Steam Early Access Debuts With Arma 3, Prison Architect

By Nathan Grayson on March 21st, 2013 at 9:00 am.

“Oh boy! I can finally get into prison early!” Oh videogames, don’t ever stop allowing me to create phrases of such ear-perking outlandishness that people could mistake me as ringleader of a merry band of elves. Other gems now possible thanks to Steam’s paid-alpha-centric Early Access program include “Hooray! Frighteningly authentic war’s happening even sooner than I thought” and “I wasn’t planning on being shipwrecked with no hope of escape today, but I certainly can’t complain.” But Prison Architect, Arma 3, and Under The Ocean are only three of the 12 inaugural games on offer. The rest – and perhaps even some freshly baked wordthinks – are after the break.

The full lineup is Arma 3, Drunken Robot Pornography, Gear Up, Gnomoria, Kenshi, Kerbal Space Program, Kinetic Void, Patterns, Prison Architect, StarForge, Under the Ocean, and the delightfully named 1… 2… 3… KICK IT! (Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby). The latter’s some kind of sequel to AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!, naturally.

Early games, though? That’s madness. Everyone knows that development starts on a chicken-grease-stained napkin and ends with Modern Warfantasy XVI, and there’s no in-between. But apparently – and I find this hard to believe – pretty much everyone ever is releasing paid alphas these days.

“We like to think of games and game development as services that grow and evolve with the involvement of customers and the community. There have been a number of prominent titles that have embraced this model of development recently and found a lot of value in the process. We like to support and encourage developers who want to ship early, involve customers, and build lasting relationships that help everyone make better games.”

Beyond being an obviously gigantic step in the continuing movement to let customers behind the curtain of game development, this is also interesting in that it could act as a veiled solution to the problem of Greenlit games that aren’t slated to release for months or years. Now, after all, there’s incentive to have something playable with the caveat that development’s ongoing – as opposed to pulling a Towns or Miner Wars 2081 and rushing a clearly barebones skeleton of a product to market. Developers get money to siphon back into their game, and players don’t have to wait so long. Win-win – well, assuming developers ultimately live up to their end of the bargain and release a worthy game.

Early Access is open to everyone right now. I’m gonna go try KICK IT (Words Words Blah Ugly Baby), because of course I am.

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115 Comments »

  1. Arcanon says:

    The War Z docet.

  2. Phantoon says:

    They missed an opportunity by not naming it “Under Da Sea”.

  3. anaemic says:

    These are some extremely high prices for apha releases of games

    • frightlever says:

      Pricing is subjective but, yeah, I’m not particularly tempted when I know they’ll all be on sale eventually.

      Except for Gnomoria – I might buy that again, just because. I expect I’ll get a Steam key for it eventually but I have sunk so many hours into it already another six quid as a “tip” just feels right.

    • tetracycloide says:

      I fhink they’re doing that intentionally to keep the volume of feedback at a manageable level.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Because you get the full game afterward? I know for a fact that Arma 3 is cheaper than it will be on release.

  4. P7uen says:

    It’s impossible to overstate how much I love Kerbal Space Program and what a fulfilling game it is. IMPOSSIBLE, I SAY!

    • Chalky says:

      Yes, Kerbal Space Program is the best of the lot IMO, everyone should check out the demo at least.

      • bonjovi says:

        https://kerbalspaceprogram.com/download.php for the lazy as it’s not on steam.

        • LimEJET says:

          Um, it kind of is on Steam now. That’s what the article is about.

          • dE says:

            Oh really, the DEMO is on Steam? Please oh great magician, tell me where.

          • LimEJET says:

            Oh, right. I know it’s in the database, they’re probably in the process of adding it.

      • Grey Poupon says:

        While Kerbal is a fun little sandbox, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s better game than Arma 3 and they’re priced almost the same. Though Arma 3 is truly in a beta state(which they call alpha for some reason but whatever). Still, it’s the only AAA game in the lot and it’s not even the most expensive of them.

        For mainly multiplayer games and sandboxes the “minecraft pricing system” fits quite nicely though.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          Yes. Because putting a bullet in a mans head at 800m is comparable to putting a rocket on a body at 1 AU away.

          There is room for people to like both shooty and non-shooty games. “Better” here is subjective. KSP is a million times what Arma3 is if comparing scope and aim and trying something new.

