Tag Archives: Half-Life

Valve Cleans Up Steam Greenlight After Eventful Launch

6 Sep

Valve’s Steam Greenlight launched last week, allowing members of their popular gaming platform and community to vote on games they would like to see appear in the Steam Marketplace. Already, Valve is doing the “good guy” move and making positive changes to the system to reduce the number of sub-par submissions and make relevant games easier to find and vote on.

Steam GreenlightChange 1: Pay To Submit

  • Problem: Too many bogus submissions. It’s all too easy for a jokester of a user to submit a game that’s an obvious knockoff, smutty, or fake; the only thing the submissions process requires is a few screenshots, a short video, and descriptor text.
  • Solution: Valve implemented a feature in which to submit a game to Greenlight for the first time, a user must make a $100 donation to the charity Child’s Play as a show of good faith and seriousness. This is a one-time payment; any later games can be submitted freely with no additional charges.
  • Reaction: If the Greenlight forums are to be believed, the reaction is positive. Many users only found out about the update when they logged on and saw that the “trash” submissions were mysteriously and conspicuously absent. The general agreement is that while a $100 charge is a little steep  (and may want to be reduced in the future), it’s not that much for an aspiring developer willing to take a risk. The fact that the money goes to charity, and not into Valve’s pockets, is another point in the company’s favor. Plus, the fee means Steam’s moderators can spend less time monitoring Greenlight. Fine by me; better they pay attention to games that are already released than try to corral the “someday” titles anyway.

Change #2: Collections

  • Problem: Almost immediately, so many games flooded the marketplace that it became very difficult to rate them all. Search features were confusing and hit-or-miss at best, so it became difficult to find new games to rate, or locate ones that had been previously rated.
  • Solution: The implementation of the “collections” feature, in which a user can make a playlist of sorts filled with games of a similar genre, theme, or other common thread. This list then appears on the Greenlight page, making it easy to find the “Indie Horror Bundle”, for instance, and vote on all the games therein.
  • Reaction: Great idea. Curation is always an issue in systems like this, so once again the solution is to let the crowd do it for you. Friends will be able to look at the lists of other friends, which makes it easier to gain more support for games you’ve rated highly. Plus, it’s an extra angle to game discovery; you can either browse the homepage at your leisure, or check out the lists for a more linear experience.

Moving Forward: More Work to Be Done

This is an excellent start for Greenlight, especially considering how young the platform is. But there is still more to be done to make this the ultimate platform for gaming democracy. Small changes will be made to the fee, I’m sure; the ability to give to a charity besides Child’s Play will likely come sooner than later.

Additionally, there is a lot of confusion about the rating system. Users are hesitant to press the “disapprove” button, even though it’s been stated many times by Valve that only positive votes affect whether a game gets released. Users also want the ability to pass up on a game without removing it from their rating queue. For example, if a game looked intriguing but didn’t quite have the polish to earn the user’s vote yet. I feel that Valve would be wise to add a three-point rating system, with options for “I would buy this,” “We’ll see / Maybe later,” and “Not for me, next!”

At any rate, Valve once again pushed the gaming industry forward and shows us what a company can do when their primary focus is on the people who use their service. Hats off to them, and I hope that we see some truly incredible work come out of their platform in the next few months.



Gaming, Porn, and LEGO: The Common Thread (Part 2 of 2)

25 Jun

Last week, I highlighted three companies that, for one reason or another, have welcomed the emergence of crowdsourcing with open arms. Video game mods allow players to add their own content, LEGO’s CUUSOO brings fan-created models to store shelves, and amateur pornography… well, enough said.

I promised you then, dear readers, to soon reveal what makes these companies so right for crowdsourcing. And so I come to you today to present the two key traits that these companies share.

The first trait is intrinsic, meaning that it has to do with the very nature of an industry; either they have it or they don’t. This trait is the fact that these industries all represent pastimes that are typically enjoyed alone.

  • Lengthy single-player games like Half-Life and Skyrim can’t really be enjoyed in a large group; add to this the “geek” stigma still surrounding video gaming, and you get a hobby that tends to be solitary.
  • It’s fine for kids to play with LEGO, but when it’s full-grown adults we again see a stigma preventing mass public acceptance.
  • Porn? Figure it out yourself.

If you’re getting ahead of me, you’re calling BS at this point. “That’s nonsense!” you cry, “I go to LAN parties and arcades, there are a million local LEGO groups, and there’s even such a thing as adult movie theaters and kink communities…”

“Ah but you see,” I’d say in response, “those groups are specifically designed for enthusiasts.” Unless you’re a big fan of the aforementioned activity, you wouldn’t seek out these groups. And these aren’t universal interests like art, movies, or music; if you can’t find a special group with which to share your passion, you’re stuck going it alone.

