Ark: Survival Evolved [official site] has only been in Steam Early Access since June, but has already announced its intended release date of June 2016. I spoke to co-creative director Jesse Rapczak at Gamescom 2015 about the merits of early access development, and he mentioned that they may use a similar process for post-release DLC - and that they hope the first expansion will arrive just a few months after the release of v1.0.
Often the frequency of updates are one of the reasons why early access games remain popular, and declaring something "finished" is often simply an invitation for players to be frustrated that a bug their experiencing hasn't yet been fixed. In that case, I asked Rapczak whether they intended to keep updating the game at the same pace, post-release.
"There's definitely a finish point," he says. "Our pace of updates will slow down a lot as we get towards release, as we don't want to be iterating on new stuff as we try to polish the game. And we are also starting soon on our expansion content, which is lots of extra gameplay hours and story extensions on top of the main game. We're going to be developing that, starting soon, so that a few months after release we have a first expansion of Ark to go out and people have a big chunk of new content."
He also said that they may use an early access-style process for the release of any additional content too, after the main game has been fully released. "We may iterate with that content in an early access-type way, with the community before we launch it," says Rapczak. "That's something that we talk about; having an early access for DLC rather than just the game, because we get so much out of that with the back and forth with the community.
"But to answer your question, we'll see a slowdown. We have a target around the beginning of next year to start locking down and doing a formal alpha and beta period with the game, so that we can ship and really open up our options for release. We don't want it to be one day we release, and we just turn a switch and people are like, 'Wait a minute!' We want there to be a definite exit to early access and then release a very polished game."
Interested in Ark? Watch our Let's Play series below.