          • Grape says:

            KSP is a million times what Arma3 is if comparing scope and aim and trying something new.

            Hmmm…

            That has probably got to be the single dumbest, fucking thing I’ve read, today.

          • Tssha says:

            And Grape, yours has to be the single most judgemental and jerkish comment I’ve read here ever. Do us all a favour, if you have nothing constructive to add to the conversation, just keep it to yourself.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            And Grape, yours has to be the single most judgemental and jerkish comment I’ve read here ever.

            You must have D3xter & Bhazor blocked I guess?

          • Tssha says:

            I only block spambots.

          • Quickpull says:

            ARMA 3 is an incredibly impressive combined arms war simulation game and definitely the most polished and sophisticated game in the bunch. Actually playing it however, will never be as fun as playing KSP.

        • Pindie says:

          Both Arma and KSP are in Alpha state. Literally.

          Alpha is a game that is not feature complete.
          Beta is a game that is candidate for release once bugs are sorted out and gameplay is tweaked.

          I know when big companies like EA say something is Alpha/Beta they do not mean the same thing but that is besides the point here IMHO.

        • Chalky says:

          While Kerbal is a fun little sandbox, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s better game than Arma 3

          You’re obviously entitled to your opinion, but I need a sequel to yet another contemporary military shooter like I need a hole in the head.

          KSP on the other hand is something truly unique and although at the moment it only has a sand box mode, they plan to add a full career mode with resources you can mine for better ships and undiscovered planets throughout.

          You don’t seem to fully grasp what alpha means. Judging something that is not feature complete based on it’s current features doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. KSP is a great sand box at the moment but it looks like it’s going to turn into an extremely good game.

    • P4p3Rc1iP says:

      Absolutely love that game!

      I wonder if there will be (in the future) any way to get KSP on steam when you’ve already bought it from their site.

      • Turquoise Days says:

        They have promised Steam keys to everyone who’s already bought the game from their website.

        What Kerbal Space Program has done is to incrementally increase the price of the game as new features are added. It’s an incentive to get in early and help sustain development in the very preliminary stages (one world, no navigation instruments, a small selection of rocket parts, for example) and then they’ve increased the price now that there’s considerably more to do. So those of us who got in early and goofed around blowing stuff up got a bargain, and sustained the development of a much more feature rich game. Its been a very good pricing structure, if you ask me.

        TLDR: is steam going to allow incremental pricing like that? I think it would only work with open games like KSP, obviously your average linear storyshooter isn’t going to be much fun at version 0.1

        • TechnicalBen says:

          They already offer discounts. Game prices change. They allow the developer/publisher to change it. The only thing they would probably recoil at is stupid prices…. oh wait, they sell “Software” for £60 that blender (free) would throw out of the water, never mind.

          • AimHere says:

            £60? Cheap as chips for a proper 3D editor/renderer/etc.

            The type of software that blender “competes” against is the likes of Maya and 3DS Max, which would set you back something like £3500 per copy (no doubt some professional 3d artist would complain that they really really need one or other feature that is inferior/missing in blender, but blender is good enough for many purposes, and most people don’t have 3 grand to spend on a fancy schmancy graphics editor).

            Software is a bizarre miracle commodity these days, where we get all sorts of pricing models, from free to $lots. I wouldn’t be too surprised if someone will suss out a model of ‘use my software and I’ll pay you’.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            The type of software that blender “competes” against is the likes of Maya and 3DS Max, which would set you back something like £3500 per copy

            Dude WTF? Do you not know this is a comment thread on the internet? Get out of here with your well researched facts. We only have room for conjecture & opinion around these parts.

    • Banana_Republic says:

      Now there’s a game deserving of being on Steam. I might buy it again, just to have it in my Steam collection. Definitely worth twice what I paid.

      • Brun says:

        Squad is working on getting Steam keys for people that bought it from their own store.

  5. MondSemmel says:

    “We like to think of games and game development as services that grow and evolve with the involvement of customers and the community. [...]”
    What if I want a product rather than a service?

    • Sheng-ji says:

      You can own a licence to play the game, you can own the media that the game is stored on, you can own a box that the media came in but you can never own a game, unless you are the person (Or studio owner) who made the game or you purchased all rights off that person!

