Earlier this year Valve announced that they were discontinuing their Steam Greenlight distribution method. From an indie perspective this could make it more difficult for developers to get their games on Steam. Whether or not this is a good thing depends mostly on your perception of the current crop of Greenlight titles. One, perhaps unintended, consequence on the crowdfunding community will be the decrease in $100 campaigns, such as the current Space N Traders Kickstarter.

When I first started covering crowdfunded games I was often perplexed by developers who would launch campaigns requesting such meager amounts. It wasn’t until someone finally pointed out the obvious that I understood what was really going on. The goal wasn’t to make or improve a project. The developer just didn’t want to be out of pocket for the Steam Greenlight fees. It was a sobering realization.

Imagine if you will, having so little faith in your game that you needed to convince strangers to take the plunge on your $100 investment. If you as the developer wouldn’t pay $100 to get your game on Steam, why should anyone else?

 The Price Of Living The Dream

I understand that game development is expensive and difficult. If it weren’t than everyone would do it, which is probably why Greenlight has seen such a sharp decline in quality over the years. By trying to make their platform more accessible to smaller developers, Valve unintentionally sent the message that getting your game on the same selling platform as AAA titles was a simple endeavor. Mostly because, for awhile it was. I can only speculate on if Steam Direct will prove to be any better, but it will hopefully deter some of the worst offenders.

Is Walrus Town really the sort of company you want to keep?

Space N Traders is a perfect example of why this concept is so flawed. The campaign is frankly a wall of text where the developers, Digital Gamez ask for $129 to pay the Steam Greenlight fee. We are told that the game’s designer “has already used a huge amount of personal funding.” to develop the game. The Kickstarter is to “see if our project can support itself by getting itself into Steam Greenlight before it shuts.”

Let’s break that down, the game’s designer already paid for development (however much that may have been), but can’t shell out the final $100 to get on Greenlight? Space N Traders is a Space Invaders style shooter with trading. We’re not talking about mesmerizing next gen graphics and innovative gameplay. This wasn’t an expensive endeavor. Which makes the lack of campaign content all the more perplexing.

The Kickstarter video wasn’t even made by the developers themselves. Instead a YouTuber gives us a sales pitch (more on that in a moment) before launching into a gameplay video. Right, so can’t even pay for a proper trailer? What’s next? Ah yes, the pitch.

It Only Does Everything!

As mentioned earlier, the campaign page is at least very honest about the devs intentions. The title directly states that the campaign is for Space N Traders Steam Greenlight Funding. On the one hand, at least they aren’t being sneaky about it. At the same time, they couldn’t have shown more indifference.

Pretty sure I spent more time on this article than they did on the actual campaign.

The funding tier (yes just one option) gets backers a copy of the game for £10 (about $13). Even if you were feeling extraordinarily generous, the developers don’t want your $1 pity pledges. You either buy the game or GTFO. Not exactly the humble approach most developers take with crowdfunding.

This lack of humility is further driven home by the campaign’s text, wherein the devs lay out their glorious master plan for how their game will unite humanity. I’m only being partially facetious here. See, the team is made up of a group of artists, many of whom happen to be parents.

Co-op innovation.

Space N Traders was their attempt to make a game that parents could play together with even very young children. This is actually a sweet idea, at least until they make it sound like their game is somehow special and unique in this regard.

They refer to the idea as “something we have not yet seen in the games industry.” Really? I play games with my kid all the time. They fall further down the rabbit hole with declarations that, “Our ‘ethos’ is to deliver games that have no negative impact on neither the parents nor the children who join in to help.”

What kinds of games have you people been playing with your kids before now? If you’re worried about it having a negative impact on them maybe play a kitten petting sim instead. I could make the argument that shooting everything that moves in space isn’t exactly a purely positive experience, but I don’t want to risk someone mistaking sarcasm for an invitation to argue a purely ridiculous point.

Modern Day Snake Oil Salesmen

Ordinarily, I’d wave most of this off as marketing fluff. Marketing says all sorts of new age sounding nonsense to give the impression of a more enlightened company culture. Really, though there has to be some limit. Some line between harmless blustering and arrogance so thick you could choke on it. Ah, here it is:

“Our Goal. Hopefully, our game can build bonds that make people struggling with mental hardships talk out issues instead of acting them out, then we have succeeded one of our main goals.”

Oh come on! Nothing about this game encourages people to open up about their mental hardships. If anything the shared controls add an unnecessary obstacle to co-op gameplay to make up for the lack of multiplayer. This overly flowery explanation combined with the lack of screenshots or development information isn’t just a sign of a bad crowdfunding campaign. It’s also the hallmark of a shoddy project.

