Question What are your thoughts on early access games?

Nov 27, 2020
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So after reading todays excellent PCG article by Wes Fenlon about early access games, it got me thinking about the EA (early access, not Electronic Arts) games that I have wish listed in Steam. For me, they are games that sound good from the description, and look good from the screen shots and videos/trailers, but are also games that I have some doubts about ever living up to what the developers present in text and images. Some never see a final release, others, get a final release, but fall short of expectations (Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem comes to mind).

Of EA games that I've wish listed on Steam: Solasta: Crown of the Magister, Encased, The Waylanders, Stellar Tactics; those games look great to me as I generally play RPGs or RPGish type games, but have lingering doubts if the developer can actually pull it off. I hope they can, but not enough confidence to just throw money at every EA game that looks and sounds good.

The one EA game that I have purchased is BG3 from Larian. Because I know that they'll eventually produce an excellent RPG, and because they are an independent studio with no corporate influence, and have great enthusiasm for their work. Has there ever been a creative director more enthusiastic than Swen Vincke? I love this guy. As to whether BG3 will actually feel like BG3 and not Divinity on the Sword Coast, only time will tell, but I have confidence that it will be an excellent RPG either way.

But if you do purchase an EA game, when do you actually start? This is what made Wes's article stand out, in my opinion, the inner turmoil we can go through with an EA game. Do I play now, knowing that updates are ongoing and will most likely void my saves? Will it ruin my enthusiasm for the final release? Content changes can really change how a game plays out, or how you approach a game, which I think is most apparent in RPG's where you can create radically different types of characters.

Anyway. Just my thoughts on EA. I think EA is a good way for developers to fine tune their game, but when do you actually take the plunge?
 
Jun 26, 2020
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Swen Vincke is a special guy, he is a gift to the gaming industry and I cannot imagine a man more passionate about his craft. Larian is in a league of their own IMO.

But all early access games are most certainly not created equally. So I have a hard time passing blanket judgement on the practice. Some EA games come out perfectly playable, some never achieve that status. There are a handful of early access titles, like Factorio and Rimworld, that did it all so very right. Great communication, fantastic quality, and a realized vision.

Then there are others. DayZ is a good example of one that ended up quite mismanaged, but I think actually put out a pretty good product in the long run. There are a plethora of them that ended up getting a 1.0 release because the devs just ran out of steam or cashed in and moved on to the other product. It makes it pretty difficult to gauge where they are in release, when to buy in, and if there is promise. Dead Matter is a great example of how dev blogs and videos can provide a vision of a game that doesn't actually exist yet. That one has had me second guessing most EA releases lately, in fact.

Generally I'll jump into EA if it's a project I firmly believe in, with a studio that either has a good track record or communicates in a way that instills confidence. I usually do a lot of reading up on the stuff. It also makes a big difference if it's the kind of game with a lot of replayability. BG3 for example, I've put in 70 hours but I'm probably not going to put much more until it's released. Just picked up Space Haven, reminds me of rimworld in space, and games like that tend to have so much replayability due to how dynamic they are, so I will likely sink a lot of time into it now. It really depends on what the game has to offer and how well it facilitates additional playtime without causing burnout.
 

Kaamos_Llama

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Jan 31, 2020
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I'm comfortable making a blanket judgement in this case unlike Drunkpunk :p

I totally understand why developers want or need to do early access. They essentially get people to pay for an open beta, which for some studios they need to actually keep the lights on and the project going. However although I never say never, I have thus far never paid for an early access game. The label actively puts me off in the same way pre purchasing always has done.

Like Wes in the article I'll most likely pay full price for FromSoft games because being part of that particular zeitgeist is worth it to me and I'm forever a little sad I wasnt there for Dark Souls in the beginning. The sense of community discovery around their games is very special. I cannot currently think of another developer who I would trust like that, but that loyalty is not guaranteed forever. If Elden Ring is not at a similar level they're off the (very) shortlist.

I can see why people are into early access titles for that reason. There's just not many things that exciting that have to be played right now. Not when there are a dozen experiences that are finished and already available for a discount with all DLC that I didnt get around to yet. Excellent work is not that rare in games, thankfully.
 
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Frindis

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I have been lurking around the Valheim hype that has been going on lately and been thinking of jumping in the EA. Not only has the gameplay been really good, but the way the developers are showcasing the game makes me believe this is an honest product from the developers with love. It usually does not take that much for me to jump into an EA game IF the game development shows that there has been some fingerspizgefuhl in the background.

Horrible looking assets and janky as janky can only be gameplay would be the warning sign for me to take a big step back. It is not that a game can't be unpolished in EA, but if the content the company wants to showcase looks like dogshit, then there is a major chance of them having no clue about how to develop a game. It is kind of like if a guy from Microsoft Tech Support called you and you can hear a strange English accent and a lot of screaming in the background - you just know this is not going to be the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate factory.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Well, you folks know me. I consider games that have been published for less than six months to be "early access" and stay away from them. I could possibly do a proper EA game but it's not very likely. I would have to be convinced that my input would matter enough that its worth my time doing (not likely with BG3's massive audience) AND be reasonably certain that the game would actually show up in a state that I would enjoy. Otherwise, I'll pay for stuff to play that already works great. ish.

That said, I'm really happy to see EA getting used. The more bugs dead on release day, the less I have to wait!
 
Well, you folks know me. I consider games that have been published for less than six months to be "early access" and stay away from them. I could possibly do a proper EA game but it's not very likely. I would have to be convinced that my input would matter enough that its worth my time doing (not likely with BG3's massive audience) AND be reasonably certain that the game would actually show up in a state that I would enjoy. Otherwise, I'll pay for stuff to play that already works great. ish.