      I know I’m being obnoxiously pedantic, but it helps to remember that the concept of owning a game is a massive oxymoron for the consumer, what traditionally has been offered is a licence to play the game. Which is still a million times better than this games as a service crap, especially as in Europe at least, there is a strong case for the consumer having the right to sell his licence.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        Has it ever been different? If you buy a book you don’t suddenly own the story – you wouldn’t be able to sell the rights to make a movie. But you do own a copy of the book, which you can happily deface or lend to friends.

        I think we can assume that when we talk about ownership of a game we are referring to our own copy of a game.

        • Chris D says:

          But what’s a copy in this context? If I back up a game do I now have two copies. Could I lend one of those copies to a friend? Or sell it to them. What if I make lots of copies and sell them to all my friends, or anyone who buys it from my website.

          The problem is that in the past products have always been linked to a physical object. When there is no physical object do you own everything or nothing? If we’re going to argue that a digital product is bound the same laws as a physical product then we can’t simultaneously argue that piracy does not equal theft. In the digital world the concept of a product is a metaphor at best. Somehow we’re going to have to reach a concensus about what that actually means.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            Worse. You think your system does not have multiple copies in memory and cache? What about sharing a PC? What about someone watching over your shoulder, should they pay “rent”?

            What about the router the bits were sent through… ;)

          • Sheng-ji says:

            You still have a hard-drive, that is the physical object the 0′s and 1′s are stored on that you own.

            Theft is defined using the term “with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it”. If I copy a game it is not theft because I have not permanently deprived the person I copied it from of it. Which is why piracy does not equal theft, is not considered a criminal offence in most circumstances etc etc

            Because piracy is a civil offence, the other party must prove damages have been caused. If you back up a copy for your own use, unless they prove you distributed it, you have caused them no damage, thus there is no civil case to answer. Roughly anyway.

            And this is why I was so pedantic earlier, because you’ve gone on to try to express that a consensus needs to be reached about what a digital product actually means. You don’t own your game, only a licence to have a personal copy and play it. see my post above. You own none of the game, you own a licence. See above.

          • Chris D says:

            @Sheng Ji

            Yes, but that wasn’t part of the transaction, nor would it be if I resold the game later. It’s kind of incidental to the process.It’s not specifically tied to the game I bought in the way that the paper a book is printed on is.

            Edit: Oh, there’s more.

            I agree with you about piracy. It wasn’t my intent to say piracy actually does equal theft, just that it seems inconsistent to claim rights, resale for instance, on the basis of “that’s how physical products” work if we’re going to deny that connection in another context.

      • Devan says:

        @Sheng-ji
        You managed to turn a thread that was not about piracy into one that now is :P
        Seriously though, all MondSemmel said was “What if I want a product rather than a service?”. I think he (and most readers) understood that the product he referred to is the license and not ownership of the IP, and his sentence makes sense in that context.
        I know from previous threads that you know what you’re talking about and we’re all pretty much on the same page, I just think it’s a bit of an assumption to say that “product” implies the IP instead of a license to a stand-alone game.

    • thegooseking says:

      Then, one would say, you’re missing the point, but so are they. Games are neither products nor services; products and services are delivery mechanisms for games.

      I do certainly sympathise with people who prefer products though. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a service if it gives you guaranteed access to the game (yes, even offline) and lets you play it the way you want, with mods and such (with multiplayer titles you have to make sure people can’t cheat, of course, so there is a service element there, but that’s not the reason for preventing people from creating their own maps and at least certain classes of mod). But those are things that are a lot easier to achieve with products.

      That said, I don’t think the reason people want products are impossible to achieve with services (even if some of them, such as guarantees, may require recourse to legal consumer protection), and I would like people to say what they want from a game delivery mechanism rather than just saying which preconceived mechanism they prefer.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Some of the things many people want are impossible though – To offer your software as a service rather than the traditional licence model, according to David w Tollen ( founding partner of Adeli & Tollen. He is the author of the American Bar Association’s manual on technology contracts) you must give the right to receive a service – and not provide the customer with the software. Which means you must keep a part of your software running server side without which the bit the user installs won’t work.

        Which pretty much makes offline access impossible, modding impossible on the bit that runs server side. You also make the user a data controller – The user is legally responsible for keeping the data on their own computer secure! Put it this way, if your laptop with a copy of simcity got stolen, you could be held to blame by EA/Maxis for breaching your legal responsibilities as a data controller!