Space N Traders is a product of Steam Greenlight’s “everyone can be a developer” attitude. A project that would otherwise never rise above a blip on a free distribution platform gets a full article while better projects languish because they lacked the audacity to be such overt money grabs. Hopefully, once Valve phases out Steam Greenlight it will mark the end of such low effort crowdfunding.

Joanna Mueller
Joanna Mueller is a lifelong gamer who used to insist on having the Super Mario Bros manual read to her as a bedtime story. Now she's reading Minecraft books to her own kiddo while finally making use of her degree to write about games.
Joanna Mueller

@ZodiacEclipse

Writer, wannabe author, creator of things, and more than a bit nerdy. Let's be socially awkward together! Games Writer at; Cliqist, New Normative
@ConradZimmerman That was actually a group gift. I just forgot to sign the card. - 4 hours ago
Joanna Mueller
joanna.mueller@newnormative.com

https://joannamueller.contently.com/
  • David Gould

    This is our first game we have made without any previous crowd funding kickstarter trials so i did not know what type of options to offer on the kickstarter pledges. The reason we have put it up on kickstarter is a challenge a family member (my wife made) saying see if the fans will pay the Steam GreenLight.
    Normally i would agree with you about mega claims being made by games. The reason we( i ) state what i have is due to the fact that our game is playable by my and many other very young age children with it giving no negative impact on the main player ( for example a standard co-op game that shares a screen a young child will keep the character pushed to the one side and this will stop the main player from moving ). We have never intended for our game to be viewed as a next generation graphic masterpiece but a huge amount of player have really enjoyed our game. Our game has been in production since Jan 2017 this is the reason we have not yet got a trailer made for our game. For a trailer you would want lots of scenes showing all the best bits of the game and i feel a trailer should be made when we have alot more content to put forwards for a trailer.
    I myself feel anyone can make a great trailer out of a bad game.
    Where as an unrestricted review of the game which is what we have put forward is a view into how people play the game.
    I ask you to please atleast give us a chance before bashing us with your guesses on how we are doing things.

    For your reference we have gifted as many copies as Special Effect Disabled Gaming Charity require at zero cost to them. Also the offer is out there for other Disabled Gaming Charities to contact us also as the offer is there for them also.

    Sometimes there is that person who is trying to do something good for the community.

    • Josh Griffiths

      Hello there Mr. Gould,

      My name is Josh Griffiths, Executive Editor here at Cliqist. I’ve been told you’ve been constantly emailing Joanna throughout the day, constantly making excuses regarding your Kickstarter campaign, and how you always donate to charity. I’d just like to say that you donating to charity is completely irrelevant to this video game and it’s Kickstarter campaign. You made a simple 2D shooting game, and while I must commend you on your desire to help people, that doesn’t mean you’ve actually done so.

      I think you have a good idea for a game, but I believe it needs a lot of work. It certainly isn’t in a state where you can ask for money for it on Kickstarter or Steam. These are professional websites and storefronts with professional products. You may have improved your Kickstarter campaign (not that that excuses the poor shape that it was in when it first launched) but that does not excuse the fact that the game itself appears amateurish. I understand people you have showed it to say they enjoyed it, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Take the idea you have for this game, a family friendly 2D shooter, and work on it, make it something that people will want to back (not just your friends and family) and play.

      We have also never stated that we think your game will be a “next generation graphic masterpiece,” or that nobody enjoyed playing your game. The purpose of this article was to highlight your poor Kickstarter campaign, and how you seem to be selling it on the pretense of helping charities and the needy when there’s little evidence that you’re doing anything of the sort.

      And I can’t help but notice that you ended your comment by saying you wanted to do good for the community. Do you mind if I ask how attacking the credibility of my colleague and this website achieves that goal? Or by emailing my colleague and telling her that she has done no research into your campaign and that she is “the reason Press get such a bad name and nobody trusts them much anymore” does the same? You say you “boycott a website that does not research into any company before it posts content,” and that we showed you “zero respect for the subject content or artform,” but what do your emails and your continued harassment say?

      I don’t think using Clint Eastwood’s quote about this being a “pussy generation,” lamenting the high fertility rate in Muslim nations and feeling sorry for women because of it, posting a video in which Morgan Freeman “destroys black history month,” or how “eating bacon for breakfast reduces your chance of being a suicide bomber by 100%” is any help to the community at all. Maybe make your Facebook profile private before spewing your hateful gutter trash to the world next time, yeah?