Steam Early Access: Deconstructed

What to do if you've got more money than sense

What to do if you’ve got more money than sense

Previously I’ve spoken about the issues that have been cropping up with Steam greenlit/early access titles; namely the lack of motivation they have to push forward after making it big selling a half finished product.  DayZ is probably the biggest offender here as it claims to still be in Alpha stages but looks to pull in close to $100 million by the end of 2014.  The ridiculous amount of cash generated by throwing a mediocre product on steam coupled with an utter absence of consequences for not delivering on said product is a recipe only a mother could love.

Today I wanted to walk you all through a product that was literally just released today, 10/30/14.  The title of todays experiment is a game called “Miscreated“.  It bills itself as a “multiplayer online hardcore survival game set in a post-apocalyptic future”.  Sound familiar?  Well it should be because this genre was and still is an untapped gold mine waiting for someone(s) to get their collective shit together and blow our minds with zombies that don’t land shark and walk through walls.  I’ll resist going on a tangent here about what I’d do if I were lead dev on a similar project but suffice to say it wouldn’t include the perks of setting off on a 30 minute walk to the nearest town only to break my legs on a pesky pebble along the way.  What I am going to do is walk you through the information this game has listed and evaluate whether or not we think additional criteria should be necessary in order to separate greenlit/early access projects from ponzi schemes.

1) This is Steam’s early access page.  It sums up what an early access title is and touches on what the company needs to do in order to sell their product as an early access title.  For those too lazy to click, it states that the game is updated is often as the dev wants and pricing is completely  negotiable.  It also says that the developer determines when the game is subject to release and that some teams will be unable to “finish” their games.  I’m not sure why it put finish in quotes, but there you have it.  Essentially, releasing your product as an early access title on steam is a win/win for the developers and associated company.  Regardless of how well or poor your game does, they aren’t beholden to finish anything.  DayZ and Rust are under no more obligation to finish their game than any other title.  It’s a kickstarter without a clause or a loan without a repayment date.  It’s complete bullshit.

2) Miscreated’s early access page specifically states that if you aren’t comfortable playing a game that’s being acively developed, then they recommend purchasing at a later time.  Well that’s great and all but I love the idea of supporting the small guys and throwing money at local business’s etc.  I’d love to be part of a community that helps shape the nature of the game being played.  Unfortunately, there’s no bright red bolded size 65 font that states: “regardless of whether or not you join said community, this game may or may not ever be fully realized”.  Is there anyone here who would pay more than $5.00 for a title they knew had no guarantee of being created?  

3) When asked how the full version will differ from the early access version Miscreated states: “…We plan to add customization weapons, vehicles, crafting, and base building into the game, as well as many more items for the player to find – weapons, clothes”.  This is the same line of garbage DayZ has been feeding the brainless ding dongs who have chugged the Bohemia Interactive kool-aid for the last year.  Adding in scopes and new weapons is not going to magically take your game from beta to a full release.  Swapping in and out a few clothing spawns are miniscule game tweaks that play almost no role in the games balance, mechanics, functionality, or performance.  Such reasons are why DayZ will never move to a full release because regardless of how many clothing or weapon updates they throw out, the games engine is completely unsuited to their their goal of a zombie survival sandbox.

4) Buy Miscreated now for $24.99.

Fuck you.

Right now there’s a huge overlap between greenlit projects, indie titles, and early access.  It appears as though we’re in something of the wild west when it comes to pushing new and smaller budget PC games.  I still think it’s a great thing to support the little guys and indeed branch out and try genres or games that are foreign to you.  I can guarantee you’ll be left with a new experience and perspective that will help you to evaluate future titles and you’ll have an easier time spelling out why you either do or do not like a certain game/genre.  And that’s more or less how you turn a frown upside down.

12 comments

  1. It’s only the casuals who buy and accept anything, isn’t it? I hate to be that uber hardcore nerd but the casuals who buy, play, and accept anything as if nothing is wrong with it aren’t contributing anything positive or forcing companies to move to any sort of change. As long as they’re ready and willing, wallets agape, Dev’s are going to jump at the opportunity to make a quick buck, whether that means legitimately funding their projects or just…. making a quick buck.

    Having spent time on the forums for Destiny, a huge triple A title that failed to deliver on every front, the casuals and people who constantly defend that steaming pile of mediocrity were strong. People posting their concerns “this game won’t last” “not enough content” “loot system sucks” etc etc. People were so fast to say “go back to CoD” “gamer’s are so entitled” “I don’t want to be called a gamer anymore” good then leave, no one needs you. The community manager “DeeJ” would answer stupid and just utterly asinine questions like “Why are Hunter’s the most sexy character?” rather than answering legitimate questions about the games Raid, matchmaking, voice chat, server stability etc, STILL the casuals came out in abundance to defend him “stop being children and thank DeeJ, he does a great job!”. Everything is quotations are actual things I’ve seen spewed on the forums, this is what we’re dealing with.