      • SanguineAngel says:

        I think that largely what people want from a game as product is security that that the rug will not be pulled out from under their feet in 1, 5, 10 or 20 years time, say.

        That, and the ability to do what they see fit with their own copy of the product – such as modding it for example

        Whereas, what most publishers want from games as a service is to be able to pull the rug (or plug) out from customers feet and control the content lifespan and etc etc.

  6. Tunips says:

    This seems like a generally admirable face-saving disclosure-enhancing move.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      A major downside is that it might encourage developers to be in development forever.

      • Tunips says:

        Social commentary; the contemporary infantilisation of adults, the phenomenon of the eternal uni stundent

      • Shuck says:

        That would only work if you got sales to support a dev team forever. Most sales are going to happen early on, even with the game released in a unfinished state. If you spend too long on further development, you’re just catering to people who already bought the game, not creating new sales. Unless you have new things to sell existing customers, the clock is ticking once you’ve put it on sale. Economic necessity dictates that you move on to working on something else.
        This is why selling alpha access in this way could be dangerous for developers. More popular games will be able to maintain the buzz and keep getting sales while the game is further developed, but some developers will realize that sales have slackened and if they want to have enough money to work on their next game, they have to stop work on their current game, even if it’s not finished.

  7. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Couldn’t help noticed the second paragraph on the link: “This is the way games should be made”.

    I’m sick and tired of the industry telling me “this is the way games should be made”, or the more common “this is what gamers want”. In all seriousness fuck them! And fuck the horse they road in! It’s
    me, us, gamers, who decide what we want. Not some dumbass rep trying to push yet another dogma into the gaming market. For pete’s sake, it’s time we start calling on this bullshit.

    As for the actual issue, this is simply an evolution over pre-purchases. It’s trying to push pre-purchases to a next level, monetizing games during the beta, possibly even the alpha stages of a
    game.

    As far as a business model is concerned, I rather go with Kickstarter which is very similar and instead better promotes the customer/developer relationship by stripping away the publisher out of
    the equation; the usual barrier to all communication. Being the purpose of getting funds for the actual development of the game, it also better matches the idea of Listening to the Customer.

    Finally, I don’t want be exhausted by the time the game actually launches. Like a good movie, or a book, I want to actually refrain myself from knowing too much about a game. If this works, it will work only for games that really have nothing to offer to us in terms of storytelling or narrative. The MMOs, the MOBAS of this pathetic gaming industry.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t see any game with a heavy story doing this, only sandboxes and multiplayer type games.

    • Bremze says:

      Since Obsidian is pretty much the only studio that I would trust with creating a setting and story that’s not offensively bad or just plain offensive, roll on the mmos and mobas and highly modable sandboxes and competative games and multiplayer shooters and gameplay prototypes and f2p games and roguelikes and and and. If you’d rather want all games to be shitty visual novels with some shooty bits thrown in, I kinda feel bad for you because you seem to be missing out on a ton of fun games.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      This comment is what readers want!

    • Tssha says:

      If people don’t want it, they won’t fund it and it’ll just be an unsuccessful experiment. Like it or not, if this works it will be validated.

      And given we have Minecraft as proof of concept (and that Notch has made obscene amounts of money off of it) I doubt this model is going the way of the dodo anytime soon.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      Except it’s not “pushing pre-purchases to the next level,” other than making them more consumer friendly. Usually, pre-purchasing entails paying for the entire game without knowing anything about it, and what little information that is released is highly controlled. With alpha funding, there is a ton of information released, as people get the entire game in whatever state it is in. Those people talk about it and post videos on youtube, and they’re not going to hold back on criticism if it deserves it.

      And I don’t know why you are ranting about cutting the publishers out when not one of these games is publisher backed. Do you know why that is? It’s because things like alpha funding help them get their games done without needing to take anyone else’s money.

      Also, I love it as much as the next guy, but if anything is pushing pre-purchases to the next level, it’s Kickstarter. You’re not only essentially pre-ordering a game based on extremely little information in most cases, but you’re not even guaranteed to get it.

    • MSJ says:

      Ahahahahahah, some of the games on early access are Kickstarter games. In fact, it’s more likely Early Access will be populated by them because people handing them money during beta means they have some form of income while development is ongoing. You probably won’t see many games by big publishers that can afford to finish their games in there. It sounds like what indie game devs might find useful.

