Respawn: The Dissatisfaction of a Purchasable Alpha

Posted Mon, Dec 30, 2013 by Xerin

Respawn

I hope everyone had a most excellent holidays. Respawn will resume our Mon / Wed / Fri posting for your enjoyment.

When it comes to crowdfunding, I almost want to become an expert at this point. A story came up recently about how crowdfunding doesn’t help the industry. I’ve sort of said the same thing before, even in this column, because it introduces “buying into the alpha.” Now, this is the part we’re going to touch on today.

I do not enjoy the idea of buying into an alpha and realistically, a beta. I do not feel like sourcing money from selling access to a highly unfinished product that for all intents and purposes could or could not be the final build (depending on the translation of alpha).

Before we continue, some alphas are a ok, a great example is “Minecraft” and similar voxel based games (like Trove). The reasoning is that the core mechanics (building stuff with blocks) is usually completed first, meaning that the game at least has that going for it.

Anyway, back on topic, the reason buying into an alpha isn’t the best idea is that it sells an unfinished product under the delusion that you are “donating.” If the game is free-to-play, you are paying money for a game that doesn’t cost anything in order to play a incomplete and unfun version of it. If the game has a retail price, you’re effectively preordering it before anyone has a chance to pay it.

For the devout true believers, this is fine - no harm, no foul. For those who are desiring the actual product and not the idea, it’s a different story. A lot of times the unfinished game will be presented to them and they’ll go and lambaste the quality of it because I mean, Internet right?

The hard part is that people are selfish. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. Saying Humanity is perfect is well… difficult, if not impossible, in my opinion. There are a lot of people with the mentality that if they buy something, if money changes hands, the product that they acquire is theirs now and it should meet the code.

That’s why games like Minecraft did so well, because they’re the Lego builders of the gaming world. You throw down blocks, stuff is made, people have fun, and everything else is gravy. That’s also why games like Prison Architect have gotten some heat, especially early on, and have to have an aggressive development / update cycle to keep interest going.

Prison Architect is a good example of where the early alpha completely and totally ruined a lot of people’s view of the game. The current version is nothing similar to the earliest of the alphas, but that bad taste of basically a non-game non-simulator is in some people’s mouths still. You load a game up, play it a bit, and going back and going through the same motions just isn’t some person’s cup of tea.

I’m sure I’ll have more to discuss on this topic in the weeks and months to come, but I just wanted to touch base on the idea that maybe early alpha access isn’t that great of an idea and maybe there has always been a reason for alpha applications, heavy filtering, and only allowing testers to play until a game is more complete.

Gamers need longer attention span and more patience. We waited how long on Duke Nukem? That’s what I’m leaving you with this Monday. See you Wednesday!

Duke Nukem

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