Some Thoughts on Early Access

Grim Dawn Survarium

I don’t fully understand the appeal of playing broken, unpolished, unfinished, sloppy games, well, anymore that is. It’s a concept that’s just not panning out for the consumers, like at all. Development usually slows down to a crawl or developers fail to keep their deadlines on a regular basis — something that everyone is supposed to view as an understandable thing.

If you want to charge money to have people play your shitty game, you need to deliver what you promise and be upfront about what you’re doing, period. It’s a promise you should keep no matter what. Your waning interest is not the consumers problem nor is your naive garbage business sense a valid excuse to break that promise. You should be held to higher standards and you should be aware of any possible delays that could happen down the road. Warning customers about these things is fine but it does not eliminate all responsibility.

Now, I might be overly harsh or rude when it comes to this topic and that’s simply because companies and developers have gotten away with this shit for too long without getting the appropriate amount of criticism for it. I don’t mean rude comments, death threats and all that nonsense. I’m talking about being held accountable and answering for what happened. You failed your customers and fans, you have to make it right. Don’t just say “when it’s done” or make another promise; show us where it went wrong and why but most importantly make sure that it won’t happen again.

Alright, I’m still being a little unfair, there are valid reasons for delays. The nature of game development (and life) can be, unpredictable to say the least. So let’s be fair here and showcase a game doing early access the right way. Which is, delivering consistent updates and transparency of where they’re headed and so on.

My personal pick would be Crate Entertainment’s Grim Dawn as it’s right on schedule (with some updates even being rolled out earlier), they post updates, previews and deliver on their promises. Well done, Crate Entertainment. That is some fine game development you’re doing!

Grim Dawn is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy Hack ‘n Slash RPG like the Diablo series, Path of Exile and the first two Sacred games. It features great character customization with a dual class system and loads of different skills and of course plenty of loot to find!

The reason companies enter the early access program also bothers me, because I never feel they are being honest. Even less now than before. They might say they want feedback but in reality they just want to sell the game as soon as possible to get that sweet early access money. So you kind of just sit there and hope that the developers will finish their product, or they could just suddenly ship it incomplete (looking at you Spacebase DF-9, what a shitty move, fucking shame on you). Usually if a game is dragging its ass through the early access desert however, you forget about it and move on.

Free-to-play games are also doing their version of early access, often referred to as “founder’s packs”. You buy different packs that come in various tiers, you get some extra stuff but mostly it’s about selling alpha/beta access as well as an early start when the game finally launches. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, because it’s completely optional but the amount of these games that are stuck in development hell or just downright shut down within the next year is increasing — most likely a side effect of early access being the trend nowadays. Some companies are heading into scam territory with their approach to early access, because they are like:

1) Announce and release game. Start selling shit aka founder’s packs and cash shop items.

2) Update game once every quarter of a year to squeeze out a few more drops of blood from your dried up corpse of a game.

3) Game stops selling? Shut it down asap.

4) Start over!

The free-to-play publisher model, ladies and gentlemen!

A favorite of mine, but quickly losing any appeal It once had is the free-to-play MMOFPS Survarium. They made a lot of promises and delivered on some, but ultimately is still nowhere near what was promised. Missing game modes, content and slow development makes for a very lacking experience and this would be all fine if they didn’t monetize the game. They also went the route of founder’s packs to fund their game but that wasn’t enough, clearly. Transparency would once again help immensely. It’s worth pointing out that they are updating fairly regularly again after many months of silence and they started doing preview videos coupled with developer diaries. There’s a lot of missing elements still. What’s there is a decent online FPS but that was not the main appeal of the game. They promised us more or less S.T.A.L.K.E.R with online play and the arena shooter mode was just supposed to be a test, but seems to be the main focus now.

Anyways, there are plenty of reasons to stay the hell away from early access type deals but just be careful and you can spot what kind of developer you are dealing with. We want all quality developers to get a fair chance, but we need to identify and point out the shitty ones as well.

This was just some thoughts around the whole thing, there’s a lot more to talk about, perspectives and so on. Till next time!

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