Jimquisition: Early Access

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On the One hand- i can see Early access as a means of a Small Company Getting a Product out there and allowing the people that would buy the game to help Shape it and get the cash to finish the game in full, on the other hand you still have to be careful Where you put your faith in how a Project is actually doing- in the case of Steam there are places on it to ask Questions and get answers to how a Dev is actualy coming along in the project.

What?! A Jimquisition ended without the one catch-phrase I tune in to see? I demand the none moneys I spent on this be refunded.

Am I bad for paying for Early Access of "Dungeon of the Endless" or is that considered one of the "Good" Early Access games?
Either way, Jim made some great points and I'll be sure to look around for more information before paying for early access.

Call me completely out of the loop, but I wasn't aware of this sort of practice until I went to take a look at Day Z, and was greeted with an early access fee of $30. I was always under the impression that these kinds of builds and access were like demos, in that they were free but severely limited. I'll just have to wait patiently until it comes out in full, and then wait even further for it to go on a Steam sale.

Early access is a bit of an joke on steam. Giving top billing and top pricing for unfinished games. Saying that it helps fund the game is complete BS... You shouldn't be selling a game you don't even have the money to finish! What if early access is a flop and buyers aren't as high as they hoped, are they stuck forever having paid full price for a unfinished game? Are they even guaranteed a game will ever come out of full access?

Anyway first impressions are something you'll live or die for in this business. If you first impression is a shotty hardly playable game you deserved to be judged on it for asking for full asking price for it. If you can't even get an working early build of your game people shouldn't put hope in you'd ever be able to deliver a full game.

mjc0961:
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-

I'm going to stop you there, say what you will about the Online, but GTA V is no where near those levels of in-completion.
You still got all the features and gameplay of a $60 GTA game, Massive Map with lots of things to do, A good sized single player story with a lot of missions, on top of all the driving and shooting the series is known for.

With Online, yes, it sucked to start out with, but considering the size, scale and quality of the single player experience, never-mind the multiplayer, I'm willing to give them a pass, especially seeing how Rockstar owned up to it and made several efforts to make it up to players.
On top of that: Even if you took all out Online, it has zero effect on the base game.

Contrast with Aliens:CM: Undeveloped, buggy, rubbish game-play and a general lack of care on the part of the Devs.
The Multiplayer was there day 1, but that too was horrible.

Battlefield 4: A extremely short 4 hour single player campaign with a heavy focus on multiplayer which was rushed and riddled with bugs and Netcode Issues.

I understand I'm coming off as a rabid fanboy and all, GTA 5 being un-finished is not something I believe is true.
Could GTA:O be better? Totally, but that doesn't mean that GTA 5 is on par with freaking Aliens Colonial Marines!.

Isn't Early access basically paying the developer so that you can work for them? People get paid to do quality control work. Not that I'm disregarding community feedback, it can be invaluable to improving your work.

Not sure why I'm fussed really. It'll hardly affect me seeing as I tend to wait for GOTY or complete editions of games I want anyway.

Bloody brilliant episode though Jim.

I'm generally OK with the concept of "Early Access" provided a few key points

1) Clearly labeled as such.
2) Reduced in price. Not just as compared to AAA titles, but compared to similar titles. If 7 Days to Die feels that their completed product is a $35 value, then price the Early Version around $20. A rebate for your beta testers.
3) A genuine reason to release early. Maybe you're trying an entirely new mechanic or playstyle that either requires immense testing, or an early litmus test to see if the avenue is worth pursuing.
4) Constant communication from the devs. Regular updates, even if they're just verbal (or written) but preferably actual gameplay updates.

My best example of Early Access done right is : Kerbals.

#1 yup.

#2) Really hard to say. Not sure what the going rate is on this type of game... see next entry

Most clearly hitting it out of the park on #3. A fully open sand box airplane and rocket ship flight simulator with very accurate (if slightly imperfect) orbital mechanics and aerodynamics on a scale that I've never seen a AAA game even attempt. That's insane. It's so far outside anything that could be considered "normal" that I fully support the devs trying to get it out there early, and it really rules out any possible comparison or valuation guesses for #2.

And on #4, the devs have been very VERY upfront with updates, continually adding new features or improving current ones. And best of all, they've been understanding of any miscommunication. There was a minor snafu regarding which updates would or wouldn't be included in your Early Access purchase. So the devs graciously sided with the players, and added everything on the current agenda to the "Free for Early Access players" list.

