Jimquisition: Early Access

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I don't mind when Early Access when it's used by small devteams who are trying to get more money to work with, that are actually working pretty hard on the product. I got into what was essentially early access for this PC game I've been following for $10. The base game was, I'd say, worth it, and the developer has been toiling away, releasing new versions with new content and bug fixes and what-not. That's fine. The limitedness of the game is reflected in the price. But triple A game developers are already drowning in cash, they should never release an incomplete title. Especially when they routinely charge us full price for it. No. Just no.

Well, umm I DO pay a pubclub membership... So I kinda DO pay for the Jimquisition, that said I am not one that gets offended by a joke episode...

*shrugs* It isn't a terrible model on its own if you're looking to learn about the development process and get involved. But for regular consumers, it's a poor business model mostly due to the average consumer being largely ignorant to the development process and the motivations of producers in general.

Still, like every new business model, there will be those seeking to exploit it until enough folks stop letting themselves get so easily suckered (7 Days to Die...I'm astonished at how well that piece of crap has sold, and I really shouldn't be after meeting the brain trusses who supported The War Z).

Early Access is no different.

As with anything, I urge consumers to inform themselves and resist on-spot purchasing (even on sale).
Given its close relationship with the Kickstarter business model, this is even more important for Early Access games.

******

Clovus:

ccdohl:
If I don't have early access, how will I play all the ambitious zombie games before zombie games stop being cool!?

Well, with the Rust "Early Access" you get to play an ambitious zombie game before it becomes an ambitious not-about-zombies game since they are planning on removing the zombies.

See? It's already beginning! No zombies!

Thought he was gonna talk about how some reviewers got to review games early.

Im fine with early access given the following 2 things are followed.
1. It must be clearly advertised that this is not the finished product.
2. The product must be treated as a pre-order until it is officially released, as such it can be canceled.

I've never really been bothered about early access as seen on Steam. So long as a potential buyer is warned that the game is indeed an alpha, isn't finished, has ongoing development and subject to many potential changes, then fair play to anyone who wants to buy. They can't say they've been tricked into buying something they thought was a finished product, the warnings are in place. When they aren't in place sufficiently, then the problems arise.

Here's a note from the developers of the DayZ Standalone on DayZ's early access page:

DayZ Early Access is your chance to experience DayZ as it evolves throughout its development process. Be aware that our Early Access offer is a representation of our core pillars, and the framework we have created around them. It is a work in progress and therefore contains a variety of bugs. We strongly advise you not to buy and play the game at this stage unless you clearly understand what Early Access means and are interested in participating in the ongoing development cycle.

That is at the top of the page before the user reads anything else.

A further warning in the About The Game section further down:

WARNING: THIS GAME IS EARLY ACCESS ALPHA. PLEASE DO NOT PURCHASE IT UNLESS YOU WANT TO ACTIVELY SUPPORT DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME AND ARE PREPARED TO HANDLE WITH SERIOUS ISSUES AND POSSIBLE INTERRUPTIONS OF GAME FUNCTIONING.

So long as these kinds of warnings are there (I think they need to be mandatory, and highly visible), then I don't see a problem. The user is clearly told what they are buying into. They then have the opportunity to make the purchase, or not and wait til the finished product. I agree there needs to be a baseline level of "completeness" to an alpha game, so developers can't take the piss with what they fling onto Early Access. But, handled responsibly, I don't see the problem with Early Access as a concept.

Now, on a Ģ60 "finished" game like Battlefield 4, that's different. When you're getting rubber banded around the map on a decent internet connection to a server in your country, then there's something seriously not right.

Another issue I see is I'm not sure why developers are so excited to get people buying into their alphas and betas. Ask most developers if they'd want players playing alpha builds and they go wide-eyed.

First impressions are everything. If the first impression is a buggy mess, you're damaging your game's future potential! Sure the person who spent money on your early access might keep playing it to justify their purchase, but how many people are they going to recommend the game to others later EVEN if it ends up being good? They've already had their experience partially soured.

honestly, early access titles should jsut have to be significantly cheaper. If I am taking on extra risk I need extra return.

