Valve is Destroying the Game Industry

Valve is single-handedly leading the way to the ruination of the game industry.

One of (if not the) primary function of their Steam platform was to prevent, or at least reduce, software piracy of video-games. However, not surprisingly, Steam did little to reduce piracy and a different function ended up gaining a lot of momentum and is destroying video-games.

A big selling point of Steam is that developers can get their games out to users faster and easier and release patches and updates to users faster and easier. While this seems like a good thing, it is actually hugely detrimental.

In the old days of programming, you had to spend time designing your software, then more time writing it, then testing and debugging it until it was as good as possible. Then you would release it to manufacturing to be written to disks/discs, shipped to stores, and sold to customers. The users would then use it, and sometimes find problems or shortcomings. Developers would then gather these reports and requests and roll them up into an update or full upgrade and repeat. This would happen once in a while and would make it worthwhile to upgrade to a newer version because there were a lot of fixes, changes, and enhancements. (The same was true for hardware.)

Now look at how things are today with Steam. Developers write a half-baked game with a massive quantity of bugs and missing features, then rush it out the “door” (i.e., publish it to Steam) to get it to gamers as fast as possible. They have no qualms about doing this because they can just fix/complete the game after release by posting bug fixes every few days to Steam and releasing the features they cut to get it out fast as “downloadable content” (often for more money).

This is terrible programming practice. Not only does it encourage sloppy, lazy programming, but it costs the users tremendously. Users frequently have to keep paying for things that should have been included, they have to constantly use monumental amounts of their own bandwidth to get patches that seem to grow ever larger (don’t even get me started on the unacceptably large size of games these days), and the actual quality of the games (in all areas) just keeps going down.

Another horrible consequence of Steam is a part of its anti-piracy mechanisms. It requires an Internet connection to let you play most of the time which of course is undesirable, but because of this design, it means that they perform a server check on the game license. While the server check can (and has) be hacked, it means that you cannot buy or sell used games. In the old days, you could sell your old games (whether to buy new games, buy your children winter clothing, or to pay for your mother’s surgery). You could also buy used games for cheap if you could not afford them when they were new and expensive. Now, however, you have to create a Steam account to activate the game (even if you bought it on DVD), and the game then gets locked to that account, so you cannot buy or sell them. This is absolutely unacceptable in every way.

Imagine if Ford designed their cars and titles such that you were not allowed to sell or even give your car away. You would be stuck with it forever and never able to buy a used car, which means that anyone who is not rich would be locked out forever.

Just because they made Half-Life does not make them good. Valve is bad and is destroying the game industry. Users need to stop supporting Valve and Steam. Unfortunately, that will not happen. People may be angry and may even intend to boycott stuff, but the truth is that they won’t; the ones that can afford new games, will just buy them when they come out no matter how mad they may be.

Rogers’ Continuing Bandwidth/Overage Charge and other Frauds

I strongly believe that Rogers Cable Systems is actively and purposely engaging in fraud to steal money from its customers in the form of bandwidth (and likely also mobile-phone) overage charges. Here are the facts.

Rogers provides a page on their site where you can view your “current” bandwidth usage, however it is never up-to-date and always at least a full day behind. Financial transactions are usually a day behind because they require a human to approve them. However bandwidth is nothing like that and can and should be up-to-date down to the second (except perhaps for the bandwidth of the actual usage page itself). I do not believe this is a mistake or a technological limitation but rather done on purpose so that customers cannot know how much actual bandwidth they have used.

Rogers also provides a notification service which will insert a banner into web pages to let you know that you have reached 75% or 100% of your monthly bandwidth. However just like the bandwidth usage page, this is never up-to-date (in fact, they even admit in the banner that it detects the usage to within two days). You can easily sail well past the threshold and not receive the notifications until at least a full day later, thus rendering them completely useless, even more so than the usage page since this is supposedly an “alert”. By having it be as behind as the usage page, it becomes completely useless and no more than a slightly more convenient way to access the usage page (though most people would argue with the term “convenient” in regards to a banner inserted into all web pages—some sites even detect the framing as a security risk). Again I believe this is done on purpose so that customers cannot know their actual current usage. In fact, the “notifications” are so much worse because they lull customers into a false sense of security, thinking that they will not go over because they will get an alert when they pass the two thresholds.

