Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why you should always save Confirmation of Purchase E-Mails from Steam

Hey guys!

Today I have a very different blog post, but I wanted to tell this story so that people can avoid running into problems with Steam like I did. Let me tell you about a Skyrim DLC that vanished from my game library and my futile efforts to get it back - all because I could not prove that I owned it in the first place!

So, a while ago I decided to play Skyrim again after a pretty long time. I hadn't played since last year and after I had to re-install Windows on my computer a while a go I didn't even have the game installed. So after I downloaded Steam and installed the game, I was happy that my savegames were also synched from the cloud, and I could start to play right away, exactly where I left off.

But then something strange happened. I remembered that the last time I had played, I had spent my time farming materials to build a house - content from the Hearthfire DLC. I chose to build my character a home in Lakeview manor. I had all the interior expansions of the house finished, had my character's spouse move there and even adopted a child to live there. I remember that I encountered a funny armor bug while "living" there, wherein my character's husband and steward would run around naked all the time because for some reason the better armor I gave them reset their default armor or something. Anyway, fun was had, battles were fought, I didn't play much in summer but once again shortly in November, and before I put the game "on hiatus" again for a while, I saved right there in my house.

My last saves in Lakeview Manor.

But after I logged in.... I didn't find myself in my character's house. I was somewhere in the wilderness and slightly confused. And it began to dawn on my that for some reason, maybe the manor was gone? A quick check of the map confirmed this - the location marker wasn't there. I didn't remember the exact spot, so I checked on the internet and looked for the place - the entire location was gone.

So I went back to my Steam account and checked if the DLC was even installed. Perhaps I had forgotten to mark a checkbox or something. Nope, I didn't. Because Hearthfire wasn't even in my library anymore, only Dawnguard.

"Okay", I thought, "never mind. I am pretty sure there must be an error with my library, because I remember that I had that DLC, and I played it. I have the savegame from the cloud to prove it. And I have achievements from the content."

My boyfriend quickly got the idea that perhaps the mix-up had happened when Steam created their new DLC bundle - The Skyrim Legendary Edition comes with all DLCs. He vaguely remembered that I had gotten a Skyrim bundle too, only back then, it was only the main game plus Hearthfire. Maybe for some reason my library got messed up because it "confused" the bundles or something like that. Personally, I didn't even remember owning Dawnguard because I never played the content from that DLC, but I was 100% sure I had Hearthfire and played it on my own account, on my own computer - before I had to re-install Windows.

So, I decided to write to the Steam support. I attached the two screen shots, and narrowed the timepoint at which I supposedly got the game down pretty much. Unfortunately, when you don't purchase a game directly for your library, and get it as a gift, you don't see when it was purchased. 

From my achievements history I was able to discern that I got/first installed the game at some point in Januray 2013 or before. I remember that the game + DLCs were a gift, unfortunately the person who gave it to me doesn't have a confirmation E-Mail anymore (neither do I), but we still have the paypal bill we assume included the purchase of the bundle (bill N° 1802832536224345860 over €37,47 however this might have included other purchases in this transaction) in case this helps.

I sent the message, and waited. And waited..... and waited. From 18 Jun till 30 Jun I didn't even hear back. In the mean time, I started a new character because I just really wanted to play Skyrim, but I didn't wanna use a save game from my old character with some of the content missing. 
Finally, on Jun 30, a reply from Steam, that they're looking into it, and on 31 Jun, the disappointing reply:

Hello Varis,
We apologize for the delay.
There is no record that the DLC in question was ever purchased on the account.
It may be possible that the DLC was accessed through library sharing or by sharing the same computer with another account.

Honestly, I was pretty disappointed. I thought there must be at least some way in which they can check that I used to have this DLC which I definitely did. But it seemed there wasn't - or at least, if the DLC got messed up, all record of me ever having owned it was lost too. I was pretty sure I didn't play or use my boyfriend's account for the Hearthfire content - but if I did, how come it is even possible to access a DLC that is not in your library, that content should not even load, despite being installed, if you start the game via an account that you don't have!
I never used the family library share option either, so I was pretty sure that the DLC had belonged to my account at some point.

