Whatever happened to Hoodwink?: The Problem With Forgotten Games and Preservation

Steam Greenlight has launched. I recommend Forge, Project Giana and Hoodwink.

Total Biscuit

The year was 2012. Valve introduces a new feature for their massive game platform, Steam. Although there were gradual hints that the company would inevitably become less restrictive on what was under their banner, Greenlight helped pave the way for a more indie-centric direction.

The year is now 2021. Greenlight’s been five feet under for a few years at this point, and its replacement isn’t much better. Steam Direct allows users to pay upwards of a hundred dollars, file some paperwork, and–granted that the game on offer won’t generate headlines that cause Valve’s PR team a migraine–get their games on Steam. The end result has been nothing short of a disaster. The amount of shovelware on Steam is more or less likely twice the amount of rubbish released on the Wii and DS combined. If that doesn’t paint a lovely portrait, wait until you hear about Zonitron Studios. Under several different names, this was one “developer” who pumped out over two hundred games over fewer than two years before being sentenced to the pits of hell. Not even AAA studios can beat that, despite their greed. The once illustrious promise of an indie utopia is now a Rapture all on its own.

This begs the question: if Greenlight’s successor still isn’t a healthy option for the platform, how wrong was Greenlight? It’s a complicated story, but the short of it was that it was a smart idea with compromises so obvious you wouldn’t be crazy to mistake them for the glowing red weak points on a boss in a JRPG game. Groups manipulated users into voting on specific titles, quality be damned. The fact that anyone with one hundred dollars could create a page meant that hundreds of submissions ranged from incompetent to outright offensive, being built entirely off of assets the developers had no hand in creating and with some leaning toward the most blatant forms of IP infringement imaginable. If you think I’m joking about that last part, wait until you find out about the time that somebody tried to get World of Warcraft on Steam. Or Minecraft, before changing their page to Five Nights at Freddies (a game that was already on Steam by that point and originally went through the Greenlight program). Or a mod that features characters from a Nintendo game, without the explicit approval of either Nintendo or the original mod author. If you want something to laugh at for a good few hours or so, just watch the entirety of James Stephanie Sterling’s Best of Steam Greenlight Trailers series. Although Greenlight did have quite a few gems, it had more than enough stinkers for Valve to necessitate a rework of the entire system. Then, there are/were the games that went through the Greenlight process, got approval from the community, and then never released on Steam, if at all. A personal pick of mine from that category is Routine, a space-horror game in development since 2012 which failed to deliver on either of its deadlines and, as per an article by Vice that was either written before or after rumors of financial woes started floating around, is likely still in development. A much more forgotten entry in this canon is Hoodwink, a classic point-and-click adventure game that ran on the infamous Leadwerks Engine of all things. It might seem like another Steam Greenlight project that never saw the light of day, but further inspection reveals something unusual with it. Hoodwink was released… so, why has it never fulfilled its promise of coming to Steam?

I don’t get why you have waited so long for it to appear in the Steam Store. I completed the whole game available (Episode 1) in the mid-summer of 2012! 🙂

You can still buy it on many services, just choose your prefered one from here: http://e-onestudio.com/store/ 😉

Steam User BiGASsS

This is from a comment that was written on April 22, 2015. If you go to the link listed by BiGASsS, you’ll find nothing but a title that sits above a large white border. Googling the studio’s name will only yield results if you specify that you’re looking for a developer, and even then, your only lead to go off of are social media accounts that haven’t had a presence since 2013. Looking up the game itself might help you to understand why:


To put it bluntly: yikes.

The most forgiving article I could find on Hoodwink came from a puff-piece Kotaku did around the time of the game’s release. The writer seemed to dig the game’s style, even if it was anything but fun to play. The most important detail from this article comes at the very end:

So it came to Origin, but not Steam?

It came to quite a few platforms if the developer’s Facebook page banner is anything to go off of. Origin, My Adventure Shop, Desura, GamersGate, and Zodiac. One of which had a very public shutdown, two can’t be found with a simple Google search, and both Origin and GamersGate have the game delisted. What happened?

