Five Points of Gaming: The Steam Debacle

Welcome back to the ‘Five Points’, a feature where we attempt to maintain a weekly schedule, it’s tougher than it sounds I swear, and take a look back at the week in gaming. As always, not everything will make the list, and it’s my discretion as to what does and doesn’t. Let’s dive right in, then

1: The Long Point: The Steam Debacle:

I swear, it’s as if these things write themselves, sometimes. Christmas Day, Steam decides to become absolutely messed up, in the weirdest way possible. Perhaps the engineers down at Valve should lay off the hard stuff next holiday? Nonetheless, the issue allowed many users to be randomly logged into other accounts, allowing them to view information associated with the account, though purchases and such were not an issue. While none of the information was personal enough to be overly concerned about, the root of the issue is quite troubling.

Firstly, let’s look at Valve’s official statement on the manner, which reads as follows:

Steam is back up and running without any known issues. As a result of a configuration change earlier today, a caching issue allowed some users to randomly see pages generated for other users for a period of less than an hour. This issue has since been resolved. We believe no unauthorized actions were allowed on accounts beyond the viewing of cached page information and no additional action is required by users.

Now, the fact that the issue was essentially not one is quite reassuring. On the other hand, this is quite concerning, considering how this issue occurred. Firstly, consider the fact that the statement contains the words ‘known issues’ and ‘believe’. This is an official statement about an issue that just revealed personal information on who knows how many accounts and they’re using non-affirmative statements such as that. Yes it’s a nitpick, no I’m not overreacting. This is a business that essentially holds a monopoly on an entire gaming platform that just goofed up big time, they better be damn sure there are no issues.

Another big problem with this statement is the length. Not only does this lack any sort of apology for such a colossal screw-up, something they should be laying on thick at this point, but it also seems to lack any sort of real information. I’m not asking for a in-depth technical explanation on why this occurred, but even an assurance that it won’t happen again would go a long way.

Now, what’s really troubling about the entire thing is just the sort of pattern Valve seems to have developed. Whenever they screw up, which is quite often, there seems to be a ‘shit happens’ mentality to the entire thing. That would be fine, except a lot of these failures on their end are quite catastrophic. Whether it be Greenlight and the hazy rules of publishing, the absolute lack of quality control leading to broken and unfinished games, or the most recent ‘Caching Issue’, Valve seems to lack the ability to apologize sincerely. I don’t even think that’s asking for much, considering just how bad Valve has been recently. That’s not to say they deserve the hate that, let’s say Konami gets, but they should be remorseful, or at least pretend to be, for this mess. #FuckValve, anyone?

2: The Not Quite as Cool as the First Point: Star Citizen Continues to Shine:

In more interesting, less time-relevant news, Star Citizen has yet to crash and burn. After reports of the game being far too ambitious and unable to meet expectations, they continue to come out with content that amazes me. While the FPS portion is still not released, what is quite fascinating is the implementation of multi-crew vessels. While the FPS may not be out, this essentially signals that the portion of the game that seemed most suspect, after reports deeming it so, is likely now fine.

You might say that multi-crew ships are hardly a symbol of things to come, but they show the biggest challenge that RSI had to overcome to get FPS properly integrated. The biggest challenge of multiplayer FPS is not the shooting, or the mechanics associated with it. Instead, however, it’s the syncing of animations, allowing the game to run fluidly without input lag or delays that would lead to a competitive advantage. Now, the advent of multi-crew ships might seem like it would work with such issues still in place, input lag not being an issue if the team on the ship is working together, but not in this case.

RSI had to prove that it could handle such issues, and so it did. If they were to release such a function without having first dealt with those issues, it would only affirm the fears of those who deemed the project ‘impossible’. This was the closest to proving FPS functionality, without releasing an FPS component, and it passed, even if there is still much to be done.  It’s an encouraging step, as a failure by Star Citizen at this point would hurt the crowdfunding scene irreversibly, much like when DoubleFine failed to deliver on its promises

3: The Utility Point: Top Sellers on Steam:

It was interesting to see the list of top-selling games on Steam. To no one’s shock, GTA V headed the list at over three million buys. What was more interesting was the inclusion of Fallout 4, which was next on the list. That isn’t to say it’s shocking to see it, but as the second place title was rather interesting, considering how long it’s been out for. Most of the inclusions following that are pretty standard, though I will have to rant for a few sentences about the Witcher 3. Ninth?! One of the best roleplaying games of all time, and it’s only ninth. Of course, if we were to add the words ‘Elder Scrolls’, it would likely shoot up quite a few ranks.

