The Independent Game Developer scene has grown exponentially in recent years. Indie games usually shouldn't be expected to be as "high quality" as big AAA games because the developers tend to be smaller and have shorter budgets, this, however, DOES NOT make them immune to negative criticism.

Likewise, releasing a game on a legitimate site like Steam and charging money means such game must be worth its asking price and be open to criticism. Being "amateur" or "developer as a hobby" doesn't excuse a poor quality game either if that game is asking for real money.

While it is understandable that people don't like receiving negative criticism, that criticism is not meant as an attack against the product or the developer. Negative criticism is meant to inform consumers about a poor quality product and help the developers understand when they do something wrong so they can improve in the future, but some indie developers see negative criticism as a threat to their profits and will do anything to try to stop said criticism. This problem happens most commonly in Steam due to Direct making it too easy to release games and Valve often doing very little to monitor the community, something that was not fixed from the former Greenlight system.

When these developers receive negative criticism towards their games, they usually respond by deleting negative comments in threads whenever possible and banning any users who post those comments, attack the critics under the excuse that the critic wants to hurt their business, send threatening messages, cry "harassment", etc. Often they'll resort to filing fraudulent DMCA Takedowns on YouTube videos under the excuse of "Copyright infringement".

This tactic is particularly dangerous because if a YouTube account has 3 DMCA takedowns it is automatically deleted. It should be noted that YouTube videos featuring the games being criticized are protected under Fair Use Law. Because of this the taken down videos always come back because the users counter the DMCAs and the ones who filed them don't risk taking them to court because filing a false DMCA is a crime.

Thankfully, these attempts to silence criticism usually only result in the criticism being amplified, as whenever a developer tries to do so they are immediately called out on it by big YouTubers and people who are able to spread the message to as many people as possible.

In April 2017, Valve had a meeting with YouTubers Jim Sterling and TotalBiscuit regarding the future of Steam. In the meeting, Valve confirmed that they indeed keep an archive of every single deleted comment and evidence of hostile behavior by developers and that they wish to put an end to it. Sterling and TotalBiscuit suggested Valve should update their Terms of Use to include direct warnings against this kind of behavior including DMCA takedowns on YouTube, and full intent to inflict harsh penalties whenever this happens. It should be noted however that this has not been made official yet.

As of late, Valve has taken more action against toxic developers who act abusive or break Steam's rules. In response, those toxic developers have now taken to using sockpuppet accounts to keep coming back whenever Valve bans them from Steam.

Indie developers should also understand that not everyone on the Internet knows that constructive criticism needs to be, well... constructive, and instead of give some useful feedback, they will simply mock the game, the developer(s), and sometimes, even people who like the game they are "criticizing". It's very easy to be a target of this type of critic, especially on Steam, who lacks quality control for reviews. Logically, being a target of bad critics does not excuse toxic behavior (see examples below), but it's hard for developers to react positively to criticism when most of the comments they recieve are "this game sucks", "you should feel bad for making this", "kill yourself" and variants.

It should be important to point out that not all indie developers are toxic. There have been some notable examples of indie developers reacting to criticism in a positive way, such as Scott Cawthon, who created the "Five Nights at Freddy's" franchise in response to being criticized for making the characters in his game "Chipper & Sons. Co" look like creepy dead-eyed robots.

