Why Nobody Has the Time to Make Greenlight Work

Why Nobody Has the Time to Make Greenlight Work

The theory behind Steam Greenlight is grand, but the reality of it is a handful of gems buried in a mound of garbage.

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A few more hoops seems nice, but isn't that similar to what it was before (Steam in general, not just Greenlight)?

Super automate word of mouth/boutique! Listal! Criticker! Both automatically find people with same taste then the site combines all the ratings of the people you select into one toplist recommendation list just for you. Technically all databases can work as the boutique.

There are hoops to be jumped through to get a show on TV?! I'm pretty sure if I filmed myself looking for Atlantis in my back garden for an hour and edited it out into 5 episodes (80% of which is clips from previous episodes and hype pieces for future episodes) I could get on the History channel by the end of the week.

At first, there was no barrier to entry. Greenlight was filled with obvious jokes and stolen IPs because anybody could put anything on there without consequence. The challenge then was finding actual games in a sea of Half-Life 3s. So Valve quickly got started fixing it, the only way they knew how: They raised the barrier to entry from nothing to $100. They're not even making money on that fee; it goes straight to Child's Play. It's no secret that the charge is only there to keep out the people who aren't serious.

But Yahtzee is correct, it still needs "a few more hoops". Personally, I'm thinking of a few things:

  • Higher Greenlight fee - $100 is a good token fee, but $300 to $500 might do a better job keeping out scammers, or developers who whipped something together in Game Maker in ten minutes.
  • Stricter video requirements - Currently, a Greenlight submission needs "At least 1 video showing off your game or presenting your concept". I don't think that's enough. Anyone can make a trailer in After Effects. I think Greenlight would be more effective if they required at least one minute of uncut gameplay (non-cutscene) footage. This can be IN ADDITION to a fancy trailer, but the point is it allows people to see where the game's actually at. This will help keep out the dishonest developers who aren't building something as good as they'd like voters to think.
  • Less democracy - It's great that customers can have a say in what products come to the market, but in the end it needs to be Valve who gives something the yay or nay. As it turns out, a game studio has a better idea what's good and what's not than the average sheep customer, who will vote for anything that has zombies or calls itself "survival horror".
  • Low-vote thresholds - Require a certain minimum yes votes based on how long a game has been in Greenlight. I think it would be more effective as a whole if there were fewer games for voters to dig through, and getting rid of the stuff people obviously don't want will help the cream rise to the top more easily. Allow and encourage resubmission of games that get knocked off for low votes, without charging another submission fee, but make the developers wait (maybe 2-3 months) before they can resubmit, so that they have time to improve their product and/or concept.

A new system entirely is needed, but even until then I think there's room for improvement with what's in place now. The fact that

P.S. Thanks

In terms of hoops, I think one of the simplest fixes is that any, and I mean any game has to start within the Concepts section. No additional payment, no social networking, and no amount of backing cannot get you to skip that step - All games are or were a concept at some stage, and as such I'd see it as fair that any new entrants get treated as as such.

If you want to get past that stage and into the Games section, you have to do the following:

  • release a working prototype, early alpha, or early beta of your game to the public
  • send Valve a working late beta or gold version of the game for analysis (and have it approved)
  • Pay an entrance fee between $100 and $300
  • Agree to terms that Valve will take 5-8% of revenue and has the right to withhold 50% of the remaining revenue for a period of six months (which can be forfeit if there is a contract breach)
  • After that, you're at the mercy of the members deciding if your game is fun enough or not to include on the store. After that much of an investment, you'd be insane to pull out or sink your project at this point.

    Evonisia:
    A few more hoops seems nice, but isn't that similar to what it was before (Steam in general, not just Greenlight)?

    Yeah, that last suggestion was really weird. I'm not really seeing what's the point of praising Steam for it's potential to be the "great equalizer" by being a level playing-field, yet also expect it to be more of a walled garden.

    These two are simply opposing values.

    Steam can be various degrees of open, and it can be various degrees of reliable, but these are contradictory values, it's like political ideologies' choice between personal liberty and public stability, or a manufacturer's choice between quality and quantity, or an RPG character's choice between Strenght and Charisma.

    One is the price that you pay for the other.

    When you could safely buy any random indie game from Steam, that was because Steam was still enough of a walled garden that you WEREN'T sampling from the great equalized pool of all games on a a level playing field, but from a pre-sampled elite. That's the price you were paying for reliability.

