(Screenshot taken by Joshua Fitzgerald)
The game development company Valve, responsible for the creation of the very popular, critically acclaimed Half-Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead games, which are very well scripted and coded, is also indirectly responsible for the creation of a number of other less well-known games. These games, described as “school projects” and “garbage” by their detractors, are not directly created by Valve; but Valve encouraged their existence when it created the controversial Greenlight process on its Steam software shop.
Steam Greenlight is Valve’s “brilliant” way to solve a small problem it had when Steam became popular- it was becoming too difficult for the Steam team to approve titles one by one. Therefore, they decided that anyone, for a one-time fee of $99, could post a game video, screenshots, and description on a special part of their store. Users of Steam would vote on the game, and if it were approved, the creator would begin negotiations with Valve to actually release their game.
The result was… interesting.
Hoping for the chance to create a popular game with little work, dozens of extremely low-quality concepts were proposed on an equal footing with a few good ones. Microsoft Paint appeared to be the artistic software of choice, and unrealistic physics, extremely outdated 3D graphics, and other terrible problems were very common. While most of these games were caught and torn apart mercilessly by commenters, a few managed to make it on Steam along with the high-quality games- games such as the infamous Air Control, an extremely glitch-prone flight simulator that was nearly unplayable.
Sadly, this state of affairs continues. Games are posted every day, and most of them are intrinsically flawed.
On the other hand, however, one has to feel even sorrier for the developers. Many of the creators of the games posted on Steam Greenlight are creating the games completely alone, and have devoted much of their spare time to creating graphics, code, and plot alike. Many developers lack rudimentary art skills- leading to games which have good concepts, but terrible design. As a developer with no artistic ability of a couple of Greenlight concept games, I can realistically say that the environment is toxic for people who do not have the ability to create photo-realistic environments.
Still, it is not a terrible idea to look at Greenlight if you are a developer. If you can stand the biting criticism and have $99 (which is a one-time fee, so you can post as many games as you want after paying), it can provide you with a realistic look at your shortcomings when creating pieces of software. It is also, I can safely say, a source of comedy gold.
The Greenlight section of Steam is at greenlight.steampowered.com.
Article written by Joshua Fitzgerald.