So we began to track down the details of the situation once again, looking through old E-Mails and paypal records.
We discerned again that the Paypal purchase from 27 Jan 2013 must have been the one where my boyfriend bought Skyrim for me from his account, together with at least one other item from the sale. Unfortunately, we didn't have the confirmation of purchase anymore, only the paypal bill, which doesn't list the individual games bought. Therefore, my boyfriend suggested we ask Steam to re-send the E-mail that confirmed the purchase. That way, we could discern if the game was really, as we suspected, purchased as a Skyrim + Hearthfire bundle, which would explain why I had the Hearthfire content on my savegames.

Steams reply came rather quickly this time:

Unfortunately, our billing system is automated and we are unable to resend the email receipt for your purchase or generate any type of invoice for you.

According to our records, the Skyrim gift was purchased on the account (boyfriend's account) and redeemed on your account on 1/27/2013.

I'm not sure if it is possible for them to check what kinds of games were bought on 27 Jan 2013 when my boyfriend sends a ticket to support, but perhaps we will try this a s a last resort. But anyway, I was - or rather am- pretty disappointed (not with the way the support handled this, but rather with the fact that such a mix up is even possible).

So let's sum this up once again....

There is the possibility that after I obtained Skyrim (gift) + Dawnguard (bought directly) on 27 Jan on my personal account, I for some reason played the game on my boyfriends computer in March - that way, I obtained three achievements from Hearthfire because it was in his game library, despite the fact that the DLC is not in my library. The reason why this is even possible in the first place eludes me.

It's not like there is a whole separate TAB in the properties of a game in your library, where you can even manually select and de-select which DLCs you want to use. How come DLCs that you don't own are launched along with the game when you don't have them in your library?

This does not, however, explain how I can have savegames from last November (see screenshot), showing my character in the mansion from the DLC that my account does not have. I am absolutely sure that while I might have played on my boyfriends computer shortly after I moved back from Finland in March, last November we already lived in our new apartment and I had Skyrim installed on my own computer!

But alas, the only "proof" I have is the screenshot from my last save game - which could from someone else's perspective of course just be fake, or, even simpler, the save game could have been created on his computer or even his account, and then moved to my computer. In other words - I have no proof at all that I ever owned the DLC and I can kiss my savegame goodbye until I buy the DLC again for my account (because quite obviously, all my characters stuff, items, crafting materials etc. where stored in this house that I lasted saved in, which ceases to exist the moment I load it from my account). Alternatively I can move the save game to my boyfriend's computer or log in from his computer, take all the stuff into my inventory, and kiss the thousands of Septims goodbye that I invested into the house. At any rate, the outcome is a bit frustrating and it means I will probably not play that character again until I perhaps end up buying the DLC one day.

My point is not only that I feel pretty frustrated right now, because I feel like a part of my game was lost from my library, it's the fact that this "tracking system" of what was activated on that account on what day, is kinda flawed and makes it hard to track down what could have possibly happened!

This is because GIFTS will not appear in your Steam Account Details - when you redeem them, they will be noted under "Licenses & Subscriptions" without a date - like the Skyrim main game in my case. If you buy a game from the store or redeem a CD Key (e.g. from a Humble Bundle) it will be noted under "Store Transactions" with the corresponding date. This means that gifted items are much more difficult to "track down" if they get lost for some reason. The only way you could confirm that you got the item is to retain the E-Mail informing you about the gift, and ideally the person who gave it to you should also hold on to their "confirmation of purchase" E-Mail.
Also, if you buy items separately, you can keep track via your paypal history, where each invoice/bill has the game title noted - but only if bought separately.

We will probably never find out what exactly my boyfriend bought on 27 Jan and if I really ever had Hearthfire on my account, or if we just both suffer from a severe case of confabulation.

