https://i.imgur.com/cXyfMuZ.jpg
There are many types of DLC that gamers have complained about for years. We've heard of on-disc DLC that is developed before the game's release, and the downloadable portion is just an unlock code to get to it. We've heard of day-one DLC that could have been part of the core game (and in some cases, should have been). We all remember horse armor for Oblivion that cost far more than such simple changes should have. But now, we have something new.

Yesterday, the ARK: Scorched Earth expansion pack was released on Steam, for $20. The catch? The game isn't even out yet. This is the first time an Early Access title has received paid DLC, and to my knowledge the first time add-on content was available and playable for a game that hasn't technically released.

ARK is an Early Access title, which means interested gamers can pay now and play the game as development progresses before it's finally "released." But the Early Access model has made "release" a gray area. Some games have stalled in Early Access, leaving players unhappy and out some cash, while some have thrived there.

ARK seems to be in the latter group. The fans of the game are very fond of it, but most would agree that there are bugs and performance issues that need a lot of work. The game was supposed to leave Early Access and be officially "released" a few months ago, but these bugs and performance problems delayed that release.

And now, a paid DLC has been added to the mix. This is the first time an Early Access game has received paid DLC and it's leaving a bad taste in some people's mouths. The game's Steam rating quickly dropped by 16%. Steam reviews aren't always a good indicator for the quality of a game, but that's a clear indication of some unhappy people.

Many argue that the money and time should be spent on fixing the bugs present in the core game, while others point out that multiple teams do different things and this probably didn't take anything away from the bug fixes. The truth is probably somewhere in between, since new DLC will inevitably introduce new variables into the process at best, and at worst could have taken time away from getting the game out.

Either way, some see charging money for new content for a game that isn't out as a slight to the player base, regardless of how much it affects the release window.

Plus, there are many complaints about the value of the $20 price tag for what some are calling a meager amount of content, considering that the full game is $30.

I'm not sure where I fall on this, but regardless of this specific case, what I worry about is the precedent it sets. Studio Wildcard is known to be quite involved and open with the community, and very active with new patches, etc, but other developers aren't. I worry that game developers will be able to use Early Access as a shield for complaints about performance or gameplay ("it's not finished, we're still working on it," etc.) while still attempting to generate new revenue with new content.

What are your thoughts on this? A dangerous precedent, bad for the players, or just a new method of delivering content in an industry where the players are more and more involved in development?

ARK: Survival Evolved on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/346110/

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/03/2016 at 12:35am

I think it's great, because I love the game and I love the new expansion, so I don't mind.

Also, it's not the first add-on. The Center is a new Ark map that's free and Primitive+ is a new Total Conversion that's free, too.

About The Center: http://ark.gamepedia.com/The_Center
About Primitive+: http://ark.gamepedia.com/Primitive_Plus
Scorched Earth Announcement on Official Website: https://survivetheark.com/index.php?/articles.html/ark-scorched-earth-expansion-pack-r304/
Scorched Earth Interview:http://www.polygon.com/features/2016/9/1/12719278/ark-survival-evolved-scorched-earth-dlc

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/03/2016 at 03:00am

Yeah, I heard about this today and I can understand why some people are upset.

I wonder why they did it so quickly though? If I had to guess I think it's because they may think the game is nearly complete, as you say and need to move on to the next DLC to keep funding development. In that case I can understand and don't fault then for it but maybe question the timing.

It's now the number 1 top seller on Steam so I think people are mostly responding like Greg which is to say happy they are getting more of the game they love.

That said, I don't love the precedent but can understand world where they might need to move on to the next DLC to raise money to continue working.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/03/2016 at 03:27am

It only creates a precedent if it's successful (i.e. people actually buy it). Even then, "precedent" might be a bit overreaching. "Another weird marketing gimmick" is probably more appropriate.

I think Early Access is a fairy tale that we all accept as legitimate, probably because it sounds reasonable, but then have to accept that most games these days are Early Access to some degree or another. From Steam's description of ARK: "This Early Access game is not complete and may or may not change further." What does that even mean? If a game is released into the wild and it doesn't change with further development, that's a finished game. It might be broken, but it's finished. The top 30 helpful comments on ARK's Steam reviews have an average of 450+ hours of played time each. That's a lot of time put into playing an "unreleased" game (on XBox One it's called a "Game Preview"! :D What is that?!).

