’s exactly what my girlfriend told me. (well, not the debit card part)

    Did I overreact to this or is my anger justified?

    Comment by brian — April 20, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

  7. maybe both
    but as it’s easy to express one’s self online, actual thoughts were in written form, which usually isn’t a good thing :)

    Comment by mick — April 21, 2007 @ 6:42 am

  8. Sir, you are as wise as you are diplomatic!

    Comment by brian — April 21, 2007 @ 8:36 am

  9. I agree with the author. And sympathise greatly. Here it is 9/13/07. I asked for help last Friday because it became apparent that someone had hijacked my Steam account. It’s Wednesday and STILL NO RESPONSE From Steam. I paid good money for the bloody game. I was ill for awhile and when I went to play HL2, It isn’t my account anymore, at least HL2 isn”t . They used my numbers and evidently my password to steal HL2 from me. Although, I don’t know. Steam hasn’t deigned to answer my pleas for help. They want me to buy HL2 again.

    Steam Support is very slippery and hard to find/pin down. They don’t allow any Human to Human contact.

    I used to Work for Sierra. If they have their hands in Steam. Get used to lies, deceit and miserable treatment.

    Comment by Al Dutton — September 13, 2007 @ 12:53 am

  10. That’s incredible! The very same thing happened to me these past few weeks! I’d try to log on to Steam but my password wouldn’t work. I emailed their support and didn’t hear from them for 10 days. Then they gave me the runaround for a few more days by asking poorly phrased questions. Nearly a week later they asked me to photograph my Half Life 2 box and send it to them. At long last they reset my password and said they “suspected” someone had hijacked my account. It’s working now.

    They were incredibly slow but at least they were polite. I told them this. I doubt it’ll make any difference. Stick with it, Al. They’ll assist you eventually.

    It’s pretty heartbreaking what happened to Sierra too. It used to be my #1 favourite game studio but now it’s just another publisher.

    Comment by brian — September 13, 2007 @ 5:53 am

  11. I hear you on that, Brian.

    Steam has really gone down hill since I first came there in 2005. Constantly having crap disappear for no reason from my folders, having games stolen QUITE COMMONLY despite the number of times I’d changed my password to 10 or 12-character long phrases, being unable to play a game at a certain point FOR NO REASON and then having the same issue appear with all others that you own via Steam. I thought it was bad then, but it’s TERRIBLE now.

    Just a few minutes ago, for instance, I went to play Garry’s Mod 10 for a bit. Waited and waited. Then, the message that the files were corrupted popped up. Dreaded by every person who uses the thing. Anyway, I thought to myself, “This can’t be right. I was playing just 7 minutes ago.” (no, I was really playing it 7 minutes ago before I wanted to take a quick desktop break; I even checked the clock). Went online, grabbed a couple of threads that I’d found in the archives and put them to work at trying to resolve the issue. NADA with GMOD10. I think, “OK. Well, it’s only 1 game. Can’t have much else to worry about.” WRONG. I decided to play Day of Defeat: Source for a few minutes (pitiful in its own right, but something about it won’t let me leave it alone to rot) and the same damn issue comes up again. I move to Red Orchestra. SAME THING. I tried simply uninstalling the games and reinstalling. NO DICE. “Steam’s servers are too busy at the moment. Please try again later.”

    I’ve ended up deleting Steam ENTIRELY off my machine, but I’ve got it back up, and now I must go through the equally painful task of downloading everything that I’ve EVER used on it AGAIN. For 10 months, nothing has gone wrong with Steam; that is to say, nothing of this magnitude, since I’d bought my new computer (the one I am CURRENTLY using to post on at the moment).

    They don’t care about the customers, I think. They might refund money, SLIGHTLY help in technical support, but that’s it. When it comes to the BIG matters that could result in their entire empire falling, they’ll do whatever it takes to save it and without mercy or regard for the people who’ve made steam what it is.

