Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to fix Steam Greenlight

Steam Greenlight needs to be fixed, with games like Incredipede not approved yet despite being a unique, fun and finished game.  I have one of my games, Sub Rosa, submitted but haven't really bothered with trying to get votes since I think the system is flawed.  Here's how to fix it:

1. Pre-order instead of thumbs up
The current system of thumbs up is meaningless, it's easy to get someone to follow a twitter link to a webpage and click thumbs up.  Instead users should commit something like $5 towards a pre-order if they want to see a game on Steam, it would make votes more meaningful and would also give a better indicator of which games will do well.

2. Allow demos that can be played in Steam
This voting system is supposedly to find the best games, but currently it rewards the best videos, descriptions and screenshots.  If developers could upload demos that could be played through Steam it would help the best games rise to the top.

3. Curate your damn website
Valve is making billions off of Steam, yet their answer to too many fake/offensive submissions is to charge indie developers $100?  How about hiring someone to actually look at the submissions?  A simpler way of solving that problem would be to require the account has purchased a game, if it's a fake/offensive submission then they lose that account.

Instead of taking the 10 or 20 games with the most votes there should be some people at Valve actually looking at the games, playing them, seeing how far they are from release.  Right now when I see 20 games have been approved through Greenlight I ignore it because I have no idea how close to release they are.  I also don't really care which developers have won the social media contest that is Greenlight currently.


Phillip Welden said...

While I certainly agree that Greenlight is broken, I think it's a little more complex than you're making it sound. Curation would work, but only to weed out the clones and stolen games, though this could become a difficult job when it comes to stolen games. Removing the $100 fee in exchange for having to use an account with a game purchased is simply lowering the fee to a dollar, or whatever the cheapest game is. I think why valve has made some of these odd choices is because they wanted it to spend wholly on the community, since you already can work with them directly to get your game on steam.

I agree that upvoting is silly, and down voting is many times more silly, but I can't think of a good replacement. I certainly agree that a demo should be s requirement, but I'm not sure if down payments would make things better or worse. Sadly I feel like many steam gamers are too lazy or careless to even play a demo. At least from my own game's statistics, demo plays seemed to have no correlation to sales.

Nathan Franck said...

I think it does a much better job than a lot of up-voting systems, in that it gives you a cue to go through, instead of showing you the most popular titles first. I guess games have to just appear very interesting and exciting from the videos.

Nathan Franck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lachlan said...

I've thought since the beginning that Greenlight was broken, but I have other reasons:

1) Democracy (Plurality, specifically) is balls. What's likely to happen is that millions of people will upvote every single zombie/slenderman/minecraft-clone game, but only a few will upvote deeper simulation or strategy games. This means that all of the "minority genres" will be neglected, and a lot of games that I'd find worthwhile won't be greenlit.

2) There are way too many concept entries. Concepts can always promise more than finished games, because they haven't actually had to deliver anything yet. This gives them a big advertising advantage. They should be forced into a separate forum.

3) There are quite a few games from high-budget studios that appear on greenlight. This is a big WTF, because why are they not on Steam already? If a company has a proven track record, why should it have to compete with low-budget indie games? This is just laziness on Valve's part

4) The greenlight website sucks, from a technical standpoint. The Genres are too few and often don't fit very well. The search is too simple (e.g. I can't exclude MMOs. I hate MMOs). I've even run across quite a few server-side issues - slow page loads, empty lists when there should be content, etc.

A common element here seems to be that Valve is actually quite lazy. This is understandable - if you join a game company that lets you be your own boss, why work on webdev when you could work on HL3?

Here are my steps to fix it:

1) Partner with Kickstarter or IndieGogo. These sites already do the whole process better, so leveraging that would be a good idea. Also, since people are actually pledging money, it's a more accurate reflection of the quality of the product

2) Ditch the "Valve Handbook" management style and actually dedicate staff to looking after Steam and the website. This should make them more proactive about the performance, stability and usability of the service.

3) "Curate your damn website". Totally with you on this one. Getting active curating would also mean that Valve can adjust the behind-the-scenes math so that less popular genres have a lower threshold for approval.

4) Flesh out the data model and requirements for submission. Allowing demos is just the start of it. Force submitters to estimate their release date, price, etc. The Greenlight page should allow structured links to interview videos, the submitter's homepage, devblogs, larger screenshot galleries, Kickstarter pages, FAQs, etc.

5) Subscribe supporters to a project's updates. Allow them to withdraw support once they realize that the overzealous concept they voted for is actually not going to be realized.

The Nate said...

I agree with you to an extent, but I do think that trying to weed out all the fake games would be a ridiculous task. There are just to many variables. The thumbs system is rather pointless, but it's unlikely many people will pay for a game that may never even come out. Demos is a great idea, and makes a lot of sense. Hopefully valve will take the communities feedback into account and change some of this.

Innatech said...

Steam/Greenlight shouldn't be run according to the Valve Handbook management style, anyway.

There should be a division between how Steam runs its developer side, where that style has proven beneficial (although I'd be nervous as their HR manager), and its distributor side (Steam/Greenlight), where it clearly needs to run more like an unsexy traditional e-commerce business with real management and quality control. e.g., more like Amazon.

Meltdown Interactive Media said...

"Democracy (Plurality, specifically) is balls. What's likely to happen is that millions of people will upvote every single zombie/slenderman/minecraft-clone game, but only a few will upvote deeper simulation or strategy games. This means that all of the "minority genres" will be neglected, and a lot of games that I'd find worthwhile won't be greenlit."

As Lachlan said, this is Greenlights biggest flaw, once again look at all the games released on Jan 15, adventure, platformer, RPG, no genre divertsity, all Greenlight is, is a democracy where the mainstream genres will always succeed and the minority genres will never see the greenlight of day.

Tom said...

Gabe Newell has stated that he wants Steam to eventually be a "network API," and that Greenlight is a temporary measure. In a few years, we might find that anyone can add their game to Steam without much hassle, but the games won't receive nearly as much promotion as they currently do.

He mentions it somewhere in these videos:

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