Valve Introduces Early Access Games Program

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Valve Introduces Early Access Games Program

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Steam now has full support for alpha and beta releases, complete with developer announcements and user feedback.

There once was a time when games were considered "complete", meaning developers crafted the best possible experience within a single release. Digital distribution effectively ended that system, for better or worse, but the early release schedule provides a lucrative upside. Popularized by Minecraft, this model makes a game available in its alpha or beta state, letting customers play early while developers gain invaluable feedback for further updates. It's a system increasingly being used by established and indie developers alike, so naturally, Valve Software wants to bring the experience to Steam. The digital publisher has recently announced its Early Release program, allowing gamers to purchase alpha and beta releases while developers take advantage of Steam Community feedback reports.

On Steam's Store page, users can find Early Access titles conveniently linked under the Games Tab. The current release list is fairly small, but includes everything from indie titles like StarForge and Kerbal Space Program to Bohemia Interactive's Arma III alpha. Once the player finds an early release they like, it can be purchased (or in some cases, played for free) and discussed within game-specific comment boards. Thanks to Steam's update process, early release developers can use these comments to implement quick bug fixes, at which point the process repeats itself.

As cliched as Valve success stories have become, it's hard to imagine the Early Release Program being anything but. The alpha release model attracted thousands when Minecraft popularized it. Combined with the monetary income and feedback of Steam's massive community, the inherent opportunities could have developers shaking with glee. Valve has invited all Greenlight and traditional-entry developers to make contact if they're interested, but for players, several titles are already available to play and test.

Source: Steam, via Joystiq

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Only problem I could see happen is massive debates on what qualifies as a finish product and what would be in the Early Access section. I know it is ultimately up to the developers to decide whether it is content complete or not but that wont stop gamers from still complaining that certain games belong there.

WTF at some of the games

"Drunken Robot Pornography."
"Drop that beat like an ugly baby!"

Kinetic Void looks snazy though! And I already have Kenshi..I wonder if I can get a steam key for it from the developer

GAunderrated:
Only problem I could see happen is massive debates on what qualifies as a finish product and what would be in the Early Access section. I know it is ultimately up to the developers to decide whether it is content complete or not but that wont stop gamers from still complaining that certain games belong there.

Eh, won't be much of a change from the current norm. Gamers will complain about how a game was released "before it was finished" plenty as it is. If there's even one slight tiny hiccup, the game is apparently still in it's Alpha stages according to most gamers.

So... it's like the state DOTA's in? If not, it isn't really that new of a concept. The idea behind it is pretty neat though, and I hope to see some more good games in the future.

Crap, I'm going to have all my time sucked away it seems. x-D

Yay! I get to pay to be a beta tester!

...Wait...

Huh. Nifty!

Good on Valve for jumping on this, I guess. I don't see myself participating on anything that doesn't have a free alpha, but still, it's cool to have.

Callate:
Yay! I get to pay to be a beta tester!

...Wait...

Or as they're more commonly know: People who buy Bethesda games on the initial release date

Desert Punk:
WTF at some of the games

"Drunken Robot Pornography."
"Drop that beat like an ugly baby!"

I'm already infantuated!

this is pretty dam awesome, im already thinking about dropping some cash for Under The Ocean 0-o

Kerbal Space Program <3 I love ye. Awaiting for the devs to release the steam keys to preexisting customers, so I can have that gem sitting on my steam library.

Desert Punk:
WTF at some of the games

"Drunken Robot Pornography."
"Drop that beat like an ugly baby!"

Kinetic Void looks snazy though! And I already have Kenshi..I wonder if I can get a steam key for it from the developer

Having played Kinetic Void's alpha/beta ship builder, I can say that is has some pretty fantastic ideas. A lot of games tried to do the whole Minecraft in space, but failed due to doing with the concept of blocks, this does it pretty well, I'll be interested to try the full game.

"Hey, let's release some early build, get some money... then never do anything with it again!"

So, how quickly before big publishers use this to 'test the market'? (...if they aren't already...)

Desert Punk:
WTF at some of the games

"Drunken Robot Pornography."
"Drop that beat like an ugly baby!"

Kinetic Void looks snazy though! And I already have Kenshi..I wonder if I can get a steam key for it from the developer

Honestly, the only one that really made me pause was the last one.

