Posts Tagged ‘Early Access’

Is Early Access A Good Thing For Players Or Developers?

By RPS on July 31st, 2015.

Early Access games are here to stay, but is that cause for concern or celebration? We gathered to discuss whether early access benefits developers or players in its current state, and how we’d make it better. Along the way, we discussed the best alpha examples, paying for unfinished games, our love of regularly updated mods, Minecraft and the untapped potential of digital stores.

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Premature Evaluation: Super Dungeon Run

By Marsh Davies on July 27th, 2015.

In these times of austerity and inequality, in which the moneyed elites find reasons to parcel off more of public property into their own private hands under the guise of economic recovery, there is something rather enticing about the prospect of commanding a large mob of fighty peasants. But while Super Dungeon Run’s serfs are suicidally avaricious plunderers of goblin property, traditionally the reason for a people’s uprising has been to take back what was perceived to be already theirs, rather than simply to steal from others. After all, we have bankers for that.

Each week Marsh Davies picks up his cudgel and pelts into the dank depths of Early Access, thrashing wildly, returning with any stories he can find, if he returns at all. This week he’s been playing Super Dungeon Run, a chirpy top-down brawler that combines Diablo’s procedurally organised goblin grinding with Pikmin-ish mob control.

Peasants just love gold. They are willing to throw their lives away for it, bundling into dungeons full of whirring sawblades and spiketraps, diving headlong into ogres and goat-headed necromancers as though they were skittles. I empathise to some extent. I too like gold. But I like gold because of all the other nice things gold can buy me. In Super Dungeon Run, gold buys you the means to acquire more gold, and it’s a feedback loop I fundamentally don’t really get, which is why I will never be asked to work for Goldman Sachs. In games, just as in high finance it seems, we sometimes allow the numbers themselves to become our masters. What surely started out as a way of abstractly representing actual progress – making numbers go up – is now seen as progress in itself. However, unlike in some of the other more naked number traps, like Clicker Heroes, Super Dungeon Run appends a game to the grind, and it’s a rather jolly one – albeit, at this stage of development, a lot slighter on tactical participation than a lot of other dungeon crawlers.

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An Anthropological Jaunt Through Ark: Survival Evolved

By Brendan Caldwell on July 24th, 2015.

A tree fell in the distance, lumberjack style, and I knew I would have to investigate. A second tree fell as I approached, then a third. By the time the man in red armour turned and saw me, I had already resolved to die in whatever mundane or horrible fashion he deemed appropriate. Hours of DayZ and Rust had instilled in me an understanding of survival gaming’s harsh realities. Yet, for some reason, all that time spent respawning had never eroded my essential curiousity for the human beings who inhabit these deadly environments. I said hello to the man in red. He held his axe aloft for a moment and stood eerily still. “Hello,” he said. Then he did something entirely unexpected. He took me into his home.

Ark: Survival Evolved [official site] has been straddling the Steam bestsellers list for months since its release. Like the many survival games before it, the dinosaur infested island of Ark has been attracting PC gamers non-stop, as if they really were arriving to its pristine beaches by the boatload. And yet the response of the games media, outside of the YouTube dimension, has been kind of muted. You can understand why. It is another survival game.

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Premature Evaluation: Caves of Qud

By Marsh Davies on July 20th, 2015.

We’re at a weird place in videogames - and possibly in culture in general - where certain tropes have ingrained themselves around the notion of mutation which diametrically misrepresent how it works. I’m not saying that’s entirely a bad thing - Caves of Qud would be a lesser game if it didn’t indulge the fantasy of being able to sprout multiple legs and quills, while farting out a cloud of sleeping gas. Yet it’s peculiar that we have seized upon and so widely propagated such a fanciful interpretation of a process that, when considered as part of evolutionary adaptation, is defined by its sloth, incrementality and a total lack of governing agency.

Each week Marsh Davies sniffs out advantageous evolutions among the many horrendous deformities of Early Access, and comes back with any stories he can find and/or succumbs to a gruesome fate in a Darwinian dead-end. This week, every which way he turns is a genetic cul-de-sac in Caves of Qud [Steam page], an uncompromisingly old-school Rogue-like set in a doggedly lo-fi post-apocalyptic sci-fantasy world, heavy on simulation and mutation both.