Of course this is all only relevant when the MyRogers site actually works, which seems to be rarely. Most of the time when you go to the MyRogers site to check your account status, bandwidth usage, etc., you are greeted with red text that says that they are having technical difficulties and/or that they cannot retrieve your account information and to please try again later. It has been like this since they created the site about a decade ago. I’m not convinced that it even truly is technical difficulties because it always seems to be worse towards the end (last week or so) of the billing cycle (on whatever day of the month that happens to fall for the account in question), when you are most likely to want to check how much bandwidth you have remaining.

The two mechanisms that Rogers provides customers to monitor their bandwidth usage are both behind the actual usage by at least one full day (when they work at all). I strongly believe this is on purpose so that customers have no way to know what their precise usage is and worse, believe that they are safe. In this way, customers are more likely to go over their usage than if they are provided with correct numbers. This way, Rogers can charge them a lot more money per gigabyte they go over. Moreover, not only do they raise all of their prices for everything almost every single damned bloody month, but they have also raised the fee for bandwidth overage, so they can gouge customers even more with this little scam of theirs.

It seems that since October 2012, the situation has gotten even worse! The stupid MyRogers website where you can check your bandwidth usage has stopped showing decimal places and rounds down to the nearest gigabyte, so you get even less accurate information than even before, obviously in an attempt to trick people into going over their limit. This is almost certainly on purpose to push anyone who uses their allowance over the line so that they can charge them extra. Despicable behavior from a despicable company.

What’s even worse is that the different Internet service tiers they have provide overage charges in the opposite way of common sense. That is, the tier with the highest monthly bandwidth cap (currently 100GB/month) has the lowest overage charge (currently 50¢ per GB over) while the tier with the lowest cap (currently 15GB/month) has the hight overage charge (currently $4 per GB over). (The interceding tiers follow suit.) This is absurd. If anything, the higher ones should be penalized more for using excess because they already have plenty of room, while the ones with the lower caps should have lower charges since they have such little to work with and are more likely to need to go over sometimes.

Unfortunately customers cannot even just switch to a tier that fits their needs better because the tiers are so unevenly distributed. For example a lot of customers would find the second lowest (and least expensive) tier to be excessive. Not too many people need 12Mbps speed or 60GB per month. However the next lowest tier is only 3Mbps with a cap of 15GB per month. Why in the world is there not a tier in the middle that provides ~6Mbps with 30GB per month? Because then customers are force to either go down a level to one which is too tight and get nailed with $4/GB over every month or go up a level to one that is too much for their needs and pay a higher monthly rate. Again, this is not by accident. They do this on purpose in order to squeeze every last penny they can out of customers.

This is specifically about Rogers’ Internet service, however because mobile phones are subject to bandwidth limits and overage charges, I would not be surprised if it applied in exactly the same way to their wireless phone service as well.

I wish I could say that this sort of behavior surprises me, but unfortunately I have come to expect very little from Rogers. This company has time and again proven itself to be a disgusting, money-grubbing, customer-abusing, greedy, manipulative, lying, fraudulent company. Customers should call them (1-888-Rogers1) and demand to talk to the highest level person that is available and demand that Rogers provide an up-to-the-second and kilo-byte accurate way for them to monitor their own Internet and mobile-phone usage. They should also demand more appropriate caps and overage charges and better tier distribution.

Another example of Rogers’ ongoing deplorable behavior is their continuing throttling of customers’ bandwidth despite being ordered to stop it almost two years ago by the CRTC, saying that they did stop, getting caught lying, saying they would stop, and yet continuing to do so. I am glad that Ted Rogers is dead and wish the same for the other executive rapists of that disgusting pile of garbage.

Most people (rightly) complain that there should not be a cap/limit in the first place. They are correct because bandwidth is measured in BPS. The “seconds” in BPS means that bandwidth is transient and therefore cannot be saved or hoarded for later. Either you use it or it is gone forever! There is no sense is limiting people and wasting bandwidth. Unfortunately, ISPs are just like airlines; they overbook so that they don’t waste their service, but end up overbooking over-zealously, and thus selling more than they have, so they have to limit everyone and then take advantage of that fact by charging more for better service.