Greenlight has been broken for a while

Usually I tend to stay away from news that just broke, mostly because it seems so click-baity to write about it and often people are just panicking for no reason until a few days later when things are explained to them again more clearly. But this time, I just had a thought and wanted to tell it to whoever may listen.

News broke that Valve will be shutting down its Steam Greenlight system in favor or a new system called Steam Direct. With Steam Greenlight a developer had to pay an entrance fee of $100 and could then submit as many games as they wanted. From there on, the game was put into a queue with all the other games in the Greenlight system and people could up or down vote them, as well as leave comments. If a game reached the top 100 of the queue, there was a chance of your game being evaluated and Greenlit – the game was ready for release on the Steam platform. Steam Direct removes this voting process, as well as the random factor of getting picked or not. You fill out a form, you pay per game a fee and if everything is in order, you get your game onto Steam. It’s simple and “direct”, and a process one might have expected from the start.

Greenlight

Originally, Greenlight’s intention were really good, but similar to how people tend to find and use exploits in games, they also found and used exploits for Greenlight, until it became the norm and the system was left broken. The voting system for Greenlight is basically a weak form of a scheme used by drug dealers and other shady sellers: “If you can bring me X amount of buyers, you’ll get a shot for free”. The voting system was supposed to be a useful thing for both Valve and the game developers. It was supposed to be a place where you can drive attention towards your game, all the while getting it up the ranks and eventually published. But since Valve is not evil™ they didn’t force the voters to any commitment, which is where the exploitation began. Game developers soon realized that all you needed for passing Steam Greenlight was to get a lot of people to just press that “Yes” button. It doesn’t matter, whether those people actually like the game or not, they just need to be convinced somehow to press that button and optionally leave a comment.

Besides the issue of getting low-quality games onto Steam, the bigger issue for Valve is, that these boosted games won’t generate enough revenue, because even though a few hundred or thousand people said “Yes, I’d buy this game if it were on Steam”, only a very low percentage actually bought it once released. So Valve is left with your $100 and 30% of a couple of sales, but has to provide a very highly available service, fast connection, lots of bandwidth, update procedures, dealing with complaints, refunds, etc. In the long run, this will not work out for Valve, which is in my opinion why Steam Greenlight has been broken for a while and is now being shelved.

In most conversations I have read surrounding Steam Direct, the main focus has mostly been on the mentioned Dollar values. “$5000 is way too much!”, “$5k will kill small indies!”, “So expensive, I live in a 3rd country!”, you get the idea. While it certainly is true, that games of the concept mentioned above will have a hard time justifying a higher entrance fee, those are the kind of games Valve has little interest in publishing on Steam to begin with. If your game doesn’t sell, your game isn’t generating revenue for Valve to cover their costs. Since the voting system will be removed, game developers aren’t required to provide a pool of potential buyers anymore, as such Valve runs a higher risk of not getting any sales in at release. To counter balance this problem, they have to raise the entrance fee and restrict it to each game. Remember that when Steam Greenlight first came out, there wasn’t even an entrance fee, those $100 were only added after the fact, due to people just submitting anything and everything, as such it acted more like a spam-filter. The new fee, however large or small it will be, will have to pay for the actual services that Steam provides, but again Valve is not evil™ because they’ll most likely let you recoup that fee, by not taking a cut or a lower percentage cut for the first game sales. So if you are smart as a game developer, you’ll simple write that fee off as an investment, then try and bring enough buyers to the Steam platform and you gain back the invested money.

In conclusion, I find Steam Direct a lot simpler and clearer. You’re no longer at the mercy of people voting for you. Over the years I’ve voted for many Greenlight games and rarely made a purchase afterwards, as such I’m glad that this broken system is being replaced. The discovery phase and additional exposure you could get through Greenlight might take an initial hit, but I’m sure Valve will introduce a different section if it’s really missing.

Let me know what your opinions are on the topic, by either leaving a comment below or tweeting me @DarkCisum.

