Hand of Fate – Steam’s Early Access done right.

While my next review will be on Hydrophobia, I was tempted to do it on Hand of Fate, a successful kickstarter and current early-access game on Steam. It’s a rogue-like, deck-building game with Batman Arkham-style combat encounters. The reason I’m not going to review Hand of Fate before it’s officially released is because I’ve made the decision to no longer do reviews on early-access games. It seems strange to do a review on an unfinished product, in the same way it would be strange to do a food review by bursting into the kitchen before the chef has finished the meal and demanding a taste. I’ve also become a bit a disillusioned with the idea of early-access games. The majority of the ones I’ve tried involve you paying full price for something that is barely a game and almost unplayable, offering little to no instructions on how to play.

Lichdom: Battlemage was one I purchased very early on and it was bland, confusing and not very nice to look at. I played it for about half an hour before grunting and deciding to wait until it was fully released. Thankfully that day came and it’s not a bad game now (though admittedly, still not amazing). Kinetic Void, a space-sim, was almost unreachable when I tried it late last year. After going through the clunky ship building process, it places you out in space with nothing to do. It didn’t exactly entice me to keep playing.

The reason I’m mentioning Hand of Fate is because I feel it’s an early-access game done right. Defiant Development have done something that can either be considered clever or be considered common sense. They have released an early-access game that is an actual game. Naturally, it’s unpolished and lacking a little content and complexity, but the parts they have released demonstrate the core gameplay as well as being fun and allowing progression. And by releasing a playable game, this allows helpful feedback from the community which is something developers should never ignore.

I have 2 suggestions for how early-access can be improved:

  1. I feel that instead of releasing whatever segments of a game the developers have produced, they should release a playable demo, or as Hand of Fate did, a simplified version of the game. This would better allow the audience to get a good read on the game while also allowing for feedback based on the content provided.
  2. DO NOT charge full price. There’s nothing more offputting than paying too much money for a crappy game. If you plan to release the game for $19.95, don’t release a fifth of the game for $19.95. Maybe charge half price while it’s in early access and go to full price once it’s officially released. If people have paid and played it in early access and enjoyed it, their word of mouth will help boost sales post-release.

Both suggestions above are formed without a clear understanding of the finnancial aspects of game development, or the practicalities of releasing demos. So if I’m misinformed or being too idealsitic, feel free to leave comments.

Also, Hand of Fate is really good, try it. Hand of Fate is currently available on Steam for $19.99.

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