Notable Examples

  1. Killing Day Studio: one of the first instances of indie developers trying to hide complaints. They deleted various comments from buyers of their scam game Earth: Year 2066 and even renamed their community forums.
  2. Wild Games Studio: One of the first incidents of filing fraudulent DMCA takedowns was when TotalBiscuit gave their game, Day One: Garry's Incident, a negative review. Not only that, but they were also accused of using astroturfing to post bogus reviews on Metacritic.
  3. Digital Homicide: Their attempts to silence critics escalated to them literally filing frivolous lawsuits against people who said anything even remotely negative about them. They even threatened to sue Valve which resulted in Valve banning them from Steam and the company subsequently going out of business.
  4. Killjoy Games: When their terrible game, Air Control, was panned, they tried to blame the players shamelessy claiming that all the complaints are result of trying to run the game on outdated hardware. They even said that Air Control was supposed to be played only on the 1920x1080 resolution, while Air Control clearly is a very basic Unity game that almost all 2000s computers can run.
  5. Zoe Quinn: See Quinnspiracy.
  6. Matan Cohen Studios: When his game Art of Stealth was criticized, the developer ridiculed commenters and called them bullies. He then sent threatening messages to YouTubers demanding them to take down their videos about the game otherwise he would send DMCA strikes. He was banned from Steam after he was caught using fake accounts to give himself positive reviews.
  7. STICLI Games: When they released their game, Airport Master, they put clauses on their End User License Agreement that said people couldn't make videos about the game without their permission and that gamers were not allowed to get refunds. Neither claim can actually be enforced and the latter is a direct violation of Steam's Terms of Use. They also filed a Trademark violation claim against Jim Sterling's own video, which is worse than a DMCA.
  8. Tale of Tales: When their game Sunset became a commercial failure, the husband and wife team of Tale of Tales left the game industry, insulting both it and gamers in the process. They even started a Patreon account dedicated to bringing "an end to video games as we know it."
  9. Phil Fish: Though his game, Fez, was an actual success, he white-knighted Zoe Quinn during the early days of Gamergate to the point where he began insulting his own fanbase. After he got the money that was to be used to make a sequel to Fez, he again started insulting gamers and his own fanbase, before finally going on a massive Twitter rant which ended with him announcing that Fez II was cancelled and that he was leaving the gaming industry.
  10. Giant Spacekat Studios: Their game Revolution 60 was criticized for constantly failing to meet its release date and when it was actually released, it received very negative reviews. In response, the lead developer Brianna Wu claimed this was "harassment from Gamergate" and that anyone who thought the game was bad are simply "dudebros who don't understand game design". Also when negative feedback returned from QA testers, Brianna blamed the testers for being too focused on the gameplay and being male.
  11. DalasReview: A Spanish YouTuber who bought a Banjo-Kazooie rip-off that failed to get Kickstarted and changed its name to Fur Fun. When it was found that the game had music directly stolen from Banjo-Kazooie he claimed that Grant Kirkhope, composer of the original Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack, had composed it. When Kirkhope denied the rumors, DalasReviewer called him a liar. He also likes to file DMCAs against small YouTube channels but not the larger ones like Jim Sterling, whom he instead tries to sweet-act to them in a possible attempt to change their opinions about his game, which is made worse by the fact that he himself is a YouTuber.
  12. Kenneth Caselli and Giammarco Rocco: Their game Ultimate Arena (on Steam) was only a bad Serious Sam rip-off made with assets from UE4, and, for the negative criticism of the game, they BANNED the people that were criticizing it. Also, Kenneth Caselli has a YouTube channel named Zeb89 where he has "sponsorized" his game: so, principally, the positive reviews are from his young fans, who think that the game is beautiful, but there are channels on YouTube that created videos about this game with a negative review or first negative impressions, and for this, Zeb89 flagged the videos and insulted those channels.
  13. Alex Mauer: Though she isn't an indie developer, she engaged in abusive behavior against gamers on YouTube who covered the game Starr Mazer DSP by filing a massive amount of DMCAs and demanding the people she DMCA'd to attack the developers on her behalf, then refused to remove the claims when people didn't cave into her demands. Mauer's behavior escalated into her taking down other games from Steam, issuing multiple death threats against people calling her out, over 100 DMCA takedowns, and Imagos filing a lawsuit against her.
  14. LordKres: He created a game called Journey of the light advertised as one of the most challenging puzzle games ever. The game, when played, is nothing more than wandering around aimlessly with nothing to do. He insulted players and tried to fool them after this scam was found out with a patch.
  15. WTFOMGames: He made fake claims about having brain cancer which not only lured people into buying his game ! That bastard is trying to steal our gold !, but also to attack people that negatively criticized the game.
  16. Silicon Echo Studios: they used all the possible loopholes of Steam Direct to post over 170 asset flips at once. They have been also accused of trying to silence critics before Valve finally pulled them. Should be noted, Valve only pulled Silicon Echo after youtubers (yes, youtubers, not Valve employees) discovered and openly revealed the absurd amount of shovelwares they were posting.

TotalBiscuit and Jim Sterling's Rant Against This

YouTubers TotalBiscuit and Jim Sterling have been victims of hostile indie developers multiple times, therefore they made rant videos against those people.

I will now talk about dodgy devs and copyright infringement for just over 40 mins

I will now talk about dodgy devs and copyright infringement for just over 40 mins.

Steam Needs To Axe Shithead Developers (The Jimquisition)

Steam Needs To Axe Shithead Developers (The Jimquisition)