Steam is testing my patience

Steam is great; Steam is good.  What’s not to love about the venerable, all-singing, all-dancing Steam?  Well, how about the fact that they shut down their servers for ‘routine’ maintenance at peak UK gaming hours without forewarning anyone?  How about the fact that, without these facilities, you cannot play online or chat to friends?  Moreover, how about the fact that Valve doesn’t even have the ability to warn its customers to expect the downtime despite having a client installed on every steam user’s machine?

I was in the middle of a close game of L4D2 team versus and suffered from some hardware lag, so I quickly restarted L4D2 to try and get a smooth framerate, as did one of my friends.  When we attempted to rejoin the game it was not possible; the friends service was down and connecting via the console/server browser was also a non-starter.  So, it’s game over for tonight.  Why do we accept this?  I’ve lauded Valve and generally think Steam is really good, but this is totally unacceptable and it’s the second time it’s happened in a single week which is making me irritable.

Including the beta phase, Steam has been knocking around for the best part of a decade now and yet we — the paying customers — are expected to go onto the steampowered sub-forum and check for scheduled maintenance prior to settling down for an hour or two of gaming.  Does anyone really think that’s an acceptable practice?  I can forgive Valve for doing maintenance during peak hours (as it’s always peak hours for someone in the world), but considering how tied into steam we are, the least they could do is add the functionality to warn gamers when scheduled maintenance is approaching so they can take appropriate action.

Just think!  We could get a little pop-up in the corner of the screen via the Steam UI saying “Sorry, but friends will be going down for scheduled maintenance in x minutes; you will not be able to connect to games during this time.  We expect maintenance to take 30-60 minutes”.

While waiting for maintenance to conclude, we could read a book, watch TV or complain on a forum where your constructive, good natured thread will be closed / deleted without any explanation (as well as the follow up that complained about your constructive thread disappearing).  Er, nice job mods. I can’t play a nice relaxing game, nor can I (politely) vent about it on your forums.  While I’m not exactly harking back to the days of manual patching and won.net, at least we didn’t have to put up with this particular kind of bullshit back then.

Still, at least Mac users will soon get the chance to not play the games they’ve paid for!  That’s good news, right?  Anyway, resume the festivities.  The viral campaign is fantastic and we all love Valve.  Just ignore this blemish and airbrush it from history.

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