Valve Fixing Steam Offline To Run Indefinitely [Updated]

By Nathan Grayson on November 5th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Steam‘s come a long way since its days as a streetwise tough with nothing to lose glorified Trojan horse building block for Valve’s empire, but it’s far from perfect. Far, far, far, far from it, to be precise in a uselessly vague sort of way. One especially purple, pulsating sore spot? Offline mode, which kind of, well, isn’t. Best case scenario, it requires an Internet connection once every couple weeks, something many players have chalked up to the increasingly unnecessary evil that is DRM. Apparently, however, Valve considers that a kink in the system, and it’s working to let Steam run offline indefinitely.

Valve poster Henryg explained in response to an incensed forum post:

“Offline Mode is designed to be indefinite. That said, there are many components involved in Offline Mode, and some of them have known issues and bugs which we are continually working to improve. We’re aware that it doesn’t always work as flawlessly as we want it to, but please keep reporting bugs with Offline Mode. It is not broken ‘by design.'”

“Someday soon, once this work is completed, we will eliminate the old authentication system (represented by the ClientRegistry.blob file) and Offline Mode should immediately become much more robust.”

So fixes are on the way, but Valve is – as ever – moving in Valve Time. “Someday soon” could be anytime between tomorrow and the day whatever absentee deity rules over existence cleans out its Steam backlog and decides to dash our mighty civilization like so many sandcastles.

Still though, it’s good to hear that we’ll eventually be able to play our games sans any sort of Internet (beyond initial downloads, of course). It’ll certainly make “What single item would you most want if you were stranded on a desert island” quandaries a lot easier.

Update: The above forum thread is from June. I feel very silly. On the other hand, kinda proves my point about the whole Valve Time side of this story, huh? Someday, though. Someday.

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88 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Fitzmogwai says:

    Hurrah for valve. They may not be perfect but at least they always seem to be trying to do the right thing.

    • Premium User Badge

      AlwaysRight says:

      For balance sake:

      Boo! This is just another reason Valve are evil in some tenuously conspiratorial way.

      • Premium User Badge

        bills6693 says:

        To continue to maintain balance, I will add a third post.

        Offline has 7 letters, Steam has 5 letters. 7-5=2.
        Fixing has 6 letters. 6 / 2 = 3.
        Half life 3 confirmed

    • Premium User Badge

      Fitzmogwai says:

      Or indeed have done the right thing. Reading that forum post, it seems that this was fixed about six months ago…

      • Mabswer says:

        …Fixed?.. no, its not last tried to use yesterday when my internet was cut, and guess what…. Nope.avi

        the “offline mode” button just spin me back to the Log in screen. Thats how its allways been.

        • Premium User Badge

          SnoozeFest says:

          I had an internet hiccup yesterday as well, clicked launch in offline mode, you can imagine my surprise when it actually did launch in offline mode. Was able to play an hour of games before I tried reconnecting and all worked well.

        • Banana_Republic says:

          I lost my connection for 10 days about three months ago. No problems playing my games offline. Same thing a year ago when I was off for a little less than a week. In fact, the last time I had trouble with offline mode was about four years ago. It’s totally hit or miss, which probably has something to do with why it’s a persistent bug.

        • TheRealHankHill says:

          It’s always worked for me, I’ve only had an issue once.

        • mygaffer says:

          I know you won’t read this but by clicking on “go offline” you actually screwed up. That button is meant to be used when you are still online, connected to Valve, and want to go into permanent offline mode (permanent until you decide to go back online).
          When you lose connection suddenly, do nothing. That is how you use the 90-day offline mode. You do nothing. The caveat is that you must have clicked “remember me on this computer” when you sign into Steam.

        • Premium User Badge

          GiantPotato says:

          If you go to Network and Sharing Center->Change Adapter settings and disable whatever card gives you internet access, then start Steam, it should always give you the option to go offline. But make sure Steam doesn’t start automatically when Windows starts, otherwise you might not have time to switch off the network card. I’ve never had a problem with offline mode since I started doing this.

    • XhomeB says:

      Yeah, Steam’s offline might finally be as reliable as Origin’s. Good job, Valve.

      I’m serious – both UPlay and Origin have VASTLY superior offline modes, no “go online to enable offline mode and pray that it works” nonsense.

      • bstard says:

        It seems to me the nonsense here is your post. Valve’s offline mode was bugged, and now fixed. I cant think of anything more offline as offline.

        • frightlever says:

          It’s not fixed.

        • XhomeB says:

          You’ve never used Origin, I assume? To make Steam’s offline mode work, you have to be online to flip the switch. Yet despite this nonsense, there’s no guarantee Steam won’t decide to connect to its servers anyway the next time you launch it.
          With Origin, that never happens. It automatically switches to offline mode whenever your internet connection drops. It ALWAYS works, not even once has it prevented me from accessing my games. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Steam.

