Early Access: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

With the news that EVERSPACE is about to get a full release on the 26th May it got me thinking about the whole early access ‘system’. Early Access gets a bad rap, a lot of people label it as a scam before even looking in to any projects, and they simply write games off. But I’m more open minded, I think there are some great games that have either gone through Early Access or are still there. Sure, there are also the failures too, but that’s the nature of the system.

I thought I’d list a few of the Good, Bad and Ugly games that we’ve seen hit Early Access. This will consist of mostly games I’ve actually played, but also a few that I haven’t.

The Good

Let’s start with the reason this post exists, EVERSPACE. The game hit Early Access in September of last year and after spending some time getting to know it I wrote about how I thought that ‘this feels like how Early Access should be’. The game felt good, yes there were some features not yet implemented, but the core gameplay was solid as was the performance.

Now 8 months down the line the game is going to get its full release and has been very well received during the whole period.

I couldn’t write about early access and not include Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Perhaps it’s a little early to say that the game falls in the ‘Good’ category, but with over 50 hours played since release, I think it’s shaping up to be a great success.

The Battle Royale genre has been going from strength to strength with Arma, H1Z1 and now Battlegrounds. But what you may not know is that PlayerUnknown has actually had a hand in all three, with the latest iteration being, in my opinion, the best of the lot. Yes, there are a few bugs here and there, and there have been some issues with de-sync and lag, but the gameplay is fun, fast, frantic and a hell of a blast to play with friends. It’s the perfect balance of tactical shooter and fun multiplayer game. It’s also getting great attention from the developers with regular updates and info about what’s going on.

The Long Dark has been in Early Access for a long time – since September 2014. But to me it’s a success, it’s got a 93% overall positive reception on Steam and has been getting updates throughout its life cycle. Plus we now, finally have the story mode to look forward to on 1st August.

There are no zombies here in this survival game, it’s just you against nature and nature is brutal! To me The Long Dark is a proper survival game and there aren’t any that I know of that do it so well.

Now a few more ‘Good’ that I haven’t played.

Darkest Dungeon – the rouge-like turn based RPG has been greatly received and has had its full release 19th January 2016.

Recruit, train, and lead a team of flawed heroes against unimaginable horrors, stress, famine, disease, and the ever-encroaching dark. Sounds delightful I think you’ll agree.

Prison Architect currently has 94% positive reviews on steam, which is very, very impressive. The prison building, management game has been around for quite some time now and it has clearly become a bit of hit, with the game also releasing on consoles once the full launch was confirmed.

Probably the highest rated Early Access game is Don’t Stave – 97%. The survival, crafting, sandbox game has been incredibly well received and has gone on to be a great success with additional DLC coming out for it which brought players together to play in co-op.

It’s not all good news though; let’s take a look at some of:-

The Bad

Lifeless – Now, Lifeless wasn’t a terrible game, the problem with it, was that it didn’t sell well, therefore meaning there wasn’t enough money to continue work on the game leading to it being basically abandoned. I think it released at the wrong time, there was competition from other similar survival games that already had a much bigger fan base and it didn’t do enough differently to make people want to move away from them. If there had been the opportunity to work on the game behind closed doors for a little longer to flesh things out more, maybe things would’ve been different. The developers Rigid Soft, say that the game hasn’t been fully left behind and that if they can, they will start working on the game again.

The War Z – now known as Infestation: The New Z or Infestation: Survivor Stories. When it was The War Z it had a full release in December 2012. Two days after the launch the game was pulled from Steam for false advertising. It then showed up again in February 2013 and was basically torn apart by critics. Then it came back as Infestation: Survivor Stories, but that version has since been abandoned. Now it’s known as Infestation: The New Z and is free to play. Whilst it has a ‘mixed’ rating on Steam, almost everything around this game has been a controversy – you don’t need to look far to find a lot of bad press. If I were you, I’d avoid this game at all costs.

