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Acclaimed puzzle game rejected by GOG.com for reasons unknown

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‘It did not pass our internal curation system’

Zachtronics

Zachtronics, the independent studio founded and run by Zach Barth, has five games listed on GOG.com. Its sixth, Opus Magnum, is not among them, and for reasons that are literally inexplicable.

That’s because GOG.com itself, in a message to Barth that he posted yesterday afternoon, refused to describe what standard Opus Magnum failed in its curation process.

Opus Magnum, a puzzle game, has won strong praise in the month since its launch. (Polygon has not reviewed it, but it was scored a 95 by IGN, a 91 by PC Gamer and was praised by Kotaku.) To Barth, GOG.com said only “it did not pass our internal curation system.

“We rarely ever want to share any details on the actual system and how it looks like and what it means, because it’s just too individual.” But it never gets any more clear or specific than the original comment, how Opus Magnum failed.

Barth himself back in December evidently believed Opus Magnum might not make it through GOG’s strict process, so this isn’t a blindside rejection.

Still, it’s touched off a controversy in gaming forums and social media. While Steam is decried for being a marketplace with next-to-no proactive curation, flooded by asset-flips, shoddy efforts and even incomplete ones, GOG staff does scrutinize games before they are listed. It’s one way they differentiate themselves as a competing storefront; the other is the games are sold DRM-free, which many PC gamers appreciate.

Unfortunately, it seems that having curation means that if crap doesn’t get on the site, there’s a chance that good stuff won’t. As much as GOG.com’s statement sounds evasive, it’s fair to say that trying to articulate an objective standard for listing on its service, or any, would be an impossible task.

Publishing or discussing those standards would inevitably flood GOG with submissions that seek to do the bare minimum to pass them. (Plus, inevitably side complaints from creators who think a less worthy product slipped through.) Review scores are nice but basing an objective determination on them is not a good idea. It also defeats the point of curation; this is about what GOG considers a good game for its users (even if it gets that wrong), not what someone else said was good for their readers.

Still, it’s a shame. From what one reads of Opus Magnum, it’s a novel concept (creating machines in an alchemy laboratory) that uses visual programming to arrive at user-created solutions, with the most efficient process possible being the goal. This promo video probably explains it better than I can.

You can see this isn’t some half-assed, ugly or clunky work, and Barth has a good rep in the puzzle genre. Again, he’s got five on GOG already. Someone at GOG is probably reading up on it right now and cringing, because to cave in and reconsider Opus Magnum on what is essentially reputation wouldn’t be a good precedent for them, either. Maybe the best outcome is this publicity steers people to the game elsewhere. Like, well, Steam.