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Nuts, Bolts, Wheels, Guns: Scraps Is Out Now

By Adam Smith on July 15th, 2015.

After three years in development, vehicle construction and combat game Scraps has entered Early Access. The initial response seems positive (Steam literally says “User reviews: positive”) and that’s understandable: Scraps [official site] allows you to build vehicles that are more or less made out of cannons, and when those cannons fire, the recoil is liable to cause all manner of physics-driven shenanigans. The video below shows a variety of vehicle types, and the final shot demonstrates that spherical cars are the only thing better than galley-shaped cars.

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Premature Evaluation: Dungeon Souls

By Marsh Davies on July 13th, 2015.

According to the design documents on the game’s Tumblr site, Dungeon Souls dungeon is, in fact, a tower. But that’s actually not inappropriate given the tangled etymology of the word “dungeon”. Dungeon in the sense of a subterranean prison emerges only in the 14th century, and there seem to be conflicting theories as to how.

Each week Marsh Davies wriggles free of his shackles and flees, filthy and naked, from the dank imprisonment of Early Access, bringing you stories of the depravities he endured therein. This week he’s playing Dungeon Souls, a frenetic top-down roguelike in which the player battles through successive tiers of peril, nipping between abruptly spawning enemies and hails of magic bullets.

Titan Souls, Twin Souls, Crystal Souls, Crossing Souls… if Namco ever wanted to stake a claim to that “Souls” suffix, I suspect the horse has bolted, flown to Belize and can now be seen scooting round Tranquility Bay on a jetski, trying to clasp a piña colada between its hooves. But whereas the lack of opposable thumbs ultimately renders this a tragic scene, the existence of Dungeon Souls should be one of celebration, derivative though it is, both in its name and in its action – which borrows heavily from both Nuclear Throne and Spelunky.

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Premature Evaluation: Interstellar Rift

By Brendan Caldwell on July 8th, 2015.

Each week Marsh Davies battles the overwhelming urge to flee, struggles through an Early Access game, and comes back with any stories he can find inside. But this week he’s on holiday, and so in his stead Brendan Caldwell has played Interstellar Rift, a multiplayer starship construction sim.

I spawn on an impossibly advanced spacecraft. We are floating among asteroids and surrounded by a flotilla of other impossibly advanced spacecraft. The computer terminals flicker on and off as I walk past, chirruping for attention. The doors part with a welcoming breeze of pressurised air. The ship’s corridors shine with the glow of futuristic pride. Truly, this is a magnificent time to be alive. A time of scientific glory, a time in which anything and everything is possible.

Hey. This vending machine is broken.

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Bridges The Gap: Poly Bridge Out In Early Access

By Jem Alexander on June 30th, 2015.

Building bridges is hard. Both in the physical and metaphorical sense. Dry Cactus’ new game Poly Bridge [official site] tasks you with helping vehicles of various shapes and sizes across watery chasms using World Of Goo style physics systems. It’s out in Early Access now.

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Premature Evaluation: Train Valley

By Marsh Davies on June 29th, 2015.

Train Valley offers quite a focussed and fun optimisation challenge rather than a sprawling simulation of every aspect of rail management. Nonetheless, it makes some efforts at historical accuracy - at least in terms of the style of the engines you use - setting its challenges across two centuries of rail transport in Europe, America, Russia and (when it gets a later content patch) Japan. The Gold Rush gets a hat tip, as does World War 2 - so it was with a tiny amount of completely irrational sadness that the date of 1864 came and went while playing the game’s European levels, and there was no mention of the One Thing I Know About Railways: the first British railway murder.

Each week Marsh Davies boards the Steam locomotive as it chugs its way through Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or is cannibalised by rabid commuters while delayed in a siding. This week he’s played Train Valley, a chirpy but challenging rail construction sim.

My attempts to run a railway system make a good case for nationalisation: the absurd delays as I reverse trains back and forth over a switch in the track, somehow making the same signalling error each time; the piles of cargo that end up in the wrong town, or so late that its value has completely expired; the destruction to wildlife, farmland and neolithic monuments; the forced relocation of indigenous people. Oh, and the massive loss of life, too, I suppose. At the end of it all, I go bankrupt – and yet they keep giving me another chance.

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Walking With Dinosaurs: Is Ark: Survival Evolved Good?

By Steven Messner on June 24th, 2015.

