Thursday, February 9, 2023

Terraria’s Steam success is the fruit of unmatched long-term support

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It’s been quite the year for Terraria developer Re-Logic, as Terraria’s Steam successes keep stacking up. The 2011 game closed out last year by netting the ‘Labor of Love’ prize in the 2021 Steam Awards for its continued support, inspiring the team behind one of the best sandbox games on PC to create a community-driven quality of life overhaul that would go on to become the Terraria 1.4.4 update, appropriately titled Labor of Love.

Since then, the game has become the first Steam game to break 1 million reviews while still maintaining the coveted “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating. Compared to other games that have hit that mammoth milestone – CS:GO, PUBG: Battlegrounds, Dota 2, GTA V, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege – Terraria is the only one that has managed to hold over a 90% positive rating at the same time, and it’s done it with plenty to spare.

In fact, tracking site SteamDB reports that the game has 97.1% positive ratings, while Steam250 lists it at 98%. Steam itself reports 97% positive ratings. That’s pretty staggering, making it one of the best user-reviewed games of all time on the platform – and it’s all thanks to the hard work of the development team at Re-Logic, who have long kept engaged with the community.

From Twitter to Reddit and beyond, Re-Logic president Andrew ‘Redigit’ Spinks can frequently be found responding to user comments and suggestions – oftentimes even going so far as to tease fans with knowing joke responses. He’s far from the only member of the team to do this, as many of the Re-Logic staff are very active among the community.

The decision to thank fans for the community-voted Steam award is, in many ways, the perfect summation of that love between the game’s team and the people that play it. Vastly expanded inventory limits and bonus storage options, equipment loadouts that can be changed on the fly, new potions and tools to handle some of the game’s more frustrating and tedious aspects, huge improvements to the building options at your disposal – Labor of Love is a reaffirmation that Re-Logic cares just as much now as they did in 2011.

There’s been a running joke among the Terraria community for many years now that each major update is pitched as the “final” one, only for the Re-Logic team to come up with something new. This ramped up in May 2020 when the team released Terraria 1.4, titled Journey’s End. While there were several minor updates after that, along with a tenth anniversary patch in May 2021 that included a special celebratory world seed, the addition of Steam Workshop support, and a crossover with survival game Don’t Starve, Re-Logic vice president Whitney ‘Cenx’ Spinks says the intent was very much to stop there.

“In all fairness we really did intend for Journey’s End to be the absolute final major update,” she explains in a response to a fan question on Twitter. “Receiving the Labor of Love award meant a lot to us and it inspired us to give the community a community inspired update.” She adds that “the team mocks it [the ‘final’ branding] as well, it is a running joke at this point. We usually mean it, especially with Journey’s End… Just didn’t pan out that way and we have zero regrets.”

Terraria Steam success 2022 - a player fighting monsters in the Hellish Underworld with the Terra Blade, a sword that arcs green light

All this for a game that, at full price, will set you back a whopping $9.99 USD / 6.99 GBP / 9.99 EUR. It’s quite easy to imagine a world where these major updates were pitched as paid DLC; in fact, it wouldn’t feel unreasonable by any stretch given the amount that each adds to the game, often feeling almost like they provide a completely new lease on life. That’s not, of course, to suggest that Terraria hasn’t made its money – with a rather spectacular 44.5 million reported sales to date, it currently sits as the tenth best-selling videogame of all time.

Yet, rather than coasting on its success, the game has seen regular, huge updates over the decade-plus since it first released. But developer Re-Logic is adamant about treating its staff well: following comments made about Callisto Protocol crunch at Striking Distance Studios, Spinks emphasised his team’s working conditions. “Re-Logic employees only work four days a week, get plenty of holidays, and frequent bonuses,” he responded, “You should have a life outside of your job, no matter how passionate you are.”

Just a short while after the release of Terraria 1.4.4.9, when Re-Logic noted that it had completed all its fixes for the Labor of Love release, the team announced it would be taking the whole month of December off to rest before work begins on Terraria 1.4.5 in January. Yet we’ve already got some news on the next update, which will include a crossover with Dead Cells, and the team is also talking candidly about its hopes to bring full crossplay to Terraria in a later update.

Terraria Steam success 2022 - a tower of NPC helpers in various coloured rooms

That care and love is reflected in the game’s community. It’s very apparent spending any time where Terraria fans reside – whether that be YouTube, Twitch, Reddit, or even Twitter – that players truly appreciate the open approach Re-Logic devs take to talking about their game. It’s easy to see why: the team is clearly having fun making something they love and sharing it with people. It feels like a passion project designed to make people happy, not a pure product aimed at squeezing every last penny from its players.

Have you played Terraria yet? If not, or if you simply wrote it off as “a bit like 2D Minecraft” the way I (foolishly) initially did, allow me a moment to make an impassioned case for why you should give it a chance. Terraria is more than a simple survival crafting game – it’s a dense, rich RPG with numerous dramatically different playstyles and a progression that sees you go against all manner of nightmarish creatures straight out of the cosmic horror playbook.

This isn’t, at its core, a game about punching some wood and stone to make a pickaxe. It’s a game about amassing an army of bees to help you rescue a hair stylist from an underground spider lair. It’s a game about lifting an ancient, deadly curse from a dungeon so that you can explore its trap-filled depths in search of magical weaponry. It’s a game about casting the first friend you make into the very fires of hell itself to summon – I was going to come up with a fun analogy here, but its actual name is the most evocative of all – the Wall of Flesh.

Terraria Steam success 2022 - a player fights the Eye of Cthulhu, a floating eyeball with large teeth, on a bridge - using a yoyo - as a rainbow arcs across the sky

As established, it’s also a game with a decade of polish and experience at its back. Every potential gripe has been met with a solution; all the notable bugs have been sanded down cleanly; and there’s more to do and uncover than ever before, with even more ways to go about it. All of that, and it costs the same low price it did back in 2011. So don’t worry that you’re late to the party; in fact there’s probably never been a better time to start playing Terraria than right now.

In a world where service games push endlessly for floods of content, sometimes at the expense of quality control or addressing community feedback, Terraria is a welcome reminder that you don’t necessarily have to overwhelm your players with shiny new things every other week; it can simply be enough to show that you care about the game you’re making and the experiences of the people who play it.

If all this has you tempted to give Terraria a try, our Terraria bosses guide will set you on the right track to success. If you already know what a joy it can be, but fancy mixing things up a bit, check out the best Terraria mods for plenty of new ways to play around. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on all the news around Terraria 2 development, as well as more of the best building games on PC to exercise those creative muscles.

Numisteamone

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