Early Access: Is it working?

Jul 28, 2015 by

Being in somewhat of a ‘main game’ lull, I’ve been looking over my 100+ list of Steam games of late. In particular, I’m checking back in with a some of the Early Access titles I’ve purchased in the past but have long since stopped playing. Some I stopped playing because they sucked, but others I played enough to say “this is going to be good” and waited for more development to happen. Consider this a half-time review of Early Access.

Some games haven’t been updated much, which leads me to believe they never will be. Those are the worst examples of Early Access, and the titles that sour people most on the entire thing. If you are a dev responsible for such a title, finish your damn game or go play in traffic, thanks.

Other titles have gotten updates, but either the ‘vision’ has changed, or the updates just don’t do it for me. Sometimes an early access game will be in such a state that you believe something good will come of it, because there isn’t enough there just yet to really know, and once the devs do hit those critical ‘pull the game together’ parts, it just doesn’t work. While these titles aren’t great games, they aren’t a terrible example of early access either. You are buying in early to see how a game shapes up. It won’t always shape up how you expected, and since the price is generally low, that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Then there are the titles that either made it out of Early Access as great games, or are still in Early Access but are clearly progressing and getting better as time goes on. If the devs throw in some stuff about how the Early Access-based funding has contributed to the game improving, all the better. It’s these titles that show the true strength of the system, especially for titles in genres or themes that aren’t viewed as major sellers or ‘viable’ by suits.

Finally, sometimes a title is in Early Access for so long that, despite it being ‘finished’, feels old or dated. Whether its the graphics, or the ‘unique twist’, or the combination of features, sometimes the gaming landscape changes so fast that what was cool or interesting a year or two ago is now tired and boring. Great games and great ideas age well, but sometimes a quirky little title just stops being quirky.

Overall I can only say I’ve truly regretted a small percentage of Early Access purchases, and have been very happy with many. I like the system, and while not perfect, is a plus to gaming IMO.

 

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