Godus –Oh Peter Molyneux, the guy is just dripping with hyperbole and over promise. We should just replace the word in the dictionary with a picture of his face. Godus was first launched on Kickstarter and raised around $800,000 – a heck of a lot of monies. The whole development of the gamed has been rife with problems, developers have come out saying that the focus was on a mobile version, basically because it could make them the big bucks and that a mobile version was the focus from the get go, something that backers of the Kickstarter were unaware of, they were thinking they’d get a new and modern version of a Populous type game on PC.

This quote from the man himself kind of sums it all up as he basically tries to blame Kickstarter

“There’s this overwhelming urge to over-promise because it’s such a harsh rule: if you’re one penny short of your target then you don’t get it. And of course in this instance, the behaviour is incredibly destructive, which is ‘Christ, we’ve only got 10 days to go and we’ve got to make £100,000, for f**k’s sake, let’s just say anything’. So I’m not sure I would do that again.”

Nice one Pete!

The Ugly

DayZ – I’ve had a lot of fun playing DayZ over the years, it’s provided me and my friends with some very memorable moments, lots of intense gun fights and  a lot of funny times too. But to call the development of DayZ anything but a bit ugly would be wrong.

The game has been out for over 3 years and at times it feels like nothing has changed. It’s still buggy, it still runs pretty poorly, it still has problems with zombies, it’s still missing so many features that were meant to be in game years ago.

There have actually been some very significant changes to the game, the problem is, is a lot of them are more behind the scenes ‘stuff’. Changing the renderer was a very big change, but on the surface of it, it doesn’t look all that drastic. The UI has been completely overhauled. Slowly but surely new things have been added to the game. The issue is just that it seems to be taking so long for even the slightest thing to happen. I’ve not played the game in a few months, so I’m sure I’m missing some details and I’m not up to date the with ‘state’ of the game, but I keep my eye on progress and it still seems slow.

DayZ has a lot of potential; I’m just not sure if it will ever reach it.

Rust – Blueprints, Experience, Components! This might not make a lot of sense to you if you don’t play the game, but what those three words represent are pretty big changes to the core of the game. When I started playing it was all about gathering blueprints to create pages and books that helped you unlock and build new weapons, armour etc… Then they moved to an XP method where for almost every action – chopping wood etc… you’d gain experience that would unlock items for you to craft. We then saw the components system come in, where, provided you had the right materials you could build whatever you needed – no research and no XP needed.

These changes fundamentally changed how the entire game was played and people had very strong opinions about all of them and I think this has what has made the game a little ugly in development. At times the community has been a mess and at war, others it’s the developers venting their frustrations.

I’m not 100% sure what method is being used now, I think it’s still components, but I know that other changes have been made about how you can build bases, or more specifically how you can raid bases by being able to build certain items in the areas that enemies ‘control’ with the Tool Cupboard.

Then there is Rust Legacy – I guess the original Rust really, I didn’t actually ever play it in this state. Rust Legacy was how the game started, then Rust Experimental came in, which is the Rust we know today, eventually Rust Legacy was left behind much to the disappointment of a lot of fans.

No matter what it has been, the development of Rust has always had a slight air of controversy, and these major chances have stagnated progress at times and caused a lot of debate in the community.

As you can see, Early Access can have it’s problems, but that’s not to say that it’s all a scam or that all EA games are going to fail, there have been some very good games come through the EA system and I just hope that continue to see more of the successes and less of the failures.

What are your thoughts on Early Access?

-Will

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2 thoughts on “Early Access: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

  1. One I’d add to Ugly is Towns, one that I got sucked into. It seemed like Settlers meets Minecraft. You would set up a town and have the people (who weren’t under your direct control, but assigned jobs) run it. You’d make some soldiers that would venture underground to explore the monster infested caverns beneath your city to find and mine Rare resources to build a more impressive town. It really interested me and was clearly in a bare bones state when I bought it.
    And that’s how it stayed. It was never finished and the developers have no intention of completing it. So no more Early Access for me!

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