Tell Us Dammit: What Are Your Thoughts On Early Access?

So here's a topic: what are your thoughts on Early Access on Steam? Do you buy games in Early Access? Do you think it's right for games to be released like that in an unfinished state?

Incredibly only 25% of Early Access games ever get finished. I think that's a pretty telling statistic. It might even be indicative of a trend. Developer puts game in Early Access to secure funds, gets funds from consumers, doesn't finish game. That is a worrying trend,

But on the flip side there are success stories. Particulars, a local game, is one of them. Particulars was put on early access to help fund the actual completion of the game. Now it's finished and it's pretty great. Everyone's happy. So the Early Access scheme does work sometimes, and it can be useful.

I just don't like to see it abused. Perhaps there needs to be more stringent rules around its application.


    No different to kickstarter, and you only see a fraction of people bitching about that compared to early access, at least there is a product with early access even if its a shitty one. I think it's a fine system, it may need a little more regulation but it's mostly on the consumer to be smarter, look at the steam reviews, look at the team making the game, if you don't trust either don't jump in.

      It's Steam reviews that screwed it up for me a few times. Mostly because for quite a few games, the top reviews tend to be funny ones that praise the game, like "killed a dude and then used his leg to kill his friend 11/10" so you buy it only to find out that the game is actually a buggy alpha build that's totally crap and not worth the $20 you just paid.

      By the time the game is 'finished' (if it ever does according to those stats) you've lost all interest.

      The Forest comes to mind...

        If by top reviews you mean most 'Helpful' (the default filter), I think it's best to ignore them, since so many fanboys just go through and upvote positive reviews and downvote negative reviews.

        Personally, I got straight for the Negative reviews. You can usually find a few objective reviews pretty quickly.

          Erm, people who give positive reviews would fall under your "fanboy" umbrella.

          Are you seriously implying that only negative reviews are objective, and that positive ones aren't?

          Seems you're the one not being objective.

        Yeah, as said above, I always go straight to the negative reviews only, if there is consistent reviews giving the same problems and they are problems I think I would have with a game, I avoid it.

          >>> Oops, wrong spot

          Last edited 27/11/14 12:36 pm

        The forest is brilliant it gets worse every update. Started out good but now meh it's lost most of what it was trying to achieve. Up to version 0.4 was great.

      It's quite different to Kickstarter. In Early Access, you are actually paying for a tangible product, whereas with Kickstarter you are giving money to someone to enable them to chase a dream.

        No it isn't, it is the same thing, early access for most indie games are done for the same reason, they are only the final stretch and need that boost to get where they want. Sure some big publishers do early access just to pre-sell but I think that is a whole other issue.

    I have backed a couple of Kickstarters and am happy to consider that a throwaway - I think The Long Dark has delivered and I had early access to the "sandbox mode" but I haven't gotten around to it - it's in my steam library. I also backed Ninja Pizza Girl which looks fun/promising. They seem to be getting a lot of support now that it's nearing completion and will launch on PC, 360/Xbone and PS3/PS4 early next year.

    Ever since the Towns dev pulled up stumps and said (paraphrasing) "we have no incentive to finish the game for 'free' now that we have your money so maybe we'll put the planned updates into a sequel you'll have to pay for instead" I've been a lot more wary. I will never again pay money for a game based on the promise that it might one day get finished - it has to be sufficiently playable to be worth the money now, or no sale.

    I'm not against the idea of early access as a whole, but the game has to be playable for the value of the money before I buy in - and that's a difficult benchmark since early access games are typically sold at the full price on the basis you'll eventually get the full game, which apparently doesn't happen 75% of the time.

      So its not much unlike buying a AAA game
      Pay money for a half done game that you must give more money for upgrades

    I think early access is good in theory, but that 25% statistic is why it's not so good in practice, although as mentioned, the successes are usually great. I guess early access is better than nothing with some games? And yet we have companies releasing "completed" AAA games that are just as buggy - if not more - than early access games.

    I feel that Boheima Interactive are the only people who have fully taken advantage of early access and that was with Arma 3 ( not a fan of Day Z in general so i cant comment on it). they brought the game out when it was in a late alpha stage and every week there were constant updates an d it really helped in bugfixing and optimizing as they had a lot more people running the game and delivering feedback than they would of had from their internal testers.

    With that i feel that early access should only be used as option for established developers like BI, Techland, Egosoft etc, you devs that have made great games but they often come out buggy due to either funding issues or having small dev teams or both. it should not be open to every developer fresh out of their first lesson of learning to code like it currently is

    Last edited 27/11/14 11:30 am

      Kerbal Space Program is another one that seems to be thriving in the early access model

        HAH simultaneous kerballing. lol. All praise the mighty Jeb.

    I tried it once buying the Cube World alpha. It showed promise but was just a big empty world begging to be populated.

    They haven't updated their website in months. Nothing on their Facebook page either. I've learned my lesson.