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/03/2016 at 03:48am

Steam says my Ark hours = 1391. I've played single player mode, I've played on a server, and I've played alone again with mods. I don't know why this is paid DLC, while the others I mentioned are free. However, those were created by other people not affiliated with the developers, but the developers decided to add them to the game and support them. I had no idea what to expect when they announced there would be a huge news release recently. I did see people post speculation that Scorched Earth would be it and they were correct.

I bought Ark over a year ago. I'm not sure how much I paid, it was probably no more than $40. I loved it, I still love it. I'm one of those fans that can't quite get enough of it. I'm looking forward to new creatures, mechanics, etc. Yes, the game has it's issues, some of which really annoy me, but I'm hoping those get fixed soon.

Seeing as I'm a fan of this game, I have to say that I am biased, so I can only tell you how I feel from a fanboy perspective. The game does seem to be pretty popular and some very good YouTubers have been playing it and making videos for it daily for over a year now.

I know a lot of people aren't happy that this is DLC for an Early Access game and it costs $20 (about as much as the main game). Still, I'm reminded of something I read somewhere about how even if you pay for the game and this DLC, you're still paying less than you would for your typical AAA game (or even No Man's Sky).

I can tell you from personal experience that the game has been evolving. Development continues, although patches aren't released nearly as often as before. Last year it was typical to see a new update once a week, but now we get a big update once a month. After that, for maybe about a week we start getting patches for issues that come up after the release of the new update (like something not working correctly).

The game was supposed to be leaving Early Access this summer, but that date has been pushed to the end of the year. There's so much content they've thought of and have found inspiration within the community, too (like the other DLC). So, I understand and I'm still looking forward to more (even if I have to pay for it).

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/03/2016 at 04:08am

@Greg: Wait, you play ARK? I had no clue! :D Kidding, kidding

@scrypt: "I think Early Access is a fairy tale that we all accept as legitimate"

I still don't really accept it as legitimate. I think I did for a while, but not really anymore. There are too many failed experiments in Early Access for me to, at this point.

Maxxiumus_Prime wrote on 09/03/2016 at 12:38pm

@jdodson: You mentioned the core game MAY nearly be complete, however, they openly said the paid expansion "more closely resembles the look, feel and polish we are going for with the final core game." Which, to me and a lot of others, means the core game is nowhere near finished and instead of polishing that up for what they want to represent, they had us pay more money in order for us to see what the final game may or may not end up looking like.

So, to me, the money they sunk into the paid expansion, is money they should have spent perfecting the core game. It's one of the most popular Early Access and Game Preview titles out there, and is generating a mass amount of income for them. There's no reason to put out paid content for an unfinished game. If you want to show off what the final game will look like, finish the final game and show us.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/03/2016 at 04:00pm

@Maxximus, I hadn't seen that quote. That really makes this whole thing worse.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/03/2016 at 04:31pm

Somewhere along the way, gamers have accepted Early Access games as a final transaction, with a promise of things to come. The idea behind Early Access is that you pay a price to play an early version of the game, and in doing so you support the devs monetarily, provide feedback into the dev process, and aren't expected to pay full-retail as people would once/if the game is released. The ARK devs aren't simply asking for more money (which would be crazy, right, Double Fine?), but also providing extra content. Content which, I'm assuming based on it's context to the game, is entirely optional (most DLC is just that, optional).

I go back to Destiny on this one, which seems like a perfect analogy. $60 at retail. Three expansion packs (paid DLC) released within the first year, with one more soon to come. When The Taken King expansion came out (the third DLC pack), it was recognized that this content brought the game more in line with what players expected Destiny to be when it released (almost a year prior): http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-09-15-more-than-an-expansion-destiny-the-taken-king-is-a-relaunch-of-bungies-vision. The Taken King DLC was $40 (Dark Below and House of Wolves packs were $20 each prior to this release).

My point is, if gamers aren't happy with a game (or it's developers), they should not continue to support it with their money. Having expectations of a games potential months/years after the fact (finished or not) is confusing the issue. With Early Access, you accept the game as it is, not as it could be. There is no promise that the game will even reach that 1.0 status. It's the ultimate unreachable item.

