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Steam now reporting client statistics

Gameplay and crash data aids development :: June 7th, 2006 :: Steam updates :: 14 Responses (Feed)

Eurogamer’s excellent interview with Valve yesterday (mild Episode Two spoilers) has thrown up the long-overdue news that Steam is, at last, being used as an automated upload tool for data as diverse as the weapons we use in Episode One to crash reports and, as last week’s update news suggested, the fragmentation of our GCFs.

One thing we’re going to do with Episode One is extending [playtesting] out to all of the people. Rather than having hundreds of playtesters, there are eight million Steam accounts right now, so we’ll have eight million playtesters. [Steam] tells us which weapons they’re using, so we can say “they’re not using this weapon, why not?”, here’s where people are getting stuck “huh, ok, they’re not supposed to be stuck here”. Here’s the stuff they like, here’s the stuff they don’t like.

Rather than having internal guesses as to what’s going on we’re going to really see how customers play, and really see what’s determining performance in customer’s hands, and that’s going to be big stuff for us.

While server stats have been reported for some time, the principle of client feedback, first suggested by Ritual Entertainment for Sin Episodes: Emergence, is relatively new. Ritual made some use use of the idea, but Valve have taken it a step further, and so far with great results.

The community’s reaction may not be so positive, however. Gabe’s claim that he receives a notification on his desktop every time a copy of Episode One crashes somewhere in the world is either reassuring or sinister depending on your viewpoint, and one noticeable absence from Valve’s implementation is any notification of its existence, let alone a mechanism with which to opt out of it.

But as the general lack of player uproar over Blizzard’s ‘Warden’ anti-cheat tool shows, gamers are accepting of a certain level of ‘intrusion’ if its benefits are clear. With results as visible as defrag tools and data as generic as crash dumps, I would wager that Valve are on safe ground.

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14 Responses to this post:

13 Comments

  1. Bob Says:

    So does Gabe get a report on his desk every time someone installs an Alyx nude skin?

  2. Andy Simpson Says:

    I’m both impressed, and mildly concerned. There should be some disclosure before anything is uploaded. Anyways, I’m concerned about their methodology. How reliable is this? Are there certain kinds of crash getting ignored because the crash data never gets uploaded, perhaps?

  3. Tom Edwards Says:

    With the looping sound hang being so common as these things go, they’ve probably got that covered.

  4. Carter Says:

    VALVE i don’t think Gabe gets a report everytime HL2: EP1 Crashes because a lot of people are having crashes with the Looping Sound again and they need a patch and fast.

  5. ATimson Says:

    They may need a patch fast, but that’s not likely to happen. The fact that it was released with that bug in place indicated that they never ran across it in-house. So they have to spend time reproducing the bug before it can be fixed. Then, once they finally figure out how it’s happening, then they have to make the fix, and then test it to make sure that it does what it’s supposed to.

    You’ll be lucky if it’s patched by the end of next week, I suspect….

  6. hahnchen Says:

    I was mildly concerned when I read the interview about this. Whereas the client stats collection was used by Ritual to iron out bugs, that was an explicit thing, you had to click on a submit stats button. However, I never knew that Valve games did this automatically until I read the interview.

    I don’t wear a tinfoil hat, but I’d have rather Valve made this behaviour known beforehand. If they just threw it into the EULA that no one reads, then that would be particularly lame.

  7. ATimson Says:

    Section 7 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement allows this. It’s been in there for as long as I can remember, though, so it’s not anything new.

    And if you don’t read the EULA, well, you have nobody but yourself to blame. They’re excellent if you’re an insomniac. πŸ˜‰

  8. Michael Russell Says:

    We did use the client-side stat reporting system in “SiN Episodes: Emergence,” but it was explicitly an opt-in system.

  9. ATimson Says:

    True, yours was. But Valve’s was not only not opt-in, but impossible to opt out of. I don’t mind, but understand where others could (and obviously do).

  10. Kadayi Says:

    Despite the EULA this is the first time that Valve have actually come out and said ‘we are actively doing this’ personally if it ultimately leads to a better product and faster patches I have absolutely no problem with it. It’s a ‘can do’ approach to better customer service, that leaves other games companies in the dust I can understand why some people get antsy about ‘secret reports’, but in all honesty I doubt gabe really cares how much Pr0n/warez ppl have on their machines unless it’s Valve related.

  11. Tom Edwards Says:

    Valve-related pr0n? Where have YOU been searching? πŸ˜‰

  12. Garry Says:

    [Comment ID #982 Will Be Quoted Here]

    No, the user gets a notification under their desk

  13. Jason Says:

    Valve has now published the collected data from Episode One.

    http://www.steampowered.com/stats/ep1/

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