We (myself included) talk about very similar issues in this week’s Weekly Respawn. Check it out!
Don’t get me wrong, Valve (Steam) has done cool things for their fans – in terms of their games. They continually add free content, incorporate the community in their games, and genuinely listen to the community’s feedback. But that is where the greatness of Valve’s relationship with the community ends. Forever they have been terrible at managing communities, which seems to largely come down to refusing to put efforts towards doing so. Either they seem not to care in their community management or don’t see it as enough of a benefit to pursue it, all of which is exacerbated by the fact that Valve is terrible at communicating to anyone about anything.
There are quite a few examples where Valve does not do the greatest job in communicating, managing, and maintaining the systems through which the communities of various games interact. They are great about implementing cool things, like Steam Reviews or the community marketplace, and now the auction system, but they then adopt this laissez faire attitude that does a great disservice to them. Its not that I am in favor of an inordinate amount of policing/regulating, but at least some to help with quality control.
If you are familiar with some of what I have written in the past, then you will know that I have had this opinion of Valve/Steam for a while, but in specific areas like Steam Reviews and in the quality control over how games are listed. I encourage you to take a look at those to understand why it is dangerous and a disservice to everyone that Valve continues these poor practices.
One of the biggest examples of Valves inability to communicate with the community was their mishap with the Diretide event for Dota 2 in October 2013. For those unaware, Diretide is a Halloween event for Dota 2 that was well received and considered quite popular when it was first implemented in October of 2012. The fanbase then assume that in 2013 it would be back, which is definitely a fair assumption. But then Halloween came with no Diretide event. Then a week went by with thousands of fans asking where the event was with no reply from Valve at all.
It was not until 8 days later that Valve decided to coordinate a response to the community. In the age of the Internet, 8 days might as well be 8 years. That kind of delayed response is not acceptable. Even if Valve had not known what they would do or say – some kind of response to quell the outrage from fans would have been prudent.
I am not saying what the fans did in reaction to the lack of Diretide is right, or that even Valve caused it, but they were the only ones who could stop it and they took over a week to do it. It just seems like common sense to be a little quicker on the response than that, regardless of whether or not the community’s care was taken into consideration.
If you read Valve’s response to the Diretide mishap, you will see that Diretide did eventually happen but it was with the promise of a new, huge update to Dota 2 that Valve hoped to win back their fans. Maybe they learned from their mistake, but it seems to me the only effort to win back outraged fans by Valve is through their games. We have yet to see something like Diretide again, but there hasn’t really been anything for the community to be up in arms about regarding Valve lately – so we will have to wait and see (though is something like that happening now with Hatred? Read below for more on that.)
But regarding any community implementations within Steam, Valve has done the bare minimum to assuage many people’s criticisms. The way they still have early access organized is terrible. The way Steam Greenlight is managed needs to be reviewed. Steam Reviews are still nearly worthless. The only thing they seem to have paid attention to/had success with is the marketplace. Not to be too cynical, but could that be because it involves money?
And, I don’t think I need to go in detail about how they are one of the worst, of anywhere, at providing any kind of customer service. If you have an issue, sorry, you are lucky to get a response back in a few days. Extremely lucky. And most responses are just copy and pasted from some guideline that is laying around somewhere as some sort of catch all. There is no care to actually provide a good service.
Just look at the first page when you Google “steam customer service.” There are so many examples of bad experiences with it.
Now we have Hatred. Greenlight is supposed to be the way that Valve checks what the community thinks about any particular game. But before that could even be considered, Valve removed the game from the process altogether telling Eurogamer: “Based on what we’ve seen on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam. As such we’ll be taking it down.”
Steam seems to value community action in everything they do, with next to no oversight on their part, but all of a sudden they are taking down Hatred? And for unspecified reasons as of now. That seems to directly clash with the supposed purpose of Greenlight, and their laissez faire attiude, while highlighting their hypocrisy when they have games like Postal available on Steam which says this directly in its description:
Play from a 3/4 Isometric view and take out your aggression on gun toting protagonists, innocent bystanders as well as torching a marching band! No aliens, no mutants, no stupid quest for the dragon’s balls. Just good antisocial, psychotic shoot-’em-up action, strategy and government intervention.
If Steam is taking such a hardline stance, why is that game and its sequels still purchasable on their platform? They seem to not only feature near equally violent content, but content that is in a very similar vein. It only became a problem when certain outlets and groups decided to make a big deal out of it. Steam does not put a value on regulating any of their communal processes – which is evidenced here with Hatred particularly.
As of writing this, Hatred has reappeared on Steam. Regardless of its existence on Steam the fact remains that Valve has been exceedingly uncommunicative since the thing began. Aside from the vague statement given to Eurogamer, Valve has basically said nothing about their original reasoning to remove Hatred and has said nothing regarding why it was allowed to return.
Gabe Newell seems to have intervened himself to bring Hatred back, at least according to something TotalBiscuit received. This is still a really bad sign as it does indicate someone in the company took Hatred down through their own accord and against whatever internal policy Valve has. Again, a lack of consistency. Will there be an official statement on Hatred’s return? I would hope so. It is not enough to just put the game back. Why was it removed in the first place? Who/what can make that decision to remove, or temporarily suspend, a game from the Greenlight process? Valve really needs to answer those questions.
It would just be nice to see some consistency – well some consistency that isn’t just a stream of worthless nonsense in the form of things like comments masquerading as reviews or bloatware filling the Steam library. Oversight and sticking to actual guidelines that aren’t vague would be really nice.
All I am really asking for is for Valve/Steam to put in some kind of oversight or regulation to prevent some systems, like Greenlight, from being manipulated and/or making other systems, like Steam Reviews, actually useful. Deliver on the promises and purposes of what is implemented basically.
Oh and learn to actually communicate with your audience, that would be good too. This new Hatred controversy seems awfully similar to what Valve did with Diretide – though I doubt they will wait over a week to say anything – if they say anything at all, which I would not count Gabe Newell’s personal email as an official statement.