Original Sin Developer Asks “What’s Wrong With Early Access?”

For those that don’t follow the European CRPG scene like I do, Larian’s Swen Vincke (Who often goes by “Lar”) may not sound familiar. Without heaping praise on the guy, I’ll just say that he is one of the most friendly and intelligent developers out there and he always has insightful things to say about the industry in which he works. That being said, a discussion popped up on his forums recently involving his fan’s fear that their upcoming CRPG, Divinity: Original Sin, would go on Steam early access. Swen was confused, since he assumed going early access was not only good but also a move fans would love to see.

Now, as someone who has four games he desperately wants *right now* that are currently on early access I can tell you that I’d sooner wade through a pool of hungry sharks with concrete blocks tied around my feet than play a game on early access. The idea of ruining my first impression of a beloved game and having to *pay* to be a beta tester doesn’t interest me, not to mention very few of these early access games are complete and cannot be completed due to missing cinematics or locked-off dungeons.

Swen was then shown, by a fan, how many vile posts have been made about Wasteland 2’s early access and how the game’s view in the community has basically regressed to a point where no one thinks it’ll ever be even remotely playable.

It didn’t seem to sway Swen though, who posted this length blog about early access.

I do understand Swen’s side. I know he, like some developers, have nothing but good intentions going into early access…the problem is that the way gamers see it and the way developers see it are two totally different things.

No matter how many notices you place on your page about a game being in beta or barely playable and to “play at your own risk”, it won’t blunt the shock a player gets when they load it up and it crashes their PC. This is doubly bad when you make them pay for it. Sure, you could say it’s on them since they walked into the deal knowing full well the game wasn’t finished, but most gamers simply don’t think that way. Developers give gamers far too much credit, since we are, especially when we foam at the mouth for a particular title, wild untamed beasts.

Swen makes one interesting comment in the blog, which I’ll quote here:

So I must be overlooking something given the amount of noise the internet is making about Early Access, but I don’t see it. If Kickstarter is ok, why isn’t Early Access ok? I would be grateful if somebody could point that out for me.

I still admire the guy and count myself as a fan, but this shows how badly he doesn’t get it. With Kickstarter you pay and wait, but with early access you pay and play.

Kickstarter games are like that girl you meet online who seems perfect and your mind fills in the knowledge gaps, making her appear more beautiful than she is. All you see are controlled screenshots tailored to look amazing. On the other hand, early access games are when you first meet that perfect girl…and she has five hairy facial moles and a limp. Sometimes it’s better to not see what’s behind the curtain. At least until some serious work has been done on the ghastly thing waiting to be unleashed upon you. With the proper work, time, and fine-tuning that all important first impression can be a good one. Developers don’t seem to get that and are starting to see it in the reactions their games are getting from the community.

So do you agree with Swen and feel early access isn’t as bad as it seems? Do you agree with his detractors and myself when we say it is? Either way, I’m getting Original Sin on day one, but not while it’s on early access!

Carl Batchelor


Carl is both a JRPG fan and a CRPG'er who especially loves European PC games. Even with more than three decades of gaming under his belt, he feels the best of the hobby is yet to come.

  1. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    January 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I think early access is great to let people get their hands on stuff early, as implied, but as you mentioned – it comes with its negatives.

    Case in point with Starbound or Kenshi, two sandbox games that I love, both are still unfinished. Character wipes will be coming (or maybe they have already, not sure) in Starbound, meaning all the work you did will be gone, forcing you to start over. Coming from this, I only played the game for a few hours.

    In Kensi, an update was put out that added a lot of stuff but inexplicably broke my small town that I finally started getting established. My characters were unable to open gates or doors, and overall I kept having issues getting them to pathfind. Frustrated, I quit out of the game and haven’t touched it since.

    While I’m really happy to have played the games pre-release, seeing them in those unfinished forms definitely changes your perspective on them. I think early access only works with certain types of games.

  2. Carl B.
    Carl B.
    January 18, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    So many games I want are on early access but by principle (and because I want my first impression to be a good one) I won’t buy them yet.

    Starbound, Might and Magic Legacy, Blackguards, Wasteland 2, age of Decadence, Grim Dawn, Dungeon Dashers….I could be knee deep in awesome RPGs but I won’t play half finished broken games that I pay for.

    i understand why they do it, but a lot of the games I mentioned are getting torn apart online and I think it ill affect their sales during release.