The game developer (if you could even call them that) is trying to force Steam to turn over the real identities of the 100 Steam users it says are defaming the company by leaving consistently negative reviews en masse for it’s games. In response Steam today removed ALL of Digital Homicide’s games from the service and effectively banned them.
For those who don’t know, Digital Homicide is basically two brothers who have been swamping Steam Greenlight with terrible “games” for the past couple of years. These creations are basic at best, completely unplayable at worst, and usually consist of cobbled together Unity assets, often the same Unity assets across several games. In the past they’ve also rebranded the same game and resubmitted it as new to Steam. They usually price their games ridiculously low and are constant fixtures in the weekly deals, simply to con people into wasting $0.49 of extra cash from their Steam wallets on their crappy products.
Well they (or maybe I should say ‘he’, James Romine of Digital Homicide) succeeded in getting a judge to issue the subpoena to Valve. So they’re off to some kind of a start. But Valve has yet to respond to it.
That is the real danger here. While the Romine brothers are simply lashing out at people who are banding together to effectively call them on their bullshit, the end result of pushing their lawsuit through the courts could be detrimental to the gaming industry as a whole.
Lately we’ve seen so much discussion in the gaming industry about critics and reviews, from protecting consumers from paid-for-positive reviews and streams to protecting developers from unwarranted review lynch mobs out to kill a game over a perceived slight or controversy rather than actual poor gameplay. Honest reviews by other consumers are still the main factor in most buyer’s decision making process, and it is important to protect the right to publish them. Ten minutes of review on the facts in this particular battle should be enough to convince any judge that Digital Homicide is selling snake-oil and the lawsuit is the definition of frivolous, but an uninformed judge could open the doors for a critical hit to consumers ability to police such things through freedom of speech (reviews).
It’s not just Steam and the Romine brothers either. Yelp is currently embroiled in their own negative review based lawsuit which has caught the interest of a lot of big names in the online retail world. The Yelp suit is based on Yelp’s publication of reviews that allegedly are outright lies though, whereas the Digital Homicide suit is basically an attempt to get justified negative reviews stricken from the record. I also wonder if the Yelp suit is where the Romine brothers got their idea from.
Is this interview between Jim Sterling and a Romine brother ultimately worth listening to? I tried, but only got 20 minutes into it (it’s an hour and a half) before shutting it off because of a combination of poor audio quality, and frankly, after 20 minutes, both of these guys were starting to sound like 12-year-olds fighting on a playground.
Anyway, has anyone here actually played any of Digital Homicide’s games? Are there no redeeming qualities whatsoever? I mean, I’ve actually enjoyed playing some poorly-reviewed games before, and in a lot of cases, games can suffer from internet pile-on. I mean, even Sterling admitted to liking one of Digital Homicide’s games at one point in that interview.
It occurred to me that after reading around the web on various forums, I was hearing nothing but “Shit games” and “crap games”, and not really anything in detail. Maybe I need to just go check out some Youtube reviews for myself, and try and find a fair one.
How would you even determine this (general question)? Digital Homicide is basically arguing this, that the people leaving poor reviews are not being honest and are just trying to damage their product. Why is this not valid in Digital Homicide’s case but it is in other games? The only reason i can see is if you like the game in question. Then you deem the negative reviews as fake.
My personal answer to both parties is that the greatest defense against negative reviews is to 1) Make a good game and 2) be honest about what your game is. If you make the best FPS ever but sell it to me as a 3rd person shooter, i’m not going to be happy no matter how good a FPS it is. There will be people who don’t like your game no matter how good you do at those two things, but the number will be smaller than the people happy with it, much smaller.
It most certainly does, though it is nowhere near as common as the epidemic of paid/fake positive reviews. As WarpRattler mentioned, Gone Home was a title that suffered from this, both because of it’s perceived slight of PAX (the developer pulled the game from PAX in 2013 after comments about the LGBT community made by PAX organizers) and because it’s gameplay was radically different than standard video game norms. But you need only look back a month to see the most recent example in the launch of No Man’s Sky. People blasted the game at launch not because it was bug-ridden or somehow unplayable and/or awful, but because it didn’t conform to their (arguably inflated) expectations of what it was supposed to be. It was most certainly a lynch mob mentality, with people calling the lead developer a liar and a crook. Masses of people who didn’t even buy or play the game were online condemning it (disclosure : I am guilty of this myself) because it wasn’t what it appeared to be in all the hype, but it IS a complete and playable game that many people enjoy. Aggregate review scores for the game were manipulated not because the game itself was terrible, but as a way to express anger at the developer.
Gone Home and No Man’s Sky are both complete games that were in development for years before being released to the public. Digital Homicide consists of two guys, and between April of 2016 and September 2nd 2016 they’ve released THIRTEEN games to Steam (and they released about that many more between October 31, 2014 and December 2015. That’s 24 games over two years with a two-man development team. Some of those titles are the exact same game re-released under a different name and maybe a couple of additional assets added. All of Digital Homicide’s games use Unity assets created by other sources and strung together loosely to create a very basic and linear poor quality game experience.
