Poll Question 293: How do you feel about Valve’s Early Access initiative?

25th March 2013

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

In case you missed the news, Valve have started what they call the Early Access initiative.

Here is the intro spiel: “Get immediate access to games that are being developed with the community’s involvement. These are games that evolve as you play them, as you give feedback, and as the developers update and add content.”

A lot of people like to be the first to play games but I can’t help feeling there’s something not right about this and I’m not the only one.

To be perfectly honest, these game developers should be paying US to play the games early as they are getting free beta testing. Yes, I know the argument for being able to better give players what they want but do you actually have to charge ME to do it?


In the article linked to above, Edward Smith makes the point about “Design by committee” and I agree with this, I just feel that it’s more about he relationship between players and developers than any fundamental design philosophy.

It’s almost like asking the editors of Wikipedia to pay to edit the pages.

Dear Developers: feel free to illicit help from the community, but don’t have the temerity to actually charge them for doing your job.

Time to Vote

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

In case you missed the news, Valve have started what they call the Early Access initiative.

Here is the intro spiel: “Get immediate access to games that are being developed with the community


  1. Wesp5

    I agree with everything you say Philipp! Also this is yet another Steam project of Valve instead of them actually creating new non-mod-derived-games, like HL2:EP3. (You have a small typo in the text above “about the relationship”)

  2. Anon_715807

    Let me chuck this one out here; after years of clamouring for early access to demos and alpha/beta builds, we now have it. It supports indie developers immensely well, creates fantastic viral marketing material, and allows us as players to interact with the game and allow for mutual evolution. And people are going against it.

    How utterly, utterly entitled do you have to be to see this as a negative thing. Nobody forces you to support development teams, nobody forces you to pre-order a game that you know absolutely nothing about. Nobody is surprised when a game beta-tested internally falls down at a predetermined launch date.

    It sickens me how backward the video game industry audience can be. After all those articles through the whole spectrum of gaming media regarding fantastic start-up companies (i.e. Frictional Games or Unknown Worlds) being forced to promote pre-orders just to keep themselves afloat, you would cut them down during the next stage of evolution?

    This allows people put our money where our loyalties and mouths lie, just like any Kickstarter campaign.

    Outrageous, Phillip? Outrageous to support developers? Outrageous to support what we want as a an audience, to access early content and improve it tremendously? Outrageous to watch a game evolve for a discounted price? With that word today Phillip, you have disappointed me. The gaming industry is not Wikipedia, and it is not all about EA and Activision. The little things count just as much.

    You are a man who has supported the mod community for years, people who work their arses off for no money and little recognition. You know how much criticism helps, how important it is for players to get involved and give feedback. Yes, mod developers just happen to do it for free because they’re working their own jobs to put food on the table, but they still absorb and utilise criticism in exactly the same way. It’s not ‘more power to them” because they have “creative freedom” or whatever rubbish – you’ve got to eat somehow, and making people pay for your work is just one way of doing that.

    Minecraft, Desktop Dungeons, Kerbal Space Program – things I supported with my own money, because I believe in those developers. I have faith, and I adore their work, and I’m willing to run the risk of them failing me because if they have enough passion to make that leap from casual to professional indie, then good luck to them.

    1. Whilst this might be have some merit in regard to unfunded individuals making mods, in reference to Valve it’s complete codswallop. Valve certainly do not need “a helping hand up’, they are HUGE corporate fat cats. The very notion that they are “forced to promote pre-orders”, or indeed, are “people who work their arses off for no money” is absolutely laughable. It’s greedy exploitation, pure & simple.

      1. Anon_716200

        Find me a Valve game in the list of Early Access titles.

        Go on, do it.

        So Valve take a cut, so what; these developers get to push their games onto a platform that several million people use daily. I’d say that’s a fair trade.

        Valve set the standard for internal testing. Nobody is better at it; they won’t be using Early Access, which incidentally has only one AAA game at the moment – ARMA 3.

