lol yeah as a fan of TB’s work I’ve always wanted to start one post like that hehehe. Anyway, i wanted to look at the most useless and stupid thing Valve has done to date. No I’m not talking about the abandoned SPUF (though Valve are still adamant they haven’t abandoned them), I’m not talking steam trading or even the Game Hub, I’m talking about Early Access and Trading Cards.
This see, to the cynical me at least, to have come about through two things clashing together, the anger a lot of Steam users were feeling over the way Greenlight was being used to sell games that weren’t complete, and a lot of them weren’t even in beta phase. As a result games were being sold that were either barely or just into alpha phase of their development cycle. The problem was most people felt that they were indeed getting a complete, if indie developed game. After several rather spectacular blow-ups on the Game Hubs which resulted in multiple post deletion, Valve came up with Early Access.
the other idea that i feel is behind this kickstarter. Given how successful that system has been Valve looked into making their own version, which tied with the above lead to Early Access.
So what is Early Access exactly? Well, as it’s name implies your buying into a game that isn’t complete yet. It rages from pre alpha all the way to beta. The only proviso Valve seems to have in place is that you have at least a working version of the game in place.
The problem here is that several games that are on the Early Access are ridiculously expensive, one game in particular was price at near £70 which is insane, especially for an indie dev. The argument given by them was that the Kickstarter pack to get the alpha build was also that price, so it’s justified so as not to piss off the kickstarter funders.
Part of me understands that, and even partially agrees. However the fact is that they turned to Early Access because they most likely ran out of cash, should people who buy it be punished for their bad project management? Early Access should be used as a advertising tool, you’re saying “look here this is what we’ve got, we’re a little short of funds but we think it good”. People look and if they like it buy in, simples. The buy in should never be in the region of £70, i don’t care if the kickstarters paid that amount.
If you want to charge that amount run another Kickstarter project, or go through direct sales method of selling it on your website. Don’t abuse the Early Access on Steam.
Personally I’m waiting for the first big flop on Early Access, we’ve had a few smallish ones, but if we get one that’s popular, and well publicised (such as the above game) the backwash will cripple the Early Access system, since people won’t trust it. Most likely Valve will have to foot the bill and refund people, or they’ll lose face as well.
When i first heard about this i had to do a double take, since i didn’t think Valve would be this stupid. But apparently they are. Trading Cards are a not so new thing brought in to ‘add fun’ to our gaming. It’s been in Beta since may but was finally released fully. The way it works is you play a game and over time you get cards at random times.
Thing is these cards are like Steam Achievements, useless. If they were like Magic cards, or any other CCG then i could actually see the point of it, in fact it would be rather interesting to see a game evolving based off of games we already own.
Games have a certain number of cards attached to them, but only half of them are available through playing the game. So if the game has 8 cards you’ll get 4 through playing the game. The rest either have to be bought off the market, or traded with other people. Trading however is a small thing, as most cards end up on the market, unless someone has a card the other person really wants.
Once you’ve got a full set of cards you combine them and gain ‘stuff’, ranging from emoticons for the steam chat, background for your profile page and discounts for other games. The problem here is the discounts have (thus far) been pathetic. For example during the steam sale if you collected all the cards you got a 50% discount on Portal 2, which was already 90% off.
Now, that’s just me being picky, I’ll admit it. However since they came out the number of threads with people offering vouchers up for trade has sky rocketed. So much so people are actually giving them away because they don’t want them. These discount vouchers seem to be the new DOTA2 keys, they had high value for a while then everyone got a million keys so the bottom fell out and price plummeted.
Then of course there’s the blatant manipulation being done by Valve to line their own pockets. If you sell a card on the market you get paid, which is nice. However Valve takes a 10% cut of the price, and the Dev. takes a 5% cut. I wouldn’t mind this so much if all the cards were available through drops. Set it so the first half drop fairly quickly (i think I’ve had them all drop within 2 hours of gameplay for me), and the rest drop at milestones, such as 20hours and up. So only those that play the games for that long will get them. this will give the cards value.
However under the current system you have to buy or trade to get the cards. Again the trading aspect would be okay, but since the market is there 90% of the cards end up on there.
