Valve Tightens Its Early Access Rules

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Valve Tightens Its Early Access Rules

Steam Early Access

Valve acknowledges the recent Early Access abuse, and has put down some ground rules to clarify its proper use.

So Steam's Early Access program has had some success stories, and some other, not-so-successful-stories, and has established itself as a kind of wild west of alpha video game development. No one quite knows what to expect when buying an early access game, as some are seemingly stuck in "alpha" indefinitely, and others get pulled from the store before their full release for various reasons. Valve has acknowledged the problem, and has tightened its guidelines on what clarifies as "Early Access."

First up, developers must clearly advertise if their game is "Early Access," even if it is being sold on outlets other than Steam, such as Green Man Gaming. Prices must be uniform across all platforms, and developers must launch on other platforms at the same time that they launch on Steam. Pretty simple.

Next, it gets a bit tricky. Developers are no longer allowed to make "specific promises about future events." Valve clarifies: "There is no way you can know exactly when the game will be finished, that the game will be finished, or that planned future additions will definitely happen. Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game."

"Customers should be buying your game based on its current state, not on promises of a future that may or may not be realized."

Finally, while not technically rules, Valve released a set of "guidelines" for developers thinking about going Early Access. To summarize:

  • Don't launch in Early Access if you can't afford to develop with very few or no sales.
  • Make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game.
  • Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game.
  • Don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development.

Source: Giant Bomb

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Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game.

Isn't that more or less contrary to, well....everything? I mean, Steam even advertises these games by saying you can follow their development and such.

Zachary Amaranth:

Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game.

Isn't that more or less contrary to, well....everything? I mean, Steam even advertises these games by saying you can follow their development and such.

i think they meant

"your game must already be worth money"

personally, i think its not enough, guaranteed refunds would truthly force devs to work on their games, theyll think twice before abandoning development

NuclearKangaroo:
[
i think they meant

"your game must already be worth money"

Then they dun screwed the pooch.

I am glad they are trying to do something about this (finaly) but I would be happy if they simply had a filter on the main page that would allow me to remove early access and indi games from appearing. You can already do it with dlc so I don't imagine it would be difficult.

It is about time they did something about this, despite late on bringing this up.

Zachary Amaranth:

Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game.

Isn't that more or less contrary to, well....everything? I mean, Steam even advertises these games by saying you can follow their development and such.

It might have meant something when Early Access first launched, but since so many devs have been abusing the system to make a cheap buck at the expense of consumers, it looks like the guideline has been changed.

Soviet Heavy:

It might have meant something when Early Access first launched, but since so many devs have been abusing the system to make a cheap buck at the expense of consumers, it looks like the guideline has been changed.

The listing for consumers has not, though, which is kind of my point. The whole pitch is that we're buying into the dev cycle.

NuclearKangaroo:

Zachary Amaranth:

Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game.

Isn't that more or less contrary to, well....everything? I mean, Steam even advertises these games by saying you can follow their development and such.

i think they meant

"your game must already be worth money"

personally, i think its not enough, guaranteed refunds would truthly force devs to work on their games, theyll think twice before abandoning development

And where'd the refunds come from after the devs have already spent hmm?
The problem with EA has always been the consumer not so much the dev. I mean ... seriously How hard is it to you know.. not spend money and wait for the actual release.

This is just Steam doing their best to prevent idjits with too much time, and money( and not enough braincells) from themselves.

The concept of a a EA is admirable gbut really what you've got is a Kickstarter.. you're not paying to get the game a month or two before everyone else... no you're making a donation. The reward of which is instant access to the incomplete game and the complete game when it's finished.

If those terms do not agree with you... then 'wait'.

Gizmo1990:
I am glad they are trying to do something about this (finaly) but I would be happy if they simply had a filter on the main page that would allow me to remove early access and indi games from appearing. You can already do it with dlc so I don't imagine it would be difficult.

Im pretty sure the Discovery update added that already. Click the little 'customise' button next to each field on the steam page to control what type of game you see.

This isn't amazing. but its a start. Now the question becomes will Valve actually enforce these rules? Valve hasn't shown much desire to curate Steam before and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

The problem won't be fixed until the dev is required to give a full refund if development fails, but I'm satisfied with the way it's handled now.

This seems like a step in the right direction, but I would add a stipulation to it:

-Player requests for refunds within the first 24/48 hours after purchase must be obliged.

That, alongside side with a stipulation for players that a refund will only be given once per game, so that you can't keep just buying in and out throughout the development of the game so players don't abuse it.

Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game.

This is a "guideline", it should be a rule.

Aerosteam:
The problem won't be fixed until the dev is required to give a full refund if development fails, but I'm satisfied with the way it's handled now.

