Steam’s New Review Policy Causes More Problems Than It Solves

Today, Steam did something. That alone is a monumental occasion. But unfortunately, as is too often, Steam either didn’t think very hard about what it did or didn’t care very much about the developers on its platform when it did it.

You see, Steam decided to unilaterally demote all reviews posted by anyone who activated a product on Steam via a Steam Key. Some people think this is good. Since I wrote an article and I’m already sounding snippy, you can probably tell I do not think it was good.

There’s cries that people who paid money have “less biased” opinions, cries that Kickstarter backers are like “investors” and shouldn’t have a say, that review copies are “free keys” and shouldn’t be eligible for, erm, review. All of these are incorrect or downright stupid and I’ll cover them one by one. But first, let’s account for who can actually get a Steam Key and why.

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Fan Games Are No Less Protected Than Fan Art By IP Laws

Or: It’s Time To Stop Defending Nintendo Unless You Hate Fan Art Too.

(This article is available in an expanded, podcast-style form as well, on YouTube.)

A common refrain when a fan game is taken down is that it’s within Nintendo’s rights. Do you know what else is within Nintendo’s rights? Sending DMCA takedowns to every single OC Remix track based directly on Nintendo’s music. What else is within Nintendo’s Legal Rights That Are Totally Always Okay To Enforce?

Say Nintendo read every article about Cosplay and sent a DMCA notice to have the pictures taken down and demanded that the cosplayer never again display or create a costume based on a Nintendo character. Is that cool with you? Because it’s not actually any different than fan games, legally speaking.

How about Nintendo sends DMCAs to the millions of pieces of Nintendo character fan art spread across Deviant Art, Pixiv, Twitter, Tumblr, everywhere? Because they could do that. Legally.

Remixes, fan art and yes, even cosplay are derivative works. The only legal difference between them and fan games is that corporations don’t go after them.

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On Fandom: Criticism Need Not Be Hatred

I’ve noticed an unfortunate thread of commentary on my Youtube videos, and more generally in the gaming public. And I’m getting tired of it, because not only is it personally exhausting to read, it’s that sort of insidious, self-propagating way of thinking that taints almost all discussion about entire topics.

The world of game criticism is a very hostile and silly place right now, and we could do a lot better by understanding our own biases and thinking about them just a bit. In the hopes of doing so, here’s some examples of some rather strange comments I got, insisting I hate things I explicitly state I liked in the same breath.

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The Finer Points: Scripted Losses are Bad Game Design

I’ve ranted on Twitter a couple times about scripted losses in games, and a fair number of people still seem to think they’re pretty decent ideas, so I thought I’d get into the meat of what makes them poor design. The bottom line is they violate too many of player’s expectations in a lot of ways developers probably don’t even realize—like many issues in gaming, it’s really easy to overlook when you know what’s going on, but when you don’t, hoo boy.

Losing Sucks

So this isn’t news. But I think game devs underestimate just how a sudden loss can affect players. Allow me to tell you a story from my youth. From the ancient times, when all games were pixels, and “multiplayer” often meant taking turns in a single-character platformer or just plain ol’ watching a friend play a single player game all day.

I was playing Chrono Trigger with a friend on my Playstation, a bit late to the game. He had beaten the game on SNES before I had even played, but he didn’t want to spoil the game so I was going in fairly blind. The only RPG I had played before this was Super Mario RPG, at that same friend’s house. I never owned a copy.

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AbyssRium Hidden Fish & Gameplay Tips Guide

This contains all current hidden fish in AbyssRium for iOS and Android, and their unlocking requirements. Along the way it developed into a complete guide to most aspects of the game.

Remember that Hidden Fish always cost the same as other fish (an ever increasing amount ~10x the last price you paid for a fish), so it’s good to unlock these fish as early as possible so you can have a wider variety of fish when fulfilling “X number of Y variety of fish” requirements.

There’s just a couple gaps in info I believe, please comment if you know anything I don’t!

Update 2016-08-26: Added the fish from the latest update.

Update 2016-09-01: Added Walkthrough

Update 2016-09-10: Added Achievements, added FAQ info

Is It Worth Playing?

Well, you can now watch my review of AbyssRium to find out. (But obviously I didn’t make this whole guide because I hate it, now did I.)

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How To Make Sure Your Indie Game Is Safe From Content ID

Why Check For Content ID?

Content ID is a headache for every YouTuber. If you want your game to go down smoothly on YouTube, you probably want to make sure you’re not accidentally setting up YouTubers to find out all their videos will get claimed.

Content ID can do the following:

  • Block a video in some countries
  • Block a video in all countries, effectively censoring it completely
  • Display ads on a video intended to be ad free
  • Block videos from being displayed on platforms that don’t/can’t show ads
  • Take some or all of the ad revenue a non-ad-free video would get
  • Mute some or all of the video

Content ID can also harmlessly track video views and stuff, and I believe uploaders aren’t even notified of this sort of matching. It’s not what I’ll be discussing today as it’s benign best I can tell.

