Becoming a #Gamedev

I Want to Push a Crappy Game Through Steam Greenlight; What Should I Do?

The first few game projects are difficult.
I don’t know the project you are working on, so I can’t comment on whether it deserves a place in Greenlight. There are a lot of beautiful projects on Greenlight that all deserve a chance, if your project is one of them, I’m writing this blog in your defense.

As a rule of thumb, your first few games are always going to be at least a bit crappy. And for the slow learners, perhaps even your first ten projects, (or fifty).  There are many rookie mistakes that are so easy to make. Whether you are just learning the basics of coding and are making mistakes, or you simply never thought through your gamedesign properly.  You are either very lucky or an ultimate genius if your first few games are not crappy in at least some areas.
If it is honest feedback you are looking for; I truly applaud you for your effort, but there is a separate section within Greenlight for concepts that want feedback. When your game is still an early concept still lacking quality, are you really benefiting from getting it on Steam?

The Steam Greenlight Concepts page
The Steam Greenlight Concepts page

The obvious answer to the title of this post is: don’t try to push a crappy game through Steam Greenlight. If your project lacks in quality; take the lessons learned from development and make a better game.
Even if you can get through Greenlight (for instance by featuring a huge amounts of boobs), it’s not going to be the success you want it to be. It harms the projects of others, and perhaps even more important: it will harm the future you.
Hiding your game behind a pair of breasts is almost always a bad thing. Either they aren’t looking at your content, so you gain nothing, or they are drawn in and still repelled by your content. And speaking frankly, it is a bit sexist isn’t it?

Quick bucks harm the industry
A lot of aspiring game developers make their first game and throw it out there for a quick buck on the easiest publishing platform there ever was: Steam Greenlight. They hope that their game is good enough or makes enough of a fuzz for people to vote for it. This problem is not Steam exclusive of course, as the same is happening in mobile appstores.

It is true that there is a great demand for games, but the supply of games is literally overwhelming and the overall quality often lacking. “Indie” used to be a term linked to independent developers fighting the good fight, making creative games without the help of a publisher. Nowadays an ‘indie game’ is too often associated with hastily made game projects, barely finished and consisting mostly out of ineptly implemented assets from various asset stores.

As an aspiring game developer you (should) know this is a very bad thing. The more crap is out there, the harder it is for the polished projects to stand out, and it gives the industry a bad name. Now maybe you just finished your first game and think : “screw you guys, this is not my problem”; but it is. Or better yet; hopefully it will be. That is, if you want a career in game development.

When at first you don’t succeed; don’t upload.
And this is important: you have learned a lot of things in your first project. There was an awesome idea, you maybe sort of messed it up, but now you have even more great ideas and an even better understanding of how to develop those ideas. Your second project is going to be better, and by the time you are making your third project you have learned so much you wish you had never uploaded that first game; because it is cluttering up the Steam store or Greenlight, together with all the other first-time projects that could have been a lot better if they had been the third project of those developers.
My advice would be not to upload your first game projects if it lacks in quality, and take the lessons learned to make better ones.


Steam Greenlight tips
Now if you think you haven’t made any of the rookie mistakes or that by now your project has come far enough to be great; take the shot. And if you are going to do it; do it well.
Here are some tips I derived from my experience with Steam Greenlight:

Have an awesome trailer:
* The first seconds of your trailer are the only thing you are sure of that people are going to see before they start skipping through your video. Don’t waste this with 10 second of your logo, story fluff, or alpha footage disclaimers.
* When people go skipping (and most people do this), they often click in the middle of your video, or towards the end. Make sure there are interesting shots here.
* Make sure there is gameplay in your trailer (beginning and middle part) so people know what your game is about. If they don’t know how your game plays, they will hesitate to vote yes. If you haven’t got gameplay yet; there is a special Greenlight section for concepts!
* Make sure your shots look unique, if the gameplay looks like a clone of something else, your audience will not want it. Make sure the unique features of your game are shown.

* Start with describing your game in one sentence.
* Make your text short and to the point. Most people won’t read it, but if they do, you don’t want to take too much of their time.
* Divide your text in short subjects, give these a colorful header in the art style of your game to make the text look appealing; this shows you have put effort into the campaign, and aren’t just throwing your project out there.
* Put meaningful information here; those that are taking the time to look into your text were probably intrigued enough to want to know more.
* Give them features in a bullet point format. Bullet points are awesome, bullet points are your friend.

Look at our Greenlight page to see how we’ve implemented these tips, maybe it gives you inspirations on the do’s (or don’ts):

Open in Browser             Open in Steam (Press start application)

You need people to vote for your game. The first view days will feel awesome, because Steam helps you by sending loads of people by your page. But as soon as you drop off the ‘newly uploaded’ first page, your visitors will decline and you will have to spread the word yourself. Put effort into this, and make it easy for them to vote for your game. For instance, provide people with two links. One that says: “open in Steam” and one that says “open in browser”. Because most people are not logged in into Steam on their browser. Check out here how to create an ‘open in steam’ link, use the php method.

It is impossible to say how many ‘yes’ votes you need to get through Steam Greenlight, it changes constantly and it also depends on Steam curators seeing potential in your project.

In the end there is one advice to make it through Steam Greenlight: Make a good game that people like. Don’t go into Steam guns blazing with your first half-assed project; you can do better that that.


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Matthijs Kramer

Matt joined indiewatch in 2016 to write about the marketing, promotion and design of indie games. He's a community manager and narrative gamedesigner at his company Alterego Games.


  1. Thanks for the advice in this article. I’m very excited (and nervous) about getting my game Greenlit, but will be waiting until the game is further into development before uploading to Steam Greenlight.

    Just one typo I picked up in your article:

    * Make you text short and to the point.

    It should be:

    * Make YOUR text short and to the point.

    1. Thanks to polishing Woven, it got through Greenlight in just a weeks time.
      Now we have our Kickstarter campaign to work on; even more excitement then the Greenlight campaign was.

      Thanks for pointing out the typo, and lots of luck to your Greenlight efforts, let me know when its up 😉

  2. I have a polished casual game that I’d like to get on steam but it’s a bit offensive and am unsure if Steam will accept it. Who can I ask to see if it will be ok, I don’t want to waste the $100 if it’s just going to be rejected.

    1. Steam accepts a lot of content, the question is whether the steam players will think it is cool, and good enough to vote ‘yes’ for.
      Perhaps get it on concepts first (the link is in the article) and base your decision to whether to go Steam Greenlight or not on that?


  3. Hi Steven,

    I think you made some valid points, but practice what you preach. The gameplay in your greenlight video is limited to walking and selecting your character.

    1. You are 100% right 😉 I admit i was never good at following my own advice. But we uploaded a second trailer showing more gameplay 😉 As you could see in our comments section; people wanted more gameplay.
      Ahw well… Atleast it underlines the article 😛
      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

    1. Thank you, thank you 😉
      Seeing as it was your blogs that inspired me to blog in the first place you can rest easily knowing your voice lives on, in this article 😛
      And great to see you agree!

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