    Never again.

      Yeah same here.
      Where's wollay? He should have updated it.

        Wollay is a one man band - but he did provide some updates for quests and stuff via twitter. I also bought Cubeworld, its actually pretty cool - but I'm worried that with the slow development, things like Trove, Oort Online and even some others that aren't totally voxel based like Hardland and many many others will drown out Cubeworld.

    I'm fine with Early access. It gives people an optional way to contribute to the game's development earlier. It's not compulsory, and if you want to wait, you can.

    That said, I am not a fan of the way that Valve pushes Early Access games on Steam. They are thrown into the store with all of the other full-release games, except with a blue label thrown on it. I think that there should be more separation of the early access games from the full-release main store.

    EDIT: Case in point, there's an Early Access game in the main feature group on todays Steam Sale!

    Last edited 27/11/14 11:56 am

      On the mobile site, Early Access games still get no identifier at all until you go to the game's page, although to their credit, the Early Access notification is fairly prominent on that page, and above the purchase link. I agree there should definitely be more separation, tho.

    I only buy finished games after reviews and from reputable publishers, I don't see why we should take the place of equity investment firms in funding developers' half-cooked projects and minimising their own financial risk. It's bad for the games industry and it's bad for us.

    I've never bought an Early Access game and I don't plan to. It's simply not a model that I'm interested in.

    Most games hold your interest for a little while before you move on and then you don't have a reason to come back. With Early Access, you're doing that before the game is complete.

    Last edited 27/11/14 12:42 pm

    It's a very bad idea in its current form. For me, anyway. I have limited time, enthusiasm and attention for most games. It is a tragic waste for me to expend that on an unfinished product, leaving me unmotivated to play it in its completed form, resulting in an overall inferior experience.

    The only way I can see the process making sense is if you treat it similar to kickstarter. A preorder/investment/donation hybrid with a real awareness if the risk it may not pay off. It would make more sense if there was some kind of discount for getting in early to support the devs in completing the game, and you play it only when it's done.

    Perversely, however, early access games on Steam seem to be MORE expensive than when they launch, meaning you're paying a premium to spoiler yourself for the finished product, IF it ever gets finished.

    Current incarnation if Early Access is a deeply flawed system which should not be supported.

      People with limited time and attention are not the target market for early access. The purpose of early access is to be part of the development cycle, to make suggestions and watch as the games evolves.
      I'm in the limited time and attention so I don't get early access. Other people like spending time of the forums, making suggestions, discussing issues and ideas with other people. And at the end of the day the game can be better for it.

      The issue with early access is when devs don't use it like this and it becomes a cash grab.

    Early Access as a concept is great *if* it is being run by someone who knows what they are doing and has experience with the development process. Unfortunately those kinds of projects are few and far between with most being put up way too early by people that don't know what they are doing as a simple cash grab. I very rarely buy into Early Access projects unless there is a strong recommendation from trusted sites or I know the publisher's previous work and reputation.

    They should make it documented, certified, and just overall harder for the devs to legally SELL an early-access game.

    Make it so that they need to write legal documents that state the estimated date of game completion and that IF the devs withdraw from the game or simply don't finish the game by the estimated date of game completion, that all paying customers get full refunds.

    Also, if it were up to me, if any game dev leaves a project without a good god damned reason other than they're dead, then they should be blacklisted from starting newer projects, and the assets of the unfinished game will become open-sourced, allowing any hardcore fans of the game to mod or even complete the game on his behalf.

    Last edited 27/11/14 12:04 pm

    love early access, but people need to understand that THE GAME IS STILL IN DEVELOPMENT, may be for a long while yet, and might never be finished to the standard they expect it to.

    although day z progress as an example has been relatively slow, i love jumping on and constantly finding new things...

      With DayZ it really depends how people play it. If you wait for the standard servers to get the patches, you're getting one mega patch a month. If you opt into the experimentals (like I do) you get weekly content patches. So the idea that it gets content very slowly, is only true if you opt for standard servers. This week, I'm trying out trucks, which are currently broken as sin, but we were warned. The game is a buggy mess, but again it's in alpha (I don't give a shit who's tired of hearing that, it's openly declared 3 times on the game before you even start AND declared on the game page itself twice.)

      If you buy into an early access game, I think, like you said more or less, you have to keep in mind it's a game in development and pissing and whining it's taking it's time is ridiculous.

      I mean for fucks sake, we hear people say 'It's ok, the game can be delayed six more months even after three to four years development, I'd rather quality than a rushed buggy mess' but suddenly a game in alpha should hurry the hell up and deliver a buggy mess instead of ensuring it's a quality product? Really?

        are there any working vehicles at the moment?

          Yeah the new truck, it works, it's a bit temperamental but it's in there. It's the very first patch for it, so look for it to be improved each week from now on. Now it's in, each month will also see new types of vehicles added. Cars etc. Motorbikes, bicycles and small helis are also on the planning board. So far they're hitting every mark on their road map they released at the beginning of the year.

