Welcome to Steamworks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jul 10, 2018

Filed under: Projects 37 comments

Over a year ago, my game was approved for Steam Greenlight. At the time I said:

The good news is that Pseudoku has been approved on Steam Greenlight. I could technically begin selling the game right now. (Well, after filling out a bunch of paperwork, but you know what I mean.)

When I mentioned a “bunch of paperwork”, I had no idea what I was in for. I’ve spent the last nine months or so trying to clear that hurdle. The loop went something like this:

  1. Fill out a bunch of forms to document that I am who I say I am.
  2. Wait a couple of weeks.
  3. Get a generic rejection message saying I didn’t provide the right information, or the information was incorrect.
  4. Puzzle over the forms, trying to guess where it went wrong.
  5. Go to the bank, or download some PDF forms, or snail-mail the state to get some information changed.
  6. Wait for these changes to go through.
  7. GOTO 1

Most of the blame probably belongs to the state I live in, which is still stuck in the mid-20th century when it comes to starting a business. Their website is perpetually broken, so you have to correspond with them via the postal service. All of their forms are designed with the assumption that if I’m a small business then I’m going to be operating a commercial storefront and selling doughnuts to people on Main Street or whatever. There’s literally no way to correctly fill out these forms because I’m running a business out of my house but selling goods globally, and the system can’t comprehend that kind of micro-global setup. Add in some confusing forms, obtuse error messages from Steam, a couple of bank errors, some confusing legalese, and a couple of mistakes on my part, and it took us nine months to accomplish what a lot of developers accomplish in a weekend.

It’s been ages since I looked at the Pseudoku codebase and I can’t even remember where the project left off. A friend of mine converted the rendering backend from OpenGL to Direct X, which will hopefully solve the strange problems I was having. I’ll probably do a public test soon and see what needs to be done.

Of course, if I ever do another game like this I’ll just use Unity. Now that I’ve crawled up the worst part of the Unity learning curve, getting stuff done is pretty straightforward.


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37 thoughts on “Welcome to Steamworks

  1. Lino says:

    Oh, bureaucracy – where would we be without you?
    On a more serious note: how long, do you think, before we can see the game on Steam? Do you still plan on putting it on Early Access first?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Even the word itself is awful.I can never remember how to spell it correctly.

      Also,here is the best quote about it

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        “Never trust any computer you can’t throw out a window”?

        Seems pretty fitting for a bureaucracy.

      2. Lino says:

        If it wasn’t for this site’s spell-checker, I’d have been completely lost!
        Also, yeah – a VERY accurate quote :D

  2. blue_painted says:

    Typo or deliberate “… which is still suck in the mid-20th century …” :-)

  3. Asdasd says:

    This scene comes to mind whenever I read about your travails with this project.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yees.A simple formality.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Hah, I just did a very similar bank quest in Witcher 3 a couple days ago – I didn’t realize that it aped the Asterix scene so much (it’s them same form A38 needed). Just another fun reference they threw in*.

      …well, unless both scenes are referencing something older, like Brazil, or The Trial.

      *Though sadly CDProjekt Red missed the ‘fun resolution’ part the whole experience. One of the worst quests in the game, that was.

      1. Chris says:

        Well I think it is an A&O original since they have more jokes about endless bureaucracy.

        1. Simplex says:

          That’s just their experiences with bureaucracy in Poland.

      2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        I loved it so much, I grew up with Les 12 travaux d’Asterix so I instantly recognized the form! And while they didn’t replay the house of madness scene exactly the spirit was there and everything in it was hilarious! It’s the second best laugh I had in the game after “Lambert, you’re a genius”.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          As you like…for me there’s a difference between ‘watch a cartoon character contend with bureaucracy and then beat them at their own game’ and ‘contend with bureaucracy yourself and be forced to put up with it’.

          I felt so railroaded by that quest. The obvious ‘Axii these clowns until they give me what I’m owed/can’t remember their own names/whichever comes first’ solution never appeared. There was no humorous ‘what the hell?’ moment* like in the cartoon.
          And the optimal solution is to trust someone who first lies to you and then locks you in a cage with armed guards once you expose his lie.
          And if you don’t, you lose-

          Ach, rant over. Sorry. If you liked it, good for you.