        So please, continue to tell me how Valve are in any way relevant to what I said.

        1. JG

          I agree, I’m not sure what Valve itself has to do with this.

          It’s a simple matter of supply and demand working in a way that benefits both sides. Players want access to games earlier and developers – especially small ones – need the finances to finish their products. I don’t really see what the problem is. If it’s offensive to you, then don’t support it.

          1. Wesp5

            “So Valve take a cut, so what…” That’s what in it for Valve! For years now they live via Steam from the cut they get when other developers create something new. Why create HL2:E3 when getting that cut is enough to keep the company afloat? Besides of pimping up the occassional mod to an AAA titel inbetween, which is done by the modmakers themselves…

            1. Unq

              You can accuse Valve of many things perhaps, but being idle or lazy is certainly not one of them. Steam sales typically grow by 100% each year and Valve’s business itself grew by 50% in 2012.

              Valve is not a company that just ‘stays afloat” via Steam.

              1. Wesp5

                What I meant by the comment above is that Valve is only caring about Steam now. If they were supposed to stay alive by publishing games, they would long have gone bankrupt! Valve does everything Steam oriented first, and everything games oriented second. Maybe they should split into a company running Steam and another creating games…

                1. Mr.Walrus

                  Valve not releasing games isn’t a new thing; their average timespan between releasing one game and then another probably spans at least a year and a half. It’s not that Valve only cares about Steam; it’s that Valve cares about making good games, and taking the time to do so.

                  1. Wesp5

                    Maybe, but all the Steam updates must be done by someone, who wouldn’t have time to work on a game. At the same time Valve recently fired several people whose fields of expertise were connected to game design.

      2. Yeah, I doubt we will ever see a serious Valve game here. This is more for other developers, especially Indie.

    2. You are twisting my words to match your argument. After all my work, you doubt my commitment to modmakers, indie developers and the gaming community in general?

      I just feel it’s outrageous that the people helping those indie devs have to pay for the privilege.

      In many ways, it’s no different from the idea of kickstarter websites, but I just feel the amount of money involved is too much.

      It’s feeding off a common desire to be an “early-adopter” and I don’t like it.

      Make it a fixed $5 fee for all games, with a $7 discount when the game is released and I’d be much more supportive.

      1. I’m admittedly in a biased position here, but how is helping someone a privilege? You help someone for their benefit, not your own privilege. The payment is the help you’re speaking of.

        1. I don’t have any problem with people pre-purchasing and/or pre-ordering a game and I fully understand from an indie developers” perspective it’s a very useful feature. My problem lies in the way it is promoted. It makes it feel that I find all the bugs and issues with the game and have to pay for that.

          To be honest, I was more ranting about the big developers using the feature rather than the smaller ones.

          1. I agree with you on that point to an extent. Most bigger developers will have in-house Quality Assurance to find bugs and the like, but user feedback is a whole different kettle of fish. A design flaw is not the same thing as a bug, and therefore might slip through the net during QA testing. These flaws would normally end up in the final version, but this way they can be smoothed out early on.

            I don’t see how this is a bad thing, especially as others have noted that it’s 100% opt-in. Some people enjoy this kind of thing. Coupled with the desire to support smaller developers, I think it’s a very powerful and valuable tool.

  3. I can see it working for some games, for instance Minecraft wouldn’t be what it is today without its extended beta period (but ironically seems to have a lot more bugs these days). But would you really want early access to Half-Life 3, for example? You can finally defeat the Combine – but some of the textures are missing and it crashes every 10 minutes?

    I could see it becoming an excuse for devs to get away with releasing more broken and unfinished games and charging for them – hear about the new Sim City?

