Steam is unquestionably one of the greatest gifts of all time, right after a perfect night’s sleep, for us gamers. However, it is by no means a bed of roses, and there are more than a few reasons why Steam can be a terrible thing for MMO players as well. How come, you ask? Read on to find out.
Gone are the times when Steam wasn’t very practical to use. Slowly but steadily, a rough start gave place to a new and exciting world of video game distribution, and the mass spread of broadband internet connections paved the way to this leading digital distribution platform. It was no mean feat, and drastically changed the way that players purchased their video games. Many of you eventually had to give in to this new method that threatened the existence of physical releases and lead to the closing of many video game stores.
Unfortunately, Steam has grown so much that as it happens with most of these cases, it is abused in many ways on a daily basis. Either by would-be developers or asset flippers, there is always something going on, something capable of disrupting a balance that Valve is pursuing for over a decade and is likely to never happen.
MMORPGs also suffer from this ease of entry, from Steam as a platform where everyone can release a game without much effort and taking advantage of a total lack of quality control. Early access, in particular, is abused to a point where many of us are questioning if it should exist at all. It needs a serious renovation and to demand more from game developers before their games are approved (more stable builds, enough content, little to no issues) and remain out of bounds for those who have a shady track record.
One thing that would change the face of Early Access for good would be some sort of strict deadline – let’s say, a year. After that period, either your game is deemed ready for launch or it is removed from the store and players get a refund, taking their time to decide if they will purchase the game again in the future. No more easy money from careless, hopeful players.
There is no greater example of a rushed Early Access game than DayZ. It’s been five – FIVE! – years since it first landed on Steam, and it has gone from incredible acclaim to scam claims, with the developers promising that it will officially release before the end of 2018. No Man’s Sky also suffered from a premature Early Access release, lacking the promised features that helped build the kind of hype that one can only dream of – multiplayer, in particular, was only added to the game in 2018 with the NEXT update, and with it, No Man’s Sky miraculously managed to bounce back after some very rough times. Was all the Early Access money worth it? All the scam accusations, deluded players and even the death threats that the developers received?
It’s inevitable to bring Bless Online as a topic of conversation when discussing Early Access. For a game that was already released in a couple of territories, was paid Early Access necessary? Did everything change for the better during these five or so months on Steam? Spoiler alert: it didn’t. In fact, it felt unnecessary, further ruining the reputation of the game, possibly without return.
Other games should have no place on Steam at all. Re-releases of old, previously canceled MMOs lead the pack, with names such as ASTA and ELOA being fine examples. The case of the latter is even more baffling, as it has returned with a new team, a new name – Warlords Awakening – and… a price tag. Because despite its qualities, a failed game is ‘surely’ going to succeed if you must pay upfront for it.
If there is one game that will remain for years as a scar in my memory – and I’m certain that some of you remember it as well –, that game is Landmark. Surprisingly released as the appetizer for that tempting main course that once was EverQuest Next, Daybreak Game Company failed to deliver on the promises of this prelude to the next chapter in the EverQuest series. Maybe it was too ambitious, but it was also unfinished, featured terribly bland gameplay (despite some undeniably cool building tools) and desperately lacked support. Players were lured in with the promise that the best designs would carry over to EverQuest Next (a nice carrot on a stick, right?), and while the price tag was low ($9.99, plus optional Founder’s Packs that many fell for), Landmark was initially supposed to be free-to-play. Landmark turned out to be this empty shell of a game that didn’t go anywhere, disappointed many players and yet remained on Steam for more than two years.
More recently, the cool robot battle vehicle game Robocraft was the subject of a rushed spin-off to profit on the growing Battle Royale trend, and it was another one of those early Steam releases that shouldn’t have happened. Robocraft Royale was more of a prototype than an actual game and yet players were asked to spend $19.99 to get in the game. Without one of the main features from the original game – robot customization –, this Battle Royale ‘me-too’ left the few players that jumped in completely unsympathetic, and the publisher was forced to switch the business model to free-to-play one day after the Steam release. ONE day! Robocraft Royale sold a few hundred copies before getting a small boost of free players, only to ultimately end up canceled a month or so later for further development. Why was this game ever considered to be in an acceptable state for a Steam release?
And what about Twilight Spirits? NetEase, the Chinese studio responsible for Revelation Online, didn’t even bother translating the game into English before releasing it on Steam. For the common gamer, English is a universal language and it’s easy to get to grips with, even if you’re not versed in the language of Shakespeare. Seeing a game in Chinese only, and one that you may even need to fiddle with your operating system to play, seems baffling. This game has been sitting on Steam for over a year, no updates whatsoever on its Steam page, and averaging 0.9 players for the last 30 days. It’s a good thing that no one had to pay for it, right?
These are just a few examples of Steam’s ability to turn unappealing games, rehashes of previously canceled MMOs and untimely prototypes into enticing projects. Some of these games may be victims of a ruthless market that jumps from trend to trend, but most of them are either ancient designs marketed in appealing ways or partially developed games that don’t really care about your feedback; they just want your hard-earned bucks as quickly as possible before the inevitable negative feedback rears its ugly face.
Careless players may fall prey to these enticements, but experienced gamers will immediately notice when something looks odd and steer clear from it. My advice is to only jump into Early Access if you blindly trust the developer, wait a few weeks for the first proper reviews, and always be wary of ‘dead games’ – usually there is a good reason for it. Steam has brought such good things into our lives, but for every good game we get, there are ten or so that are trying to trick you out of your money.Related: Article, MMO, MMORPG, Steam