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Valve Apologizes For 12,000 Erroneous Anti-Cheating Bans 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-it-right dept.
Earlier this week, there were reports that large numbers of Modern Warfare 2 players on Steam were getting erroneously banned by Valve's Anti-Cheat software. While such claims are usually best taken with a grain of salt, the quantity and suddenness caused speculation that Valve's software wasn't operating correctly. A few days later, Valve president Gabe Newell sent out an email acknowledging that roughly 12,000 players had been inappropriately banned over the preceding two weeks. "The problem was that Steam would fail a signature check between the disk version of a DLL and a latent memory version. This was caused by a combination of conditions occurring while Steam was updating the disk image of a game." Valve reversed the bans and gave free copies of Left 4 Dead 2 to everyone who was affected.
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Valve Apologizes For 12,000 Erroneous Anti-Cheating Bans

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  • Customer service (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bbqsrc (1441981) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:38AM (#33065694) Homepage
    They admitted there was an error and as an apology gave them all a rather expensive game. That's pretty good customer service.
    • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:40AM (#33065708)

      And gave them all a competing multiplayer game.... /tinfoilhat

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Warll (1211492)
        L4D may have strong multiplayer but it also has strong single player.

        Now if Valve wanted to steal customers they would have given them Team Fortress 2. At which point they wouldn't have needed to reverse the bans since the players would be too busy collecting hats to notice.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by c0mpliant (1516433)
          Who honestly plays the single player version of L4D or L4D2?

          The entire game is based around the idea of other humans playing with you, not some bot. I don't have any statistics to back this up, but I would be very surprised if there were anywhere near the number of people playing single player that would qualify the statement of it having "strong single player". In fact I'd say its probably got one of the weakest single player modes of any single player games out there. Neither I, nor any of my friends h
          • by interactive_civilian (205158) <mamoru.gmail@com> on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:15AM (#33066066) Homepage Journal

            Who honestly plays the single player version of L4D or L4D2?

            I do. I have a sucky internet connection, and most of the people I want to play with are on the other side of the planet, so unless we get a time with low traffic and find a decent server somewhere in the middle, someone gets stuck with 400ms pings, which make L4D(2) worthless.

            However, as a somewhat mindless zombie killing bit of stress relief, it is fine on the single player mode, and the characters can be quite amusing. Plus, they never shoot you in the face. ;)

            I like L4D(2) very much for both the multiplayer and the single player. Sometimes you don't want to deal with other people and just want to kill zombies. Sometimes you like the challenge of trying to get through a level on your own on Expert difficulty. Sometimes you don't want to deal with the idiots in pub games while your friends are all offline. While I agree that it doesn't really have a "strong" single player, it can still be quite an enjoyable single player experience. They actually did a good job of balancing that, rather than making it one of those games that is impossible or exceptionally boring to play on single player.

            • Re:Customer service (Score:4, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:25AM (#33066396)

              Three options:
              -Own server(Either paid for dedicated, or just host it while you play). It'll help a bit, one less middleman, but only if the person hosting it has a good connection.
              -Console command to open the server browser, and just find a good low ping one, no hoping and praying involved. "openserverbrowser"
              -Force it to only choose servers below a set max ping. Use "mm_dedicated_search_maxping 150".

          • by Sparr0 (451780)

            I have only ever played L4D in single player mode. I haven't played L4D2 yet.

          • Actually one of my buddies as his internet connection is crap.

            When he's online we easily blow through Expert difficulty. Offline, he likes the challenge of trying to succesfully complete the game with Artifical Idiots.

            The single player experience would be greatly more satisfying if the you could give just one command to the bots: STAY HERE.

          • When I spent a lot of time playing Starcraft 1, I liked the single-player mode as much as Battle.net multiplayer.

            Single-player campaigns or custom scenarios were a totally different game.
            And I admit that I was bad enough that I was often challenged enough by the AI, and too rushed by good multiplayer people.

            Not to mention the join-and-drop people and the extra-resource maps and assorted other little issues

      • by asdf7890 (1518587)
        I thought that to. Though on reconsidering, they couldn't much hand out free versions of someone else's game in recompense for their mistake...
        • by Golddess (1361003)
          Sure they could. They'd probably have to pay who does own the rights to the game, but to you and me, it'd be free.
          • by asdf7890 (1518587)
            Yes, but getting agreement for this would take sign-off from relevant people in the other company which would take time and hassle which would have to be paid for on top of the remuneration for the actual game units. And it would be more expensive per game - internally the free games would be passed off on balance sheets "at cost" which is probably zero or near zero (unless they have a tortuous internal economy like some of our clients do), the other company (if another company's game were to be used as the
    • by kurokame (1764228) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:45AM (#33065726)

      Also some good spin work.

      They took something about them screwing up in a moderately serious way while doing something people tend to get upset about them doing, and turned it into being about the quality of their customer service while incidentally advertising a rather expensive game. Since it's over Steam, net cost to Valve is some time by their database people fixing the thing they're probably legally liable to fix plus some bandwidth. Damage contained, plus nearly free marketing which would have cost quite a bit through traditional methods.