@GregoPeck brings up another interesting point: YouTubers are profiting from playing ARK. So, not only are people willfully paying for, and heavily playing, unfinished games, but others are supplementing their living by doing so. That's insane! Gone (so, so far gone) are the days of isolated gaming experiences, before we had networking to guide us. There are increasingly more factors going into making and marketing a game. Why not charge for substantial, optional content being added to the game? If it's unfavorable, then stop supporting the game.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/03/2016 at 09:27pm

I was just reading articles on the problems with Trendy Entertainment, Jeremy Stieglitz, and the recent lawsuit regarding ARK. That kind of puts a different tone on things.

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/03/2016 at 10:58pm

@scrypt Yeah, to me that makes it a little more understandable why they'd put out content that you have to pay for, in other words maybe they need the extra income. Granted the game is very popular and they've already made lots of money with it.

I'm glad that you pointed out the basics of Early Access. I still believe in EA though and I think one of the strongest parts of it is the community support and input. I think that perhaps games that start in EA may actually be better than if they hadn't because the community is providing input, helping the devs squash bugs and fix issues, and also perhaps even inspiring the devs to add or change the game in ways that gamers can enjoy. I think the EA model is working for Ark, but you know I'm biased because I really do love the game. I've tried some other EA games. Some are or were good, some really need some work, but so far, in my limited experience, Ark is the very best of them.

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/03/2016 at 11:07pm

I'd also like to point out that this new expansion essentially doubles the size of Ark's map, if you think of the Scorched Earth and default maps alone. The devs have stated that the default map won't grow, because of the engine's limitations, but early on they did hint at other maps that would come along (hence we have SE). I assumed that they were just going to add a new biome to the default map and they may still, although they already have added 3 biomes to it (snow, swamp, and redwood forest).

From what I've seen they still have a lot of content to add to the game including creatures, mechanics, craftables, etc. Over time, perhaps with inspiration from the community, this content has grown. It seems as though they're waiting to add all the content they have planned so far, then they're going to optimize the game and bring it out of Early Access. They've already done some opitimzation and have made some improvements to the game to help increase performance, but it's still a very demanding game hardware-wise. While I was able to enjoy the game with a GTX 690, it wasn't until I upgraded to a 980 Ti Classified that I can actually see the game in all it's glory with good frame rates.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 12:30am

My PC just makes minimum spec, so I've been waiting for it to come to PS4 (which it was supposed to in July).

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/04/2016 at 12:52am

My first Ark friend, who invited me into her tribe on an official server has been playing a game with a laptop that, well to be honest I don't even know if it meets the minimum requirements. I don't understand how she plays the game, but she does! I know it looks like crap on her PC (I've seen her screenshots), she has to run it in low memory mode. With my GTX 690, I doubled my framerate by running it in DX10 mode, which didn't look as great as DX11, but was still playable. The problem w/ the 690 was that it is a dual-GPU card and the game does not yet support SLI (which I needed to take advantage of both GPUs on the card). Ark was a major reason why I decided to upgrade my GPU and I don't regret it.

I was unaware of when it was supposed to come to PS4, but that's cool that you've been waiting for it. I hope you enjoy it. Just a head's up, you don't have to play it on a server with others, you can play single player mode all by your lonesome. :) As I said, I've enjoyed both modes (single player and on an official server). I like aspects of both. I liked playing with others who were friendly and cool. I like that I've made some friends. I didn't enjoy the PVP aspects of it and other minor annoyances (like people always saying "lag" in global chat when everyone already knows because everyone experiences it as the server saves).

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 08:07pm

Out of curiosity, @Maxxiumus_Prime, did you purchase the DLC? By your earlier response, it sounds like you did.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/04/2016 at 09:11pm

@Maxxiumus_Prime: Wow so yeah if that was the reasoning behind the expansion then it wasn't to fund game development. I know the game is very popular and I kind of thought money wasn't an issue but I like giving people the benefit of the doubt. If this is a reason to finish up polish on the game that seems off to me.

@scrypt: Early Access and that model, to me, isn't something i'll do anymore. Personally i'd rather buy the finished product these days that roll the dice on someones intentions. I don't generally have a defeatist attitude about things but we've seen long time developers do bad things with early access and it seems to be the success stories are becoming more rare. That said, Early Access funds good stuff and Ark seems really good so it's not all bad I just won't be the person buying the game then.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/04/2016 at 09:26pm

OK wow, this makes it even worse: http://imgur.com/a/l3d8M

One of the least vitriolic comments on this whole thing I've seen gets met with some serious attitude from a dev.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/04/2016 at 09:29pm

Like from everything I've seen, they have...

