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Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Bowley » Sat Jul 12, 2014 12:45 am

For better or worse, it's here to stay, Crowdfunding is a legitimate way to get a game made. Buoyed by the hopes and dreams (and money) of desperate fans and people looking for something original, developers of past and present martial the resources of the internet black hole to resurrect "mostly dead" genres and bring new ideas to life. What if the game is a turd? What if they take your money and buy a boat instead?

On the other hand, there's Early Access, where paying a price for the privilege of playing a game while it's still in development, has become just as prevalent, often in tandem with crowdfunding. Sure, it keeps the lights on for the creators, but who knows if the game will ever be completed?

Choose wisely.

What have YOU chosen, Squaddies? What have you helped will into existence with your cold, hard cash? What hopes are you keeping alive? What specific project(s) are you still scanning the horizon for? What unfinished games are you watching grow up, before your very eyes? Lastly, feel free to evangelize and bring to our attention any game, in either model, that you think is interesting.

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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Alex Connolly » Sat Jul 12, 2014 4:50 am

Have only had good experiences with Early Access, but that's because I seem to be scrupulous in my choices. It has me puzzled, though, as I keep hearing all these tales of woe but have yet to see such flouncing of trust and cash in anything other than a few odd crafting games - games I've not touched. The only borderline average purchase was Starforge, and that was merely on the basis of the tech, rather than the game. Voxel engine-powered and independent physics governing everything within. More a guilty slice of frivolousness than anything else.

Some games I've bought into/alpha-funded/Early Accessed...

Cortex Command, Frozen Synapse, Frozen Endzone, Invisible Inc., Spintires, Endless Space, Endless Legend, Dungeon of the Endless, The Red Solstice, MAV, Next Car Game, Jagged Alliance Flashback, Deep Space Settlement, ARMA Tactics, Brigador, CONSORTIUM, Drunken Robot Pornography, Full Bore, Ground Pounders, Interstellar Marines, Kenshi, Men of War: Assault Squad 2, Monaco, Overgrowth, Planetary Annihilation, RUNNING WITH RIFLES, Sir, You Are Being Hunted, Spacebase DF-9, Starpoint Gemini 2, Take On Mars, Ultimate General Gettysburg, Unclaimed World, Under the Ocean, Void Destroyer etc. etc.

I'd call most of that stuff massively promising and already in terrific shape. Do I care some things aren't finished? No, and in fact, every update feels like a new slice of DLC - which is pure psychology, but I dearly love seeing these games go from raw and basic to spit-shined and released. Next Car Game, right now, is the best racing experience I've had in YEARS, beating the pants of triple A snooze-fests like the new NFS titles.

The games above are untouched by suits or publisher silliness. If they ARE being published by anyone other than the developer - such as Iceberg Interactive with Amplitude - then there's little to no observable fingerprints. In fact, as an anecdote, I've seen better handling of DLC - primarily free - with Early Access titles post-release than the big guns. No shitty behaviour, just honest and frank.

I think this is an inherently good thing about Early Access. A direct consumer-developer relationship, and accountability. It breeds responsible development, allows for crowd-sourced QA and bug-busting, as well as sew congeniality that runs counter to the usual toxicity of online interaction.

Anyway, immediate recommendation?

Image

Really digging this one. I'll be back to link you up some further impressions I'm penning for Coffeebreak Gaming, but in the meantime [impressions now LIVE], if the idea of Doom mating with Diablo in a shower of dark technical military sci-fi causes a stirring in the loins, then The Red Solstice is an easy sell. Feature complete, lots of fun, short and sharp co-op missions for those willing. 14 bucks will snag two copies until the 22nd of this month.
Last edited by Alex Connolly on Sun Jul 13, 2014 2:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Angry Jedi » Sat Jul 12, 2014 10:59 am

I've supported a couple of Kickstarters -- only one of which (Broken Age) has borne fruit so far and which, I must confess, I'm actually yet to play. The trouble with Kickstarter stuff, for me anyway, is that by the time they roll around I'm... not actually all that interested any more. Perhaps I will be at some point -- I'm sure Broken Age is just fine -- but I didn't really feel that sense of building excitement for some reason.

I've supported a few Early Access titles, either with my own cold, hard, cash or with coverage when I worked in the games press. Here, I'm somewhat in two minds about things. I like having something tangible which I can get my hands on right now -- and in the case of titles that have a hefty degree of polish before releasing on Early Access, such as Endless Space, Endless Legend, Dungeon of the Endless (vive la Amplitude!) and Assault Android Cactus, they're fully playable and enjoyable games in their own right. Meanwhile, it's nice to see stuff like Next Car Game and Carmageddon come together, but I tend to find myself playing them for just a few minutes, then putting them down until the next big update comes. And at the other end of the spectrum, there's stuff like Maia, which is full of promise, but which the initial Early Access release was so limited, buggy and, frankly, rubbish that I've been put off from going back until the full game is out.