    And if now, you no longer want to buy anything at first sight but rely on fame and recommendations, well, all that means is you are still willing to pay that price, but you can't really blame Steam for also offering more games to other people who prefer less hoops than that and more openness.

    The benefit of a "curated stores inside Steam" system, is that you can make your own call about how open and equal or how walled and elite you want your Steam to be. You can buy from the most conservative lineups, or from someone who puts up any new game to his that is rumored to be "not too broken", it's all your call.

    "Screaming dolts", aka PewdiePie.

    One simple step would be to cut anything that is in 'pre-alpha' form or whatever. Unlike some I don't have a problem with early access releases on steam, but there is something to be said about getting overwhelmed by it. You could clear a lot of the clutter if you limited Greenlight to finished indy titles only, and that would hopefully help clear away scammers like that Muxwell guy.

    Greenlight should be used to promote indy games, not ideas for indy games.

    I see Yahtzee subscribes to Agent K's philosophy: "A person is smart, but people are dumb." As do I.

    Damn fine article Yahtzee. You did a good job of articulating my problems with greenlight and the anti-curation argument in general. I really think the point that "when you allow anyone to release anything, it becomes insanely difficult to actually find anything good" can't be over-stated enough, especially with the overwhelming evidence of the current state of the appstore and Google Play to support it.

    Alterego-X:
    I'm not really seeing what's the point of praising Steam for it's potential to be the "great equalizer" by being a level playing-field, yet also expect it to be more of a walled garden.

    These two are simply opposing values.

    The trick is to find a good, balanced middle ground between the two. The old way was too walled, and totally unsuited for most indie devs. The new way is too open, allowing all types of undesirable crap in. Something more walled than what we've got now, but still less than pre-Greenlight, would be perfect.

    P.S. Thanks

    Covarr:
    At first, there was no barrier to entry. Greenlight was filled with obvious jokes and stolen IPs because anybody could put anything on there without consequence. The challenge then was finding actual games in a sea of Half-Life 3s. So Valve quickly got started fixing it, the only way they knew how: They raised the barrier to entry from nothing to $100. They're not even making money on that fee; it goes straight to Child's Play. It's no secret that the charge is only there to keep out the people who aren't serious.

    But Yahtzee is correct, it still needs "a few more hoops". Personally, I'm thinking of a few things:

    • Higher Greenlight fee - $100 is a good token fee, but $300 to $500 might do a better job keeping out scammers, or developers who whipped something together in Game Maker in ten minutes.
    • Stricter video requirements - Currently, a Greenlight submission needs "At least 1 video showing off your game or presenting your concept". I don't think that's enough. Anyone can make a trailer in After Effects. I think Greenlight would be more effective if they required at least one minute of uncut gameplay (non-cutscene) footage. This can be IN ADDITION to a fancy trailer, but the point is it allows people to see where the game's actually at. This will help keep out the dishonest developers who aren't building something as good as they'd like voters to think.
    • Less democracy - It's great that customers can have a say in what products come to the market, but in the end it needs to be Valve who gives something the yay or nay. As it turns out, a game studio has a better idea what's good and what's not than the average sheep customer, who will vote for anything that has zombies or calls itself "survival horror".
    • Low-vote thresholds - Require a certain minimum yes votes based on how long a game has been in Greenlight. I think it would be more effective as a whole if there were fewer games for voters to dig through, and getting rid of the stuff people obviously don't want will help the cream rise to the top more easily. Allow and encourage resubmission of games that get knocked off for low votes, without charging another submission fee, but make the developers wait (maybe 2-3 months) before they can resubmit, so that they have time to improve their product and/or concept.

    A new system entirely is needed, but even until then I think there's room for improvement with what's in place now. The fact that

    P.S. Thanks

    I think these are exactly the recommendations I would have given, but better written. I would add RadnV80's suggestion of getting rid of pre-alpha or alpha stuff. Keep early access in its own non-finished corner, and Greenlight for finished indie games at its own corner.

    Of course, following Yahtzees idea, at some point maybe someone will hire unemployed young people to play through every game of Steam and spit out recommendations or not, and allow you to pay a subscription for their "curated" lists.

    So, instead of democracy we would basically have a republic if we went the critic route.

    That comes with its own problems too. Critics are fewer and easier to buy off. These would be like our congressmen, and we all know that they're always the epitome of of virtue. Think of who the lobbyists would usually be.

    And would that mean you're only a "legit" critic if you are found worthy enough to make Steam recommendations? Who would decide that? Numbers? Steam? The Illuminati of gaming? How and when do you lose your "vote"?

