In his final Premature Evaluation column on Monday, Marsh said of Steam Early Access: "Developers don't know what they're selling, customers don't know what they're buying, and I often don't know what I'm reviewing – each week I play two or three games in the hope of finding one which is recognisable, even loosely, as a product against which even the vaguest expectations might be tentatively measured."
Today, GOG have started selling early access games. They insist they'll be "carefully evaluating" games before selling them, and will be kind with refunds. But who will we turn to now Marsh has evaluated himself dry?
The starting GOG early access lineup is Stardock's mega-battle RTS Ashes of the Singularity (Alec gave it a go last year), explorative craft 'em up Starbound (Craig was playing back in ooh 2013), crafty vehicular explore 'em up TerraTech, crafty survive 'em up Project Zomboid (a veteran from before even Steam got in on alphafunding/early access), and explorative survive 'em up The Curious Expedition (Adam played it in 2014). They're all on sale to celebrate the launch.
"We want all gamers on GOG.com to have access to what these titles have to offer, but we want to get it right..." said a GOG marketingman in a press release. GOG have been planning this for a while.
I do wonder how strict their curation will be. The problem of Steam's leniency isn't so much that it sells duffers--though that is unfortunate for folks who buy 'em--but that having a load of them in once place puts many more people off the whole idea of early access. Oh it's a big prickly mess and I'll still warn people about paying for something unfinished, but early access has produced some fine games that might not have happened otherwise. GOG's non-early access selection has plenty of duffers, but I'm maybe glad they're being a little cautious here.
Anyway! If you do buy an early access game on GOG and dislike it, they're offering a no-questions-asked 14-day refund period. Their 30-day refund policy for normal games is explicitly for games which don't work on the buyer's system, but folks can get a refund on early access for any reason.
I do also like that GOG have a solution to the problem of folks buying an early access game only for future updates to change it into something quite different. If folks are using the optional GOG Galaxy client, they'll be able to roll games back to any earlier version.