Valve to Indie Devs: Don't Use Publishers to Bypass Greenlight

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Valve to Indie Devs: Don't Use Publishers to Bypass Greenlight

Steam is forcing Code Avarice's Paranautical Activity through the Greenlight process, despite the support of publisher Adult Swim.

It was like a dream come true for the two-man-team behind indie developer Code Avarice when big-name studio Adult Swim (famous for TV Shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law) offered to publish its roguelike haunted boat FPS: Paranautical Activity. Adult Swim offered to foot the bill for publishing the game through Steam, but Valve was having none of that, telling the developer that because they started off Paranautical Activity with a Greenlight application, they had to follow the application through to the bitter end, despite having the backing of a publisher.

According to Mike Maulbeck and Travis Pfenning of Code Avarice, Valve explained that it "didn't want to send the message that indies can seek out publishers to bypass Steam Greenlight." This forced the duo to scramble to get the game's Greenlight campaign back on track, having abandoned it after getting the call from Adult Swim.

When Valve's Doug Lombardi was reached for comment on the issue, he said "We review Greenlight votes, reviews, and a variety of factors in the Greenlight process," adding "Our message to indies regarding publishers is do it for your own reasons, but do not split your royalties with a publisher expecting an automatic 'Yes' on Greenlight."

Maulbeck and Pfenning appeared on Green9090's Youtube channel to explain why it's so hard for new indie developers to raise awareness of their Greenlight campaigns. It is no secret that many indie developers aren't happy with the exposure Greenlight provides, and the allure of a publisher to help bypass the process entirely is very strong.

If you're interested in the game, you can vote for Paranautical Activity on Greenlight, and help the team get approval to publish on Steam.

Source: PC Games N

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yay the "good guys"

image

no, really. thats a big dick move just binding everyone who dared to put up a page on your site and not let them back off when they find something potentially better.

Very good.
Throw away your freedom as indie developer just to get your game out faster? Nope.avi

Doesn't that defeat the point of Greenlight? They got a chance and because of Greenlight now have to forgo that chance.

I don't get it. Why would a downloadable game publisher ever take on something that cannot make it past greenlight on its own? That's just bad business.

I just hope this game doesn't not get greenlit because of some new stigma against using a publisher.

I can see the issue here: Greenlight is basically it's own Indie-style contract system with Valve. The contract gets 'signed' when the votes and reviews actually give it the 'greelight'. The problem I can see Valve having is that this other competing publisher (Adult Swim Games Inc.) tried signing with someone who's already signed, just to try to go with the same system (Steam). I totally understand why they said "no go" like they did.

TheSniperFan:
Very good.
Throw away your freedom as indie developer just to get your game out faster? Nope.avi

Adult Swim has done -alot- for the PA guys and hasnt interfered nearly at all with the game.

I actually got to hear them in a stream with a youtuber, and they even talked to the stream happily. It was an off the cuff interview to, so alot more was told than in a 'normal' interview. They pretty much have all the say in the game, the only time they mentioned the publisher was when they were saying how Adult Swim was helping with advertising and publishing.

So, to put this in simple terms.

VALVE DID FUCK UP.

Greenlight was supposed to be a way to skim through indie games and take out the good ones, while leaving out the bad ones. PA, an indie game, actually caught the eye of a big publisher who would pay the cost for them, which should tell Valve that this game is good enough to skip the greenlight process.

So yeah...

Hopefully this incident gets more people to start seeing Valve for being less than the perfect game industry loving teddy bear. It's a business just like any other, and it holds a near monopoly in the PC digital download space. Despite the huge chunks of profit Valve takes per unit sold, indie developers in particular have no choice but to prostrate themselves at the altar of Valve/Steam because if they don't they'll sell maybe 10% of the copies they would otherwise.

It's also a little disingenuous for the article to call Paranautical Activity a sci-fi shooter. It's basically a rogue like game (permadeath, randomized procedurally generated levels/item distribution, shortish runs from start to finish) in the form a FPS set on what is supposed to be a haunted boat.