      • by Splab (574204) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:09AM (#33065834)

        And did all that without even having to resort to pointing at other networks and say they have the same problem.

      • by yoyhed (651244) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:59AM (#33066014)
        Whether it's beneficial to them or not, it still shows how good customer service can be conducted to benefit both the company and the consumer. Valve is one of the most community-friendly game developers, which is all the more amazing since they're such a successful company (not just a small indie developer).

        Had this happened in a previous Call of Duty game, PunkBuster wouldn't have done a damn thing about it other than releasing a patch. If anyone cries foul at Valve's generous solution, they need to take off the tinfoil hat and also realize that not playing Modern Warfare 2 for a weekend isn't so bad.
        • So if enough people are harmed by the flaws in VAC and enough people complain loudly they will fix the issue?

          And in any other case where they incorrectly banned people they will simply ignore them.

          • by lgw (121541)

            So if enough people are harmed by the flaws in VAC and enough people complain loudly they will fix the issue?

            And in any other case where they incorrectly banned people they will simply ignore them.

            And that makes them vastly better than most companies I have to deal with. They can be made to care.

      • by rjch (544288) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:16AM (#33066068) Homepage

        Also some good spin work.

        They took something about them screwing up in a moderately serious way while doing something people tend to get upset about them doing, and turned it into being about the quality of their customer service while incidentally advertising a rather expensive game.

        There's an old saying that it's not the fact that a company screws up that generates ill will, it's the response from the company to rectify the problem.

        This is a company that has heard that saying and has taken it to heart. Bravo.

        • Go a bit deeper than that - the differences between skilled people and untalented people is not that skilled people never make mistakes. It's that the skilled people fix their mistakes fast enough that they don't cause larger problems.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:28AM (#33066142)

        I mean sure, people got banned but that would only be serious if the bans couldn't be undone or something. They got banned, they got unbanned. No problem. Same basic effect as if the servers had crashed or their net connection had died.

        It wasn't a serious problem because they dealt with it. The free game (two actually, they gave it to the people and gave them a copy to gift to a friend) is good PR, and should help smooth everything over.

        I don't mind that companies make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Anyone who demands perfection all the time is a moron. All I ask is that they acknowledge and fix their mistakes, which was done here. The free game was a good call, to settle people down, especially since many gamers act like an interruption of their gaming is the end of the world.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        L4D2 was on sale on Steam for 10.20 only recently and in the bargain bin on most websites. It's nice to get for nothing but I doubt it cost Valve much at all on their side and represents good PR.
      • by lattyware (934246)
        People and companies make mistakes - in the real world, nothing is 100% foolproof. Now, I know I'd rather go for a company that reacts like this when they screw up, than anyone else. Yes, they are doing this because it'll advertise their products, keep those customers with them, etc... But why is that a bad thing?
    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      Expensive? I bought it for less then $10 two weeks ago on sale in their store.

      Also the customer service is only good when it comes to Valves games. Buy a third party game that doesn't even load? Too bad because you're using a "service" not 'buying a product". This kind of behaviour rewards companies for not even making their games work. There's no reason they couldn't offer refunds. They know how long people play the games, offering a refund to a person that has bought the game for less then a week and hasn

    • They admitted there was an error and as an apology gave them all a rather expensive game. That's pretty good customer service.

      Yup, not bad at all.

      Far too many companies these days would have insisted it wasn't their fault.

      And I don't think anyone really would have expected much more than simply getting their account re-activated.

      Valve could have given away pretty much anything... A copy of Portal or Half-Life or something else that's been around for a while. They certainly didn't need to give out a copy of a newer title like Left 4 Dead 2.

      Good job guys! I wish more companies behaved this way...

    • by hedwards (940851)
      In this case they did the right thing, but what I'd like to know is what would happen if it were a much smaller number affected by the bug. Given that they don't generally give people the opportunity to prove their innocence I'm not sure that they would rectify things if only a small number are affected. I'm not sure they even read messages complaining about seemingly inappropriate auto bans.
    • by morari (1080535)

      How many people get banned just here and there that are never given the time of day however? They've lost all those games they've bought because of a little software glitch red-flagging them.

  • by gravos (912628) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:47AM (#33065736) Homepage

    Here is the actual email from Gabe that was sent out:

    --

    Hello,

    Recently, your Steam account was erroneously banned from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

    This was our mistake, and I apologize for any frustration or angst it may have caused you.

    The problem was that Steam would fail a signature check between the disk version of a DLL and a latent memory version. This was caused by a combination of conditions occurring while Steam was updating the disk image of a game. This wasn't a game-specific mistake. Steam allows us to manage and reverse these erroneous bans (about 12,000 erroneous bans over two weeks).

    We have reversed the ban, restoring your access to the game. In addition, we have given you a free copy of Left 4 Dead 2 to give as a gift on Steam, plus a free copy for yourself if you didn't already own the game.

    To share your extra copy of Left 4 Dead 2 with a friend, you can 'Manage Gifts and Guest Passes' from the 'Games' Menu in Steam, or visit this article on the Steam Support site for detailed instructions: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=4502-TPJL-2656 [steampowered.com].

