Steam's new Greenlight system was set up to allow new, interesting independent games get onto Steam far faster, and with far fewer hurdles than before. It's a great idea as the games have to be recommended by the community before they become Greenlighted. If enough people like a game, it gets to go on sale. What could possibly go wrong?
The elephant in the room is that the system is open to abuse, and quite possibly Towns is the first big disaster for the Greenlight system. It should never have gone on sale in its current condition,and would not have passed the stringent checks had it been submitted in the non-Greenlight way to Valve for consideration.
How did a game that is clearly this unfinished and this unprofessional get to go on sale? This is the question a lot of people at Valve are going to be asking themselves right now. They must know by now its a stinker. But it clearly had community support - someone must have Greenlighted it, right?
I have a theory - I call it the 'Ataturk' theory. Just before the turn of the millennium, Time magazine was looking to name the most important person of the Twentieth Century. It asked its readers for suggestions. It was inundated by a coordinated campaign by Turks who sent in millions of calls for Kamel Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, to be the man. Apparently, they believed that by bombarding the offices of Time Magazine with the suggestion the magazine would have no choice but to make him the most important person of the Twentieth Century. Time Magazine did not - they wanted suggestions, it was not a voting system. In the end they had to choose between FDR and Churchill, and chose FDR.
Clearly Ataturk is an important man but he was never going to win. Perhaps next century he will. But it showed that people with an agenda will always try to skew results if all you need to do is recommend something.
All it takes is a few Fanboyz to cause chaos. This is what clearly has happened with Towns. For those who have not bought it, Towns is a game by one man operating on his own. It has a large, rabid following, despite being far from completion. Certainly the premise is an excellent one, but without the backing of a proper developer its little more than a bright idea at the moment. It could be brilliant - but it could also not be. We simply don't know. What we do know is that its far from finished.
It's been submitted for inclusion in the Greenlight process on Steam for a mid-price item. Had this been something that rational, regular people played and tested it would not get Greenlighted. It's not bad - just not finished. But somehow an Ataturk-style campaign has been generated that has pushed it into a high enough position for a full release. It's madness. It's bad for Xavi, the man who makes the game, because its not complete and will damage his repuatation. It's bad for Steam, because it sullies the Greenlight system of game approval. Who will trust Greenlighted games now that Towns has got through? No one.
The problem is, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. I suspect Steam would dearly like to take this off their catalogue but doing so would be an admission of failure for the Greenlight system. On the other hand, continuing to keep it on sale is clearly a disaster for them. By making it part of their Winter Sales campaign they have drawn attention to it, which is about as bad a move as I can think of.
If there is one good thing to this sorry tale its that Steam can use it as a process to learn from. Never again should a game this bad be able to filter through simply because of some Fanboyz pushing their irrational agenda. Controls need to be tightened, and heads need to roll. And just hope the computer game media don't catch wind of this little nightmare.
Finding Towns for sale on Steam is like finding a turd in a swimming pool. Let's hope it never happens again!
Or am I wrong? I'm prepared to be correct if you disagree. Make your case.