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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 Gamasutraís 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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Comments


Matthew Fundaun
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If it doesn't affect rankings, why is there even a 'No' option at all? At that point, it doesn't offer any possible positive contribution. It's just a one-click 'Chip away at morale and chances of for success' button.

I'm happy for ya, David, that you've finally gotten through, and I hope things improve, for you and everyone else.

David Gallant
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On the user end, "No" removes the game from the user's voting queue (same thing a Yes votes does). Let's not address the fact that the Voting Queue system is more than a little technically broken.

Thanks for the support!

Alex Jordan
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I've had Cute Things Dying Violently on Greenlight for 582 days, and can practically taste the crushing weight of uncertainty and backsliding that you describe.

Fortunately, though, you're done! If only for a little while. Good luck with the rest!

David Gallant
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I am in utter disbelief that Cute Things Dying Violently is still struggling through Greenlight! I hope that ordeal ends for you soon.

Evan Todd
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I'm shocked too. Gave you a Greenlight upvote.

Ian Morrison
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Congratulations on getting through. That process sounds absolutely nightmarish.

Brendan Bennett
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OK I'll be the hard-ass here. A 'NO' in Greenlight seems to me like nothing more than (or different to) negative feedback in QA testing.

The people aren't voting no simply because they don't like you and think you personally should go broke/schizophrenic. They're voting no because (blanketed simplification) they weighed your game against what they want Steam to be and your game came off second best, or "didn't meet the mark", or something along those lines.

You say that "I Get This Call Every Day is a niche game that looks ugly and is deliberately advertised as not being fun", well yeah, a lot of people will baulk at the thought of a non-fun ugly niche game being on Steam, and this is their way of telling you so. I'm not going to get into what I personally think Steam should/shouldn't be now, but people DO have opinions on the matter, and they should be respected.

Again (and take this with a bucket of salt as I haven't been through Greenlight), maybe you shouldn't take NO votes too personally. Everyone who has done QA (or put stuff through a solid QA program) for a while has to have thick skin and a determination to dig through the results as they are.

Otherwise, can you imagine what would happen if people could just tell QA(etc) to blow it if they didn't like the results?

Lex Luthor
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To the people complaining about Greenlight just remember: At this point you need Valve way more than Valve needs you. There are tons of GOOD developers that are ready to get your spot on the steam store.
They said they will improve it but people complain and complain.
I find it daunting that nobody was so vocal when games were picked if a valve employee thought you are ok to join Steam?
Now that steam opened up everyone feels that they have legitimate rights to a spot in the Steam store or something.

I bet you that a a niche game that looks ugly and is deliberately advertised as not being fun would not have made it EVER on steam if the previous system was in place.

So in your place I would be ecstatic and grateful that they let you in.

David Gallant
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To be fair, I wasn't a game developer when the previous system was in place. The old system sounded way less degrading, however; it wasn't a competition against other developers, at least not publicly. It might have been as obtuse (if not moreso), but I'll take the nail-biting about being in the dark over the Greenlight process any day.

Lex Luthor
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The fact that Greenlight is degrading is only in some of the dev's head.
Submiting your game and not even receiving a reply could be described as degrading as well. Or just receiving a generic reply that tells you that you are not a match with their market (see cliffski's case).

In any case I prefer Greenlight anyway and I am sure it will be improved. The fact is that it's something that is easy to get wrong and as a customer I appreciate that valve is taking it's time with it. I just hate all the whining without any constructive feedback.

There are a lot of immature ppl commenting on greenlight games and that might seem harsh. Hopefully there can be some way to police the offensive ones. I just vote yes/no and ignore the comments. But other than that I don't see why all the wining with this system that is set up by a
company to allow you to sell your product on their store.

Don't like it? Just go to other store fronts.
"But steam has the user monopoly" ppl cry while posting in their gamasutra blog...
If steam has most users for PC they might be doing something right for their customers. Nobody embeds steam in windows versions thus forcing customers on it.

David Gallant
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"Don't like it? Just go to other store fronts."

My apologies for taking this out on you, but why the fuck do folks assume that anyone focusing on getting to Steam has NOT explored other storefronts? I Get This Call Every Day has used seven different distribution solutions (currently still on five: itch.io, Humble widget, Desura, Indievania, and davidsgallant.com). If you're going to make this kind of assertion, do your fucking research first.

Lex Luthor
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I don't mind your harsh words, it's the internet after all. I still think your attitude and points made towards grenlight are way too biased.

You also only attacked one point in my whole reply making a straw-man out of it.

Maybe there should be an option when you add something to greenlight. I just want it to end after: 1 week/ 1month/ 1 year, never, no matter the result. Then green-light will be like a rejection instead off an infinite wait if that's what you prefer.

More than this, having an super-niche game then being sad that most people voted "No Thanks/Not interested" is just weird. (It's not NO, it's "No Thanks/Not Interested" if we talk about research, tho I am positive that you just wanted to amplify the negativity of it instead of accurately saying what is written on the button :) ).