    The Gaming Industry is becoming so processed and so predictable, I fear it’s going to become just like the Record Industry. Where mediocre, no talent horse shit shines through. That, or it will just be slapped with an survivable brain aneurysm. I look at where thing’s have gone since it started and I cannot help but be pessimistic to the whole outcome.

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  2. Recommend buying it to support it, but if you do not like playing a game that lacks allot of gameplay then i suggest waiting a little bit.

    some guy has 158 hours on it already. that seems like a lot.
    WOW what grapghics the game is amazing ! This is the game i have been waiting for since I played Dayz mod there was a point what else to do? now you can build struchers is awsome and the game play is fantastic. I cannot wait until they release addtional funtions in the game. AA++ in my book

    that’s his review who wouldn’t trust that guy?

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  3. Hey, great analysis of early access games.

    I feel like everybody was inspired by minecraft’s bombshell success. People have been lured into the mistaken belief that if they throw money at the developer while the game is in development, then the end result is a better product. I think we’ve seen that these indie developers lack any discipline whatsoever and have a very detached mentality towards their product and their consumers.

    I like what you said about DayZ, in that they dont seem to be updating or fixing the core gameplay in any way, simply adding trinkets on the side. The thing that made minecraft great was that its core gameplay was absurdly simple and impossible to fuck up. Basically, it was finished the moment the game existed. Like it or hate it, minecraft did early access right. It steadily pushed out content with the gameplay having been finished and, more importantly, not hideously broken.

    I used to be very optimistic about early access games because it meant that we would have more creativity in the gaming industry, meaning new and fun games that nobody has seen before. The reality is people pay shittons of money for empty promises. What a waste.

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  4. Totally agree with your sentiments, there are simply no incentive to finish a product, if people are already willing and able to pay full price for it, based on promises of what the finished product might be. This model has the potential to encourage more developers to go down this road, as regardless if they finish the game or not, then they are getting paid. The initial concept is a good one but with a lack of management or formal rules it is open to abuse and I fear what the future will bring, especially with Valve looking to move down the road of self-publishing.

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  5. What they should do is an assessment on Steam about viability of the development team, and set real milestones with associated budget requirements.

    All the money for alpha/beta purchases are held in escrow. Percentages of the funds would be released as each milestone is met. The more successful they are on sales the more they get. However, they don’t just get a payday without the work being done. You can even set minimum thresholds like crowdfunding sites so people aren’t charged or receive chargebacks if minimums are not met.

    From Steam’s perspective this can be highly lucrative. They can hold the escrowed funds in interest-bearing accounts. They can charge subscription/processing fees on the front-end for game companies. If they went the broker-dealer route they can even charge a percentage of the revenue as a carry on the success of the release.

    Everyone gets what they want and it overall reduces risk.

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  6. DefianceOfDeath:
    Hey, great analysis of early access games.

    I feel like everybody was inspired by minecraft’s bombshell success. People have been lured into the mistaken belief that if they throw money at the developer while the game is in development, then the end result is a better product. I think we’ve seen that these indie developers lack any discipline whatsoever and have a very detached mentality towards their product and their consumers.

    I like what you said about DayZ, in that they dont seem to be updating or fixing the core gameplay in any way, simply adding trinkets on the side. The thing that made minecraft great was that its core gameplay was absurdly simple and impossible to fuck up. Basically, it was finished the moment the game existed. Like it or hate it, minecraft did early access right. It steadily pushed out content with the gameplay having been finished and, more importantly, not hideously broken.

    I used to be very optimistic about early access games because it meant that we would have more creativity in the gaming industry, meaning new and fun games that nobody has seen before. The reality is people pay shittons of money for empty promises. What a waste.

    As you mentioned, minecraft had the crux or the framework in place when it was released. It was the ideal candidate for early access/indie development. Most of these titles are missing that framework and DayZ is once again the ideal example here. It has far too many issues to list regarding its fundamental structure and short of creating or purchasing a new engine, further dev time wont fix those keystone issues.

    I wouldn’t be ready to give in just yet though. Check out Deviant Khan’s post as he has some great examples of how this could work in the future. There’s an unlimited number of ways to make it happen and give everyone what they want. I think what we’re seeing here is the first generation throwing paint at a wall and seeing what sticks (I hope)

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  7. Two Across:
    Totally agree with your sentiments, there are simply no incentive to finish a product, if people are already willing and able to pay full price for it, based on promises of what the finished product might be. This model has the potential to encourage more developers to go down this road, as regardless if they finish the game or not, then they are getting paid. The initial concept is a good one but with a lack of management or formal rules it is open to abuse and I fear what the future will bring, especially with Valve looking to move down the road of self-publishing.

