How To Make A Mess On Steam: A Super Game Jam Story

game jame

Browsing through Steam, I came across the Super Game Jam‘s Steam Store page. I was interested at first, but going through my usual ritual of determining a game being worth the money or not on Steam turned out to reveal a bigger mess than I’d expected.

I like Devolver Digital. I really do. As far as I’m aware, I own about 12 of their published products on Steam. So writing about this hurts a lot because I want them to do well.

This isn’t a game. Which shouldn’t be a mark against the product, but because of the way it is categorized, it is. I don’t have any problem with non-games being sold on Steam. But Steam needs to fix their categorization to differentiate between games being sold on their client and non-games more effectively. Within the current system, a series of documentaries popped up on my Steam recommended list and the realization that I was dealing with a documentary, not a video game soured me on the premise instantly. I can understand many other people must feel the same way. It’s not a problem with the product itself if it was rightly labeled. If you see a documentary while looking for video files, it’s all well and good.

category games

Picture it this way: You like both coffee and tea. You think you’re drinking coffee, but it turns out that it’s tea. You’re instinctively disgusted by the watery drink in your mouth because it’s not the thing you expected it was. Likewise, if you expected tea while getting coffee, the stronger, more bitter flavor is not a welcome change. You might still appreciate it when taking your second sip, better prepared for what you’re getting, but unfortunately on a store page there likely won’t be a second sip. You don’t have the product yet, so you click away to look up the kind of thing you actually do want, which in this case is actual videogames. It’s a basic marketing fuck up. But I’m willing to give Devolver Digital the benefit of the doubt on this one, it’s all up to Steam how things are sorted.

rpg maker

RPG Maker VX Ace isn’t a game, the categorization of the Steam Store page doesn’t list it as one. If you buy it, it even lists it separately in your library as Software. Owning RPG Maker VX Ace gives you access to a lot of games and projects listed on the game’s Steam Workshop page. There are a lot of hours of game content you can get out of the product, but it’s not a game. It’s a simplified piece of software to make games with. The distinction is important. I cannot stress it enough.

software

Why is it so important the product is accurately labeled as whatever? So long as it’s good, there’s nothing wrong with it, right? I’d kind of agree with that, but at the same time, I really don’t. It actually is very damaging for a piece of software to not be labeled properly to consumers on a digital service that is aimed at providing content to users in a simple manner. Especially on Steam since the start of the Exploration-based Store pages. It’s all made to tailor itself to the likes and dislikes of the user, so something not properly categorized as what it is will create massive backlash, even if the product is good. not liking something will create an even bigger backlash. The lesser the product is, the harsher the backlash.

Good thing Super Game Jam is rated Positive with 46 reviews then, right?

whytheOh boy…

This is a mess.

I spent a good hour trying to make sense of what was happening on the game’s own Steam user reviews section because it was the strangest thing I’d seen in a while.

To break it down:

  • There were more positive reviews than negative.
  • All the negative reviews had higher “Helpful” ratings than the positive.
  • The positive reviews barely had anything to say about the product other than “Worth the money” or that it’s just good.
  • The negative reviews broke down what was wrong with the video quality, the distribution system, the state of the games.
  • One of the positive reviews pointed out a few of the games aren’t even playable.
  • A lot of active comments sections on reviews, pointing out even more problems.
  • Complaints about deleted reviews and forum posts.

The last one, if true, explains how the game maintained a Positive rating on Steam in the face of almost all of the feedback making it sound terrible. A glance at the game’s forums reveals mostly complaints about episodes being late, games not working, the video player creating problems, complaints about lack of feedback from developers after delivering promised content late… If threads are really being purged based on negativity, which I’m willing to believe with how few threads there are, I really have to wonder about the posts that did get deleted in the face of the ones that are still there.

Still, there’s no way to prove that last bullet point brought up by someone commenting on a review, so it’s not helpful to dwell on that. Looking at the actual reviews to see what is still up does reveal a lot about the current state of the Super Game Jam product as it is being sold. This is straight from the most highly rated user review:

The Application

SGJ isn’t just five video files and five games. It’s a surprisingly buggy, fullscreen-only application with absolutely no settings, which comes in the form of an 11.5 GB download. The video player has three features: pause, volume control, and seek. Thankfully, you can avoid the application altogether and view the videos in your preferred video player by browsing through the SGJ’s files. (Which you should do if you have blurry video in SGJ’s built-in video player.)

The Games

These are jam games. While some of them are cute, you probably won’t play any of them for more than five minutes.

That does not sound like a product that should be offered on a store page. That sounds like a gigantic mess of a product, and a practice that shouldn’t be allowed. Documentary or not, that is a horrible way to present it. Certainly not worth the asking price of 15 euros, or with the current sale that it is on, even worth 5 euros.

Straight from one of the review comments:

45646I couldn’t have summarized the problem better myself.

Products like this is why I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to look at negative Steam reviews when unsure about a product. Positive reviews are great if you’re unsure of a game’s concept being strong enough. If a lot of people like the game, they will typically try to sell you on the basic concept of it first by explaining why that is worth the purchase. Negative reviews, especially helpful ones, will warn you about things that are more important than that. A base concept can sound like it’s not for you until you actually play the game and realize you’re actually enjoying it. Game breaking bugs, glitches, save file problems, loading issues, installation errors, compatibility issues, broken controller support, and other things along those lines are not something as easily bridged as a concept being for you or not.

Alternatively, looking up negative reviews and seeing the complaints is a good exercise in accepting not everything is for everyone. Look up negative reviews for games you love, and you’ll start to develop an understanding of the kind of problems people have with games that you personally can live with. You might be quick to brush people’s complaints as wrong, and maybe they are, but to them, from a personal standpoint, they’re not. It’s a useful distinction to understand, as you look through a series of negative reviews and learn to decide if these are problems you can deal with or not.

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2 thoughts on “How To Make A Mess On Steam: A Super Game Jam Story

  1. Hi,
    I’m one of the film makers. Concerning the categorisation; it’s a bit tricky since Super Game Jam is a movie + game bundle.
    There are 5 games in there, those belong on the game page right?

    What we’re doing is kinda unprecedented, there was no proven way for how to put this infront of people.
    Nobody’s perfect, but we’re doing our best and I’m confident in our work.

    Episode 1 is currently free to stream on steam. It’s the closest thing we can do to a free demo :)

    • Thanks for commenting! Yeah, categorization does seem tricky, especially since there’s still very few other documentary or video focused products on Steam right now. I looked at Indie Game The Movie and realized that one was listed as an Indie Game too, which is why I brought up the separate categorization that products like RPG Maker get. It prepares people more for what to expect. Hope you got a lot of feedback to work with from the experience that could help with any possible future experimentation, because the biggest kinks just seem to be the way it’s perceived on the store itself.

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