  4. It is outrageous; for a company the size of Valve, they should have their own, paid beta testers as part of normal product development. Ok, if they want to farm that out, then consumer beta testers should get that game free, as the player’s experience will have been significantly diminished by the fact that they are testing it (rather than enjoying playing it) and it will almost certainly be buggy, incomplete or not fully featured. To charge consumers to do their job for them, then charge them again to buy the final product is an absolute disgrace. Valve is already rolling with our money; Gabe’s stuffed his pants full of it, and they still don’t know what to do with the rest.
    This is just another potential example of customer exploitation by Valve.
    Plus, it’s another petty ‘distraction” standing in the way of EP3.
    EP3/HL3 is like an unwelcome homework essay for Valve; they will do anything to avoid knuckling down & finishing it – procrastination. These days, seems that Valve want to do everything but make games.

  5. VCD

    I don’t think that anything good can come from this. I would explain my opinion further but I am not that good talking in english

  6. I don’t really feel anything about it but I guess its a good thing. Kinda like beta testing. I dunno really.

  7. OK

    1. Developers have used user feedback to find bugs for almost as long as I can remember.
    2. These alpha versions are fully functional as games, you can play these games now and have fun with them in addition they are constantly updated, which again is common. Of course they have bugs but most games do.
    3. Valve has no involvement in the development of these games, they just sell them.

    That said I can only see this model working for procedurally generated and / or open world games. I can also see this system being exploited in the future to sell crappy games that won’t or can’t be finished. I suppose you could also complain that this is taking jobs away from professional QA testers but I doubt most of these indie studios actually have the budget for this anyway.
    But as long as the game I start with is fun and functional I’m OK with this.

  8. Hec

    I voted meh. I actually don’t imagine myself using it ever…. I don’t know why some loosy indie games should be suported by a volunteer community just because they are new in the game industry…

    1. Who said the games would be lousy? I bet there are some great games on there. I doubt Valve would allow bad games to be on there, it would be bad for their business.

  9. ikar

    I am not against beta testing
    I am not against helping developers – I myself have always participated in the beta test of the Steam client, and sometimes in the translation of Steam
    But I think that if pay for beta test – to the tester, not to the developer:
    I help to make your product demand, good-selling and competitive -> I help sell your product, why should I pay you for it?
    I’m work as your QA – and will pay for it?!? Are You Crazy?!?
    When hackers find vulnerabilities in browsers, for example, do they pay to the developers? Is not the opposite?
    Something is wrong in this world – people go crazy in order to participate in the beta testing DotA 2 and are willing to pay the cost AAA games for testing raw beta free-to-play game

    [spoiler]in our country same idiocy – government decided to prohibit to help people, if you see that a person is drowning you should not save him, call the rescue and see how he will drown before their arrival – otherwise you will be punished!

  10. Unq

    I personally strongly agree with the Anonymous second comment above. I think this is a great thing to offer to developers, whether they’re small indies or big studios.

    How can allowing the developer the option to release an early version of their game be negative? The players must willingly buy the early version, it’s the very definition of opt-in. No one is forcing anything on players – if you don’t like this idea, simply don’t buy any Early Access games! But having the option open is certainly a good thing.

    I think a lot of games can benefit from this, not just small indie games and not just open world or procedurally generated ones. Yes, the worry may be ‘design by committee” but creative power still lies with the developer, and the developer must have the guts to stick to his guns if there is a good reason. Again, I simply think this is a great avenue to get feedback early that from a developer’s view can help open doors that you might never even have thought of.

    Valve’s and many others” games over the years have proven how important a feedback loop is between developers and players. Opening that system to every new game on Steam is a step in the right direction. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it – simple. I can’t understand the outrage.

    1. Wesp5

      “How can allowing the developer the option to release an early version of their game be negative?”

      This is not Phillip’s issue, having players pay for it is! Also I bet that a lot of Indie developers already get their beta-testers for free from the community, but now Valve has found a way to make money out of this for themselves.

      1. Unq

        Again, if you don’t like it, don’t pay. But having the avenue available to all game developers on Steam is great.