  8. bonjovi says:

    Something about paying to test Alpha/Beta games doesn’t seem right. Unless they do it the way Mojang did it. Provide completely playable and enjoyable experience with some features missing. But I doubt it.

    • BTAxis says:

      I feel much the same way. Something about the end-user having access to what is essentially unfinished software (in fact, the unfinished software is even being advertised) rubs me the wrong way. It’s starting to become the norm, and that’s not a good thing.

      • Jekhar says:

        Of all the listed games i only have the ArmA 3 Alpha, but i don’t see what’s so wrong about it. You knew exactly what you were getting beforehand, plus you will get the beta and the finished game for no extra cost. So while you may want to see it as paying to test a game, i see it as getting the game at a discounted price (about half price actually).

        • BTAxis says:

          It’s not that so much, it just feels to me that software engineering concepts are being commercialised. “Alpha” and “Beta” used to be stages in a software development process, and although they still are that, they are now starting to take on a different meaning, namely “the bit where you can get it but it’s not finished yet”. And perhaps that’s not a bad thing per se, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

          • Jekhar says:

            Of course you are entitled to dislike it, as it’s entirely optional and the finished games will be sold normally. I thought ArmA was a good deal and got it early. I have far more problems with titles like Mechwarrior Online who like to tout they’re in beta and everything (but gladly accepting money), but still are far away from beeing feature complete. So really they’re still in Alpha…

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Knetic Void, KSP and Arma are all playable for pre-purchase in Alpha and beta. I tend to view that as a “pay for what it’s worth now”. :)

    • Shuck says:

      When you buy a game, you have to like what it is now, as you really can’t expect it will change into something else, even if it’s in “Alpha.” You never know what will happen to the developers or what the nature of the changes will end up being. Plenty of games have been released in “alpha” states where developers realized they simply couldn’t afford to make all the changes they had promised, or where additions disappointed players.

  9. RaveTurned says:

    Perhaps this is how pre-orders should be done. Don’t give me tat and TF2 hats, give me game code that I can play, give feedback on, and that can be tweaked ahead of the official release.

    Following his editorial earlier this week, what does Mr. Walker think of this move?

    • thegooseking says:

      Feedback is definitely important. I don’t think you can overestimate the difference there is between being able to talk about a system or mechanic in concrete terms as opposed to just speculatively complaining about something that’s been announced (and announced in PR terms rather than details, no less) but you don’t really know how it works.

      You just need to look at forum threads about released games vs. unreleased games. The “it would be better if…” posts are significantly more articulate if they’re talking about a released game, but by that point it’s pretty much too late.

      The idea of paying to be a tester does leave a bad taste in the mouth, since testing is something people are traditionally paid to do because it’s so tedious, but you’re not just bughunting; you’re also electing to be part of the focus group for the game, and increasing the chances that the game will be made for “your sort”. Which in turn may increase the chances of games for “your sort” being made in the future. It’s perhaps not the biggest increase in chance, but it’s better than, as they say, a kick in the teeth.

      Another advantage of this, although it seems designed for startups with cashflow problems, is that it’s a model where reputation matters a hell of a lot. I strongly suspect developers with better reputations will find more people buying early-access, which encourages developers to act in a way that, well, increases their reputation.

      • Kadayi says:

        The idea of paying to be a tester does leave a bad taste in the mouth, since testing is something people are traditionally paid to do because it’s so tedious, but you’re not just bughunting; you’re also electing to be part of the focus group for the game, and increasing the chances that the game will be made for “your sort”. Which in turn may increase the chances of games for “your sort” being made in the future. It’s perhaps not the biggest increase in chance, but it’s better than, as they say, a kick in the teeth.

        The pricing does seem faintly ludicrous given the relative stature of some of the titles.

        • thegooseking says:

          I agree with that, but I don’t think it’ll last. They’re likely deliberately overestimating the demand for such an unknown model because they can reduce the prices without losing face, while they couldn’t increase prices if they underestimate the demand without making a lot of people angry.

  10. Abendlaender says:

    I think it’s a good move but as someone who generally doesn’t play single games for hundreds of hours I’d much rather play the finished product then some unfinished Alpha that might turn me off.

  11. Strange Brew says:

    I came here to suggest you did a piece on the Steam Early Access wotsit and Under the Ocean, but happily you beat me to the punch on both counts.

