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Censorship on Steam & Early Access

  • Sent in by: wadeyboy

Hey,
I've had censorship issues with Steam and I was wondering what your opinion is on it as your reviews and discussions show you have integrity?
The following is a post I made on Steam Discussions about some issues that were concerning me and one in particular; Censorship. It was titled 'Censorship On Steam':
"Seeing as you can post a negative opinion about a game you've bought, in a review which is shown on the game's Store page, why the censorship in a game's Discussions area?
Now I can understand a lot of kids use steam so I completely get the censorship on swearing. But why is a post in Discussions deleted just because a publisher doesn't want anything but positive things said about their game?
I have 2 examples I wanted to debate but I won't mention the names of the games in case this post is censored too!
Now I have nothing against Kickstarter, where devs can get funding because publishers aren't interested in a game of a genre, they see, as not popular enough to make money from.
However, I am getting increasingly worried about how some in the gaming industry are using the growing prevalence of the 'Early Access' system's increasing popularity to exploit kids (spending their parents money) and the easily exploited, by getting money for a game which isn't even finished!
Now I initially thought this was another good way for a small indie developer to get income to finish their game by offering it in it's current state at just a couple of pounds and in the process, also getting free beta testing.
However, I'm now seeing big publishers on Steam using 'Early Access' and charging upwards of not only the usual selling price for a newly released and finished game, but even sums of £75 and more. FOR AN UNFINISHED GAME!
So you've no idea on how good it's going to be because you can't read any reviews of the game's quality or know that even if the finished game really is
'finished' upon release and not needing months of patching that may or may not actually ever get done.
The company could even go out of business after you've paid your money seeing as businesses go out of business all the time, especially in the games industry.
At the moment there's a well known publisher using 'Early Access' on Steam and charging £76 for the latest game of a popular franchise that's guaranteed sales anyway because it's a follow up to a well known and critically acclaimed game series.
They are trying to justify this outrageous price by offering you the ability to play the alpha release now and get the 'finished' version on release. They are also saying you will get all the forthcoming DLC for the game. But you've no idea how substantial that DLC is going to be. I've seen a lot of game's DLC and although some does offer extra hours of gameplay, there's also a lot of it that's not even worth getting like extra skins for a tank or spaceship, new clothing for one of the game's characters, new guns that aren't already in the game, etc, etc.
Some also offer other 'perks' to justify the money they are charging like your name being on the game's credits, a special badge that only you and the devs will have, or access to view original and concept artwork, etc. Wow, whoopy doo!!
I'm also worried about this practice becoming the norm seeing as there seems to be plenty of kids (spending their parent's money) and foolish and easily taken in adults, willing to give them the money!
Getting back to the censorship issue, I even had a question I asked the devs in a well known flight sim's Discussion area! And I made it clear it was from a fan who had already bought most of their flight sim modules. I mean I even set up a group devoted to the game, on Steam!
They had just posted a list of new modules under development in their game's Discussion area. I noticed they were all aircraft even though the game had been advertising that it would cover air, land and sea combat, properly simulated on a proper digital battlefield.
So I posted a question only asking "when will some of the land vehicles and sea units be developed? Thats why so many people are posting on here asking about comparisons with ARMA 3."
Yet even that got pulled and deleted when I had just only asked a relevant question and didn't mention a single word of criticism! Obviously, it's just going to be a flight sim and there's not going to be simulation of any other kinds of units on the battlefield
(although there's nothing wrong with that to flight sim fans like myself, but the advertising is misleading at the very least).
So come on Steam. I've been a member of yours for many years and have always admired your integrity. So please stop with the unnecessary censorship otherwise why have Discussions at all and just have publisher's advertisements instead?"
In less than 10 minutes, the thread had been closed down and is now deleted. In that time there was one reply. It said:
"There is no censorship. All the threads on the same subject about Galactic Civilisation 3 (I was careful not to mention the name of the games I was talking about so those words were his, not mine) have been merged together here" and he provided the link.
So I clicked on the link and went through all of the posts. But my original post that started the thread was nowhere to be seen. However, what I did see among all those who posted, was that the overwhelming majority agreed with what I had said and that was clear even though my original post, at least, had been deleted (censored).I wondered how many more had?
So I thought to myself, why would the guy who posted lie by clearly saying "there was no censorship?"
So I went back to my above post to reply to the guy and ask him what was his reason for lying because there clearly had been censorship. But as I went to post I saw a message saying "don't try posting to this thread. It has been closed down by a moderator!"
So even though I didn't mention any of the games by name, didn't insult anybody, swear or anything like that, my post was still censored!
I went back to the thread and clicked on the name of the guy who had replied (and lied about there being no censorship) and was taken to his profile. His profile had been made private but underneath his name, it clearly said "Steam Moderator!"
So I clicked on the link on his profile to report abuse and when it asked 'What was the abuse?' I wrote the following:
"Censorship and lying. And shame on you Steam for putting such people in a position to be able to censor any user for legitimate criticism of a publisher's shameful marketing strategy and you for allowing it.
Your loyalties should be to your customers and members, not publishers. What's happened to your once well known integrity?"
What is your opinion you guys on the issues raised in this post? I've read a lot of your reviews and you have
always come across to me as people with integrity. This
is why I value your opinions on these matters and you seem to be people who would have strong opinions on these issues.

Response

Well, there seems to be two issues mentioned here - censorship and charging large amounts for early access games - so I'll address them one at a time.

Without being able to view your specific examples with regards to censorship we're going to have to speculate somewhat, but we'd suggest that perhaps the reason that you've had things pulled from Steam discussion boards isn't anything to do with Valve, but rather the individual developers.

With Valve attempting to open up the platform, turning it into more a shopfront, you can probably expect developers to be given more authority over what appears in their community pages, almost as an extension of what they're able to do on their own websites away from Steam. It's also likely part of the reason why the user-written reviews are now available to see, and as far as we can tell, these are in no way censored.

I think, with Valve increasingly handing more control to developers, you're going to see more curated content by the respective studios, and less overall influence from Valve. The end goal being an open and diverse digital store. While it's not ideal in some cases that devs have the power to remove comments as they see fit, ultimately it's probably a price worth paying to have more games on Steam in the first place.

As for your other point, spending large amounts of money on Early Access games, we'd perhaps look at this another way.

If you talk about a game that charges £70 or £80 quid for early access (I seem to remember Planetary Annihilation did something like that) and you're paying that much money, you're not just paying to play the game. In my mind, a payment of that size can only really be considered as supporting the studio and their work, not just getting involved and getting early access. Backers who stump up that sort of money are buying into the company, not just the game.

What gets more tricky is the beta/alpha testing. Previously this used to be a paid development position, but in recent months/years things have changed somewhat, and now gamers are instead paying for the pleasure of doing this work. It's great for indie devs, but not great for gamers who are playing buggy, untested games. Unless, of course, you're fully aware of all that and don't mind.

Each to their own. I personally don't bother playing games that are broken or are being wiped constantly, but I have bought early access games as a means of supporting a game still in development that I'm looking forward to playing once it's finished.

I hope that goes someway to answer your questions. Thanks for reading.

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