Early Access Has Ruined Indie Development

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And here's why:

1) Developers can use it as an excuse to release unfinished, broken products.
2) It can create an entitled fanbase composed of people who think they're venture capitalists.
3) It can use up all the publicity on an early alpha or unfinished beta so that when the game is actually done everyone has already moved on to the new shiny.
4) There's little to no certainty the game will ever be properly "finished"

Now tell me I'm wrong. Or add points if by some flux of reality you agree with me.

No, I just think it's removed some of the incentive for independent developers and taken rather long dump on Steam Greenlight and the front page of the Steam store. It's also made buyers more cautious. That's about it, really.

It does need to get fixed. Because with what EA Access and Gamestop are doing, the exodus of real developers has to have a place where they can provide an alternative of truly fleshed out games. But after incidents like Garry's Incident, Earth 2066 etc, they wont go unchallenged.

A silver lining though. "Minimum" is okay. "Insurgency" is complete. "Wrack" has a lot accomplished for being a short cel shaded early access game, "Road Redemption"...ehh well I gotta get around to it, but having a road rash successor from SOMEBODY is encouraging news, and you have the survival sandboxers with a loyal player base. Best to wait for the early adopters, and then make a decision I think.

Now KICKSTARTER, and indiegogo. Here's where we need some SERIOUS scrutiny.

Divinity Original Sin, DayZ, Rust, Kerbal Space Program, Insurgency, Starbound and Dont Starve beg to differ

Valve totally needs to add some form of developer accountability tough, like being entitled to a refund the first couple of weeks-months after you by the game

OP I have to sadly agree, whole-heartedly.

If for one reason and one reason only... Honest, good developers that make truly full experiences will get less exposure and therefore lose potential customers in the sea of overhyped early access fodder.

And eventually even the good, honest developers will fall as a result of low funds into your step number 1 for fear of bankruptcy.

Elberik:
And here's why:

1) Developers can use it as an excuse to release unfinished, broken products.

By allowing this garbage we inadvertently create more of it.

What are you talking about? Its makes money doesn't it? If people want to part a (large) sum for an unfinished game than its their money and an indie couldn't be happier there are people around who'll do that.

...and it started with Minecraft. Didn't it?

I will say that it makes me much more careful about what I pay for.

There's been a few games that I thought looked interesting in premise, only to balk when I saw the 'Early Access' label.

I think it's greatest downfall is that there's no promise of quality (or even functionality) despite the fact that purchases are being made. You can literally promise anything, deliver nothing, and still be paid real-world dollars.

Not. Cool.

Early access and crowdfunding will simply go away when people nolonger have faith in such projects.

There's also a chance that enthusiasts will become better at sorting out the developers, or that some popular kickstarter developers will be carried by dedicated fans.

Most likely nobody will learn anything and we will have to continue to ignore the ever growing pile of unfinished crap.

In all scenarios it cannot get worse than it was before.

Elberik:

1) Developers can use it as an excuse to release unfinished, broken products.

This became a thing way before that. To be precise: With Minecraft. Buying into Alphas that were named as Betas became a plague with the giant financial success of Noth.

Right I seen a video about this and I have to agree with them.
http://extra-credits.net/episodes/early-access/

The good points about early access is that developers get some cash and maybe some recognition at the start. Games likes DayZ and Minecraft all began pretty small. DayZ just like Counterstrike did and Minecraft out of nowhere. So it isn't all bad. Some games do well when brought out through early spreading and allowing people to play it even early in development.

But there is a shadow side and that indeed is that developers bring a game early on the market. To early at times, which means that gamers who play the game at said moment are like "Yeah well it is kinda unfinished and I am going back to my other games." Many of them probably never will return. So even though you got money from them and you got them to play not only are they probably not going to play your 1.0 product but also might tell their friends "It is a bit unfinished"

And then the game finally is "done" it has reached 1.0. Open the beers or champagne and send out the word. Well again quite a few of those who played it probably won't play 1.0. They are busy in other games so their opinions are still based upon the 0.4a. A quite rough version of the game. And when people ask "Should I play this game" they will speak based upon their experience from 0.4a

While new players yes will come but maybe not enough to make it work.

So early access yes it can bring good but you have to play it right. You can't just bring out the most barebone product and promise "That content will be there." There already should be some content that hints at what can become. And yet making even such early content can take time and yes money. Money they desperately need right now.