  12. Anthile says:

    A shame a lot of these are fairly expensive. Not to say they’re not worth it but they don’t offer much of an incentive there.
    To use a crude metaphor, when I go to a restaurant and they offer me to pay now for a half-cooked meal or pay later for a properly cooked meal, it’s hard to do the first.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      It’s been a long time since I saw a metaphor that bad and misleading.

    • waaaaaaaals says:

      I predict something along the lines of “Early Access Program rewards” i.e. hats or something.

    • Ninja Dodo says:

      So if your steak is burned to a crisp that means it’s really polished?

    • Chris D says:

      Wouldn’t it be more like showing up at a restaurant early, paying and then being allowed to munch on the ingredients while they prepare it? It’s not necessarily bad value but you do risk ruining your appetite.

      • Brun says:

        I think the restaurant analogy is just plain bad. Most food is not palatable in a half-cooked state, the same cannot be said for games.

        EDIT: And I think the idea behind this Early Access thing is that, to be listed there, your game has to be pretty playable. Sure it can have bugs here or there, but I don’t think they’re going to list games that crash inexplicably every 5 minutes. Most of these games just aren’t feature complete.

        I would argue that a better analogy would be paying for a movie ticket prior to production and in return getting a clip of each scene as it is completed. It’s a crude analogy (most films are not filmed chronologically) but I think it works better than the restaurant one.

  13. Halbarad says:

    Slightly disappointing that you didn’t mention the store that began this alpha-funding side of things in a store – Desura.

  14. rustybroomhandle says:

    It’s worth noting that Desura has been doing this for a while now, and it has certainly helped games like Project Zomboid out in many ways.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      They’ve already announced they are releasing on steam soon via early access.

  15. SkittleDiddler says:

    As long as critical feedback isn’t censored at the Steam forums, this should work out.

  16. FunnyB says:

    I’ve already bought Prison Architect from Introversion, does this mean I can add it to Steam in some way and get the updates through there instead? Or is this just another separate channel for people to prepurchase?
    I’m confused as to how this is all supposed to work and there seems to be no information about this….

    • ColdSpiral says:

      It’s mentioned on the Introversion blog. Check the original link they sent you for the PA alpha – there should now be a Steam key as one of the items on your account.

      • FunnyB says:

        So it is!
        Thank you for pointing this out! It’s still weird that they didn’t mail out and tell the users that the steam key had been added. I only got an email yesterday saying that an update had been posted.

        Well, you live and you learn!

    • wu wei says:

      Introversion’s site says “you’ll get a Steam key so you can activate the alpha (and eventually the full game) on Steam”.

      This seems to be fairly standard practice now. I grabbed Gnomoria a few months ago and got a Steam key via IndieGameStand this morning. Same with Under the Ocean, and the Puppy Games guys have always been great about sending through keys as soon as they’re available to them.

    • jbardey says:

      Twitter says they will email you a steam key, forum says you can get a steam key by looking at your purchase receipt.

      http://forums.introversion.co.uk/prisonarchitect/introversion/viewtopic.php?t=3880

  17. Steph says:

    There are so many games on the market that I really don’t see why I should pay for a product that isn’t even finished

    • wu wei says:

      It’s a good thing it’s optional and not mandatory then. Hooray for choice!

  18. Didden says:

    Is Simcity on there? *He shoots, he scores!*

  19. adonf says:

    Is there a way to go back to a previous version if you don’t like the direction the game is taking ? I still have a beta version of Minecraft on my laptop that I have no intention to update because it works well. If this was on Steam then it would be updated to the latest version which probably would not work on that slow computer.

  20. buzzmong says:

    Hmm, I can see this being both good and bad for developers.

    Plus points are obviously more people buying your game and therefore recouping or funding further development, plus the exposure and ease of updating/distribution offered by Steam. You’ll also get more feedback.

    Bad points are that more people will be “testing” your game, and when I say “testing” there seems to be a group of people who buy just to play the game early, but don’t understand what an alpha or a beta is and so pester the developers to make modifications or changes based upon them simply disliking certain mechanics or wasting the developers time by making big fusses over things which are placeholders or incomplete.

    The bad points as I understand it, led to Introversion offering alpha access at a much higher (nearly double) price point to what Prison Architect will actually retail at, in order to curb the people who just want to try the game and don’t offer proper constructive feedback.

