Controversial Game Highlights Flaws In Steam's System

Earth: Year 2066, a game that was greenlit by the public on Steam earlier this year, is receiving a lot of negative attention recently because it charges $US19.99 for a shoddy game that plays horribly and seems unlikely shape up down the line, despite developer promises to improve the game. Worse, the developer, "Muxwell", is being accused of stealing artwork and erasing all criticisms of the game on the Steam forums.

Jim Sterling does a great job of breaking down the issues that people have in the game above... but anyone that watches the trailer for the game, even for just a few seconds, could probably tell the game is crap:

The issue in my mind is less that there are legions of people falling prey to this game than it is that someone has the "audacity" to charge for it, and more overtly, that there is a fundamental problem with Steam Greenlight and its voting system when things like this can get through. Of course, at the same time, Valve does not seem interested in curating content — that's why the public does the curating. Valve has said that they want to do away with Greenlight before too, and that they're interested in making it more open — so that anyone could easily sell their wares on the service.

If that ever happens, chances are that way more games like Earth: Year 2066 will make it through. I don't mean to fearmonger here, because I think a more open Steam is a good thing for small-time developers, since Steam is such a popular distribution system. The thing Valve would need to figure out in that case is perhaps not so much how to keep the inevitable crap out (really, this isn't the first time something like this has happened) but rather how to make sure the worthwhile stuff gets properly highlighted, or make the stuff that's most relevant to the user visible to them. Not everyone's idea of "good game" is the same, after all — Goat Simulator, a game that isn't particularly polished, is a good example of what I'm talking about. Still, it would be good to keep some games out, but only in special cases. A system that is useful for keeping out plagiarised titles or shameless clones would be useful. A system like this is easier said than done, though — the deal with Threes and 2048 shows us that stuff can get murky when it comes to clones, too. It seems unlikely that Valve would ever be able to find a perfect system, but the one they currently have clearly has its issues.

Whether or not the public would be happy with a more open Steam seems to be a whole other question, too — anecdotal, but to me it seems like the thing that people enjoy about Steam the most is that it is/was so highly curated. It's quite the conundrum: people want quality games, but at the same time, much of what makes PC gaming so great is that it is a good avenue for people to make games that may not be polished in the traditional sense but are still worth playing (take, for instance, most Twine games out there). Earth: Year 2066, of course, is not one of those offbeat, messy and worthwhile games on PC — but I'm not sure I'm comfortable saying that all "crappy games" don't deserve a spot on Steam, especially when shelf space on Steam isn't limited (obviously, this specific case is a little different in that the game has reportedly stolen assets). It's tricky!

What sucks right now is that not everyone can get through on Steam just yet, and so perhaps there was another more "worthwhile" title that should have been Greenlit instead. Alas.


Comments

    I don't think there is a problem with greenlight so much as the idea of early access.
    A game gets voted on greenlight for it's promise and then it is then up to the developer to make a game the lives up to it's promise. Then Valve can still curate to ensure that the game is in a state that is ready for release and good to go before it is put on the marketplace and bought.

    Early access is a way that buggy incomplete games can be sold and the quick cash grabs can happen. Awesome idea, shitty implementation, lofty promises and then disappear once the cash grab is done.
    Early access can work, something like KSP has been growing as it is being played. But the chance to exploit it is too great. Maybe it is just because I don't like the idea of early access and don't buy beta games gives me a skewed perception. I have no interest in playing incomplete games and providing feedback, give me the best experience possible.

    Kerbal is *easily* the best example of an early access game done right on Steam. We bought it day one of its unveilling and we've never looked back. Loved it every moment we've owned it. That being said we've got a ton of 'early access' games we wish we never bought. The worst so far is this pile of shit called 'the dead linger'. Worst game I've ever played. That woke me up to the problems with early access and I like you, have learnt my lesson, now I wait a while, to see how the game progresses, if it's a con or not, before i even touch it.

    Oh man Kerbal. Every day someone uploads something to youtube that just justifies its existence all over again and fills my heart with joy :)

    @Tigerion I did reply this to you but it seems chat is still broken *SIGH*

    Last edited 22/04/14 12:20 pm

      I bought Towns on early access and I have no idea if it's been updated from the broken mess I tried to play. Never again.

        I remember Towns... I was unemployed as I'd been recently retrenched. I gave my son my last ten bucks of the week to make him a little happier to buy a game on Steam. He was 7 or 8 at the time. He saw Towns. He bought it, after all it LOOKED like a Minecraft style game right...

        Played it for ten minutes...

        He started crying.

        I shit you not.

        We messaged Steam asking for a refund it was that bad, but never got it. My kid got so ripped off by those assholes that made Towns.

        *ARGH* Screw this broken chat!!!!!!!!

          I got burned on Towns, too. Also didn't get a refund.
          I reviewed it negatively and made sure to be pretty vociferous in my displeasure.

      Except Kerbal Space Program had been in development for a while and had already been available for sale on their website and had a mass following before it was on Steam early access.

      The difference with Kerbal is that it wasn't a game that came through the ranks on Steam.

      It had been in development, and released as alpha/beta to the public for many years before it was put up on steam.

      But it's very rare that an "early access" game has been semi-released elsewhere beforehand.

      That being said, the initial builds of kerbal were pretty iffy [way before steam], and at the time there was no way to know how serious these devs were. It's like any project you put money into based on a pitch, you put your trust [and money] in the developers hands.

      I think the problem here is that the "early access" games on Steam are more-or-less in the same ecosystem as the rest of the full-release titles. For most people, they are shopping in the same place as any other title, so when it's broken, it's a big deal.

      I think that valve may need to separate the early access games a bit more from the main area, and put more of a disclosure to customers that they really are taking a chance, and that they aren't buying a finished product, nor even *guaranteed* a finished product.

        Indeed. Having an entirely seperate store for 'pre-alpha' games would be a bloody good idea wouldn't it.

        The only green light game I've bought was, cry of fear. But it was previously a half life mod and was just getting released stand alone, so I already knew what it'd be like and it was essentially a finished product.

    Anyone else having deja vu with a very similar thing happening in roughly mid Dec 2012/early 2013 regarding a certain zombie survival clone...?

      That would imply that lessons have not been learnt! D:

    Greenlight is good. In fact, it's a great way to curate the steam collection. The issue with Early Access however needs to be solved.

    I would recommend NOT allowing an early access game release for any new developer who doesn't already have a steam game published with "X number" of sales.

    I know the saying about a "fool and his money", but I think Steam risks damaging it's reputation if it doesn't directly address this issue.

      Something like this would work.

      Essentially we need to apply some measure to ensure that the developers have a history of developing at least somewhat playable games.

      Either that, or a mechanism to permit refunds easily for Early Access games. Perhaps allow a no-questions-asked refund within the 24 hours after purchase, but then not allow the purchaser to purchase the game until official release. (Of course, this raises the problem of what to do about short games, but IMO the proportion of bastards actively wanting to game the system in that manner is *relatively* small.)

    oh man ... 6:05-6:30 i was pissing myself laughing..

    Sign me up for agreeing with the anecdotal idea that one of the better things about Steam was being a curated platform.

    It's a real-life Ark situation. Everyone wants in on the ark, but if everyone gets on the ark, it will fucking sink.

    All the indies claim Steam is the Great Provider when it comes to revenue, and that as such they should have the right to get in on that action.

    But with the relaxing of restrictions on Greenlight, we keep seeing all these utterly shit-house, half-assed iOS/android ports, early-access alphas which won't be finished, free-to-plays, publishers submitting their entire 1990s-00s-era back-catalogue, and more.

    Not to mention a barrage of utterly forgettable bullet-hell shmups, speed-platformers, 2D platformers with silhouette foregrounds, platformers with some quirky physics/time mechanic, poorly-implemented terraria clones, and repetitive zero-persistence rogue-likes. Generic, uninspired crap that would quite rightly die of obscurity without a half-day exposure on Steam's 'new releases' tab.

    If this open access keeps up or worsens, the guarantee of a Steam payday will disappear as people get burned on shithouse games and stop impulse-purchasing 'because it's new'. Then the ark will sink and everyone crowded on it will blame each other.
    "You are not stuck in traffic... you ARE traffic."

      I could not agree more.

      I just have to laugh every time some developer gets on his soapbox and starts waxing lyrical about how we live in such a great time, not just for small independent studios, but for gamers in general.

      Thanks to the freedoms of more open platforms such as Steam and the rapidly emerging mobile market, these long suffering visionaries are finally able to cast off the shackles of their big AAA publishing oppressors, and bring us new and exciting concepts that would never be rubber stamped by some heartless bigwigs in suits! The games they've always dreamed of making! The games we want to play! It's a new age people! A new age!

      So what do we actually get?

      Almost everyday it's yet another random shitty zombie game, another "totally unique!" 8-bit, retro platformer with a chiptune soundtrack (it's not just a platformer guys! It's a love letter to the games of old!), and a few more blocky, minecraft-looking "we're-not-sure-what-we're-going-for-but-please-give-us-as-much-money-as-Notch" game. If we're really lucky, we might even get a developer that's really inspired, and we'll get a zombie-themed retro platformer with minecraft/terraria elements on top.

      I genuinely feel sorry for the poor chaps plugging away on those rare titles that actually ARE new and interesting. They're working hard, making something worth playing and getting excited about, only to finally have their game released, and immediately be buried by a pile of utter shit (or worse yet, an avalanche containing several years of shit from a crappy third world publisher's back catalogue).

        Oh god. The heavily-overused "It's a love-letter to," makes me want to stab developers, now. And yeah, not having a multi-million budget to hire an art team is especially telling. If an indie title's not in 16-bit art, then you can probably expect it to be in that brand of easily-produced 'leave it to the imagination' pixel art that's so fashionable right now.

    I could probably make a game equal to this in a day. Does that mean I can go on Steam Early Access? Seems like people can get away with releasing the biggest piles of shit but hey, stand back. It's early access, I can't judge it.

    When it comes to Greenlight. I have really avoided it as much as possible. When I goto Steam, I go there for the latest releases and other great games. Not old games from 10 years ago re-released and putting it as being released today. The flood gates are open on Steam and more and more shit seems to just be getting on there. Its frustrating, I have been with Steam fro years. I think Steam is the greatest but lately, they are just annoying me. They have taken our money and lots of it. You'd think they would listen to the people and fix there service not more it more of a hassle to even find games. If I wanted Indie games I would goto somewhere like https://indiegamestand.com

    But hey, this is just what I think. I know lots of others disagree and think what Steam is doing is awesome and great. But they really have just been going downhill lately

    Early Access, Green Light, Pre-Order - whatever it is, I'm sure we've all been fucked over by shitty bug-ridden games & have found out the hard way that Steam simply isn't interested, & there's pretty much sweet fuck all you can do about it. Perhaps this is just an evolutionary process that must take place, whereby gamers as a population will eventually be weary enough not to be fooled by these things, & would-be developers (or greedy publishers) will finally get the message. I know I've learned my lesson!

    Anyone with half a brain could have told you this game was crap before you planted $20 on it.

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