Overall this is the stupidest thing valve has done, and i thought it’ couldn’t get any worse, but lets see what other stupid crap Valve come out with
I don’t know enough to argue a point for or against a game’s early access, but I can throw in my two cents about the trading card system Valve set in place.
I think the trading card system is not as bad as you portray it to be. The fact that the cards drops (and once you exhausted your regular 3-4 card drops booster packs, containing three cards, drops instead) has encouraged me and other players I know into picking up games from our backlogs and actually play them instead of having it collect virtual dust in the library.
Someone at Valve paid attention in their high-school/college psych class because the best way to guarantee that players will continue to play a game is to entice them with rewards that are given out randomly instead of at staged points, the phenomenon is called Skinner’s Box (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber. Fun fact The US military used this technique to try to train pigeons to guide missiles into enemy ships in WWII)
For the coupons, yeah I’ll give that some times there is bad planning with other sales and players don’t want a reward that requires them to spend even more money, hence the trading and giving away of the coupons on the forums. But I have never completed a set of cards and only received the coupons for my reward. It has always been the badge, a emoticon, possibly a wallpaper and then the coupon. I view it as a consolation prize, not the main draw when completing the set but still nice thing to have on the off chance that you’ve been eyeing that game.
For the card market, you don’t have to participate, there are active steam groups and chats that are full of people looking to trade and exchange cards and you don’t have to deal with the market place. I was able to grab all my sets without paying a cent. It is just like any other F2P game, the money option is there if you don’t want to put in the hard work of finding someone to trade with you.
For the profit part of it, yeah Valve wants to make it profit from the people looking for the easy way out, just like Blizzard with D3’s Real Money AH they are just capitalizing on the people willing to spend their money on card sets. I don’t mind the 5% cut to developers, I wouldn’t mind being taxed a bit more if I knew the money was going directly to the developers, especially for the indie developers (but that’s just me and my politically left leaning view on life and economics)
On the topic of not getting all the cards from a set on your own, well it’s called trading cards for a reason. Valve gave you a limited amount of card drops to encourage you to go out and seek other players in the chats and forums and trade with them. This system wouldn’t be as effective if everyone was able to 100% each set by themselves.
It’s not as bad as you think it to be, it’s an optional metagame that you can partake in if you are interested. Its the same with me and TF2’s introduction of hats, it’s a purely cosmetic addition to the game and if you are like me and don’t like it you can choose not to become a part of it. Both the cards and the hats are opt-in systems, you have to willingly choose to participate in the activities.
I have precious little that is good to say about Valve and that on a critical level, not on some frothing-at-the-mouth hater level.
Valve was made famous by Half-Life being as remarkable a game as it was when it came out, demonstrating that Valve not only cared about video games but cared to make good video games. Unfortunately, most every game Valve developed has been either a Half-Life modification (Team Fortress), something bought from another company (Left 4 Dead) or a continuation of the Half-Life story. But they made Team Fortress 2 an absolute joke, so much so that it’s a mere First-Person trading post instead of a competitive FPS and the mutations they came out with for Left 4 Dead 2 were remarkably buggy. Hell, DotA 2 demonstrates that Valve is truly bereft of ideas and creativity.
But there’s the hype…
Steam is a remarkable digital distribution platform and does a fantastic job of consolidating multi-player, but that’s about all it does well. Valve doesn’t adequately vet the games that the list (The War Z), games are missing assets (manuals, music), their support is downright awful and slow, and the platform itself causes issues (“Unknown Steam Error”). Then there is the fact that it has been revamped to look like Facebook, demonstrating that Valve isn’t in any real way concerned with video gaming if the fire sales and lack of care and creativity in their own work wasn’t enough.
Then there are the trading cards. Trade them for real money? Valve gets a healthy cut. But it’s a great marketing tool and a way to keep people on Steam so that they can show their support for Steam with flashy game-related icons, backgrounds and User Levels. What’s important to Valve is loyalty to Valve and continually buying things, not buying games or the quality of those games, but just buying things from them and advertising for them through trading cards and tricked out profiles.
The most polite thing that can be said about Valve is that they are over-hyped. The reality is much more stark.
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