Controversial Game Highlights Flaws in Steam's System

By Patricia Hernandez on at

Earth: Year 2066, a game that was greenlighted by the public on Steam earlier this year, is receiving a lot of negative attention recently because it charges £14.99 for a shoddy game that plays horribly and seems unlikely shape up down the line, despite developer promises to improve the game. Worse, the developer, "Muxwell," is being accused of stealing artwork and erasing all criticisms of the game on the Steam forums.

Jim Sterling does a great job of breaking down the issues that people have in the game above...but anyone that watches the trailer for the game, even for just a few seconds, could probably tell the game is crap:

The issue in my mind is less that there are legions of people falling prey to this game than it is that someone has the "audacity" to charge for it, and more overtly, that there is a fundamental problem with Steam Greenlight and its voting system when things like this can get through. Of course, at the same time, Valve does not seem interested in curating content—that's why the public does the curating. Valve has said that they want to do away with Greenlight before, too, and that they're interested in making it more open—so that anyone could easily sell their wares on the service.

If that ever happens, chances are that way more games like Earth: Year 2066 will make it through. I don't mean to fearmonger here, because I think a more open Steam is a good thing for small-time developers, since Steam is such a popular distribution system. The thing Valve would need to figure out in that case is perhaps not so much how to keep the inevitable crap out but rather how to make sure the worthwhile stuff gets properly highlighted, or make the stuff that's most relevant to the user visible to them. Not everyone's idea of "good game" is the same, after all—Goat Simulator, a game that isn't particularly polished, is a good example of what I'm talking about. Still, it would be good to keep some games out, but only in special cases. A system that is useful for keeping out plagiarised titles or shameless clones would also be useful. A system like this is easier said than done, though—the deal with Threes and 2048 shows us that stuff can get murky when it comes to clones, too.

Whether or not the public would be happy with a more open Steam seems to be a whole other question, too—anecdotal, but to me it seems like the thing that people enjoy about Steam the most is that it is/was so highly curated. It's quite the conundrum: people want quality games, but at the same time, much of what makes PC gaming so great is that it is a good avenue for people to make games that may not be polished in the traditional sense but are still worth playing (take, for instance, most Twine games out there). Earth: Year 2066, of course, is not one of those offbeat, messy and worthwhile games on PC—but I'm not sure I'm comfortable saying it doesn't deserve a spot on Steam, especially not when the quality of the game is immediately evident, and especially not when "shelfspace" on Steam isn't limited. What sucks right now is that not everyone can get through on Steam just yet, and so perhaps there was another more "worthwhile" title that should have been Greenlighted instead.