Bad stigma attached to Early Access?

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by HayManMarc, Feb 6, 2018.

  1. Lonewolff

    Lonewolff Member

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    That's the only way? :D

    Nope, wrong on both counts. Although I have been accused of buying followers before, as that's the only possible explanation. Right?

    A huge amount of effort went in to gaining my following. Many many hours. But it paid off (if you like numbers). Took exactly a year to reach 100,000. But I lost interest after that. I'd be sitting at around 500,000 by now if I pushed on.

    Cracked me up when I first bypassed Mike Dailly, then Crytek, then Atari, then YYG.

    I had the big players contacting me asking about my project. First UnrealEngine, then Mojang, Rami Ismail, I could go on all day.

    Sure, I was working on a cool project. But goes to prove, you can gain followers easily. And it can be replicated over and over.

    You can too! Buy my $35 eBook today! :D
     
  2. Kobold

    Kobold Member

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    ...but now that we have established (once again) that the industry's credibility is somewhere trapped in the basement with it's only access being a broken elevator and a blocked off staircase, we can only remember how good the times were when 8 year old kids played in the sandbox instead of programming Eproms over their Audrino interface... and game development seemed a mysterious magic
     
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  3. Lonewolff

    Lonewolff Member

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    Yeah, it's a dodgy industry to be honest.

    Almost opted out altogether last year. But decided to start coding again for the right reasons - because I enjoy it.

    That said, I have never asked a cent of anyone. It pushes my moral boundaries to ask for someone to pay for me to write a game (i.e. Early Access).
     
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  4. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

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    You act like the people paying into EA have guns to their heads or something. :p

    I'm starting to like EA more and more the longer I think about it...just make the first part of your game and sell it to people willing to pay early. Simple and clean...
     
  5. Lonewolff

    Lonewolff Member

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    Of course they don't. I just can't bring myself to charge for something that might be a day in to development.
     
  6. Samuel Venable

    Samuel Venable Time Killer

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    My friend that I work with just started with Patreon. He delivers on his content regularly and no one is complaining. I make apps and games for his company, (Rodger Dodge is one of them), while he does cartoon shorts, books, comics, the artwork for the games, and other great content. I guess we're among the 1%. ;) :p
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
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  7. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

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    ....Then charge for something that's more than a day into development? ;P
     
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  8. MilesThatch

    MilesThatch Member

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    Yeah but let's be honest. Most indie titles didn't go into early access a day into dev. Most of them have a good half to 2 years on them already.

    Lol, brilliant idea. I'm sure if you see a game that has barely anything to it ask $30 then something's wrong there.
     
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  9. Lonewolff

    Lonewolff Member

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    Geez, not so sure about that one. :D
     
  10. MilesThatch

    MilesThatch Member

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    Well, yeah. Correction there - most competent indie devs.
     
  11. MishMash

    MishMash Member

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    Haven't read the whole topic, but my general opinion is slightly split. I understand the premise behind Early Access, and as a developer, it is appealing. However, I do not agree with the way Steam implements early access, because I feel there is still a strong sales culture around the project. It feels less so about "supporting" a game, but rather just a means of buying a game early. Though this is entirely to do with representation.

    For me personally, I do not plan on releasing my project on Steam early access, however we do want to run a Beta on GameJolt. The reasoning behind this is that the support is very beneficial, however I don't want the Beta to be branded as an actual commercial release in the same way. I would want it to be crystal clear that the game is still in development and that there is a chance it wont live up to expectation.

    The big problem with Early Access is that it offers a bit of an escape route for developers, whether they are intentionally taking it or not. I firmly believe that most developers go in with the intention of finishing a game, however given how hard it is to estimate how long things take, normally it just cultivates an environment of disappointment. Eventually the developer may just run out of time, run out of money or just lose motivation in a long-term project, especially when it starts taking 3 years longer to make than they expected.

    Though that aside, the biggest fundamental problem that I can see with early access is how it alters your process of development. IF you enter early access too early, it can severely impact your ability to work on your game in the way you want to. For example, every update you make has to be polished for release. I know that when I develop, it is far far easier to leave strings untied during the development process, and then clean things up later on when it is time to. The analogy I like to give here is that if you are building a house, but you keep having to paint a partially unfinished house, then later on, you have to drill the walls to do the wiring, you then have to go back and paint it all over again. Alternatively, some developers fall into a pattern of patchy development, where they realise this issue and because you don't want any update to be a step back, you just tack things on, without allowing yourself the room to make bigger sweeping changes.

    So what tends to happen is that updates have to become infrequent if the developer wants to add any major features. Or, they just keep chipping away, making small updates, neither of which actually result in a finished game. Another good example of something that can easily go wrong is the save system. If you add a new feature, it may alter your existing save system, which means that each update breaks saves. This is fine if people have that expectation, but most people on Steam are just regular gamers who want to play games to have fun, only a subset of those actually appreciate what it truly means for a game to still be in development.

    An early access system would be fine if Game developers did only use it when a game was far enough a long that no major engine changes would be needed, and future work would simply be the product of content development and polish. However, when a game is that far along, you might as well just wait for full release. Waiting for full release will mean a bigger initial impact (as the game IP hasn't been softened by having been out so long), it also means no bad publicity from mistakes you made in the past.

