Discourse Dojo: Early Access

Ninjustin here! Our latest podcast  covers the subject of “early access games” and many different concerns relating to it. We bring up Don’t Starve, Crypt of the NecroDancer, Sunless Sea, Invisible, Inc., and others that I don’t feel like linking to. We also reference this very relevant video by George Weidman.

Direct download (ogg)
Direct download (mp3)

Note from Ninjustin:

First of all, sorry it took so long to upload this. I was considering whether I should leave in or take out that part Jarenth told me not to listen to. I mean, the part I didn’t listen to. What did he say there? I didn’t listen to it.

I’ve heard people say, “Games are never finished — they’re abandoned.” The idea is that from a dev’s standpoint, there are always things you can add or alter in your game, and unlike books or movies, you can alter it after its release. So the point when a game’s development is over isn’t really when there’s “nothing left to add,” it’s when you’ve decided to stop adding.

I can agree with that argument in a semantic sense, but in this context, it’s kind of a red herring. When people say they don’t buy early access because they want a “finished game” most of them don’t mean they want a game that will never be updated again. They mean they want a game that feels fleshed out enough to have its desired appeal, regardless of what might be added or changed in the future. Obviously there’s some subjectivity there, but many early access games have definitely crossed the line into territory that most gamers wouldn’t hesitate to call unfinished.

Also, I don’t know why but I repeated the word “precisely” and the phrase “… don’t know how to deal with that” too many times. Sorry about that.

Jibe from Jarenth:

Yeah, that’s what you’re gonna get from leaving a podcast to lie fallow for a while: new thoughts. Or, in my case, largely forgetting what was brought up.

It’s worth noting that in the time between recording this podcast and releasing it, Sunless Sea has revealed its actual release date. So if you were at all interested in playing it, but still on the fence about the whole Early Access thing… ceteris paribus, you should be good to go in Februari 2015. I, for one, am looking forward.

That whole ‘I’m busy folding things’ angle wasn’t a joke, either. Look at the cool paper shapes I made while podcasting:



DO as the heart COMMANDS!

DO as the heart COMMANDS!

In fact, you know what? I’m making that second heart the header image for this podcast. And Justin can’t even stop me.

And if you want to learn to make them yourself? I got you covered.


  1. Now the post is up I am going to copy and paste my youtube comment here!

    Early access is definitely a hard problem, I agree that anything that is being sold as a product definitely should be open for criticism, I guess the important thing to do when reviewing it is to not the date and state that you are reviewing the game as it was at that time, acknowledging that it may or may not have changed significantly. I feel entirely comfortable about not recommending people buy a game that is currently incomplete. This can happen even with fully released games that receive significant updates and tweaks via patches.

    But yeah, early access is a thing I struggle with too, I am currently doing a Massive Chalice lets play and I feel kind of obligated to try to ensure I am showing off the most recent version of the game, so that patches and changes are represented, but at the same time I am really worried that a patch that breaks saves will completely stop the series party way through. Even with that model I am already at a point where my game is no longer possible to replicate, the changes in the most recent patch would make it basically impossible for anyone to build out and tech up the way I did because buildings are now much more expensive.

  2. I personally have had a great Early Access experience in the form of Kerbal Space Program. I bought into the game long before there were any missions, or any semblance of structured gameplay, but nevertheless had a lot of fun. The important thing here is that the mechanics are solid, and lend themselves to sandboxesque, player-driven play. At first you’re merely trying to get a rocket to move without exploding; eventually you end up trying to orbit a super-satellite around a distant planet’s moon, or some more wacky scenario. I began to lose some interest after (checks Steam) 35 hours, and decided i would wait for full release before playing further. Even if I never go back, i feel I got enough fun out of KSP to warrant the £18 it cost at the time.

    Oh, and if we’re allowed to request paper monstrosities, a little papier-mâché Cthulhu would be wonderful/horrifying.

    1. You can request whatever you want, but whether or not I can actually make it depends entirely on my origami skills. And I don’t even *have* any paper glue right now.

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