    I concur. It does seem odd and in the immediate future I’d love for them to spell out what it means on the games title page when people are purchasing early access software. Eventually it’ll be understood that the dev’s are beholden to no one, but I don’t think it’s commonly understood just yet.

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  8. Deviant Khan:
    What they should do is an assessment on Steam about viability of the development team, and set real milestones with associated budget requirements.

    All the money for alpha/beta purchases are held in escrow. Percentages of the funds would be released as each milestone is met. The more successful they are on sales the more they get. However, they don’t just get a payday without the work being done. You can even set minimum thresholds like crowdfunding sites so people aren’t charged or receive chargebacks if minimums are not met.

    From Steam’s perspective this can be highly lucrative. They can hold the escrowed funds in interest-bearing accounts. They can charge subscription/processing fees on the front-end for game companies. If they went the broker-dealer route they can even charge a percentage of the revenue as a carry on the success of the release.

    Everyone gets what they want and it overall reduces risk.

    Wow, that’s some good work you’ve put into that. Clearly there’s no shortage of ways this could be handled. I think about the only way it shouldn’t be handled is the current anything goes strategy. Great stuff.

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  9. MrCounterparts:
    It’s only the casuals who buy and accept anything, isn’t it? I hate to be that uber hardcore nerd but the casuals who buy, play, and accept anything as if nothing is wrong with it aren’t contributing anything positive or forcing companies to move to any sort of change. As long as they’re ready and willing, wallets agape, Dev’s are going to jump at the opportunity to make a quick buck, whether that means legitimately funding their projects or just…. making a quick buck.

    Having spent time on the forums for Destiny, a huge triple A title that failed to deliver on every front, the casuals and people who constantly defend that steaming pile of mediocrity were strong. People posting their concerns “this game won’t last” “not enough content” “loot system sucks” etc etc. People were so fast to say “go back to CoD” “gamer’s are so entitled” “I don’t want to be called a gamer anymore” good then leave, no one needs you. The community manager “DeeJ” would answer stupid and just utterly asinine questions like “Why are Hunter’s the most sexy character?” rather than answering legitimate questions about the games Raid, matchmaking, voice chat, server stability etc, STILL the casuals came out in abundance to defend him “stop being children and thank DeeJ, he does a great job!”. Everything is quotations are actual things I’ve seen spewed on the forums, this is what we’re dealing with.

    The Gaming Industry is becoming so processed and so predictable, I fear it’s going to become just like the Record Industry. Where mediocre, no talent horse shit shines through. That, or it will just be slapped with an survivable brain aneurysm. I look at where thing’s have gone since it started and I cannot help but be pessimistic to the whole outcome.

    I couldn’t agree more and I’m glad you made the comparison to the music industry. It is just that. Talentless ass hats that are just in it to make a buck or be famous. It would baffle them to point out that fundamentally, money is just an idea and that what they are pedalling to the brainless, moronic sheep is a slap in the face to all that came before. It’s actually the same everywhere now. Be it books, movies, games.. whatever media form it comes in, it’s usually dog shit.

    The cretins have won.

    Just hang on to the gems and support those worth supporting. Everything else? Ridicule.

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  10. Biggs: I couldn’t agree more and I’m glad you made the comparison to the music industry. It is just that. Talentless ass hats that are just in it to make a buck or be famous. It would baffle them to point out that fundamentally, money is just an idea and that what they are pedalling to the brainless, moronic sheep is a slap in the face to all that came before. It’s actually the same everywhere now. Be it books, movies, games.. whatever media form it comes in, it’s usually dog shit.

    The cretins have won.

    Just hang on to the gems and support those worth supporting. Everything else? Ridicule.

    The cretin’s have won, indeed they have, and its sad. We’re seeing the same thing in books, music, movies and now games because once people realize there’s money to be made, profit becomes priority number 1, and its fucking everything. There will always be quality options released, but few and far between, and its seeming to be more and more scarce with video games. I hate the fact that I have to come on here with anger and post some rant to one of Wally’s articles, but that’s how I feel and its not my fault. I’m just glad that there’s a place I can say the things I want to say while having people agree with me and not call me a whining nerd.

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  11. MrCounterparts: The cretin’s have won, indeed they have, and its sad. We’re seeing the same thing in books, music, movies and now games because once people realize there’s money to be made, profit becomes priority number 1, and its fucking everything. There will always be quality options released, but few and far between, and its seeming to be more and more scarce with video games. I hate the fact that I have to come on here with anger and post some rant to one of Wally’s articles, but that’s how I feel and its not my fault. I’m just glad that there’s a place I can say the things I want to say while having people agree with me and not call me a whining nerd.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6l8MFdTaPE

    I couldn’t help myself.

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  12. Biggs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6l8MFdTaPE

    I couldn’t help myself.

    I lol’d

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