If I wrote a sentence on a piece of paper describing a plot to you, with a basic character and setting should I charge you $14.95 for reading an early access version of my novel?
Here is my beef with Early Access Beta’s and Steam Greenlight:
A few weeks ago I bought an early access beta – an indie horror which at the time seemed like a fantastic idea, Paranormal. There were awesome screenshots, raving reviews and an idea which I had been looking for, for quite some time. I thought, hey, the developer says it is in active development. It is being continuously updated and improved and so $9.99 for an unfinished product seems fairly reasonable. I had Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program as decent precedents for this situation.
Oh how wrong I was. Not only was it so buggy and unpolished it literally had me force-quit the game, it looked nothing like the screenshots.
The pacing was awful, the mechanics clunky and clumsy, my controls were often frozen and things kept moving the camera without my control. Taking control away is a terrible idea unless there is a good reason (that’s a topic for another discussion). Simply put, it is not finished. A Beta version, in the developers eyes, should be finished. You should be happy with it.
So why sell something that isn’t finished, other than to grab money? There is an abundance of detailed textures and meshes in this game, so obviously it’s not to raise money for an artist – there is a problem at the very core of this game that money will not fix, and that is arrogance – arrogance that making half a game, getting the approval of the masses on Greenlight and making $10 a pop off this pre-Alpha release, makes you an accomplished developer.
Speaking of Greenlight, looking over the ‘Concepts’ page the other day really rattled my cage. I stumbled upon a rather interesting concept – a procedurally-generated (sigh) game engine, where landscape and creatures are randomly created. All well and good. The accompanying video showed off their generated animals. Take a look:
Looks cool right? All those intelligent writhing worms you just know are groaning “kiiiiiill meeeeeeee”.
Here’s the thing Internet: Gamers don’t care whether you have fancy data structures or fancy ‘genetic analysis’ tools in your game. What bothers me is that these developers advertise these technical aspects and people actually think it makes the game better.
“Oooh procedural generation? Must be good!”