Valve Announces It's Handing Its Banning-Keys Over To Game Developers

from the trust-us dept

In the wake of the recent flop that was Valve’s attempt to create a platform for paid game mods, you’d have thought that the company would be on its digital toes when it comes to being gamer-friendly. I have no interest in piling on Valve or the Steam platform, given what a great example of how game developers can make money in the digital age, but I was a bit surprised to learn that the company just announced it won’t be in charge of banning gamers from games any longer. Instead, it’s turning the keys to banning gamers over to the game developers themselves.

Because nobody likes playing with cheaters. Playing games should be fun. In order to ensure the best possible online multiplayer experience, Valve allows developers to implement their own systems that detect and permanently ban any disruptive players, such as those using cheats. Game developers inform Valve when a disruptive player has been detected in their game, and Valve applies the game ban to the account. The game developer is solely responsible for the decision to apply a game ban. Valve only enforces the game ban as instructed by the game developer. For more information about a game ban in a specific game, please contact the developer of that game.

Now, when anyone, including the Steam announcement above, talks about reasons to ban gamers from games, cheating is always brought up. And, indeed, nobody would be wrong to suggest that gamers cheating in online games reduce the fun-factor for the rest of the gaming community. Would it be better to exclude cheaters from games? Yes, no doubt. Is Valve’s announced plans above to turn the responsibility for banning games from its platform make for a good way to go about this? Hell no.

Why? Well, because giving that kind of control over to the game developers shifts the balance of power when it comes to being banned from games and the reasons why a player might be banned. The nice thing about Steam is that it has two sets of customers: both the gamers themselves and the game developers on its service. Therefore, when Steam is the one administering the ban-button, it essentially serves as an arbiter. It might be an imperfect arbiter, sure, but having all the power to ban customers from games residing in the hands of developers takes us from imperfect to completely broken. Whatever the developers say goes.

And developers haven’t always proven that they can be trusted with lesser forms of this power. Imagine Derek Smart in this scenario, no longer having the power to simply blanket-ban gamers from the Steam forums over negative reviews and comments, but now also being able to ban them from his games. Other developers have already attempted to ban players from their own single-player games over forum issues, so imagine what’s going to happen now that there is no “trying”, only “doing” when it comes to bans.

Steam made its mark by being fairly friendly to gamers in a myriad of ways. Giving this much power over bans to game developers is a step in the opposite direction. It would be a strange decision at any time, but now it seems particularly odd.

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Comments on “Valve Announces It's Handing Its Banning-Keys Over To Game Developers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Whilst this is certainly true, Valve put a lot of effort into making Steam just work. Now that it has no competition (it havign been swallowed up by companies such as Sony), Valve can start heavily monetising its pseudo-monopoly.

Valve need to be very careful here, otherwise they’ll alienate all of their customers, which is not a successful strategy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ditto to this, if a game is on GOG I buy it there first.

If it is ONLY on steam then I wait for a huge discount like 50% to hit before I will buy it. I have the policy if if it has DRM that is an automatic devaluing of the product and my future playability therefore the product is just less attractive to me and my wallet.

Adam says:

I don’t necessarily disagree, but you could reverse the scenario and complain that Valve is the arbitrary gatekeeper of bans and developers should be in control of their own games. Seems like a bit of a lose-lose situation whichever way it goes, particularly since Valve has never been that open with end-user communication over issues.

Adrian Lopez says:

The power to ban players from games has traditionally belonged to publishers. In that regard, this move is like returning to the way things were before Steam. On the other hand, the fact that Steam itself provides the mechanism for enforcement means banning players remains a “core feature” of the platform, and that may be enough to encourage the practice of banning players for arbitrary reasons.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see this being hugely abused by the Greenlight Unity Zombie Survival with Crafting Elements Me Too genre developers. The steaming (no pun intended) piles of crap mass produced with absolutely no bare of entry to make a quick buck.

Already reviewers like Jim Fucking Sterling Son are being abused by negative reviews of these turds by having their videos pulled due to copyright disputes that never make it past the automatic Youtube systems into a real court.

Blackfiredragon13 (profile) says:

You missed another huge problem.

Everyone remembers TD’s post on Totalbuscuit getting a DMCA on YouTube over a negative review of Day One: Garry’s incident? Ok good now consider the ones they didn’t cover, like time it happened to Totalbuscuit with his review of guise of the wolf, or when Jim sterling looked at the slaughtering grounds or more recently with skate man intense rescue.
Given how low some indie devs are willing to go, does anyone more intelligent than a potted plant(or the politicians advocating backdooring encryption, whichever is dimmer) think giving them the power to ban people from steam entirely is a good idea?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: You missed another huge problem.

Actually I like the idea of letting game developers administer bans on their own games rather than steam taking that responsibility. Letting the developer take the blame instead of having steam take the beating is making it more apparent who is the dirtback.

