the lonely god

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the lonely god

Post by Syringe » Fri Dec 13, 2013 02:19

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Re: the lonely god

Post by Saladin » Fri Dec 13, 2013 03:20

I thought you hated Reddit?

I do now anyway, I guess I'm late to the party.

On topic, Starbound does look really cool. But it also seems identical to Terraria, albeit maybe with an actual story, cooler setting, better art and some deeper themes.

I'm definitely interested in picking it up at some point, but I have a deep skepticism and an ideological opposition to "early access games," also known as "an internal alpha you pay full price for that we aren't required to work on and probably won't finish."

Have you tried it yet?
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Re: the lonely god

Post by Syringe » Fri Dec 13, 2013 14:31

I don't like the reddit community. I can't stand reading the comments. I use it as a news site though, it's very convenient to find content on things I like.

I also like attention so posting things like this to public forums is fun.

As for Starbound, I think it's great. It's Terarria except you mine way faster and there is a ton, ton more depth and you are in space, travelling around and progressing through sectors and discovering new kinds of planets and species etc. The game is infinitely procedrually generated, but everyone shares the same Universe. In that sense, you can go find a 'random' planet at coordinates 1231231251678549435361234, 12387623489479239877978 find something cool on it, tell your friend and it'll STILL BE THERE.

Minus whatever damage you did. In Single Player your changes don't broadcast or anything. In Multiplayer you can journey around the universe with a bunch of people (and I'd reccommend that you do, splitting off into mining parties seems like it'd save a ton of time because you need X fuel to make a jump to a new planet, and finding fuel can be kind of tedious at least where I am which is quite early in the game).

The game is great. I made the above picture because that's the atmosphere the game gives off. I was like hundreds of blocks underground in a vast, dark cavern. I'd been digging straight down and suddenly it opened up into this gigantic chasm. I dropped a flare down to see how far it would be to the ground, and it wasn't that far, so I hopped down.

EXCEPT MY WEIGHT TRIGGERED ALL THE SAND I'M NOW STANDING ON TO SHIFT AND HOLY FUCK IT'S ALL FLOWING DOWN OH SHIT SHOOT A GRAPPLING HOOK AT THE CEILING OH GOD I GOT IT (grapples are one use only and they're annoying to make so this was a big deal that I remembered I had one and opened up my inventory and used it, I felt like god damn indiana jones)

Afterwards, I dropped a flare to see what the end result was.

And I didn't hear anything.
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Re: the lonely god

Post by Ransom » Mon Dec 16, 2013 00:52

Saladin wrote:I'm definitely interested in picking it up at some point, but I have a deep skepticism and an ideological opposition to "early access games," also known as "an internal alpha you pay full price for that we aren't required to work on and probably won't finish."
they've got a decent track record so far so 'probably' is a stretch. there are more interesting problems with the format than paying the same full price you'd pay for most other pre-orders—like the fragile business model, the weirded-up relationship early access players have with development, and serious questions about how early player feedback might influence development.

outsourcing game design to players seems like a catastrophic idea to me personally, but it's been an interesting trend to watch

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Re: the lonely god

Post by Saladin » Mon Dec 16, 2013 18:29

I'm sure they do personally, early-access with games like Minecraft and Terraria actually make the most sense since most of the gameplay is emergent anyway. New updates just add new content to a game that's already basically done, making it feel fresh every couple of months.

Plus, the game kind of looks done already! I'm not sure what they have left to add.

But, in general, the model has so many problems I don't even know where to start.

So outsourcing your design to players would be bad for obvious reasons, but let's face it, the actual problem is that it doesn't really happen. Once you've given them your money, they don't have any incentive to listen to you beyond avoiding a bad player-driven metacritic attack.

Any good ideas that players give them come from playtesting, which has always been a traditional part of development anyway. So it's really just an illusion of player feedback built on the traditional model.

It's borderline fraudulent in that sense but the players probably get enough feedback that they don't feel like they were cheated, even though they were.

But the overall problem is you gave them your money and they're not done yet.

This is different from a crowdfunding model like kickstarter because there are established goals and they have to return the money (sometimes) if they don't actually end up releasing a product. There are expectations and consequences there.

