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310 Days in Purgatory
by David Gallant on 04/03/14 10:35:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Three hundred and ten days. When you factor in both times the game has been on Greenlight (and don't count the seven months between taking it down and putting it back up), I Get This Call Every Day has spent three hundred and ten days climbing over its peers to scrounge up enough votes to garner Valve's good graces. That's nearly a year of my life. You'd think that I would be ecstatic, facing down an opportunity to put my game in front of millions of Steam users, possibly pulling myself back from the brink of financial ruin. But all I am is relieved. It's over. It's finally fucking over.

I never want to do this again.

I've already gone on at length about why I think Greenlight is a horrible, broken thing. Valve has been on record for over a year now about their intention to dismantle Greenlight and make Steam a more open thing. We still don't know when that will happen or what that will look like, but there's enough speculation on the subject to keep game news sites busy for hours (yeah, that analogy is pretty rough, I know). But developers can't do anything with speculation. If someone making a game wants to sell that game in the one marketplace that damn near monopolizes the customer base, as of this writing, they have to put that game on Greenlight. It means developers must subject themselves not only to abuse from Steam users, but also a degrading competitive environment of uncertainty.

These are my personal experiences. I Get This Call Every Day is a niche game that looks ugly and is deliberately advertised as not being fun; that undoubtedly has an effect. I've spoken to enough folks with games on Greenlight, of various types and levels of appeal, to know that my experiences are not unique. I am sure there are developers who had a breeze with Greenlight, especially those who got the green light recently after only a few weeks on the service. Those with enough critical mass of attention and appeal probably never see an issue with Greenlight. They never have to watch the yes votes stop coming in, the ranking clawed back, the bumps when other games get greenlit only to lose ground again as more successful games push them backwards. Those games had it real good, and I hope their devs appreciate that fact.

They say the no votes don't count. "They don't affect the ranking!" And they're right. But no votes aren't meaningless. Seeing the space between the green line and the white line was seeing the gulf of people who not only felt their game wasn't for them, but who also thought the game shouldn't be sold; the game shouldn't succeed; the developer shouldn't earn a living from their work. That may not be the intention of the voter, but that's still what it says to the developer. As of this writing, the top 50 games on Greenlight average 55% no votes. Each game being accepted today are games where over half the voters said they do not want. Imagine what kind of message that sends to the people making these games. Actually, you don't have to: the word "NO" speaks for itself.

I've had to watch my game make headway in the ranking, only to claw back and lose ground in the days following. I've promoted it as much as I can without seeming to beg for votes; I've been interviewed multiple times about the process, only to see zero boost. A Youtuber makes a casual mention of the game in a video, and suddenly votes are spiking like a volleyball game. If my vote graphs were rides in a Rollercoaster Tycoon game, they'd have exponential Nausea ratings. Valve, still "figuring out" Greenlight, makes nothing consistent; picking a batch every six weeks or every two weeks, doing ten or twenty or a hundred or fifty or seventy-five in a batch. I spent this week in a cold sweat, knowing that I ranked #28, knowing I had been passed over two weeks prior, refreshing the page every hour or so (sometimes every few minutes) because I needed to fucking know when they made their decision, relying only on their previous pattern as a clue to when they might make their announcement but knowing they could wait another few weeks if they bloody well wanted. I've been a wreck this whole week, but not even that; I've been a wreck since I put this game on Greenlight. Both times. I cannot muster any excitement for what lies ahead, because I am just so worn out and glad that the ordeal is over.

I had a daily ritual of logging onto Greenlight to check my stats, but you know what else I did when I was there? I went into the Recently Added category and gave every new game a yes vote. I kid you not: Steams says I have voted on 2534 games to date (and that number excludes games I've voted on that have been removed from Greenlight by Valve or their developers after I voted on them) and every single one of those votes has been a yes. In terms of helping games get through Greenlight, it's a futile gesture: since Greenlight is a ranking system, my yes votes for everything causes no game to change ranking. I understand that. But fuck the ranking. My yes vote is a message I'm trying to send to each developer to keep doing what they are doing. That they shouldn't be discouraged by the shithole they are navigating to attempt reaching the one marketplace that could potentially make (or save) them. I vote yes to everything because it is the only way I can subvert Greenlight while staying right with my own conscience.

I'm looking forward to working with Valve. Now that I have access to the tools needed to bring a game to Steam, I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me; not to mention the fact that I'm rebuilding the game to add a bunch of new features I don't think anyone will care about. I'm no longer on Twitter, which means I avoid a lot of the negativity that was bringing me down, but it also means I've lost the best way to promote my work and access to many of my friends and colleages. Things could get better, for sure.

But at least I'm no longer on Greenlight.


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