...I thought the point of a ...publisher, is to get you published, isn't greenlight for people lacking in that capability or unwilling to go that route? Surely if it's being 'published by adult swim' it would be able to be released on Steam without going through the voting process.

Or was it ON greenlight and then Adult Swim backed it on it's channel?

And is it being published or being backed? Big difference here.

If it's being 'backed' by adult swim, then yes, they should just go ahead with the greenlight process as any would.

If it's being published, then it should be removed from greenlight and sent through the channels for games with that attached to them.

If this mess is cropping up because Adult swim decided to become a publisher for it while it was already on Greenlight then... they should see about removing it.

Again this is all based upon whether the game is being published or backed.
If they bend the rules for one case it leaves the door open for alot of other 'bending the rules'. Maybe the rules need to be clearer but this is what happens when you do something for the first time. Green light needs refining there's absolutely no disputing that fact, but this can all be avoided by just taking the game off of greenlight if the game is really being published.

Edit: Okay sleep deprivation typing is never good. I've sorted the mess out in my brain. But the end result is the same, surely they can just erase all the campaigning they've done and the greenlight process and just barrel on ahead fresh with Adult Swim publishing them?

This is all such a load. The game is good enough to be released by itself, even though it's only in a beta stage at the moment. They had a publishing deal all set up, and Valve doesn't want them to do it because... it's cheating? It's the silliest thing I've ever heard. Now Code Avarice has to waste time they could be using making the game even better to promote the Greenlight campaign, which is the real problem with the system: Nobody puts their game on Greenlight, and suddenly finds it's been accepted. With the ridiculous number of votes you need to be in front (I believe they say in the video the highest game on Greenlight at the moment has 60,000 upvotes) developers need to diverge time away from development so they can win a glorified popularity contest.

The worst part is? It used to be once an indie developer got a game on Steam, that was it, they were in. Valve allows anyone who's worked with them before to put games up on Steam. But succeeding in a Greenlight campaign isn't considered working with Valve; If you get a game on Steam through Greenlight, you can't easily publish your next game, you have to either go through Greenlight again or get a publisher. I believe Gabe Newell said not long ago that Greenlight was an experiment that ended up being a failure, and all things considered? I'm inclined to agree.

SweetWarmIce:
Doesn't that defeat the point of Greenlight?

Indeed, but Greenlight seems so broken it seems moot. It also seems like a dick move to stop people from trying to get a better shake.

StriderShinryu:
Hopefully this incident gets more people to start seeing Valve for being less than the perfect game industry loving teddy bear. It's a business just like any other, and it's a near monopoly in the PC digital download space. Despite the huge chunks of profit it takes per unit sold, indie developers in particular have no choice but to prostrate themselves at the altar of Valve/Steam because if they don't they\ll sell maybe 10% of the copies they would otherwise.

It's also a little disingenuous for the article to call Paranautical Activity a sci-fi shooter. It'd basically a rogue like game (permadeath, randomized procedurally generated levels/item distribution, shortish runs from start to finish) in the form a FPS set on what is supposed to be a haunted boat.

I wasn't interested in looking into this game at all, but your description of it made it 13 septillion times more interesting to me. Thanks for pointing that out.

Deathfish15:
I can see the issue here: Greenlight is basically it's own Indie-style contract system with Valve. The contract gets 'signed' when the votes and reviews actually give it the 'greelight'. The problem I can see Valve having is that this other competing publisher (Adult Swim Games Inc.) tried signing with someone who's already signed, just to try to go with the same system (Steam). I totally understand why they said "no go" like they did.

Exactly. Valve's principles on this are very reasonable; what's the point of the greenlight system if you can just cheat your way to the finish line (because you have a publisher to front the risky cash instead of steam)? Besides, if they have a publisher now, they aren't indie anymore. Indie means independent of a publisher, as far as I am aware. Not saying that OH GAWD THEY IS EBIL NAO, what I mean is that they don't need to pray to get picked up by someone anymore: they JUST GOT picked up. Sighs of relief all-round.

