Edit: Valve's man has returned to the June thread his comments were sourced from to provide a slightly bewildered update. "Holy thread necro," he wrote. "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."
Righto. Original story follows.
Valve have shed a little light on how Steam’s Offline Mode works and how they’re working to improve it. One of the developer’s programmers, Henry Goffin, took to Steam’s forums to answer a question about how the client’s offline mode is supposed to work: “[it’s] designed to be indefinite,” he wrote. “You can't access any of Steam's online features such as friends lists or saved game synchronization, of course, but the client should allow you to run in Offline Mode for as long as you like.”
Since the client’s launch back in 2004 users have come across bugs with the feature and being able to play your games without an internet connection has never been a guarantee. According to Goffin, the developer’s been working on improvements that will go live "some day soon".
The comments spun out from a thread discussing the reliability of Steam’s offline mode. MatTheCat complained that when he worked offshore for a five week stretch he’d find himself locked out from Steam, despite being in Offline Mode, and unable to access his game.
“This is not actually true - Offline Mode is designed to be indefinite. You can't access any of Steam's online features such as friends lists or saved game synchronization, of course, but the client should allow you to run in Offline Mode for as long as you like.
“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'.”
Later in the thread he adds that Valve “have been working very hard on upgrading the underlying technology in Steam. We have no community managers or PR people, so all the time that we spend on forums is taking away from development time. That said, I know that it's frustrating to get no response, and it looks like we aren't doing anything about it.”
The good news from all this is that the developer is actually working on something that should substantially improve Offline Mode:
“Many of the older games on Steam were using an older authentication system which has many known issues with Offline Mode and is incredibly difficult to maintain - it was written for a time when there were dozens of games on Steam, not thousands,” explains Goffin. “We are in the process of upgrading every game in the Steam catalog to a newer authentication system (and fixing bugs that result from the conversion), but this is a slow and time-consuming process. Some day 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.”
Of course, “some day soon” in Valve terms is difficult to quantify but the developer is at least aware of and working on the problem.
Earlier this evening I wrote a similar version of this post but it took a much more antagonistic tone and presented the facts of this story as something they shouldn’t have been. This version better reflects Goffin’s comments.