I think on balance I tend to prefer Early Access, but in 2014 I'm not hugely enamoured with either of them, personally, even though I know there are good examples of both. Call it selfishness, but I'd much rather hand my cash over and have a finished game to play. I'm not saying neither should exist, not by any means, but more that they're just not models that particularly work for me.
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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Alex Connolly » Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:48 pm

Specifically for Bowls...

The upcoming Naval Action (wooden ships and iron men etc.) isn't on any sort of EA or crowd-funding platform yet - probably will hit the former, same publisher as Ultimate General - but I just found a fleet battle video that makes AssCreed ship battles feel like the surface-level flash-Harry that it is...



Early Access ASAP. Need this in arteries, veins and capillaries.
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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Rory Taylor » Tue Jul 15, 2014 12:54 am

Old school curmudgeon checking in. I don't like Early Access. No sir, I don't like it at all. I view it as a company hedging their bets on their game with no actual promise that they'll continue on with it once they receive the influx of cash from selling an unfinished product. At the same time conditioning the buying public to accept broken and buggy games with the catch-all built in excuse: Early Access. Now, I'm being a bit overly cynical here, because there have been some really great games in Early Access like Kerbal and Rust, but I just don't want this to become the status quo for PC game development. Maybe I'm just behind the times and this is how things get done moving forward, especially by mid-tier publishers. And hey, if people are aware they could be buying an unoptimized, janky, save corrupting mess of a product, who am I to tell them not to?

I view Kickstarter a little differently, mainly because at least the company is bound to deliver to you what they promised or you get a refund on your "donation". I personally haven't funded any games through Kickstarter, but that is primarily due to my own laziness. There seems to have been some successful games that have come from crowd funding (Broken Age, Shovel Knight, The Banner Saga).
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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Angry Jedi » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:24 am

Rory Taylor wrote:Old school curmudgeon checking in. I don't like Early Access. No sir, I don't like it at all. I view it as a company hedging their bets on their game with no actual promise that they'll continue on with it once they receive the influx of cash from selling an unfinished product. At the same time conditioning the buying public to accept broken and buggy games with the catch-all built in excuse: Early Access. Now, I'm being a bit overly cynical here, because there have been some really great games in Early Access like Kerbal and Rust, but I just don't want this to become the status quo for PC game development. Maybe I'm just behind the times and this is how things get done moving forward, especially by mid-tier publishers. And hey, if people are aware they could be buying an unoptimized, janky, save corrupting mess of a product, who am I to tell them not to?

I view Kickstarter a little differently, mainly because at least the company is bound to deliver to you what they promised or you get a refund on your "donation". I personally haven't funded any games through Kickstarter, but that is primarily due to my own laziness. There seems to have been some successful games that have come from crowd funding (Broken Age, Shovel Knight, The Banner Saga).


I think that's the core objection for a lot of people -- the worry that it will become the norm for PC gaming. Thankfully, I don't think that will happen, because there are still plenty of genres for which Early Access simply isn't appropriate. It works for stuff like Rust and Kerbal because those are modular, expandable games that are designed in such a way that they can grow over time. For something more story-based, though -- an adventure game or visual novel, say -- Early Access is not a good model, since those are the sorts of experiences you want to be coherent and finished by the time you play them.

I'm in two minds about stuff like Wasteland 2, though. Being an RPG, Wasteland 2 falls into the story-heavy category, but its non-linear, more freeform nature also means it can potentially fall into the modular category, too. Personally speaking, I still wouldn't drop the cash on it until it's finished, but I know some people are having fun with the early version. Same with Divinity 2; I wouldn't have dreamed of picking up the Early Access version unless I was still working in the games press and wanted to write a preview on it, but now that it's out I'm much more inclined to consider it.

I do think it's a fascinating idea for gaming enthusiasts in principle in that you can actually see a game improving, growing and changing as the developers continue to work on it. But speaking as a consumer and watching the pennies, you're taking a big risk with Early Access games. Perhaps not quite as big a risk as with Kickstarter, since with Early Access you're at least getting something you can install and play right now, but still a risk that you'll never see the finished product, nonetheless.
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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Alex Connolly » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:57 am

I dunno. This talk of Early Access being some Trojan Horse for deceitful game development, one which leaves the consumer in limbo with a half-made bugfest and the studio responsible over the horizon, always seems like it exists on fumes. Big publishers have been far more complicit in releasing turgid games that never see the post-release attention they deserve, leaving consumers holding a bungled misfire, an undoubtedly shuttered studio, and the only recourse is hoping you get enough trade-in value to cover half the cost of the next purchase. And that's a physical copy, too. Forget about the lack of recourse in the digital sphere, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

I've never actually put a fish in a kettle.