    This is all interesting to think on.

    ( As an aside from this article, I've noticed that The Escapist has been running unmuteable, unpauseable, noncloseoutable video ads on most pages as of late. This causes me to have to either turn my volume down manually like a caveman, (what nobs do?), or refresh the page until I get a quiet ad. This is rather unacceptable and I would like The Escapist to reconsider running those types of ads.)

    Covarr:

    The trick is to find a good, balanced middle ground between the two. The old way was too walled, and totally unsuited for most indie devs. The new way is too open, allowing all types of undesirable crap in. Something more walled than what we've got now, but still less than pre-Greenlight, would be perfect.

    The problem with that, is that you can never build a mechanism that accurately filters out ALL undesirable crap in advance yet lets in all great works.

    From Steam's perspective, letting all of them in, and be sorted out inside the ecosystem, by the customers' own curation forms, guarantees that if you have a conservative taste you can limit yourself to thoe games, yet if you are more adventurous, you can sample from the general offerings, and in the off chance that one of the latter turns out not to be crap after all but goes viral, then it will still happen inside their ecosystem instead of being driven outside, thus lead to growth.

    Yahtzee Croshaw:
    But the problem with this is that I still consider it fruitless to attempt to play every single indie game that's ever released anywhere, so I would in turn need to have titles recommended to me before I can recommend them on. Somewhere at the start of the chain there has to be someone playing every single game that comes out, and I just don't think that's a reasonable thing to ask of anyone. Well. Maybe it would make a good form of prison labor? Just throwing that out there.

    No. Don't be silly. What you do is team up with other reviewers. Have an entire site dedicated to reviewing games. That way, the job can be divided among dozens or even hundreds of reviewers.

    I'd just like to see games start getting pulled for out right bs tactics to get votes. Right now there are a lot of titles on greenlight going " if you vote for us on greenlight and link your account, we'll give you a free copy of the game if we do" Down right bribes.

    I think that's why you have to cut off your little finger to join the Yakuza. Just to show people you're serious. The gaming industry is pretty much the Yakuza gone planet wide.

    Yahtzee Croshaw:
    I would in turn need to have titles recommended to me before I can recommend them on. Somewhere at the start of the chain there has to be someone playing every single game that comes out, and I just don't think that's a reasonable thing to ask of anyone.

    I'm not seeing the logic on this one; why would one single person need to play every game? Surely it's enough that some people play every game, so that they can pass on recommendations to people that, if the game is decent, snowball through word of mouth into full-fledged popularity.

    Even if we're relying on reviewers, the person passing you the recommendation just needs to know your taste well enough to say "This game here is one you would like"; they don't need to have also played every other game in existence.

    One thing about Greenlight is that it gives you a great opportunity to really shine a light on some very talented people. Shrewd marketing takes a step back compared to likability. You find yourself buying games based on who worked on it and what they did before. There can be a great sense of communication. Like buying a painting off an artist on the street rather than just buying a print in a shop.

    I picked up both Prison Architect and Kerbal Space program (Both early access but shhh) based almost completely on how cool and community centered they are. Prison Architect's monthly dev videos are informative, amusing and really show you how much work these guys put into their game. The Youtube comparison is quite apt here; I pay for a subscription to their content updates and surprises. You can comment and contribute feedback and they respond. Sometimes showing off what you pointed out and name checking the user. It's Greenlight and things like that which offer a richer experience. You really feel part of the process and not just logging on and hoping for a patch.

    There is also the argument that you pay for a game, which is true. But opening those videos and seeing what goodies have been updated this time is always fun. If done well, it can really be a great opportunity for what amounts to "free" marketing. In no other industry is this kind of system available. Musicians don't release a song and ask what you think of the baseline. Or film makers release movie and ask you what you think of the dialogue. If a triple A company could wrap their head around it, they could make a fortune. Just look at Star Citizen. People queueing up to buy spaceships that have not been modelled.