With this publisher though, if they don't like what steams doing to them, they could just self publish on Adult Swim or their own site, or go with greenman or gog. It's not like steam is some digital overlord that is somehow able to permanently block their sales the world over.

Valve is right in preventing a bad precedent from being set.

StriderShinryu:
Hopefully this incident gets more people to start seeing Valve for being less than the perfect game industry loving teddy bear. It's a business just like any other, and it's a near monopoly in the PC digital download space. Despite the huge chunks of profit it takes per unit sold, indie developers in particular have no choice but to prostrate themselves at the altar of Valve/Steam because if they don't they\ll sell maybe 10% of the copies they would otherwise.

It's also a little disingenuous for the article to call Paranautical Activity a sci-fi shooter. It'd basically a rogue like game (permadeath, randomized procedurally generated levels/item distribution, shortish runs from start to finish) in the form a FPS set on what is supposed to be a haunted boat.

I'll admit I don't know much about the game and was going by what I saw in the video footage

DrunkOnEstus:

StriderShinryu:
Hopefully this incident gets more people to start seeing Valve for being less than the perfect game industry loving teddy bear. It's a business just like any other, and it's a near monopoly in the PC digital download space. Despite the huge chunks of profit it takes per unit sold, indie developers in particular have no choice but to prostrate themselves at the altar of Valve/Steam because if they don't they\ll sell maybe 10% of the copies they would otherwise.

It's also a little disingenuous for the article to call Paranautical Activity a sci-fi shooter. It'd basically a rogue like game (permadeath, randomized procedurally generated levels/item distribution, shortish runs from start to finish) in the form a FPS set on what is supposed to be a haunted boat.

I wasn't interested in looking into this game at all, but your description of it made it 13 septillion times more interesting to me. Thanks for pointing that out.

You're welcome. :)

It's not really my cup of tea as, while I enjoy rogue likes, I don't really get into super fast twitch style FPS games. It is, however, definitely not a "sci-fi shooter."

I'm a fan of Valve's games and I do appreciate their overall attitude towards consumers and all, but what the [email protected]#%ing hell Valve?. What's the point of a system that allows indie games to be published when the system does the complete opposite? This is the type of bureaucratic nonsense I'd expect to find from companies like EA instead.

Steven Bogos:

StriderShinryu:
Hopefully this incident gets more people to start seeing Valve for being less than the perfect game industry loving teddy bear. It's a business just like any other, and it's a near monopoly in the PC digital download space. Despite the huge chunks of profit it takes per unit sold, indie developers in particular have no choice but to prostrate themselves at the altar of Valve/Steam because if they don't they\ll sell maybe 10% of the copies they would otherwise.

It's also a little disingenuous for the article to call Paranautical Activity a sci-fi shooter. It'd basically a rogue like game (permadeath, randomized procedurally generated levels/item distribution, shortish runs from start to finish) in the form a FPS set on what is supposed to be a haunted boat.

I'll admit I don't know much about the game and was going by what I saw in the video footage

I can understand that. The video, by Youtube content creator Green9090, does show pretty much only boss fights from the still in development title. Green has been doing a Let's Play of the game from even earlier in it's development so if anyone wants a more complete look what the whole game is I would suggest they check out his channel for other videos. This was pretty much just an interview with, as I said, boss fight footage cut into the background.

StriderShinryu:
You're welcome. :)

It's not really my cup of tea as, while I enjoy rogue likes, I don't really get into super fast twitch style FPS games. It is, however, definitely not a "sci-fi shooter."

Funny story, I was checking my e-mail and apparently I already got this game in a bundle and just never used Desura (kind of a pain in the ass to use compared to Steam). So yeah, upped my bundle donation a bit, installed Desura, activated this, and thumbed up the Greenlight. Desura seems much kinder to the truly indie devs (as compared to the indie "celebrities" we have these days), and it being tied with moddb is pretty cool. So yeah, off to play the beta!

