Ever heard of a game called Geneshift? No of course you haven't. It was barely a speck on the gaming radar until yesterday when, out of nowhere, it became one of the most played games on Steam ever.
Geneshift recorded a concurrent player count of 213,183 players, according to Steam Charts, an increase of 9000 per cent. It's a number that would place Geneshift fourth on Steam right now, behind colossi PUBG, Dota 2 and CS: Go.
In the all-time rankings it puts Geneshift 10th - 10th in how many hundreds of thousands of games I wonder? Yet there it stands among giants like Grand Theft Auto 5, Monster Hunter World and Fallout 4. And it's only made by one guy.
But today, Geneshift is nowhere to be seen on the Steam concurrent players chart. Since it peaked, it sunk like a cannonball, completely out of sight.
What's been going on? Two things: Reddit and bots, the game's creator explained on Reddit.
Geneshift is a Grand Theft Auto 2-inspired game that a man called Ben has been working on for nine years, oh my goodness grief. Geneshift launched on Steam Early Access in May 2017 and no one took any notice.
But then Ben made a joke on Reddit about how someone should make a two-minute battle royale game, and Reddit were all like, "Yeah, you should!" So he did, and it's this battle royale mode Ben wanted to do a bit of promotion for - by making it completely free to download and keep for 48 hours.
He thought he'd thank Reddit for the support by announcing the giveaway there, so he spent three hours making a terrific gif for the very popular r/gaming subreddit, and soon it was on the frontpage.
"It's been a wild ride!"
That's the Reddit part ticked off; the bots came after.
The bots came because someone worked out you could earn Steam Trading Cards by playing Geneshift. You can't normally do this in free-to-play games, apparently, only premium games, which Geneshift normally is. So all of a sudden, thousands of bots started appearing and idling and earning cards which they presumably accrued for someone and sold for a profit.
Then Valve noticed.
Trading cards were disabled and the player-count "plummeted", said Ben, but not before Geneshift recorded its remarkable concurrent peak. Unfortunately it also meant real people had their Steam Trading Cards removed, which provoked a flurry of negative Steam reviews.
"This was upsetting to me as I had nothing to do with this change," wrote Ben. "I also wanted the cards to remain. I tried my best to explain the situation, but most of the negative reviews still remain.
"Still," he added, "I can't complain. It's been a wild ride! And it blows my mind that my random indie game now holds the record for the 10th most 'played' Steam game of all time."
And so goes the story of Geneshift.