    Covarr:

    But Yahtzee is correct, it still needs "a few more hoops". Personally, I'm thinking of a few things:
    [list]

  • Higher Greenlight fee - $100 is a good token fee, but $300 to $500 might do a better job keeping out scammers, or developers who whipped something together in Game Maker in ten minutes.
  • if that was the case most people in my country couldnt publish games on steam, since the government a few years ago put a retarded barrier on how much money one can spend on imports, it was 400 dollars, this year it was reduced to 300 dollars

    Covarr:

  • Stricter video requirements - Currently, a Greenlight submission needs "At least 1 video showing off your game or presenting your concept". I don't think that's enough. Anyone can make a trailer in After Effects. I think Greenlight would be more effective if they required at least one minute of uncut gameplay (non-cutscene) footage. This can be IN ADDITION to a fancy trailer, but the point is it allows people to see where the game's actually at. This will help keep out the dishonest developers who aren't building something as good as they'd like voters to think.
  • this could be nice

    Covarr:

  • Less democracy - It's great that customers can have a say in what products come to the market, but in the end it needs to be Valve who gives something the yay or nay. As it turns out, a game studio has a better idea what's good and what's not than the average sheep customer, who will vote for anything that has zombies or calls itself "survival horror".
  • i think this is kind of how it works, you could ask valve to be more picky tough

    Covarr:

  • Low-vote thresholds - Require a certain minimum yes votes based on how long a game has been in Greenlight. I think it would be more effective as a whole if there were fewer games for voters to dig through, and getting rid of the stuff people obviously don't want will help the cream rise to the top more easily. Allow and encourage resubmission of games that get knocked off for low votes, without charging another submission fee, but make the developers wait (maybe 2-3 months) before they can resubmit, so that they have time to improve their product and/or concept.
  • [/list]

    not a bad idea at all

    Personally, I think that genre-level analysts would make great first-barrier people for a lot of games (Shmups and fighters come to mind as primarily easy to quantify). That'd leave a lot left sitting in the "no major genre" pile, but it'd be a nice way to rank games against each other for recommendation.

    Certainly, a tiered approach is the only way this would work to begin with... now it's just figuring out the logistics thereof.

    I think by far the biggest problem with Greenlight is that it asks people to review games that they can't play. It's like reviewing a move based on the poster.

    Change Greenlight to only allow submission of finished games, or at least games that have reached a functional entertaining stage.

    Ban the use of any excuse post-fix (alpha, beta, pre-release etc.) in the marketing of the game on Steam.

    Give the game to 10.000 users and let them review it.

    Be sure to give the reviewers some options beyond a score or a simple approve/don't approve system. For instance a tick-box labelled "Promising, but not ready for release" would probably see a lot of use for some of those games that just ain't release-ready. Couple the review data with play statistics and it should be reasonably easy to classify the base merits and lack thereof for each game, with minimal effort from Steam staff.

    One possibility would be for the game creator to identify storefront-runners who they think would like their game, and send them review copies. It requires a bit of initiative on the part of the creators, but does mean that the storefront runners only have to consider games within their general interest areas, rather than all games coming out on Steam.

    Steve2911:
    There are hoops to be jumped through to get a show on TV?! I'm pretty sure if I filmed myself looking for Atlantis in my back garden for an hour and edited it out into 5 episodes (80% of which is clips from previous episodes and hype pieces for future episodes) I could get on the History channel by the end of the week.

    You could do that in 5 minutes, not an hour. Add in the Loch Ness Monster and Aliens all in a Taco Bell and you'll be rolling in dough.

    Er.. Why would someone need to look at every game? Every game needs to be looked at by someone(and not necessarily the same person), then they can choose to recommend it or not. That's how youtube works, also.

    The corkscrew needs to be above 100C as to cauterize the wound and prevent any infection.

    Gotta be humane about this, Yahtzee.

    One obvious and unavoidable disadvantage game markets have compared to something like youtube is that the games cost money to play. I'm no fan of free-to-play, but suppose all the games came with an optional free trial that ended after a set amount of time (either a fixed time limit or one selected by the developer). Unlike a demo, the indie developers wouldn't have to put aside extra time to make it, meaning all the games would have it, and unlike basic free-to-play games, you'd only have to pay one time, when the time limit runs out, and then it's yours.
    To prevent abuse of this option from customers, Steam would probably have to block this option from people's accounts after they've tried the game once, but it would definitely give people a way to try absolutely any Steam game before they buy it, and not just the ones that come with demos. Thoughts?

    eBusiness:
    I think by far the biggest problem with Greenlight is that it asks people to review games that they can't play. It's like reviewing a move based on the poster.

    This is the entire problem with Greenlight in a nutshell. It's nice seeing long-released good indie games like Unepic finally get released on Steam, but I've been sceptical of greenlight since the beginning because the vast majority of the "games" being voted on are concepts or unreleased early aphas, and our only information you get is a biased marketing pitch from the creators. And yet we are somehow supposed to decide whether this game is worth buying? No wonder so much crap gets onto greenlight, the system practically encourages dishonestly.

     

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