Hi guys! I’d really like you to read my blog post about why Early Access sucks, but it’s not quite finished yet. So for the low, low price of my hosting costs, you get to read this post before anyone else! Aren’t I generous?
No, for real though. Something that’s been grinding my gears for some time is this Early Access phenomenon. Back towards the end of 2013, a few games were announced, primarily on Steam, and were marketed as “Early Access.” Just like Minecraft; remember that? Before we gave Notch all of our money? It was cool. Really, it was. A game goes on Kickstarter, people get to show their faith in the developer and help fund the development costs of the game. Miss the campaign? No problem, you can pick it up in early access, possibly for more than the Kickstarter pledges cost, and still join in with the early adopters. I struggled a bit with games like Planetary Annihilation that were charging what I thought was an extortionate amount, but fans explained the reasoning and I got off my soap box.
Then we entered 2014: arguably the year of the Early Access. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a new game pop up on Steam, advertised as “Early Access.” Many of these games are incredibly, awfully broken, and use the Early Access stick to beat you away with your complaints. Most of them would probably be better suited to the title of, I don’t know…”beta”? Maybe even “alpha”, at some points. At this point, it’s becoming an invitation to pay to test a game that simply isn’t complete.
So what, I hear you say? I want the game now, and I’m willing to pay! Who are you to tell me what to do with my money? Remember Cube World? I paid for the “Early Access.” I played, and it was buggy. But that’s okay, they’ll fix it, right? Nope. The developer decided he wasn’t going to bother communicating with the community any more, and seemingly all but ran off with the money, with a few token tweets here and there after people begged him to come back. I’m not sure where that game is as far as development is concerned. To tell you the truth, I lost faith in the devs after they buggered off with not a word and only a broken game in their legacy.
Early Access genuinely did mean something. Now, it’s just an easy way out for developers. I’m not saying stop supporting indie studios, far from it. I know someone who is currently one-man-army’ing his own games engine and first video game. I think supporting indie studios is the way forward. But can we just start calling it like it is? Beta testing was honest, it was fun, and it was a free way for people to test your game and give you valuable feedback. Charging for that feedback feels cheap.