Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

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Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:03 pm

I'm not sure how I feel about being able to buy into a pre-alpha game on Steam. I noticed more and more of these offerings showing up on Steam over the last six months or so.

On one hand its like buying a new car before the design is even settled on. You get a frame, wheels and a drive train but nothing else. New pieces will arrive in the mail every month or so. Sure it runs but you can only go 5 mph around the block once. Oh, and don't get used to what you have because it might change with no notice. There is no way to tell if your going to end up with what you thought you were buying or something totally different due to bad choices and compromises by the designer. Then you have the whole mess that can come from too many suggestions shouted out by a committee of people who have no clue what they are talking about. Been there done that and the result is never pretty. I have been in on and observed new products being designed and older products being improved. A small team with clear goals always does better than a huge committee made up of individuals whose only goal is to get their way for what ever reason. And finally, there is the chance the project will never get completed.

On the other hand you have access to the game from the beginning and can offer up feed back and suggestions for improvements. You get to watch how things change and grow leading up to the final product. For a price you can even get your name in the credits listing.

I have not made up my mind yet. There are advantages for and against this approach to developing a game. What is everyone elses opinion?
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:09 pm

Have you ever heard about or made a pledge to any Kickstarter's projects related to video games? Steam's Early Access is not much different from that.

As to whether it is "bad" or "good" - well, as you correctly noticed it can be either of these. Your donation might help developers to continue developing the game OR they can just accumulate large amount of donations, cancel their project and spend all of them on blackjack and hookers. You never know, people are pretty unpredictable :wink:
Last edited by JohnC on Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:16 pm

I would say bad trend but only because they think we are going to pay $10-20 to pre-alpha test their games for them. I feel like if you are still working out the bugs for sale, the game should be f2p, if only because it gets you a whole bunch of feedback and bug reports. it really takes a pair to demand studio-dev prices for like a pet project that won't be finished for 2 more years...
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:19 pm

I don't really care for paying for products that haven't even been made yet. I've done it about five or so times so far and I just don't want to do it anymore.

The only time it was really worth the money was Betrayer, because they came out of the gate with a playable and intriguing game. It was very clearly unfinished of course, but still a strong introduction.

I have a hard time classifying State of Decay among them since it was already pretty complete when it launched as Early Access.

I'm not writing off Early Access entirely, it's interesting, but if they want my money from now on they can give me a finished (or almost finished, at least) product.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:24 pm

It's definitely good for the developers, but I think it's bad for the gamer/consumer in a lot of ways. It's always risky buying a product that isn't even finished yet.

I think you can also get bored with the game before it is even finished too. I have a couple friends who play a lot of betas, and usually give up on the games long before they are even released. I am sort of the opposite. I often wait many months after a game is released waiting for all the bugs and content to be worked out, and possibly save some money too.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:34 am

JohnC wrote:Have you ever heard about or made a pledge to any Kickstarter's projects related to video games? Steam's Early Access is not much different from that.

As to whether it is "bad" or "good" - well, as you correctly noticed it can be either of these. Your donation might help developers to continue developing the game OR they can just accumulate large amount of donations, cancel their project and spend all of them on blackjack and hookers. You never know, people are pretty unpredictable :wink:

Yes I have heard of Kickstarter projects. From what I have seen of those you donate your money and you get to be first in line to receive the product when its completed. If its a game or other software you might get to see parts of the project before its completed but you do not get full access from the day you made your payment/donation. You also might get special items for use in game that those who buy the game after its released will not get.

I think I prefer the Kickstarter method. You make your donation/payment and wait for the finished product. Steam's early access might be for some but not for me. I really do not want a game that's only partially done to mess with. As was mentioned you risk burn out before the game is even done. Then there is the aspect of paying to be a beta tester. I beta tested a lot of games 5 to 10 years ago. The thing I always noticed was that the things most beta testers report as being wrong and in need of a fix always make it into the live game some how. If they get fixed its a year or more down the road. Rather frustrating experience that I just can't see paying to go through again.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:58 am

It seems to be working out very well for Kerbal Space Program. The game is incomplete, but it's still lots of fun out of the gate (I've gotten much more than $20 worth of fun out of it) and non-DLC updates are free in perpetuity, which are coming every few months.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 7:13 am

I don't see the harm really. The real risk (aside from your dollars) is for the company and the hope that a community doesn't tear their game apart or that they don't manage expectations to what equates to an alpha release or earlier. I think in some cases it can drive demand and help fund a struggling game, and at the very least perhaps tantalize a waiting army of wallets. Remember the old Ps1 demo discs that came in magazines? I kinda see it akin to that except you're paying for it. I love indie game companies, so many fun mashups, and at $5 - $10 bucks a pop (ok, $20 for the really good ones) it feels like a good value.

Steam is fantastic and the only community of it's kind I've ever taken to. I don't know about steamboxes but I do love their business model and platform something fierce. I wonder how sustainable it is long term though. Not steam as a platform/publisher but Valve as a company. Their way of "everyone is their own boss do what you want" has worked well so far with not too much interference but I'd imagine there has to be friction at various levels if for no other reason than someone who's been there awhile trying to pull rank on someone brand new.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 8:23 am

Ultimately it depends on what kind of game we're talking about. Minecraft was essentially "ready" for a lot of people in the alpha days, and Kerbal Space Program only just released a (barebones) campaign mode, but it was great for orbital mechanics in the earlier builds, too.