1. Taken things that were supposed to be in the base game and made them part of the paid add-on. (though the dev denies that)
And 2. Added a ton more polish to the add-on. Most comments I've seen from people who have played the add-on say that it's more polished than the core game. That's a major problem.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 09:40pm

Some perspective to go with that: http://imgur.com/r/playark/2RrAMJz

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 09:42pm

@Travis, I'd be interested in seeing what you're seeing. What things were supposed to be in the core game, and are now in the DLC? How is the DLC being more polished (a ton more?) than the core game a major problem?

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/04/2016 at 09:56pm

Because people have already paid for the core game, and it's unpolished, and now this new paid add-on comes out that IS polished.

If they can release an add-on that the dev even says is nearly an entire new game, that they have said "this is a look at how we want the final game to be," then why wasn't that attention being paid to the game itself that people have already paid for?

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/04/2016 at 10:01pm

Travis, I'm on my phone here but those look like two separate images? Is it plausible that he was responding to someone else?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 10:09pm

People have paid for the developer process of the core game. They didn't pay for a final product. Huge difference. Purchase into Early Access doesn't entitle you to anything more than what the developer gives to you. It's like buying a computer "as-is" from a garage sale. There is risk involved, and as soon as you make the transaction, you accept that risk.

If they turned around in the next 3 months and added the same polish to the core game as they did with the DLC, would that make a difference? Are people being forced to buy the DLC? Does the DLC have anything to do with the core game? It looks prettier and runs better? Awesome! May be a good indication of what will become of the core game before the end of the year. Saying that they should have focused efforts on the core rather than something to bring more funding in is an irrelevant argument. It's common for studios to do this, but usually they put out an entirely separate game, rather than support the existing game. Again, Double Fine did exactly this when they were working on Broken Age. Hairbrained Schemes did this with Shadowrun Returns. Wildcard is doing the same thing, their just being accused of putting the cart before the horse because they chose the Early Access route.

I still really think that a majority of players out there are fundamentally confused about what Early Access is, and what you are (and are not) entitled to when you support devs through that avenue.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 10:11pm

*they're ;)

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/04/2016 at 10:23pm

I'm confused about that quote, that I read, too. Both the game and expansion still have issues (I've run into and reported some). SE seems about as "polished" as the core game to me, which isn't bad really, but there's certainly some issues. Maybe they meant that SE is closer to completion because they don't intend to add more creatures and content to it, where as they still have a lot they intend to add to the core. There are probably over a dozen creatures announced and still unreleased. There's also a whole tech tier coming, which adds a lot of cool sci-fi stuff. I don't know if the core is getting any more biome changes. The map and the enitrety of the game still has a final optimization pass awaiting. There are also still some mechanics that haven't reached their final phase, like breeding. I think they're intending to give some of the already released creatures another pass, too, including mechanics, etc. What I'm saying is not speculation, it's what I've read in patch notes, particularly for what things they have listed still to come (which you can see below), on the official page, and official wiki. You can look at their website at the unreleased creatures and see that the game still is unfinished. Then there are still plenty of issues to resolve, which you can also find on the official forums. So, I think when they said that they meant that this expansion is pretty much complete, more so than the core.

Patch notes which includes some things still to come:
https://steamcommunity.com/app/346110/discussions/0/594820656447032287/

Official site:
www.survivetheark.com

Official wiki:
http://ark.gamepedia.com/ARK_Survival_Evolved_Wiki

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/04/2016 at 10:29pm

Multiple teams working on multiple games or even multiple parts of games is common and that's fine. But they either took people off of ARK to do the add-on or hired new people for the add-on. But either way, this team apparently did a better job than the core team. So at best it's bad team management.

They have a game that was supposed to be released months ago and told people it would be, people who have paid for the game (and yes they have paid for it, more on that later), and then had to push it back because of issues. Those issues should have been fixed before shifting focus.

Now, you're right that you're paying for the development process and that a completed game may not come from it. However, the game is coming in this case. People know it's coming. People know they are getting a game, and this add on is definitely delaying it one way or another even if it's just a matter of putting the best people on the core game instead of the addon.

Plus adding onto that, if we assume for the sake of argument that people aren't entitled to a game as you said, and this is no exception, that's even worse. They're selling an add-on for a game that isn't guaranteed a release?

@jon it's not a different conversation, scrypt posted a further comment by the dev

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 10:55pm

"They're selling an add-on for a game that isn't guaranteed a release?"

