Steam To Speed Up Greenlight, Papers Please Makes Cut

By Nathan Grayson on May 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 am.

Not so long ago, Gabe Newell sounded like he was dead-set on killing off Steam Greenlight, but still the rather obtuse game selection process persists. If nothing else, though, at least it’s not treading water. Say so long to a sludgy trickle of monthly additions, as Valve’s paving the way for a rapid-transit highway straight to the heart of the Greenlight system. From now on, it’ll greenlight more titles faster, but in smaller batches. And the first to benefit? How about surging (and completely marvelous) communist document thriller Papers, Please? Or, if that’s for some insane reason not to your liking, there’s also Edge of Space and ambitious, otherworldly action-RPG Venetica, in which you play as the daughter of Death Incarnate. Innnnnteresting.

Oh, also, there’s a new piece of game development software called Substance Designer 3, but that’s generally less exciting than communism.

Anyway, the rationale behind Valve’s decision goes a little something like this:

“We have decided to Greenlight a smaller batch this time, so we can move more quickly. There are lots of titles getting attention, so we are likely to continue Greenlighting titles in this quicker, but smaller batch fashion.”

The minotaur to Steam’s labyrinth/occasional game developer also noted that the selection process is still the same. Also, it reiterated a point that many still haven’t fully grasped due to less-than-obvious communication: Greenlight votes aren’t the be-all, end-all of game selection. “Votes in Greenlight give us a hugely valuable point of data in gauging community interest along with external factors such as press reviews, crowd-funding successes, performance on other platforms, and awards and contests to help form a more complete picture of community interest in each title,” Valve explained.

So then, Greenlight is continuing to evolve slowly and methodically, as is its paradoxically un-actual-green-light-like way. The system’s been propelling some fairly excellent games up to the top, too, but its colossal claw remains rather creaky and slow to take note of a fast-moving indie scene skittering around right under its nose. In all honesty, Papers, Please is basically an example of the optimal Greenlight Cinderella story: A game somehow garners widespread fame pre-release, and that makes it a shoe-in for Steam. Then, on day one, it launches everywhere and takes over the world for the glory of the mother country.

Unfortunately, Cinderella found herself enshrined in the hallowed halls of storytelling history because she was special – the exception, not the rule. Same with games like Papers, Please, leaving other (sometimes equally deserving) hopefuls out in the cold. And while it’s entirely possible to be successful on PC sans Steam, it’s orders of magnitude more difficult. So fingers crossed that Valve either molds Greenlight until its a sleek, speedy game discovering machine or pulls the plug and starts from scratch. And here’s hoping that doesn’t take too terribly long, but then, this is Valve we’re talking about. Better late than never.

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46 Comments »

  1. Thermal Ions says:

    That reminds me I must install that Papers Please download that’s sitting on my desktop, and actually try it out.

    • Lev Astov says:

      I just tried mine last night and it was really worth it. I played through the beta twice to try to improve my throughput and earning. It’s a surprisingly engaging game.

      • Continuity says:

        I can’t help but wonder where he is going to take the game beyond the beta though, I mean there are only so many things you can do in the world of border control right?

  2. kyynis says:

    I found it amusingly ironic that this game didn’t get stuck in Greenlight limbo…

    “COBRASTAN ISN’T A REAL PUBLISHER, ENTRY DENIED”

    • drvoke says:

      But if they use one of their two free citations to let it in, they don’t have to keep running into it over and over again wasting their time every day.. on Greenlight.

      • Lev Astov says:

        I really want to see that guy get his act together and pass through legally. I’m gonna wait for it.

        • belgand says:

          Odd. I just want to arrest him and watch contentedly as he receives his free vicious beating by government thugs.

          It’s rather annoying that once they give you the ability to arrest violators they still won’t let you arrest all of them.

        • Geen says:

          I freaking love that happy, insane man, who may be a time traveler given that his Cobrastan passport dates to 2013. I’d let him through, but then I wouldn’t get to see all his shenanigans!

      • belgand says:

        I find it interesting that you’ve chosen to view the un-fined citations as free and a resource. It seems like a very gamist way of playing to view them as a valid option and not something I would have thought of on my own. I tend to feel bad whenever I get one, even if I don’t get fined for it. It’s a mark a shame and an indication that I’ve failed in my duties.