DoveAlexa:

Deathfish15:
I can see the issue here: Greenlight is basically it's own Indie-style contract system with Valve. The contract gets 'signed' when the votes and reviews actually give it the 'greelight'. The problem I can see Valve having is that this other competing publisher (Adult Swim Games Inc.) tried signing with someone who's already signed, just to try to go with the same system (Steam). I totally understand why they said "no go" like they did.

Exactly. Valve's principles on this are very reasonable; what's the point of the greenlight system if you can just cheat your way to the finish line (because you have a publisher to front the risky cash instead of steam)? Besides, if they have a publisher now, they aren't indie anymore. Indie means independent of a publisher, as far as I am aware. Not saying that OH GAWD THEY IS EBIL NAO, what I mean is that they don't need to pray to get picked up by someone anymore: they JUST GOT picked up. Sighs of relief all-round.

With this publisher though, if they don't like what steams doing to them, they could just self publish on Adult Swim or their own site, or go with greenman or gog. It's not like steam is some digital overlord that is somehow able to permanently block their sales the world over.

Valve is right in preventing a bad precedent from being set.

But the whole point of Greenlight was to allow smaller titles to find an audience and support, and then take a place in the Steam Marketplace. Having a publisher should allow titles to skip that line simply because once a game doesn't need Steam's help to publish, it no longer even fits the Greenlight criteria. Valve were the ones who created the Greenlight model and now they're altering their own criteria mid stream.

Also, just saying that a game can just avoid Steam and sell on another site is a nice pie in the sky thought, but will almost never work in the real world unless you happen to capture lightning in a bottle Minecraft style. Steam has such a huge strangle hold on the PC digital download space that if you're not on Steam, you're almost not on sale at all. Developers are willing to give a relatively huge chunk of their profits to Steam simply because it has such a huge market share. This is discussed in the video embedded in the article.

DoveAlexa:

Deathfish15:
I can see the issue here: Greenlight is basically it's own Indie-style contract system with Valve. The contract gets 'signed' when the votes and reviews actually give it the 'greelight'. The problem I can see Valve having is that this other competing publisher (Adult Swim Games Inc.) tried signing with someone who's already signed, just to try to go with the same system (Steam). I totally understand why they said "no go" like they did.

Exactly. Valve's principles on this are very reasonable; what's the point of the greenlight system if you can just cheat your way to the finish line (because you have a publisher to front the risky cash instead of steam)? Besides, if they have a publisher now, they aren't indie anymore. Indie means independent of a publisher, as far as I am aware. Not saying that OH GAWD THEY IS EBIL NAO, what I mean is that they don't need to pray to get picked up by someone anymore: they JUST GOT picked up. Sighs of relief all-round.

With this publisher though, if they don't like what steams doing to them, they could just self publish on Adult Swim or their own site, or go with greenman or gog. It's not like steam is some digital overlord that is somehow able to permanently block their sales the world over.

Valve is right in preventing a bad precedent from being set.

I find myself agreeing with both of you. Not because I'm a Valve fanboy, but because you make the most sense.

It's Valve's service, and this is how they've set up to allow indie (without a publisher) games to be released on Steam. Valve doesn't have to offer this at all. Whether or not it's broken or a failure is another debate for another time, this is about Greenlight as it stands now. They had no publisher and approached Valve on Valve's own terms, because Valve controls distribution on Steam. The developers wanted to get on Steam, and they were willing to jump through the hoops to attempt to get there.

Now they have acquired a publisher, but they're still under obligation to move through the Greenlight process. Why? Because it's Valve's program, and unless they have an explicit clause that allows to bypass it if you get a publisher, then you're beholden by your original agreement. The developer still needs to jump through said hoops to get on Steam without a publisher. Now (as far as I know) there is nothing that prevents Adult Swim from helping to advertise the game and it's Greenlight campaign, or to get it published on Greenman or Good Old Games. But the developers are still 'under contract' vis-a-vis their original agreement with Valve. Their new contract with Adult Swim does not negate their prior agreement with Valve.