Just to cover the rest of it, let’s finish with a few more interesting inclusions. Elite: Dangerous is an odd one, considering the relative niche that it fills; the game’s quite hard to get into considering its pacing and complexity and it’s a little shocking to see it at fifteen overall. Another odd one is Stranded Deep, a game I’ve never heard of. No, I’m not looking it up, as I highly doubt it’s anything other than a survival game. Finally, The Escapist is slightly odd, though I do remember it being popular for quite some time, so perhaps not as much of a shock as the others.

4: The Funny Point: Kojima Replacements Inbound:

Yes, Konami has decided to continue the Metal Gear franchise after the commercial success of MGS V. Anyone shocked? No? Didn’t think so. What is absolutely hilarious to me is their inability to have simply kept Hideo Kojima, the mastermind behind the series. Perhaps there’s a lot more to the story than we’re being let on to, but it seems like Konami was the one who drove him away, not the other way around. This would be like firing the creator of the atomic bomb, not due to moral concerns, but rather due to not liking him, and then seeking an inferior engineer for the job. In addition, letting the other guy now create his own bombs for other countries. I can’t wait for Hideo’s next game ‘Not Metal Gear Solid VI: Featuring Loud and Small Boss’. In all likelihood, Konami will respond with a mobile title called ‘MGS VI’. The game will consist of an image of Kojima popping up on the screen, and the goal of the game will be to press on the head as it appears, gaining points each time.

5: Company of the Week: Valve:

Yet another ‘winner’ of the prestigious award is negative. I’d love to one day be confronted by reports of a company snuggling rabbits and saving the homeless, but as it is, no such things have surfaced. Congratulations to Valve, their lack of remorse and inability to do their one job correctly helping them secure this week’s prize. Now, considering that they must be humbled and shamed by such a distinction, I’m sure things will change. From now, Valve will only release one word statements, doing away with any sort of doubt, assuring us that the problem is fixed. The reports will from now on read ‘Fixed’ and we shall praise them for their ability to figure things out after they are evident, rather than preventing the issue from occurring in the first place. I’m sure the day we all start to boycott Valve will be the day they announce Half Life 3, immediately putting them back into everyone’s goodwill for the next three hundred colossal fuckups.

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Dynasty2021 December 27, 2015 at 18:04

Oh for god sake.

The Steam issue was a simple error in caching code, nobody lost anything, nobody’s card details were revealed, nobody had any unauthorized purchases made, nobody lost any money or ANYTHING.

How about you focus on the bullshit PSN that fails seemingly every weak and has been hacked so many times now that I’ve lost count, and people’s card details WERE released.

This is a <24 hour hickup for gaming's biggest digital distributor that gives insane value for money, unlike the laughable prices on PSN and Xbox Live.

Sean Morge December 29, 2015 at 20:11

That’s hardly the point. PSN and Xbox Live are scrutinized fairly regularly for their own respective issues. I agree, that Steam’s laps is more minor, but the issue is just one of many the service has had this year.

The point is not that Steam is necessarily a worse service than PSN or Xbox Live, it’s that it has its own issues that are too easily dismissed by others. I still think Steam is a great gaming platform, a better one than either PSN or Xbox Live, and I just want it to take more responsibility for its actions. When Sony screws up, they’re apologetic. They need to fix the issue, but they recognize that it’s their fault.
Valve has a major problem of simply ignoring or fixing it’s biggest issues without a sign of remorse. Sure, it was a simple caching issue, but where was the apology. Even if this didn’t deserve one, what about Greenlight and the double standard with publishers? What about Early Access? What about the games that simply release broken? What about the lack of refund policy until now, a concept even Origin had. Valve is better, but not flawless, that’s the point

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