If you’re looking for an official answer, tough luck. Again, Googling the studio’s name is a dead-end. What can be inferred through everything I’ve gathered, though, is that E1 Studios is no longer around. Their debut title was a critical flop and, since it isn’t easy to find information about it, I’m going to assume that it didn’t do all too well commercially, either. It’s a tale as old as time: ‘small studio makes an unsuccessful game, can’t recoup costs, goes under.’

One thing that we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It’s a service issue

Gabe Newell

Where do you go when a game you want isn’t sold anymore? If we were to have this discussion in the mid-2000s’, the answer would be eBay. Nowadays, an option that’s in a legal grey area has reared its head. Why buy used copies of old games when you can just download them? It’s a standard for emulation, but for old PC games, the only option left that won’t see you using a Torrent client is MyAbadnonware. Before that, it was the IsoZone. Both sites host/hosted image files for each game, making the only barrier to entry how compatible each individual game is with modern operating systems.

Now, here’s a much harder question to ask: where do you go when a game you want isn’t sold anymore, and it was only released through digital storefronts? You might assume that the answer is always piracy, but a much easier option for most people will be key resellers like G2A and CDKeys. If the game can’t be found on either platform, then piracy is your only option. Piracy tends to come in two forms; you either have sites of dubious origin that link to file-sharing websites where each game is segmented into several zip files, or you have to rely on Torrenting. The latter is more reliable than the former, but it’s not helpful if a particular file isn’t getting too much attention. The former is a much safer bet with newer games, but good luck finding anything any late-2000s’ to early-2010s’ games on them unless they’re still up for sale.

I have somewhere over a hundred games I’ve bought on Steam and a couple on services like Origin and whatever Ubisoft rebranded UPlay to. The promise that I’ll always have those games to play is not something that’s part of the Terms of Service. If the servers ever go down for whatever reason, that’s a hundred games I’ll never be able to play again. Even among the games I have downloaded, a lot of them require me to be logged into Steam to play. Digital goods are a convenience sold with the understanding that they’ll go rotten one day. They’re a representation of the present with no regard for the future. The issue I have with it is intrinsically linked to my belief that games are art. In my opinion, art can be anything. It can be forgettable pieces of popcorn entertainment, just as it can be something with several flaws to its name. Art is a time capsule. Particularly for games, whether or not a game is meant to be timely is irrelevant, as games are based on a foundation that changes at a constant rate. While games nowadays look photorealistic and downright uncanny, what’s blocky now was considered to feel the same way twenty years ago. More than just the limitation of technology are the stories each game tells, both in terms of their narrative and how they lead their player along. Standards for design change over time as a result of constant iteration. Game preservation is just as important as film preservation, or music preservation, for that matter. Yet, as we’ve come to no longer needing to hold the games we own in our hands, preserving such a thing is a legally grey topic.

Whether or not Hoodwink is a terrible game is irrelevant to the immense disappointment I feel knowing it’s been practically lost to time. The thing is, Hoodwink was released on PC. Even if the one torrent site that still has it only has one or two seeders eyeing it, it still exists in some mysterious way. If you want a real kick in the groin, try asking the same questions I proposed about games that aren’t on PC. To play the tie-in game for the 2011 movie Reel Steel, for example, you have to rely on the European version for the PlayStation 3. Other games and applications for the system aren’t so fortunate. Here’s another example I’m sure most are familiar with: remember PT? In the same way those wanting a quick buck tried to pawn off their phones with Flappy Bird installed, you can find PlayStation 4 consoles installed with the game. If you were hoping to see it make a comeback by being playable through the PlayStation 5’s backward compatibility, Konami blocked that from being possible. If PT ever saw a physical release, I’m sure it wouldn’t be the thing of legends. But it was a game that’s part of a system where preserving games that are no longer accessible to the average consumer is the most direct form of piracy there can be. Jailbreaking newer hardware can prove to be challenging, and software emulation for consoles that are still around is looked down upon by “morally upstanding” members of the respective communities. Preservation is piracy, and because that’s the case, good fucking luck preserving delisted games.

With all of this on my mind, I must ask: whatever happened to Hoodwink? We may never know, and as disappointing as it is, that’s that.

(END OF THE YEAR EDIT: Many typographical and grammatical errors have been addressed.)