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Early Access vs "one shot"

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On one hand, early access or a public beta release can provide many benefits; feedback that can be very beneficial when provided earlier in development, potential funding, bug testing, publicity... etc. On the other hand, Eminem said "you only get one shot", and releasing a game/software too early can damage its image irrecoverably maybe. Determining if it's "too early" for public release or not can be tricky. What are your thoughts on this subject? Has anyone had experience with early access here?

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>>  potential funding

 

strikes me as rather desperate means of funding development.  probably not a good idea to rely on early access sales to fund the project.

 

>> bug testing

 

you should find all the bugs yourself before showing it to others - especially paying customers on whose word of mouth advertising and reviews your game's entire future might hinge.

 

you know the old saying, "you only get one chance to make a good first impression".    Eminem's saying is simply restating this old adage in different terms.   

 

possibly getting feedback when you're at a loss for design solutions or otherwise unsure exactly who your target audience is or exactly what they want (which is general is not a good place to be) seems to be the best use for early access (other than ripping people off).

 

actually, publicity is the best use. but the game should be in nearly gone gold condition to make a good first impression. when its close to gone gold, early access to generate buzz makes good business sense, assuming its commercially viable (as Microsoft loves to say).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Early Access could allow development to be community driven and gauge player feedback which could tell you if you're going in the right direction or not.

My model is a hybrid of Early Access and episodic, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

But with regards to funding, you'll likely get peanuts until the game is finished and you have gathered a big following already. So don't rely on sales to fund the game.

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I've never released a game in early access, but I have once released open source software pre version 1.0 that wasn't ready for prime time.

I wanted to get it out to the world and get some feedback, others in the team didn't want to release yet.

The software was so buggy it damaged the softwares reputation and it took from 1.0 to 1.2 to get that back (a space of four whole years).

Tread carefully releasing anything you're not 100% happy for others to see.

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I've never released a game in early access, but I have once released open source software pre version 1.0 that wasn't ready for prime time.

I wanted to get it out to the world and get some feedback, others in the team didn't want to release yet.

The software was so buggy it damaged the softwares reputation and it took from 1.0 to 1.2 to get that back (a space of four whole years).

Tread carefully releasing anything you're not 100% happy for others to see.

 

I have a feeling that end users expect Early Access products to be more buggy and less complete than public beta? Solid advice though, thank you!

 

@Envy123: How far away from the beginning of development (or from release) do you release for early access?

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I have a feeling that end users expect Early Access products to be more buggy and less complete than public beta? Solid advice though, thank you!

 

From what I have heard, this just isn't true.

 

Common sense would tell anyone, even a user without much technical background, that "early access" could probably mean "not finished yet"... which could translate into "maybe bugs are not fixed yet?"...

 

 

Generally, when people pay money for something, they at least expect a product that works without bugs. Product needs to be EXTREMLY awesome that most people live with the bugs for now (some will still take to the wild wild web to whine about bugs in an early access game). Even then, you just set yourself up with a ticking timebomb as the longer these bugs are not fixed, the more awesome your game needs to be to keep your customers from complaining.

 

 

Don't forget to see it from your customers PoV: They bought your game because it looks awesome. They might not even be aware its in early access (how many people read the EULA? There are still many that do not read the full store page before clicking buy... expect some to miss the early access sign).

They didn't hand over the money to fund the development of your game, or to help you alpha/beta test your product. They certainly didn't pay for the game to let it collect dust for another 6 months in their Steam library, waiting for the game to be finished.

 

They payed to have fun, and to have fun now!

 

Is your game fun to play now? Is the expierience hampered by bugs, or so incomplete the game is not giving players the fun the final game will? If the answers is no, yes, and/or yes again, then forget about early access for now. The little bit of funding you might receive will not make up for the negativity you are likely earning.

 

 

If your game is already awesome, but you plan to make it more awesome in the next few months, early access might be for you. But even then, why not just release a v 1.0 and v1.1 later?

 

 

 

Sure, you might find people that are more interested in the actual PROCESS of development, or want to get involved in it, either by testing your game or providing feedback. But do your really need early access for that? Why not use your greenlight page, or kickstarter community to communicate and build a community that you can talk to? There are other ways to distribute demos and early builds than steam, and you probably shouldn't ask people to hand over money for those (unless you want to see if people would be willing to do that, and then Kickstarter sounds like a more sensible means to test the viability of your idea).

Edited by Gian-Reto

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A lot of users expect a game beta to be like the betas often put out by AAA studios - a pr stunt, near complete and tested game. What they're expecting is that all the bugs will be ironed out and that they're using the release simply as marketing.

If your own game is that complete then the early access approach might work for you, otherwise statistically it isn't going to be as successful as you expect.

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I've never released a game in early access, but I have once released open source software pre version 1.0 that wasn't ready for prime time.

I wanted to get it out to the world and get some feedback, others in the team didn't want to release yet.

The software was so buggy it damaged the softwares reputation and it took from 1.0 to 1.2 to get that back (a space of four whole years).

Tread carefully releasing anything you're not 100% happy for others to see.

 

I have a feeling that end users expect Early Access products to be more buggy and less complete than public beta? Solid advice though, thank you!

 

@Envy123: How far away from the beginning of development (or from release) do you release for early access?

 

 

I've released my first episode 2 months in development which had the basics done and the actual USP (Unique Selling Point). I wasn't sure of the direction that would appeal to players so I bit the bullet and released it.

 

On the plus side, I got coffee money and the feedback needed to make this good game into a great one come launch. On the down side, I lost some potential customers when doing so.

 

A disadvantage of doing a "one shot" is that you can spend a lot of time making a game and could risk it ending up with "sorry, this is boring" from consumers when you show it in the middle of development. I wasn't willing to take the "one shot" risk, so I took the early access risk and I'm glad I did so. :)

 

[The first episode was polished with the only "bug" being the slightly wonky camera, though, and a decent amount of content.]

Edited by Envy123

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