Why? Because, for the bloody life of me, I know I have seen "1-2-3, drop that beat like an ugly baby" on Steam well before this Early Access program ever came to be. In fact, I had contemplated grabbing it a few times during the major sales Steam would run over the past couple years.

So what the frack is it doing in early access now...?!

Awesome, love this. Makes sense they would do it too, considering how successful Minecraft was with this system, they're smart to make a system where another success like that is possible, only this way they get to reap some of that money.

Kenshi looks like it's a sort of hardcore Mount and Blade. Do want, very much.

Desert Punk:
WTF at some of the games

"Drunken Robot Pornography."
"Drop that beat like an ugly baby!"

Kinetic Void looks snazy though! And I already have Kenshi..I wonder if I can get a steam key for it from the developer

I was looking at Kenshi, it looks pretty good. It good for an alpha?

This is a great and bad idea.

Its a great idea because companies who are consumer focused are going to make freaking awesome games with the feedback of people who play the alpha's. Im playing the ARMA alpha right now, but the whole alpha is serious feedback based. You find a bug? You find the file the file that records everything about the game during gameplay and submit it. Thing you have a great idea for a feature? Post it on the forums.

Now, the bad idea. Publishers. I dont hate publishers by any means, but for most of them, I can see them trying to get away with selling a beta full price and not fully delivering cus, well, they just made a profit right there. Not 100% sure this would happen, but with how publishers thought they may be able to get money out of kickstarter (luckily I dont think they tried), id be worried with buying their games in beta.

lRookiel:

Desert Punk:
WTF at some of the games

"Drunken Robot Pornography."
"Drop that beat like an ugly baby!"

Kinetic Void looks snazy though! And I already have Kenshi..I wonder if I can get a steam key for it from the developer

I was looking at Kenshi, it looks pretty good. It good for an alpha?

I have been having fun with it, but this is not an alpha or beta like some AAAs call it, it is really an alpha, and at times you can tell :P

DVS BSTrD:

Callate:
Yay! I get to pay to be a beta tester!

...Wait...

Or as they're more commonly know: People who buy Bethesda games on the initial release date

Damn it, I've been one of those people since I bought Morrowind on release day. B-but Skyrim is the last time I'll fall for that! I swear!

VanQ:

DVS BSTrD:

Callate:
Yay! I get to pay to be a beta tester!

...Wait...

Or as they're more commonly know: People who buy Bethesda games on the initial release date

Damn it, I've been one of those people since I bought Morrowind on release day. B-but Skyrim is the last time I'll fall for that! I swear!

Just tell me you at least got it for PC and not console!

DVS BSTrD:

VanQ:

DVS BSTrD:
Or as they're more commonly know: People who buy Bethesda games on the initial release date

Damn it, I've been one of those people since I bought Morrowind on release day. B-but Skyrim is the last time I'll fall for that! I swear!

Just tell me you at least got it for PC and not PS3!

Fixed in bold. Xbox 360 was fine, the PS3 version on the other hand...I don't need to beat a dead horse do I?

Jove:

DVS BSTrD:

VanQ:

Damn it, I've been one of those people since I bought Morrowind on release day. B-but Skyrim is the last time I'll fall for that! I swear!

Just tell me you at least got it for PC and not PS3!

Fixed in bold. Xbox 360 was fine, the PS3 version on the other hand...I don't need to beat a dead horse do I?

Wasn't 'beating a dead horse' one of the bugs? :P

Meh, I dunno. I suppose it will cut down on "The War Z" cases where unfinished games are released marked as finished products, but I'm still reluctant to pay for a product that I don't get finished immediately. To each their own I guess.

The only one I'm interested in really is Starforge, which I tried back when it was free and uninstalled it after my computer caught on fire and exploded from the amount of power the game needed.

DVS BSTrD:

Jove:

DVS BSTrD:
Just tell me you at least got it for PC and not PS3!

Fixed in bold. Xbox 360 was fine, the PS3 version on the other hand...I don't need to beat a dead horse do I?

Wasn't 'beating a dead horse' part of one of the bugs? :P

image

...You sir, just won this day with that post.

BUZZ. kerbal space program. Woot!

Already number 4 overall on steam sales.

A much deserved position. Check this one out guys, your collective periapsis is way too close to your living room as it is.

Woo! Now they can move Towns in here where it belongs! Tis fun, but blatently still unfinished.

I've had an eye on Prison Architect for a while, so I might be getting that. The idea of selling games in alpha stage, though, sounds very dangerous. Is there any sort of deadline system or at least some kind of warranty that the game WILL, one day, get to a finished state?