Is anybody else not getting Jim's video when they click on it? For me it's just a weird clip montage of a bunch of Escapist shows, most of which bug me.

the only time there should be paid early access is when a game would not get funded any other way.
when money is being handed over certain standards should have to be held.
and the release now patch later attitude makes me long for days before consoles had internet connections.

Legion:
I am surprised that this has not been mentioned, but that wasn't 87 pages of Early access games, it was 87 titles.

The point still stands of course, and I half suspect that this was due to it not being edited because it's an early access video.

But just in case.

(sorry if already responded to')
(no it's 87 Pages, just checked now I saw 88 so I imagine there's 871+ early access games currently on steam....scratch this )

sry just double checked a very stupid kind of listing and me being stupid :-) so yes 87 Game titles in total now 88//

Thank god for whatever I can't be a**ed to finish and/or release a finished product Jim...

And yea I agree some games are worth like Kerbal.. But a AAA putting out alphas to test water with full price that's just wrong, Valve maybe should remove early access games that hasn't got any update in 1-3months from Steam...
It's to bad though for the few studios that's are serious and needs the money/want the feedback...

loc978:

Rabid_meese:
I'm sorry Jim, but Starbound, offering a fully realized game that will just get better? You're kidding, right?

The game is horribly buggy, and horribly optimized. It took me hours to get Starbound running on my machine - a machine that has had no trouble EVER playing a game. When you have to look up fucking guides on how to fix some miniscule glitch that stops the framerate from tanking in a 2D game, you don't have a finished product.

Starbound's game is horribly broken as well. There is no pacing or structure to it. After you do the last quest (there are what, 5?) It just says "Alright. Just do stuff." No direction. No goals. No clear progression, like with Terraria. I used to criticize Terraria for being a Wiki game - Starbound takes that idea to a whole new universe.

The thing is, I wouldn't mind that if the game was free. Its absurd when a company expects you to pay them money to do their bug testing. Having a game up on Steam and asking for money on it, when its clearly not in shipping condition is appalling - no matter who or what the company is.

This begs the question "why did you buy it, then?". The game was billed as Terraria, but bigger and in space, made by one of the original Terraria devs and his new team. If you didn't like Terraria's sandboxy nature, why did you think you'd like Starbound's sandbox (which is the only part of the game that is near completion, a fact that the devs acknowledge readily)?

I'm sorry, but where did I ever say I didn't like Terraria? I said that Terraria had no clear progression curve. Sure, it had one - but you either had to stumble upon it or read a Wiki to find out what to do next. And for Terraria, the progression curve was kind of a big thing. There are countless sandbox games that have clear objectives on what to do. It's what stops the game from going stale. Criticizing a game doesn't mean I didn't like it.

Starbound takes Terraria's laziness in terms of design and shoots it through the roof. The quest system was supposed to be an answer to that - but, considering the paltry number of quests, it doesn't really do anything.

I had purchased Starbound because it had promoted itself as an open source, Sci-Fi Terraria. Because of how murky the progression is(expecting you to jump from planet to planet), there is no sense of flow. The mechanics of Starbound just offer a layer of tedium that Terraria didn't have. Starbounds success comes from Terraria's failures - in other words, Starbound found success because Redigit was a jerk who refused to release the source code to his game, and to update it only when he felt like it.

In Starbounds current state, it should not have been sold. Key features are missing, and the game is poorly optimized. Framerate issues for a 2D game are unacceptable - and the fix require digging through my registry to get it to run. That should be an embarrassment - you would think that optimization would supersede character wipes .That roadmap you linked, while nice, is irrelevant - the average person isn't going to check out the companies website before buying a game.

If you are putting out an Alpha or Beta early access build, you should not be charging money for it - or, at the very least, the title should have been available at a heavy discount. They are selling an unfinished product and expecting the community to give feedback as to where the bugs are or how to make the game better - features that normally a company would have to pay for.

Kinda hoping Jim does do a finished version of this episode months from now, just as a laugh.

I pretty much agree on all accounts here. I've taken a personal stance on Early Access titles, because they're already notorious for being feature deprived, and I got burned by buying Minecraft. The only Early Access title on Steam I currently own is Starbound, which is already as feature-rich as Terraria, and the devs have been pushing out new content and adopting mods into the core code at a very healthy rate.