I’m not against small developers using Unity to create basic games as their first foray into game design and development. But Digital Homicide appears to be trying to exploit Steam’s Greenlight and sale system to make money off unsuspecting buyers, and they want Steam to be complicit in this by removing negative reviews that call them on their bullshit. Remember, you can’t leave a Steam review for a game unless you own it, so these are people who spent actual money (even if it was only $0.49) on a Digital Homicide product, and now the developer wants Steam’s help to sue it’s own customers because those customers dare to complain about being ripped off. That’s not a digital lynch mob, that’s the way consumer review systems are supposed to work.
No Man’s Sky didn’t deliver what they promised, the game had horrible performance problems, and what very little is there can barely be called a game at all. I thankfully didn’t pull the day one trigger on it, but I have several friends that did and they are very understandably pissed off and feel taken for a ride. If you feel you got what you paid for - a half finished game with severe performance problems and just a small percentage of the DEMONSTRATED gameplay - good for you. I’d suggest you at best paid 60$ for a sub-par entry into a genre that normally sells for 20$, but still, good for you. I can only assume you had no idea what you were buying before you pulled the trigger.
On topic I cannot believe a judge would indulge in this bullshit. I can only second the “what’s next?” comments here. This is beyond silly.
Again, using Unity and pre-existing assets in of itself is perfectly fine, and many interesting games and Unity programming projects have been created this way by first-time developers. That’s not what’s happening here though, instead a product (Unity) and system (Steam Greenlight) designed to be a path for aspiring indie developers to bring their visions to fruition is instead being exploited to make a quick buck off uninformed consumers.
I am not sure Gone Home was truly review bombed. If memory serves there was little-to-no review bombing on that one but I could be incorrect.
No Man’s Sky was not review bombed. It simply was a middling product and deserved the poor reviews it received.
While I believe the negative review bombing cry is severely overblown I think it does occur from time to time. In the very few cases where it appears to have happened it still may be justified. For instance ARK:Survival Evolved dropped from the 80s into the 60s after the controversy about their paid DLC for the game while it is still in Early Access. 11,000 recent reviews are mostly negative. I think this is a clear cut case of review bombing a game. Releasing DLC for a game that is still in Early Access (and far overdue the original release projections) is in exceptionally poor taste and therefore may justify the negative reviews. Since it involves new creatures, a new map, new crafting items and so forth it is quite obvious that time was taken from finishing the game to roll out this DLC. I do not think making a negative review to express displeasure with this colossally idiotic decision is unwarranted. So even if something is “bombed”, is that bombing unjustified?
None of that applies to the Digital Homicide prats though. They make lousy games and those games have been appropriately panned. That they are so barmy as to think they can sue over this is quite amusing.
Gone Home has a total of 13,726 Steam reviews, and 3,236 of those are negative. For comparison, this means Gone Home has more negative reviews than such games as The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (with a hair over 38,000 total Steam reviews), Undertale (60,000 reviews), and Civilization V (86,000 reviews).
What I saw of the negative reviews themselves was largely a mix of “costs too much for a two-hour game,” “walking simulator,” “dumb SJW game,” and combinations of the above. You can draw whatever conclusions you want, but “review-bombed by 4chan and Reddit assholes” doesn’t seem too farfetched here.
The only thing that would be subject to review bombing out of that entire list is the complaint of “dumb SJW game”. The other things you have listed including the length of the game and walking simulator are reasonable reasons to give the game a thumbs down.
Not to derail the thread any further, but Gone Home’s situation is better illustrated by MetaCritic than Steam. On MetaCritic, where you don’t actually have to own a game to leave a review, the game has an 86 aggregate review score from critics, but only a 5.4 aggregate review score from users. It has 811 negative reviews compared to 847 positive ones. That’s pretty polarized. While many of the negative reviews are clearly from folks who purchased/played the game and were not impressed by it’s format (which is fine), many are also from people who simply want to bitch about how anyone could even consider something like this a game and how the dev is SJW pandering (many of those seem timed around the PAX incident). It’s also three years after the fact, so most of the more obvious negative troll reviews have been moderated out by this point.
I don’t see why this is surprising or indicative of review bombing. So roughly 25% of reviews were negative for a very “different” kind of video game? I don’t see 1 in 4 people disliking a polarizing game as being anything out of the ordinary or suspicious.
Even in the context of its own genre, the proportion of negative reviews for Gone Home is high. (Compare to The Stanley Parable, a similar game of similar length, which has almost twice as many total reviews, but only 2/3 as many negative reviews. Maybe it’s because it’s comedic rather than dramatic. Maybe it’s because it came out two months later and people had gotten used to the idea by then. Maybe it’s because of the lower base price. Maybe it’s because the dev didn’t inadvertently piss off a bunch of Internet man-babies. Who knows?)
Regardless, it’s not like Gone Home was advertised as an action-packed FPS or something. The game’s billed as “an interactive exploration simulator,” and that’s what it is, so complaining about it being what was promised in the description is pretty much indefensible. You don’t get to order a ham sandwich and then complain that you received a ham sandwich.
Also, complaints about game length are valid? Are we really going to argue about this in a post-Portal world?
We do not need to argue about it. Complaints about game length are valid. It can be a large factor in the perceived value of a product which is the only thing that matters when evaluating a purchase.
The only type of reviews that could contribute to “negative bombing” are any reviews about SWJs and those are few and far between. That you disagree with the reviews is not evidence of it being bombed.