Four years ago, the tumultuous landscape of videogame development was a very different beast indeed. The indie movement was starting to reach its peak, with a plethora of pioneering titles making the leap into the mainstream public consciousness. Valve, ever the progressive innovator, was quick to offer support to this rapidly developing subsector of the industry. They realised the unbridled potential that was lurking on the horizon, ready to reinvigorate a world that had grown putrid and sterile under the dictatorial rule of the big-budget publishers and their endless armies of rehashed sequels. They saw the future, and thus, on August 30, 2012, Steam Greenlight was born.
The primary aim of the service was to allow small-time indie developers the chance to sell their games on Steam, a move that was, at the time, unprecedented. Believe it or not, that was a world once where the New Releases page wasn’t inundated with a daily torrent of terrible detritus. Those were the days. Gamers were invited to vote for which games they thought deserved to get the illustrious Steam golden ticket, and thus a spot on the store for the world to see. It was a monumental move, and while the service has since receded into the shadows, at the time there was considerable buzz surrounding the whole shebang.
Then, on September 11, 2012, Valve announced the first ten titles to be selected for a worldwide release on Steam. You might expect that, after the announcement, all of the proclaimed games on the initial list was a release soon after, but it would seem that wasn’t the case. Indeed, the stories of these revolutionary go-getters are far more complex than I ever imagined, and after many hours of research, I’ve uncovered the trials, tribulations and jubilations faced by this selective bunch.
A third-party remake of the original Half-Life, developed by the appropriately named Crowbar Collective, this reimagining of the acclaimed FPS title was, quite rightly, highly anticipated. Thought despite being cleared for Steam glory back in 2012, the game didn’t release in early-access until May 5, 2015. As of May 2016, the game is still in a beta stage, yet that hasn’t stopped Black Mesa garnering near universal praise from critics and fans alike. It currently stands at an impressive 86 on Metacritic, and won the ModDB Mod of the Year award back in 2012.
Cry of Fear:
While it originally saw life as a Half-Life mod (there’s a certain theme developing here…), Cry of Fear soon manifested into its very own standalone game. Developed by Team Psykskallar, this first-person psychological horror saw an immediate release upon its successful campaign on Steam Greenlight. Combining both puzzles and tense combat mechanics, Cry of Fear saw a positive reception, reaping a very satisfying 82 average on Metacritic.
Not to be confused with Media Molecule’s incoming PS4 exclusive Dreams, this indie title is an exploration game that delves into the vivid and profound subconscious of a young man desperately trying to escape reality. The whole experience took several years to fully manifest after the initial Greenlight announcement, releasing on July 31, 2015. It was met with mixed reviews, culminating with a 59 score on everyone’s favourite ratings site.
Heroes & Generals:
Created by Reto-Moto, Heroes & Generals is a complex amalgamation of several different genres. Described by the developers as a “mass participation game”, the free-to-play, FPS strategy hybrid blends together thrilling moment-to-moment encounters from likes of Call of Duty with the decisive, strategic calculations of the real-time strategy genre. It sounds like an enthralling concept, yet, for a while, it appeared that the game had fallen into development darkness. Thankfully, as of September 22 2016, the game launched in its complete form – undoubtedly a day of celebration for the dev team on par with VE day.
Before you ask, I have to divulge the unfortunate information that this is not the long-lost member of the Shimada clan. Yet don’t let that drive you to despair, for the reality is even more exciting. Kenshi is a squad-based RPG set within a sprawling open-world sandbox, one that encompasses a scarcely believable 870 square kilometres. A call-back to the classic RPGs of old, the game allows players to take on any role they desire, including: famer, thief, trader, rebel, cannibal, and more. While still in early-access, the game is surprisingly complete, and features a highly active and passionate community. At the time of writing, the most recent build is 0.93.0, which adds new map sectors, hydroponic indoor farming, dynamic rain and more, building upon the already solid foundations established by developer Lo-Fi Games.
Claiming the prestigious honour of being the very first game to release via Steam Greenlight, McPixel is an explosively spectacular puzzler where you get live out all of your pixelated MacGyver fantasies. The one-hundred short challenges on offer in McPixel certainly delighted critics, with the game posting review averages 76% and 83% for the PC and iOS versions respectively. Before its promotion to the big leagues thanks to Steam Greenlight, the bombastic hero ‘em up sold 3,056 copies, and while concrete numbers post-Greenlight remain elusive, the built-in level editor, universally free DLC and switchable pixel filters helped McPixel generate 189,927 units in sales during its time in the Humble Bundle Weekly Sale back in August 2013.
No More Room in Hell:
Developed by the brilliantly named No More Room in Hell Team, this realistic, co-operative, FPS survival horror is a spectacular amalgamation of genres that, somehow, manages to fuse them all together to create something utterly outstanding. As is almost customary with the fledgling days of Steam Greenlight, No More Room in Hell was originally a Source Engine Mod that saw up to eight players banding together in true zombie apocalypse style to defend against a ravenous flesh-eating horde. Acquiring near universal acclaim, the game has received numerous awards over the years, including: PC Gamer ‘Mod of the Year’ in 2011, Mod DB’s Multiplayer Mod of the Year in 2011 and Gamefront’s 2011 Mod of the Year. The official stand-alone version was released on October 31, 2013, and continues to draw admiration from players new and old alike, as its 90% rating on Steam can attest to.
Over the last three to four years, the once lush and varied gaming landscape has grown putrid and rotten, a fate undoubtedly brought about by the hordes of zombie games that have relentlessly descended upon it. As such, it would be easy to dismiss The Indie Stone’s isometric zombie RPG sim Project Zomboid as yet another decrepit shambler, but, as the 91% approval rating on Steam can attest to, this is far from the case. The game first saw the radiant light of day back in April 2011, when the very first tech demo was released, and while that day was unquestionable one of immense celebration for the small team over at The Indie Stone, a burglary in October of the same year brought development to a screeching halt. Large volumes of code were lost, and the game was hit with severe delays as the developers struggled to recover. Yet, as we all know, it takes more than a couple of malicious miscreants to stop a zombie, and on November 8, 2013, Project Zomboid was finally set loose on Steam Early Access. Since then, the game has been steadily growing, with systems such as farming, crafting and more being implemented. Project Zomboid is currently still in Early Access, and while a full release still seems far on the horizon, there’s enough here to warrant a wallet-fuelled investigation.
Created by Lunar Software, this eagerly awaited first-person survival horror remains lost in the nether regions of space, with no signs of making contact anytime soon. Originally revealed all the way back in 2011, we have yet to see the game’s tantalising proposition of a futuristic 1980s moon base horror extravagance come to fruition. The developers say that they are hoping for a 2016 release date, but with the days running short and the fact that we have heard no news since December 2015, there appears to be very little hope of Routine making plant fall anytime soon.
While the majority of the titles on this list have seen at least moderate success, our last entry has unequivocally deteriorated into abject failure. This isometric city-builder, where you manage a town on top of an active dungeon, had the promise to manifest into something magnificent. It was released on Steam Greenlight on November 7, 2012, but even then it became to draw criticism, with many players feeling jaded by the fact that the game hadn’t explicitly stated it was still in beta. Towns never saw a full release, with developed grinding to a halt on February 9, 2014, before officially ending on May 6, 2014. Yet despite ceasing development, the game, rather dubiously, can still be purchased on Steam for those looking to bask in the decaying ruins of a game that utterly failed to efficiently plan its development.