Now whether or not Valve could or should allow them to back out of their Greenlight and come back as a regular published title is debatable. However they're under no obligation to do so. I can also understand their perspective of not wanting to set a precedent. If they had wanted to allow this to happen, then it would already be in agreement for Greenlight, and this would all be a non issue.

I have no idea what other contributing factors are involved from Valve's end. I imagine that this service is costing them money, in both server bandwidth and manpower. Valve had to set this system up and manage it, and it is a work in progress. Remember what Steam was like at first? You have to give them the much deserved credit and benefit of the doubt, in that their service has evolved for the better; I hope that Greenlight will follow suite.

Imagine a contestant on American Idol halfway through the competition got signed to a record label. Would they then automatically win that season of American Idol? No. They're on the show to compete for contract available to the winner, because their agreement with the show precedes their agreement with another label. Nothing is stopping the contestant from throwing his performance or dipping out of the show. But you're not going to get a contract through the show without finishing the competition. The new contract does not negate the prior obligation. It's not a perfect analogy, but I hope it gets the point across.

I disagree with Valve on this one. These guys have a publisher now. They are no longer independent. Let them publish the freakin' game.

So indie devs now have the opportunity to pay money to be locked into a system that might possibly maybe allow them to be published on Steam if enough people who have never played their game like it? Wow, Greenlight is fucking terrible!

The way I see it: These guys started greenlight in an effort to see their indie title released on steam. Then Adultswim offered to be their publisher and help them out for a cut. No longer being indie, this disqualifies them in the greenlight process. Now this shouldn't get them through the system on a free pass but can't they pull out of greenlight (No refunds most likely) and then re-release this game through normal channels under Adultswim's publishing? Or was Steam not letting them do that the whole point of this article? It's late and I am having trouble thinking straight.

We throw around the word entitlement a lot here. Basically what these devs are, is entitled. Basically they do not want to do the hard work to get themselves Greenlit. And all of you people who are saying Valve is in the wrong here, need to understand that Valve isn't trying to be evil about this, they are trying to curb a bad practice, they are trying to get developers to stop going "It's to harrddddddddd, lets just get a publisher"

thethird0611:

TheSniperFan:
Very good.
Throw away your freedom as indie developer just to get your game out faster? Nope.avi

Adult Swim has done -alot- for the PA guys and hasnt interfered nearly at all with the game.

I actually got to hear them in a stream with a youtuber, and they even talked to the stream happily. It was an off the cuff interview to, so alot more was told than in a 'normal' interview. They pretty much have all the say in the game, the only time they mentioned the publisher was when they were saying how Adult Swim was helping with advertising and publishing.

So, to put this in simple terms.

VALVE DID FUCK UP.

Greenlight was supposed to be a way to skim through indie games and take out the good ones, while leaving out the bad ones. PA, an indie game, actually caught the eye of a big publisher who would pay the cost for them, which should tell Valve that this game is good enough to skip the greenlight process.

So yeah...

I wasn't saying that this specific case is bad.
However, please don't forget that most publishers are soulless, lazy companies that make money from other people's work.
I'd like to point you to the game "Ace of Spades". It was a great indie game, but the developer ran out of money. Fortunately, noble publisher "Jagex" stepped in to help the developer out and take care of the Stream release.
Long story short:
They took the game in a totally different direction, which alienated the beta playerbase and made the developer unhappy. The original developer isn't part of the team anymore and has lost the rights for his own creation. They released a bastardized version of a game that is nothing like its beta, undermining the whole concept of the originals gameplay, as a money grab under a popular name.
Their moderators/admins on the forums are utter dicks who ban everyone who just mentions the original.
I don't care anymore, but they wanted to release a "classic mode". As played DLC of course.
A CONTRACT WITH A PUBLISHER USUALLY IS A ONE-WAY TICKET FOR YOUR IP.
If indie developers would start doing this in masses now...Christ.
Most wouldn't get happy in the long run.

So far, even after what you said, I'm not angry at Valve. But after being the moral police, now they have to do their part and actually take care of the complaints that there are about Greenlight.

