Sannas Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:27am
Should Indie developers be scrutinised more by steam?
I grabbed this from Wiki, before you flame I know that many deem wiki as a poor source of information however I'm using the content more as a majority considered definition of Early Access.

"Early access, alphafunding, or paid-alpha is a funding model in the video game industry by which consumers can pay for a game in the early stages of development and obtain access to playable but unfinished versions of the game, while the developer is able to use those funds to continue work on the game. Those that pay to participate typically help to debug game, provide feedback and suggestions, and may have access to special materials upon release of the game. The early access approach is a common way to obtain funding for indie games and may also be used along other funding mechanisms including crowdfunding."

I recently complained about activity by one of the Indie developers on their steam forum as I don't believe they are full filling what is defined as Early Access, I posted supposition along with this which ultimately through their own interpretation of the forum rules decided that was a breach and banned me for a month. That too me isn't an issue as such as I had already stated I was done with trying to communicate on the thread anyway which meant the ban was a little nil and void.

Through this one particular Indie developers blog videos they stated that the content wasn't applicable to the release version of the game, however some things were going to be stripped from the early access content and used in the final game, these things could be assets or other random things no one knows apart from the developer. I don't consider this Early Access as defined above when your not privy to content that will be in Beta or Release of the game. The content was released on steam after a decision had been made to take the game from campaign to sandbox the content released being a campaign version. The content isn't content that will be part of the game you cannot participate in de-bugging as the content isn't something that will be run with. You can provide feedback and suggestions and it appears that a lot of the feedback that is given is developing the game, but then that isn't something that just those that have early access can participate in.

That is a recent issue that I have had, so I'm interested in a non fanboi open discussion as to what you feel is acceptable for early access releases, when is early access just too early, do you have any issues yourself(Without flaming) about how early access is used. Here are some questions to kick the discussion off.

Early access isn't for everyone as being alpha white box, grey box or black box means content can be unplayable or extremely buggy, so I appreciate those responding have a keen interest in early access or have participated in early access.

Should there be a limit as to when early is too early?
Should steam involve themselves a little more to determine if the content is suitable for early access or if it should be pulled because major development changes have been decided making all previous content bar assets null and void?
Do you think you should be able to early access earlier?
Do you consider yourself as an investor of a game that is early access or just privileged to get access as its evolving?
Should content on Steam forums for the game have independent moderators, or do you feel moderation by the Dev's is a good thing?
Should you have a right to complain about content updates or lack of?
Is enough being done by steam to ensure that the Early access system isn't being exploited?
Do you feel the Indie Early Access is running smoothly and nothing is to be gained by these questions?

These are just a few questions that I am hoping will allow a sensible conversation to take place, I fully support Indie developers in their efforts and I applaud them for gaining funding to allow their dreams to come to fruition, but like most things there are those that will exploit systems put in place if there is a dollar, pound, euro or even some gear to be gained.
Last edited by Sannas; Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:39am
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Showing 1-15 of 37 comments
Fox Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:32am 
Valve should take a lot more responsebility for what they sell. They are taking a 30% cut but leaving customers in the dark if a game ends up being broken or the developer runs away with the money. You are not an 'investor', you are paying for what is to become a final product.
 KARR™ Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:37am 
Indie/Early access aren't the same.

Elite IV - one of the highest anticipated game since 2000 is indie as they self publish. Even though they have buckets of games behind them.

Discussions_Acc Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:38am 
Before I even read that:
What is this thread about? You titles says something about Indie but then you talk about early access.
Last edited by Discussions_Acc; Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:39am
Satoru Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:39am

Because you feel like trolling the forums and violating the rules and saying the dev is ripping you off, and ignoring warnings concerning your previous posts, doesn't mean steam needs ot 'scrutinize indie devs'
Last edited by Satoru; Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:41am
Touching Hair Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:40am 
When your game is offered on Early Access you should have a publicly available version of the game that is atleast playable some of the time. I believe some do, in the form of a demo.

When I buy an Early Access game I buy it because of the state it’s currently in not because of what features it may or may not have in the future.

You should have the right to complain and offer constructive criticism but complaining for the sake of complaining is a no-no. Game publishers/developers are free to moderate their forum in whatever way they want.

…And Early Access hasn’t been around long enough for me to comment on it’s success and possible developer abuse.
Last edited by Touching Hair; Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:02am
Sannas Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:56am 
@ Touching Hair thanks for that obvious mistake and edited ;)
@ Satoru I purposly didn't name the indie as I didn't wish it to be a trolling/fanboi session about them. And a complaint isn't a troll, the term troll is too freely thrown around when people have genuine complaints IMO. I believe I have justification that the particular dev has conned me for multiple reasons, all of which have been posted and answered to on that forum. This post was to discuss if steams involvement in indie Early access is adequate, great or poor, I'm not entering a stance of defending my discussion on that thread nor will I go into another debate about that thread. Although I have my own example as I'm sure others do, It was an example not a conversation area.
@ Discussions_Ac. Indie early access was set up to gain funding and support in developing games, I'm curious as to what people think steams involvement should be in early access.
@Karr I am fully aware they aren't the same, I was refering to the Indie early access program via steam ;)
Satoru Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:57am 
@sannas if your issues with early access stem because you 'perceived' slights by a developer then that IS relevant since that in effect is coloring your perception of things. Because its basically "X happend to me therefore steam should scurinize devs more", then what is "X"? As far as X goes here, the dev had a reasonable discusison with you but you choose to ignore said discussion under the guise of being 'polite'. yet you throw things out like devs "exploiting" and that steam should stop the 'abuse'.

