《文明4》的设计师Soren Johnson认为Valve应该将Early Access的关注点从销售产品转向为开发者创造更好的游戏迭代与试验的环境。
Johnson是在2013年和别人一起创建起Mohawk Games，并在Steam Early Access上发行了他们的第一个项目《外星贸易公司》。在Gamasutra所发表的事后分析中，Johnson解释了做出这一决定的原因：“游戏产业中最常见的问题便是浪费，即在实际上根本不可能有趣的设计理念上浪费时间，浪费精力和浪费金钱。”
实际上Early Access提供给了《外星贸易公司》一个能够在早期阶段以及整个开发过程中获取反馈的环境。尽管游戏的可用性对于最终产品的发行可能会产生影响，Mohawk Games还是义无反顾地选择了这里。
一年多之后，Johnson对于Valve如何为开发者去完善Early Access有了一些准确的建议，即这些建议能够帮助他们处理像“开发者和消费者的不同期待所造成的结果”等问题。总之：开发者想要一个能够帮助他们创造出最出色游戏的环境，而消费者则希望能够尽早且基于最低价格去玩游戏。根据Mohawk，Early Access现在似乎更加倾向于后者。
而第一个建议也自然地引向了第二个建议：无用户评论。Mohawk认为用户评论是“电子商务的关键，”但是Johnson也呼吁像Early Access这样的项目需要重新审视这一概念。“当在陈述游戏还未准备好时Early Access的真正目的是什么？游戏出现在Early Access上不就是在说明游戏还未准备好吗？！”
而Mohawk最后的建议似乎有点激进，即Johnson呼吁Valve终止对于Early Access游戏的削价与退款。这一理念主要是源自他们认为Early Access变得对那些拥有少量但却用户粘性更高的玩家的开发者更有帮助—-引用Johnson的描述便是，这些用户是“一种特殊的消费群体”，他们明确地想要来自Early Access所提供的特殊体验。
Mohawk wants user reviews, sales, refunds removed from Early Access
By Matthew Handrahan
Civilization IV designer Soren Johnson believes that Valve should shift the emphasis of Early Access away from selling products, and towards creating a better environment for developers to iterate on and experiment with their games.
Johnson co-founded Mohawk Games in 2013, and elected to release its first project, Offworld Trading Company, on Steam Early Access. In a detailed postmortem on Gamasutra, Johnson’s reasoning for that decision is clearly stated: “the most common problem in the games industry is waste,” he said, “wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted money on design ideas that aren’t actually fun in practice.”
In principle, Early Access would provide an environment in which Offworld Trading Company could receive outside feedback from an early stage, and throughout its development. Mohawk Games had little hesitation in taking part, despite the possible impact of the game’s availability on the launch of the finished product.
More than a year later, Johnson has some clear recommendations for Valve on how to improve Early Access for developers, all of which address problems that, “result from differing expectations between developers and consumers.” In summary: developers want an environment in which to build the best possible game, while consumers want to play games early and at the cheapest possible price. Based on Mohawk’s suggestions, Early Access currently leans too far toward the latter.
First, Johnson suggested the introduction of “unlisted pages,” which would allow developers to launch their Early Access games in a more controlled manner, reaping more benefits from Steam’s infrastructure as a result.
“Valve takes an all-or-nothing approach to Early Access; launch will put the game on the front page of Steam whether the developers want it there or not,” Johnson said. “The answer is to allow developers to sell games on Steam with unlisted store pages, meaning the page is only available via a direct link and does not show up in any advertisements, ranked lists, discovery queues, curator collections, or any other method for exposing the game to the average Steam consumer.”
The first suggestion flows naturally into the second: no user reviews. Mohawk concedes that user reviews are, “a staple of online commerce,” but Johnson called for the concept to be reappraised for a programme like Early Access. “What exact purpose does an Early Access review serve when stating that the game is not ready? The game’s presence on Early Access is an explicit statement that the game is not ready.”
With no user reviews, Johnson said, teams will feel more empowered to embrace iterative design and, “take wild swings in quality during development.” It would also, “send a clear message to consumers,” about the nature of Early Access relative to buying a finished game.
Mohawk’s final suggestion is perhaps the most radical, with Johnson calling for an end to price-cutting and refunds on Early Access games. Ultimately, the idea is motivated by the belief that Early Access becomes more useful to developers with fewer but more engaged players – “a special type of consumer,” to use Johnson’s description, one that explicitly wants the unique experience Early Access was ostensibly created to provide.
“Turning off the developer’s ability to reduce the price of a game to drive sales and turning off the consumer’s ability to test out a game knowing that a refund is possible should both drive down game sales, especially among the more casual audience looking for either a bargain or a de facto demo,” Johnson said.
In fairness to Valve, it has implemented changes to its user review system, introducing a separate score that only reflects reviews from the last 30 days. However, the system still avoids distinguishing between Early Access games and finished products, a concern that is at the core of each one of Mohawk’s suggestions.
Ultimately, it’s hard to see Valve acting on these points, because so many of the changes would involve restricting rights it has already afforded to its customers. In addition, it would likely result in fewer transactions from which Steam takes a percentage, which rather begs the question: Is Early Access a tool for making better games, or a way of selling unfinished products?
There is a great deal more detail, and comprehensive exploration of all aspects of Offworld Trading Company’s time in Early Access, in Gamasutra’s excellent postmortem.(source:gamesindustry)