          It’s kind of funny Origin is widely hated while Valve can get away with things like this.

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            This is just not true. What you describe may be a bug, but considering how old this claim is (“you need to be online to go offline”), I’m thinking even notoriously slow Valve have fixed it by now.

            Whenever I experimentally tried offline mode (by just ripping out the LAN cable without any previous warning and launching Steam), it worked flawlessly. Would you mind giving this a try right now? For science?

          • Tams80 says:

            Steam’s offline is still worse. Yes it is better than it was; for me it used to never work. The design of having to manually go offline is certainly flawed.

            Please don’t use the “it’s never happened to me, so must not be true” argument.

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            Please note that I have neither said nor implied that. I know this is his anecdotal evidence against mine, but I remain convinced that he hasn’t given it a try in a very long time, because this was a known issue (rather than “flawed design”) that should be fixed now.

          • harmlos says:

            I failed the two times I tried to get offline mode to work in that last 6 years. I think the problem I (and many other people) where having is that Steam won’t let you enter offline mode if it thinks you have internet connectivity, and not being able to connect to the Steam servers is not considered proof of not being connected. There seems to be a fairly simple workaround, but when I don’t have internet, I find it kind of hard to google what it is.

            By contrast, the one time UPlay couldn’t phone home, enabling offline mode worked flawlessly. The only hitch was that the menu in Far Cry 3 was a bit more sluggish because it also tried to phone home and couldn’t.

            None of this changes the fact that I have more trust in Valve not deliberately fucking me over than either Ubisoft or EA, so I’ll stay with Steam, thank you very much.

          • mygaffer says:

            Nope. By “flipping the switch” you screwed up. When you lose internet on your machine unexpectedly you don’t do anything. That is how you use offline mode in the instance of sudden internet loss. You must have checked the box marked “remember me on this computer” when you signed into Steam though. Otherwise offline mode, of either type, will not work.
            This is still Steam’s fault though, they properly tell people how to use offline mode.

        • fooga44 says:

          It’s not bugged. Them calling it a bug is PR bullshit. You don’t make that kind of oversight when your steamworks is integrated into big budget AAA games like Saints row 3. They are totally bullshitting. The reason they are ‘fixing it’ is most likely because they see the complaints on forums about steam being DRM and not buying games and instead just pirating by giving the big up yours to gabe and company.

          Steam is horrible software and it is DRM.

          • The Random One says:

            Steamworks is DRM. Steam is DRM’s good guy disguise.

      • Lemming says:

        It’s not worth installing that shit just for offline mode.

      • A Dangerous Sloth says:

        I’ve never had a problem getting offline mode to work. You should be able to start in offline mode if you have logged in the past couple of weeks.

  2. Nevard says:

    I’m not sure I believe, what with how long it has not been the case, that it was actually always designed to always be possible to be offline
    I’m glad it is going to be true though

    • dreadmullet says:

      In 2009, I went over 2 months without an internet connection *shivers* and could use Steam’s offline mode the entire time.

      Edit: I remember one point in time, years ago, offline mode simply didn’t work, but I think an update fixed it. It’s always seemed a low priority to Valve.

      • Ravenger says:

        My netbook has Steam installed with a bunch of netbook friendly games, and is set to offline mode almost continuously.

        I only tend to use it for gaming when I’m away so Steam often isn’t used on the machine for months, but it’s always started up properly in offline mode when I want to play Steam games on the machine.

        It’s obvious to me there’s no two-week check-in period – it’s just bugs in the offline mode making people think that.

  3. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    It’ll certainly make “What single item would you most want if you were stranded on a desert island” quandaries a lot easier.

    How does this help me in attaining an anatomically correct, inflatable Alec Meer doll exactly?

    • The Random One says:

      Your doll will no longer automatically deflate if it can’t access Alec’s twitter to adjust its grumpiness level.

  4. verve_rat says:

    The forum thread is from June, this has (according to Valve) been fixed for quite a while now. To quote the Valve employee:

    EDITED Nov 4 2013 – holy thread necro. Looks like Kotaku decided to link to this post from six months ago, and every game blog has copy-pasted it. The “two week” timeout issue has been fixed for months now, along with several other bugs. We’re still working on improvements, and you might catch them if you read the patch notes carefully, but we don’t bother to post on the forums every time we fix something (maybe out of fear that it will get posted as front-page news six months later?).

    • Dezmiatu says:

      Boo on your independent investigation! Grayson has feelings, and this attack to his sense of accomplishment is a very low blow indeed. You should have quietly snuck this information to him as an anonymous poster so he could decide whether to update his article while pretending to have discovered it on his own or quash the face shaming indefinitely. This is a community, not an Anarchist’s pump-n-dump!