If you want a 'reasonable' discussion, then dont throw out poison pills that obviously color the discussion.

Respect is a two way street.
Last edited by Satoru; Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:03am
Sannas Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:05am 
Satoru, I welcome your comments about what I wrote in another thread and maybe you would like to take the discussion to PM with me, I'm more than happy to do so. This thread is directed at peoples experiences with Indie early access and how they feel about it. Should anything be done to change the system, should the system be improved, Should steam be more involved with what they are selling through their site. I wont re-write the questions for you fully as they have already been posted at the top. I was curious and feel there is a need for open adult discussion about something that potentially has flaws, I used an example of something that happened with myself to raise the questions and get people thinking and not be hijacked into a conversation that has already happened. ;)
As far as poison pills are concerned I purposly didn't name the developer or game out of fairness and respect to the dev, unfortunately you have now involved the actual Dev and the game through your link. The poison pill as you put it is now on your shoulders :/
Last edited by Sannas; Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:16am
Satoru Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:33am 
@Sannas to address some of your points separately

Steam is a store, and as such they only require that an Early Access game be in some kind of 'playable' state. As such you generally get games that are at varying levels of completeness. IT's hard to cmoe up with a 'demarcation' of what 'state' the game should be in. Especially when devs quite often (yes even in AAA titles) use placeholder assets for lots of stuff. Not even counting functionality and features that may or may not be implemented yet.

For example games like Prison Architect and Starbound are quite playable in their existing state. But tehy're still feature incomplete. PA doesn't have a lot of end-game content implemented yet. Starbound is playable but many 'soft' skills are not fully fleshed out. Or you can have Interstellar marines where they have a efw maps but like 2-3 weapons only. Again where could steam come in and say "no that's not acceptable". Even as a dev if you're going to put something out to the public, then you have to have a certain level of playability inherent in it. If it's closed then things can be A LOT worse. The Elemental closed betas weren't even fun games, feature incomplete and were sometimes really really awful to play. By contrast a lot of Early Access is pretty polished by comparison. By virtue of having a lot of other people playing the game means the game has to be in a pretty advanced state by definition. Its going to be hard for Staem to make some kind of line in the sand other than 'is the game playable'. and even that can be subjective as DayZ is in a constant state of flux. There simply isn't any kind of checklist or test you can use to say "Yes this game is ready enough for Early Access". As such Steam will never be able to vet out games from that perspective as long as the game basically rns and doesn't blow up your computer.

How a person feels about Early Access depens on the individual. Some are inenstors. Others for their own reasons. Personally I do it for niche esoteric games that won't be made otherwise. Invisible Inc (aka Incognita) a tactical turn based 60's squad-based spy infiltration game. For me that's litereally a checklist of awesomeness. And made by Klei, makers of awesome games like Mark of the Ninja and Don't starve? Well take my money and make this game. Also I've seen many a good studio die over the decades of my gaming lifespan. Would LookingGlass still exist today if maybe I bought System Shock 2? I dunno. But I do know that I had to wait 2 decades for the spiritual successor to show up in Bioshock. Every perosn will have thier own reasons for funding via Kickstarter or Early Access. Just as it's valid for someone to say "I'll wait till it's finished". Neither method is 'wrong'. it's just 'different'.

Devs always have moderation rights (if they request it) in their discussion hubs, especially isnce steam auto-creates said hubs, it's not really fair if the devs don't have some kind of control. Note that devs just like regular mods, do have guidelines to adhere to whic hsteam outlines in their developer website. If you have an issue with moderation in a specific discusison hub, you can contact a Steam moderator, or open a support ticket. Note though that 99.99% of the time the 'omg the devs are censoring us' complaints are by and large utterly and totally overblown and legitimate complains about moderation abuse are literally in the single digits.

Users have the right to politely and construcively discuss ways to improve the game. Develoeprs WANT this feedback. thats why they're on early access. There are pros and cons to community feedback for the dev. But devs aren't interested in listening to 'yes we love you' all the time. Because they know the game isn't fnished and can always be made better. More opinions on this means that better ideas can be thought about and perhaps implemented. Note though that "Did not implement my idea" != "dev is ignoring us"

Note though HOW you say something is just as important as WHAT you say. Constructive cricisims of a game is welcome by developers. They want to know what works, wht doesn't, what is fun, and what isn't. Because a lto of times you can get tunnel vision with stuff and then realize far too late "wow this is total garbage what the hell happened". You can look at Subversion by Introversion Software, to see how maybe having community feedback could have saved or at least shown that something was going horribly wrong much earlier. If you've ever wondered "why didn't the devs notice this??" it's because when you work on something, the same thing for years, you can just accept or miss things that a new user will go "wow this is terrible wtf is going on"

