I’ll begin with a caveat. I’m not a gamer. Not anymore, at least. My one remaining vice in the genre is the Football Manager (née Championship Manager) series, which I shuffle up to the till to purchase every year, a process that has grown increasingly frictionless. Given such a limited gaming habit and the fact that I’m on a Mac, I’ve never had any use for Steam and have always bought a physical copy of the game.

Initially, my buying process involved ordering the Mac version of the game from a company in the UK (with all the added shipping costs that entails). That progressed to the short-lived experiment of having the game sold here under the name World Wide Soccer Manager and got easier when the game was published as a combined PC/Mac disk. Of late, I’ve been able to order the standard flavor of FM through Amazon in the US. Cheaper, easier, faster.

But this year, Sports Interactive and Sega (developer and publisher of FM respectively) decided to require Steam to play the game though they would continue selling the physical disk. Even though it was slightly more expensive to buy direct through Steam1, I figured not having to find and insert the disk every time I wanted to play carried some value. Since I was going to need to install and run Steam in order to play anyway, why not take the plunge and go 100% Steam?

I plunged.

The first few weeks were fine even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the somewhat obtuse (to these non-gamer’s eyes anyway) Steam software. Patches were pushed automatically in the background, the downloads were relatively quick, and even if it required a little extra digging to find the editor2 or if there was a slight delay while Steam connected (prohibiting the launching of the game until it did so), the experience was generally a good one.

Then came last night.

With KC cruising to an easy second-leg victory in the MLS Cup playoffs, I decided to pop into FM while I waited for the start of the RSL-Seattle tilt. I launched FM using the application shortcut, which caused Steam to launch in turn(verification of credentials, remember). Sadly, Steam proceeded to beachball during the “connecting” phase. I watched a little of the by-now-decided playoff game while I gave Steam a chance to churn, then Force Quit the Steam app when it persisted in an unresponsive state for over 10 minutes.

I tried the same process again and, despite a long delay in connecting to Steam, managed to get to my game library. FM said it was ready to play so I clicked it. A little dialogue box popped up for a moment saying FM was launching, but nothing happened. Tried again. Same result. Tried to quit Steam, but it said I had to quit FM first.

What the hell?

I launched Activity Monitor (Applications>Utilities), verified that there was no FM process running, then Force Quit the Steam app. When I relaunched (again with the delay in connecting), Steam said it needed to update itself and proceeded to do so. I finally got back to my game library, clicked FM to launch it, and…


Same little dialogue box. Same big bag of hurtful nothing. A little forum-diving had me attempting to verify the integrity of the game’s cache3. That didn’t help me launch the game, but it did shift the game’s state from “Ready to Play” to “Download Paused.”

Hmmm. Apparently, FM had tried to update itself at some point and failed. I tried to resume the download, but that had no effect. More verifying of the cache and more forum-diving later, I was deleting or renaming files in my ~/Library/Application Support/Steam folder. All of which resulted in…

“Download is Starting.”

Ah-ha! Progress of a sort. Except it never went beyond that point. By this time, RSL-Seattle is on, so I let it sit in that state for while and watch the game. I come back at halftime and it’s still stuck.


I’ve given up on playing the game at this point, but I’ve got the bug: I need to fix this. Unfortunately, the forum-diving all ends up pointing to “delete and reinstall.” Not ideal, but what the hell. Thankfully I’m not bandwidth constrained or capped. I figure I’ll uninstall and get the reinstall started before I go to bed. I right-click FM in the Steam library, tell it to delete local files, and it does so.

Or at least, it says it does. Nothing’s in my trash and on relaunch, FM still shows up as installed in the game library. Huh? I fire up the Finder and see that the game files still appear to be present. Nice. Delete must mean different things to Steam and to me. So I trash the app from ~/Applications and trash the FM files in ~/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps/common (forum suggestion from technical support).

This time, the relaunch sees the connection handshake with Steam take a fraction of the time it’s been taking and FM finally shows as uninstalled in the Library. I start the reinstall download and head for bed…

This morning I woke to find FM sitting in the library “Ready to Play.” I fire it up and…success! FM launches, my saves appear to be intact, and all is right with the world. Given the horror stories of folks on the Steam and SI forums having to purge every last element of FM and Steam on their systems before reinstalls would take, I consider myself quite lucky. Still, the experience left me pretty disgusted with the system as a whole. If there were an option to play the game sans Steam, I’d take it in an instant at this point.

My best guess as to what happened is that I interrupted Steam while it was trying to do something during that initial suspended state it entered into. Or perhaps there was a download conflict caused by my launching FM directly rather than launching Steam first and then FM? Maybe if I had just launched Steam directly and had it do its update dance, then launched FM and had it download the patch, all of this nonsense and frustration would have been avoided.

In any case, if you’re running into this problem, I hope this helps you work through it. As I said, I haven’t had any problems with Steam to this point, things seem to be back to normal now, and I’m hoping this is an isolated incident. I certainly won’t be trying to launch FM directly in the future, and, if SI/Sega give me the choice, will have to think long and hard about using Steam in the future.

Your mileage, as always, may vary…

  1. At the time of the game’s release, there was no option on Amazon to buy the physical disk. Still isn’t, though download purchases have since been made available. ↩

  2. In your Steam library, click on the drop-down next to the search box (default choice is “All Games,” I believe) and select “Tools.” Find Football Manager 2012 Editor in the list and double-click to install. ↩

  3. Right- or control-click the game in the library, chose “Properties,” navigate to the “Local Files” tab, and click “Verify Integrity of Game Cache…” Seems to be a potent fix for some ills. ↩


  1. I've used Steam for much more than FM. It's an uneven, but primarily good, experience, though I'm not on a Mac. I've found that when I have problems, it's either their servers--which do crap out temporarily from time to time--or I've gotten to some point where I need to reboot (which is a Windows artifact, not a Steam problem). But by and large, I like Steam just fine.

  2. As I said, I like the idea of Steam in theory, so I'm hoping this is just an isolated incident. I've seen a lot of vitriol directed against it online, but most of the gamers I've talked to (rational, meatspace real-worlders and not the shrieking virtual harpies of the web) echo your sentiment.

    Fingers crossed.

  3. Yeah, I love Steam - bought WWSM 09 and FM 10/11/12 from them without incident.

    I have had issues with the app allowing games to start in offline mode at times, which allows me a few moments of righteous fury - i.e., "I bought this goddamned thing, I shouldn't have to connect to your servers to prove it!"

    Compared with the ass-pain I had getting older versions of FM, it's awesome. I mean, I'm a guy who still calls the game 'Championship Manager' about half the time. (Insert here an anecdote about walking uphill both ways through driving snow to receive a used copy of CM 01/02.)

  4. Btw, I like what you're doing with the place.

  5. Thanks.

    Usually takes until December/January before I start going "all work and no play" crazy and start to mess with the CSS. I'm kinda happy where it's at now, so here's hoping the bug doesn't strike again. (Though if Blogger improves the customization of the dynamic views, chances of said bug biting increase exponentially).

  6. I'm also happy to report that my Steam troubles seem to have cleared up after about 3-4 days of persistent connection troubles on the back of the reinstall fiasco. Currently forging ahead with my "trial" United game to kick the tires (the one I usually run to orient myself in the new digs with a familiar club before settling in to a long-term game after the major bug-fix releases from SI).

  7. I'm enjoying 12 a lot. How much of that is down to the Fire's 6-1-1 start I can't say ... heh.