Domina Dev Says No More Steam Updates As Meltdown Continues

Published: August 8, 2022 11:16 AM /


A battle scene in Domina

Dolphin Barn, the developer of gladiatorial combat game Domina, is threatening to halt Steam updates for the game unless Valve takes action over "fraudulent" reviews. According to Dolphin Barn, future Steam updates are "doubtful" and players should talk to Gabe Newell if they're unhappy.

What are Steam reviews saying about Domina?

Let's back up a little. Right now, if you check out the Domina Steam page, you'll see that it has a "Mostly Negative" recent user review rating. While many reviews point to the developer's political views (which they've expressed via the medium of Steam updates before), others mention that Domina is also apparently removing content from the base game and then supposedly locking it behind DLC paywalls. Commenters are alleging that content they already had access to as part of the base game is now unavailable to them and must be purchased separately.

Supposedly, this "content" refers to some of the DLC classes included in the Domina beta branch. These classes were added into the beta branch of the game, which the developer maintains was done for testing purposes. Once Dolphin Barn decided the classes were finished, he then sold them as paid DLC. It's easy to see where players are getting confused and upset; usually, content in the beta branch of a game isn't going to be removed and sold as paid DLC, but added into the main version of the game once it's finished instead. It's fair to say that Dolphin Barn's messaging here is confused and unclear. In one update post, he says that if you own Domina, you "also own all of the available DLC". In another announcement post, he refers to all of the game's DLC as being in "open beta testing", but never explicitly states that you will need to purchase it again in the main game if you're playing the beta branch.

A chariot race taking place in Domina
Domina players are alleging that content has been removed from the base game to be sold as DLC.

How has Dolphin Barn responded to the Domina Steam reviews?

Domina developer Dolphin Barn addresses these allegations in a slightly bizarre Steam post. In the post, which is simply titled "DONE", Dolphin Barn says that these reviews are "fraudulent", but that despite flagging them as such, the flags are removed by Valve and the reviews are allowed to remain up. According to Dolphin Barn, there's "no evidence" that base game content is now being sold as DLC, but these claims are "echoed for eternity on B-level gaming blogs" (we'll try not to take that one personally, Dolphin Barn). The dev then refers to this phenomenon as "circle jerks" (something he might want to bear in mind considering that he's apparently banning commenters on his discussion forums for disagreeing with him). Supposedly, Dolphin Barn can't flag the reviews as fraudulent anymore because "nameless, cowardly Steam moderators" have final editorial approval.

As a result of this, Dolphin Barn says that it can't have a working relationship with Steam because Valve "actively wants us OFF the platform". This means that Domina probably won't receive any more Steam updates, so if you bought the game expecting the developer to maintain a modicum of restraint and level-headedness, it looks like you were way off base. However, if you're upset, Dolphin Barn says you should "talk to Gabe Newell", because "his ship is sinking and he dgaf".

Over on his Twitter page, Dolphin Barn describes the reviews as an "orchestrated campaign of lies". Given that the developer won't sell on due to "woke politics", and given that he doesn't feel he can sell via Epic because he's banned on the Epic-owned Bandcamp (which, by the way, is not easy), his options look fairly limited. He has discussed distributing the game directly, though, so if you're desperate to get updates for Domina after this for some reason, you might be able to do so via his website at some point in the future.

A gladiatorial battle in Domina
I suspect Domina's developer sees himself as a heroic gladiator battling against the corrupt senate of Steam.

Domina's developer choosing to go full-blown conspiracy theorist at Valve probably shouldn't come as a surprise given that he's expressed transphobic and scientifically incorrect opinions in the past. While this review bomb might primarily point to Dolphin Barn supposedly selling base game content as DLC, there are also many expressions of anger at the dev's political views, and that's relatively rare in the gaming world (although it does happen). Usually, review bombs come from the Domina dev's end of the political spectrum, with gamers often crying "woke" when games include trans folk, try to diversify their casts a little, or just attempt to show a little human decency.


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