Buying In – Only The Beginning

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Recently on the Everyday Gamers Podcast Episode #215, we discussed the trend of buying into games early during their Alpha state. The trend seems to have been set by Minecraft, adopted by Indie game haven Desura and then blasted into primetime with Steam’s Early Access initiative. I have personally supported a handful of Early Access titles both on and off Steam, and I have really been wanting to blog about my experiences. Welcome to the first of many entries in my Alpha Funding blog experience!

How Did I Get Here?

I was not one of the many people who jumped in on the Minecraft Alpha/Beta initiative. As a matter of fact, I can thank the same person, Brian “@IHaveNoExcuse”, for my experiences in Minecraft and in the waters of Early Access gaming. Not only did Brian gift me a code he won for the PC version of Minecraft, but he gave me a spare copy he got of Don’t Starve that came with his pre-purchase of the game. Now Don’t Starve pre-dated Steam’s Early Access program, but it gave players months of access to the Alpha build of the game. I would fire it up from time to time and was able to watch a very basic and not so interesting game evolve into a vibrant experience. Simply put, that ability to see Don’t Starve change so drastically and literally watch the development cycle unfold fueled my desire to see that same process in other games and genres.

Meet the Players

Since this is only the first of many blog posts I will be creating on this topic, I thought I would keep the information light and simply introduce the game that I plan to blog about.

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Starforge – Starforge is a sandbox game that tasks the player with setting up a base for survival on a strange new world. Planets are randomly generated with all manner of terrain and resources. The game can be played from first or third person view as you explore the landscape and gather resources to help build bases, vehicles, weapons and defense turrets. A very ambitious title, the alpha is in a very basic state, though it did just receive the version 0.4.7 update that changed many core features. A “Horde Mode” type survival/base defense mode is also planned and playable without online/co-op compatibility.

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Edge of Space – Continuing with the “sandbox in space” style of gameplay, Edge of Space is a sandbox 2D game in the vein of something like Terraria. Originally a successful part of Steam’s Greenlight initiative, Edge of Space puts players in the role of an ArkCo operative that can terraform worlds. Tons of wepons, tools and armor are available to the player brave enough to explore the harsh outer reaches of space. Oh, and there’s sharks with laser beams!

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Cube World – Cube World is like Minecraft in the Zelda and/or Diablo universe. It’s an open-world, voxel-based role playing game. Players can create a character from 8 races and 4 classes and start questing in randomly created worlds. Picroma is promising infinite character progression with skill trees and no level cap. Again, the features available in Cube World are at a very basic state, but it’s easy to see that there is quite a bit of promise in this title.

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Akaniero: Demon Hunters – Akaniero is from the developers of Alice: The Madness Returns. It is slated to be a free to play action RPG in a dark fantasy setting that combines Red Riding Hood and Japanese folklore. Being a fan of Crazy Horse’s games, I decided to jump in on the Steam Early Access feature when it was on sale during the Steam Greenlight sale. Purchasing this content will not only give you early access to the game as it develops, but you will also get a starter pack of in game currency, items and Steam exclusive items when the game officially launches.

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Interstellar Marines – Interstellar Marines is one of the most ambitious titles I’ve seen, and it has been greenlit on Steam.  It’s an FPS that plans to incorporate the planning features and squad tactics of the older Rainbow Six games and blend it with the creepy settings and storytelling of games like Half-Life and System Shock 2.  While the Early Access build only features multiplayer for now, I am very interested to see how the single-player portion of the game is going to turn out.

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Darkout – Darkout is another title that is not available on Steam, and it is also the only game that I have not played at this point. Only available through DesuraDarkout is another 2D sandbox game that takes place in space. It follows a lone survivor crash landed on Illuna, a planet bathed in darkness. The atmospheric lighting is unseen in most 2D sandbox games, and the loot and crafting looks fantastic. I’m very much looking forward to jumping in on Darkout before my next blog entry and trying it out for myself.

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Paranautical Activity – Paranautical Activity is a voxel-based rogue-like FPS.  I was lucky enough to have purchased a Groupees Bundle that included the game, and now its made its way to Steam’s Early Access section.  The build available is both very stable and very simplistic.  You pick from a variety of weapons, spawn in an elevator and see how long you can survive.  Mulitplayer and Co-Op game modes will be added soon.

In Closing

I’ll be keeping tabs on all of the games mentioned above and maybe even a couple others as time goes on. I won’t go posting patch notes in detail in my articles, but I will rather sharing my experiences and impressions of the evolution of these games as they near full release status. I would definitely encourage you to check out the Early Access games on Steam, the Alpha Funding section on Desura. You can even look at the listings on Indie DB if you’re interested in learning more about how you can support a game being developed and watch that fantastic process unfold before your eyes.

Maybe you’ve seen something in this list of games which interests you. Maybe there are other early access games which you think I should consider. Either way, hit me up on twitter @holyheadshot with your thoughts or suggestions. Who knows; you might help influence future entries in this series.

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