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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do I support unfinished games? TalkBack Challenge #2 #NBI2015

Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

I don't think it was intended but this question somewhat frames the issue on its own. I hate to use the favorite phrase of attorneys but I suppose that part of me is showing through, "It depends."

I am eager to support the developer of a game I am enjoying in its current state and the developer has big plans for (that they are reasonably likely to achieve). However, there's no way to know whether the latter is true, or whether I will enjoy said game going into its Kickstarter.

I support the idea of being able to offer money to help get a game off the ground, but like any transaction, I like to believe there is a good faith effort on the part of both parties entering into this informal agreement. The developer has to reasonably believe, and be reasonably capable, of actually delivering on their promise. As much as I love the idea behind the big Kickstarter success story, Star Citizen, the more they promise the more it looks like it might become a multimillion dollar piece of vaporware.

Which raises the issue of how Kickstarter and early access are basically becoming platforms for already reasonably established and connected developers to crowdsource their games and might be crowding (no pun intended) out newer and independent developers. Just look at the money behind the success of the Castlevania reboot Bloodstained...but that's not the talkback question.

There also lies the question of what an "unfinished" game is. I think a fair number of developers would consider their games unfinished to a degree. Maybe there was a mechanic or piece of content they wanted to add. These days games are not simply thrown out into the market, they are living things that get updated periodically. Most gaming bloggers have played or currently play MMOs, the genre where a game is constantly being improved and altered. Looking at something like WoW today versus WoW in 2004. Can we say it was "finished" when sold? The fundamentals of the game have changed so much since then that it's hard to say. Furthermore, pay-to-beta-test and F2P games have muddied the waters of when a game is actually released to the point that no one can really agree. "Release" is a word that just signals the developer realizing they can't keep using the "it's a beta" as an excuse for problems anymore.

Around we go back to the actual question. Yes, I support unfinished games, having supported and enjoyed several in recent memory; Space Engineers, Besiege, Kerbal Space Program, and Prison Architect, but all of those have received continuous support and are constantly growing. I can't say the same of all early access or Kickstarter games. On the other hand, I did not invest in any of them until I saw substance. This means it's a risk each person has to assess for themselves; weighing whether what they see and might get is worth putting down money now, bearing in mind that many Kickstarters and Early Access games flop.

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