This is the problem when to go public. Definitely not in 0.1 stage unless you are yerk. And to go out in 0.9 .. by then you really really could use that money from the early access games. It is up to developers to work out when to make the jump.

So is it bad? No! But it has problems! And not all developers are going to find the right moment. And yes we had issues with early access games that we're just terrible. Day One: Gary's Accident for instance. Yeah and that Wolf game. Oh my.

WeepingAngels:
...and it started with Minecraft. Didn't it?

When Minecraft was first released it was full and complete. Mojang basically feature creeped for several years after the initial release.

Elberik:

WeepingAngels:
...and it started with Minecraft. Didn't it?

When Minecraft was first released it was full and complete. Mojang basically feature creeped for several years after the initial release.

It was in Alpha when I got it.

NuclearKangaroo:
Divinity Original Sin, DayZ, Rust, Kerbal Space Program, Insurgency, Starbound and Dont Starve beg to differ

Valve totally needs to add some form of developer accountability tough, like being entitled to a refund the first couple of weeks-months after you by the game

Divinity & Don't Starve are the only ones that have been properly released. Insurgency & DayZ were pre-existing mods that a development team beefed up. The other three are still in "early access" & therefore don't disprove point 4. The public has moved on and doesn't care about Rust or Starbound anymore (point 3). I've never heard of KSP so I cannot comment on it.

WeepingAngels:

Elberik:

WeepingAngels:
...and it started with Minecraft. Didn't it?

When Minecraft was first released it was full and complete. Mojang basically feature creeped for several years after the initial release.

It was in Alpha when I got it.

Yes it was basic but it was solid. It wasn't broken and what was there was finished.

Elberik:

WeepingAngels:

Elberik:

When Minecraft was first released it was full and complete. Mojang basically feature creeped for several years after the initial release.

It was in Alpha when I got it.

Yes it was basic but it was solid. It wasn't broken and what was there was finished.

It was playable but it was still in development. Early Access is just that.

People that are lazy now have a means by which it is easier to be lazy and still release some sort of commercial product. It doesn't stop good indie developers from being good indie developers though.

The problem is that early access is a business tactic, and a fairly new one for the game scene. Indie developers typically aren't going to have a whole lot of business savvy when compared to games with publishers. They choose to use early access models without understanding to full range of consequences. Eventually, the smartest developers will learn an adapt, and the rest probably won't be able to find the capital to continue developing. But no, there isn't any business model so destructive that it would kill off a whole section of the industry.

I personally am avoiding early access titles since the cycle for me has always been to: play the broken or limited game, use up all my desire to play the game then ignore the title when it's complete.

For developers though, if it's the only way for them to get the cash needed complete their game it can be justified. The feedback from people can also improve the game as much or more than detracting.

I just think consumers need to be discerning over what they sink money into in terms of early access. Don't support an unknown or unreliable developer just because they say they have a good idea.

I have to agree. I'd rather have a complete, if shorter, highly polished experience that gets released, like Bastion, rather than something languishing in development hell for years with a mess of bloated features than are never finished.

Elberik:

NuclearKangaroo:
Divinity Original Sin, DayZ, Rust, Kerbal Space Program, Insurgency, Starbound and Dont Starve beg to differ

Valve totally needs to add some form of developer accountability tough, like being entitled to a refund the first couple of weeks-months after you by the game

Divinity & Don't Starve are the only ones that have been properly released. Insurgency & DayZ were pre-existing mods that a development team beefed up. The other three are still in "early access" & therefore don't disprove point 4. The public has moved on and doesn't care about Rust or Starbound anymore (point 3). I've never heard of KSP so I cannot comment on it.

divinity and dont starve both went through early access and were released to critical acclaim

insurgency managed to fund itself thanks to early access after their kickstarter failed, to say "its a pre-existing mod that a development team beefed up" is utterly simplistic and doesnt really reflect the whole reality of the situation

