Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Losing All Confidence in Steam

Note: This issue is ongoing as of this writing and still has not been addressed by Valve.
A month ago I was one of the most avid and evangelical supporters of the Steam platform. I've spent thousands of dollars on the platform, and have accumulated almost 600 games and over 300 DLC on their platform. As soon as it was possible I immediately began putting effort into building a Steam machine for my living room, and spent countless hours calculating how to put together a low budget gaming machine that would provide a fun and versatile experience for everyone in the house.

I've had an account with Steam since the beginning, I have a badge on my profile for 11 years of service. I pre-ordered the Steam link and Steam controller as soon as they were available, and was beyond excited to be receiving them soon. There are very few companies that I have supported as loyally as Steam. I'm saying all of this because I want to really emphasize the quality of customer Steam has lost. And now I want to tell you why.

Account security is a serious issue, and for websites that are used in multiple locations account recovery can a game changer. You can have the most secure password in the world, but if you log in from a compromised computer that security gets flushed down the toilet. It's important to keep this in mind, any account that you use a lot and access from a large number of locations is increasingly likely to get compromised. Thankfully Steam guard is a powerful tool, and my email was not compromised. So when a malicious user logged into my account without authorization 2 weeks ago, they were unable to gain complete access because Steam Guard was enabled.

Thanks to Steam Guard the malicious user was unable to fully access my account before I was able to get home to change the password from a Steam client. This is all of the good news, and all of the places where Steam succeeded in keeping me safe. Now for the horror story. The horror story starts when I first get the email in the middle of my shift at work. I do not have a client installed at my workplace, and so I am completely unable to change my password. Steam's restriction of password changes to an email client prevented the fastest and most attentive response I could provide.

I was in a nightmare. Someone was accessing my account from Ukraine, someone who I clearly did not know and did not want in my account, and there was no support or option. I checked the website, the phone app, everything. I was completely out of options and there was nothing I could do. I read the email notification from Steam Guard carefully:
If you haven’t recently tried to login to the Steam client… from the computer located at (UA), someone else may be trying to access your account. You can view more info about this login attempt online.
If you suspect someone else may be attempting to access your account, please either:
Thanks for helping us maintain the security of your account.
The Steam Support Team
Two clear courses of action were provided to me, and I want to emphasize, actively recommended to me by Steam support, one of which was completely impossible without access to a computer that I was authorized to install a client on. I was out of options and getting multiple notifications. Clearly they were trying to brute force the much easier to force 5 letter passphrase from Steam after already having found access to my password through unknown methods. Only one course of action remained to me as I was hours away from being able to perform the more secure option of a full password change: I had to lock my own account.

The idea is simple. You lock your own account, then via a support ticket login not related to your Steam account you provide your Username, and verify your ownership of the account with payment information. This was a piece of cake for a long time user like me. I had wallet codes and credit cards that I could provide the name and last four numbers of all day long. I locked my account to feel safe and eventually got home and changed my password. Then I immediately submitted the required support ticket for assistance with unlocking my account after this terrifying run in with near loss of my account.

It has been two full weeks and I have not had a single reply from Steam support, no reassurance, no request for additional information, my ticket has yet to be touched. It lays open and ignored. I can't talk to my friends. I can't invite them to play games. I can't buy new games, I can't redeem the games I buy for steam from the current Humble Bundle End of Summer Sale. I can't trade. My account is completely neutered and Steam wont even respond to me.

This ticket could literally be automated. A TOOL could cross check my information with the information on my account via a method that would not require ever being touched by human hands in less than a second, and I have been unable to get my account unlocked for two whole weeks, unlocked or even a response. Why am I still waiting for help two weeks after this nightmare that never seems to end?

I cannot express how livid I am at being completely ignored after such a severe issue and after complying with every action that was recommended to me. I only needed moments of assistance and reassurance after the 11 years of support I have provided to you.

I probably can't ever forgive this.

I sure as hell know I can't ever forget it.

Hardware fails all the time, is the type of completely non existent support I'll get when my controller and Steam Link arrive? Or if I had bought a Steam machine? I've searched and searched for alternative options for help and I've seen something. I've seen a lot of users that have had this experience. A vast sea of us who know this pain.

You may be the coolest client, with all the best games, and all of the newest features, but... that can change. You have competition now.

There's Origin, and UPlay, and even GOG  has a client now, a client with fast installs and full friends lists that I can play my games online with , and I can even download every single game I buy from them DRM free if I happen to want to.

I want you to know, Steam, Valve, Gabe, or whoever cares, or if anyone in that whole wretched place even cares, that I've changed. I've gone from a die-hard supporter who wont buy games at all if I can't get them through your client, to a customer who will literally use any other service regardless how inconvenient it is to avoid shopping with you.

Maybe you can look at me and say, "He's 600 games deep, he wont really leave us." I want you to know... as soon as I was able to buy most of the games I play on your platform, and realized I wasn't playing the CDs or DVDs I'd collected over my ten years as a gamer before Steam, and that I'd likely never pull them out and play them again, I threw away two 500-disk wallets filled with CDs, DVDs, and even floppy disks.

You're just a wallet, Steam. I can throw you away if someone else does what you do better, and right around now that bar is pretty low.
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