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Steam Greenlight: Developers Speak Out

September 5, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Project Zomboid is one of the big success stories of Greenlight already, gathering one of the highest rating percentages to date. Chris Simpson of The Indie Stone is wary of Greenlight's faults, but believes that the system's openness is a very good thing.

"There have definitely been teething issues -- the downvote debacle and of course all the spoof and fraudulent games," he says -- the "debacle" a reference to the fact that many devs are concerned that users can vote against as well as for games.

"And to be honest, Greenlight has been so good for us so far, that it's hard to objectively say how it fares for worthy games that have no pre-existing fan base," says Simpson. Those games which have gathered good ratings on Greenlight up to now have been those with an existing fanbase, and if you don't already have something to show, then you're going to be dead in the water.

"However, it all comes back to the fact that when you have a platform as mighty as Steam, with such a make 'em or break 'em importance to developers, having a transparent system is really the only fair way to go, so for that I applaud them," he says.

However, Simpson points out, Greenlight is only a middleman process for gaining support for your game, and all of Valve’s submission steps are still in place. "In terms of getting your game on Steam, nothing's really changed in terms of the process you need to have gone through,” he says.

Adds Simpson, "I really hope services like Desura become natural go-to sites to help foster a community around your game, as their service is very much centred around that. We'll continue supporting them as long as we can, as they have been great, and we would unlikely have made an impact on Greenlight unless it was for the wonderful people on Desura, and of course on our own lovely community forums."

It's been an arduous year and a half for the Project Zomboid team, with a wide range of ups and downs, and Simpson says that he cannot even begin to imagine utilizing Greenlight without all those months of hard graft behind them.

"Steam is the ultimate end game, not a first port of call," he says, "and there is still money to be made outside of it to get you on your feet. You're going to be disappointed if you expect 1 million Steam users to come on and upvote your game, just as you'd likely be disappointed sending the same details to Steam with the old system."

Like Simpson, The Indie Stone's Andy Hodgetts is also worried that some great and worthy titles are being hung out to dry by a system that seemingly displays games at random on its front page. "The big unknown at the moment is whether or not lack of popularity on Greenlight means that your average Steam consumer is not interested in your game, or whether it just means that the game hasn't yet had enough visibility," he notes.

He adds, however, "It's way too soon to start panicking. Collections and being able to see games which your friends have favorited are a great first step in getting a word-of-mouth infrastructure in place, and I trust Valve that the service will continue to be refined and improved as we go."

You can see a collection for yourself by checking out the one put together by the staff of Gamasutra sister site IndieGames.

Hodgetts also reasons that once a Greenlight developer has been accepted by Steam, they will no longer need to go through Greenlight in the future, as they'll simply be able to go through Valve from then on. In this way, he hopes, Greenlight will welcome a continuous stream of new developers, and therefore will be well worth a browse in the future.

Apart from having a most wonderful name, Barn Cleave is also co-founder of indie studio Niffler, which is currently looking to get retro reboot Chuck's Challenge 3D on Greenlight.

While his Greenlight experience has been good so far, he notes that the system clearly defines the difference between visibility and discoverability.

"Chuck's Challenge 3D is now visible to loads of new players who remember playing Chip's Challenge," he notes. "However, it's just luck whether they can discover the game as it's dependent on what's randomly selected on the changing front page."

However, Cleave questions why this middleman system is even necessary. "Looking at the volume of real games being submitted, I'd ask the question, why not just put all the games live on Steam?" he asks.

"Yes, 600-ish is a lot for a player to review, but it's not really that many for Steam. Let's face it, this is a month's worth of games that have been queuing for Greenlight to start, and Apple has to process more than that every day." (This is roughly true of the overall App Store, if not the games section in particular.)

Cleave also suggested that a $100 approval admin fee would be a good idea -- sentiment that numerous other developers have echoed. Valve has obviously been listening, as this exact idea has now been implemented in a bid to clear up the clutter. 

The move has divided developers. Some told us that they were happy with the fee, as it will keep the fake entries and obviously poor submissions at bay, and make finding the genuine entries far easier. 

However, a few did express concern -- developer Zayne Black noted, "The thing to remember is that $100 doesn't get you on Steam, it just puts you at the mercy of the voting public. Like if X Factor charged." A few others also noted that it wasn't very fair for those developers who simply couldn't afford $100, suggesting that better management and curation of the service would be a better option. 

"I do think it's a bit pricey," said David Johnston of Smudged Cat Games. "Just a $10 fee would stop people submitting rubbish, and $100 is a lot to some people." 

Ichiro Lambe of Dejobaan Games has put forward a rather intriguing offer following the news -- he's offering a $100 loan to one developer so that they can put their game on Greenlight, and he is calling on other people in the industry to offer similar support to other indies.

"I've actually actively not taken a stance about whether $100 is too much or too little," he admits.

"There's positives and negatives to it, right? The fee almost certainly means a higher signal-to-noise, but on the other hand, it also means that an indie without that disposable income will have a tougher time submitting." 

He adds, "On the gripping hand, it means $100 that'll go to video games that will (via Child's Play) engage the brains of kids suffering from illness. That's a good thing." 

With his $100 loan and loans from other successful industry people, he hopes to make the entry fee moot for as many developers as possible. What's incredible is that Lambe has already received offers from dozens of people who also want to give $100 away -- indies, triple-A developers, and even people outside of the game industry.

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