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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on May 07, 2014
Good timing with the whole Towns thing going on, even if that isn't technically early access. I also find it pretty hard to disagree with the article. End of the day changes are inevitable and consumer agency is very, very important. That said things need to be accountable to some point, have SOME sort of regulation or thing are gonna go Great Depression style tits up in the industry.
By Hammerjinx (SI Core) on May 07, 2014
Yeah, I voted for Towns on Greenlight, but the development wasn't really going the way I hoped, and so I bought Gnomoria instead. Kinda sad to see Towns just die like that. If the devs are just going to stop working on it then they should at least take it off steam. Bit crude charging $15 for a "finished" game that you know you're never going to finish.

If I were solo devving a game and sold a bunch so I was suddenly wealthy, it'd be a double edged sword. I'd certainly feel an obligation to keep working on it, but I'd admittedly also have a lot less drive to pump out 40+ hour weeks on it knowing I had enough cash to retire.

It's a nice idea to offer free/discounted Early Access, then charge more to keep playing on release, but part of the point is to raise money to complete production. Personally I try to buy only games that are playable and enjoyable as-is. Anything that it going to be awesome "one day", I wait it out a bit. I'm not saying I always get it right, but mostly I'm pretty happy with my Early Access purchases.
By LS35A (SI Veteran Member) on May 07, 2014
I'd like to see no early access without an estimated completion date.

I'm generally against 'early access' but I did just buy into 'Endless Legend' because I like that type of game and wanted to support the developer. Still not sure if that was a good move or not.
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on May 07, 2014
IMHO its a matter of "culture". As with watching TV series or reading comics, people pick them up lured by the early part and simply assume that it WILL be finished. The problem is, while most other things are actually legally regulated to be, early access games are not. Sadly, this being a rather new thing (quite along with Greenlight & Kickstarater) the whole phenomena requires a few spectacular failures to teach people that it can just simply burn their money.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a wonderful TOOL to get some titles, that otherwise wouldn't ever be released, to come to light. But as any tool it requires time to get working right, and can be used in a wrong way.

What I don't like about it, is the fact that currently, its completely up to the developers' conscience to manage the money they get, and to do so in a honest way. With each and every self proclaimed game developer in for a piece of that money cake, it makes me rather sceptical. From the simple fact of finishing the game instead of just pulling a money stunt, through the effort of ever BALANCING the enormous amount of features they put in the early access version to lure customers (Endless Legend, but yes, I bought it too), to the issue of general money management - is the finished product really worth the money that was invested in it (Shadowrun Returns sure doesn't look like a $2mln game to me, and I just don't believe that Star Citizen will actually see ALL $30mln of actual content...).

Early access would definitively work better if Valve would push some kind of legal agreement on developers, to actually be fined in case of not finishing the game (all with definition of what constitutes a finished game, and a time term) because it would simply cut off the worst wannabes. But it will never happen, because pressing such issues, should need arise, requires hiring a whole horde of lawyers. So, I guess we just have to wait for it to simply sort it self out in a process of trial and error made by simple buyers.
By leowaud (SI Veteran Newbie) on May 07, 2014
I like the early access idea - although admittedly, i've never actually bought into one, mainly because i have picked up so many complete games through decent sale deals that its just not attractive enough to shell out a lot for an unfinished game at the moment.

There's always going to be some dodgy releases - but that has always happened anyway.

I think they could definitely increase the regulation a bit, but too much regulation could have a negative impact too, like V4ndall comments with the potential for litigation etc. which would put off the kind of small and creative developers that we want.

I think that it is a new market that will mature with a bit more regulation and increasingly savvy consumers. As people get wise to the problems i think they will be more discerning and not throw their money away. I very nearly bought towns a few months back but before I did i read some of the reviews and forum stuff and it was clear there were some real problems with the game's development. So i simply didn't bother buying it.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on May 13, 2014
Had a couple of games bite me (where the Dev just seemed to take the money and run leaving an incomplete game *cough, "Stardrive"*) or development is so slow that early interest is replaced rapidly by boredom with features only slowly trickling in ("Kinetic Void"). Then there's the slap in the face when the game goes into beta, and there is a drop in price to attract more investors.
It's still a crap shoot overall that needs more regulation by Steam/Valve.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on May 09, 2014
See when I agree with Hero, across cultural and generational gaps, we are on to something :P
By Hammerjinx (SI Core) on May 09, 2014
lol, so by that rationale, black and white historical avatars with crazy hair is the mode de jour.

I agree that more oversight and control would be awesome, but effectively that's a cost that gets levvied on devs who are, mostly, trying to put food on the table while grinding out code. This could sink some otherwise promising projects, and would force costs to be passed to us.

The other issue is that, at the end of the day, you can't force people to finish something. It's buyer beware. If you wouldn't pay that price as-is, don't. I could just as easily point to any number of TV shows that started off great and put out DVD box sets, only to get cancelled, or to get progressively worse and worse with each season. Should the people buying those DVDs get refunds because it ended up sucking, or was never finished? I'd argue that they're in a more reasonable position to complain, because there's no implicit warning that the show could go south. Yet, can you see a publisher agreeing to a refund? Not in a million years.

There will always be dogs, both in "complete" games, and in Early Access, and some people will get stung no matter what. I'd like to see something to punish blatant cash-grabs, but at the same time, how do you prove that? Can you prove that they just stopped working and kept the money, vs spending the money trying and failing to dev the game? Can you prove they had enough money to do more?

It's also interesting seeing people whine about a game not because is bad, but because it made more than it cost to dev from a kickstarter. Considering almost all people backing a game get a copy on completion, really it's just a way early pre-order. They're allowed to make a profit. Nobody's going to say "Ugh, GameX only cost a mil to make, but they took $5mil in sales after release. What a ripoff."
By Drakann (I just got here) on May 11, 2014
Excellent article.

STEAM's Early Access should remains as it is. No-one forces you to buy an unfinished game and the warnings are all there. The more power that is removed from publishers and handed over to developers (the creators) all the better.
By kaballah (SI Member) on May 12, 2014
A the end of the day any early access game's success depends on who the developers are and how they're doing business. I mean, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Early Access, I see them as all alike, if you like what you see in their demos, artsheets, videos, you choose yourself if you want to invest or not. Sometimes you get burned, sometimes you don't, just as it happens with a complete game, sometimes reviews are just not on the point, be the reason for that a "commercial review" or simply a wrong person for the article and so on. It's all a gamble, I gambled myself a few times, got some early access titles that are still going nowhere, and am sorry I got them, but also got a few that are going smoothly, and where player-dev interactions are simply awesome.
Of course, Steam should pay a bit more attention of their releases, since one can find some really obscure games out there, but all in all, I'm glad programs like Kick or Eaccess exist, since without them, would there be another Elite, Star Citizen or Wasteland2 etc. Yep, sometimes we get suckered in, but i can live with that, if that means we'll have e few legendary titles on our hands.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on May 13, 2014
Grey hair wins, sorry Drakann. Pricing and regulation must be strongly kept in check as prices are quite steep for many Early Access, and many of these never really come to fruition, despite the continued promises by the developers. "Star Lords" had a big update where all they did was change the title to something everyone agrees is rather silly "Lords of the Black Sun". The game however is still void of many features and lacking a lot of content. Now it is in beta I'm afraid the hope we all once held for the game appears to be lost.
Pricing and quality control, on top of fulfilling promises needs to be regulated. These guys are given a fair shot with Greenlight, attract a steeper price than most Indie games and so I believe have an obligation to the investor to come through on the promised product - or a full refund.