    I'm quite happy to pay for a full game (pre-order) and gain access to a limited time vertical slice alpha/beta etc, but I've never bought any game on early access and I doubt I ever will. Paying money for an incomplete game isn't my idea of a good buy.

    Last edited 23/06/15 5:49 pm

    I think the rules/guidelines that steam recently released clarifying early access were good. If both devs and consumers go into it with those objectives and understanding then there is no problem with early access.
    Somehow having both sides acknowledge and follow these is another matter

    Edit: Also the 25% number seems like a bit of hyperbole. Is that 25% of games that went into early access are out now. The service hasn't been around for that long so as more gaames come onto it and it gets more popular that percentage drops. I would be more interested in the % that have been in early access for over a year, over 6 months. Anything that has been in early access for less than 6 months I wouldn't be worried about.
    Unless you are saying that 75% of games have been officially cancelled which doesn't sound right

    Last edited 27/11/14 12:17 pm

    I can't even think of another industry that allows someone to sell half a product with nothing but the promise of finishing it later. The entire thing is shonky.

    early access for multiplayer is alright.........early access for single player games gets me a little perplex. Why would you want to play through a story that is not finished yet?? IF I do buy an early access game I buy it as is and take every update as a bonus, that way i feel happier with what i get.

    Not interested. I've got enough finished games to play, don't need to play unfinished ones, too. I don't generally even try betas when they're free - I'll be damned if I'm going to start paying for them.

    Buy in at your own risk. I bought DayZ Standalone almost a year ago for $30 and have spent over 500 hours in-game, which is much more than any other title since vanilla WoW. I'm excited for the retail release whenever that may be, but even if they ceased development tomorrow I've definitely got my money's worth.

      Ditto. Despite the bugs the game is still worth the money to me in its current form. I've sunk a few hundred hours into it with friends. Most of the time the bugs are just funny, and then every month or so new things are added to the game. It's great.

    Happy to give a company my time to test their beta. Not happy to pay for it though. Early access seems to dragon on for so long that I cant imagine anyone still being interested in the game by the time it comes out. So you are effectively paying to play an unfinished, buggy version of the game and nothing else.

    I'm the lead designer on Particulars, so thought I'd give some context to our story, coz it's a little odd.

    Particulars is not a good game for Early Access. It's single player, story driven and linear, all of the things that don't work in an Early Access setting. We also released the game about a year later than we thought we would, because the game was simply bigger than we thought it'd be when we started. What those two things meant was that over time, our community eroded, rather than strengthened, as we simply weren't able to give out enough content to keep them around. All in all, Early Access probably hurt our game's marketing.

    But, and here's the kicker, we probably wouldn't have got to where we are without it. Particulars is a weird game, and one of the reasons we were able to get it through Greenlight was that we had an alpha program: people could try, buy, play and share the game with others. The revenue from the alpha program and early access were instrumental in keeping us going for a few months when our funds ran dry, and the feedback we got from our players was fundamental in working out what aspects of the game we needed to focus on.

    Now that we've got that first game under our belt, we've got other ways to do all of these things - Early Access won't be necessary for us anymore, and we'll use it with much more care. But at the end of the day, what that means is that the people who need Early Access most are the people starting out - the developers who won't ever get their release dates right (even the best developers are still mediocre at best at that), and those who might have games that are ill-suited to the format. The point of this model is to help those people, yet that very fact can lead to a horrible consumer experience. I'm not sure how to resolve that, other than to ask developers to be more mindful and consumers to be patient.

    I solely believe Alphas/Betas/Early Access should be free - the product is not finished yet so let people play for free if they are also stress testing, bug finding and still enjoying your game.

    Once the development is complete you may thank them by giving them something unique as a alpha/beta tester or discount their copy of the game upon release.

    Most MMORPG's should and already are using this type of business model to start up and it goes to show it works, single playing games don't do it in the fear that people can take the data and run with it/making mods for the game before its even released and breaking it where the developer did not intend - which is disappointing but surely one day they will get it right.

      On the flipside though, if you leave it completely open like that then you get anyone and everyone playing your game, not necessarily people who you would actually want involved in the early stages of the game. Elite: Dangerous copped some flak for pricing their early access tiers so high, but that ensured that only the enthusiasts would be involved and actually giving the game a proper workout, with useful feedback and bug reporting.

    I'll admit that I'm a bit of a Early access supporter - although I haven't bought into any games recently. I have quite a few sitting in my steam list waiting for release. If I really like the ideas, and how the game looks then I'll support them - but you have to sift through a few to find the gems.

    I'm someone that plays most games only once, unless I either really love them, or they are games that are designed to be played multiple times (Binding of Isaac, Spelunky). Therefore I will not buy games until their final release, making Early Access irrelevant to me.

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