Steam recently announced a new program called Steam Early Access that allows developers to make in-development games available to the community to purchase and play. This allows developers to get feedback on the games in order to make needed changes. The community can also interact with each other in terms of talking about the games they are playing and what they liked and didn’t like. This way the developers can work together with the community throughout the development process to update the game and record bug reports. My question is, isn’t this just like beta?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Steam. I’ve been a loyal user to Steam for years now ever since I was introduced to it my freshman year of college. I guess the real different between being enrolled in a free beta and the Steam Early Access program is that with Steam Early Access, you get a more in-depth look at the game for a longer period of time and you get the chance to see it updated and changed. And with those updates and changes, you as the user get to decide if it’s good enough. In a way, Early Access gives the community more power and more of a voice than what happens with beta games.
You can find the Early Access section under Games in the Steam Store. Some of the games currently in Early Access are Arma 3 Alpha, Kerbal Space Program, Insurgency, Kinetic Void, Under the Ocean and more. You can purchase these games to play them, which is one of the reasons I have not taken part in Early Access. You watch the game evolve as the developer updates the game in response to feedback and you follow this progress all the way up until the final product. If purchased in the beginning stages, you will still have the game in your library when it reaches the final stages. My concern is what if I find I don’t like the game at all? Then I would’ve bought a game that turned out to not be my style and I’m stuck with it. That’s just the pessimist speaking.
Regardless if you like the game or not, your feedback and voice can still be a huge part of the development process and greatly affect the turnout of the final product. Having that kind of power feels, well, great! In betas I always feel like I am not sure if the developers are really reading my feedback, or if it’s important enough to be heard. If you don’t like the Early Access game you purchased, tell the developer why and how they can improve it. How many other programs do you get to do that?
Steam Early Access has its flaws, as with any other program, but I think it is a step in the right direction. Getting the community more involved with the development process of games helps developers cater to what the players desire. This is a smart step in development. It’s almost as if the players are creating the game they want. This greatly satisfies us as players and we feel like our voices are finally being heard. Steam Early Access is one step closer to a future of gaming where developer and player can work hand in hand.