    Also, everyone should buy Kerbal Space Program. It’s aces.

  21. CelticPixel says:

    I love the Introversion guys although £20 feels a bit steep to me – mind you, look at Dirty Bomb’s pricing (not a Steam Early Access game, but bloody hell!). Great trailer focused on the ‘currently under development’ state of the game though. Love the funny bugs stuff. There should be a bonus vid in the final release with a compilation of the most amusing ones.

    • colw00t says:

      Introversion have said that they intentionally made their early-access cost more than it usually does, because they figure it means they will be more likely to get development feedback from their players, as opposed to just people playing the game early.

  22. derbefrier says:

    Personally I think its pretty cool. I already bought Arma 3 alpha. I probably won’t play it much until it release but I got it at a good price so I am cool with that. I will try the demo of this kerbal space game it looks like it could he fun. also starforge and Kinect void look really cool but I will wait untill most of the features are in these games before I hit the buy button. I am no tester. I buy games to play them but buying at a lower price and having it sit unnoticed in my steam library for a few months is no big deal.

  23. InternetBatman says:

    The important thing is for it to clearly labeled and a functional build of games. I originally thought Steam would be better if gatekeepers were hand-picking content, but now I don’t know if that’s even possible without an obnoxious console style certification process.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Who’s going to be the judge of which games are eligible for this new program? Steam can’t be counted on for that — they don’t do QA testing, and like you said they don’t have a precert/final certification process.

      Early Access is potentially primed for abuse by unscrupulous developers. My concern is how involved (or uninvolved) Valve is going to be in the process.

  24. Zemalf says:

    Sure, Steam’s ingeniousness with currency conversion $1 = €1 that makes things even more expensive for us (Euro when 25 dollar game costs €25 for us = over 32 dollars), but still…

    When KPS costs nearly as much as ArmA 3 and Prison Architect more than (!) ArmA 3, I think the alpha funding and indie developers are taking turn for the worse.

    With the more reasonably priced *finished* titles like Minecraft ($20), Legend of Grimrock ($15) or Driftmoon ($15), FTL ($10, or even $5) – I don’t think KPS’s or Prison Architect’s price is right.

    But on the other hand: it’s not the fool who asks…
    And Introversion made a million with Prison Architect already :/

    • Surlywombat says:

      The Prison Architect model is more a mix between alpha funding and kickstarter style tiers , you get more of a sense of that when you visit their own store.

    • Lanfranc says:

      If you compare the prices through a VPN, it’s not actually $1 = €1, at least for the games on this list. ArmA is $32.99, but €24.99. Kenshi is $15.99 vs. €11.99, KSP $22.99 vs. €21.99, and so on. ArmA and Kenshi are even a little cheaper in € than in $ at the current exchange rate (should be ca. €25.50 and €12.40 respectively), whilst most of the others are a couple of € more expensive.

  25. kublakhan says:

    I understand how early access is supposed to be different from beta access. But until now, I’ve only been using early access in order to play the game early. I wasn’t “involved in development” and didn’t give feedback. (For instance, I bought Kerbal Space Program because I wanted to play it, not because I wanted to give feedback, which is fine for both me and the developers, I guess.)

    My question is: Can anybody give examples of how this supposed involvement of the customer in development actually works? Because I have a hunch that this is sort of a false promise. A developer is constrained by so many things that he cannot easily follow his customer’s wishes (at least if they’re more complex than “add keyboard shortcuts” or if the developer gives their customers an either/or choice “Would you like me to add another race or should I add race-specific technologies instead?”).

    Am I wrong?

    • Surlywombat says:

      Prison Architect completely re-designed their vision fog system after feedback.

    • WedgeJAntilles says:

      1) Even people who don’t give feedback are still paying for the early access. That money goes to help fund the continued development of the game.
      2) Even if most people don’t give feedback, even if only 1% of your users DO give feedback, that is incredibly valuable.

      And yes, user feedback can be incredibly useful or incredibly useless. Figuring out which is which is a skill, but it’s a skill that developers need to have regardless of whether they’re only playtesting in-house or doing a public beta.

      Really, though, the idea of developing a game through user feedback is hardly new. Competitive games like Starcraft and TF2 have been doing this for years and years–release a game, get people playing it, use feedback to see what works and what doesn’t to drive further development of the game. The alpha-funding model just pushes the whole “release the game” portion to earlier in the development cycle, which gives them more flexibility to respond to feedback.

