Update: SPAZ's struggles to get onto Steam eventually proved fruitful, so this post is now just a bunch of hot air. Let's all celebrate by purchasing SPAZ on the digital distributor of our choice.

There's two things I want to talk about here.

#1. The first is the recent twin release of two games (in alpha and beta respectively), Starfarer and SPAZ.

SPAZ (Space Pirates And Zombies)'s least palatable attribute is its name, and after that it gets a whole lot better. It's a top-down space shooter within a randomly-generated open galaxy, where you mine minerals, shoot bad guys and upgrade your tech and trade up for bigger, nastier ships. The combat is a little simplistic - you move with WASD and aim with mouse - and you don't have to do much else that space combat games usually ask you to do such as shift energy between systems, pay attention to your positioning and re-direct your shields. You can build a small wing of several ships, taking control of one while the others are piloted by AI whom you can issue simple move and attack orders to. It is very accessible and, in the hour or so the demo lasted me, addictive. Demo's at the game's site.

Starfarer, from what I can see, is much more complex. I haven't played it because there is no demo, but there's an excellent video of it in action I've posted below. Ships are more varied, from large flagships to small destroyers, from carriers to the fighters they hold. Juggling energy outputs, shield coverage, ship positioning and targeting systems looks hard as hell but very rewarding. It's less complete than SPAZ but appeals to me more (I prefer the hard sci-fi tone to the irreverent one of SPAZ); I hope that the developer can deliver on a decent campaign.

#2. The second is the distribution of SPAZ. It is only available on Impulse at the moment, which is a platform I'm none to keen on, so I'm refraining from paying for the full game. I'm waiting for it to appear on GamersGate as it's allegedly about to do, but what interests me is what I heard about its application to be placed on Steam.

I like Steam. When I moved to the other side of the world, I had to sell off most of my lovely games, but those on Steam I was able to keep and easily access 6,000 miles away from where I purchased them. I want Steam to be a grand platform for ALL GAMES and though I wish it didn't mean filling a single company's coffers to bursting I quite like the imagined benefits. Which is why hearing stories along the lines of, "we would have liked to use Steam as a distributor, but we were unfortunately rejected... they think that the market is flooded with space games," I get angry.

Valve has the utmost interest in maintaining the purity of its distribution network. I've seen the company quoted as saying that it's careful about just throwing everything on the servers because it would just overload the platform with junk, half-finished projects and tech demos. This is fine by me, I want to be able to navigate the shop without getting hopelessly lost. But this isn't that, it's a judgement of value. If the story is true, then SPAZ was rejected because of its genre, not its merit or condition. Considering the share of the market Steam possesses, it is wrong for Valve as developers and gamers themselves to potentially deny games a chance to meet their audience. Let the consumer decide whether SPAZ is worthy of a place on the Steam store. GoG has a Most Wanted page where users can vote on what games they want added, there is no reason Steam can't add similar functionality if it's hesitant about what will sell.

This is the first time I've heard a game being rejected on these grounds. Are there more?

To hell with it, I'll wait for GamersGate. And while you're at it, Valve, the market's flooded with first-person shooters, if you catch my drift.

Starfarer: http://fractalsoftworks.com/
SPAZ: http://www.spacepiratesandzombies.com/

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