For the second NBI Talkback Challenge, the committee poses the question:
Early Access and Kickstarter: Do you support unfinished games?
A couple of years ago, my answer would have been a resounding “NO,” but times have changed. Back then I would have told you that throwing your money away was pointless. Either the project wouldn’t deliver and you’d be out your money, or you’d get access to a broken game — never to be fixed. Full of negativity, I was.
These days I have embraced both platforms, but I am picky with what I will support. I still feel like the general trend of games coming out in Early Access and then staying in perpetual Alpha or Beta stages for years is sort of ridiculous. We used to get Alpha/Beta access for free, now we pay for it. Probably the most memorable Early Access debacle for me was the $150 Landmark Alpha, but there are many more examples to choose from.
There are pros and cons to each program, and here are a few off the top of my head:
-Support developers making projects AAA studios won’t
-Support indie developers who can’t get big time funding
-Get access to a game before launch
-Gain backer rewards that can be worth much more than the asking price
-Provide feedback that can help shape the project
-Just because you backed doesn’t mean the project will be successfully funded
-Some developers tug at nostalgia strings to get your money
-Some projects are scams
-Some ideas will never come to fruition, even with successful funding
-Devs can sometimes go MIA after cashing your paycheck
Kickstarter is seemingly a safer choice because if the project isn’t funded, you never get charged. However, there have been projects like Godus and many others that were funded and then the developers go missing and/or stop updating the game. Sometimes small teams will finish these games up, or they will just release in a broken state, sad and disappointing.
My personal experiences with Early Access games are many, while my experience with Kickstarter is still on-going. I chose to back the upcoming MMO Crowfall on Kickstarter a couple of months ago, which is supposed to come with Beta access and a “free” copy of the game. However, development is barely off the ground and we probably won’t see the game until 2016 at the earliest. So I will have to get back to you on that one. Either way I’m still hyped for Crowfall, and look forward to seeing how it changes the stale MMO gameplay that has plagued us for years.
When it comes to Early Access, I believe the first game I purchased was Nuclear Throne. It’s a rogue-like shooter, and it’s a blast to play. It was a great game the day I got it, and it’s been consistently updated week by week since I purchased it a year ago. I’ve made a few videos of the game over the past year, but here’s a good run too give you and idea of what it’s all about:
I love it, but I don’t understand why they’ve let it stay in Early Access for so long. It felt done when I bought it, and it feels done now — but the devs keep adding weapons, characters, and tweaking things. Perhaps they are close, but it seems weird to be tagged as an EA game at this point.
Another game I picked up around the same time was The Forest, and longtime readers will know that I’ve gushed about that game time and again. It’s another survival game with various elements, and though they added in multiplayer, there isn’t any PvP to this point. It’s basically a more realistic looking Minecraft, with cannibals occupying the same Forest. I recommend it, as development has been steady and improvments have been great. I just hold off playing it too much because I’m waiting for it to be done, which is my policy with most Early Access games.
H1Z1 is the Early Access game that I jumped into headfirst that is probably the most controversial in my collection. For some reason it split the MMO community right in two. I was super hyped for it because I have been a long time SOE (now Daybreak) fan, and the initial hype surrounding the game made it seem like an MMO designed with me in mind. I love Zombies. I love survival horror. I love PvP. I bought it when Early Access came to Steam, and I wasn’t disappointed. But then they started wiping servers and making big changes, so I decided I’d let it sit for a while. I don’t like progress that is taken away, which is why most Alpha/Beta testing hasn’t been too appealing to me. Anyway, I’m still a fan of the game and I will continue to watch its progress.
There are a handful of other games I have on my Steam list that are tagged as Early Access, though I haven’t put much time into them:
Delver is a first person pixel-art rogue-like that Doone gifted me last year. I like it, but then a bigger team put out Ziggeraut, and it completely takes the cake. Still, Delver is a great game from a one man team, and with Steam Workshop integration, people can make mods for it. I look forward to seeing the finished product.
Broforce is a game from a developer that supported the NBI last year (Free Lives), and gave us a bunch of keys to distribute. I got my hands on one and some of us NBI folk got together to play some co-op, and it is a blast. The bros are great, the nostalgia is great, the art is awesome, and there are so many EXPLOSIONS. A fully destructible environment means each playthrough is going to be different, and multiple modes add replay-ability as well. A limited free version called the Expendabros is available on Steam as well.
I won a contest run by Isey of I Has PC earlier this year in which I gained a copy of Project Zomboid, which is another zombie survival game presented in a different way. It’s isometric and pixellated, but has a deep crafting system and some brutal difficulty. I haven’t played it as much as I would like, as I need someone more experienced in the game to give me some pointers, but it’s still a game I think would be worth supporting. There is a free demo on Steam that you can try if you’re interested.
In one of many Humble Bundles I have picked up, Prison Architect was part of the package. It wasn’t one of the games I was after in the bundle if memory serves correctly, but it is a pretty well designed game. If you are into building and management sims, this game would be right up your alley. For me, it was a bit of a learning curve because the tutorial is a little light and I haven’t played too many games in this genre, but the developers are consistently updating it, and it’s worth a look if this is your thing.
Lastly, the newest addition to my Early Access library is none other than Darkest Dungeon. Many of the people on my blogroll have picked the game up, and I haven’t read a single bad thing about it, save for not being finished. Apparently there is a portion of the game that has yet to be added, and some funny quirks about the gameplay that need to be addressed. In my couple of hours playing it, I had a blast and didn’t run into anything game-breaking. I have sort of left this one to collect dust though, as I had too many other additions to my gaming library right at the same time and it’s been on the back burner. I don’t feel so bad as it’s an unfinished game, so maybe by the time I dump more hours into it, it will be closer to done.
So I guess my answer to the original question is Yes, I support unfinished games. But as you can see, I don’t have that many of them, so I am selective with those that I choose to support. There are probably quite a few other alphas and betas that I have taken part in, but I’ll leave it at this. I don’t have the inclination to dig any deeper into my media/post libraries.
Here’s some random screens from some of the above games, just because:
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