Early Access does, as Pete suggests, suit specific types of games more than others. I generally don't play RPGs these days at all, so I can't comment on the EA version of Divinity, but for modular games and abstracted or vacuum-system games? Perfect. Small, self-publishing developers can get the feedback they need to locate problem areas, trial new concepts, use the forums - be it on Steam or elsewhere (this thread does include alpha buy-ins on independent sites; Desura etc.) - to discuss upcoming mechanics or patches...

...not only the development side of things, but the PR side seems to be very convivial, which only helps a small developer who doesn't have the marketing budget and relies on word-of-mouth for a large proportion of their exposure. Coupling that with a lower cost of entry - only the largest of the large vanity projects seem to draw in the console game pricing for a WIP - and you've got developers who don't really showcase the kind of suspicious behaviour that we see out of sneaky or business-first dickhead antics in the Triple A sphere. I've only seen and talked to developers who are grateful to be there.

But it's indeed a horses for courses affair. This thread, the TOFT blokes, and elsewhere, largely agree that Early Access is a bit of a blight.

Personally, I find the entire process - the insight it provides - as enriching as shelling out for a finished game. The gaming trail for niche-as-all-buggery development is my spectator sport. Seeing some Russian mob put together a Napoleonic era naval game with the kind of attention to detail that'd otherwise be beveled out by some Triple A publisher committee? That's speaking directly to an audience, and an audience waving wads of cash in jovial patronage.

And interestingly enough, the process on Steam Early Access never gets enough credit for having the Greenlight system. Community-based voting. It largely sorts the wheat from the chaff, and even if questionable content slithers through the sieve, the EA user impressions are very quick to deter the slightly scrupulous consumer.

I always feel like I'm selling Early Access like some sort of shill, but I've only had great experiences and gratifying interaction with the developers. People like Ian Hardingham of Mode 7 Games have said the same positive things about Early Access. It's a good model for studio project funding, it provides transparency for both consumer and developer (something you never get with Triple A, yet they'll force blind preorders at every turn), and generally helps to make a better game.
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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Bowley » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:35 pm

A lot of good points, you guys. Not every game is good for the early access model and it's definitely true, Alex, that buying a product from a big publisher, especially at release, is no guarantee of a complete product. At least with early access there's always something you can play from the get go, whether or not it goes in a direction you like is a different story.

Personally, I'm definitely not down on funding through early access, I'm just very choosy, and also cheap. Currently, I'm sitting on Kerbal Space program and Ultimate General: Gettysburg. Natural Selection 2 and Minecraft have since been "released" and I don't regret either of them. Lower prices for early access make it easy, too.

I'm the same way with Kickstarters as I have only backed Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, and uncharacteristically pretty deeply into Star Citizen ($130ish). There's a bevy of exciting projects out there, I probably would have backed, Kingdom Come, Lacuna Passageor Obduction, for instance, but I'll stick to this bunch and see how they pan out.

Anyway, Alex you definitely are the king of the indie scene. An age of sail game by the Ultimate General guys? Fascinating, I'm all aboard masted ship broadsides, but I'm getting sick of being chained to the wind. Howabout a post sail, pre-flight naval battle simulator? Battle of Tsushima, dreadnoughts, Jutland, has this ever been done in a non super grognardian way?

Also, I saw this while I was researching Stardock's acquiring of Star Control - apparently they're publishing Soren Johnson's (Civ IV) new economic real time strategy game, Offworld Trading Company. It's in a pre-early acces stage right now, nothing to see yet, but it sounds very anti combat, which is very interesting, but who knows if that will hold up. Maybe Praxus Mining Inc. will make a return some day? http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/05/civ-iv-designer-takes-rts-in-a-new-direction-with-offworld-trading-company/

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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Beige » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:55 pm

Oh boy. Well, as my empirical data will now demonstrate, I am definitely the sucker bullseye audience for Kickstarter and Crowdfunding. There's a purity in "I give you money, you give me finished game" which you do not get with Early Access.

I guess I am coolly positive towards Early Access as an abstract concept (this is the price of having 'weird stuff') but I HATE what it's done to the pace of video game releases. Everything on Steam is for sale but not DONE yet, NNnnngggh!! This has a profound effect on gaming's ecosystem.

