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

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 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 MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:50AM (#33065758)

    Gift it.
    Preferably in exchange for sex. Beer is good too. Cheetos will work in a pinch.

  • by Warll ( 1211492 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:53AM (#33065772) Homepage
    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:Dear Soulskill (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Noodlenoggin ( 1295699 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @02:56AM (#33065778)

    Are you actually trying to make a living out of this "game journalist" gig? Is it working?

    It's not working very well because I read about this a couple of days ago. Then again online journalism does seem to be all about rehashing something someone else wrote about last week.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:04AM (#33065828)

    Yes I do want to play games through a service that notices there errors, fesses up to them, and compensates the users for the error. It is rare enough to find a company that acknowledges there own errors let alone go out of there way to make it right.

  • 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 MelodicMotives ( 724089 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @03:13AM (#33065840) Homepage
    As much as I dislike the trends in super-DRM'd game distribution, you have to respect a clear, open email with no bull**** and pretty good compensation to boot.
  • 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.
  • by interactive_civilian ( 205158 ) <mamoru@gmail . c om> 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:48AM (#33066234) Journal

    this is far more than "an error" on their part... but an apology and access to content they've already produced and can duplicate trivially at ~no cost is pretty much all they have to give.

    What's the cost to them got to do with anything? Apologising is about making the victim feel better, not the perpetrator feel worse. It's a good apology because they actually gave people something they may appreciate, even if there's little cost to them.

    Oh, and if you're truly that vindictive, you may take comfort in knowing that by giving them L4D2, that puts another 12,000 copies of L4D2 out there, for no money, thus, for 12,000 people, eliminating any chance that they will pay Valve for it (assuming those who have it already gift it to someone else). That puts a small but measurable dent in Valve's revenue for the game, which Valve won't be pleased about.

  • by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @04:52AM (#33066260) Journal

    You make it sound like the block is a personal favour, and that giving you a game is useless, since you have no qualms about picking it up for free. Put short, you don't sound like you're owed an apology or restitution.

  • 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 Skuto ( 171945 ) on Thursday July 29, 2010 @07:31AM (#33067006) Homepage

    >but quickly realised how bad the AI is compared to human counterparts

    No really, it's the other way around in most cases :-P

    The bots don't shoot you, don't run off on their own, etc. Coop multiplayer is much more challenging.

  • 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?

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner