Worth Reading: Why Is Valve Ignoring Steam Greenlight?

Worth Reading: Why Is Valve Ignoring Steam Greenlight?

Welcome to another entry in Worth Reading, our weekly roundup of the week's best games writing. There's nothing more fun on a Saturday afternoon than an angry (and accurate) rant.

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Worth Reading: Why Is Valve Ignoring Steam Greenlight?

Kotaku didn't write about it, but you might have heard about this Kill the Faggot game that showed up on Greenlight before Valve took it down. The reason it showed up was because there's nothing stopping a game from appearing on Greenlight until people complain about it, Valve takes a look, and the submission comes down. More than a year ago, Valve said Greenlight was a stopgap solution to something else, and everyone figured this meant the company would be opening the floodgates on Steam, and making their storefront more like the App Store or Google Play. In essence, anyone could have their game sold on Steam. Valve is a secretive company for understandable reasons, but its silence on this is frustrating.

"Of course, that praise is essentially saying "Valve did the best they could under the existing system"; as praise goes, it's somewhat less glowing when you consider that Valve actually created that system in the first place. It was Valve who chose to allow anyone at all to pay $US100 and upload whatever they like onto Greenlight; Valve who decided that there should be no pre-screening, no attempt to filter what ends up being available for votes. There's a fervent ideological belief at work here, one which says that the most open system is the best system; kill the gatekeepers and haul open the portcullis, let everyone flood in and then allow a combination of the marketplace and algorithmic wizardry to sort the wheat from the chaff. Sure, it needs a bit of tending when some of the chaff turns out to be downright poisonous, but by and large the item of faith writ large by Greenlight's policies is that the cacophonous roar of the community can be filtered through market logic and algorithms to become a clear, pure voice expressing the wisdom of the crowd."

Worth Reading: Why Is Valve Ignoring Steam Greenlight?

I still think about the final moments in The Walking Dead's first season. Even though I enjoyed playing through the second season, it was mostly forgettable. Honestly, I couldn't tell you what happened, save for that grotesque moment in the supermarket. The relationship between Lee and Clementine was special, and few games are able to spend that much time having three characters — Lee, Clementine, the player — bond in ways that are meaningful for everyone. Despite being a game about choice, they each have agency, and you only get to nudge them in one direction or another. I desperately hope the upcoming Firewatch can be that memorable.

"In The Walking Dead, the world is fundamentally changed, and characters need to change with it, not just to survive, but to retain some shred of decency. The past is a burden on these characters, and detaching from it will enable them to better integrate into the groups of survivors that are the new families of this world. The zombie-apocalypse setting allows for an especially clear metaphor for that dangerous attachment to the past: In a world where the dead return to feast on the living, somebody's past can literally come back to hurt them. Killing the undead, especially undead friends and family, becomes the surest sign they accept that the old world is gone. Refusing to accept this new reality — clinging to the old world's relationships and rules — drives these characters to be reckless, selfish, and antisocial."

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Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Bill Simmons described Madden 2003 as the most important game ever (back in 2002).

  • Josh Sawyer reflected on the nostalgic development of Pillars of Eternity.

  • David Chandler looked at Bloodborne as it relates to the history of horror.

  • Heather Alexandra wondered if video games have become obsessed with darkness.

  • Brad Williams encouraged people to throw a few bucks towards (free) games you enjoy.

  • Patrick Carlson had recommendations for people who loved the world of Dishonored.

  • Dana Goldstein highlighted a book that argues violent video games are good for society.

  • Ian Bogost pointed out the potential problems in an Apple-centric world.

  • Vidyasaur chronicled an attempt to play Castlevania: The Adventure with tough rules.


    They were quick to stamp out their terrible paid mods scheme, but Greenlight remains the cesspool it's always been :(

      The difference though is that paid mods was a tangled web of legalese nightmare on who owns what, mods requiring other mods and other horrible situations.

      Greenlight, while not great, is also nowhere near as messy as the paid mods were.

    I never understood what the fuss is with greenlight, it seems to be the best compromise. Devs who don't have big publishers to support them are able to get their game a little visibility. Consumers get to find new and maybe better games. Plus, it avoids completely opening it up - where devs never get their games found and consumers stop looking for them and trusting the system.

    The idea of a pure curated and still open system is fantasy. Valve only has so many employees (and hopefully most of them are still game devs) and they would have to cull the number of games to a minimum.

    There have been some great games come out on greenlight and as long as Valve scrutinizes occasionally and get rid of genuinely awful games, it doesn't seem like such a bad option. (With tweaking, I guess).

      That's the complete opposite of what it is though. Greenlight is a completely open (Save for a once off $100 payment for unlimited access) system that's supposed to work like a genetic algorithm. Unfortunately the fitness algorithm relies on thousands of individual opinions aligning consistently in an objective manner adherent to a constant set of evaluation criteria.

      What this inconsistency and lack of control has resulted in is a proliferation of low quality games meaning most devs will never get their games seen and that people have no hope of finding something they like. Ironically, the best and most reliable way to have your game discovered and to discover games is via sites other than Greenlight.

        But there aren't that many criteria, the only ones I can think of are: 'I would buy this' and 'I want this to get through because that'd be funny'. And if Valve stops or limits the latter through a modicum of curation, the only games that get through are those for which there is a market. Maybe people don't follow through and buy them and so the 'quality' (it's subjective after all) is misrepresented and that's an issue. But Greenlight can't say which games are better than others, that's what reviews/recommended games/curator lists/popularity lists are for (whether those are any good is another kettle of fish).

      I have to agree - properly curating Greenlight would be simply impractical.

      At what point is the Valve employee supposed to say "this is acceptable?" Are they supposed to repeat the process whenever a patch is released?

      I recall a game a couple of years ago which as I recall made it past greenlight and onto the main storefront - but was basically just half finished. You reached the halfway point and got a popup screen saying "Sorry, we ran out of money."

      Or if a game is released initially in an "acceptable" state, unacceptable content may be added later in a patch.

      Adding curation would require charging the developer for each patch. Suddenly you have an incentive for devs to patch less frequently. The entry-level garage devs writing an indie game in their free time must decide between eating that week or submitting an update.

      The current system has its weaknesses. However, if you have a major title you can still go in the front door. If you're an indie, you can drum up popular support. And if you have trouble getting that support... at least you can sell Steam keys.

    I've just watched that "women game programmers" video - very good speech and it would be good to have more women making games even if just to see some more variety (getting a bit sick of sandbox-survival-zombie games).

    Steam used to be a place i went to find high quality games, nowadays i find so much trash on there that it is almost impossible to find the gems.
    If i find a game recommended elsewhere i go check steam out but i no longer bother searching steam for games.

      That's what the curator system is designed to solve. Find a curator who shares your taste in games and subscribe to them, it will influence what gets displayed for you on the front page.

      You should also be going through your queue periodically and marking games you're not interested in as 'not interested', so that Steam has a baseline to show you games you probably are interested in. I've been doing that every two weeks or so, and I rarely get games on the front page that I'm flat out not interested in.

        Frankly, the curator system is the LAST thing I want to be relying on. There's almost as many shitty curators as there are shitty games. It really requires an extra degree of homework and being 'plugged in' to some social system that points you toward someone who shares your tastes, as opposed to simply relying on the catalogue being... well. Not the itunes app store. The author in the article quote is so optimistic about the virtues of a truly open system... it's difficult to tell if that's completely unfounded and improbable optimism or outright fever-induced delusion.

          It's really not that hard to find good curators. If you like a Youtuber or reviewer, odds are they're also a curator. TotalBiscuit, Yogscast, Jesse Cox, Jim Sterling, they're all on there. It's unreasonable to think that a large online store is going to be able to cater to your tastes as well as everyone else's without any input from you on what it is exactly that you like. There are tens of millions of players on Steam with wildly different game interests, it was never going to cater to any one person's tastes by default.

          The tools are available, people just have to use them.

            Once steam runs out of idea for you it will start throwing things up because they are "new" or "popular", as to the curator system, this is pretty much what i use, if a game is recommended elsewhere i'll come have a look on steam to see if it is there.
            What i would like is more options to flat out hide certain types of games on steam. i.e. Hide all prerelease games (been burnt once to many and simply not interested anymore)
            Hide all sub $10 & free games, I enjoy large games with reasonable graphics, good story and good gameplay. You won't find this in the sub $10 bracket unless game is more than 5 years old.
            And yes i want to hide all games with an "original" release of more than 5 years ago, if i was interested in playing it then i already would have.

            Now your starting to see what "my" steam would look like, at the moment i keep expecting to see "candycrush" hiding in there somewhere.

            Last edited 10/05/15 8:27 am

              You can hide early access and preorders currently, when you're logged in there's a 'customise' button on the carousel where you can untick both of those options. I don't think there's a way to filter under a price or game age on the front page, but they seem like good suggestions you should send their way.

                Didn't know about that customize option, cheers.

            See, that's exactly what I want to avoid. The youtube cult of personality, having to rely on digital pearl-divers, swimming through torrents of muck to bring their 'followers' the rare games that aren't shit.

            And it's not just about subjectivity. This is a race to the bottom. The iTunes app store has shown us this and it's baffling why we haven't learned from the lesson of what a purely open ecosystem devolves into. Convert subjectivity into something objective by at least going off numbers. Popularity. Maybe some tastes aren't univeral, but they can at least be declared mathematically normal. And that's good enough. We don't NEED Steam to become a teeming cesspool of crap in most peoples' eyes for the dubious benefit of catering to a statistically-insignificant minority of preferences. The disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

            The only complaint about the times when Steam did its own curation wasn't about the quality of the games, but that some 'precious indie gems' were being overlooked. And this wasn't a complaint on the part of people who couldn't find them, it was from the people who were making them or supporting the creators and upset that good games weren't getting the fabled 'Steam payday'. Which, thanks to Greenlight, now practically no longer exists.

            Developers have complained about the payday no longer being a sure thing, because of all the noise. They're complaining about being stuck in traffic, not realizing they are traffic.

            Bad for the majority of consumers, bad for developers who have discoverability problems, good for youtubers and other wannabe 'web celebs' looking to build a brand.

            I really, really don't like that future.

            (Edit: Which isn't to say I think publisher-only or Valve hand-selected titles is what we should be going back to. Just that Greenlight having a requirement of relative popularity before a title can be released into the storefront is a good thing. If a title cant' raise enough popularity to pass Greenlight, then the odds are very good that it probably doesn't deserve to. That's a much better protection, that filter, than dumping all the sewage in and making people swim in it. Some filter is better than no filter.)

            Last edited 10/05/15 10:09 am

              Isn't that how Greenlight works? I was under the impression that enough people needed to flag that they'd be interested in purchasing a game before it got the green light to appear on Steam. Maybe they've changed the mechanism since I last looked at it.

                Hang on. I have to re-read. And maybe actually the entire article.

                ...Yeah, that's what I meant. I totally misread the quote and took it out of context. I thought he was advocating for a better storefront by being more open. He's actually criticizing that ideal.

                Don't mind me, I'll just be over here, being wrong.

                  Ha, you're good. Obviously there are issues with Greenlight and it needs to be improved. I don't think a fully open storefront is a good idea either.

    Greenlight is an abomination. One awesome title for every thousand pieces of filth.

    For those wondering about the Bill Simmons article, apparently it's the most important game ever made because it adds online functionality (on a PS2).

    In his defence, apparently he wrote exclusively about sports games, so to him it may have seemed to be a novel feature, especially given that online support for PS2 games was pretty rare.

    Man Valve has been digging lately. PC gaming really needs a 3rd party platform to launch games on run by a company that just does that. Origin is EA, Steam is Valve, Uplay is Ubi and GOG is CD Projekt Red. No one is willing to share and some platforms like steam makes companies like EA pay a premium to launch on their platform.

    Its getting out of control and PC gaming is losing its biggest draw... freedom. Having a 3rd party that allows all companies to release for a fair price with a fair system for its users finally might mean a centralized hub for PC... I use to think lord Gaben was the PC savoir, someone to bring us all together and give us a voice, now however I plan to stay the hell away from things like SteamOS because in my opinion the last thing the mIghty Gaben should have is more market share.

    As for Greenlight and even early access the steam store is looking less like a place for good quality games and more like a mobile games store everyday, there are good Greenlight games for sure but the flood gates are overflowing with crap. They need to bring in filters so I can tell steam never to show me things like early access and Greenlight games. Let me personalize my store how I want it.

    Last edited 10/05/15 10:05 am

      PC gaming really needs a 3rd party platform to launch games on run by a company that just does that. Origin is EA, Steam is Valve, Uplay is Ubi and GOG is CD Projekt Red. No one is willing to share and some platforms like steam makes companies like EA pay a premium to launch on their platform.

      Some of this didn't make a lot of sense...

      While Origin and Uplay are largely the domain of those respective publishers Steam and GoG (Galaxy) are platforms that have by and large more titles from other developers than their own.

      Hell, Valve has made what...20 titles? Steam has over 10,000 games, mods, software etc (assuming that some of it is DLC). Do the same math with something like Origin and you will find most of the titles on there are owned by EA.

      A bit of history on this front, Steam was widely seen as a centralised hub for PC at a fair price, but the likes of EA decided they could make more money forcing people to use Origin instead. I don't even know what the reason for Uplay was, even worse they force Uplay on titles that are distributed on Steam (so 2 DRM systems that require accounts).

      Don't get me started on GoG, without them we would still be back in the days of trawling abandonware sites and trying to get classics running on DosBox, or in some cases cracking out that laptop you had from 1996. Like Steam, they also sell more titles of others than their own, in fact one step better, they actually work with them to try and make sure the games work on modern PC's

      On the side of personalisation, as mentioned earlier, there are millions of people who use Steam, we all have different tastes and as such without any information Steam has little to go on apart from popularity metrics. Easy solution, look at going through your queue, even if its once a week and click 'Not Interested' on things you don't like and you will find that results will get better as they learn your tastes. Add games to your wishlist as well, that helps too....

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