Early access is just like kickstarter, a donation plus some people like following the development process instead of game development just being a black box.
You know, being part of the culture.
Don't buy early access titles with the expectation of receiving a finished product, obviously, and don't buy early access from whom you wouldn't donate to to support them!

It's the same deal as with kickstarter.
You wouldn't kickstart a game by blizzard or EA, right?
...Right?

Also gta 5 was never early access, that was just an incomplete release, the difference being that an early access title at least outright tells you it is incomplete while you're in for a happy surprise with the incomplete release if you didn't read reviews.
That's as old as gaming though and I don't think there has been such thing as a boxed early access game.

I kind of hate the term "Early Access".

It's a beta. You are paying for beta. Early Access to me sounds more like you get something better than that. And what guarantees that the game will be finished? The company you get it from can close down tomorrow, and then you'd be up shit creek without a paddle.

Now I've payed for beta before. Specifically Path of Exile, but that was in support of their (at the time theoretical) micro-transaction model, and with the full knowledge that the game could have fallen under. Only other one I technically paid for was Starbound, but I got that as part of the current humble bundle (first 1000 bundles got Starbound).

It's not to say that it shouldn't be done, but there needs to be a giant "buyer beware" in the back of everyone's mind. I mean hell look what happened to cube world. A buddy of mine bought into that, and looking it up, seems like it hasn't seen an update since last July. That could easily happen to steam early access. I mean, Steam can barely monitor completed games, does anyone think they would hold Early Access distributors accountable to actually finish making a game?

yeah, I can't really equate EA's bullshit issues with early access, even though things do happen similarly. early access has an explicit risk label on it, while EA charges full triple a price for what is supposed to be a full game, and then half bakes it out the door. the procedure seems the same, but with early access, unless you've actually bought into one of those more ridiculously priced games that you shouldn't even be touching until after they're on sale, the process is much cheaper, and you're actually accepting an upfront risk on a small time developer, as opposed to being pushed around by the likes of EA on baldfaced lies, whose standards really should be higher, given their ownership and demand of phat stax

blaming this trend for poor practices is like blaming tetris for being responsible for millions of tetris clones: it gives an excuse to the leeches of the industry for their behavior

I stopped buying games that I know will have a shitload of DLC until there's a GOTY on Steam sale, and some people are willing to buy an unfinished product. What the fuck, gamers?

Hartland:
I was relieved by the end of it because we don't have to thank god for Jim until the final version.

I think God for Jim every night anyway.

I have never had any problems with Early Access. I have 3 of them. Call me what you want, I'm having fun. It's nice to watch everything unfold. Technically, it's like a cheap preorder. I can play the game in it's current state if I want, and then when it's actually finished and fully playable, the price will inevitably go up with it, and here I got it for half that price.

I'll admit, 7 Days to Die is an exception. $35? For a game that simply equals basic minecraft with a zombie horde terrorizing you every night? Sorry, we have that game already.

Rabid_meese:

I'm sorry, but where did I ever say I didn't like Terraria? I said that Terraria had no clear progression curve. Sure, it had one - but you either had to stumble upon it or read a Wiki to find out what to do next. And for Terraria, the progression curve was kind of a big thing. There are countless sandbox games that have clear objectives on what to do. It's what stops the game from going stale. Criticizing a game doesn't mean I didn't like it.

Starbound takes Terraria's laziness in terms of design and shoots it through the roof. The quest system was supposed to be an answer to that - but, considering the paltry number of quests, it doesn't really do anything.

I had purchased Starbound because it had promoted itself as an open source, Sci-Fi Terraria. Because of how murky the progression is(expecting you to jump from planet to planet), there is no sense of flow. The mechanics of Starbound just offer a layer of tedium that Terraria didn't have. Starbounds success comes from Terraria's failures - in other words, Starbound found success because Redigit was a jerk who refused to release the source code to his game, and to update it only when he felt like it.