          *2:15 in Asdasd’s video

  4. MadTinkerer says:

    Can’t you just make an LLC? Or is your state’s government so incompetent they made forming an LLC difficult? Or is a matter of not wanting to make an LLC?

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah. Making an LLC is a lot more complicated (our taxes are already a huge headache, I don’t want to make that any worse) and also more expensive.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        Huh. I’ve never heard of a state government hating tax revenue so badly that they’d make a difficult chore out of what is usually the easiest way for someone to voluntarily automatically give them more tax revenue.

        But some people love CONTROL so much that they’re willing to leave piles of money on the ground if they can’t CONTROL the people shoveling the money into their pockets.

      2. Eldiran says:

        Makes me glad I went with sole proprietorship. I assume that’s also off the table for you for one reason or another (tax or liability issues perhaps).

  5. Echo Tango says:

    converted the rendering backend from OpenGL to Direct X

    There goes my hopes for a native Linux version. :P

    Good thing this game is small / simple enough to run under Wine. (fingers-crossed…)

    1. James says:

      It’s one heck of a regression.

  6. Nessus says:

    To me the system you describe doesn’t just sound outdated in terms of goods and storefront logistics, but also in that it appears to be designed around the assumption that anyone starting a business will already have both an accountant and a lawyer on tap. I.e. it assumes you are at least upper-middle class in terms of resources, or already have significant venture capital behind you. It’s a system made for already relatively wealthy people who are looking to diversify, not for bootstrap entrepreneurs. Back in the day that did make a bit more sense, as starting a storefront or the like does requires A LOT of up front cost regardless (you could still bootstrap, but it was more of a “invest your life savings” thing than it is today). But in the modern world of internet businesses, that’s no longer assumable, and it hasn’t been for well longer than it should’ve taken for the state gov to notice.

    This kind of crap has been what’s kept some states (and some whole countries) from growing for the last few decades. Every small timer that’s been wanting to get something going online has been cock-blocked by this as the world rose around them. The lawmakers are still stuck in “only the big companies matter” mindset. So when the big industry bails for Taiwan or wherever, the whole place crumbles like an embankment without grass.

    It’s not even a “bureaucracy, amirite?” thing, as bureaucracy not only serves a real purpose, but is basically essential to any organization or civilization wants to operate on ideals of any kind (including capitalist ones). Stuff like this is a combo of old lawmakers who are perpetually 20 years behind the times in any era, and a messed up political/ideological system that prioritized big businesses to the exclusion of (or in direct opposition to) small ones, when it should logically be the other way around.

    1. Kathryn says:

      Yep. This kind of thing is why I advocate reduced government regulation, simplified tax code, etc. – because the cost of compliance is in itself a regressive tax.

      I also agree with your point that a certain amount of regulation is required, just as in engineering, some processes are required to ensure best practices are followed and the level of risk accepted is appropriate. It’s a tricky balance to strike. And getting the regulations or the processes correct is also tricky. There are plenty of processes at my workplace that are well intended but make no sense.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Its not the amount of government meddling thats the problem though,its HOW they are doing it.There are countries with far simpler taxes that have the government way more involved.

        As for this exact case,I think the problem is that laws get rarely updated,and when they do they get updated in such a way as to conserve as much of the outdated things as possible.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          So another facet of the USA is they have a very distinct separation of State- and Federal-level government. Which on the one hand sounds great when it comes to ensuring State autonomy…
          …but also like a really effective way to generate at least one extra layer of bureaucracy.

          I mean, somebody’s got to ensure that the State law matches up with Federal law when it has to, right? But also that Federal law isn’t creeping into areas it’s not allowed to. And that the taxes paid are going to the right place. And that the right taxes are being paid by individuals, and that both levels of government are informed…and so on.

          1. Agammamon says:

            State law never has to match up with Federal law – nor vice versa. As long as a state law is constitutional, the state can do whatever it wants regardless of what the Federal government says.

            Its why marijuana, to use a recent example, can be completely legal in a state while still illegal in the country. State cops won’t touch you for it, but Federal cops will and state cops can’t get in their way.

