Sophie Houlden is an indie developer, and was among the first batch of indies to put their game on the Ouya. However, she recently pulled her game Rose and Time from the console. She lists her reasoning in this blog post, which conveniently sums up why I have no plans to ever port Another Star to Ouya.
This was originally posted elsewhere a few weeks ago, but I thought it should be copied here where it’s easier for people to find.
One of the most common questions I get about Another Star (now that it’s getting noticed) is whether or not I’m going to put it up on Steam Greenlight. The easy answer is: I don’t know.
On one hand, it’s all the more publicity for the game even if it doesn’t get through.
On the other, Steam Greenlight sucks for all the reasons I’ve previously pointed out, and I hate it.
Actually, hate is a weak work.
I despise it.
I don’t feel like coughing up $100 for “publicity” when I could put that money to better things like hosting and tools and computer parts, especially now that the bigger dogs are buying their Steam lottery tickets and grabbing that much more attention from the smaller guys.
I hate what Steam has done with the service, I hate how they treat indies while patting themselves on the back and thinking they’ve done a good job, I hate how opaque the service is after they played up how “transparent” it would be, and I hate how arbitrary their ideas are of who can and cannot use the service.
I also hate the fact that Valve—the supposed champion of indies—requires you to sign an NDA (non discolsure agreement) once you’ve been greenlit. The very idea of it irks me, in part because I hate the whole concept of an NDA for something as simple as an online storefront. Yes, I know they required an NDA prior to Greenlight, but it’s not the transparency and openness they promised when they pitched this thing.
Truth be told, I’m not sure I care that Another Star has a tiny chance of getting through. I’m not sure I care that I’m losing sales by not putting the game there. Out of principle, I simply cannot stand the very idea of submitting it. I may yet give in, but the whole thing ticks me off and I’d rather just say “screw it”.
Life would be a heck of a lot easier if I wasn’t such a stupid idealist.
On closer inspection, I may actually be making the right choice.
On that same note, can you believe it’s come to the point where it’s easier to get on to a Sony console than it is on to Steam? Wow. Way to go Valve.
This article was written in September of last year when Steam’s Greenlight service was still new. It was posted elsewhere and is being reproduced here for easy access. Edits have been made in order to make it flow better without the external context that the original had. Note that some of the criticisms here are no longer fully valid because of the changes of time, but all-in-all I still think it’s worth a read.
When Steam’s new Greenlight feature went live, I didn’t feel like posting one of my normal long-winded rants that nobody reads anyway, so for the most part I was content to let it pass without further comment. But since everybody else keeps talking about it–and because I’m ticked off at the general state of the world–I feel I have to rage on something, so I’ll throw my two cents into the ring.
Before I go any further, I think I should begin with this: Valve is not an indie developer. Valve thinks they are an indie developer. They say they are an indie developer. But they’re not. They’re a mainstream, rather well-sized development studio that owns and operates the single most successful online game store in existence. Their general argument as to why they are an indie studio usually boils down to “well, we publish our own games”, but then by that definition EA is an indie developer but, say, Jonathon Blow is not. One could argue that they started out as an indie studio, but I’d even argue against that. Founded by a couple Microsoft millionaires with plans to sell through traditional channels, I’d say they very much a mainstream start-up studio.
Why is this important to the discussion? Because Valve has a tendency to think they understand indies and, while they certainly understand them better than the vast majority of mainstream publishers and studios, they don’t have that same indie perspective. So when they first announced Greenlight, even though I thought it was a good idea on the surface, I was highly skeptical. And, I’ll be honest, the whole $100 thing is just one issue I have with the platform, but it’s what I’m going to focus the most on today. Let’s get this rant started, shall we?
I stumbled across an article by Derek Yu of Aquaria and Spelunky fame, in which he shared a surprisingly insightful grain of enlightenment:
We’ve all had that feeling about at least one game, comic book, movie, etc., that comes out: “Gee, I could do better than this! This is overrated.” But it’s important to take a step back and realize that, hey, they put in the time to finish a project and I haven’t. That’s at least one thing they might be better than me at, and it’s probably why they have the recognition I don’t! If you treat finishing like a skill, rather than simply a step in the process, you can acknowledge not only that it’s something you can get better at, but also what habits and thought processes get in your way.
I must admit, looking at it from this perspective does kind of change the way I look at other people’s projects!