At any rate, my recommendations to fellow steam users are to ALWAYS keep confirmation of purchase E-mails for gift items and ALWAYS keep E-mails concerning gifted items! That way, at least you can track down what happened when more easily and if you come into a similar situation can prove more easily that you had the game in your libary before!

This is especially important to remember during Steam sales - I know a lot of people recommend you buy very cheap games from sales in the form of a gift, and redeem them on your own account only when you really wanna play. If you change your mind about the game later you can give it away or trade it to another person. REMEMBER to keep E-Mails documenting these transactions to make sure no database-hiccup or whatever will mess with your library!

Anyway, I will just continue playing Skyrim with my new character, and perhaps get the missing DLC and Dragonborn when they are on sale some time soon. After all, even with the missing DLC the game is a lot of fun, and I have plenty of quests left to do and places left to explore. It's just a bit frustrating to feel that something is wrong and you have neither a way to prove it nor remember having used someone else's computer to cause the "mix up".

I hope you won't run into similar problems, but have you every experienced a similar situation with Steam? How did it go for you?


  1. It is possible to run a DLC that you don't own and also get achievements for it.
    In your case you played on your friend's computer, and he had the DLC installed. In some games the DLC works for everyone whose user profile is on the same harddrive and has access to the installed files. (It's quite similar to Xbox 360, where everyone can play each other's downloaded games for as long as their profiles share the same harddrive)
    Also, when you play the Borderlands games and some others via Steam you can invite players to join a DLC even if they don't have it themselves. It's enough when the host of the game owns it.

    But still, it's absolutely not cool at all that there's no way to track down which user profile eventually activated the DLC when it was a gift. :/
    I feel with you. Pretty much every gamer knows what it feels like when all the rewards for the invested time and effort are suddenly irretrievably gone. :'(

    1. Honestly, I am 100% sure that I played this DLC at least ONCE on my own computer (in November). Like I said, in March, that was shortly after I came back from Finland and I can imagine having played at my boyfriends computer, abut both of us never remember our Steam passwords and user names so we usually avoid logging around on different computers whenever possible. So I'm pretty sure I played Skyrim on my own computer at least ONCE since I got it.
      But even if it's entirely a "side effect" from sharing the same computer - that SUCKS, especially in an open world game like Skyrim where you might stumble upon something and not even notice if it's content of the main game or a DLC, like and item or dungeon. There should at least be a warning message or something before you run the game to make you aware that another DLC is installed that is not in your library.
      But anyway, you just gave me an idea how I could try to fix this :3 Thanks!

  2. Ich muss zugeben, ich hab Steam erst seit seeehr kurzer Zeit oO Ganz untypisch für jemanden, der zockt xD
    Allerdings wusste ich das noch nicht und finde es echt schade, dass sie ihr System so programmiert haben, dass sie es nicht mehr verfolgen können. Vor allem dass sie eben nicht einfach reingucken können in die Datenbank und auslesen können, dass ers dir geschenkt hat. Und noch mehr ärgert mich das, dass man bei Geschenken irgendwie nicht nachgucken kann, wann man die bekommen hat, quasi wie wenn man das Spiel selber kauft. Wahrscheinlich sollten die da mal etwas dran machen, ich würde mich echt mega ärgern! Ich würde wahrscheinlich auch nicht einfach aufgeben und die weiter nerven, ich glaube sogar dass sie gar nicht ihr volles Potenzial benutzen um es herauszufinden. Sie können dich als Kunden ja kaum "verlieren", da deine Spiele ja über Steam trotzdem alle gekauft sind und wenn du sie boykottierst, bringt es dir nichts, weil du da ja deine Spiele hast. Daher sind sie sich vielleicht ihrer Position sicher und kümmern sich gar nicht so wirklich um guten Support? Hmm, es ist nur eine Vermutung, aber irgendwie wäre das echt mistig .___. Hoffentlich klärt sich das bald <3

  3. I usually hang on to my email confirmations for a while... Now I'll make sure I keep them forever!!!


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