The Daily Grind: Which MMO would’ve benefited from early access?

    
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Sorry, guy.

In our mailbag podcast a few weeks back, we answered a question about Wildstar, specifically about whether early access might have helped the game reorient back in the years before its launch. We were torn, as on the one hand we thought early access feedback from a much broader base of players might have rerouted the game’s myopic “tough luck, cupcake” development. But on the other hand, we wondered whether it wouldn’t have exposed the game’s design and process problems to the point that it wouldn’t have sold at all – or NCsoft might have canned it before it ever launched.

I couldn’t help but wonder about other older MMOs that came up long before early access and its concomitant abuses were a thing. Is there any MMO that would’ve truly benefited from a true early access period, and if so, which one?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Robert Mann

Early access as it stands is just a problem. What game developers need are good testers and opinions from people who can be more neutral toward their own biases. There’s some good groups out there who do that, but they tend to be shouted over in early access style systems. And… well, tbh nothing is going to be better than paid testers.

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mysecretid

Do expansions count? Because Battle For Azeroth sure could’ve used some oversight, in my opinion.

Not that Blizzard seems to care a lot what the players think of late … dunno whether that’s appearance or fact, only that they’ve got a PR problem happening, at the very least.

As for base MMORPG games: Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning could’ve used some design feedback at certain points; and Wildstar could’ve benefitted from knowing that their original “hardkore gamerz only!” stance was a bad call.

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Randy Savage

Wildstar’s problem is that they spent over a hundred million dollars of corporate investor money to make a game that catered to a niche demographic of players. Even in WoW, hardcore raiding is a niche. Less than 5% of the playerbase even attempts it, let alone actually excels at it. The only thing early open access would do for Wildstar is turn off people sooner than it did.

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rafael12104

Hmm. I think that is a great question because of the irony. Early access no longer means what it once did because of abuses by games like Atlas.

So Anthem could have benefited from Early Access in its traditional form. But had it gone through contemporary early access it would have been nothing but a microtransaction bug fest.

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Axetwin .

Wildstar DID have early access, except for MMO’s they call it “closed beta”. But to answer the general question here, none of them. I have yet to see any proof that Early Access actually improves a game and isn’t just a way for developers to start getting money for an unfinished product.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

I don’t know if Early Access would help in much of anything. It’s really just a fancy marketing term for a soft launch. By the time games hit Early Access, what you see is what you’re getting. I think we need to go back to the traditional Open Beta concept – you want people trying out your game? Don’t make them pay for it first. I now very rarely pre-order games, and will never pay for a game in Early Access unless it’s a game that I know I will be playing – either from a dev I am familiar with or it’s a game in a series.

MMOs would benefit more from actually getting people into the game to play and test it without making them put cash out for the privilege first. And then then next big thing is to listen when the tides start flowing in one direction or another – not just the vocal minority on your forums – but the overall flow of the playerbase and what they are doing and look at the things they are not doing and understand why. Probably the most important people to an MMO are the ones who haven’t bought in yet – because they are the ones you will need get invested into the game to keep it viable for the long term. They are the majority of your potential playerbase and the ones who can provide a good barometer on what is right and wrong with the game.

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Ironwu

None of them. Developers usually don’t listen as they are so far down the road in their opinions and decisions that there is not doubt in their mind that ‘They Know Best!’.

A closed beta with a diverse selection of players is sufficient IF the developers are going to listen and investigate feedback.

These Early Access programs are, I think, doing more harm than good as the games are usually not finished enough for public consumption and early opinions on the failures of a game can be permanently damaging.

Just my 2c based on my own experiences with Early Access and Early Access reviews.

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Axetwin .

It’s a balance. Developers think they know best. The playerbase thinks they know best. It’s up to the developer to find what works for them, and filter out the really bad player suggestions, or the player suggestions that sound good on paper, but would ultimately drive more people away than it would attract.

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Blazing Coconut

I have to agree with the other person who replied to this post. Listening to the payerbase is a sure fire way to destroy a game. The playerbase often times wants things that are detrimental to the long term health of a game. This is partially because there is no such thing as consensus among a playerbase and secondly because most players can’t separate their personal wants from what would be good for the game as a whole.

There are good ideas that come out of betas/early access, however, there is an equal or greater number of ideas that are terrible. So really it still falls back on the devs to realize what they need to make for the game to keep people engaged long term.

I do agree that they should INVESTIGATE feedback, which does not mean implement it. But if you’re going to ask for feedback, you should look at it at least.

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xanadox

Has been? PUBG is an MMO that has succeeded with the EA. The economic and the development way.
Star Citizen is another EA MMO that has been printing money, lets see if the game is launched.

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Raimo Kangasniemi

PUBG is not really a MMO and Star Citizen is, no matter the huge amounts of money involved, essentially an indie project.

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Hikari Kenzaki

I swear this topic was posted last week…

Early Access, Alpha, Beta, Pre-Alpha, Happy Backer Playtime… doesn’t really matter because what Marketing calls it rarely has anything to do with where the game is in the development stage.

I’ve seen games in Alpha/EA that were still in a state that they could actually course correct or even completely overhaul game systems successfully. These can benefit from Early Access, certainly.

But we all know the flipside of Early Access, aka the Marketing Alpha. Generally, a Feature Complete program (and thus difficult to change) that people buy into with moderate sums of cash. These games are often plagued with game-breaking bugs and if anyone tries to criticize them, they are assaulted by white knights who are mentally, emotionally and financially invested in the game “being good.”

It really depends on the approach.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

it’s largely an arbitrary line. there’s nothing they could not have done post launch that they could’ve done pre launch wrt teh stuff.

and in carbine’s case they we’re listening to anyone but the people they preselected from forums where they were telling them what they wanted to hear for betas where they told them what they wanted to hear only to moan and whine that that carbine didn’t listen to them>

it is the cycle of the mmorpg feedback chain. almost everyone worth listening to feedback has long given up in giving feedback to developers because they as a rule or some shit keep listening to the loudest voices on their forums subreddits and social media.

but alot like virtual reality and AMD video cards those cliche sets of demands that are inevitably spammed onto every pre launch game forum fansite and subreddit that the developers invariably implement “with a twist” are not nearly as popular with money paying consumers as they are with social media shit posters and youtube influencers.

i guess the one thing that would’ve been improved by early access is sharing the hilarious extremeness of just how toxic the closed beta forums were and how much carbine employees encouraged it first hand to the public.

but then again i’m not sure how stephen frost is still employable in the games industry with his public shittweeting during his time at carbine anyway so… 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️