Early access has been a hot topic of conversation in the gaming industry for a while now but it is generally in reference to the consumer side of things. You very rarely hear about the developers who introduce their game through in an early access stage. Well here's my rant about early access.
While players may catch some bugs and report gameplay issues to you, you'll often find yourself spending more time responding to players and fixing issues that are only important in the moment. For example I very recently did a sale with chrono.gg. I was mid-way through the development of a fairly huge feature when I was notified that we were ready to go for this sale which would start in just about 12 hours.
This led to me having to make a side branch (a temporary version of the game) and grabbing an old build of the game just so we could get a bug-free build up for the sale. This ended up taking me upwards of 4 hours. Of course the sale was profitable and my time wasn't wasted but had we skipped early access, this would never have happened.
While most developers fully understand the point of early access the majority of gamers do not. If you wish to make your game available in early access you have to make sure that the only shortfalls of your game are content related. If a player feels they aren't playing a premium title they will most certainly refund the game and/or swear it off altogether.
You'll also see lots of players who simply didn't get what they wanted out of the game even if the game offered them lots of gameplay.
Better or worse full release
Full release can mean big money or falling flat. Popularity, timing, and the products price matter a lot. Having a bumpy early access can really hinder your transition into full release. Many games get horrible reviews (60% or lower) due to early access issues rather than bad gameplay. Even some popular early access games get overlooked when they transition into full release due to the fact that they already sold out their entire audience. Often full release is associated with a higher price and so this can be really bad for developers as well.
Why should you listen to me?
You don't have to take my advice but I've put out three titles into early access. Each one doing far better than the one before it. Though I'm still not a big shot by any means.
Lately I've been working on a sort of visual novel engine that relies on external scripts. For some time I have been interested in the concept of cheap visual novels. They sell crazy well on Steam and for the most part take little to no effort to produce. One major pitfall of Game Maker is that it doesn't really have a system in place for cutscenes. You could use timelines of course but anyone who has attempted that will tell you to write your own system.
As of now I've implemented a few key features that I feel really make this mini-engine stand out.
Why would I use this instead of GML for animations/cutscenes?
It supports any GM game and provides an easy way to create cutscenes on the fly. With live reloading there is no need to restart your game to make changes. It can even be used alongside normal gameplay. For example you may want a character to shake and then swing a weapon, produces an attack object. Using the script_execute() function in the external scripts you can absolutely do that. This prevents you from having to spend hours on a simple scene or animation.
It's the goal of most small developers to get a few titles out onto the market to do what I call, "revenue stacking" (maybe that's the official term, I don't know). I've got three titles out on Steam and for the first time in my life I feel somewhat secure about my career.
Secure to me is when I can expect decent paychecks consistently for a few months. Being a millennial in 2018 means everything feels uncertain and unstable. Each month might be your last and it takes a single horrible event to collapse your entire existence.
Posting less frequently
I used to really enjoy writing out really in-depth posts here but my time has become more constrained with each leap I make. Now I have to communicate with my team nearly daily and manage a few things whereas before I simply had to make a game. That's not to say I won't post here anymore but I may start turning my attention to other outlets.