Also note there’s no “only match people who upload the whole, naked soundtrack” option. If a song in the game is included and matched, Let’s Plays, streams etc. will be matched all the same as a pure rip of the full OST, Content ID is not a gentle beast.

If you want to ensure your game is safe from the Content ID monster, there’s a quick test you can do to save YouTubers some headaches (and yourself some headaches if they come asking what the deal is). Also, if you didn’t upload content to Content ID but someone else did, that means every video for your game could get Content ID’d, ticking off the YouTuber and sending money to someone who isn’t you, while the YouTuber will probably blame you assuming you did it. So yeah, you don’t want that. Some game devs have even had their own trailers Content ID’d by outside parties. Fun stuff.

If you don’t care or think Content ID is a great thing to have for your game, I just have to say I think you’re vastly overestimating the amount of money you’ll earn from Content ID and vastly underestimating the goodwill and increased coverage and sales a healthy YouTube following for a game will provide. But this is a how-to, so that’s (almost) the last bit of preaching I’ll do for today’s read.

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Fan Projects Do Not Threaten Copyright Protections

I’m angry. You see, recently a truly fantastic Metroid 2 fan recreation was released: AM2R. I played it for a live stream. It’s truly fantastic, and has an amazing amount of original work put into it, being far and away more than a “fan port” of the game.

But then it got taken down by everyone’s least favorite four letter word, a DMCA, straight from Nintendo. I’m very frustrated with Nintendo for the copyright claim, very frustrated the game was taken down (though torrent sites seem to be ensuring it will not be lost). But that’s not what I’m writing this article about.

I’m writing this because this conversation about copyright and fan projects is…the same as all conversations about fan projects. The conversation is full of ignorance, misunderstanding, and what I can only assume are deliberate bald-faced lies about what companies have to do to protect their copyright.

Companies Don’t Have To Shut Down Projects to Keep Copyright

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Steam Had The Tool to Fight G2A Scammers—And They Threw It Away

Scam Artists

At this point most of us are aware that G2A.com is a scam website that profits from stolen credit cards. They allow resellers to sell Steam keys (and others) at below retail prices, often because…they’re stolen! They also have an offensive Dark Pattern for unsubscribing from “G2A Shield“, €2 a month insurance that protects you from the very stolen keys G2A knows they’re selling you. Rimworld recently stopped selling steam keys on other markets because Fraud levels on G2A were too high. G2A’s persistent refrain is simply an elaborate “Not our problem”.

All these things are objective facts, so your lawyers can kiss my spiky metal ass, G2A. Please pay $5000 a month for TapTap Shield™ to protect your website from articles like this. (I shouldn’t joke, they’ll probably take me up on it: G2a already offered to make game devs accessories to stolen credit cards before!)

But the point of this article isn’t to explain why G2A is bad; if you’re not sold on that, click one of the many sources I’ve already provided. Lars Doucet recently did particularly good roundup article on why G2A is literally worse than piracy: “G2A, Piracy, and the Four Currencies”. I strongly recommend you read it before continuing if you are not yet aware of the depth of the problem G2A poses.

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Home DRMing is Killing Games

And it’s legal.

Let’s back up. A couple weeks ago an email hit my inbox about Crimson Room Decade, a follow-up to, apparently, the most popular Flash game of all time, Crimson Room, which allegedly had 800,000,000 plays! That’s great! A Room Escape classic, and I play lots of Flash games on my channel, so I decided I’d not only play Crimson Room Decade, but the whole series as a fun flashback!

A Classic, Long Dead

This is the part where things get bad. I noticed while the pitch for Decade refers to the success of the original Crimson Room, the site and PR email I got included no links to the original. So I googled a bit and found http://www.crimson-room.net/, which has links to…a dead website. Not even direct links to the games oddly enough, just the landing page of http://www.fasco-csc.com/, a long-since lapsed domain that now serves only as ad space for unlucky searchers for this, a Flash game that apparently had 800 million views.

I then found the creator, Toshimitsu Takagi’s website, which has seemingly not been updated since 2008, four years after the original Crimson Room.

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Kirby has a canon, and it’s horrifying

Please note this article contains extreme spoilers for a variety of Kirby games including in-depth spoilers for the recently released Kirby Planet Robobot (and yes, spoilers are important for a kirby game), so read at your own risk. There’s also a bit of theorycrafting I try to keep to the end.

There’s a bit of a running not-quite-joke with Kirby that it’s a surprisingly dark series, and while true, most mentions of this situation don’t quite dive deep enough. Everyone points to the blood in the Kirby’s Dream Land 3 and Kirby 64 final boss fights. And who could forget Marx Soul’s scream? And it’s true, these are pretty grim, and Kirby games have a trend of pulling a heel turn towards the end, which is interesting on it’s own. But things go deeper.

Zero Two from Kirby, crying blood.

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