On my third night in Ark: Survival Evolved [official site], when the sun had finally set and I was left alone in the seething blackness of the jungle, I saw a glimpse of my possible future. I was chopping trees in the dark, too scared to even light a fire for fear of what the warmth might draw toward me, but as another tree toppled with a groan I spied lights in the valley below. I crept closer. Silhouetted in flickering torchlight towered a tyrannosaurus rex, around which a group of hunters darted back and forth, attacking with spears and arrows. Eventually, they hunters prevailed, and, as they set upon the fallen dinosaur with tools to harvest its meat and hides, I faded back into the jungle and began chopping with renewed purpose.

Ark: Survival Evolved is an early access survival game full of these moments – the kind that fill you with trepidation and excitement in equal measure. But for every moment that adds to the enchantment of surviving on an island teeming with prehistoric life, there are just as many capable of frustrating you. Building on a firm foundation well tread by online survival games, Ark certainly has potential, much of it unrealized, but I can’t help but wonder if the claim of Survival Evolved is just too hyperbolic of a statement to make.

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Premature Evaluation: CrossCode

By Marsh Davies on June 22nd, 2015.

The game's tutorial largely takes place on a cargo ship, the Solar, captained by a jetpack wearing tar, who is full of slightly mangled but suitably salty language. This enjoyable seadog stereotype is a rather indelible one, and I suspect it persists in the cultural imagination because, for most of human history, the sea was a thing that would surely fucking kill you, and anybody who made a living dicking about on it had to be either fearlessly stupid or stupidly fearless.

Each week Marsh Davies jacks into the virtual battleground that is Early Access so that his spandex-clad avatar may wrestle with the digital monstrosities therein. This week he’s uploaded himself into CrossCode, a top down 16-bit-styled singleplayer ARPG set within a distant future MMO, where the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds have blurred.

It is a strange vision of the future in which the world’s number one entertainment involves me slapping a hedgehog to death with my balls. These balls are sadly just glowing projectiles, of course, aimed in 360 degrees and fired continuously if desired, ricocheting off walls to hit enemies and switches out of the line-of-sight – but the game does insist on referring to them as “your balls” in a way which is either deadpan mischief or minor mistranslation from the developers’ native German. It is but one of many mysteries in the intriguing world of CrossCode – and a rather natty combat system to boot.

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Premature Evaluation: Lego Worlds

By Marsh Davies on June 15th, 2015.

Will Lego Worlds escape the penises that plague so many other games with user generated content? It’s hard to see a system they could enforce which might effectively root them out without adversely affecting the freedom to create and share worlds. It’s a problem Minecraft has survived, however, without much damage to its image among parents - perhaps because there are just more interesting things to do. Spore probably couldn’t say the same.

Each week Marsh Davies squints at the ambitious blueprint that is Early Access and struggles to work out which bit goes where, and how many pieces are missing, before giving up and, most likely, building a big old cock instead. This week he’s been playing Lego Worlds, TT Games’ attempt to channel the charm of Minecraft’s freeform construction at the behest of their brick-wielding Danish overlords.

Finally, Lego have made a game about Lego rather than the Lego brand. Though they quite possibly only managed that because someone else went and did it first. Every dismayingly poor TT Games platformer I’ve played has only further convinced me that Markus Persson already made the best possible Lego game – and as just one facet of that multifaceted monster, Minecraft. Its shadow looms large over this entire enterprise. Though it’s an enterprise that seems to be getting wise to this fact: some of the recent releases under the Lego brand are, I am told, interesting and ambitious in their own right, and not just quirky minifig rehashes of film properties, draped over a crap but childproof platformer framework. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that Worlds, too, feels interesting and ambitious – albeit extremely early in its development. There’s not much about it at the moment that Minecraft hasn’t covered in mods, but it’s nonetheless immediate, generous and jolly, its focus shifted away from Minecraft’s complex recipes and resources to simple collection and unfettered creation.

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Early Excess: Quinns Revisits Darkest Dungeon

By Quintin Smith on June 12th, 2015.

Hey! It’s a new and sporadic video series from Quintin Smith called Early Excess, re-visiting Early Access games to see what they are, how development has progressed, and whether they’re any good.

First up: 50 minutes of Darkest Dungeon [official site], a fantasy RPG in which you’re managing your squad’s mental state as much as their stats and inventory.

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