Ludum Dare Compo #32

Ever since 2012 when I kind of first discovered Ludum Dare, I wanted to fully participate in one of the compo, but for the past two years the dates usually clashed with some other event of mine. However in similar fashion I participated twice in the SFML Game Jam, of which the upcoming 4th as just been announced. Last weekend the timing was finally perfect and I managed to properly participate in the Ludum Dare Compo #32.

Synth Guitar

► VOTE ► Ludum Dare entry ◄ VOTE ◄
GitHub repository
Windows & Linux downloads

MenuState
The goal of the game is get from the start position to the nice looking platform as fast as possible while using sounds to open the doors inbetween. Ah and did I mention that you are some kind of a Synth Guitar?

Synth Guitar

You get points for opening doors and finishing a level, also your score decreases for every step you make and for every wrong button you press but you’ll never go below zero.

PlayState

My Setup

Although I’ve written about this already on the Ludum Dare “blog” I still like to share things here again. My workspace was essentially just my newly built PC, my rather bad but comfortable Logitech MK710 keyboard, my ROCCAT Kone XTD mouse and my two monitors. The notebook you see on the image below was used to provide a webcam stream on the second day.

Workspace

As for the software involved: The OS is obviously Windows 8.1, which I’ve been using for many years now without any issues. Since I was using C++ my choice of compiler was a no-brainer as well i.e. MinGW-w64 POSIX Dwarf2 GCC 4.9.2 (x86), but for the IDE I switched things a bit and tried the just released JetBrains CLion v1.0. Since the software is rather new and I’ve been asked by someone on Twitter, I’ll do a more detailed post just on CLion later on. One of the best features of CLion is the native integration of CMake, so instead of having some awkward project file to deal with, I can just write CMake “code” and compile it that way.

Coding wise I used – who would’ve thought – SFML for nearly everything, but also added Thor with its very nice ResourceHolder that got added just a few days ago. For my animation and level files I used JSON to write them and found this awesome header-only json library by nlohmann – it’s seriously easy to use! As starting point I used my SmallGameFramework that I still have to fix up and push to GitHub…

Moving on from basics and programming, also for the first time I’ve an older and thus free version of Aseprite for my pixel “art” and animations. First I just wanted to do some pixel images but once I noticed the animation features in Aseprite, I just had to make use of it and it was really simple. In addition to that I also used my go-to image editor PhotoFiltre 7 which is essentially nothing special but I really like the interface and it opens with a second or two, which is perfect for doing quick edits on things. Also in the image “processing” business I might mention ShareX, which is the most awesome tool ever. It allows me to take screenshots that get automatically uploaded to imgur. It’s free, goes out of my way and works reliable.

For the audio bits I used the Diatonic Composer to generate some classical sounding MIDI file. Then I fed the MIDI file into sforzando a free soundfont player while utilizing the soundfont Evanessence2. I really hope to get a slightly better setup at one point, because the generator as well as the soundfont player are rather limited. The sounds you hear for the wave forms in-game are actually generated on the spot.

And the last part is about streaming. On Saturday and on Sunday I was streaming over 12h each (see here and here) and for that I used the unbeatable Open Broadcaster Software. And since I wanted to use the webcam from my notebook, I setup a Monaserver, broadcasted the webcam feed through the LAN to my desktop PC, played it back with VLC and then captured it again with OBS. It was not pretty but it did the job even if the delay was way too high.

Conclusion

Having a somewhat finished framework ready to go really help a lot in the development since I could immediately jump in and didn’t have to bother with a lot of the boilerplate code. I really hope to get this small framework a bit expanded so things will end up even easier and less hack-ish to code, because while writing a framework you can take your time to design things properly, I did not have that time during the Compo which ended up in a lot of code repetition.

While nobody will watch someone code or sit around for hours on end, I still like to stream stuff, because it kind of forces me to keep working on it and not start some video game or randomly browse the internet. In addition to that it gives some nice conversations from time to time and you feel less as a solo developer. I just hope to get a better solution for the webcam, since I feel webcams make streams a lot more interesting.

It took a lot of time, but in the end it was really nice to have something finished and ready to be voted on.