Everything done right for Early Access, and from what I can tell, a rousing success on all fronts.

MÜN OR BUST!

Camaranth:
Isn't Early access basically paying the developer so that you can work for them?

Not really. Early access people don't have to file any reports at all, let alone to the gruelling standards that paid game testers must endure.

Also, reports from end-users can often be counter-productive, and take extra time to deal than those that are made by employees working to specific criteria. I would guess that particularly with people who want "early access" they probably spend a lot of time suggesting features, the viability and usefulness of which would be highly variable.

I just want to say reiterate that if you guys are against early access then dont buy early access games, its simple; also if you think EA fucking sucks (yes it does), then dont buy EA games, and dont install that money grinder called Origin. Furthermore if you think MS is currently performing suicide and its commanded by a bunch of greedy bastards that are raping our beloved IPs; well dont buy a fucking Xbox One. Are you against DLCs included on discs? Well, stop buying Crapcom games. And so on... Sure, you cant stop this companies, but you can keep your dignity :)

More on topic, early access does work for some games, the best example is Kerbal Space Program.

I'm never payed anything for early access games. So I'm doing my part to crush this trend.

I was discussing this trend with a friend earlier today and we settled on the idea of buyer beware (though I am still reluctant to the compromise). Just like Raziel I haven't supported this trend though their are a few games that I considering such as Starbound as many of my friends have told me that it is good.

In the interests of full disclosure, I don't mind the joke episodes.

But actually, being discerning as I am in my purchase of games, I hadn't particularly noticed the glut of horrible pieces of shit out there before looking it up just then. I only know of Nuclear Throne and Eldritch, etc. which are decent, and while still being tested, are noticably still good games and being meaningfully worked on.

I actually like Early Access, but agree that the customer MUST DO THEIR RESEARCH before

Anywya, good episode though I somewhat disagree. I hope my points were unferstood.

I actually like Early access,

Scorpid:
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.

Actually, development was stopped because a medical problem (i think cancer) bankrupted the indie dev. It was only one guy. So Towns ended up unfinished because of something they couldn't control.

Sad turn of events, to be sure. Now I gotta wait for Maia, clockwork Empires, or stonehearth if I want a Dwarf Fortress experience with graphics.

I want lighting by patch 2.0.1 or I will be very miffed

Does anyone remember the good old days when we got free demos BEFORE the release of a game?

I'm not sure if I understand what the issue is, at least in most cases. Even completed games can turn out to be shit, is it really any surprise that half-finished ones can also be terrible?

The fact is, these games are coming with a massive sign saying "WARNING! THIS GAME ISN'T COMPLETE! EXPECT BUGS AND STUFF", so why are people acting surprised that this or that Early Access game isn't up to the standards of a full product?

Secondly, paying full price for something that's not out yet sounds a lot like what people do with pre-orders, and yet as long as it delivers, everyone seems fine with paying top dollar early in return for a bunch of weapon skins and DLC. Sure, it's cool when developers offer additional content to loyal backers or offer a discount to early adopters, but it's not something you should feel entitled too.

That said, asking for $90 for an unfinished product is rubbish and not something I'd go for, and of course we don't want the AAA crowd to think it's okay to release unfinished content while pretending it's the full game. And yes, if you buy ANY Early Access game you can bet your bottom dollar you're entitled to expect the developers to finish the damn thing and make it clear that they're working towards the full version. You can't stay forever in the limbo where you're getting paid like for a full product, yet being exempt from criticism because it's a Beta/Alpha.

This episode damn near killed me... Simply genious X3. Can't wait to see the finished product next week!

Sir Thomas Sean Connery:
He was actually dumb enough to pay for the $90 Planetary Annihilation early access.

Actually, I don't see a problem with this. I totally get why people want to back projects they are interested in and want to succeed. I myself have payed more than my share for ships in Star Citizen, and lets remember that those ships can be gotten in-game anyway! The only benefit I get from buying them (for a whole bunch of money) is that they have some in-game insurance tied to them, and I get to play them from launch... But I didn't buy them because of those rather pointless benefits. I bought them because I want to support the game, and I want it to become the best game it could possibly be, and I believe that Chris Roberts is the man to do it.

