In what appears to be a new addition to Steam, developers will now be able to hand out ‘game bans’ to “disruptive” players. This was noticed by the good people at SteamDB earlier today.
You can read what a ‘game ban’ entails by having a read of the Steam description over here. It’s pretty much what you’d imagine it to be: the power for a developer to hand out a ban to a Steam account on their specific game. The example given in the summary is if a player has been caught cheating.
Here’s the process, and Valve’s role in it, as laid out in the link above.
“Game developers inform Valve when a disruptive player has been detected in their game, and Valve applies the game ban to the account. The game developer is solely responsible for the decision to apply a game ban. Valve only enforces the game ban as instructed by the game developer.”
Beyond that, it’s not really clear whether there’s any investigative procedure involved. I’m sure the majority of developers will apply bans appropriately, but there’s a pretty murky history of (for example) dissent about a game being removed from Steam forums.
In the event of customers requesting refunds for a ballsed up game, could the ‘game ban’ be applied as a silencing tool, or will Valve actually review the cases it receives?
I don’t know, because the description doesn’t cover that aspect, meaning the system is potentially open to abuse. By the looks of things, the only recourse for people receiving the bans is to “contact the developer of that game.” Which may not do you a lot of good.
Edit 30 May. Having studied this a little more, the line “Playing games should be fun. In order to ensure the best possible online multiplayer experience, Valve allows developers to implement their own systems that detect and permanently ban any disruptive players” probably implies that players can only be banned from online aspects, which should (I think) negate concerns about blanket bans from games. I can only say ‘probably’ though, because it’s still a bit on the vague side.