This is the key element that makes these industries ripe for crowdsourcing. They have a highly passionate user base who unfortunately is largely unable to share their passion. But given a platform on which to present and the guarantee of a similarly eager audience, enthusiasts are more than willing to show the world what they’ve created.

Furthermore, we’re seeing some crowdsourcing efforts fail for the movies, music, and art industries specifically because they are so popular and universally  accepted. Businesses pick up on the fact that vast amounts of money can be made, and it becomes a game based around competition instead of shared passion. Keeping the subject matter specialized guarantees that the only people who will seek it out are the truly interested.

This segues nicely into the second trait, which is less intrinsic and more reactionary. It is this: LEGO, gaming, and porn all noticed that people were getting into their products enough to want to create their own. So they let them. It’s so simple it’s hard to tell if it’s the effect or the cause. But often the only thing an industry needs to make crowdsourcing work for them is to simply let the people who want to help do so.

Let’s not be unreasonable, of course; you should still definitely make money off them. Crowdsource a LEGO set design, but sell it retail or on the official website. Allow game mods, but not without buying the “vanilla” copy of the original game. And (by all means!) solicit amateur porn, but put it on a website that’s absolutely dripping with paid ads. Profits soar, you toss the original creators a (tiny) cut of the earnings, and everyone walks away happy because they have inexpensive, high-quality new content.

After these pieces came into place for me, I had to look back and check to see how many other campaigns grew from typically insular activities that were given a chance for public recognition. It didn’t take long to find several. It would seem this is the real deal, so if you’re hoping to take advantage of crowdsourcing, here’s your bottom line. Tap into previously silenced interest groups, and simply let them help. Control the process, but if you give a passionate person the ability to enact some real positive change, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised every time.

Gaming, Porn, and LEGO: Bachelor Weekend or Key To Crowdsourcing? (Part 1 of 2)

19 Jun

I started this blog with the intention of bringing crowdsourcing to the masses. To do so, I knew I would have to uncover real-world examples of it that most people had interacted with. Today, I write to you because I have realized this goal; I found amateur pornography, PC gaming, and LEGO bricks.

Porn was a topic I wanted to discuss at one point or another on this blog, because I recognized that it was an industry that had whole-heartedly accepted crowdsourcing as Copyright 2008 The Weinstein Companyone of their methods of production. Non-professional or amateur porn has been around almost as long as videography itself, and recently received a huge boon in the form of camera phones and user-uploaded content (“tube”) sites.  This industry was quick to accept crowdsourcing as a form of content creation, when so many others have dragged their feet or actively resisted. Now, they enjoy the fact that they have tube sites like these to generate heaps of content at no personal cost, which helps offset their recent losses in DVD sales.

I sought other entities that had accepted crowdsourcing in the same way, and found the brick-building toy LEGO. Their integration was to a lesser degree, to be certain, but Copyright 2008-2012 CUUSOO SYSTEMnonetheless multifaceted; their websites solicits pictures, ideas, and full-on schematics of any custom model their users have built. They even go so far as to have implemented the CUUSOO program, which takes popular user-created models and packages them as actual retail items that can be bought from the website or a real-world toy store. LEGO understands that even though they are primarily a children’s toy, they still have a not-insignificant portion of adult users who want to show off their creations. And so like porn, LEGO has recognized a need and made steps to fill it by utilizing user content.

And finally we have video games, who take on crowdsourcing in a limited, but more profound way. User-generated content is again the key here, this time in the form of “mods”. Mods are custom modifications that a user may make to a game they own that Copyright 2011 Dread Father & XFrostbitechange the graphics, gameplay, maps, items, or just about any other aspect of the game. These mods are typically collected, shared, rated, and downloaded on community sites that are wholly or partly supported by the game publishers themselves. Games like Half-Life and Skyrim enjoy a massive community of modders, which not only adds to the game’s content but ensures that people will continue to buy it long into the future. Add to this the fact that there are other communities that simply program and release their own games to play, some of which are good enough to make it onto professional retail platforms like Steam or the Apple store. All in all, the gaming industry is one that is largely on-board with user-generated content.

So what is it about these industries that makes them so apt to bring their users into the fold, when so many others have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of crowdsourcing? The answer, which I will reveal next week, has implications that could mean a whole new approach to discovering which industries are ready to implement crowdsourcing. More importantly, it may reveal industries that are doomed to crowdsourcing failure before they even start. Tune in next week for Part 2: The Common Thread!

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