When I pledged for Planetary Annihilation it was trough kickstarter, and in the same spirit. I wanted to be part of making that game happen. When I bought Space Engineers trough Steam Early Access I was still in that same mind set. I know I'm not getting a finished product when I spend that money, and I am perfectly aware that for all I know that money is lost 6 months down the line and no game will ever be released. Thats a risk I'm willing to take, and it is a risk people simply have to understand that they ARE taking when they back a kickstarter project or buy an Early Access game.

I think that may be the problem... People don't view kickstarter and Early Access the way I view them. I would never spend money on an Early Access game if I didn't KNOW that I could afford to lose all of it and never see anything in return. I wouldn't recommend anyone spend money they can't throw away on a game they are not sure about. For most people 30 USD isn't something one can just throw at any old project and hope it works out.

Of course I am in the rare position that I CAN afford to spend money on these projects and not worry about them succeeding or failing. For this reason I take great pleasure in backing something I firmly believe can become something truly great, and I still hold Star Citizen can become one of the greatest games of all time (and it wouldn't have happened without early backers!).

since I usually wait for GOTY's I had no idea how bad this situation was. Poor show. Great as always Jim

i hate this early access as well. so many games actually got my interest but when i see this big blue box telling me its early access, i dont bother to even look at it any further.
this is wrong to charge so much money for a incomplete game.

I have no problem with Early Access when it is mentioned before you buy it, if you then still opt in you're an idiot and you deserve to be screwed over. I do hate this habit of AAA developers to release a glitchy Beta product and pretend it's a full release *cough* Rome 2 Total War *cough*

I usually hate Jim, but I had to watch this episode because it's something I totally agree with him on. Early access is not a bad idea it's being put into bad practice by far too many. I'd still rather have a funding round with some sort of prequel/demo than the "full" product.. But that's my opinion.

One important thing I think a lot of people are missing with these Eearly access games that are paid for.

How long do you guys tend to play a single game? Discounting MMOs that I've been able to play for years (and even that was with me in high school, with tons of time on my hands), most of the games I play can at most hold my interest for some 2 months. At most. A few games are exception to that, but most are either multiplayer (usually with DLC) or completely built around replayability, like the Civilization series. Even there though, there's only so much I can play of the game before I just get bored and booting it up again is something that may happen once in 6-12 months.

With that in mind, why in the world would I pay for an unfinished game that's going to be finished several months from now at the earliest? I'd be setting myself up for one of two things - one, that the game is shit in it's state, unplayable and I've wasted money on it. It could possibly even tar the experience for me enough not to bother to install it again (or at least not enjoy it as much when I do) when it does get finished.

And two, that the game is playable and enjoyable enough in it's current state, in which case I'm paying the same price, possibly even a higher one, to play an unfinished product now and not have any interest in it once it's complete. That's a trade-off of quality for time of delivery that the gaming community has a high tendency to rage on about... so why the fuck do it willingly?

So imo, it's a lose-lose situation for the consumer, even if the game is actually playable in Early Access. I appreciate that it makes it easier on the developer and that's cool, but again, in it's shiniest moments, assuming it's not a game you're gonna play for years (and for an indie game, that's highly unlikely [not impossible though]), you're paying for an unfinished product to get it early.

Early Access is one of those things like DLC that is a good idea but sadly easy to corrupt and abuse. Being able to support, test, and even influence the development is great for indie games. There are hidden gems that really are worth playing and even putting money down for...the problem is all the metric tons of games that are shit and overpriced.

All I can say is do your research first and only pay for early access if you trust them to deliver a worthwhile game. Especially if they are charging $30 or more, for that price they better justify it.

I've looked at early access as the same as kickstarter. you pay upfront for a product based solely on promises. At the least Early Access (ea) gives you something tangible to play.

Early access buyers know its a choice to put money down on an incomplete game. This is why there aren't anyone getting angry.

Every time i put money down on something i have hopes for, i am fully aware the risk in it and is willing to forgo the money.

4 Kickstarters, 3 Early Access, and 1 soft launch later, i'd like to believe i have enough self control to spend my money wisely.

vxicepickxv:
It didn't start with Minecraft, it started with Windows.

hm, you have a good point however I'd say it didn't even start with windows it started with the distance trade order, where by you pay and then at some date you receive something, but in the meantime you get a receipt, and occasionally a pretty picture of what you own, but if bandits show up and hijack your cart full of goodies well you're boned.