        • Eagle0600 says:

          Most of the time, I don’t consider them a resource. But sometimes, such as when the woman couldn’t follow her husband into the country, I see a valid use for them.

  3. trjp says:

    Have they mentioned anything re: their earlier statements on Greenlight being the ONLY way to get on Steam and yet games which didn’t go through Greenlight still keep appearing

    e.g. have they admitted they’re just fucking people around or is it still their claim that they’re not?

    • BobbyDylan says:

      I would imaging that publishing houses that already have distribution agreements in place with steam are excempt from the process.

    • AngoraFish says:

      After actually reading the article, I weirdly discover that “Votes in Greenlight give us a hugely valuable point of data in gauging community interest along with external factors such as press reviews, crowd-funding successes, performance on other platforms, and awards and contests to help form a more complete picture of community interest in each title,” Valve explained.

    • FF56 says:

      New games from New developers need to go through Greenlight, new games from Developers already inside Steam don’t need to. That’s been the case since the beginning.

      • Kaira- says:

        Except that’s wrong. Soldak Entertainment’s Drox Operative is on Greenlight right now, whereas their earlier game Depths of Peril is already on Steam.

        • FF56 says:

          Developers can still go through Greenlight even if they don’t have to. Like the guys working on Frozen Endzone, they decided to go through Greenlight just to generate some interest/get some feedback even though they didn’t need to.

          Although I’m sure Valve still has the last word and can certainly tell a Developer already inside Steam to go through Greenlight for their next game.

          • Convolvulus says:

            You’re arguing that developers already on Steam never have to send their games to Greenlight, except when they have to send their games to Greenlight?

            Wadjet Eye Games has nine relatively successful titles on Steam, and according to the company’s founder they still don’t get a free pass. I think the Valve policy you’re citing is a rumor that became a “fact” because people kept repeating it.

          • The Random One says:

            The Wadjet Eye newsletter that explained that suggested that Valve did that to promote Greenlight, just like they asked some devs to add their pre-order TF2 bonuses to the Workshop, except this time they might fuck over tiny devs (or gave them the impression that they might get fucked over).

      • frymaster says:

        Valve are still open to games from new developers that don’t come from Greenlight. There was an article in RPS Sunday Papers about this – the developer didn’t GET accepted, but the reply was “sorry, we don’t personally think this will work, but you can still try Greenlight”

        In other words, it did NOT say “Greenlight is the only way”

        • trjp says:

          Their submission page says that in as many words ;)

          As for publishers having another route – erm, Fez then…

  4. frightlever says:

    So Ventica is a three year old action RPG that got what could charitably be called “middling” reviews. And it’s on Greenlight but something like The Sea Will Claim Everything is still waiting.

  5. sabasNL says:

    Papers, Please is such a marble of an indie game for me. Original, inspiring, and actually fun and challenging. The maker deserves it absolutely.

  6. Ninja Dodo says:

    Not sure what the point is of complaining one game isn’t getting greenlit while another is. That’s like complaining a game isn’t selling enough. It’s either getting enough support or it isn’t.

    There are plenty of games I’d like to see greenlit that haven’t been (yet), and several that I don’t care about which have, but I’m not going to begrudge those that do get through their success. Clearly somebody wanted them on Steam.

    • frightlever says:

      Whereas complaining about people complaining is an act of charity that would make the sainted Mother Theresa herself beam down on you from on high.

      • Ninja Dodo says:

        Sharing is caring.

        No illusions I’m going to change any minds but it just looks really petty. Like “My awesome game / game I am a fan of is not greenlit, yet this piece of crap – insert subjectively ‘bad’ game – gets through. Greenlight is broken!”.

        Energy better spent making constructive suggestions to improve the system or whatever it turns into (or is replaced with)…. If previous efforts are any indication whatever Valve does with an open store front will likely be heavily influenced by what they learn from Greenlight.

        I think at worst it’s a place to get feedback on a game, at best it’s a flawed path onto Steam that still seems a lot better than what they had previously.

        A bottleneck certainly, but at least it’s somewhat transparent.

