steam early access
Some time within the last two years, Steam has started offering what they call early-access games. An early-access game is one that has not yet officially released or finished yet, but is still made available to the public for play, similar to a public beta. I think the idea behind this move was to allow developers to make their games a bit more community developed.
It would give the developers a larger number of playtesters. More playtesters would theoretically lead to more exposed bugs and exploits allowing the game-makers to develop a more solid game in the end.
For the players, this meant you could play a new game sooner! How could this not be a bad deal?
I’m no stranger to betas, closed or open, having participated in one or two video game betas in the past. They were enjoyable experiences. I remember playing in the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta and the exhilarating experience along with it. Something new that’s not been released yet!
Now we come to Steam’s early-access games which are essentially open-betas of in-development games. I’ve participated in two early-access games to date: Kerbal Space Program and Starbound. I must confess that I caved in to purchasing Planetary Annihilation during this year’s Summer Sale, though I have not played it yet. My experiences with early-access games hasn’t been quite as exciting as those from previous betas that I’ve been a part of.
Betas before Steam’s early-access, usually had very limited lifespans. Most of the time, they lasted maybe a weekend or one to two weeks. This short period of time allowed only for a small taste of the action. This allowed for the developers to observe playtesting, but the short timespace also prevented players from exploring too much of the game. The beta was very much a sample of what was to come, and succeeded in adding to the hype of a game, without exposing too much.
I believe the reason for having betas has largely shifted. Originally, betas where done by developers to gain knowledge about how players would play their games. Now, in my opinion largely due to a handful of successful Kickstarter-funded video games, developers are using betas to acquire money for their games more early on in the process. They are front-loading their profit. I believe this is hurting the game-industry more than it’s helping. I wager there will be lots of early-access games that will never see the light of an official release. The incoming money will slow to an almost non-existant trickle, and the projects will be abandoned or developers will lose motivation because they’ve earned the majority of the profit from that game already!
My distaste for Steam’s early-access games is due mostly to the fact that I’ve grown tired of the early-access games as a whole long before they’ve released. Take Kerbal Space Program for example. I purchased KSP on Aug 4, 2013. Within two months, I had played all that I wanted of Kerbal and had since moved on to other games. I’ve exhausted my excitement towards the game long before it’s ever released (as of today, July 14, 2014, KSP still has not released yet)! The exact same thing happened to me with Starbound. I purchased Starbound on February 6, 2014 and the state of the game at that time deterred me from wanting to play it again. The gameplay was fairly bland and there wasn’t much to do other than kill monsters and loot them.
Having played both of these early-access games and exhausting my interest in them, I feel that I’ve cast an unfair opinion on an unfinished product, but it’s too late! I have very little interest in playing them again.
Now, I avoid early-access games, which is unfortunate because it seems that more and more games are moving to the early-access model. Nowadays while browsing the Steam Store, a game which catch my eye, but after viewing it, I must move on.
I’d rather not ruin my opinion of a game before it’s ever released.