    If my credit card information is/was at risk -of this significance and magnitude- for a hacker, I have every right in the world to know IN DETAIL about it. What’s worse is it DID happen, but we weren’t told about it!

    I-DID-NOT-EVEN-KNOW-THIS-EVENT-HAD-EVER-OCCURED-UNTIL-I-CAME-TO-THIS-BLOG-15-MINUTES-AGO.

    That’s my money, I’m using the damn program, I deserve to be told the truth as to what’s going on; I don’t expect nor do I deserve (along with my fellow users) to be spoon-fed such things as “It never happened.” when it DID happen. To support this, users who are in possession of evidence that contradict “IT DIDN’T HAPPEN” should not be kept in the dark to try and strengthen the resolve of those who state otherwise, let alone treated so unfairly and left without a say.

    Their company IS at serious risk from a lawsuit at this rate. I will contact them, and if I do not get a response that answers my questions as to whether or not my information was on the line IN A TRUTHFUL manner, then I’ll be having a long chat with my lawyer; then I will go for the dogs (and that’s just what they are; they run with their tail between their legs without the balls to tell the truth).

    Comment by "TheThinker" — October 14, 2007 @ 4:29 am

  12. I got a Steam Account when I bought the Orange Box. As you all know, this is mandatory and something you are forced to in order to play the product you bought.
    Anyways, Steam closed my account without warning or explanation a month after I bought the Orange Box.
    I opened a ticket with them and there seems to be an issue with my CD key. So I took pictures of my CD Key and took a picture of my Orange Box and the CD’s and everything. And sent it to them.
    They opened my account, but I still can’t play my games. In fact I am redirected to the shop, where I guess I’m supposed to buy the games AGAIN!
    I have contacted Steam 3 times now, to hear what the deal is. And they have not replied.

    So here I am, with a game I paid a lot of money for and that I can’t play. Eventhough it’s mine. I own it physically. And they are preventing me from using it.

    You know what? That is ILLEGAL! It violates my property rights and it violates just aboue every single consumer legislation I can think of. You can’t SELL a product and then PREVENT people from using it! I am steaming with rage. Pun intended.

    Comment by Daniel — October 17, 2008 @ 3:40 am

  13. So sorry to hear about your troubles, Daniel. Technically you are a subscriber, not an owner, of Steam games, even though you may have the game box and disc in your hand, so all the power lies with Steam. Pretty shady, I know.

    If you just can’t get satisfaction from Steam I would wholeheartedly recommend just pirating the game. I’ve done this before where the DRM was just too much for me to deal with (even for products like Windows – I own it but hate the Windows Genuine Advantage checks in the legit version).

    Comment by brian — October 17, 2008 @ 5:45 am

  14. Steam is a horrible service, I had a bad service expierience and I will never be back, digital dist is a great idea for gameing, but the way in whihc it is being exectued and supported is bullsh1t.

    Comment by Ian — December 17, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

  15. Wow, if only I read the countless articles like these before buying games on steam.com. Recently, I bough company of heroes because it had been such a long time since I had played it. Once I played it for awhile, I thought I’d buy the expansion-like opposing fronts. This is where my troubles began. After downloading cohop…it didn’t launch. Then it started launching but it only launched coh. Then once I looked at my programs, I realized that coh and cohop were both 5.74GB. How conspicious. So I reinstalled both games twice. Each time in a different order, and it did not help. I HAVE BEEN GOING BACK AND FORTH WITH STEAM FOR TWENTY-FIVE DAYS NOW!!! THEY HAVE THE WORST CUSTOMER SUPPORT EVER, AND THEY WILL REFUSE TO GIVE YOU A REFUND IF THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS. Instead, they will give you link after link of workarounds that do not pertain to your situation at all, simply to give you the round-a-bout. If they do not resolve my problem in two months, I am simply going to report them to the better business bureau. I advise everyone else to do the same if they have such problems as I am having right now. Steam’s customer support is very poor, BE WARNED!

    Comment by pseudonym — February 11, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

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