Here, the product is already released, it's usually falsely advertised (Starforge Alpha, I'm looking at you), and the goals can be as ambitious and unrealistic as they want because they don't actually have to deliver a product to you, ever. Once you've bought the "game," that's the end of their obligation to you.

The model only works if the developers have basically already finished their MVP, and are just selling it so they can meet all their stretch goals. (Mount and Blade, Minecraft, etc.) And they do this at a reduced cost to what the final product ends up costing. So no one loses really.

But when you sell the fucking alpha to your game, basically at full price, the player is essentially an unpaid QA employee with an unusable product that they just have to hope will eventually be a playable game. And you can already tell, most of these games aren't going to end up that way.

It's a total inversion of trust for the player and it pits a developer, most of whom are probably indie and poor, against all of their worst vices.

Finish the damn game first. Don't sell it as is and just pretend you'll finish it later.
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Re: the lonely god

Post by Ransom » Tue Dec 17, 2013 09:02

of course there's no obligation? the entire point of the system is it's a vote of confidence. it is a direct reaction to traditional risk-averse development models. i agree that there's a serious responsibility for developer to accurately communicate what stage their game is at and the ones who are misleading about it can go to hell—that said most of the examples i've looked at have been pretty good about it.

the incentive to listen is absolutely there, by the way, and it's pretty fundamental to the process of creating any entertainment. only a hopeless cynic or an egomaniac makes something as elaborate and borderline obsessive as a modern video game without worrying about whether people will like it. a lot of creators are good at self-moderating the crowd-pleasing urge but this format makes the dialogue more direct and iterative; it's part of a much larger recent trend of consumer involvement which is super interesting but has yet to really play out, so let's please not act like we're future wizards who know that public discussion of alpha content has the same effect on development as internal playtesting.

it's easy to be an armchair developer and say 'finish the game first', but obviously it isn't always that simple. sometimes the options are a) hunt down more capital to continue development b) satisfy nobody and slap a 1.0 on unfinished garbage and patch the shit out of it over the following year, or c) throw it all in the fucking bin. one of these options is not like the others

i'm with you on general policy—i'd rather just play the thing when it's done, but that is a choice i still have. if this trend ultimately enables the completion of some neat games that otherwise might have never seen the light of day, well, fuck it all right then

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Re: the lonely god

Post by Saladin » Thu Dec 19, 2013 20:24

Sorry in advance for the long post, this is something I have strong opinions about that I rarely get to voice because all my game-dev friends agree with me on this.
Ransom wrote:of course there's no obligation? the entire point of the system is it's a vote of confidence. it is a direct reaction to traditional risk-averse development models. i agree that there's a serious responsibility for developer to accurately communicate what stage their game is at and the ones who are misleading about it can go to hell—that said most of the examples i've looked at have been pretty good about it.
I've never felt that they were advertised that way though.

I'm pretty sure that most people who buy these games are expecting them to be finished. I don't think they understand that they've essentially just made a bad bet with their money based on funding someone else's dream.

And there's nothing wrong with that, that's what kickstarter, indiegogo, etc. are all about.

But there's two major differences here. One, those things advertise that a finished product will, at some point, be released. And two, they have a good system built on top of it that makes it easy to keep track of the project's progress and keep the creators accountable for it, ignoring all the nice perks and rewards you get based on contribution.

But with early access? You're not donating, you're paying essentially full-price for an unfinished product that might, one day, get finished with no transparency into the process and no guarantee that anything except the unfinished thing you just bought is what you're going to get.

Unless you have a War Z type scenario where Steam feels so bad about the quality of the game that they offer a refund and boot it from their servers, these developers could just stop working and not finish the game. Which is distinct from a typical crowd-funding scenario in which, even if it ends up being bad, the developers still have to release something.

But now, that process can drag on and on, because they can still keep advertising their game like it's going to finish, without needing to set any time-tables or development goals or anything.

Starforge, to me, seems to be the worst offender of this. They are basically six months into their dev process and are only just now starting to have even some of the features they advertise in their trailer as already having. This wouldn't be that big of a deal were it not for the fact that these features are as basic as "digging tunnels" and "having enemies randomly spawn," in a game that's intended to basically be a Minecraft clone.