My wife and I want to play Prison Architect for example, but we do not want to KEEP playing Prison Architect in progressively less and less shitty iterations as it evolves. We want to purchase a game called "Prison Architect" which is feature complete, play it through to completion and enjoy it. It seems however the Darwinia guys have absolutely zero interest in letting us do this at the moment. The Darwinia guys, rather, enjoy eating 'food' while milking their golden goose as long as someone is paying their tab and to taff around poking at their pie, tinkering until I turn into Rip Van Winkle while Prison Architect sits there forlornly in my Steam queue, unplayed. Sub in Hand of Fate or Kerbal Space Program or whatever in this box. The Forest. Awesome games that will become more awesome the second you decide to punch out of them. It's a cocktease from end to end is what it is.

It reminds me of the shift we've seen in book publishing. Nobody wants to release... you know... "a novel" anymore. It's all Book 6 in an Epic Octrillogy George RR Martin Shit. I get that writers need to eat too and that everybody takes their contract cues from cellphone lock-ins but... fuck Game of Thrones style genre fiction. Everybody spends so long grasping at the sure thing that once they nail something that people actually want to pay for they'll just suckle that teat until it's dry as a bone. You wrote one book. Go out and write another that's completely different, you slackers. Trying to imagine Steven King getting rich in 2014 writing Pet Semetary VII.

There's a place for Minecraft, sure. But this paradigm has grave implications for anything that isn't an infinitely extendible unfolding origami box. Nobody will create narrative games anymore. Nobody will create a game that is self-contained because once it's done then your nest egg evaporates.

Kickstarter makes much more sense. You have crazy, encapsulated, 'finishable' idea. I pay you money to realize this vision. At the end of the day, you give me videogame. I patron, you artist. Moreover, Kickstarter appears to naturally lend itself to exactly the sort of shortform games I am into right now. Every Kickstarter game I've played (backed or not) so far has been:

a) Awesome
b) Conceptually daring
c) Surprisingly well executed considering the small teams involved
d) Fairly short

Sometimes like the Banner Saga you get a game which is a hair too short... sometimes you get Among the Sleep. How much can you really explore in the vein of Toddler Horror beyond the first 5 hours? Brothers is the best game I played last year and it was like 4 hours long.

Here is my list. As you can see, I put my money where my mouth is.


#ACTIVE!
SUNSET - a first person videogame thriller
Twin Souls: The Path of Shadows

#FUDNED
The Way
Amplitude
Frog Fractions 2
La-Mulana 2
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians
Project Rain World
Kanga: Finally! An Aussie meat pie shop in Toronto
The Mandate
Cosmic Star Heroine (Sci-Fi/Spy RPG) for PC/Mac/PS4/Vita
THE LONG DARK, a first-person post-disaster survival sim
VIDEO GAMES LIVE: LEVEL 3! Game Composers of the World UNITE
Mighty No. 9
2013: The Last Halloween
Double Fine's MASSIVE CHALICE
TUG
Among the Sleep
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Barkley 2 - an RPG Sequel to Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden
Shadowgate
Project Eternity
Castle Story
Penny Arcade Sells Out
Republique by Camouflaj + Logan

#NOT FUNDED
Raindrop
AMBROV X: A Story-Driven, Science Fiction RPG
The Realm Game
Legend of the Time Star: A Retro Action RPG
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Re: Hope Springs Eternal - Crowdfund / Early Access Thread

by Alex Connolly » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:28 pm

Bowls, I am dying to know more about Soren Johnson's new project, but would love to see a screenshot or two. The idea is fascinating...a kind of sci-fi corporate Annon-esque? He was on 3MA the other week and spoke about the combat being market-based, engineering all sorts of undercutting and the like to sink competitors. I hope it's as fluid as he made it out to be.

We've had a couple of Dreadnought era games that aren't abstracted hex-based games (War Plan Orange being the one I played), but they're kinda...hmmm. Tsushima Strait would have to be done well to be fun from the Russian side, with some artistic license had.

I've not tried the Ironclads series, but in their raw form, they might be your best bet.

-----

At the end of the day, I don't think people are going to Early Access to make/buy their adventure games. But if studios like Bugbear or Bohemia Interactive fund their big projects there, replete with the sounding boards of willing consumers that know these are games that are driven by a multitude of layered mechanics, mechanics that need testing and tweaking, then I am all for it.

Beige, take for example The Mandate. That's a game I'm yet to see anything truly of, and would much rather fund an EA version of, rather than work on the belief the massive scope they're going for won't end up a Sword of the Stars II debacle.

I do think each funding model lends itself to specific genres, but let's not beat around the bush. One form is funding a pitch. The other, a tangible WIP. Both don't imply an end product that will be necessarily good. And in summary, it's up to preference and scrupulous consumers to seek out the most convincing of options and offerings.
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