Waking up yesterday, I was intrigued by the new game at the top of the Steam “Top Selling” list. It was a gorgeous-looking survival horror game called “The Forest” and I actually contemplated buying it off of Early Access. That is, until I went to the forums and saw the biggest uprising of anger since the 2005 release of Dungeon Lords. Apparently, much of the game was missing…which is expected of an Early access game and one of the reasons I don’t touch them. The only difference this time, when compared to other recent early access games on steam, is that one of the many features missing from the game was its ability to let you Save the game.
Which, as you can imagine, sent the forums into a frothing pit of rage.
Of course you can legitimately defend the exclusion of a save feature, and the developers have said that it is going to be added in the near future…but this proves a theory I’ve had for a long time now; Steam Early access does more harm than good and is a poor way to introduce your product to the public.
I remember when Wasteland 2 hit Early Access. The game was so horribly buggy and incomplete that the official forums for it degraded into protests, threats of piracy due to “betrayal” and claims of people attempting refunds. Even now, Wasteland’s forums veer towards the malicious, with the hype the game once enjoyed now fizzling out and being replaced by an ambivalent malaise.
As seen with The Forest, when a game hits Early Access it is opening itself up to heavy critique. Even though gamers should respect the fact that it is an alpha (not even a beta) build, it’s very rare that the expectant and driven-by-hype fanboy can be expected to think that rationally. They see obvious and glaring faults and begin to view the game in a negative light. Even worse, as I noticed in one forum post, a group of players made an informal promise to pirate the game due to its supposed “incompleteness”. Which is sad, since this game has another year or two until it’s feature complete.
This hasn’t changed my belief that Steam early access is a bad thing and I truly doubt any game ever will. It’s hard to shake a bad first impression, and I fear that many anxious indie developers will learn that as time goes on. When a gamer comes into your forum and sees nothing but negativity and anger, it paints an ugly picture of your game’s state…and that’s a first impression you don’t want to make. The new age of gaming and this inter-connected indie-driven, hype-driven, “open” attitude is nice until it works against you by devaluing your brand.
Maybe private game testing wasn’t so bad after all.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.