    To access your own copy of Left 4 Dead 2, visit your library of games in Steam. If you didn't already own the game, it will now be listed among your others there, and is available for download immediately.

    Regards,
    Gabe Newell
    President, Valve

  • I Love Valve. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoctorPylons (1857800) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:03AM (#33065820)
    Even though you can argue about Steam as DRM, I love what Valve is doing as far as consumer-relations. "Pirated our game? It's OK, we'll give you more incentive to buy it instead of pirating it." Gabe Newell is a trailblazer in the video games frontier, and I'm glad we have him.
    • by ildon (413912)

      "Pirated our game? It's OK, we'll give you more incentive to buy it instead of pirating it."

      Not sure what that has to do with this situation. Unless you're talking about some unrelated situation that I haven't heard about.

  • cheating (Score:3, Funny)

    by networkzombie (921324) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:18AM (#33065858)
    I wish punkbuster worked as hard as Steam at keeping cheaters offline and making up for their mistakes. I'd get all my games for free and I wouldn't get kicked as often.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Necroloth (1512791)
      and not just the cheaters, I wish they'd fix the game on Steam! If you have the Steam overlay on (as default), punkbuster will kick you out of your game! I have to disable/enable this everytime I change games away from CoD.
  • That good (Score:5, Funny)

    by Netshroud (1856624) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:34AM (#33065932)
    Valve's PR is so good that some people were complaining on the official forums that VAC didn't erroneously ban them - they wanted a free game.
  • by Durzel (137902) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @05:30AM (#33066406) Homepage

    As good a move as this I can't help but wonder about the comments made by volunteers moderators on the SPUFs (Steam Powered User Forum) about how "VAC doesn't make mistakes", how bans were permanent and indisputable, etc.

    I wasn't on the receiving end of one of these bans myself but if I had been I would've felt pretty aggreived to be tacitly labelled a cheater and that my account "was gone", with moderators talking about a computerised system being impossible to fool and never wrong, etc.

    • by mounthood (993037)

      As good a move as this I can't help but wonder about the comments made by volunteers moderators on the SPUFs (Steam Powered User Forum) about how "VAC doesn't make mistakes", how bans were permanent and indisputable, etc.

      It's not a conundrum, it's just hypocrisy: Valve doesn't really believe VAC is perfect, as demonstrated here, but people don't really care until they get thrown under the bus. It's the same reason the US has 5% of the worlds population and 25% of the worlds prisoners.

  • and what will valve do for MW2 players who have already gone out and bought a new copy to continue playing? That is, after all, the only option that valve says is open to people who get banned by VAC.

  • ...please take note from Valve's fine example of good customer service.

    "We fucked up, we're not going to bullshit our customers, and here's quite a nice present to say we're sorry".

    I'm not a fan of games companies as a rule, but kudos to Valve for demonstrating that they care about their customers.

  • 4GB, originally $50 (now $30 I think) game.

    And yet I'm supposed to believe there's a massive production cost on digital downloads particularly when it comes to selling a 5MB ePub or 5MB song (that I am not allowed to download again if I lose the song).

    I originally did not agree with Valve's tactics but the reality is they're becoming benevolent and good with their business. I just wish the versions of games they sold did not have the same anti privacy measures built into the games as the hard copy versions

    • should have been "anti-piracy" ...

      And now I find out they're giving out 2 copies. That just amazes me and glad to see Valve making up for such a big folly.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      How the fuck is file-size relevant? At all?

      Are you saying that if the ebooks were stored as 1200 DPI scanned images (totalling up to 4 GB or more) than suddenly they'd be justified in charging $50?

      What's an anti-privacy measure? Like, it forces you at gunpoint to enter your real name and address or something?

  • THIS is how you handle an issue. You don't wait for a 50,000 posts 1600 pages long thread of disgruntled customers swearing they will never play your game again to form, only to tell people later that you've got "exciting new changes coming in the future" in the same breath as announcing that the unilateral change is getting overturned.
  • Bad RAM? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Megane (129182) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @08:52AM (#33067672) Homepage

    Sounds to me like this could also give a ban to someone who had bad RAM. One bit wrong in an area that gets a signature check and you're gone. Doesn't even have to be bad RAM, if a cosmic ray flips a bit.

    Better run that memtest86 NOW.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @10:14AM (#33068612) Homepage

    One of my gripes with Valve is they have always claimed that VAC *never makes mistakes* and that VAC bans are absolutely permanent with no chance of appeal.

    I'm glad they were able to admit that yes, VAC can make mistakes and nothing is perfect. Maybe they will re-think their uppity "VAC is flawless. Bans are forever. Sorry." policy now.

    Heck, they won't even reverse VAC bans for people who get their accounts hacked. How wrong is that?

  • This isn't surprising to me. Last Christmas I acquired a for pay hack, I revered it and removed the need to login and phone home (read, made it free), it spanned about 6 games, some Steam some PunkBuster. I sent an email to Steam, sent one to EvenBalance to inform them that I had this and was interested in submitting it to them for dissemination and inclusion into their detection engines. Next day heard from EvenBalance they wanted it, so I sent it. 3 days later that cheat was detected in all PB enabled ser

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