In Starbounds current state, it should not have been sold. Key features are missing, and the game is poorly optimized. Framerate issues for a 2D game are unacceptable - and the fix require digging through my registry to get it to run. That should be an embarrassment - you would think that optimization would supersede character wipes .That roadmap you linked, while nice, is irrelevant - the average person isn't going to check out the companies website before buying a game.

If you are putting out an Alpha or Beta early access build, you should not be charging money for it - or, at the very least, the title should have been available at a heavy discount. They are selling an unfinished product and expecting the community to give feedback as to where the bugs are or how to make the game better - features that normally a company would have to pay for.

I'm sorry. What? It's the developer's fault that the consumer won't take 5 minutes to look into the product their considering putting $10 (or more!) on? The product that the developer is providing information about upfront, no having to twist their arm about it? What kind of thinking is this? I agree with the guy who argued one should do their freaking research about a game. If you can't even look at what the developers themselves are saying in regards to the Early Access, I'm sorry, but maybe you shouldn't be in this market.

Aaw no "thank God for me?" But we were good, there hasn't been a sexism controversy this week or anything :( lol.

I'm really surprised Jim didn't mention Towns. A hybrid of Minecraft and Age Of Empires, that had lots of potential, got released with a full price in a Alpha build, most infuriatingly of all GETS SALES ON STEAM.... annnnd the development team has all but abandoned the broken mess of a game.

But I agree with Jim, releasing a beta build of a game is excusable, it's 90% up and running mostly just tweaking of math like in Hawken, actively being developed for. But Alpha releases make no sense. I mean why on earth would you want peoples VERY first impression of your game AFTER they lay down hard earned money is that it's completely broken and ugly!? How does that do your teams brand name any good at all? Even if the customer goes in with that understanding of it being an Alpha build, you still can only WOW them at the gate once.

Zachary Amaranth:

Lightknight:
Hah, hilarious parody.

I agree fully. I see games that I really like the sound of and wonder, "Wow, how haven't I heard of this yet" and I watch the video and am impressed again. But then when I scroll down and see "Early Access", I immediately realise I've made a mistake and leave the page. I wouldn't pay for early access to a AAA game either.

I'm very similar. I never understood the concept of buying into a Beta, and I don't get Early Access. I do a u-turn the minute I see that sign. Maybe when it's released and maybe even then not at full price, but definitely not before launch. It seems like a bad gamble.

Exactly. I literally see it as if it's not available yet. Even though I "could" buy it. I'm willing to change my mind if people absolutely rave about the game being great, as is, but then I'm not buying a game because it could eventually be good, I'm getting it because it is good. I've done that before on a little game called Minecraft 4 years ago. But that fit the criteria of people saying it was worth the buy right then.

So for me, Early Access is a hurdle they have to overcome in some way. But I'm like this because I've worked in development cycles. As a QA Engineer no less. I know just how far software can be from ready even up until just before the end of the project. I've also worked on a project that ran into a critical issue after years of work (it couldn't scale up to large numbers of users hitting the app at the same time) and the project was killed even though we had clients.

So no, I know too much and there's too many good games in my backlog to not be able to wait.

Muhaha.
Try to criticize one of those games on steam or on a popular games-blog and you will have 20 fans on your heels,
screaming : "Nooooooo ! Itīs absoutely playable and wonderful ! I have already had millions of billions of hours of fun
playing it !"

I just look at early access and think to myself "Why would I pay full price for an unfinished game?" I thought that the deal was you adopted early at a discount and the developer would get funds and feedback in return. What is the incentive to buy at full price?

Flames66:
Interesting views there Jim. I have made a long term investment in The Dead Linger, but haven't tried any of the others you mentioned.

Also

Nice one.

Agreeing with Jim here. I've fallen for the early access trap a few times. War for the Overworld, Starbound, but usually its been games that I just hope pick up and become great. It can be as much about showing the industry I want this kind of game as actually wanting to play the specific one.

That said...yeah....I've got a deal with a buddy of mine to hit me on the head each time I'm gonna pre-order or buy something on early access. There really isnt much point to do it, and it probably sends the wrong signals to the industry. It usually isnt too good at listening anyway.

Like most problems regarding videogames early access is only a problem for unpatient people. I buy my games only after 2-4 years. I still have not played Skyrim. But now i can get the Legendery edition or even the Elder Scrolls Anthology for a lower price then Skyrim originaly cost. So yeah, being mature and patient pays off.

