So Earth 2066 has finally been removed from sale on Steam and refunds are being offered. If you’re unsure about this story you can find all the drama here.
Our story begins with a developer by the name of ‘Muxwell Urban’ releasing a game called Earth 2066 on to Steam’s Early Access system. For those of you unfamiliar with this system, Early Access is a place where developers can ‘release’ games in their alpha and beta stages and have the community buy copies in order to fund further development. DayZ is probably the biggest example of a famous Early Access game, having now sold 2 million copies despite still being in alpha.
The idea behind Early Access is that buyers get to see the games they purchase grow. If they’re interested enough in the project they can buy the current build now and have it updated as it goes along. The arguments for and against the Early Access system are long and arduous and won’t be expanded upon here. Instead let’s keep it general, people supporting Early Access normally cite how beneficial it is for an indie developer to have funds during their development, making sure that the game doesn’t crash and burn before it even makes it to release. Those against Early Access say that developers, once they have your money, are under no real obligation to deliver what they’re promising. Early Access is, at it’s very core, somewhat of a risk versus reward system. You’re risking your money on an unfinished game being good at some point now or in the future.
Earth 2066 has been the biggest example of that ‘against’ argument so far. Muxwell released Earth 2066 into Early Access for the somewhat steep price of $19.99. The game featured a small map filled with bugs, one weapon and one enemy type. The game really caught the public’s eye once Jim Sterling of the Escapist released this first impression video of it mid-April:
Jim Sterling’s video highlighted just how broken the game was to the general video gaming public. Those who hadn’t bought the game now had an insight into just how poor it was. Players and viewers took to the Steam forums to warn other potential players about spending their money on Earth 2066 and were met with pure censorship by developer Muxwell. Muxwell acting as developer had the power to not only delete negative comments, but edit them into positive new ones.
Positive reviews began cropping up on the Steam forum for Earth 2066 despite all the criticism the games were getting. Internet sleuths then combed their friends lists, to find that developer Muxwell was the only friend tied to the accounts. These reviews soon were linked back to Muxwell, as their creators were all in Muxwell’s friends list on Steam. Accusations of alternate account creation were neither denied or confirmed by Muxwell, who instead chose to ignore the conflict happening in the forums.
Before appearing on Steam, the game was featured on Indiegogo, with a trailer that was nothing like the actual product being sold. That trailer can be found here:
After being confronted by this video, Muxwell immediately changed the Indiegogo page (now deleted) to represent Earth 2066 in a more honest way. When asked about the subject on Steam, Muxwell claimed this was done by rouge elements of his ‘team’ and that they “are already fired”. The arguments raged on for a couple of weeks, all the while Earth 2066 was still available to buy for anyone who’d been missing the drama unfolding about this game.
Two days ago, though, Valve finally decided to take action. They removed the game from sale and offered refunds to those who had bought it. While the internet had a new folk devil to hate in Muxwell, it raises the ever loudening question of ‘what are Valve doing to protect their users from this type of cash-grabbing content?’ Early Access, to some, is rife with opportunities to do this and Steam’s quality control has been undeniably poor as of late. Some might consider Valve’s actions as a victory against a crooked developer, but surely the greater victory would be that this never happened at all?
Images linked in this article are taken from /u/jrchaleil’s Reddit post, “HELP US REPORT THIS SCAMMER AND GAME – EARTH -YEAR 2066“.