Kerbal Space Program has achieved a huge level of popularity thanks to early access to the point they attracted the attention of NASA itself and they helped the development team design a mission for the game

as for the public "moving on", lets use some real data to debunk those claims, heres a few games that went through early access

http://steamcharts.com/app/242880
http://steamcharts.com/app/249650
http://steamcharts.com/app/219740
http://steamcharts.com/app/230230
http://steamcharts.com/app/222880
http://steamcharts.com/app/223830
http://steamcharts.com/app/218820
http://steamcharts.com/app/107410
http://steamcharts.com/app/238430

every game experienced an increase in "peak number of players" at their time of release that was anywhere from 2 times to 50 times the numbers of players the game had in the previous month as an early access title

and with the exception of "Sir you are being hunted" and "Contagion" the games had in general more players playing the game post release than back when the game was on early access

of course without proper sales data is hard to know how the number of peak players translate to sales, but theres always a relationship between the two

I disagree. I feel early access is a combination of Fools gold and in this case misguided gamers looking to combat real business practice problems like AAA early access or mobile FTP schemes.

Why 'fools gold'? Because for all the fuss about early access titles cluttering up steam... is anyone actually playing them? I don't know if this is a feature that a developer can choose to turn off, but if you look at a games community page it tells you how many people are currently playing it. Making a similar point on here the other week I took a look at the early access page on Steam (notice Valve has put them in their own section now), and clicking through a number of them... you could see the tumble weeds blowing by. Went through about a dozen and couldn't find a single active player. Unlike pre order or FTP crumby developers aren't raking in fistfulls of cash with this business practice.

And really this is an area where some common sense and consumer awareness goes a long way. Not sure about an early access game is a scam? Then don't buy it. The game actually interests you but you don't feel a need to support the developers and/or beta test a game? Then wait for the full launch to buy it. If someone wants to throw away their money, or are actually interested in supporting the developers/beta testing, then let them spend their money. Acting like a self entitled brat and telling the developers to go back to their room and don't come out until the game is ready for me to play doesn't help anything.

I mean on PC gaming even with properly developed & published games it's usually a good idea to wait a few weeks, as there's always bugs at launch that need to be patched out. This isn't a recent trend that scummy developers/publishers are pushing, but rather PC gaming has always been like this. The negative aspect is how the practice is creeping into console, where a stable at release game used to be one of its prime selling points.

WeepingAngels:

Elberik:

WeepingAngels:

It was in Alpha when I got it.

Yes it was basic but it was solid. It wasn't broken and what was there was finished.

It was playable but it was still in development. Early Access is just that.

It's difficult to directly compare Minecraft's development with more recent 'early access', because the core of Minecraft was always the world generation and the player's ability to destroy, craft and place blocks. Once those systems were in the game, Notch/Mojang were just adding extra features. It's something only a procedural game could get away with.

But you're correct in that the financial success of Minecraft made everyone else think getting people to pay for a game that was still in development was socially acceptable now.

Johnson McGee:
I personally am avoiding early access titles since the cycle for me has always been to: play the broken or limited game, use up all my desire to play the game then ignore the title when it's complete.

For developers though, if it's the only way for them to get the cash needed complete their game it can be justified. The feedback from people can also improve the game as much or more than detracting.

I just think consumers need to be discerning over what they sink money into in terms of early access. Don't support an unknown or unreliable developer just because they say they have a good idea.

Alot of those unknown and unreliable developers are the same ones who need the Early Access cash to complete their game.

Shamanic Rhythm:

But you're correct in that the financial success of Minecraft made everyone else think getting people to pay for a game that was still in development was socially acceptable now.

You can't be successful without a bunch of people trying to clone what you are doing.

Elberik:
And here's why:

1) Developers can use it as an excuse to release unfinished, broken products.
2) It can create an entitled fanbase composed of people who think they're venture capitalists.
3) It can use up all the publicity on an early alpha or unfinished beta so that when the game is actually done everyone has already moved on to the new shiny.
4) There's little to no certainty the game will ever be properly "finished"

Now tell me I'm wrong. Or add points if by some flux of reality you agree with me.

You're correct but those only apply where Early Access is used incorrectly by the developers. Much like a spoon can cause life threatening injury if used improperly.

There are many games where it has been used properly and the games and dev have benefited...

It is, like most other things.. a tool.

BigTuk:

Elberik:
And here's why:

1) Developers can use it as an excuse to release unfinished, broken products.
2) It can create an entitled fanbase composed of people who think they're venture capitalists.
3) It can use up all the publicity on an early alpha or unfinished beta so that when the game is actually done everyone has already moved on to the new shiny.
4) There's little to no certainty the game will ever be properly "finished"

Now tell me I'm wrong. Or add points if by some flux of reality you agree with me.

