Early access has been a pretty diversely discussed topic for the past few years. The publication of unfinished games, what early access actually is in its core, began almost ten years ago, more precisely in the year 2009. Back then, a game called "Minecraft", created by the swedish programmer Markus "Notch" Persson, was launched, although it was not yet a finished game. When the game was released, only a few core features where included and Persson continued to add more and more features over time.
"Why do you release an unfinished game" one could ask, and one did, when Minecraft 0.0.9a came out. The concept of betas and alphas wasn't new at that time, but Notch took it to a new level by simply publishing a game that was still in alpha stage.
We can't blame him, because game development is not cheap at all and you somehow have to finance it and early access is a fine way to do so. You release an unfinished product to the public, give buyers a small discount and tell them, that the game will improve over time. But just because this financing model worked perfectly well for Minecraft, this does not necesserily mean that it works well for all other projects.
DayZ is propably one of the standard examples brought up when people discuss about game development, bugs and early access, but that's because it just fits the case perfectly. The developers propably made every mistake someone could make when developing a game during its early access phase. Don't get me wrong, I love DayZ and played it for a few hundred hours by now, but you just can't deny that the development of the game is pretty much stuck since the open alpha was released in 2013. I am not involved in the development process of DayZ, but as I am a (game) developer myself, I know that it takes some time to get things right and that the development often seems to be stalled from the outside, when in reality there is a huge amount of progress made every day. But then you should communicate your progress clearly and set a focus to the existing problems of the game, before starting to implement new ones. The developers post updates like this pretty frequently, but they don't seem to realize that there are just so much issues about the game and it's engine that need to be fixed as soon as possible, because they frustrate players like me and push them away from their game.
Because to be honest, farming loot for five hours while being in a constant state of fear and anxiety of loosing all your progress to some zombies or another player feals great, but dying, because the game lags or your character just desyncs a few meters forward while in reality you are hidden behind that bush and get killed, just because the netcode failed, that just sucks and kills at least my motivation in a matter of seconds. And that brings us to the next example, and the reason I wrote this article in the first place:
Just like DayZ, I'm in love with this game. I loved DayZ prior to this, mostly the part of collecting gear and getting better and better equipment, while being in a constant fear to get killed. Bluehole took these two aspects and built a game out of it and - I just love that, and so do a lot of others - the game just broke Steam's record of concurrent players and has broken many other records since it's release. But then there are the bugs, the small ones, that just make you think "whatever", because they hardly interfere with the gameplay, and the ones that make you wreck your keyboard, because the game just crashed while you were on the way to getting an otherwise easy win.
In the above image I walked over a hill today while chasing another player with my groza. I was very well equipped and there were only ten people alive, which means I had a pretty realistic chance to win the round. Just when I saw the guy laying on the ground, I aimed down the sights and went for the kill, when suddenly - the game crashed. This was no one-time incident, it happens pretty often.
I don't want to cry about a lost round. What I do want, is make a statement, a statement against the release of unfinished games, because the difference to games like DayZ or Minecraft in its early stages is, that PUBG has officially been released and left beta status, which means it is not in early access anymore, but still has this outraging large amount of bugs, that just kills all the fun playing it. But do the developers fix the bugs? No, the rather add lootboxes to make even more money than they already did by selling over 30 million copies of the game, each for around 30$. Thats a turnover of about 900 million dollars! I can't even imagine the bare size of this number, and all the developers go for is implementing lootboxes instead of fixing the widespread crash issues. That's almost as greedy as EA, but thank god the boxes only contain cosmetic items - by now.
I don't want to blame early access for this development. Mostly unfinished releases happen, because publishers are trying to push development deadlines and rather release an unfinished game before christmas, than waiting for it to actually be bug free and playtested, with the tradeoff of making a few dollars less. I can understand that to a certain extent, because like everything, game development isn't cheap at all and you need to have a decent revenue to make your game profitable, but pushing the developers to finish the game by a completely unrealistic deadline and accepting it to be released with a horrendous amount of bugs isn't a tradeoff your studio will benefit of.
The embarrassing part of this article is, that I did it myself. I released a software called NetworX, which is buggy as hell and unfinished as well. I should not have done that, but I wanted it to get out there as people on Reddit were just too excited for it, and so my excitement went beyond a reasonable level. It was a mistake and I am half sorry and half ashamed for this unfinished bunch of bytes that is ready for download just a few clicks away. It told me a lesson, and others should also learn this lesson:
Releasing an unfinished product, because you want it to make money or you are too excited about showing the world what you did, is never a good idea.
It will attract people who are excited about it and soon leave them behind with disappointment and frustration, so they will move on. And when your game or software of whatever finally gets finished, it has already vanished into the deep pond of irrelevance.
This has happened to many games before, and while some indeed make it out of the early access stage, some just get stuck in it or get cancelled altogether.