When Valve launched Steam Greenlight back in 2012, it was intended to be a way for Steam users to have a say in which games deserved a spot on the service. However, what should have been a way for the cream of the independent scene to rise to the top has turned out to be rather susceptible to abuse — case in point, the latest sub-par product to make it through Greenlight, The Slaughtering Grounds.
Released on Halloween, The Slaughtering Grounds is an FPS that challenges players to tear around an arena killing a selection of various zombies, which in turn earns them cash that they can spend on weaponry and upgrades. The day after it hit the Steam storefront, outspoken critic Jim Sterling released a video on his YouTube channel giving some impressions of the game, raising the ire of its creators.
Sterling was highly critical of the games uneven art style, wafer-thin gameplay and just about everything else on offer. His ten-minute drubbing of the game is part of a series that is expressly presented as first impressions — but that didn't stop charmingly-named developer Digital Homicide Studios from making a quick response to what was perceived as a review.
Digital Homicide Studios released their own version of Sterling's video with text overlaid as a retort to his criticisms — of course, Sterling returned the favor and recorded new commentary over their video (a video that was removed rather quickly). The studio's petty, sweary and poorly copy-edited response certainly doesn't make them look like a professional outfit. Take, for instance, their comment on Sterling's take on their ammo system:
No shotgun ammo, it must be the developers fault for me not taking the time to even remotely figure the game out before I make this worthless pile of shit review to get some more subscribers.
However, the tiff with Sterling is only part of the problem for The Slaughtering Grounds. NeoGAF forum poster Mr. Luchador did some digging and found a few more issues with the game. For one, it appears that the developers have been writing their own reviews — now removed from the Steam store page — complete with highly-suspicious praise like 'Well worth the low price tag compared to recent titles in the same genre'. One user who took to the Steam discussion board for the game to query these reviews was banned by the developers.
As well as all this, the game has been found to be using copyrighted assets as part of its logo, which has since been amended. Similarly, the 'blood spatter' effect that fills the screen when you take damage uses some of the first images you're presented with when you do a Google Image Search for 'blood spatter'.
Digital Homicide Studios and Jim Sterling have continued their feud with another new video each, but at this point it's more of a pissing contest than anything else. The developer is trying to turn the issue into a narrative where they're being picked on by a reviewer, but their continued involvement with Sterling does them no good. This is what Sterling does, and his fanbase is going to lap it up regardless.
There's a deeper problem here than just the fate of the tarnished reputation of yet another indie developer, but it does provide a good summing up of the larger situation; a host of poorly designed zombies shuffling around, and you having no recourse if they do shuffle into your path isn't a bad analogy for Steam Greenlight as of today. The system doesn't work as intended — the release of medicore games like this just goes to prove that — so perhaps it's time for Valve to rethink their efforts. The same goes for "early access" games that Steam makes money off of but are allowed to never be completed.
The Slaughtering Grounds is out now for PC.