You're correct but those only apply where Early Access is used incorrectly by the developers. Much like a spoon can cause life threatening injury if used improperly.

There are many games where it has been used properly and the games and dev have benefited...

It is, like most other things.. a tool.

dis right here

early access can be used to improve the final state of the game as well as provide the game early to impatient people, can it be used to make a quick cash out of fools? yeah sure that too, if you want to ruin your reputation and never work as an independent developer ever again

NuclearKangaroo:

dis right here

early access can be used to improve the final state of the game as well as provide the game early to impatient people, can it be used to make a quick cash out of fools? yeah sure that too, if you want to ruin your reputation and never work as an
independent developer ever again

Two problems though...only the cheats and failures get press coverage... I.e you only really hear about the bad ones.. while the good ones... unless you were there you'd never know they were Earlky Access..

Secondly, The average consumer has no clue how involved the game development process is or how much time it takes. They also regularly overlook that the game development work many indie devs do... is in addition to their normal 8-6 job. I.e what they do when they gfet off work and on their weekends.

Since I'm allergic to creating my own topics, I'll use this one to vent about one thing I've noticed on greenlight that really bothers me.

8 out of 10 games on there are halfbaked shit with a barely defined description, yet the unwashed masses don't really stand to lose anything from thumbing said shit up, so literally everything gets greenlit if it's on there long enough, it just takes enough people to display interest with no critical though.

I almost think that Greenlight should be a forced pre-buy like Kickstarter, you commit money and only if a title is greenlit does the player get charged.

This will solve most of the garbage early access games, people tend to think more when they stand to lose something.

BigTuk:

NuclearKangaroo:

dis right here

early access can be used to improve the final state of the game as well as provide the game early to impatient people, can it be used to make a quick cash out of fools? yeah sure that too, if you want to ruin your reputation and never work as an
independent developer ever again

Two problems though...only the cheats and failures get press coverage... I.e you only really hear about the bad ones.. while the good ones... unless you were there you'd never know they were Earlky Access..

Secondly, The average consumer has no clue how involved the game development process is or how much time it takes. They also regularly overlook that the game development work many indie devs do... is in addition to their normal 8-6 job. I.e what they do when they gfet off work and on their weekends.

well i dont think early access is meant for the average consumer, they are for people who know what they are getting into

Gennadios:
Since I'm allergic to creating my own topics, I'll use this one to vent about one thing I've noticed on greenlight that really bothers me.

8 out of 10 games on there are halfbaked shit with a barely defined description, yet the unwashed masses don't really stand to lose anything from thumbing said shit up, so literally everything gets greenlit if it's on there long enough, it just takes enough people to display interest with no critical though.

I almost think that Greenlight should be a forced pre-buy like Kickstarter, you commit money and only if a title is greenlit does the player get charged.

This will solve most of the garbage early access games, people tend to think more when they stand to lose something.

i honestly think people should stop caring about what kind of garbage makes it into steam (as long as its not MALICIOUS garbage, like games from devs that lie to their customers), Valve has been very clear they want to open up further, and more products, both good and bad are to be expected

what i think is that Valve should focus their efforts on HIDING the shit stuff and making the good stuff easier to find, the game tags and user reviews seem to be smaller parts of a whole we have yet to see, atleast i hope so, a system that recommends games to people based on the tags of games they enjoy and the amount of positive user reviews those recommendations get

NuclearKangaroo:

BigTuk:

NuclearKangaroo:

dis right here

early access can be used to improve the final state of the game as well as provide the game early to impatient people, can it be used to make a quick cash out of fools? yeah sure that too, if you want to ruin your reputation and never work as an
independent developer ever again

Two problems though...only the cheats and failures get press coverage... I.e you only really hear about the bad ones.. while the good ones... unless you were there you'd never know they were Earlky Access..

Secondly, The average consumer has no clue how involved the game development process is or how much time it takes. They also regularly overlook that the game development work many indie devs do... is in addition to their normal 8-6 job. I.e what they do when they gfet off work and on their weekends.

well i dont think early access is meant for the average consumer, they are for people who know what they are getting into

It's no6t, but sadly many conceptualize int in the same way they think of Pre Orders or Pre Purchases... not really understanding. Or rather being too blinded by the 'WANT NOW' Impulse to think properly. An Early Access Purchase should be considered in the same way you'd consider a charitable donation.