      • Lanfranc says:

        Maybe instead of “Valve time”, we should start talking about “gaming blog time”. Five months ago? Hey, it’s still “news”!

      • blobb says:

        Kind of amazing that anybody gets paid to copy-paste this nonsense into a wordpress template and post it.

    • Bull0 says:

      Congratulations all round, blogosphere

    • froz says:

      And here I was naive enough to think that if RPS guys post something from other blogs/portals etc. they don’t hide it and link to the original article…

      • InternetBatman says:

        Absolutely. Be responsible, post your sources.

      • AngoraFish says:

        I thought that 75% of RPS’s content was rewritten copypasta?

        At least this way I get more or less everything that’s interesting from a single source.

        • froz says:

          Well, I’m ok with copypasta (to some point), but put a link to the original article. To be honest that was one of few features of RPS that brought me here some years ago. I had enough other game portals that did copy news from other places without showing the source and RPS was different, or at least I thought it was.

    • DanMan says:

      The power of Journalism.

    • Leb says:

      We cannot blame Grayson for this oversight, he was merely re-hashing the PC gamer article written on the same subject with the same oversight.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Crimsoneer says:

    I’m pretty sure Offline hasn’t had to authenticate every two weeks for a long, long time.

    • XhomeB says:

      Doesn’t change the fact it’s still flat out broken. I had both my games and the client fully updated, my internet connection decided to go kaput – ok, no big deal, Steam asks me whether to launch it in offline mode. I click OK, only to be greeted by the message: “COULD NOT CONNECT TO STEAM NETWORK”. I couldn’t launch a single Steam game for three days.
      F you very much too, Valve.

    • RuySan says:

      Just for the sake of balance, offline mode never did work for me, and yes, I did everything I was supposed to. I don’t mind because my internet is never down, and it was only a nuisance when I moved house.

    • Lemming says:

      @XhomeB @RuySan

      Was the computer connected in any way to a network/router still? If so, that’s what you were doing wrong.

      • LionsPhil says:

        No, that’s what Steam is doing wrong. For a modern home broadband setup, your client machine is absolutely going to have a link to a responding gateway—the plastic box your ISP gives you is one—just one that can’t then actually get traffic out. You may also have other machines on your LAN, e.g. a file-server full of music, which means “well pull the cable lol you aint got no internets anyway” is not an acceptable workaround.

        Steam, for the longest time, assumed that if any interface had link, then you must be online. I think that changed a while back, but it’s still iffy. The only reliable way to tell if you can connect to something is to try, and time out with reasonable promptness.

        • Premium User Badge

          Llewyn says:

          Steam, for the longest time, assumed that if any interface had link, then you must be online. I think that changed a while back, but it’s still iffy.

          A while back, indeed: at least four years ago.

  6. K33L3R says:

    Thank you valve, this particular issue has been bugging me for a while. Glad they know of its existence

  7. Screamer says:

    These clowns offline was so broken, after probably a 1000 support tickets about their offline not working I even got a support dude to admit that Steam does not run offline indefinitely. What a joke.

  8. Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

    Go offline? But then how will I trade cards, earn badges, win Team Fortress 2 Christmas edition hats, unlock 42 achievements every hour, participate in the “IS THIS GAME GUD SHUD I BUY????” forum posts, close my eyes and randomly select games for greenlighting, or view that weird level number by my name? C’mon!!!

    • The Random One says:

      Without any of those astonishing features I might just as well launch an .exe file like some sort of caveman luditte barbarian.

  9. Humppakummitus says:

    I hope they also fix the bug that removes all non-steam games from the game list every once in a while.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rublore says:

      I find the best way to keep them there indefinitely is to restart Steam as soon as you’ve added them. The same goes for adding custom grid icons. Haven’t had a single thing disappear on me since I started doing that.

  10. aiusepsi says:

    The work that henryg mentioned they’re doing to move games over to a new download system was completed two weeks ago, and had been going on for a while. Remember TF2 moving to Steampipe? That’s what that was.

    They’ll probably start the work to remove the now superfluous old system soon.

  11. Viroso says:

    I don’t care about having to check in once every two weeks. And I got a job that takes me away from the Internet for long periods of time. I’m okay with authenticating every now and then, it isn’t a massive hurdle.

    What pisses me off is how Steam takes forever to start in offline mode or sometimes just doesn’t start. Yeah right you’re checking for updates, stop lying Steam, it’s pretty obvious we’re offline here and you’re doing that just to slow things down and piss me off. ARGH HOW CAN YOU LIE TO MY FACE LIKE THAT

    • Nim says:

      That’s another bug. I have an always connected system and every single time Steam starts it has to verify its installation. I don’t know what causes it except a few months ago I did not have this issue.