The problem with that is that the entire point of Early Access is to help smaller companies fund a game. Its kinda hard to get a refund, when the expectation is that they are spending the money on the game

War_Dyn27:

Aerosteam:
The problem won't be fixed until the dev is required to give a full refund if development fails, but I'm satisfied with the way it's handled now.

The problem with that is that the entire point of Early Access is to help smaller companies fund a game. Its kinda hard to get a refund, when the expectation is that they are spending the money on the game

Yeah, I guess you're right.

Well, some sort of compensation should be given, or at the very, very least, an explanation on what happened instead of just abandoning ship like what we've seen before.

I suppose these guidelines would give Valve an established cause for removing games that receive complaints. This will all come down to adherence and enforcement.

Oh, is Steam reacting to the fact that only 25% of early access games have ever seen full release?

  • Don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development.
  • Nope.

    While it's good that Valve are doing something, it all comes down to whether or not they are actually going to enforce anything. And if it's anything like the confidentiality agreement required to view these rules and guidelines, it's rather pointless.

    It's also kind of funny that on one hand they are saying not to make any promises on the future and on the other they ask developers to talk about the future.

    Something is better than nothing.

    If they can enforce these guidelines it'll be a step in the right direction. The question is, will they monitor all the Early Access titles themselves, or will they delegate it to the community (as usual)?

    Eh, it's a pretty mixed bucket IMO. It's nice to see they are tightening the rules, but the only ones that actually mean anything is the need to not sell games as they are now and a product must be playable. Developers can always start their own funds drive. I do like that they say development must be able to continue with little or no sales. That makes sense. No one should be betting on doing well on Steam to fund their game, that is some bullshit.

    Aye, there's a few games that LOOK good but I tend to visit the user reviews and end up seeing a bunch of down arrows with things like "Man there's nothing to DO" and "Do not waste 30$ on this".

    Metadigital:
    Oh, is Steam reacting to the fact that only 25% of early access games have ever seen full release?

    Wow, that's even lower than I expected. Do you have sauce for those stats?

    I have a general policy against buying into early access or pre-ordering. I've been burned most times. My only real exceptions were Star Citizen, which is clearly producing content, and Prison Architect, which is by Introversion and can't enter my library quickly enough.

    Now the Mordheim game has gone early access. My initial instinct is "buy buy buy", especially as the first playable race is Skaven (rat furry likes his rats), but it's from Games Sodding Workshop. Why the hell does it need to be early access?

    BigTuk:

    NuclearKangaroo:

    Zachary Amaranth:

    Isn't that more or less contrary to, well....everything? I mean, Steam even advertises these games by saying you can follow their development and such.

    i think they meant

    "your game must already be worth money"

    personally, i think its not enough, guaranteed refunds would truthly force devs to work on their games, theyll think twice before abandoning development

    And where'd the refunds come from after the devs have already spent hmm?
    The problem with EA has always been the consumer not so much the dev. I mean ... seriously How hard is it to you know.. not spend money and wait for the actual release.

    This is just Steam doing their best to prevent idjits with too much time, and money( and not enough braincells) from themselves.

    The concept of a a EA is admirable gbut really what you've got is a Kickstarter.. you're not paying to get the game a month or two before everyone else... no you're making a donation. The reward of which is instant access to the incomplete game and the complete game when it's finished.

    If those terms do not agree with you... then 'wait'.

    make the customer entitles to a refund 1 week after purchasing an early access game

    that way devs would truthly be forced to work on their game

    NuclearKangaroo:

    BigTuk:

    NuclearKangaroo:

    i think they meant

    "your game must already be worth money"

    personally, i think its not enough, guaranteed refunds would truthly force devs to work on their games, theyll think twice before abandoning development

    And where'd the refunds come from after the devs have already spent hmm?
    The problem with EA has always been the consumer not so much the dev. I mean ... seriously How hard is it to you know.. not spend money and wait for the actual release.

    This is just Steam doing their best to prevent idjits with too much time, and money( and not enough braincells) from themselves.

    The concept of a a EA is admirable gbut really what you've got is a Kickstarter.. you're not paying to get the game a month or two before everyone else... no you're making a donation. The reward of which is instant access to the incomplete game and the complete game when it's finished.

    If those terms do not agree with you... then 'wait'.

    make the customer entitles to a refund 1 week after purchasing an early access game

    that way devs would truthly be forced to work on their game

    And what do you expect devs to do in a week?.

    See this is the sort of thiong that EA has to put up with customers who have no clue. and base expectations on said cluelessness

    I have always wondered why there was not a "trial period" for EA games.