        I fully believe this isn’t about Valve wanting to make money off it (they make money off the sales of the Steam games themselves). It’s about Valve believing in the player early feedback model and, by opening that door to any game developer, encourages games that are all around higher quality and more likely to be purchased when done. So yes, it may be partially about improved sales on Steam but more to the point it’s about improving the games Steam has to offer and improving the games we all might like to play.

        1. Wesp5

          1) “So yes, it may be partially about improved sales on Steam…”

          Exactly what Phillip and I were saying.

          2) “…but more to the point it’s about improving the games Steam has to offer and improving the games we all might like to play.”

          This is yet to be seen, I mean will the developers really listen? In any case Valve does earn it’s share again for doing very little…

          1. Unq

            Right, so are you also against games on Kickstarter, where you may pay for a game that doesn’t even exist yet? Or a game like Natural Selection 2, where pre-orders and payments for a very early alpha supported the developer enough to complete the game? Or are you just against Valve taking a cut as they do for every game on Steam?

            1. Anon_724983

              Basically I’m against Valve taking their cut, because this and the Greenlight project just looks to me as if they want to get their share of the Kickstarter hype and bind more people to Steam. In my opinion they should concentrate on creating games, especially HL2:EP3, instead…

              1. Do we know if Valve are actually taking a cut of the income? In this case they might not, although the devs are probably happy to pay it, seeing as how much extra income it probably generates.

  11. I feel I should add my views here as I’m an indie developer trying to get my game Luminesca on Steam.

    When you pre-purchase a game through something like Early Access (or Desura’s Alphafunding which has been around for a long time) you are essentially pre-ordering the game. Pre-ordering is nothing new, and in the past you would just have to wait until the game’s done. With digital distribution you can now offer people who pre-ordered the opportunity to play early versions and allow them to give feedback. Feedback is important. Vital, even. No one gets it right first time. Not even Shigeru Miyamoto.

    Making games costs money, takes a lot of time, and is extremely risky business. If your game’s rubbish and no one buys it you’ve just wasted the last X months of your life. With indie small developers, including myself, this probably means you’ve lost a large chunk of some of your own personal savings too.

    By allowing consumers to put their money on the table earlier, that risk is mitigated, the costs are negated, and (if the game’s popular enough) the timeframe might even be able to be extended. Maybe you’ll have enough time to add that extra layer of polish that really makes the game special, instead of rushing it out the door.

    At the end of the day, Valve are a business. They’re in it to make money. Fortunately, small developers can leverage Steam’s massive userbase to get a lot of exposure. The cut Valve takes totally pales in comparison to the phenomenal increase in exposure you gain from having your game on Steam.

    As an example I can give you hard figures on: the number of pre-orders I’ve had in 3 and a half months has been suddenly dwarfed by the number of Greenlight “Yes” votes I’ve had in just over a week. If the 4,400 people who voted Yes had actually bought it through Early Access, I would be set for a good 6 months. I cannot stress how valuable this is to an indie developer. This is my livelihood.

    In short, getting my game on Early Access would probably mean I could work in security and without stressing over whether I’m going to end up spending all of my savings, or just most of them.

    If you don’t want to support the people who are making games you enjoy, then you probably won’t be playing many more of those games. The only thing that’s changed is that now you can support them sooner, and they don’t have to take such a risk.

    In addition, and I don’t want to get hung up on this, but the idea that the expanded functionality of Steam is detrimental to the development of the next Half-Life is just wrong. They’re separate development teams, and I have strong suspicions that Episode 3’s delay has absolutely nothing to do with laziness or lack of manpower. This is not how Valve operates as a game developer.

    1. Unq

      In addition, and I don’t want to get hung up on this, but the idea that the expanded functionality of Steam is detrimental to the development of the next Half-Life is just wrong. They’re separate development teams, and I have strong suspicions that Episode 3’s delay has absolutely nothing to do with laziness or lack of manpower. This is not how Valve operates as a game developer.

      Amen to that. Valve is pretty big now (300+) so the idea that they’re resource-limited is just inaccurate.

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