Steam Greenlight Is A Good Idea, But Makes Its Buried Treasures Very Hard To Find

Steam Greenlight Is A Good Idea, But Makes Its Buried Treasures Very Hard To Find

After one day of poking around Steam Greenlight, I feel like I have seen this all before. And then I realise: in a way, Steam’s suddenly going all Kickstarter. It’s a big new platform that the little guys — and not-so-little-guys — can use to get their project in front of millions. And it’s a bit of a mess.

Greenlight is at once a brilliant idea and a nightmare of execution, an enormous haystack in which perhaps, if we are lucky, some needles are hiding. At the moment, Steam informs me there are 579 games awaiting my rating. Yesterday there were somewhere in the order of 260. At this rate, even millions of Steam users won’t be able to comb through the Greenlight slush pile with any efficiency.

While anything that exposes more unknown, indie games to a wider audience is a great idea, there are already some flaws in Greenlight’s implementation that make it difficult to work with.

  • Language. I don’t mean bad language, or abusive language. I mean, I can’t read the Cyrillic alphabet and these Russian listings are worthless to me. A language filter would be very helpful.
  • Fake listings. In half an hour, I reported more listings than I voted for. Battlefield 3, Shootmania Storm, Minecraft and FIFA 13 are not your indie games, submitters. Nice try. Valve is banning fakers as they come up but it’s still an imperfect process.
  • Insufficient information. There’s not much to go on, with most games. A handful of potentially pre-alpha screenshots and a short description rarely say much worth knowing. As a result, it’s too easy to judge a book by its cover, as it were. The prettiest games are the ones that can most easily grab my attention.
  • That cursed downvote button. Like any popularity contest, a dedicated fan base can rig it. While a horde of fans arriving to upvote a game is perhaps the desired effect, that thumbs down button may prove prone to abuse. The gamer community is not known for being gentle or subtle with its displeasure.
  • Playability. Greenlight welcomes games at any stage of the production process, but it would be helpful to be able to filter out finished products from pre-alpha concepts.
  • Ranking. It would be helpful to be able to sort games by how many favourable ratings they’ve received. Maybe there’s an excellent project at the top I’d like to pile on to, or one languishing unfairly at the bottom that I’d like to boost.

So while flicking randomly through 20 pages of potential PC games, what can the discerning user find?

Well, some games look downright lovely. The art in Fly’n and Incredipede both look beautiful, painted in colours and bold lines.

Then there are the titles. Escape Goat is the name that made me giggle most, though A Hat In Time also caught my attention, and made me look more closely at their listings. (Though, of course, names can also draw negative attention; Voxel Elephant Murder Simulator struck me for all the wrong reasons.)

Steam Greenlight readily highlights the challenges of curation — it’s hard to separate the good from the bad, in an overwhelming world. Some games in the mix look like they could be promising PC indie titles, if they’re ever finished. Some are clearly finished or almost-finished works by developers who know what they’re doing. Others are clones of popular ideas (Minecraft in particular seems to be inspirational), or straight-up trolling.

Steam has just become like the wide-open mobile market in one key way: unless you already know exactly what you’re looking for, it can be quite a challenge to find. Hopefully, the system will see some enhancements soon.


  • Oh yes, the implementation is a nightmare. I thought I’d take the plunge and see what’s what.

    When I first looked at it there were all of 40 titles (or something close to that number anyway), and then a couple of hours later the list totally ran away.

    Couple that with a horribly cluttered interface and filters that don’t work as well as I’d hoped made surfing through Greenlight more of a chore than anything else. That and as you mentioned, some games offer way too little information to go on.

    Steam can only improve on it I suppose, teething problems and all that.

  • Yeah, concepts amazing, but man is it hard to deal with the functionality. I’ve been rating stuff for about an hour now, (coz I’m all about the kickstarters/indies ATM) found some goodies, some that I’d read about a while back etc.
    There needs to be a I” don’t hate it, but I wouldn’t buy it button.” Coz the only way to decrease that number (which ATM for me is around 580) is to either go no or yes.
    You cant just click on one item, go yes or no, then go to the next one AFAIK. You can only go back to the initial page. And then when you change pages, games that were in previous pages show up. Ugh.

    • Lord that typing was horrible. Trying to get to work on time. I MEANT
      -an “I don’t hate it, but I wouldn’t buy it” button

  • Being a developer that will be putting their game on Greenlight (eventually), I can’t say I’m particularly taken with the implementation as it stands. We’ll be giving it a wide berth in the short-term (at least until we’re classified). Hopefully in the next few weeks Valve responds to the feedback and tightens the nuts.

    Still, it has the potential to be a excellent marketing tool, something which a lot of indies struggle with.

  • I upvoted Project Giana, and I’ve checked out a few others. Some of the more upstanding Steam users have created collections of the better looking legit titles, so that’s worth checking out. There are definitely a few good looking titles out there – and I hope to see a few succeed.

  • Highlights for me have by far been Routine, Inquisitor, Sang-Froid, and Afterfall, all amazingly gleaming presentations that stood out from a confusing heap of under-developed and fake titles. It’s an exciting format that I’m happy to wait for Valve to correct, if they do things right.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!