"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.