The problems will be related to “early access” where a few developers can really screw it up for steam. Selling “early access” and having thin skinned developers ban people for abusing bugs or talking crap about the game in that part of development is enhancing the already existing dilemmas this feature brings.

I think TotalBisquits refusal to recommend early access will be even more justified, given the potential ramifications of this change.

Padpaw (profile) says:

Considering how most of the time when people criticize a game on the steam forums for said game they get banned from butthurt developers how on earth is this anything other than valve wanting their cake and eating it at the same time.

they get the cash and publicity for allowing the games to be sold, then they wash their hands of moderating what happens on their platform.

Lonyo says:

Re: Re:

And you can bet they won’t be reducing their cut of the sale despite trying to reduce their load in terms of responsibility for dong stuff.

They had zero responsibility for monitoring or policing Skyrim mod content, still took the same cut. Giving developers the job of policing bans. Still keep the same cut.
Easy way to make more profits, get other people to do the work but don’t change what you charge.

Beech says:

What’s really odd is most multiplayer games require you to sign up for an account with them seperate from your steam account. Yeah, cheating pisses me off, but saying “hey, we think you’re cheating so even though you gave us money, go sit on it and spin”

And really, you’d think Valve would do a LOT more soul searching before they roll out huge changes like this. Like, maybe test it out on a handful of smaller games? Or a new game just starting out on Steam to see how it gets handled there?

Anonymous Coward says:

I can see both sides of this

I agree this is ripe for abuse from dirtbag devs, but on the other side of it… A *LOT* of games these days have a huge (exclusive?) online/multi-player component. Banning people in these environments means doing research. Looking at log files, viewing player-submitted evidence. In the vast majority of these cases, Valve has no way to do this. So they just become a speed bump on the “The Developer is really the one doing the banning anyway” process.

spimby (profile) says:

Because it won't be long before the lawyers get invovled

Steam is probably worried about the liability of banning people. At some point, if it hasn’t already happened, there will be a lawsuit (class-action?) started by someone who has been banned but claims they weren’t cheating. They’ll claim that they were sold a product with an online gaming component, and the product didn’t perform the online piece due to incompetence/negligence/malfeasance on the part of Steam .

Now that risk will be shouldered by the developer. They will have to make sure they keep the evidence of cheating and the decision for banning for a couple of years, as the statute of limitations for this sort of claim is about that long. Don’t have the evidence? Uh-oh.

Steam doesn’t want this headache. I suspect this is why Steam has banned very few players at all.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

All of which is true and great for single player games. And all of which is horrible and destructive for online multiplayer games. Cheaters are my #2 reason for why I gave up on those games entirely. They simply suck every last bit of fun out of gaming. (Ironically, my #3 reason is the extremely intrusive anti-cheater software.)

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But your fun comes at the expense of other people’s fun. That doesn’t concern you?

I understand what you’re saying here, and I’ve long thought that there should be special “cheater servers” where players who enjoy that sort of thing can get their kicks without harming the game for those who don’t. The problem is that those cheaters wouldn’t stay on those servers, so in the end, cheaters just end up ruining everything.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

But your fun comes at the expense of other people’s fun. That doesn’t concern you?

Not really. To be honest, the things that I actually enjoy exploiting really don’t have much to do with other people. Like figuring out a how take down a super high level monster all by myself as opposed to a co-opt effort with other players. Or how to purchase a guild house without actually joining a guild. (I always hated guilds – always full of newbies asking for you to level them up). Things like that.

Back in the late 90’s one of the first online MMORPGs I played was something called “Faldon”. They were going through a lot of growing pains trying to figure out in-game economies and such and ended up having to do character wipes pretty often because of exploits. But the whole experience was still a hell of a lot fun anyways. That game is still around but the graphics look pretty crappy on today’s high-def monitors.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You talk a lot about MMORPGs, which I agree is a somewhat different and more complicated story (I play EVE Online and find the latest exploit that lets you apply any ship skin to any ship in the game very amusing). But do you realise that MMOs are not the most prominent scene for cheating? FPSes are. And I fucking hate hackers in FPSes. Hacking in DayZ made that game literally unplayable, to the point where you’d get shot through a wall with a full-auto rocket launcher ten minutes after joining any server, then have a flying dude warp in over your corpse and start micspamming. What made the situation worse is the nature of DayZ: you have to loot for hours to get nice gear and be able to take part in the high-level PvP gameplay where squads face off around the North-West airfield, trying to out-think and out-operate each other. It was fun as hell and the time and energy you had invested in your gear only served to heighten the experience. But when you can lose it all because a hacker decides to do /killall in the console, you quickly decide it’s not worth it. DayZ had a lot of issues, but I could’ve overcome those and had fun in spite of the lagginess and glitchiness. Now that’s a lot of fun I’ll never have, which is a sentiment shared by thousands of ex DayZ players. You may not be like this, but you are the minority (like the guy who started parachuting cows all over the map). Most hackers only grief.

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