Wait, so this episode is next week's episode?

So where the hell is this week's episode?

And what the hell am I going to watch next week?!

I love the little touches on how you made this video "crappy" on purpose with shitty lighting, using the camera's mic, wearing a t-shirt instead of the suit, and having repeats in the voice editing and blank spots in the editing. Very nice humor in that.

I refuse to buy Early Access games. Or at least, games advertised as early access. It's nice that these developers are honest unlike the triple A publishers who keep selling us unfinished drek like Aliens Colonial Marines, GTA V, and Battlefield 4 just to name a few of the worst offenders from last year, but still, I am not willingly going to pay you money for the privilege of testing your shit (and on the subject of those AAA games, no more preorders for me. when the game is proven to be finished is when I will spend money and not a moment before then). I don't know when this shift from "a game tester is a person who works for you that you pay money to in exchange for them suffering through your unfinished games looking for bugs" to "a game tester is the customer who just paid full price for the game and is now slogging through your unfinished game instead of enjoying the finished product they were supposed to be paying for." came about, but I'm damn well sick of it and won't be a part of it any more. I work hard and do a complete job to earn my money, and I'm not going to turn around and spend that money I busted my ass to get on a product that other people didn't work hard on to finish before selling it.

I do wonder how long it's going to take before a game takes the honest admittance of "we are early access" too far and ruins the whole shitty trend for everyone, though. Not too long I hope.

Rabid_meese:
I'm sorry Jim, but Starbound, offering a fully realized game that will just get better? You're kidding, right?

The game is horribly buggy, and horribly optimized. It took me hours to get Starbound running on my machine - a machine that has had no trouble EVER playing a game. When you have to look up fucking guides on how to fix some miniscule glitch that stops the framerate from tanking in a 2D game, you don't have a finished product.

Starbound's game is horribly broken as well. There is no pacing or structure to it. After you do the last quest (there are what, 5?) It just says "Alright. Just do stuff." No direction. No goals. No clear progression, like with Terraria. I used to criticize Terraria for being a Wiki game - Starbound takes that idea to a whole new universe.

The thing is, I wouldn't mind that if the game was free. Its absurd when a company expects you to pay them money to do their bug testing. Having a game up on Steam and asking for money on it, when its clearly not in shipping condition is appalling - no matter who or what the company is.

If you didn't liked Terraria, then why the heck did you bought Starbound in the first place?, especially since the devs themselves have been upfront about it as "Terraria in space". The only one's fault here is yours for not doing your homework.

D:

but I like those 'quickie' eps

but yeah, I've noticed that about steam to, and found it very strange they are throwing unfinished products up for sale, but then Steams lack of QC is well known. DayZ was, and still is on there.

I have picked up Mercenary Kings, Star Command and Starbound on the "early access" model. Mercenary Kings STILL isn't done yet, Star Command I can't even play because I had to sell my iPod and Starbound is actually pretty good except for the asshole guards that won't let me defend myself and the complete inability to sell goods so I can actually buy a better weapon because I am so damn tired of being stuck with that shitty sword and shitty bow.

But yeah, way too many "early access" games out there right now, asking for full release prices while you're basically paying them to be a beta tester. It's downright criminally genius/insane.

MonkeyPunch:
...this whole notion of letting people "test" pre-alpha stuff is quite silly because not even the devs will gain anything from that (bar money up front). There will just be too many bugs (which the devs will be fully aware of) and missing features in a pre-alpha stage for any public input to be worth a flying duck to the devs.

Not necessarily. Any player can be a playtester, and playtesting occurs during most stages of the development cycle. Designers often start with a "paper prototype", which is a mock-up of a game using paper, sticky notes, or whatever physical supplies they can get their hands on. Even when their video game isn't digital at all, they still have players playtest their concepts to see if the game is fun or if there are problems with the rules. Input is helpful at any and all points.

So, can we expect the 'Thank God for me' patch any time soon?

This is why I refuse to buy into Early Access games. No if I'm going to do your beta testing for you I expect to get paid not the other way around.

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