If you really want to get on the steam market study the market (research again, tho I don't say f*****g). Make a zombie game for example, they seem to have a chill time on greenlight.

David Gallant
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Thanks for the sage advice, Lex Luthor.

Josh Lk
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I'd really suggest giving what he's had to say more thought as opposed to dismissing it with offhand snark.

David Gallant
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Accidentally double-posted a comment, please disregard.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutraís Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

David Gallant
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Pseudonym that is actually a famous rich person, real or fictional? Same bad spelling and tone-deaf advice? I understand that you're the same commenter as Lex Luthor; what I don't understand is why you persist under a new name.

Lex Luthor
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Sorry to dissapoint but he's not me...

BTW: criticising my bad spelling is a bit of a douche move, as well as using "fucking" to put emphasis on some words. Engligh is not my native language so yeah, I make spelling mistakes.

Nevermind...I won't bother commenting here anymore.

It seems you are somehow too pissed to take a point seriously instead off dismissing it with "tone-deaf" whatever that means.
Again I pointed out some facts that you did not disprove at all and you just resumed to chilldish ad-hominem attacks and curse words.

Ronan Leroy
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My comment is only about the paragraph about "no" votes:

I think the question above the buttons in Greenlight is important: "Would you buy this game if it were available in Steam?".

When you vote, you arenít asked if you think this game should be available on steam or not. Youíre asked if you would buy it.

There are many reasons Iíve voted "no" on many games. None of them ever was "I donít want this developper to succeed" or even "I donít want this game to be available on steam".

Josh Lk
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I think several others have voiced the sentiment, but it's clear from your tone and your replies that you're looking at this from a very different viewpoint than most of us.

'Well of course I am,' you might say. 'I'm a developer; you guys aren't.' And you're right, I'm not in your shoes.

But it's also clear that you're viewing this in a manner separate from reality. As has been pointed out, nowhere is the negative vote an outright 'NO,' let alone a 'No, and I think the developer is worthless.' It is a 'No, my money will be spent elsewhere,' and I guess I'm trying to say sorry that I want my money to go towards something that's not your game?

What's different between Greenlight and what was before, other than finality? Before, finality was a thing, which means your game probably would have had zero chance of being on steam. Before, some random unknown dude/dudette(s) used unknown means to determine if you were worthy, and if you were found lacking, end of story.

Now, it's a whole bunch of known unknowns - the masses. It is no fault of Greenlight if The Masses do not want to give you money. Nor is it necessarily a sign that you are a bad person and a failure as a gamemaker! (These things get proven out in how a developer handles his online presence and customer service.) But even if The Masses aren't interested in your admittedly niche product, you still have a chance!

How you can possibly consider this 'degrading' is beyond me. Again, I am not in your shoes, but it certainly looks to this outsider like you are twisting this in the most pessimistic way possible. People are going to vote with their wallets either way; are you going to be crushed if you get on steam but nobody buys your game, or are you going to work to make something more appealing? Or are you going to be happy that you've made your art, even if others don't see it as you do?

I'm not saying Greenlight is perfect by any means. I look forward to the day that Steam is open to all, provided Valve maintains a curated storefront to keep things from devolving into App Store nonsense. But your wordchoice ('near-monopoly,' 'degrading,' the direness you paint over no-votes) makes it clear you're not approaching this in a manner anywhere near reasonable. And the snark you're levying towards comments you'd be well-served in considering a bit more closely is somewhat disconcerting.

Pete Devlin
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Hi David

First - Thanks for being open and honest about your personal experience, it was an interesting piece.

Three things I take away from it:

1) I have a rule of never voting no, I simply opt not to vote if the game isnt the sort of thing I'm looking for. All games will inevitably have a niche audience and people will seek out the experience they want. The no button should be removed altogether.

2) Leading on from that, it has to be worth saying that if people simply aren't seeking out your game (I mean 'your' in a general sense) then perhaps a developer really needs to ask themselves if they really should be selling their game in the conventional sense. Some games are just so niche that perhaps they just need putting up on Kongregate et al, or perhaps android/ios with adverts. Cripes, enough people enjoyed the hell out of Flappy Bird so it goes to show that certain games need to find the right pitch. Just out of curiosity, in the lifespan of IGTCED what sort of thoughts on this did you have?

3) Lastly, the whole Twitter thing. If a mention on Youtube garners big spikes then is this a viable route for developers to persue. I'm curious about the relevant channels for developers to advertise their wares and research into which one's are the best. My experience is that Twitter is a huge negative timesink - I personally can't bloody stand it, whereas Youtube allows for commentary and influence that is far more useful for savvy gamers?

Pete Devlin
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I'm aware your post was more to do with the Greenlight system problems specifically so if your not that interested in my post don't worry, but anyone else who'd like to discuss please do so.


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