            Because of ‘dual-sovereignty’ state laws *don’t need* to match up. You have to abide by what either and both systems make illegal.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Huh. I thought some areas of lawmaking were just State Only; the Federal government simply can’t touch them. And vice versa.

              …though I’m curious what happens if something is legal in a State but illegal Federally: when does someone break the law? If someone carries marijuana across a State border, it seems obvious enough that that’s illegal…but what if it’s legal in the state they enter?
              And can someone get arrested for selling marijuana in a state where marijuana is legal, by Federal law enforcement – while State cops watch?

              1. Syal says:

                Yes, they can.

                They don’t do it because the feds don’t much want to enforce the marijuana laws anymore, partly because of the manpower needed and partly because they’d be ticking off a whole lot of people, and opening themselves up to discrimination charges if they arrest people in certain states and not others.

                1. BlueHorus says:

                  Hah! That’s marvelous…in it’s way.

                  Thanks for the info.

    2. Viktor says:

      Thank you for pointing out that the bureaucracy is necessary, it just needs to be done well. I’m basically QA/QC for construction, and the number of people who I hear say “I hate these regs” or “Why does the city take so long to approve my plans” is really annoying when I know that the person involved had to cross a major bridge to get into work. Regs exist for a reason, the key is to make navigating them as painless as possible.

  7. Xander77 says:

    It really doesn’t feel as though it’s too hard to get a game on steam for the average asset flipper or designer of games too garbage to be graced with the fancy title of “shovelware”.

    Maybe the problem is on your end.

    1. Viktor says:

      He went through the details a while back. IIRC, he needs a bank account in the name of the business for Steam to send the money to(to prevent fraud). His bank will only allow the business to be the name on the account if he’s registered with the state(to prevent fraud). And the state will only let him register if he can prove he’s using it seriously(to prevent the old-school version of domain squatting). Proving that you are a real business to the state government is difficult when you don’t have a storefront, any employees, local publicity, or any of the other infrastructure involved in starting a traditional business.

      Presumably, most of those asset flips are in states(or countries) with different banking and corporate regulations. Even where Shamus is, once he gets through this labyrinth, his next 50 games will be really easy to add to the system. It’s only the first one where he has to dig through a million pieces of paperwork trying to find the right form.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Consider that your average (hypothetical) Asset Flipper time isn’t taken up with making an actual game, like Shamus’ is. Instead, their concerns are:
      a) making their ‘game’ look legitimate
      b) making sure the paperwork is correct so they get their money
      c) knowing when to cut and run before they get caught

      I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that an Asset Flipper or shovelware merchant has both more free time than Shamus and a fairly detailed understanding of the laws they need to bend/circumvent.

      Meanwhile, he’s one guy, who made a game part-time.

  8. Angie says:

    My state (WA) requires you to file for a bleeping business license just to get a bleeping DBA [mutter] so… empathy, I guess. You really have to wonder what some of these idiots are thinking….


  9. That’s quite weird. I live in Athens, Greece and the paperwork I had to do was really simple, considering I’ve never done such a thing before. It’s strange to read that you went over such hurdles while being in the same country as Valve, while for someone on another continent the same process was almost trivial.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      It’s strange to read that you went over such hurdles while being in the same country as Valve

      The thing about the usa is that while its one country with its set of overarching federal laws,its still made up of a bunch of states with their own local laws.Shamus even commented on this in the last diecast,when he said how his states had fireworks banned,while anyone was free to just drive to the next state and buy them there.And as some have pointed out,the state Shamus is in has some wonky laws when it comes to small businesses,while other states give less or no trouble to people.

      1. Xander77 says:

        The post title isn’t “welcome to my state’s shitty bureaucracy”, it’s “welcome to steamworks”.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Because he has finished with it and finally got to steamworks.He described(part)of the shitty bureaucracy in the previous post about this.Its not a stand alone post,its part of a series of posts on the issue.

  10. @Shamus if you ever need to rest your eyes, this guy has a lot of deep insight/reviews into video games https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQYHTF4v3Yo-Cj1MRFShb7Q/videos

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