There’s a freeware Civilization clone by the name of C-Evo that I’ve never been particularly interested in, but I recently chanced across their design philosophy. As a bullet point under how the game should focus itself on strategy, they note:
“The fun you’ll have playing the game without reading the manual is comparable to the fun it is to move pieces on a chessboard without knowing the rules of chess.”
I’m going to have to point out that, in my opinion, this is a pretty lousy paradigm. I learned how to play chess by actually playing the game with my father. “This is the goal of the game. These are how your pieces move. This is what you should be thinking about at this stage.” I learned as I went. I didn’t read any books on the subject until after I learned how to play, and I did so in order to understand and develop my knowledge of the game’s strategy, not to learn how to move pieces around the board.
A game should already know how to “play itself” and should be designed to help the player along in getting their feet wet, if the player so desires. I like have a nice thick manual at hand as much as the next person, but I shouldn’t have to read a textbook just to play a video game.
This afternoon I plan to give Super Smash Bros. Melee a much-deserved retirement of sorts. It’s not that it will never be played again, I just know it will never get the kind of playtime it once boasted come the morrow with the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Thus each character will get one last free-for-all, a “final KO” I suppose, before the disc is ceremonially removed.
Yes, I am too attached to my video game collection, why do you ask? XD
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Nintendo’s Fire Emblem strategy game series. When the newest entry, Radiant Dawn for the Wii came out this past Monday, I picked it up as soon as it was availible. Only, there’s a problem with it. You’re supposed to be able to carry over your completed save data from Path of Radiance for the GameCube for the full Fire Emblem experience. Unfortunantly, if there’s any “easy mode” difficulty saves on your save card, then the game crashes, locks up, and causes the Wii to freeze when trying to carry over. Go figure that ALL my completed saves are in easy mode. -_-
Hey, if I would have known you could do this a year ago, I would have saved my normal mode completions! 🙁 Still waiting on a fix…
Frustrated, I sketched a doodle or two last week to sum up how I feel about the issue:
The two characters are Ike and Sothe from the Fire Emblem games. Ike will be in the next Super Smash Bros. game.
So I’m playing Tales of Legendia, going through the character menu setting everything up for the next leg of the journey when suddenly the game exits out of the menu and Jay starts running around wildly, opening and closing the menu like a madman. “Well, that’s got to be the strangest bug I’ve seen in a long time…” Only, how would a kink in the code cause all that? I continued on as usual only to notice that the battle controls seemed a little sluggish all of a sudden and Jay had this odd desire to jump every now and then even when I wasn’t tapping up on the control pad. This was followed by another spasm after a few battles and, finally, in the middle of a battle Jay simply stopped altogether and refused to move. Looking down I noticed that the red “analog” light on the controller was out. It would blink every now and then, but otherwise it appeared to be dead.
I eventually got it to work long enough to finish up what I was doing and then find a save point, but I can’t say the news is good. As far as I’m concerned I no longer have a working PS2 controller, thus making my PS2 an expensive paperweight until I can replace it… 🙁
In a hurry to finish a page
that should have been done yesterday, I tripped over my entire PS1 collection which, ironically enough, I had specifically put there so that it would be out of the way. Suddenly, I could feel and hear the horrible sound of crunching plastic. Oh no!
I quickly set about tallying the damage. (My initial fear was that my brand new PS2 games I got here recently had been the one ruined.) Everything was okay… Except for my copy of Final Fantasy VII! While far from my favorite game in the whole world (or in the series, for that matter), it was (before today) in mint condition and the only PS1 game I ever bought new. The case had been shattered. The discs? Not of them were cracked and they’re only a little scratched, but disc two took the worst of it. I’m not sure disc two is going to make it… Later I’ll have to see if the PlayStation can even read it. A pity since PS1 games are scarce now days except on EBay. 🙁 Why couldn’t I have stepped on my PS1 Chrono Trigger port instead?
The morale of this story? Meet your deadlines, or your video game collection will get stepped on. -_-
So, I’ve been playing quite a bit of Advance Wars DS lately. Heh, talk about a game that I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of. Picked it up for $19.95 about a year ago and so far I’ve racked up about 120 hours of playtime on the thing and I still pick it up reguarly. What can I say? I must be a sucker for anime kids leading modern armies. Awesome strategy game for killing a half hour with. Wish Nintendo would get around to announcing the next game in the series…