This isn't to say they won't eventually finish or that they're lazy or anything. But it's certainly an irresponsible way to make games.
the incentive to listen is absolutely there, by the way, and it's pretty fundamental to the process of creating any entertainment. only a hopeless cynic or an egomaniac makes something as elaborate and borderline obsessive as a modern video game without worrying about whether people will like it. a lot of creators are good at self-moderating the crowd-pleasing urge but this format makes the dialogue more direct and iterative; it's part of a much larger recent trend of consumer involvement which is super interesting but has yet to really play out, so let's please not act like we're future wizards who know that public discussion of alpha content has the same effect on development as internal playtesting.
Have you ever developed a game man? It's hard enough to listen to the advice of the competing vision of your team-members, let alone some random person you don't even care about who knows nothing about game design, art or programming.

Even AAA companies who might be making games specifically for an audience will roll their eyes at most of their suggestions.

When you're making a game, especially as an indie developer, you're making your game. Sure, you'll listen to people if you like their ideas and think they'll work, and of course you want people to like it, but you have your own idea of what kinds of games are good and what you think people will like.

And if you're really going to make a modern video game, you are almost certainly cynical, egomaniacal and borderline self-destructive. It's just too difficult to do to be any other kind of person. Unless you're making a very simple mobile game intended for a casual audience, the intense commitment it takes to make something like a video game means that the consumer is almost irrelevant.

I know that's just my opinion, but having had experience making games with people and talking with indie developers and watching films like Indie Game: The Movie, you really don't feel like you're making some kind of product for an audience. You feel like you're pouring out part of your soul into a piece of coded art that you hope people like.

Setting that aside, there's just the practical problems here.

When you buy an early-access game, as opposed to something like kickstarter, all of the burden is on the consumer to make sure their voice is heard.

Unless the game itself has well-written metrics recorders or some kind of in-game reporting system, there's basically zero way for the consumer to have any more input than they usually have unless they seek out the developers themselves and find some way to give them input.

That's why I compare it to traditional play-testing, because in terms of consumer involvement, you have basically the same amount of input, if not less.

Plus, when it comes to even playtesting, most developers are so sensitive about their work, they're literally taught to leave the room while someone is playing because the instantaneous reaction to watching someone play your game is to try to defend and explain it. For big companies, like SCEA, they often hire outside consulting groups, people who know nothing about games, to do the playtesting for them, because they just can't trust themselves to objectively and dispassionately allow players to criticize their games.

Far from being "crowd pleasers," most game devs just want to make exactly what they want to make and have everyone love them for it. If people don't like it, they get really defensive, not the other way around. There are obviously exceptions to this, but this is generally how it works.

Unless the testers offer a really good idea the devs never thought about that can fit into their dev budget without feature creep (how often will that happen?), there's just not a lot of things you can even listen to, no matter how good the ideas are.

This is to say nothing of how bad most user-input is, by the way. Big companies often pay closer attention to the actual recorded game-play footage and your recorded facial expressions at certain moments than they do what you actually have to say about the game.

So it's not about being "future wizards" here. Given the evidence, there's just no indication that things will work that way. That's not to say they definitely will not, but there's not really any good reason to think so.
it's easy to be an armchair developer and say 'finish the game first', but obviously it isn't always that simple. sometimes the options are a) hunt down more capital to continue development b) satisfy nobody and slap a 1.0 on unfinished garbage and patch the shit out of it over the following year, or c) throw it all in the fucking bin. one of these options is not like the others
I know how hard it is to make a game, I have no illusions about the difficulty of being an indie developer especially.

But realize, there is another option, d) sacrifice the normality and stability of your life and build your game based on your savings. Earn little or no wages the entire time and finish the game as fast as possible.

Now, compared to option a or b, this option sucks. But it's what most people actually do. And when you realize that you need to be mostly done to even consider option b anyway, it's not really that viable of an option to begin with.

And the thing about this option (and option a, especially with kickstarter) is that it provides all the right incentives to get the project done.

Making a game is really easy. Finishing and shipping a game is amazingly fucking hard.

Being a web-dev yourself, you've probably seen those joke images about dev time where 50% of the time budget makes 90% of the project, and the remaining 50% is doing the last 10%.

