View Full Version : Alpha early access?

01-17-2018, 03:25 PM
I'm seriously thinking of starting Early Access for the hardcore game sooner than usual, basically at an alpha level instead of the normal, for us, beta level. At least for my purposes here, alpha means very playable but lots of features and assets are not done yet. Beta means a few features left to do, but all assets are done.

The reason why I'm thinking this, is that it's going to be a while before we have all of the assets to get into beta, but the game is already pretty playable. So I could get gameplay feedback much sooner. Also, I really enjoy betas/Early Access which is why we have been doing them before Early Access was a thing. :) Getting immediate feedback on things as they progress is much more enjoyable and easier than working in a vacuum for a long period of time and then getting overwhelming feedback all at once. I also like you all getting a real chance to impact the direction of the game.

If I go this route, we would probably start Early Access in the next month or two. It is likely to only be on Steam during Early Access. We might still sell directly through us, but at the beginning it might just be a Steam key, with an actual build available when we hit beta or gold. The reasoning for this is that the Steam build system actually simplifies things quite a bit, but our patch system wouldn't work very well if we release publicly before all of the assets are finished. Our patches have always been cumulative which makes things simple since you only need to apply the latest one, but that means every change since going public has to be in the latest patch. If we keep adding art, this would make each patch fairly large and get bigger and bigger each time. Plus this means only 1 set of patches I have to deal with when things are changing often.

We do still have a few things that we have to do before we could start Early Access though. We need to settle on a name, do some of the marketing stuff (blurb, marketing graphics for Steam, and a few screenshots), create a logo, finish some art style stuff, add the new game to our website & Steam, and fix some game specific multiplayer stuff.

UPDATE: This took longer than expected (mostly because of our move), but it looks like this will happen in September.

Comments are welcome as usual

01-17-2018, 03:43 PM
What percentage of the assets would you say are missing, and how long do you suspect they will take to complete?

The reason I ask is that I assume you will be using placeholder assets in the meantime. One of the most frequent critiques I see of your games involves recycled assets. One risk you might run launching on early access with old assets is that people will just roll their eyes at the game and assume it is yet another recyling of old assets from Soldak. Your core fanbase won't care, but the window shoppers might and have in the past.

Edit: I don't want to entirely discourage the idea of an alpha. I just want to think carefully about doing it on Steam, on which you only get one shot at a launch and a first impression. Another option would be to run a closed or open alpha through your store and website. That way you'd be getting feedback from your core fanbase while saving yourself any potential negative fallout from a bad first impression on Steam. Then you could launch beta in early access on Steam once more assets are in place. I (and many others on this forum) would absolutely be up for testing an early alpha, and for downloading the big patches as needed when the assets come in.

01-17-2018, 04:02 PM
Castruccio raised a few valid points. My perception is that Soldak games are solid enough that you can early access at a beta stage and generally receive positive feedback. I am a little more concerned about an alpha having an increased risk of poor word of mouth, or early negative feedback ratings on Steam. Only you can judge where that line is for what 'alpha' means with Soldak, though, Shadow.

To be honest, the scope of the Hardcore game is not what I am personally looking for - I prefer the larger scale of some of the prior games, like inclusion of town/clan management and diplomacy with the NPC teams. However, I do want Soldak to continue to do well so it is able to go on to make Zombasite DLC #2, or the next iteration of Din's Curse/Depths of Peril/Zombasite. So, best wishes.

01-18-2018, 03:53 PM
What percentage of the assets would you say are missing, and how long do you suspect they will take to complete?

I don't know about percentage/time, but the new assets that we are planning on for this game are skins for the player (armor changes), some models for player mutations (horns, etc), and lots of icons for new skills & mutations.

01-18-2018, 05:47 PM
I don't know anything about assets, but it sounds like this isn't a massive amount of work. Keep us posted on what you decide with the alpha.

02-21-2018, 07:43 PM
Just curious if you ever decided what form the alpha/beta of the new game will take.

02-22-2018, 10:10 AM
Just curious if you ever decided what form the alpha/beta of the new game will take.

I'm still leaning towards a Steam only and starting it during alpha. I keep adding things I want to include in alpha though.

02-28-2018, 12:13 AM
I think this is a good idea. It gives more time for the game to be exposed to a wider audience, which is a good thing IMO. You may want to mention in the early access blurb that you've been doing early access before it was invented on Steam, and that you've got a perfect track record of finishing your games.

In general, I would recommend to move to Steam distribution almost exclusively, perhaps just adding GOG as a DRM-free alternative. You don't need the management overhead of running things separately from Steam. Every sale you make that's not on Steam gives you a little more money, but it's more important to get the Steam numbers up.

03-31-2018, 08:38 PM
i would stay away from steam until you are pretty polished. the early access scene is pretty bad at this point, with some games not even staying on the early access page for a full day, and once its gone from there its buried. it probably doesnt help that vr games get listed in both vr and early access if they are both.

i actually hated zombasite for all the clan management stuff, so i ignored it. steam is a cesspool of kids who want everything homogenized for the most part, so i wouldnt count that feedback as valuable in any way. i honestly dont know what advantage steam offers any more, without the built in advertising it used to offer and with a community that does stupid things like give games negative reviews because they run poorly on unsupported laptop gpus it just doesnt seem like you get much aside from easy file distribution. why not just build an autoupdater into the game?

im also very interested in a new arpg (which is what brought me here) so by all means let us purchase it now.

04-02-2018, 12:36 PM
I'm mostly thinking of doing it through Steam because it simplifies my life a little. If I change a lot of assets their patching system is better than how we have done patches in the past.

04-02-2018, 05:59 PM
I'm mostly thinking of doing it through Steam because it simplifies my life a little. If I change a lot of assets their patching system is better than how we have done patches in the past.

Patches we don't need no stinkin' patches....

Not a fan of Steam. I'd do it if I had to but it would be the ONLY game I'd have on Steam. Seriously.

I'd do a closed alpha with your usual updates and then all your alphas have to upgrade to the beta release, thus you no longer have to support progressively larger patches at that point. I'm pretty used to having to re-download a new full version of a game. If the intro screen could allow a simple message banner grabbed from the web: "Update available!" "Now in Beta get the full Beta version!" that would be neat... and have a dismiss button. The "Not now, I just want to play dammit" option.

04-18-2018, 11:43 PM
I would definitely interested in playing the alpha and providing feedback.

04-19-2018, 07:43 AM
Maybe there could be done something in combination with the Patreons? *wink*

06-12-2018, 05:32 PM
Anymore interest in allowing some of us into Alpha/beta? :D

06-12-2018, 06:50 PM
Anymore interest in allowing some of us into Alpha/beta? :D

Definitely. Right now we are in the middle of selling our house and moving, so I've been very distracted. Hopefully next week I'll get back to full-time work.

06-13-2018, 12:03 AM
I think you should do a alpha early access for Patreon subscribers above a certain tier. Then, you can do beta as a paid-for thing if you'd like once the alpha ends. It would be nice for your supporters and maybe even get a few more.

08-04-2018, 11:19 PM
I mean, if you do begin letting people in early, I'd definitely be willing to host a game to try and see what the multiplayer is like early. Mainly cause I was a huge fan of Din's Curse and I'd totally be willing to buy this one early as all of your work is excellent.