        • Caiman says:

          Yes, but the trouble is the audience that votes consistently on Greenlight isn’t necessarily a balanced audience, and I doubt representative of “Steam users”. Note the bias towards the cool and the hip, and the bias against the art-house and the experimental. Papers, Please would seem to be the exception to the rule (I must admit I thought that would languish in Greenlight hell forever) and it’s recent publicity no doubt helped it. Heaven forbid if you’re a hidden object game (check the comments out on those!) or a game aimed at kids. The Greenlight cops won’t let you pass.

          • Ninja Dodo says:

            That (the makeup of the voting public) is the big question mark and possibly the greatest flaw of the system, though based on what’s being greenlit I would question the idea that the taste of Greenlight voters is significantly different from the taste of the average Steam user. I can’t really see a hidden object game doing well on Steam even if it were to somehow get through.

          • Shooop says:

            No one should allow a hidden object game to be made again. Ever.

          • The Random One says:

            I try to upvote every hidden object game I come across.

            But I often can’t see any.

        • Shuck says:

          Problem is, it’s not at all transparent. There’s more information in that announcement than we previously had, and they admit that the votes aren’t the only (or even major, necessarily) criteria for getting Greenlit. Ultimately games pass through Greenlight based on Valve’s whim. So asking why one game has been accepted and another hasn’t is valid.

    • Erinduck says:

      The fact that Greenlight is based on how many votes somebody gets instead of a retention rate is kinda ridiculous on its own.

  7. Michael Fogg says:

    Papers Please is beautiful and a slamming example that Games Are Muthafuckin Art.

    But if I had one criticism of the current beta to make, it would be this: it appeared strange to me that there was always a crowd of people in line to get to (the glorious) Artztotzka, despite the fact there apparently was an epidemic of the bubonic plague raging in that country. How otherwise can you explain that the main charachter lost his child, his wife, his uncle and his mother in law to illness in the span of one week. Now I get what the dev was trying to accomplish here: to show the player they have a personal stake in being a well oiled cog in the bureaucratic machine. But the way it is accomplished in the current version is so exaggerated it’s actually rather silly.

    Also, paying the rent. In a communist country. Where housing is generally state-owned. And the main charachter is being assigned an appartment as a state functionary. Immersion fail there.

    • lordcooper says:

      Nobody got ill during my playthrough.

    • Shooop says:

      Also, paying the rent. In a communist country. Where housing is generally state-owned.

      Welcome to the reality of communism!

    • tyren says:

      The sickness thing seems random. I only had one family member get sick, once, during my playthrough.

    • The Random One says:

      I was under the impression that you only got a family member sick if you neglected to pay for heat.

  8. strangeloup says:

    Edge of Space should get some good sales on Steam, seeing as Terraria was all of the popular and as far as I can tell it’s more or less a sci-fi version of the same thing.

    Bit puzzled by the inclusion of Venetica though. I got a promo copy on the 360 for less than a tenner and it was just astonishingly bad in pretty much every respect. Given that it’s 2 1/2 years old already (or so) and there’s any number of far better games in the actiony RPG genre already on Steam, it seems an odd choice unless by some strange series of events it’s become a cult classic.

  9. iridescence says:

    I honestly don’t understand why they need this kind of system or what real value it serves. Obviously there are some games that are total dross but GamersGate seems to be able to weed most of those out with a much smaller staff and without Greenlight and Greenlight didn’t stop junk like “The War Z” from getting on Steam. Scammers can always find a bunch of suckers to vote for them. One of the big advantages of a digital storefront is being able to stock a huge number of niche products because of no need for shelf space. Look at the success of Amazon.

    I don’t see the benefit of Greenlight to anyone including Steam itself. Well I guess there is a benefit to the games that get buzz when they get greenlit but doesn’t Steam lose a lot of potential sales by keeping a lot of good games off their service?

    • tyren says:

      I think Greenlight would be better if they’d stuck to their initial statement that “you can submit games to both our regular approval process AND Greenlight” rather than scrapping their old approval process entirely and saying “unless you have a preexisting relationship with us, all games must be greenlit.” The whole point of Greenlight (I thought) was to have an avenue for popular games that slipped between the cracks of the old approval process to find their way onto Steam.

  10. The Random One says:

    Every time Valve tries to explain Greenlight they end up confusing the matter even further. If someone ever wants to reboot Lost they should talk to them.

  11. OddsAgainst says:

    Hang on, I’ve heard this before from Valve. Smaller content, more frequency… Almost sounds episodic… Half Life 3 confirmed?