This is way more true with games than any software project, and it's why, if you want to get hired at big AAA studios, they are way more interested in shitty games that you've actually shipped than some amazing game which you never actually finished.

With early-access, all of the incentives encourage you not to finish the game, especially since there's never a requirement to have a finished product.

Now, incentives don't rule human behavior. Especially with indie devs, the drive to make their dream-game a reality has to be a strong one to even get started.

But when you dangle the carrot of, "hey, you already have your money, why work so hard to finish the game?" That's a pretty tempting reason to slack off, which is especially easy to do towards the end of a game's development, when you have borderline anxiety and depression from staring at the same project for so long.
i'm with you on general policy—i'd rather just play the thing when it's done, but that is a choice i still have. if this trend ultimately enables the completion of some neat games that otherwise might have never seen the light of day, well, fuck it all right then
But of course that's true though! It's almost a tautology phrased that way. If it works, of course it will be a nice thing.

The part of the argument you leave out there is what percentage of games will actually see the light of day versus how many games will be abandoned as an unfinished mess.

It's also assuming that this is the only viable way to take some games to completion and that the alternative is to shit-can the project. But we've already discussed how that isn't true, and I think it would be a rare game that would require a continuous revenue stream from believers in the project to go from almost done to totally finished.

This is especially true since the majority of funding is probably going to be right in the beginning and then completely fade off unless Steam gives you a nice big advertisement every time you push a big update.

So, even in that sense, it's not a reliable method of funding. And if you don't have a secure budget, doesn't that kind of defeat the whole purpose of the thing?

And ALL of this is to say nothing of the fact that releasing an early public alpha might kill all of the enthusiasm for your game! So the overall return you get from making the game might be substantially lower overall.


Like I said before, it works best with games where the core features, the minimum viable product, are already done. Which, luckily, is what most of these games are.

But in terms of most games, it's a bad idea that could potentially ruin the vision of your game.
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Re: the lonely god

Post by Ransom » Sat Dec 21, 2013 12:16

this is 100% off-topic and will sound really rude so please understand that i say this respectfully, but dude, i know you apologised but there is a limit to how many two-sentence paragraphs a man needs to communicate his meaning. if you can't be bothered expressing your thoughts efficiently, there's a point where it just dilutes your arguments.
I've never felt that they were advertised that way though.
well, i don't know what to tell you. every early access game on steam has a massive blue EARLY ACCESS sign before the 'buy' button along with a (in my experience, naturally) frank disclaimer from the developers. i haven't encountered many non-steam, non-crowdfunded early access games so if that's what you're referring to i can't speak to what that minority is doing
And if you're really going to make a modern video game, you are almost certainly cynical, egomaniacal and borderline self-destructive.
no shit i guess. it is an essential arrogance of any artist to believe that what you have to say through your art is worth inflicting upon other people. my point was there's (usually) a difference between the egomania of the artist and the egomania of the actual egomaniac. i'm not trying to be a dick but i'm a designer-developer with a background in art, writing and game mods - it's seriously okay you don't need to explain to me that a creator has tunnel-vision for their idea or that consumers aren't designers. that's fundamental to all art and doesn't connect with what i'm getting at.

what's new here is that unlike playtesting, unlike NDA'd betas, unlike press previews and choreographed convention demos, early access creates public discussion and interaction with your busted-ass game. i'm not talking about all those early access folks posting on the forums asking for newtonian horse physics, i'm talking about the developers being able to observe the zeitgeist surrounding their game ahead of time without the benefit/tension of knowing they haven't played it yet. that's a very strange new data point.

it will probably be difficult to pin down the weird nuanced ways this'd affect a project, but the effects of social interaction on any creative work are anything but predictable. i don't care how obsessed a creator is with their idea, discussion of art is not one-way.
But realize, there is another option, d) sacrifice the normality and stability of your life and build your game based on your savings. Earn little or no wages the entire time and finish the game as fast as possible.
okay i did forget this and shouldn't have. but: it's one thing that many indies do this, but it is horribly grognardian to suggest that it's any kind of acceptable status quo. if someone must make their art at any cost they will make it, that's always been true, but precisely what i am saying is valuable about the early access phenomenon is it provides an alternative.
The part of the argument you leave out there is what percentage of games will actually see the light of day versus how many games will be abandoned as an unfinished mess.
considering half of my argument is a devil's advocate to your doomsday certainty about a trend so recent that such percentages aren't yet meaningful, i'd say the explanation for this should be obvious.
But when you dangle the carrot of, "hey, you already have your money, why work so hard to finish the game?" That's a pretty tempting reason to slack off, which is especially easy to do towards the end of a game's development, when you have borderline anxiety and depression from staring at the same project for so long.

