Steam Trading Cards

I recently added Steam Trading Cards to your Ditty of Carmeana experience.

First of all, let me say I’m not exactly a huge fan of trading cards. It’s not really the cards themselves, it’s the fact that you cannot turn off notifications for them. And it’s super irritating to see a notification and it turns out to just be a trading card drop. So I was on the fence whether I even wanted to do them. But I did want to do some of the point store stuff and you kind of need to make trading cards for that. (It turns out a whole lot about this process is “kind of”. They do have some fixed rules, like no text on backgrounds, but mostly approval is based on guidelines that they are quite heavy-handed about.)

Lowly indie developers like me are not permitted to make so-called community items like trading cards and backgrounds until the game has met certain qualifications that Valve doesn’t reveal, but Googling most people think it means a certain number of sales. My experience agrees with this, as soon as my sales hit a certain numerical milestone, the ability for me to add community items was unlocked. Odd thing is, the number of sales was considerably lower than the number I saw on-line. I don’t know if Valve relaxed their criteria (last mention I saw of a specific number of sales was a few years ago), but I suspect the fact that I had made a native Linux version that ran on Steam Deck and had a decent number of Deck users might have put me into a lower tier. Or, maybe even the lack of mainstream hype meant that it was easier to determine that my sales were real and the game wasn’t just a cheap asset flip games whose sole purpose was to profit from distributing Trading Cards. (The developer gets a small commission when community items are traded on the Steam Marketplace.) Either way, when I saw that community items for Carmeana had been unexpectedly unlocked, I decided to go for it.

The Ditty of Carmeana is not an ordinary, typical game, and I wanted the Trading Cards to reflect that, but the Valve reviewers were not exactly on board with this. I wanted the community items to do whimsical, random things. The cards were all for characters in the game, but I wanted to make some weird choices for the characters for no reason at all. And I had some trouble communicating with the reviewers the cards I made were all characters in the game, and that the oddball selection actually does form a complete set in a way that makes sense for my game. (We won’t get much into whether they were overreaching and withholding approval for creative reasons rather than technical ones. They have some objective requirements like no text appearing in any of the items, which is fair, but whether something forms a complete set is getting close to a creative decision.) But I get it, in a way: they don’t want bad actors doing things to artificially drive up trading card market prices, and some of my cards definitely looked like they might be trying to do that.

Eventually, 9 of my 10 original card ideas were approved, though I made some edits to some of them to emphasize their characterness. The one sticking point was a card for Philomena, who is a character in The Ditty of Carmeana that probably only a tiny percentage of people are even aware of, though I’d suppose a decent number would have at least seen her in the passing. I thought it’d be amusing to have a trading card for that character. Thing is, the visual style for Philomena was rather different than the visual style for other characters, and the Valve reviewers did not like that.

Now, I believe they would have eventually allowed it if I’d pushed, but I decided maybe it’d be amusing (and bewildering, and ironic) if I changed the visual style to be more like the other cards, and thus avoid a fight. As a bonus, even fewer people would know who the hell she was. I tried using an AI to generate an image of her, but found that unsatisfactory (and, in a few cases, disturbing). I finally bit the bullet and made a new 3-D model of someone who doesn’t quite have the correct hair style or clothes but it does at least capture her attitude pretty well. And that, an image that never appeared in the game, but by golly it looked no different from the other cards, is the trading card that was approved. Which is funny.

But, it is what it is. Valve is perfectly within rights to decide what to distribute on their platform. And sometimes creative interference can lead to creative inspiration. So, thanks to the trading cards, Philomena (and the 3-D model I threw together) will have a much larger role in the full game.

The only real question is, who the hell is Philomena?

Here’s a look at the Trading Card and Point Shop items for The Ditty of Carmeana.

Here’s a look at one of the spiffy Ditty of Carmeana backgrounds on my Steam profile:

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