    • darkChozo says:

      There is an incredible amount of software being developed where involvement of the customer is not only done but is contractually required (though the “customer” is often a “client” in this case). In addition, the vast majority of development methodologies involve some sort of user testing in feedback separate for QA/bughunting; though it’s usually friends, random people in the company, or paid focus groups, not paying customers.

      Software development is both flexible and iterative by nature; even if you were to not have an end user for some reason, technical restrictions can mean that you have to completely change the direction of a project, either because it wouldn’t work or because it wouldn’t work well enough using the existing process.

  26. SuicideKing says:

    So, basically Kickstarter on Steam, now.

    • Dominic White says:

      No? It’s buying early access to games. Alphafunding, like has been done for the past decade or so.

  27. Brun says:

    Kerbal Space Program! Best $23 I’ve spent in years. Seriously. If you have interest in any of the following, go buy KSP right now:

    1) Sandbox-style Simulation
    2) Spaceflight
    3) Designing your own vehicles
    4) Orbital Mechanics

    If you’ve ever played the SpaceBuild mod for Garry’s Mod then KSP is similar, but better with realistic orbital mechanics and an entire solar system to explore.

  28. Uthred says:

    Pre-Orders (despite how much information or demos are available) = bad, paying more or less full price for access to an alpha = good?

    • derbefrier says:

      its neither good or bad. Pre ordering, buying into an alpha, kickstarter its all tasking a risk and how big that risk is will depend on the person, its relative. In other words decide for yourself whether its bad or not. After all it really doesn’t matter what anyone here says after all their opinion is relative to their own experience and your experience will differ from theirs. If you are happy with the purchase everything else is irrelevant, if you end up hating the game well you will know to be more careful next time based on your own experience.

      Of course that doesn’t mean to ignore people but take their opinion with a grain of salt. Thats how I roll anyway and there are very few games in my library I regret purchasing, most of those were not even preorders just older games or weird indie games the internet seems to love and decided to try and ended up hating.

    • Sam says:

      The point is that buying an alpha version gets you something: Immediate access to the game in its current state.

      The problem with traditional pre-ordering is that you get nothing (except maybe a TF2 hat) that you wouldn’t get if you’d waited until after the game had launched. Except you’re choosing to pay for it before you’ve had a chance to read reviews, or seen how broken the DRM is.

  29. defektiv says:

    Am I missing something here? Looking at the Early Access FAQ, it says nothing about purchasers of alpha/beta stage games getting the full product upon release… So unless I’m missing something big, then developers are actually inviting their customer to PAY for the privilege of beta-testing their game. Hmm, shit stanks. So I guess this means Professional Beta Tester is no longer a job title that exists? Not only are developers not paying professionals to beta test their games, they’re actually suckering their customers into paying them to do what used to be a decent paying job? What the hell is happening to gaming?

    • Shuck says:

      Of course you’re getting the final game as well – there’s no real distinction between the alpha and final version (that is, they aren’t separate products), so you’ll just update to the latest version as it comes out. There were a few games released in alpha states on Steam previously, they just weren’t explicitly marked as such – it’s really only that marking that’s the new thing here.
      Indie developers of the scale we’re talking about here aren’t necessarily using professional testers in the first place, but players aren’t necessarily going to do the same job professional testers are, anyways. (That is, the amount of work required to chase down poorly reported bugs could even exceed the work saved by “outsourcing” testing to the audience.)

      • defektiv says:

        If it’s true that people who buy into Early Access for a game can simply update to the full release when it comes out without paying more, then I suppose that is OK, since it’s not like they’re required to report bugs, it’s an option made available to them. So that model is acceptable for indie developers I suppose, like how Minecraft went about it. But the FAQ seemed more than slightly ambiguous:

        Is this the same as pre-purchasing a game?
        No. Early Access is a full purchase of a playable game. By purchasing, you gain immediate access to download and play the game in its current form.

        -Steam Early Access FAQ

        Wish they would spell that out a bit more clearly.

  30. BurningPet says:

    Our “bare bones” skeleton of a product could easily provide for more fun and interesting playing hours than 99% of other games. Not a polished product? true. Doesn’t realize its full potential yet? true. Should have been stayed at the oven more time? true.

    Bare bone skeleton of a product? completely and utterly false.