The Early Access games that went quiet
Genre: First-person shooter
Release date: Sept. 17
Last update: No updates
The Steam community view
“This will suck if it becomes vapour ware. The Early Access/Greenlight system might need a touch up to get rid of cracks like this. Steam shouldn’t be abused, especially without some legal protection.”
“Come on guys, this game isn’t going anywhere. The devs said they are alive just to make more money so people will buy it.”
“This is not the first game in Early Access where developers have given up on the game. They simply might not have gotten enough funding to finish the game. And its a risk we all take with Early Access. I’m fine with whichever way this game goes.”
The developer response
“Final Rush is still very much in development,” Luke Regan, design director at Strike Games, told GamesBeat via email, “and getting very close to an update release.”
Steam gamers are right to jump to conclusions, said Regan, as “indie game companies often pull a switcheroo on them.” He said this isn’t the case with Final Rush: “We literally had to rebuild the — entire — game with only two people. While we’re nearing completion, it’s still a few weeks out.”
Regan explained that he had been fairly silent on updates as there wasn’t much to tell. “Gamers would feel just as disenfranchised if every week we told them it was just a few more weeks.”
Since contacting Regan, he has actively engaged with the Steam community more, posting four written updates in the past few weeks. However, he doesn’t expect to the game to be a commercial success despite his best efforts.
“At the moment the only reason we’re working on the game at all is to not disappoint the fans and the customers who’ve already bought it,” he said. “Seeing as the game was bought by barely a thousand people, all the money it made went directly back into its unexpected rebuild; and is only enough to barely pay one programmer. In my case I’m not even taking any pay so as to maximize the funds available to the rebuild.
“It’s coming — it’s just a very intensive process; one which is nearing completion.”
Genre: Turn-based dungeon crawler
Release Date: Oct. 25
Last update: Feb. 6
The Steam community view
“Wait till this game is finished! 2 updates I think since its been out and devs always saying next week, or later this week. Save your money and get another game till this one is finished. Devs like these give Early Access a bad name.”
“Stay away from this. Last update came on February 6, now it’s May 7. No status updates, no content updates, game received like TWO updates AT ALL ever since it came on Steam as early access.While I enjoy the concept, I don’t appreciate developers who take people’s money for an unfinished product and then run away with it.”
“It’s not unreasonable to expect updates or progress reports from an Early Access game (especially one that customers have paid for) regardless of who is working on it — you think this is the only game being developed by one person?”
The developer response
“Yes, the comments are justified,” said Dungeon Dashers developer Andrew Sum via email.
“I can try to justify the lack of updates on the game by saying that I’m a 23-year-old developer programming and designing game by myself. I’m also a part-time student, studying a master’s [degree in] software engineering. I spent a lot of last week working on an assignment for my cloud computing class. Most of March was taken up by preparing for and attending GDC. Then there’s emails like this that I respond to daily and all of the other stuff that goes into running a business.”
Sum admitted that, whatever the reasons, he just isn’t putting enough time into Dungeon Dashers. “And I am embarrassed about that,” he told me. “I want this game done as much as the players. Many people expect that I am working on this game all day, every day, and that’s probably not an unreasonable expectation to have. But, as I mentioned, I’m doing other things at the same time, and that’s not in line with what people expect.”
Sum explained that when Early Access first came out nobody knew how the Steam community would react. “Expectations for players and developers have changed over time,” he said, “and not all games fit the Early Access model.”
What does work?
“Procedural and sandbox games with emergent gameplay suit it best,” he added. “Dungeon Dashers has a linear structure with discrete levels, and that is another thing that makes it hard to release frequent updates.
Sum recommends that developers who are slow on updates should not ignore players and their questions.
“The best that I can do is to be transparent with all communication,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always tried to do. People are always welcome to ask me questions, as you did today.”