About six months ago I was driving home, and working with an indie developer, I saw first hand what bad reviews could do to the psyche of a individual.
As the developer lay sick in the hospital I was furious, as the title he was working on got a flood of negative reviews just for missing one patch posted on the timeline roadmap.
The video starts with the background of my involvement in AAA studio development, and the progression into an indie developer myself.
I moved on to the Greenlight program (now Steam Direct), and how some developers are pushing out games with little to no original content, using engines with free assets, spending a few hours writing basic code, and for one hundred dollars get the game on steam. Some of these games are very convincing, and with the help of the free assets are very deceiving to an impulse buyer.
Sadly some of these titles never get finished, and honestly I don’t think the developer ever intended on finishing them. It was, and still is, a scam on buyers to spend money on a game that will never see another update.
What this has done is create a very toxic culture on Steam, where buyers are quick to buy a game, play for thirty minutes or less and refund the game.
The root of this problem is Steam has a very limited policy on refunds, and has created an almost poisonous name to indie games, as many buyers will not even purchase an early access title anymore; and I don’t blame them.
But its what happens next that really hit the hardest.
There are legitimate games in the same program for Steam that have been in development for years, and do use free asset store resources as placeholders until funds can be generated to hire staff to create original content during the lifecycle of an indie early access project. The effect of this has been devastating to many games. Why? Because if the game wont load, crashes on startup, has any issue within thirty minutes the buyer is quick to refund the game (but do you blame them?).
So the video starts with some background, sounds like a slam on Early Access, but its really about the process of what goes into developing a game, on a limited budget, and not having a AAA studio of testers to vet out every issue possible in a game (its rare).
It also touches on the fact what a bad review can do to the developer, not only financially, but mentally as many of the reviews themselves are the cause of the abandonware. The developer just says WTF I don’t need this anymore, and quits. I know I would.
In Summery I put a few suggestions Id like to see Steam do.
- Steam needs to change the refund policy on early access games. Give the customer more time to play and see the game in its full content before blocking the refund.
- If a customer refunds a game stop intentionally trashing the developer with a negative review and thirty minutes of playtime. Just refund and move on.
- Steam should add a Thumbs up Thumbs down AND A “INFORMATIONAL”. Curators have this option why not allow the customer?