Valve Just Patched A Bunch Of Games Without Telling Anyone

If you're a Steam user, you'll probably have noticed an unusual amount of updates over the last 24 hours. You're not alone — people's libraries have been updating, seemingly en masse.

The fun part: the developers weren't the ones responsible.

I first noticed it when I saw, out of nowhere, a sizeable patch for Mount Your Friends. It was over 160mb large which raised questions: what's being added to the campy co-op goat climber after all this time?

The answer: absolutely nothing. "I've made no recent updates to the game," Stegersaurus Software replied on the Steam forums. "From what I've heard a BUNCH of games just started auto-updating after the latest steam update. No idea at the moment why this is occurring."

But it wasn't just happening to Mount Your Friends — it was happening to tons of games, seemingly without rhyme or reason.

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The current theory — because Valve hasn't confirmed anything — is that the updates are related to redistributable packages for DirectX, Microsoft's .NET framework, Visual C++, and other software that games need to run properly.

They're typically found in the "_CommonRedist" folder of your game installs, although not all will use them. Here's what was sitting in my Street Fighter V folder:

And for Mount Your Friends:

What you'll find in those folders varies; some games don't have a _CommonRedist folder at all.

But for those that do, you'll often see a lot of the same files. SUPERHOT and Mount Your Friends, for instance, have precisely the same DotNet folder. The DirectX files in Nidhogg's folder are identical to those in my install for Street Fighter V.

In principle, bundling all of that into the main Steam client so users don't have to keep redownloading files already on their hard drive makes a whole lot of sense. It's the kind of centralisation that should have been done years ago, if someone had thought to implement it.

We think that's the case, anyway. Valve hasn't said anything, so we don't know for sure.

It'd be less annoying if this whole process went smoothly. A whole string of games, for instance, downloaded 0 byte patches. But other games actually downloaded data. Some of those patches were small — and others, like Mount Your Friends, were closer to hundreds of megabytes. And this is happening to Steam users across the world, not just ones who have signed up for beta updates.

If it was just one or two games, nobody would mind — but when it affects a significant chunk of your Steam library, it's not funny. That's especially the case if you have limited bandwidth or your internet is restricted for whatever reason.

It gets even better if you were one of the people who got to watch your Steam download 0 byte updates for games, only to then download actual data hours later. The stickied thread on the Steam sub-reddit is full of users bemused at Valve's client over the last 24 hours, with those not online over the last day or so seemingly unaffected.

An update to Steam's beta client was issued this morning, but that doesn't shed any light on the situation either. The patch notes say it "fixed game install failing with 'Content still encrypted'", an error that some users have experienced after the wave of 0-byte patches. But it doesn't explain the mass redownloading of data, nor why games have been patched only for users to discover nothing has been updated or deleted whatsoever.

I've reached out to Valve for comment, but was yet to hear back at the time of writing. I've also spoken to a few Australian developers, some of whom noticed similar behaviour with their own games or games in their libraries.

Not every game is affected, although some have been temporarily broken as a result. Techland has told fans to opt out of Steam's beta updates for the time being to avoid getting a "content still encrypted" error, an issue that also affected the Aussie-made Assault Android Cactus.

Another developer also shone some light into the updating process. Whenever you go to upload a game or a patch, Steam analyses the data and uploads the difference between your data and what's already on the service. If Steam thinks that the entire structure of your game is affected (as could be the case if the redistributables are deleted or rebundled into another part of Steam) it's possible that it could force an update — even though nothing has actually changed.

The latest beta update should resolve that, although the question still remains: what caused this chain of events to kick off in the first place, and how did a ton of developers' games suddenly start updating without Valve telling anyone?


    These common files have been an issue of mine for years. Is it really so hard for Valve to include them in a "common" folder? Plenty of third party tools out there to clean up duplicate "common" files, only becomes an issue when it tries to redownload or a patch comes out that forces a validity check.

    But I guess outside of Australia bandwidth and drive space aren't luxury items.

    The 0/0 updates deleted the Directx/vcredist and Dotnet folders in _CommonRedist.

    The actual data patches put these files back again. The files put back again were exactly the same as the ones deleted and not updated in any way.

    The confusion over the mixture of 0/0 data patches (the deletions) and ones with actual data attached is because not all games updated at once, meaning that some games were still deleting these files while other games were in the process of putting them back.

    Mixed somewhere in there was no doubt half a dozen legitimate data patches just to confuse things further.

    Last edited 15/04/16 1:39 pm

    Only had 1 game update for me and that was 31mb for foreign watch. But that appears to be an actual game update. Language updates released the other day.
    I wonder of it could be OS dependant.

    The truly worrying thing about this entire situation is the sheer number of Sonic games that Delibird444 has installed in the screen shot above...

    I would not be surprised if the always, always, always answer to, "Why the hell doesn't Valve ever tell anyone about fucking anything it's doing or has done?" is: "Hackers. You wouldn't believe how knowing this in advance would've helped them exploit the system."

    Something along the lines of this:

      No, given Valve's track record, the answer to "Why the hell doesn't Valve tell anyone about fucking anything it's doing or has done?" appears to be "Because it doesn't give a shit".

      Valve's customer service is terrible, as is their communication, and both have been for years. Yet we all keep buying PC games from them. We'll complain, but we'll go back to them, because they're pretty much the biggest kid on the block and one of the more user-friendly store fronts.

      Just don't expect anything from Valve except a (increasingly badly organised) store-front.

      Don't expect them to be timely with communication regarding any issues.
      Don't expect them to be timely with refunds.
      Don't expect them to be helpful with personal account problems.
      And above all else, DO NOT expect them to actually release any more games.

      Last edited 15/04/16 5:09 pm

        I've stopped buying off Valve because I don't like the customer service, I don't like the way they treat their Australian consumers and I don't like their complete lack of transparency. I no longer buy any of my games off steam. If a game I want is only available on steam, I pirate it.

        Yet we all keep buying PC games from them. We'll complain, but we'll go back to them, because they're pretty much the biggest kid on the block and one of the more user-friendly store fronts.
        Also because most PC games are only available on Steam. Even physical products require Steam.

    Valve could at least have the courtesy to give people a heads up whats happening

    donthca just love DRM that does whatever the fuck it wants and there's nothing you can do to stop it?

    I am going to update what I said earlier, I think it's broken fallout4
    Never had an Issue with it at all since release. It's crashed several times tonight, including one nice little one where it was using 14Gb of ram.

    Last edited 15/04/16 11:53 pm

    It’s the kind of centralisation that should have been done years ago, if someone had thought to implement it.

    Valve isn't dumb, despite what many people think. The problem is that Microsoft simply doesn't allow it. The files have to be bundled with the game.

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