Elberik:
And here's why:

1) Developers can use it as an excuse to release unfinished, broken products.
2) It can create an entitled fanbase composed of people who think they're venture capitalists.
3) It can use up all the publicity on an early alpha or unfinished beta so that when the game is actually done everyone has already moved on to the new shiny.
4) There's little to no certainty the game will ever be properly "finished"

Now tell me I'm wrong. Or add points if by some flux of reality you agree with me.

I accept premises 1, 3 and 4, though I'm not sure that equates to "ruining" indie gaming. 3 confuses me. I'm not sure what the issue here is, in terms of its impact on indie gaming. I'm also not sure it generates entitlement.

I think Early Access is detrimental, so I'm not entirely disagreeing. I think "ruining" may be too strong a phrase. Although, as an additional point:

Developers don't need excuses to release bad, broken or unfinished products. One can look at anything from Towns up to the Gearbox fiasco of Aliens: Colony of Mulch. I suppose you could argue that Early Access makes it worse, but I'm not sure that's true. A lot of the games Jim Sterling has brought up are not Early Access titles, but are still bad and still on the market (either through Greenlight or publishers).

I'm not sure the numbers are worse with Early Access, but perhaps I do not have all the data.

Speaking of....

NuclearKangaroo:
Divinity Original Sin, DayZ, Rust, Kerbal Space Program, Insurgency, Starbound and Dont Starve beg to differ

A handful of examples neither proves nor disproves an overall trend. You can usually find a few positives in all but the most absolutely toxic policies.

It's a double edged sword for sure, I think it's worth existing though, the handful of gems that would have never made it otherwise are worth all the crap games twice over. Also I don't feel early access itself perpetuates the problem, puts a magnifying glass to it yes but the indie market was already getting over saturated with crap games trying to make a quick buck, early access and kickstarter are just the platforms they're using to do it,

1) All products are unfinished and broken. Seriously. As a QA person I know this. Most games ship with 1000-5000 known bugs that aren't fixed. (Indie or AAA, doesn't matter)
2) Like self-identified gamers aren't entitled already?
3) The same thing happens when we see the same game over and over for years at E3
4) This is completely the fault of the audience, not the developers (unless the developers are an already established company, which is really only maybe 20% at most of those doing Kickstarter or Early Access, even if its the same 20% that makes 80% of the money)
5) At this point independent developers need less incentive to make their own games, and more incentive to work together on quality games.
6) Most developers still want to make quality games, but quantity provides a more stable paycheck. Again, not the fault of the developers.
7) What is up with the letters EA?

Michael Lubker:
1) All products are unfinished and broken. Seriously. As a QA person I know this. Most games ship with 1000-5000 known bugs that aren't fixed. (Indie or AAA, doesn't matter)
2) Like self-identified gamers aren't entitled already?
3) The same thing happens when we see the same game over and over for years at E3
4) This is completely the fault of the audience, not the developers (unless the developers are an already established company, which is really only maybe 20% at most of those doing Kickstarter or Early Access, even if its the same 20% that makes 80% of the money)
5) At this point independent developers need less incentive to make their own games, and more incentive to work together on quality games.
6) Most developers still want to make quality games, but quantity provides a more stable paycheck. Again, not the fault of the developers.
7) What is up with the letters EA?

So what you're saying is, we shouldn't treat the unfinished game (unfinished seems to be when the developer pulls the term "beta" or "alpha" away from it these days) even though it's asking for money?

Look, Early Access works in some cases, but almost all examples of it are bad ones.

Zachary Amaranth:

NuclearKangaroo:
Divinity Original Sin, DayZ, Rust, Kerbal Space Program, Insurgency, Starbound and Dont Starve beg to differ

A handful of examples neither proves nor disproves an overall trend. You can usually find a few positives in all but the most absolutely toxic policies.

probably but those games either exist thanks to early access or are better thanks to early access, and the bottom line is, early access doesnt really affect you negatively if you choose not to participate

you dont like playing broken games? then dont do it, just wait until it gets released

compare it to something like say, pre-orders, other people participating in stuff like that actually affects us all, because it has now become a common practice to cut parts of the game and sell em as pre-order bonuses

but early access? i dont see how it can negatively affect the people that dont participate, the game might release at a later date with more features and/or more stable, which isnt really a bad thing

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