    Simply put, you get to try the game out for 7 days no cost. If you like it, then you can pay in at the end of the seven day stretch and maintain EA access.

    Steam already gives 1-2 week trials of games they are trying to push, how difficult would it be to convert this program over into the EA side is the real question.

    I believe this would solve a fair amount of the "scam" issues. That being said, it does nothing to address long term failures in development cycles, or "over promise/under deliver" situations that plague the EA pool.

    BigTuk:

    NuclearKangaroo:

    BigTuk:

    And where'd the refunds come from after the devs have already spent hmm?
    The problem with EA has always been the consumer not so much the dev. I mean ... seriously How hard is it to you know.. not spend money and wait for the actual release.

    This is just Steam doing their best to prevent idjits with too much time, and money( and not enough braincells) from themselves.

    The concept of a a EA is admirable gbut really what you've got is a Kickstarter.. you're not paying to get the game a month or two before everyone else... no you're making a donation. The reward of which is instant access to the incomplete game and the complete game when it's finished.

    If those terms do not agree with you... then 'wait'.

    make the customer entitles to a refund 1 week after purchasing an early access game

    And what do you expect devs to do in a week?.

    See this is the sort of thiong that EA has to put up with customers who have no clue. and base expectations on said cluelessness

    that way devs would truthly be forced to work on their game

    devs will me forced to keep their game updated and playable to avoid new players from getting refunds and counter negative word of mouth

    NuclearKangaroo:

    devs will me forced to keep their game updated and playable to avoid new players from getting refunds and counter negative word of mouth

    And here's where your lack of software engineering shows ... 90% of changes to code will never be visible to the end user... that can basically change one function for another in the code and call it an update...

    Or just add a superfluous line of code.. and call it a tweak.
    SO in short it'd be the consumer getting doubly shafted... you'd more or less wid up dounloading weekly updates that change bugger all.

    BigTuk:

    NuclearKangaroo:

    devs will me forced to keep their game updated and playable to avoid new players from getting refunds and counter negative word of mouth

    And here's where your lack of software engineering shows ... 90% of changes to code will never be visible to the end user... that can basically change one function for another in the code and call it an update...

    Or just add a superfluous line of code.. and call it a tweak.
    SO in short it'd be the consumer getting doubly shafted... you'd more or less wid up dounloading weekly updates that change bugger all.

    And here's where your lack of software engineering shows

    PFFFFF HAHAHAHA

    alright let me give you this little bit of news pal, i AM a software engineer, we are talking about games that have not been updated in MONTHS, no bug fixes, no nothing

    NuclearKangaroo:

    PFFFFF HAHAHAHA

    alright let me give you this little bit of news pal, i AM a software engineer, we are talking about games that have not been updated in MONTHS, no bug fixes, no nothing

    Not a very good one if you've already missed the point.

    Mandatory updates would basically mean meaningless updates , updates for the sake of updating ... they add two lines of code and can claim it as a stability tweak, , remove the same two lines a week later .. optimization update.. repeat as needed.

    See game development takes time. heck early Access has been barely out for a year. Do you know that most games have a dev cycle of about 3 years. these days... well unless you're doing a crappy RPG Maker hack... heck Good Campaign Mods for games take almost year and that is when they're just tweaking someone else's work not creating something from the ground up.

    Point is... the system is fine... problem is with the idjit consumers. And sadly there is no patch for stupid.

    so Valve finally recognizes early access has problems and are actually doing something about it.
    If this is enforced then I this is a good start but more should be done to make early access better.

    Gizmo1990:
    I am glad they are trying to do something about this (finaly) but I would be happy if they simply had a filter on the main page that would allow me to remove early access and indi games from appearing. You can already do it with dlc so I don't imagine it would be difficult.

    But you can.

    Just click the [customize] button at the top right of the marquee you want to edit and you can select which types of games and software appear.

    Hope that helps.

    My Reaction:

    Though I fear that this won't actually fix anything in practice. We'll see Jim ripping a ton of Early Access games to shreds yet.

    NuclearKangaroo:
    personally, i think its not enough, guaranteed refunds would truthly force devs to work on their games, theyll think twice before abandoning development

    That's simply too extreme to be feasible. They wouldn't be able to afford giving a refund to every customer, so all it would do is kick the people on the development out of the video game industry forever, put debt on the people on the development team, and give a partial refund for in-store credit to the people who bought and played an incomplete game.

    And besides that, devs not finishing EA projects isn't much of an issue, imo. Unless your game gets mega-popular, most players will get the soul of the game when it first goes up on the store. When you make a game, you're presenting its soul to people, and all you can do once you've captured that soul is improve the way you present it. There's no point on working on the presentation if most of the people who will play the game have already come to understand it.

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