Steam Early Access Is Making Games Better

Early Access on Steam gives us the opportunity to buy games before they’re even finished, but more importantly they allow us to take an intimate look into how games are created.

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Before Steam began selling games as Early Access, Notch set the standard by selling Minecraft in early alpha, to a huge success. Now this idea of selling games before they're complete has blossomed into it's own and more and more developers are using it to their advantage.

Buying something that’s a work in progress may be risky business, but in my video above I discuss why it's a good thing and how it opens us all up to the creative, evolving process of making video games.

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Music: Jahzzar.

Wish to tweet words at me? I can be found here @laserfrog.

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DISCUSSION

I'm planning to launch my upcoming game in the Early Access program as well, but I have reservations.

I'm a programmer. I took a few courses on drawing and modelling and texturing and such at game design school, but I'm still no great talent. I've built a solid game backbone with interesting mechanics and technologies, but right now... the graphics look horrible because they're all placeholders.

Is it wise to even release any screenshots or Alpha versions for a game when its art is going to be 100% replaced with professional assets once the budget allows? I'm making the game solo with limited funds, so hiring somebody before trying to get money to fund their work isn't feasible.

The game is a simulation/strategy/RPG game. You're building an outpost in a medieval RPG world, and the heroes come and go as they please. It has a lot of mechanics like deep skill growth, resources coming in in the form of "junk loot" the heroes sell to you, posting quests for heroes, and behaviour-based AI that has moods, desires, and even grows tired of repetition. think of Kairosoft's Dungeon Village mixed with the Anno series of games mixed with Dungeon Keeper and a dash of Sims.

I haven't firmed out the multiplayer mechanics yet, but I will say that it will be co-operative asynchronous multiplayer. No Facebook-like friend requirements or hosting a multiplayer session, just things like background sharing of your outpost's custom main hero with your friends so he'll visit their outposts in their games. Another example I'm considering is having friends work together on large-scale raids, but I do want people to find ways to play together without having to play at the same time.

Would you feel comfortable buying into a game that had interesting mechanics, but the screenshots and videos looked amateur? Keeping in mind the assets will be swapped out with professional work before full retail release. And that it's a game where you're not getting up close to many of the elements.

It'll launch for PC and (if it works as intended) Windows Phone first, with other platforms coming later. Haven't picked a price point yet, but below $50 and above $10.