Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Kickstarter, and Steam Early Access

There's an excellent interview over at RPS with David Braben, legendary developer of the Elite series.

What struck me throughout the interview was how relaxed Braben was with the progress of development and the current state of the game. Everything I've heard from people who have played the beta has been stellar. Well, more than stellar, really--everyone is out of their mind over this game.

There's nothing I'd rather play, so this is very good news for me. Appointment gaming, as soon as it's released, and I don't do that very often anymore.

What impresses me most about this project is that with a budget of roughly $3 million, the game--while still hugely ambitious--seems to fit inside its budget.

It's an old rule of project management: if you want to finish a project sooner, you basically have two options. You can either increase resources, or you can reduce scope. This project has done neither, and still seems to be entirely under control, which is incredibly impressive.

That interview made me think about Star Citizen.

Star Citizen is Chris Roberts' (Wing Commander) epic space opera, now crowdfunded to the tune of over $48 million. Incredible!

I also think, in this case, that $48 million is a curse.

There are pages of stretch goals. The original plan for the game must have expanded to almost comic proportions, given the influx of funding. Managing that expansion could be far more difficult than producing the original game.

Chris Roberts may be a genius as a designer and a developer. But now he also needs to be a genius in project management, and that's an entirely different skill set.

I'm quite certain that Elite: Dangerous is going to be fantastic. I would be stunned if Star Citizen is as well.

Insert your own segue here. I don't really have one.

I think Steam Early Access is a tremendous way for developers to get additional funding for their mostly-completed game, as well as getting essential feedback from a much larger player base than a traditional beta test can provide.

Conceptually, I love the idea.

In practice, it drives me nuts. Every week I see something I want to play that just got released--but it's an Early Access alpha, and it won't be done for another six to nine months.


I want to play game X, but I want to play the full version. I probably won't play it for months, seeing additional base content and bug fixes added as it slowly nears its release version.

All those Early Access games are just sitting on the Steam store, taunting me.

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