Unlike some, I think Greenlight could be a very good thing for Steam, indies and players, based on the concept “on paper.” However, These past days I’ve been thinking about what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing. I was going to post this during the weekend but a few things have happened these days, including the $100 fee per game.
Obviously, Enola is on Steam Greenlight.
Ok, first, and this is a very (very) personal thing, but where’s the Horror games category in Greenlight? I had to list Enola as an “adventure” title while it’s a horror game. Now that I’ve gotten the obvious stuff out of the way…
The “down vote” thing has to go. Seriously, if a game doesn’t interest me, I can simply move on to the next game, as easy as that. But what stops people from down voting a game just because they felt like it, because they dislike the developer, they dislike the content, and such? If that was my case, I’d down vote most shooters and even some highly expected games (that I won’t mention) because I don’t find them interesting. However, reality is that I’d simply ignore them and move on to the next item.
But there are those who will down vote anything for whatever reason.
And I am not assuming that may happen, because I’ve seen such things happen. I’ve seen people poorly rating stuff just because it was made by someone they hate, and I’ve seen people giving low rates to stuff just because it was made by someone that a friend of them hates, even if the actual down voters have never met the author (gotta love solidarity).
Number two: I may have not read enough (ok I admit it, I haven’t read enough) but what the blazes does the “calculated ratings so far” thing mean? What happens when you reach 100% (if ever). And the last question, why is that percentage important?
So far you’re allowed to link to Youtube videos and post screenshots (and write a description, obviously). Today I watched a video from a game called The Splatters, and I had no idea what I watched. The video didn’t make sense to me, gameplay-wise, so I didn’t know if I’d find the game fun or not (the developer already knows I said that, by the way). Why do I even care to mention that? Because sometimes watching videos and screenshots is not enough, and sometimes people have to “experience” the game.
Unfortunately, Steam won’t let you link to binaries of your games (ok, they just “discourage” you). Maybe you have a demo version of the game, or a prototype, but you can’t put a download link on your game profile because “it’s unsafe.” I know you can put a (non-clickable) URL and say “go here for more info” and then put the demo on that page, but I’m about making things easy to users, and to me offering a direct link is better than sending them to a page and telling them to look for the “download” button.
If it takes me more than 2-3 clicks to do something, there’s a problem. If it takes me more than 3 clicks to download someone’s demo/test build, I wont do it because I’m lazy (and I’m sure I’m not the only lazy person out there).
I have read all the comments posted on the page, and answer pretty much all of the questions. Since I haven’t had the chance to visit and rate other games, I don’t know if I’ll get notified when the developer posts a comment (hoping the comment was an answer to a question I had posted). Anyway, I think it would be cool to have some sort of “FAQ” area where users can post questions and the developer answers. Then those questions could be listed as some sort of “Questions” area under the main description.
Likewise, it would be cool to have a “features” section like in IndieDB, where you can write “blog posts” to share updates and developments. If just update the description every time we have something new to say, we will either have a very long description, or we will have to choose to cut the important stuff in favor of the more important stuff.
Why is this important? Because I like to read what others have to say because it helps me see if I’m making a good game, or of my brilliant idea was not exactly that brilliant.
Another thing: I’m wondering if there’s like a list of guidelines developers should follow? For example, if I kickstart Enola, is it ok to talk about that on my Greenlight page, or will they ask me to remove such mentions because “I am cannibalizing possible sales”? Can we even mention that our games are being alpha-funded somewhere else, or would that be considered some sort of “linking to competing sites” thing? After all, we are NOT selling the game on Steam, we’re just showing it to people for Steam consideration.
Finding games on Greenlight is hard, and engaging the community is harder. If I post updates on Greenlight (which basically consist on adding screenshots or changing the description), are users informed? Are there ways to gain more traction after your initial debut? Again, on IndieDB I can keep the community engaged by posting updates, features, developer blogs and such. Right now Steam Greenlights feels more like a “fire and forget” thing, where the important part is the first impression.
Valve announced the $100 fee today. I can’t say it’s a bad thing if it will stop spammers. But I can’t say it’s a good thing either if it becomes a barrier. Of course, there are those who think that for a “legitimate” developer, $100 are not a barrier, but I missed the part where having $100 means you’re a “legitimate” developer that can make a “Steam-worthy” game (and kinda reminds that being elitist is sometimes part of the “indie way”).
Note: I would like to remind you that I don’t consider myself a real game developer because I’m more interested on storytelling than coding stuff.
So, as I was saying, the fee could be a good thing if it stops people from posting crap on Greenlight (and by crap I mean fake games, cyber-bullying, pornographic or defamatory content, pretty much things posted just to piss people off). However, if the Apple App Store has taught me anything is that a fee will not stop people from posting stuff just for the lulz (remember the fart apps?). However, there’s a difference (of only very small) between a fart app and a fake “gay simulator” game on Greenlight.
So the question is, do you really think that the user with the chick-magnet handle “whoompa-one” (Kevin Smith fan here) will not post a “gay simulator” project because he has to pay $100? After all, people will money will waste it on the stupidest things, like paying a $100 fee to post a fake project on Steam Greenlight or spending 1M bucks to throw a party “because they can” (on a side note, if you have so much money you don’t know what to do with it, I hear research for AIDS cure can always use some money).
However, as I was saying, it can also be a bad thing, because it can prevent some people from posting their games on Greenlight (and yes, I’m aware that some dudes are offering to pay those $100 for those that can’t afford that, but that’s a discussion I’m not interested on having). Those “legitimate developers” have already voiced their thoughts, but just because you’ve “earned” your place doesn’t mean you can speak for everyone, and it seems they can’t hear the players say they will only buy games on Steam over the sound of how awesome they are.
Everyone (who is not awesome, pun intended) knows that “if you build it, they will come” is not the rule, is the exception.
So the point is, there are ways to get those $100 but for some it will be more difficult, and I even know a few developers that struggle to get their licenses, and pay for bills/expenses and such (did I ever tell you one of the reasons I work with UDK is because I only had to pay like $90 instead of $1500 for Unity Pro? Besides I suck at coding).
And there’s also the fact that you’re paying to put your game on Steam Greenlight, not the Steam Store. To me there’s no difference (other than user base and near-monopoly) between posting on Greenlight and IndieDB (features aside), so why should one be a paid service and the other a free service? but I think certain users are more mature than others (I don’t remember seeing the “gay simulator” on IndieDB).
If you ask me, I don’t see the point on the fee, but if they keep it, I understand children need to play and all, but I think money can be used for more useful things…