One thing I’ve always loved about the indie-scene is that it embraces the type of game that would never appear on more established and risk averse platforms. If it’s not a growly angst-ridden young man able to front a franchise full of games, the AAA publishers usually aren’t interested in gambling money on it.

It was a shame really. The console market hardly ever saw interesting games, and the PC market was only slightly better. Those people who liked the “indie-game-scene” were all seen as pretentious twits from the games-are-art camp… which is entirely not the case as you can see from how deliciously stupid many great indie games are.

More recently, however, publishers and distribution platforms have begun to realise that people actually like some variation in their games are are thus loosening their requirements. Sony have been making huge steps in welcoming indies to their machines, with Microsoft nipping (slightly ineptly) at their heels. Nintendo is hardly worth a mention because they’re idiots (Link, Mario and Donkey Kong are the only video game characters which have ever existed right?)

At the forefront, though, came Steam. They forged ahead in bringing otherwise obscure games to a larger – if still primarily PC based – audience. Now, ever keen to keep their title as the best PC game distributor in the face of increasing competition, Steam have introduced the Greenlight system.

Although this is hardly new, having been about since the summer of 2012, more and more games are getting through the system. Greenlit games now have a reasonably sturdy presence on the platform, coupling this with the newly minted Early Access system and the platform has becoming more accessible than ever before!

This is good. This is also bad. I had a quick look through the backlog of the games successfully Greenlit and found some absolute doozies: Hexcells, Rogue Legacy, Papers, Please, The Yawhg all of these have scored seven or above when reviewed in this site. Also, without Steam – or at the very least Steam’s trailblazing – these games may never have been accessible, or even possible. Big thumbs up there Steam. You’re a good’un.

...irony!

…irony!

But – and this is a big but with soggy controls, terrible graphics and microtransations – if you open the door for more visitors some of those visitors will inevitably trail in dog poo, smell a bit weird and have some really unpleasant opinions.

Even through the reasonably strict Greenlight system, which relies on community support, we’ve seen things like the abysmal Guise of the Wolf and Dark Shadows: Army of Evil. Factor in the what seems to be entirely unmoderated early access scheme, which provides such gems as Warhammer 40K: Storm of Vengeance and there’s now a whole lot of shite threatening to obscure the excellence that used to dominate Steam.

As a quick aside, if you want to find out more about some of these games without actually giving them any money, then check out Jim Sterling’s Squirty Play series on YouTube as he’s become quite the connoisseur of crap recently. Although he does sometimes play some good games to serve as palate cleansers for the awfulness.

So does this mean that Steam is completely screwing up? Well… sort of.

It seems the platform has been so keen to stay ahead of its competitors that it’s tried to turn itself into an app store with largely no checks other than having a larger publisher or community give the go ahead – and we know how trustworthy both those groups can be. They’ve turned their platform into the Wild West, which means punters will have to protect their pockets from the occasional bandits. But it also means that many, many more people will be able to get their games to a massive audience. Valve isn’t particularly happy with the way it’s working, but it’ll take time to fix. Just don’t trust the games to be good right now.

I always want to make mention of a site called itch.io which is a wonderful place if you want to find good indie games. Either allowing devs to set their own price or using a “name your price” model and, as far as I’m aware, allowing the developers to take the vast majority of the money paid to them. So if Steam ever starts to get you down, head on over and have a look around… or GoG, or Desura, or whatever, but I’m rocking itch.io right now. Long story short, there are alternatives!

About The Author

Contributor

Ben is pretty damned nerdy. If he isn't playing video games, then he's probably rolling some dice to hit goblins and thugs or designing, running and crewing a host of LARP systems. He lives in Brighton, because it's nice there. You can follow him on twitter @benrlmeredith

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