I do see some people abusing the system to some extent, getting dollars for development just because they can, though. I think it works best for games that just need bodies to do testing, followed closely by sandbox games that can continually get new content.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 8:34 am

Khali wrote:
JohnC wrote:Have you ever heard about or made a pledge to any Kickstarter's projects related to video games? Steam's Early Access is not much different from that.

As to whether it is "bad" or "good" - well, as you correctly noticed it can be either of these. Your donation might help developers to continue developing the game OR they can just accumulate large amount of donations, cancel their project and spend all of them on blackjack and hookers. You never know, people are pretty unpredictable :wink:

Yes I have heard of Kickstarter projects. From what I have seen of those you donate your money and you get to be first in line to receive the product when its completed. If its a game or other software you might get to see parts of the project before its completed but you do not get full access from the day you made your payment/donation. You also might get special items for use in game that those who buy the game after its released will not get.

I think I prefer the Kickstarter method. You make your donation/payment and wait for the finished product. Steam's early access might be for some but not for me. I really do not want a game that's only partially done to mess with. As was mentioned you risk burn out before the game is even done. Then there is the aspect of paying to be a beta tester. I beta tested a lot of games 5 to 10 years ago. The thing I always noticed was that the things most beta testers report as being wrong and in need of a fix always make it into the live game some how. If they get fixed its a year or more down the road. Rather frustrating experience that I just can't see paying to go through again.


You can use the early access JUST like this. You aren't required to play the alpha. They'll post when the game goes GA.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:13 pm

Khali wrote:On the other hand you have access to the game from the beginning and can offer up feed back and suggestions for improvements. You get to watch how things change and grow leading up to the final product. For a price you can even get your name in the credits listing.


I think its good. While, its not a Steam product I have beta tested almost everything Blizzard has offered since Closed Beta (the is post Alpha) of WoW. While some of my ideas have never been implemented I have taken the time to fill out Bug reports and suggestions. I guess that's why I always get beta invites from Blizzard.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:44 pm

I think its a bad idea. My opinion only. Just like I think 'Dancing with the Stars' is a bad idea.

Keep your ass locked up in your cave and don't come out until the game/song is DONE.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:56 pm

I don't ever buy into betas. People are excited or whatever but if I have to pay money to do work that they should actually be *hiring* people to do, no way. If it's a beta that's just for fun and to let people get a look in exchange for testing notes (like I was happy to do for the betas of SC2, D3, and HotS) then sure, I'll dive in have some fun and send along my report. But no way I'm paying early to get in on a project that might not ship when it's basically costing jobs.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:03 pm

While I agree that games should not be released as buggy messes, the comparison to cartridge days just isn't fair. Those games simply had fewer components interacting, which meant easier testing and fewer places where things could break. Now, with several gigabytes of data to sort through, it takes much more time and effort to clean things up.

tanker mentioned WoW, which is a perfect example of a complicated game that requires bodies to test. It might need more bodies than most (being an MMO and all), but the point of getting people into the game during beta is to run as many tests as possible in parallel, so bugs become visible and reported prior to a "full" release.

And as for "costing jobs," I am somewhat sympathetic to this, but that also limits who can actually make a game. If you have to hire an entire firm or department to do your testing, that means that only the big names (think EA and Activision) get to release games. In fact, this is part of the reason Early Access exists to begin with. Indie developers don't have the funds, so they make the game available sooner to raise the funds and get testing in. It might be an imperfect system, and it certainly can be abused, but it at least offers a path for less powerful companies.
Last edited by superjawes on Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:08 pm

Not a fan of playing alphas or betas, but I read my kickstarter progress emails for Wasteland 2 and Planescape 2.

I like hearing how they are making progress but don't care to play an unfinished game and lose any progress I made. Dealing with bugs is not my idea of fun either. I do that enough at work as it is.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Fri Nov 01, 2013 4:34 pm

Hey if it were only paying for betas I wouldn't mind it. Much of this stuff isn't even prealpha.
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Re: Early access games on Steam, good or bad trend?

Postposted on Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:29 am

superjawes wrote:Ultimately it depends on what kind of game we're talking about. Minecraft was essentially "ready" for a lot of people in the alpha days, and Kerbal Space Program only just released a (barebones) campaign mode, but it was great for orbital mechanics in the earlier builds, too.


Yeah I agree it depends on the game. Some games during beta (such as Minecraft or KSP) offer more interesting gameplay than most finished games do. For every Minecraft there are 30 other games that are nowhere near ready for a widespread release though (even if the ideas/concepts for the game are great).

Beta is such a loosely defined term nowadays that you can have "betas" that are more polished than many retail games, but there are also "betas" that should really only be considered early alpha builds. There are a lot of early access games on Steam that are on my wishlist, but I won't be buying them until a lot more progress is made on them.
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