Welcome back to GreenWatch, where we take a look at events happening on Steam's store. This week we have developments around the Russian Site Network, new developers removed from the store, key revokations in regards to a title and more!
Russian Site Network UpdateThe first story is an update surrounding the article co-written by Alex Santa Maria and Andrew Stretch, about the uncovering of a network of Russian sites running around in the background of Steam Greenlight, controlling the flow of some of the votes and controlling some of the markets surrounding Steam games centered around trading cards. Recently some of the GreenWatch researchers uncovered another site which backs up the whole Steam gem theory. There is a site called Steamlvlup.com and I am going to describe what this site does in the clearest way that I can.
This site posts complete card sets of games, ranging from card sets of 5 to card sets of 15. In order to buy these card sets, people have to log in to the site through their Steam account, and through their Steam account they have to deposit Steam gems from their inventory into the site, effectively minimizing the usage of Steam through the transactions where the gem transactions for the cards are placed through this third-party site instead of using something like the Steam community market. It is believed that developers aren't tied into this site as there are card sets by big budget corporations like Valve's own Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Left 4 Dead 2 up for transaction on this site. This site basically opens up a transaction which effectively cut developers and Valve out of the profiting margin, as usually if these card sets were to be posted up for sale on the community market, the user posting these up for sale would set a price and then a set additional amount would be added on, and both Valve and the developer of the game in question would take a cut out of the purchase of the item once another user purchases the items in question.
Additionally, the GreenWatch research team found some additional third party sites based in Russia selling Steam gems at cheap prices and the team also found upon one of the first sites discovered to be attached to the network promoting Steamlvlup.com and has been used by a great many of these visitors to the site.
Updates to the entire situation will be posted here on GreenWatch and the original article by Maria and Stretch will be updated as further information comes in.
Jumps Key Retractions
Around 3 weeks ago, a game called Jumps launched onto Steam, a 3D first person platformer and has been met with a predominately positive reception from the Steam community.
Shortly before the game's full launch onto Steam though, the developer posted an announcement stating he would offer free Steam keys to content creators, primarily targeting YouTube lets players and Twitch streamers. In the post, it's stated he would also request to see your primary base of operations (YouTube channel, Twitch channel, website, blog etc.)
A Twitch streamer known as Semeicardia was among the people to request for some keys from the developer. Semeicardia e-mailed the developer requesting 150-200 keys from the developer as a means to additionally do giveaways to his Twitch viewers and for members of his Steam group in which he also does promotion over there. After some exchanges between the streamer and the developer, the developer gave him the necessary keys and Semeicardia did a live stream of Jumps, with the developer watching the stream along with viewer's comments. The stream was also archived along with the chat on Semeicardia's Twitch video. Part way through the stream though, originally of what was organized to be a 2-hour long stream of the game, the developer sent another e-mail to semeicardia, stating he was disappointed in the performance of the stream and went ahead and revoked/deactivated a great number of the keys the developer sent over to Semeicardia. Semeicardia was kind of to forward me the e-mail conversation but upon his request and an acquaintance of his, I have censored the real names used in the conversation and the names of the Steam groups.
Note from the e-mail conversations, Semeicardia requested between 150-200 keys as a means to do giveaways across his social media, the developer agreed and sent the necessary keys over, and then while Semeicardia was streaming Jumps, the developer wasn't impressed that he was interacting with the chat more than he was playing the game, so he retracted the majority of the keys, leaving Semeicardia with only 10 keys.
We have reached out to Kiwiforge (the developer) for comment, but we have been met with no response.
2 more developers have been removed from the Steam platform, the first developer is known as Gennady Guryanov, the developer of the games Zi, Julai and K-Rolik, and the second developer is a development studio called Argus Games, developers of both Techwars Online and the sequel, Techwars Online 2. On both of the news forums of the games' respective Steam pages, news posts from Valve's Jason Ruyman state:
The developer appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously.
While Gennady Guryanov has kept publically silent about his removal, Argus Games voiced both their confusion and frustration surrounding their cuts from Valve, going as far as posting on their forums an open letter to Valve denying any of their employees wrote any reviews or got any users to write/post any fraudulent and/or misleading reviews of the game and additionally stating that they have attempted to contact Valve to sort out the confusion, but have been met with silence, and additionally stated that if they don't get a response from Valve within an allotted time, they will take down their servers for their games:
We repeatedly declare with full responsibility that we did not create fake accounts. None of our team wrote reviews on their own games and never bought them to write such reviews. It is obvious that Valve company made a mistake in the blocking of our account.
The development studio then go on in the letter to make a list of demands and requirements they wish Valve to make, primarily centered around getting back into contact with Valve, reinstating their business relationship, and they then go on to post at the end of the open letter:
If Valve continues to ignore our questions and our requirements, then on April 15 we will disable access to Techwars Online 2 game servers for Steam players.
Despite this, however, as of writing, the servers still appear to be functioning, however, there hasn't been a substantial player amount playing the game to actually test this.
In a slightly different note surrounding different developers being removed from the Steam store, back in January Valve cut ties with a developer known as Farizat Shebzukhova, the developer of a game called Desert Storm. Recently it was just brought to our attention that the announcement stating that Valve would no longer be doing business with the developer has been deleted. It has been assumed that this is the doings of the developer due to the game not going back up for purchase on the Steam store.
This is not the first time in which an announcement by Valve voicing their business cuts with a developer has been deleted as just about a month ago, the announcement on Sylvain Seccia's game Désiré was deleted a short time ago, with the game not going back up for purchase, but Sylvain still is able to use the Steam platform to post his games up as long as he is able to acquire a publisher, as was shown with Seccia's second game which is still available on the Store, Vive Le Roi.
Atomix Selling His Profile
People that have been following GreenWatch for some time may know the name of a Steam user called Atomix. Atomix was a former Greenlight booster who headed up a group called The Rifle Club which has as of now been deleted for undisclosed reasons. Below you can find a link to the original URL for The Rifle Club which now goes nowhere:
Your Account, including any information pertaining to it (e.g.: contact information, billing information, Account history and Subscriptions, etc.), is strictly personal. You may therefore not sell or charge others for the right to use your Account, or otherwise transfer your Account, nor may you sell, charge others for the right to use, or transfer any Subscriptions other than if and as expressly permitted by this Agreement (including any Subscription Terms or Rules of Use) or as otherwise specifically permitted by Valve.
VAC Ban lifted
The final story on GreenWatch is a little bit of a peculiar one. Despite Valve employees repeatedly stressing all VAC bans are permanent and usually are against any revoking of VAC bans, a Steam user happily jumped onto Reddit and showcased that the rare occurrence of a VAC ban being lifted occurred to him, which means if you have been reported for a false VAC violation in the past, then you probably still have a chance.