Just got my Kinetic Void key off the Kickstarter link, everything looks good so far.

cursedseishi:

Desert Punk:
WTF at some of the games

"Drunken Robot Pornography."
"Drop that beat like an ugly baby!"

Kinetic Void looks snazy though! And I already have Kenshi..I wonder if I can get a steam key for it from the developer

Honestly, the only one that really made me pause was the last one.

Why? Because, for the bloody life of me, I know I have seen "1-2-3, drop that beat like an ugly baby" on Steam well before this Early Access program ever came to be. In fact, I had contemplated grabbing it a few times during the major sales Steam would run over the past couple years.

So what the frack is it doing in early access now...?!

That's an excellent question. I already own "1.. 2.. 3.. Kick it! (Drop that beat like an ugly baby)", got it as part of the Potato fools day pack.

Other providers like Desura had this going for a while, but then they don't dominate the online games market. Just pointing that out.

Kerbal Space Program and Prison Architect?

This program is the dawn of a new era in gaming, ladies and gentlemen.

Edit: Omg, I just looked at Kenshi, and ... Wow.

This seems like a great idea! I am a little wary though, like others have said what guarantee do we have that the game will continue its development? I know this is what Minecraft did and it worked fantastically (I bought alpha Minecraft, and have been playing it ever since). But what are the chances every game is going to take off like Minecraft. I can still remember all the Half-Life/Half-Life 2 mods that had awesome ideas, put out an alpha and then never went anywhere, true most of this had to do with lack of funding, but still there were hundreds that didn't go anywhere for every one that made it to a semi-playable state.

Some of the games do look good though, Kerbal Space Program looks hella-fun (how is it from people who have played it?). Kenshi looks intriguing, but also looks like it's in incredibly early alpha. Prison Architect is a neat idea, and their steam promo video is hilarious and points out that it is an alpha version of a game, and points out some hilarious bugs that apparently exist.

The prices on them seem a bit steep for an alpha build of a game too. $20 for an alpha version of a game that may go nowhere? No thanks, not yet at least. Doubt I will pay for any of them quite yet, but will definitely keep a close eye on them.

MrHide-Patten:
Other providers like Desura had this going for a while, but then they don't dominate the online games market. Just pointing that out.

Yeah, I wish journalists wouldn't write about a new thing some big company does as if it's totally original, while totally ignoring the fact that it has been done. It's almost like they don't really know what's happening in the medium they write about. Buried under mountains of press releases, no time to look out the window.

Anyway, Desura's Alphafunding program has done wonders for the likes of Project Zomboid.

Kontar:
Kerbal Space Program looks hella-fun (how is it from people who have played it?).

Explosively fun. TBH, I get more enjoyment out of my failures more than my successes. Getting a launch craft out of the atmosphere and back again safely is nice... But having the first stage of a rocket break loose and crash through the remaining stages because you forgot to secure something is both somewhat disheartening and quite funny at the same time.

Love it I think the community will moderate this stuff by saying early access at least people are aware that it is not the finished product and we won't have a game like warz on our hands again.
But what I really like about this is that it encourages games to continue intermittent updates as they already will have a fan base that expects that.
Happy to finally get some games like KSP want to see the steam workshop get on that plus it gives some under the radar games more exposure and gives them more of a chance to get to the mine craft cult status.
Games like Dayz were featured on the damn Arma 2 page and you couldn't get it through steam was entirely ridiculous having to install an entirely new service when steam could have easily sufficed

So it's the same as a pre-order, but where the developers watch your feedback (allegedly) and you get to play the game instead of, oh I dunno, never knowing what it's like until launch?

The Eupho Guy:

Kontar:
Kerbal Space Program looks hella-fun (how is it from people who have played it?).

Explosively fun. TBH, I get more enjoyment out of my failures more than my successes. Getting a launch craft out of the atmosphere and back again safely is nice... But having the first stage of a rocket break loose and crash through the remaining stages because you forgot to secure something is both somewhat disheartening and quite funny at the same time.

I concur. KSP is an absolute blast! (pun intended)

Download the demo form their site. It's outdated and limited, but you can still spend a fair few hours on it.

Now if only Valve had a game they could put out to headline the initiative. Maybe one that had been in development since, say, 2007. A sequel to a popular FPS, perhaps?
[/subtlety]

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