...

And ALL of this is to say nothing of the fact that releasing an early public alpha might kill all of the enthusiasm for your game
these are probably the best points you make. i'd be really interested to see some data on the differences between pre-order numbers and early-access numbers proportional to a game's final sales. do pre-orders make developers slack off? does early access damage release sales? also: an interesting corollary to your point about early access killing enthusiasm, which has already happened in a couple of cases, is a game entering and exiting its prime before it's released.

i dunno, man. what a frustrating argument. clearly neither of us like early access, we just disagree about why it's bad. mainly i am annoyed by such blanket assumptions that rely on exaggerations and worst-cases about a trend that's not even a year old.

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Re: the lonely god

Post by Jon0101 » Sat Dec 21, 2013 16:34

Ransom wrote:this is 100% off-topic and will sound really rude so please understand that i say this respectfully, but dude, i know you apologised but there is a limit to how many two-sentence paragraphs a man needs to communicate his meaning. if you can't be bothered expressing your thoughts efficiently, there's a point where it just dilutes your arguments.
That's hard man.
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Re: the lonely god

Post by Jon0101 » Sat Dec 21, 2013 17:02

Also, does like, early access allow the devs to fix the broken shit,like earlier?
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Re: the lonely god

Post by kob » Sat Dec 21, 2013 20:49

early access killing enthusiasm
this is basically why i try to avoid early access or beta. in all my experiences with early access or alpha or beta i've ended up not playing the game at all when it got substantially further in development or even released. after i play it for a few hours i stop and almost never go back. i always leave the experience feeling like there should have been something more (naturally so) and it completely kills off the enthusiasm i had for the game. early access always does more harm than good for me personally and in the case of free alphas and betas oftentimes it ends up being a lost sale from me when the final product does drop.

i will agree with saladin though that it does feel like a lot of early access games take way too long to release or end up in a state of perpetual 'in development'. i don't know if that's actually true or not, but that's how it feels and it makes me wonder sometimes whether a lot of games would be finished quicker without early access. seems like a lot of kickstarted games or games that are receiving funds while in development end up suffering from feature creep.

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Re: the lonely god

Post by Saladin » Sun Dec 22, 2013 22:32

Yeah, that's my main gripe too. The main thing that kills a good schedule is unfocused design and bad planning.

Both of those things are super hard to do at all, let alone efficiently or accurately. So a model which encourages feature-creep is going to screw over a project which hasn't already released its minimum viable product.
Ransom wrote:if you can't be bothered expressing your thoughts efficiently, there's a point where it just dilutes your arguments.
I know, it's a bad writing habit I have. I'm working on it, but sometimes I just gush and don't really bother to edit.
every early access game on steam has a massive blue EARLY ACCESS sign before the 'buy' button along with a (in my experience, naturally) frank disclaimer from the developers
You missed the point there. It's not that they don't advertise early access effectively, they do for the most part. What they don't advertise effectively to the consumer is that they're taking a risk when "buying" it.

I imagine most regular purchases aren't under the impression that the game might never be finished, they think they just get to participate in the alpha.
what's new here is that unlike playtesting, unlike NDA'd betas, unlike press previews and choreographed convention demos, early access creates public discussion and interaction with your busted-ass game. i'm not talking about all those early access folks posting on the forums asking for newtonian horse physics, i'm talking about the developers being able to observe the zeitgeist surrounding their game ahead of time without the benefit/tension of knowing they haven't played it yet. that's a very strange new data point.
I don't see how that's new or valuable though. At best, you're getting a more raw opinion. But I doubt you're getting a more useful or accurate one.

