Steam Early Access has been a contentious subject over the past many months for a number of reasons, but it really boils down to an unsurprising truth: the games aren't finished. How should those games be treated? Should they be reviewed? Should they get prominent store placement? How much should they cost? And most of all, what happens if they never cross the finish line? What if they get caught up in the grinding gears of game development's ashen hell forever? Can anything be done? For now, Valve seems to be erring on the side of "knowledge is power."
Valve's now added a rather simple (but very important) disclaimer to Steam Early Access' FAQ:
"Its up to the developer to determine when they are ready to 'release'. Some developers have a concrete deadline in mind, while others will get a better sense as the development of the game progresses. You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state."
It's a pretty key distinction, and I'm glad Valve is putting it out there. I mean, it'd be much better if companies who weren't sure they could deliver their full vision weren't on Steam in the first place, but this is an imperfect world and game development is an inexact science. Most developers start out with the best of intentions, but the unexpected happens early and often.
Honestly, I'd like to see this disclaimer even more prominently featured - or at least individually linked in each game's explanation of what early access constitutes. Otherwise, only a small subset of users will ever find it.
Have you had any bad experiences with Early Access? Do you think it should be more prominently explained/disclaimer-ed?