Even though Valve seems pretty indie-friendly, actually getting your game onto Steam can be a mysterious, arcane process. If you look around, you’ll find a lot of horror stories from indie devs about how they were repeatedly rejected from Steam and never really told why. It is a complete mystery why infamously bad and critically-destroyed games like Revelations 2012 and The War Z made it onto Steam, yet rather well-received titles like Unepic and all the stuff by Puppy Games had to struggle to get their chance.
Steam Greenlight is Valve’s attempt to rectify this by giving the customers a voice. Unfortunately, Greenlight has had its share of bumps along the way, and still isn’t really where many of us hoped it would be. The first few days saw the service flooded with joke submissions, forcing Valve to add a $100 fee to the submission requirements. Even with the fee, I’ve personally seen some shady games get listed. I remember one awful-looking Chinese MMO that shamelessly stole art assets and character designs from a number of popular animes. The devs didn’t even try to hide their blatant copyright infringement, and it took Valve a solid week to remove the game from Greenlight.
Like all things related to Valve, Greenlight also has a real lack of transparency. The average Steam user can’t really see stats on Greenlight, such as how many votes a game has, how many it needs, etc., giving some people the feeling that their votes don’t really matter. When it first launched, each game’s Greenlight page had a progress bar. However, the progress bar didn’t really tell you anything, and Valve eventually got rid of it. As far as I can tell, only Valve and the person who submitted a game can actually tell how a game is doing on Greenlight.
Even when games get through Greenlight, there is still controversy. The game Towns is still in alpha, yet as soon as it made it through Greenlight the developers released it on Steam. The Steam page for Towns doesn’t make it clear that the game is still very much in development, which led to angry customers who bought the game and realized it is still buggy and full of unfinished mechanics. “Paid Alphas” are popular on Desura and some other indie sites, but Steam users expect the games they buy to be finished. The new Early Access section provides a place for customers to buy paid alphas at a discounted price, but Towns isn’t under this category.
Despite the four paragraphs of criticism, things aren’t all bad about Greenlight. Quite a few genuinely good and critically-acclaimed games have been given their chance to shine on Steam because of Greenlight. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, Forge, and Kentucky Route Zero are just a few such examples.
I think one of the biggest obstacles preventing people from using Greenlight more is just how overwhelming it all is. At the time of writing, there are 1,192 games on Greenlight. That is a lot to sift through, especially when many of them are…less than good, to put it kindly. That’s why I’m writing this article. Despite all the muck, there are a lot of very promising titles sitting in Greenlight Limbo that could use an up-vote. If any of these games look interesting to you, remember to give them a thumbs-up and maybe even leave a comment for the devs. Many of the developers of these games are open to ideas and criticism, and can often be seen interacting with users in the comments section. So, enough of this overly-long intro, let’s look at some games:
Rekoil by Plastic Piranha
At first glance, Rekoil may look like yet another fairly generic modern military shooter. However, upon closer inspection, one will find that Rekoil is actually a more old-school, skill-focused shooter that caters heavily to the modding community and eSports scene. Rekoil is a shooter that has stripped away many of the more common tropes and mechanics of modern military shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. It isn’t focused on progression systems, unlocks, and kill-streak superpowers.
Rekoil is designed from the ground up to be a competitive, balanced shooter. Mod tools will be available from day one, and the modding community has the developer’s full support. For the eSports scene, Plastic Piranha will be implementing fully-featured replays, a spectator mode, and even LAN support on top of the game’s highly customizable dedicated servers.
99 Levels to Hell by Zaxis Games and B-evil
99 Levels to Hell is an action-platformer roguelike along the lines of Spelunky that came out back in February. If you want to know more about it, you can check out my review here. The basic idea is that you fight your way through 100 increasingly tough, monster-filled levels with bosses every 10 stages. Along the way you’ll pick up all sorts of weapons, power-ups, and spells. The roguelike elements come in the form of permadeath and semi-randomized level layouts and item drops. The game is already on sale at places like Desura and GOG.com, but getting a Steam release could really help out this obscure little gem.
Cradle by Flying Cafe for Semianimals
Cradle is a rather odd-looking yet gorgeous point-and-click adventure that was announced quite a while back. I don’t usually like the genre, but something about this particular title has really grabbed my attention. The player is dropped into a yurt in the middle of the Mongolian hills without any company except for a malfunctioning mechanical girl. The player needs to restore the robot girl’s functions, and also uncover the secrets behind an abandoned amusement park not far from their yurt. The way the player interacts with objects in the environment looks quite interesting, and the game promises multiple endings to its rather mysterious story.
Driftmoon by Instant Kingdom
Driftmoon is yet another game that came out back in February, and like 99 Levels to Hell, was also reviewed here on Gameverse. Driftmoon is a bit of a hybrid, featuring the combat of an isometric RPG and the sort of puzzles one would expect from a traditional point-and-click adventure. The game also doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as many RPGs out there. While the game itself isn’t exactly long (For the genre, anyway) it does feature full mod support and apparently has a fairly healthy little community creating new content for the game. The game can already be purchased on GOG.com, Desura, and GamersGate, but once again a Steam release could bring in both more sales and new mods from the Steam community.
GoD Factory: Wingmen by Nine Dots Studio
Finally, I’m going to wrap things up by mentioning GoD Factory: Wingmen, a DOTA-like 4v4 space combat game. The core gameplay involves players trying to destroy the other team’s big carrier ship. The carrier ships also fire at both each other and enemy players, so the game is specifically designed in such a way that matches can’t drag on past around 30 minutes. Spaceships are fully customizable, allowing you to switch out weapons and parts between missions. There are also four distinct races to choose from, with each offering unique special abilities and combat philosophies. The game is strictly multiplayer at this point but, depending on how well Wingmen does, the developers have plans to expand the game with single player campaigns. Oh, and they are shooting for Oculus Rift support at some point.