Since most regular people have no concept of how shitty alphas can be, and how overly judgmental the average gamer is, I really don't see how this model encourages any kind of discussion that's beneficial to anybody.

I say this not because a dedicated fanbase can't be helpful in an early alpha. Cortex Command, one of my favorite indie games, was ushered along by a very small, very dedicated fanbase while the one dude developing the game chugged along on it. I say this because pushing something to Steam isn't going to bring in a dedicated fanbase, it's going to bring in a bunch of random people with very high expectations who will probably shit all over you unless your game is basically finished already.
but it is horribly grognardian to suggest that it's any kind of acceptable status quo. if someone must make their art at any cost they will make it, that's always been true, but precisely what i am saying is valuable about the early access phenomenon is it provides an alternative.
I wasn't suggesting it should be that way, just that it is that way. The early access model, to the limited extent indies can use it, is an appealing alternative to total suffering and stress. But if your goal is to make a game and establish yourself or your studio, finishing the game properly and getting critical praise might be the sacrifice you make with early access.

Depending on who you are and what you're trying to make, is that risk really worth an advance payment?
do pre-orders make developers slack off? does early access damage release sales? also: an interesting corollary to your point about early access killing enthusiasm, which has already happened in a couple of cases, is a game entering and exiting its prime before it's released.
The difference with pre-orders is that the game is going to get released either way. And since it's usually a practice done by big publishers, the developers may not even really see much of that money anyway. But they're insidious too. To me, pre-orders always seem to be a way to sucker people out of their money before they can make an informed decision with reviews.

With regards to sales, I think the main thing here is that the model essentially encourages an infinite dev cycle. So the game never really gets officially released in any serious capacity.

Remember Minecraft's "release?" They kind of just added a final boss, stuck a 1.0 on it and called it done. But the cycle of adding new features still kept on rolling for a while. So it really didn't seem that different from before.

To put my gripe simply, your early-access premiere on Steam kind of is your release.

Since most of the interest and meta for a game is focused in its first six months, how could that not kill enthusiasm? It certainly ain't helping it.

Plus, is Metacritic going to wait until you slap a 1.0 on the thing to allow reviews for it? At what point are people allowed to shit on your game?
mainly i am annoyed by such blanket assumptions that rely on exaggerations and worst-cases about a trend that's not even a year old.
Well, we know it's not a year old. Minecraft, Mount and Blade, and Cortex Command all used this model.

The only new thing here is that you're throwing it up on Steam, disconnecting your customers' ability to easily monitor and interact with the development process.

But even so, I was never trying to say that things are definitely going to be this way. And since the data doesn't exist, anything anyone says about it is just informed speculation.

It might turn out great. But the fundamentals of it, combined with my experience and outlook on development and publishing, make me think it's a bad idea.
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Re: the lonely god

Post by kob » Mon Dec 23, 2013 20:53

yeah i feel like a lot of early access or beta games are basically released. the most egregious examples are Path of Exile and Dota 2. those games were in beta for so long and PoE in particular had a lot of people defend its flaws because "it's a beta." bullshit. when PoE released all the players got was the second part of Act 3, some balances changes, some bug fixes and I think maybe a new mode. to me that's just a content patch. the game STILL has desync issues.

Dota 2 is even worse. I don't think anything happened when it released. they just decided, "yo games released"

of course there are plenty of titles that DO feel like actual alphas and betas, but so many feel like they're just hiding behind the term to avoid criticism.

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Re: the lonely god

Post by Saladin » Mon Dec 23, 2013 21:57

Yeah, and that wouldn't bad by itself, but you're paying full price for the thing.

That also would be kind of a whatever, except it may actually be damaging the quality of the game and the reputation of the studio.

Unless your game is a service, you just can't do that with development. You need to release a final product and, ideally, it shouldn't even need to be patched (unless it has highly competitive multiplayer or something).
Quack wrote:ok but so now what do I do besides masturbate

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kob
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Re: the lonely god

Post by kob » Wed May 07, 2014 20:55

old topic here (and just sorta jump starting a dead forum) but Towns is officially and fully abandoned now and last I heard Paranautical Activity is abandoned as well.

early access really puts a bad taste in my mouth.

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