Early Access will soon be a year old. While that seems like a long time, note that many games will spend 1-2 years in 'alpha/beta' even in 'normal closed' cycles. So it's hard to say whether Early Access and Kickstarter is the funding of the future or a fad. So far, it seems to be doing exactly what most games do. There's a spectrum of really awesome games, down to bad terrible ones. With most games somewhere in the middle. That's just the nature of making a game. Could things be improved? Sure. But we're not at the point of calling the experiment a bust.
Last edited by Satoru; Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:41am
Sannas Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:58am 
Hey Satoru thanks for your comments, I haven't raised any points merely posted questions as a form of conversation starter.. Not sure how your comments are relevant to the thread but thanks for informing us what developers want and what developers need, I dont recall complaining about kickstarters or early access demanding it should be demolished, or calling the experiment a bust. Maybe this part of the post escaped you "I fully support Indie developers in their efforts and I applaud them for gaining funding to allow their dreams to come to fruition"

I was when starting this thread looking for what the community felt in regards to Early access and do they believe the formula is correct or does it need altering, I don't understand what is missing from this comment that would make it clearer for you? I didn't realise by asking these questions I required a lesson on how to complain to developers, but big thanks anyway.

At the end of your post, the bit where I believed you may actually answer the initial question of Should Indie developers be scrutinised more by steam you asked this "Could things be improved? Which is what the post is about but all you could add to that was "sure", I am slightly disappointed I have to say considering that is the theme of this thread :/
Last edited by Sannas; Feb 11, 2014 @ 12:13pm
Satoru Feb 11, 2014 @ 1:32pm 
Originally posted by Sannas:
At the end of your post, the bit where I believed you may actually answer the initial question of Should Indie developers be scrutinised more by steam you asked this "Could things be improved? Which is what the post is about but all you could add to that was "sure", I am slightly disappointed I have to say considering that is the theme of this thread :/

I guess when I said that it was more with regard to the admission that no system is ever 'perfect'. I certainly am not going to claim that about Early Access. But with regards to how to improve it, I think it's better to at least come to that discussion from the perspective that developers are honest people trying their best to put out a game that people will enjoy. I don't think it's useful to approach that question from the perspective of 'protecting gamers from unscrupulous cash grabs'.

It's a bit hard to think about rules for Early Access when the flexibility of the system makes it hard to define what rules woudl be appropriate as each developer has a different idea as to what makes sense for their product.
Quin Sanguine Feb 11, 2014 @ 3:19pm 
I don't think they should be forced to take responsibility, if that is what you're asking. If you buy a car as is, if it turns out to be junk then you just made a bad choice in dealing with that car lot.

Now, it would be nice if Valve would take more responsibility on their own, whether from good will or in response to the community but when people act like Valve is objectively doing something bad with their business practice I have to disagree.

We all know what we are getting into when we buy early access or beta access games. At least we should, if people happen to be intelligent enough to research their purchase prior to making it. It's like some people need their hands to be held in the most mundane tasks in life.

It's like how people still buy games on launch day and then turn around and complain that the online functions don't work. You'd think people would learn by now to wait a while before buying.

Some people just walk through life blindly and think a capitalist company like Valve should fix mistakes that aren't theirs. Sure if they want to but if they don't, you made the purchase. Don't be a dumbass and learn from the mistake for the next time.
Last edited by Quin Sanguine; Feb 11, 2014 @ 3:23pm
Tricks Feb 11, 2014 @ 6:44pm 
Steam is a store. They sell products developed by other parties. It is not their job to police those products any more than it is the job of Walmart to make sure they aren't selling crappy off-brand potato chips. The only exception is if the product is clearly and deliberately misadvertised as something it isn't, or if it's somehow dangerous.

There's no benefit for Valve in screening the games they sell. And I'd argue that I'd rather have the option to take a chance on buying an early access game that might not be completed than simply be prevented from buying it "for my own safety."

Anyone who buys an early access game should know the risk they're taking and determine the risk vs benefit of the decison with the knowledge that the game may never be complete (by the standard which they anticipated)

It's true that there isn't any way to tell for sure that a product will live up to your expectations, no many how many reviews you read, or videos you watch, or people you ask about it. That's the reality of early access. Whether or not the reward is worth the visible risk is up to you to decide, not for Valve to decide, because it isn't sensible or feasible for them to monitor every development team that puts a game on Steam.
Jeff Kaos Feb 11, 2014 @ 11:18pm 
I'd like to see one simple rule implemented on early access titles: once a game is in early access the developers have a set time to have the game completed; maybe somewhere in the 12-24 month range. If the games isn't completed in that time it's completely removed from Steam. Right now I avoid early access games like the plague because I have no idea or gaurantee whether or not the game will ever be finished. And in the off chance I ended bying a game in early access that failed to release and was removed, well "buyer beware".
i just want this game to hurry and be back!
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Date Posted: Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:27am
Posts: 37