Key events

Valve finally takes on Steam user review score manipulation

Valve just changed the way Steam user reviews work - and it's certainly set the cat among the pigeons.

In May, Valve updated Steam so that it highlighted recent reviews on games. The thinking behind this change was sound: it wanted to better show the current state of a game, many of which evolve quickly as developers issue updates.

Now, though, Valve is changing the default review score that shows up at the top of each product page - the one developers and potential customers put so much stock in - so that it does not include reviews written by those who obtained the product through a Steam key.

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Steam and Early Access: To curate or not curate?

It seems counter-intuitive to say it, but Steam, the biggest and most popular digital video game shop we have, may be selling too many games - or rather, it may be selling too many of the wrong kind of games.

The Steam game catalogue bulges with over 3500 titles. And within that catalogue you find pretty much every type of game there is, from big budget shooters made by hundreds of people to experimental games made by just one person. You even find games that aren't finished yet.

So far, so good. What could possibly be the problem with a service that is as close as we've got to a video game library?

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The wonderful problems of Maia

Its Early Access release hasn't been smooth, but this is definitely a world worth fixing.

Maia has problems. Since its alpha launch, it's been something of a victim of its own success; promoted by Valve in a fashion not typically extended to Steam Early Access games of late, it saw an influx of new players intrigued by its mix of Dungeon Keeper and Silent Running, and in developer Simon Roth's futuristic warren through which layers of simulated systems and people course.

Maia Steam early access release date set

Maia Steam early access release date set

"There's a lot of work to go in before we release the alpha to the masses."

Sci-fi colony building game Maia launches on Steam early access on 3rd December 2013, developer Simon Roth has announced.

"It's still quite far away, but we don't want to rush into it," he wrote on the game's Kickstarter page.

"With the direct pre-orders having scored us 12000 or so, we have a little more leeway and have no immediate need for a big cash injection.

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Sci-fi god game Maia launches on Steam Greenlight

Sci-fi colony building game Maia has launched on Steam Greenlight, Valve's platform for working out which games to sell on Steam.

Maia is a god game heavily inspired by the Bullfrog games of the 1990s, such as Dungeon Keeper and Theme Hospital, along with newer entries in the genre such as Dwarf Fortress. It's also inspired by classic sci-fi authors Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams, as well as 1970s horror Alien.

The gameplay sees you build and manage a colony on a moon-like rock. Expect a 2km x 2km x 2km procedurally-generated world, a sandbox mode and single-player campaign, and a first-person exploration mode.

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Actual New Games of 2013

Actual New Games of 2013

More wonder, more awe.

New IPs, we're told, aren't really feasible at the tail-end of a generation, so it's heartening to sit down and discover that a sizeable part of the games industry is sticking its tongues out at the likes of Yves Guillemot and Peter Moore; 2013's looking like it's going to be an absolutely stellar year for Actual New Games.

So what's an Actual New Game, then? Cast your mind back through the fog of the past 12 months and you might recall Tom defining them as games that "invent new styles and genres... games that we can't easily decode from the first half an hour of play, and that leave us brimming with wonder and excitement and babbling to one another about the amazing things they do."

2012 didn't do too bad in that regard. There was the unexpected pleasure of Brendon Chung's 30 Flights of Loving, or the melancholy spirituality of Journey. And then were the games that reminded us of styles so long forgotten they felt new: Dishonored's mesh of stealth, mystery and a gloriously realised world, The Walking Dead's emotionally charged revival of the adventure genre or XCOM's muscular strategy.

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Sci-fi god game Maia launches on Kickstarter

Sci-fi god game Maia launches on Kickstarter

Lowest reward tiers sold out, but 10 grants early alpha access.

UPDATE: This article has been edited to remove the claim that Simon Roth worked on Frozen Synapse. We apologise to Simon and to Mode 7 Games for the error.

ORIGINAL STORY: Indie developer Simon Roth has taken his upcoming "Space colony management simulator" Maia to Kickstarter.

Maia is a god game heavily inspired by Bullfrog games of the 90s like Dungeon Keeper and Theme Hospital along with newer entries in the genre like Dwarf Fortress. It's also inspired by classic sci-fi authors such as Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams, as well as 70s sci-fi films like Alien.

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Maia Preview:  Mostly Harmful

Simon Roth has been building worlds for quite some time now. It seems he has a talent for crafting game engines, for coding procedural generation routines and for modelling complex systems. As he shows me a very early build of Maia, he relates an interesting story about a certain game that never was, a project of his from a few years back.

"I came up with the idea of a voxel engine game, kind of like Dwarf Fortress but first person, where you can dig and you can build things," he says. I'm intrigued. "And then you'd have to defend your base from monsters. But everyone said 'Nobody will ever buy this game! No-one's interested in building stuff!'"

Undaunted, Roth has kept himself busy building many more worlds and modelling the systems within them, and right now he's telling me about how he wants to model liquids as accurately as possible. Not just any liquid, mind, but lava, so that when it burns its way through the underground, off-world colony that you've so carefully nurtured, you'll be able to appreciate just how realistically it's melting all your stuff.

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