That said, I'm really happy to see EA getting used. The more bugs dead on release day, the less I have to wait!
This is my stance now as well. I'd rather get a well-patched game including all DLC one or more years after its release when it's on sale or given away for free. My backlog has enough great games in it that I don't have to bother with playing an unfinished game.

In the past I might have gotten more easily excited about a game in early access, though the only game I can remember buying in EA is Minecraft (which was completely worth it). I do remember checking out Besiege and Banished, but finding them too incomplete to consider spending money on them.
 

Sarafan

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Jan 14, 2020
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I treat Early Access games like pre-orders, but with a bonus feature of an option to play them before the release date. I think that this is a fair approach. Some people are criticizing EA heavily. Their main argument is that the developers take money for an unfinished project. This argument isn't valid if we treat EA as an ordinary pre-order.

Usually I don't pre-order games, so I don't buy EA as well. There are some rare exceptions. I'll probably buy EA for Baldur's Gate 3 in the future, once the game is closer to completion. But as I said this is going to be one of the exceptions. I prefer to play games when they're finished and cheaper at the same time. ;)
 
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Nov 27, 2020
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I won't even bother with the number of other games especially RPG's that took them 2-3 years before they finally released the completed version often with Huge makeovers. the witcher, wasteland 2, divinity OS all got huge remakes around 2+ years after their launch, so much you might as well call them EA games.

really to me EA has just brought another side of development to the mainstream, otherwise this stuff has been going on in private for as long as game development has been around.
I think this is very true, and something I never really considered before. The release of Witcher Enchanced, Wasteland Directors Cut, and Divinity OS Enhanced, were the actual final releases; massive overhauls of the original "final release" of those games. To the credit of those developers, they listened to the players complaints and gave the updated versions for free to owners of the original games. But the effect of that, is that the original "final release" of the game(s), was in effect an EA game.
 
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Nov 27, 2020
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I treat Early Access games like pre-orders, but with a bonus feature of an option to play them before the release date. I think that this is a fair approach. Some people are criticizing EA heavily. Their main argument is that the developers take money for an unfinished project. This argument isn't valid if we treat EA as an ordinary pre-order.

Usually I don't pre-order games, so I don't buy EA as well. There are some rare exceptions. I'll probably buy EA for Baldur's Gate 3 in the future, once the game is closer to completion. But as I said this is going to be one of the exceptions. I prefer to play games when they're finished and cheaper at the same time. ;)
Yep, the only EA game I've actually purchased was BG3, though I still haven't started it yet, I do follow the development and updates. Now is probably not a great time to start, as content patch #4 is on the horizon and will break any saves. I have confidence that the release version will be great.

Other EA games I wish list and follow development, and even though I'd like to financially help those developers (because most of them are small studios), I just can't justify the expense for a game that may or may not ever be released.

Pre-ordering, not anymore, although I used to frequently when single player games were more of a "thing", and back when boxed games were the primary way to purchase a game, before the Steam age arrived.
 
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Even take strat games like Gal civ, Civlization, Crusader kings and 100's of others. They get live development for sometimes 3-5+ years. That is an awful lot like EA, But if you go back to the 90's the same thing was going on, only they called the Expansion packs.
This just reminded me that I got Civ VI for my wife and me when it was €12 in the Humble Bundle monthly, played it once and have since been waiting until the DLCs have dropped in price enough to justify buying them for both of us.

Banished is fantastic, i highly suggest checking it out. It is a simple game that i wish got more dev time, but for what one person made it really is a master piece. It is a real survival city builder like nothing else.
I just remember being able to get anything I could ever want by trading wooden sticks. I doubt I'll ever get back to it considering how big my backlog is.

Besiege I might get at some point because it can be pretty fun playing it with friends, alternating playing levels and suggesting crazy solutions (which is how I played it the first time I saw it).
 
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Sarafan

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Yep, the only EA game I've actually purchased was BG3, though I still haven't started it yet, I do follow the development and updates. Now is probably not a great time to start, as content patch #4 is on the horizon and will break any saves. I have confidence that the release version will be great.
Larian really deserves full support. I had a hard time with the difficulty level of both Divinity: Original Sin games, but these are great titles nevertheless. BG3 seems more like another D:OS game than BG installment. However from what I've seen, it's a really good game. I love RPGs, so I can't imagine skipping on BG3.

Other EA games I wish list and follow development, and even though I'd like to financially help those developers (because most of them are small studios), I just can't justify the expense for a game that may or may not ever be released.
I agree on that. We also have to remember that not all EA titles present high quality. Sometimes they can even discourage players to the final release. EA has its advantages, but there are also serious problems associated with it.

Pre-ordering, not anymore, although I used to frequently when single player games were more of a "thing", and back when boxed games were the primary way to purchase a game, before the Steam age arrived.
Last year I pre-ordered only CP2077. It was one of the exceptions in my gaming history. Not planning to change this approach. The problem are also prices. Pre-ordered and newly released games aren't cheap. And the prices will grow even further on the new generation. I prefer a more polished and cheaper games. Usually I don't mind waiting a year or so to play a particular title.
 
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Feb 7, 2021
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EA games are a great option for small new companies to get into the gaming market, you can enjoy basic income flow pretty early into development, and with some luck it will keep you alive until you finish the product.

Unfortunately some companies decided to abuse it, EA titles are immune to law-suits, which allow the devs to pretty much do whatever they want, and as such, games like StarDrive are marketed and sold in an unfinished and broken state, then abandoned by the devs, which then do the exact same thing with StarDrive 2. And Steam allows it! In fact you can buy those unfinished broken and abandoned games right now on Steam
 
Apr 4, 2020
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I only have one EA game for the moment, that's Teardown. I allready liked it from the start, and it seems to get better and better.
 

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