I think the ~REAL~ message here is risk, it happens. if you want a guarantee in life, D.I.Y or do not cry! :)

I've put my money into a few early access games, but hat's only because I'd been following the development for a long time. If it was a game I was only casually interested in, I'd wait until it was done. There are many games I might get when they're ready. 7 Days to Die and DayZ... all those type of games, I'm waiting to see which one actually comes out on top, then I'll get that one.

That said, I bought State of Decay when it finally came on to PC. It was considered early access, but the game was done and had been on Xbox for a few months by then. Yeah, there were some bugs and issues as they had to fix things to do with lighting and controls, but I'd been following game development for about a year before it was released on Xbox and knew it would come to PC eventually, so I waited. I also bought Minecraft a few years ago... but, well... everyone did. It's been a full game since Notch released the alpha version of creative-mode only. They've just improved it since then.

Project Zomboid is another early access title I bought. It came out on Steam Early Access a couple months ago.. except I bought it a couple years ago for $8 because I loved the idea. $8 isn't much, and I got a Steam Key for it and I've been playing it again, so that's pretty awesome that they honored a purchase made back in 2011 or earlier.

Mostly I will support indies with early access and such these days - if what they put out is playable and worth the money they're charging. I pretty much don't pay anything over $20 for indie titles, even if complete. As for AAA titles? I don't even buy them new anymore, I wait months until all the 'release bugs' and other BS is sorted out and the game is on sale. I will probably get Black Flag and GTA V only this summer when the next big Steam sale is on and the games probably hit that magic $20 limit I have on games now.

Long story short? Only support early access if you've fully researched the title, the Devs are very active with the community and with updates, and if you think the title as it stands currently is worth the money they ask, because it may never get updated again and that is a chance you take.

Does anyone else want to dig up their Ancestral Trail books?

Playful Pony:
This episode damn near killed me... Simply genious X3. Can't wait to see the finished product next week!

Sir Thomas Sean Connery:
He was actually dumb enough to pay for the $90 Planetary Annihilation early access.

Actually, I don't see a problem with this. I totally get why people want to back projects they are interested in and want to succeed. I myself have payed more than my share for ships in Star Citizen, and lets remember that those ships can be gotten in-game anyway! The only benefit I get from buying them (for a whole bunch of money) is that they have some in-game insurance tied to them, and I get to play them from launch... But I didn't buy them because of those rather pointless benefits. I bought them because I want to support the game, and I want it to become the best game it could possibly be, and I believe that Chris Roberts is the man to do it.

When I pledged for Planetary Annihilation it was trough kickstarter, and in the same spirit. I wanted to be part of making that game happen. When I bought Space Engineers trough Steam Early Access I was still in that same mind set. I know I'm not getting a finished product when I spend that money, and I am perfectly aware that for all I know that money is lost 6 months down the line and no game will ever be released. Thats a risk I'm willing to take, and it is a risk people simply have to understand that they ARE taking when they back a kickstarter project or buy an Early Access game.

I think that may be the problem... People don't view kickstarter and Early Access the way I view them. I would never spend money on an Early Access game if I didn't KNOW that I could afford to lose all of it and never see anything in return. I wouldn't recommend anyone spend money they can't throw away on a game they are not sure about. For most people 30 USD isn't something one can just throw at any old project and hope it works out.

Of course I am in the rare position that I CAN afford to spend money on these projects and not worry about them succeeding or failing. For this reason I take great pleasure in backing something I firmly believe can become something truly great, and I still hold Star Citizen can become one of the greatest games of all time (and it wouldn't have happened without early backers!).

I actually somewhat agree with what you are saying. However, while your view that you could lose everything you pledged is perfectly fine for a place like Kickstarter, it isn't appropriate for Steam. Steam is a store. When you buy a product there, you're supposed to get a product.

As for Planetary Annihilation specifically, it's true that every kickstarter gives people the opportunity to pledge more than the price of the game, but then they also receive more than just the game when everything is finished. $90 deserves some incentives.

Sir Thomas Sean Connery:

I actually somewhat agree with what you are saying. However, while your view that you could lose everything you pledged is perfectly fine for a place like Kickstarter, it isn't appropriate for Steam. Steam is a store. When you buy a product there, you're supposed to get a product.