    So, to summarise, issues exist on both sides. The perception of players and the misguided intentions of developers using early access for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time during development. Again, I don't think developers are intentionally mis-using the system, I think its just the product of mistakes that developers make. We all make mistakes during development, and especially for ambitious projects, it may seem like a good idea to release early to help support development, but you will just end up locking yourself in a hole, limiting the ways in which you can work on the project and that will fundamentally slow your development to a crawl, or even kill your projects potential.

    Edit (A few more thoughts): To clarify, the tone of my post is supposed to say that most developers aren't these "bad" or "evil" developers trying to get a quick cash-in, they are ordinary developers like you or me who have not fully considered the implications of developing on a released title. Nor have they considered the potential impact it could have on the proper release of the game later on. (This is more to do with the idea that you want to snowball on release, get as many sales as quickly as possible so that your popularity rating gets boosted. If half the people who will ever buy your game buy it early, thats a big chunk from what could help an early surge).

    The prospect of using it to "better" your game also seems less significant. Whilst it is true that feedback can help, this feedback can be acquired in many other ways that don't involve releasing it on a large commercial platform.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
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  12. Zuurix

    Zuurix Member

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    It does alter development process. In a very good way - you have to make game playable 20 times during the development and that makes the game very polished.
    Every glitch is removed as soon as it's added. I would be surprised if someone would find at least 1 glitch in the current version. (Suck it Ubisoft, Bethesda, etc. etc. Day 1 patches! Haha!)

    Other problems aren't really problems.
    For save file breaking I have "Update" button in options, which corrects saves.

    Update size is based on planning. My planning guarantees an update every 1-2 months. The bigger gap between updates - the bigger updates become, which self-balances the whole thing.

    Another thing that's good about keeping the game playable - you get enough time to react to player behavior.
    If I had only one release, my tutorial would have scared off all the players.
    In EA, with every update, I am able to improve tutorials/beginning of the game and see how that works on players.
     
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  13. MadZenno

    MadZenno Member

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    The problems with people high expectations and expect that "early access" is the same as "full retail release" version of the game.

    I have seen this with countless early access games, my main gripe such as Star Citizen, The Guild 3, Ark, and others are perfect examples of this..

    People that whinge about early access games obviously did not read properly or got on the hype train.

    Early on the Guild 3 Early Access release, people were massively complaining about X,Y and Z features (not bugs) are not in the game, such as real animations/etc in the game.

    I have seen the simplest issues such as place holder art, being wrong or many other non-game related issues.

    They also complain on the developers Facebook homepage, instead of using the bug trackers which were supplied by the developers, which have been continually pointed out by a number of people.

    Also, Steam like every other store, is a retail store, the only difference is that, you can make a discussion and use their forums and other features to leave a useful feedback.

    I wouldn't be deterred by putting a game on Steam just because of supposed stigma.

    I have seen a few developers post replies and updates on their games, which helps reverse the trend of negativity.

    Bigger companies cannot obviously reply to every single social media site, that is why they have bug trackers.
     
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  14. Samuel Venable

    Samuel Venable Time Killer

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    This topic is a lot to read.
     
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  15. sitebender

    sitebender Member

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    The first few posts having dozens of posts is intimidating.
     
  16. RichHopefulComposer

    RichHopefulComposer Member

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    Just be very clear in your description, then. I'm going to put a billboard saying THIS GAME ISN'T DONE YET DON'T EXPECT IT TO BE (in politer words) on my game. Anyone who ignores that can do so at their own peril.
    I disagree with this. It's true that you can get feedback basically anywhere, but not all of it's going to be the same. You're going to get a very different level of feedback from people who've dropped $20 on your game versus people just downloading your demo on gamejolt out of boredom.
     
  17. MishMash

    MishMash Member

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    Just wanted to add that I never said distributing a free demo, just not distributing the game on steam early access. (i.e. a more controlled distribution environment where there is more of a connection between the gamer and the developer). Gamejolt and Itch for example are platforms which have a bit more involvement when it comes to the development process. I just feel when people release on Steam EA, it is purely a statement that someones intention is to actively sell the game as a product, rather than having people invest in an idea. (Not saying that it isn't possible for Steam to cultivate that environment, but I think as it stands now, there could perhaps be a better distinction between EA games and actual full releases).

    I agree with your idea of adding a billboard, but I feel that the fact that is necessary at all shows that Steam EA misses the mark. A few ideas to improve the system could be:
    - Clear development log on store page
    - List of targets or more transparency between the developer and where the game is at (it should perhaps be a requirement for the developer to clearly outline where they are at and what needs to be done).
    - More prominence of user discussion boards/opportunities for a more fronted discussion on key topics/polls.

    My general feeling is that if early access games are to be a thing, then the culture surrounding them needs to be different to that of regular released games. If it is supposed to be a tool to support developers, then improve its ability to do so, this should both alter players expectations and equally allow developers to get more out of early access, other than a quick injection of premature cash.

    I only feel so strongly about this as I see so many games go on there to die. Most of which release too early and end up just sitting on Early Access for years, gathering dust with a slowly fading community. Naturally, there will be a few ideal cases where things work out fantastically, however this is rarely the reality for most developers.
     

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