And this is where Valve starts to get nasty, they are too big for their own good and now absurd rules can be enforced just because they can't be arsed to change.

All this does is lock you into Valve publishing without the privilege of having the game released.

i'll be blunt:
The greenlight process is sooo slow and time consuming for me, the consumer.
You cant specify seaches for certain genres and gametypes. You cant exclude all the 8 bit revival stuff, or the hosts of rpg maker- like rpg's.

It's a tedious sluggin through games i know i have no interest in. Its wasting my time frankly.

I like Valve, but this is definitely a dick move. If they have a publisher, then they are no longer indie.
Paranautical does look like a good game.
I might start buying games on Desura (like Paranautical) if Valve continue this way.

So...basically, Valve isn't letting them cheat. Sucks for them, sort of, but it seems O.K. to me. If the game couldn't garner enough support to be published via Greenlight, why should they be allowed to ignore that and have it be published via an actual publisher?

Since this isn't a game I really care about, I kind of view this as a good thing...though I can see how it'd be easy to take the opposite view if I did...

To use a quick metaphor, I'm going to the Cleveland anime con called Colossalcon this weekend. However, I have basically no money. I do, however, know a staff member, Steam, who was nice enough to point out I can work for the con to work off the cost of my badge through Greenlight, thus allowing me to afford it.

Now, what has happened here is my dad, Adult Swim, has decided he's going to front the cost of the badge so I don't need to spend time working off my badge and can instead improve my con experience, the game. However, Steam has said that since I already agreed to work off my badge, I can't take my dad's offer and instead must do it their way or I don't get entry at all.

This seems a bit unfair to the devs and against the general idea of Greenlight, despite the whole "bad precedent" argument.

EvolutionKills:

Imagine a contestant on American Idol halfway through the competition got signed to a record label. Would they then automatically win that season of American Idol? No. They're on the show to compete for contract available to the winner, because their agreement with the show precedes their agreement with another label. Nothing is stopping the contestant from throwing his performance or dipping out of the show. But you're not going to get a contract through the show without finishing the competition. The new contract does not negate the prior obligation. It's not a perfect analogy, but I hope it gets the point across.

I see it more as entering AI and getting signed part way through... Then all of the biggest music stores in the country (who for this analogy, have a financial interest in AI) refuse to sell your music unless you stay on and then win AI. You could always try to selling your CDs at car boot sales instead I guess.

This is a real dick move by Valve but its never a good situation when there is a monopoly, very much like Steam does over digital distribution. Valve have a lot of clout, as an indie/small dev you are highly unlikely to get anywhere without being on Steam.

And to me this looks like valve know this and are using it to bully a 2 man development team. Bravo.

Green light is an awful system. Youre a 2 man team so you work all of the hours you have on your indie title, then Valve expect you to run around whoring for votes instead of working on your game making it the best it can be. If its your only real option then you have to play along but bullying someone into going through with it when they dont have to is the wrong call, unless youre into self serving douchebaggery.

You can what?

the world's fate depends on the end of that sentence and it's not there...

(apparently due to formatting)

Anyway, the Facebook comment below succinctly describes the deeper reasoning behind the decision. Yall need to shape up your writing if you don't want to be outdone by a Facebook comment.

Im not trying to be an ass here, but your whole post over PA getting a publisher and getting told off by Valve was...

"Very good.
Throw away your freedom as indie developer just to get your game out faster? Nope.avi"

You are saying,
"Very good Paranautical Activity Devs.
You threw away your freedom as indie developer just to get your game out faster? Nope.avi"

So...
"I wasn't saying that this specific case is bad."

Doesnt seem to really make sense. Thats why I quoted you and cleared the air on your first comment.

Cecilo:
they are trying to get developers to stop going "It's to harrddddddddd, lets just get a publisher"

Oh, you mean kind of like how Valve decided that sorting through submissions was too hard, so they decided to just get the community to do it instead?

I get why valve did this but ky god greenlight is broken, at this point I am not sure if they shouldn't just shut the whole thing down instead of having it run till replacement greenlight comes around

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