Yesterday, an eagle-eyed reader noticed that Divergence Online had seemingly been pulled from Steam and was no longer available for purchase.
Last night, we reached out to Divergence’s chief developer, Ethan Casner, who reassured us that the game itself is not in jeopardy but that he effectively pulled the game’s store page down from Valve’s platform himself because of sustained harassment from Steam users and Valve’s alleged failure to adequately address it.
Casner told us that in approximately a third of the “reviews” issued for his game since its early access alpha launch on Steam earlier this month, he and his partner were subjected to hate speech, sexist slurs, and even doxxing, much of it coming from a lone “reviewer” and would-be collaborator. Over the course of the last three weeks, Casner says, he repeatedly reported the harassment and other review violations to Valve, but nothing was done until yesterday, when Valve apparently first banned the offending party and then mystifyingly reversed its decision, demanding Casner address the harasser’s claims about his supposed rights to some of the game’s assets (which do not appear to actually exist or even comport with the game’s theme).
So Casner registered his intention to take down the game’s store page, and Valve complied.
“Since I was a kid, I’d always dreamed of having my own game on Steam, but it breaks my heart to see it from the inside like this and be powerless to do anything about it,” he told us. “We just want to make our game and not have to spend a portion of every day fighting the most disgusting aspects of humanity you can imagine, which we were led to believe giving Steam a (substantial) portion of our income would afford us. To put it bluntly, we just don’t make enough money on Steam to warrant the abuse right now until we see a genuine act of good faith on their part to uphold their end of the bargain and enforce their own rules.”
Casner further rebuffed accusations made on another MMO website, which he says quoted his partner’s tweets out of context in order to assert that Valve had removed Divergence from Steam by force. (Screenshot of original article.)
“I told [Valve], ‘Please enforce your rules or we don’t want to have a store page anymore,’ and their response was to disable the store page – not remove it from Steam itself – as if responding to a support request to do so, hand A having no knowledge at all that hand B just ruled on the issue,” he explains. “Nobody ‘kicked anyone off of Steam.’ We asked them to make some changes regarding the enforcement of their own rules (so that we don’t have to spend development time doing it), and we’re waiting on them to say, ‘OK.'” His partner, he explains, meant in her tweets not that Valve had literally taken the game down but that Valve was responsible for the circumstances leading to Casner’s decision.
Indeed, the game itself is still up; it’s only the store page that’s offline. Casner says he and his partner are busy “pushing insane-amounts of patches and new content […] at the rate of 3-7 patches per day.” The alpha will remain playable through Steam for those who have already purchased it unless Valve decides otherwise, but for now, the game’s store page is hidden from newcomers.
Divergence Online has made headlines in recent months for its overt Star Wars Galaxies influences, its hardcore sandbox vibe, and its community-inspired goal to implement a consensual PvP server. Stained Glass Llama has repeatedly downplayed concerns over the game’s seeming use of SWG placeholder assets, telling us he’s “miles away from any legitimate infraction.” He’s also known for his rant against “gaming yelp reviewer bullshit,” which under the circumstances seems to have been impressively prescient.
With thanks to Lorenzo for the original tip.