      • Zekiel says:

        Me too – exactly the same. A few months ago Steam decided that whenever it starts it tries to update itself, even though there isn’t an update pending. Fortunately I don’t actually need to restart my computer very often.

  12. Kein says:

    They’ve been fixing offline mode for 10 (!) years since the launch of Steam so please.

    We all know nothing will change in next 10 years. Absolutely nothing.

    • tormos says:

      Except in the regard that things were already changed and it works now?

  13. Balanuir says:

    I don’t mind the having-to-be-online part.

    What I do mind is the single-point-of-failure part. Whenever Steam has a technical glitch, ALL OF YOUR GAMES stop working. Not one, not some, all of them (well, at least all you’ve bought through Steam).

    And since Valve has one of the worst customer supports in the industry, there’s nothing you can do about it. So basically, they’ll fuck you over and then don’t give a shit.

    And THAT is the problem.

    • Shadowcat says:

      That’s an odd differentiation you’ve made there.

      No online requirement == no single point of failure (outside of your own PC). And if Steam was down but your games still required you to be “online” (connected to what, exactly?), well that would be crazy.

      There isn’t a better solution to your problem than to guarantee that the games will work without an internet connection, so your issue is really just a subset of the offline issue (and hence I’m not sure it’s worth trying to distinguish it).

    • Screamer says:

      That fucking ClientWtfEver.BLOB file is the bane of my existence!

    • Grygus says:

      I haven’t performed any extensive testing or anything, but I have at least a couple of games on Steam that run fine without Steam even running, let alone working. I do have to find and run the executable myself, obviously, but it works just fine. If your game doesn’t run without Steam, it may not be a core Steam feature, but the game’s Steam implementation.

      Clearly, if 95% of games are implemented so that they don’t run without Steam then this isn’t a very effective counter and your complaint is valid either way. But if you haven’t tried to run your game without Steam, I’m here to tell you that it can work.

  14. SuicideKing says:

    I’ve noticed that CoD:MW2 breaks in offline mode, refuses to detect kb/mouse.

  15. Metalhead9806 says:

    It may be an old post but its still relevant. Valve has made progress in offline mode since then and while its not prefect im sure it will be in years to come.

    • fooga44 says:

      Your not smart if you believe their lies. It’s not some ‘oversight’ it’s PR spin.

  16. Keyrock says:

    Video Game Journalism – Copy & pasting stories from 6 months ago

  17. stoner says:

    Update by henyg in the referenced thread:

    EDITED Nov 4 2013 – holy thread necro. Looks like Kotaku decided to link to this post from six months ago, and every game blog has copy-pasted it. The “two week” timeout issue has been fixed for months now, along with several other bugs. We’re still working on improvements, and you might catch them if you read the patch notes carefully, but we don’t bother to post on the forums every time we fix something (maybe out of fear that it will get posted as front-page news six months later?).

  18. sd4f says:

    Truly offline mode is once you can play without launching steam (with or without an internet connection), i.e. steam is offline…

    • Keyrock says:

      I can do that for pretty much any game that doesn’t use Steamworks.

  19. dissentience says:

    it annoys me that offline mode doesn’t keep track of time played or achievements… achieved.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, online mode doesn’t keep track of time played correctly either, so at least they’re consistent. ;)

      I thought achievements were actually buffered up, and would trigger next time you played that game online?

      • dissentience says:

        if steam now registers achievements achieved offline then it’s a recent development.
        …and i was wondering the other week why all my games had ~120-130 hrs logged. crayon physics deluxe was good but not THAT good.

  20. HisDivineOrder says:

    Valve will fix things when Valve fixes them.

  21. goettel says:

    Sometimes I wish myself back into a 2005 Steam hate-thread, just because complaining is fun.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    While Greyson should obviously never have posted this, at least he issued a correction, unlike his Clang story. So…improvement, I guess? Maybe one day he’ll be as good of a news poster as he is an interviewer?

  23. mygaffer says:

    “Update: The above forum thread is from June. I feel very silly. On the other hand, kinda proves my point about the whole Valve Time side of this story, huh? Someday, though. Someday.”

    It proves nothing, as they fixed that specific bug months ago. All this proves is that copy-paste gaming journalism is big problem even on supposedly higher quality sites like RPS.

  24. honkskillet says:

    Screw valve. Buy humble, support indie.

  25. Premium User Badge

    frymaster says:

    For what it’s worth, my brother’s been in offline mode for several months now without issue.

    The latest steam (might be beta?) now also makes it obvious what games in your list need to be updated before being played. What it _doesn’t_ show is games which haven’t been launched at all – it’s not unusual for them to need internet access on first launch (quake 3, for example, only gets its multiplayer key on first launch, I’m guessing because the download process isn’t set up to run scripts or any other personalisation, whereas first launch is)