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DayZ’s been in Early Access for over a year now — with another year to go — and its producer thinks a lack of clarity in Steam’s funding platform is key to players’ frustrations.

Nearly 3 million people have paid up to $30 for access to a development build of the multiplayer zombie-survival game since December 2013 — via Steam, the world’s largest gaming platform — essentially paying to help test the game as it grows. Developer Bohemia Interactive recently announced that the finished game won’t release until 2016, though — with a $60 price tag at launch — and many players are frustrated with the long development cycle that they’re now a part of. It’s a frustration that DayZ’s producer, Brian Hicks, understands, but he blames the confusing nature of Steam’s Early Access platform.

“I feel that there’s no structure to Early Access, and every developer uses it in a different way and enters at a different phase in their development,” Hicks told Eurogamer. “And the consumers — you can’t blame them for not understanding because in order to make heads or tails out of the fact that everyone’s doing this different, you need to understand the software development cycle completely. And gamers play f***ing video games, man — they’re not looking to understand the SDL [Simple DirectMedia Layer — a cross-platform development library] or how software is created, and they shouldn’t have to, honestly.”

Hicks thinks that Early Access should have a series of milestones that make it clearer to gamers how development is progressing.

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“Say there are six defined, common milestones,” he said. “When you enter your game in Early Access, you tell people which one you’re at so they understand where in the development cycle — where in the game’s life cycle — you are.

“And when you update your game, you update your progression. There needs to be almost like a f***ing loading bar in a video game — there needs to be a bar of progression that consumers can see as you develop how close you are to your release. So at the very least, consumers understand where the game is, how far the game is from being shipped, and what the word ‘alpha’ means for that title.”

As for DayZ, Hicks insists Bohemia Interactive never promised it would ship earlier than 2016: “I’m fairly certain we never committed to a ship date. In fact, from the get-go, we told people this was going to be a two-point-five to three-year development cycle. Three years would be standard, but we’re going to try and hit two-and-a-half years, and that would put us in 2016.

“But apparently, I need to stand on the mountain tops and send out a press release for that to germinate. This is the problem: It’s very difficult to get this information to your active user base, let alone those who haven’t bought the game. I’ve got a user base of nearly 3 million people, and it’s incredibly difficult to make sure they get the information they need in the time they need.”

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