As for Planetary Annihilation specifically, it's true that every kickstarter gives people the opportunity to pledge more than the price of the game, but then they also receive more than just the game when everything is finished. $90 deserves some incentives.

Yea, I would agree with you on the PA case when it comes to Steam, I always held (and got a bit of flack for it on the PA forums for some reason...) that they should never have put it for sale on Steam with things being like they are. The reason it's $90 is that is what backers payed to get Alpha access, and they didn't want to make those backers feel cheated by then offering Alpha access at a lower price. I certainly understand and agree with that decision, but I understand why people got (at first) confused by it.

Steam IS a store, but I don't think the Early Access deal is bad. Of course it has to be made perfectly clear that what you are paying for is an UNFINISHED PRODUCT, and that it may not turn out to be all you hope it to be (or even all that the developers hope it will be). Maybe they should make that a bit more clear? People need to know and understand what they are getting into, and Steam has never been very good at that...

I don't agree with the idea that Early Access is something everyone should do though. AAA games has no place there in my opinion, because I see it as a way for small developers to get funding for their projects as they go by reaching out to those interested in their concept and ideas for the future of their particular game.

But wait... who do I thank God for now?!

And I didn't even realise this was a thing, that's pretty fucked up. I can easily imagine an excuse being "well we'll give you the game for free (or more likely a discounted price)) when it is properly released!"

As previously mentioned by others, early access is fine as long as the product is clearly labelled as such and the developer provides a lot of detail on what's incomplete, current bugs, etc. If you're clearly informed that you're taking a risk, you have nobody to blame but yourself if that risk doesn't end well for you.

Vrach:
One important thing I think a lot of people are missing with these Eearly access games that are paid for.

How long do you guys tend to play a single game? Discounting MMOs that I've been able to play for years (and even that was with me in high school, with tons of time on my hands), most of the games I play can at most hold my interest for some 2 months. At most. A few games are exception to that, but most are either multiplayer (usually with DLC) or completely built around replayability, like the Civilization series. Even there though, there's only so much I can play of the game before I just get bored and booting it up again is something that may happen once in 6-12 months.

With that in mind, why in the world would I pay for an unfinished game that's going to be finished several months from now at the earliest? I'd be setting myself up for one of two things - one, that the game is shit in it's state, unplayable and I've wasted money on it. It could possibly even tar the experience for me enough not to bother to install it again (or at least not enjoy it as much when I do) when it does get finished.

And two, that the game is playable and enjoyable enough in it's current state, in which case I'm paying the same price, possibly even a higher one, to play an unfinished product now and not have any interest in it once it's complete. That's a trade-off of quality for time of delivery that the gaming community has a high tendency to rage on about... so why the fuck do it willingly?

So imo, it's a lose-lose situation for the consumer, even if the game is actually playable in Early Access. I appreciate that it makes it easier on the developer and that's cool, but again, in it's shiniest moments, assuming it's not a game you're gonna play for years (and for an indie game, that's highly unlikely [not impossible though]), you're paying for an unfinished product to get it early.

I think you raise some valid points.

However, in my own case, the games I've bought on Early Access are DayZ, Kerbal Space Program, Prison Architect and Project Zomboid, all of which are systemic games that are very sandboxy. Seeing as I still go back and play Alpha Centauri and Crusader Kings 2 was my Goty in 2012 and 2013 and probably will be again in 2014, I think it's a fairly safe bet that, provided the games are good, I will keep coming back to them. I'd not buy a story game on Early Access but for me, systemic games are infinite engines for making my own, better stories that anything a story game can cough up. That's why I'm comfortable with those games in particular, as they scratch some of my various systemic itches.

So, I think, at the end of the day, if the game is clearly labelled as such and priced properly and you inform yourself of what you're getting into, Early Access is... alrightish. It's by no means awesome though. I am, despite the confidence in my purchases, vary of the concept.

Whats rubbed me the wrong way with the whole early access thing is the likes of Planetary Annihilation which charged people more to try their product early, this is after they successfully kickstarted their product and got all of their stretch goals and more.

So not only are you getting a buggy unfinished product your paying a premium for it and annoying all of your backers whom they promised exclusive access to it.

A simple solution would be to have a simple 5 star rating system for people who have bought the game. Sure steam already has a recommendation where you can write limited reviews but if you dont know anyone who has bought it its not worth the punt. It also would discourage people from firing stuff out half baked since they would attract a lot of low scores early on.

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