Yes! That's exactly it! And you don't have to assume it for the sake of argument, it's in the disclaimer on Early Access games. There is no guarantee that a game will release. There is no entitlement. You could argue that releasing DLC for an Early Access game is unethical, but on what grounds would you be making that claim?

You say that the game is definitely coming, and people know it. How do people know this? Who are these magical people that have clairvoyance into the future of this process, and have the right to tell developers what they should or should not prioritize in the development process? If the game all of a sudden was shelved, and wasn't touched again for another year, to whom is Wildcard liable? I would agree that it would have to be the people that bought the game, except that, as ridiculous as it seems, no one has, at least not according to the terms of Early Access. http://store.steampowered.com/earlyaccessfaq/

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/04/2016 at 10:58pm

Ok so again, that makes selling an addon even worse!

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 11:02pm

How?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 11:06pm

I feel like it might be unconventional, at best, but who is it actually hurting?

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/04/2016 at 11:09pm

How is it not? In this case I'm not talking about ARK specifically but the entire idea of a paid addon for a game that may never release.

If someone has already paid into a game and then pays even more and then it tanks, that's bad.

And as I said in an earlier comment, it could let people perpetually hide behind the early access label and never put forth effort to fix issues because "we aren't done yet"

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/04/2016 at 11:22pm

What people spend their money on is ultimately their business. At some point, they need to realize what is or isn't a good value. Let's pretend it's not DLC. Let's say it's microtransactions. Firefall did this when they were in Beta, or Early Access, whatever. It's all money that goes toward game development. So what? They could spend time making t-shirts and plush dolls instead of optimizing the core game, but if they see an easy way to potentially bring in some more revenue, then why not put it out there?

Is it smart business? That's an excellent question. Is it unethical? No.

"If someone has already paid into a game and then pays even more and then it tanks, that's bad."

If we were talking about standard releases, rather than Early Access, I'd probably be more inclined to agree. Within the scope of Early Access, though, I'd say it would be unfortunate, in the same way it would be unfortunate if you lost all your money investing in Yahoo!

I feel like we need to at least agree that Early Access is a risk. It really sounds like you believe it to be the same as pre-ordering a game.

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/05/2016 at 12:04am

LOL I just realized I named my first two tamed creatures "Tom" and "Jerry." I named my Morellatops "Tom" because the name of the creature reminded me of Tom Morello (musician). I named my Jerboa "Jerry" because I often give my tames names that go along with the creature's name.

Jerry's so cute! http://steamcommunity.com/id/gregopeck/screenshot/477767469757759540

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/05/2016 at 12:39am

Or maybe we don't have to agree on that :). I would like to hear more detail regarding this, though: "(and yes they have paid for it, more on that later)"

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/05/2016 at 03:58am

"I feel like we need to at least agree that Early Access is a risk"
We absolutely do.

"It really sounds like you believe it to be the same as pre-ordering a game."
I don't. I'll pre-order games (rarely) but I won't touch early access. I also won't touch Kickstarter or Indie GoGo anymore. But I am not the person who has a chance of getting burned here. Which brings me to...

"At some point, they need to realize what is or isn't a good value. "

And here's the problem. The general consumer isn't going to research what Early Access is. It's basically Kickstarter with access to the game as it's being developed, but people see it as a preorder they can play as it's developed. It's a game you can buy on Steam. I am very involved in gaming and I learned some things about the nuances of it from this conversation. People by and large see it as a way to play the game early and don't realize there's a chance of losing their money on something that never comes to fruition.

The very fact that it's a risk means that people shouldn't be working on add-on content for their games while the game is in Early Access. That's providing a second (or third, or fourth) way for people to potentially lose more money.

I don't think Early Access should have ever been a thing, at least not in its current state, and the widespread misunderstanding of what it is makes it a major target for people to get severely burned by it.

As for "more on that later," I covered what I meant by that in that comment. "Now, you're right that you're paying for the development process and that a completed game may not come from it. However, the game is coming in this case. People know it's coming. People know they are getting a game, and this add on is definitely delaying it one way or another even if it's just a matter of putting the best people on the core game instead of the addon. "

That was about *this specific case only.* In this particular case there's next to no chance of the game not coming out, the people who have paid for it on Early Access are definitely getting the game.

Some confusion comes from trying to talk about this specific case and then EA add-ons as a whole, I think.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/05/2016 at 04:22am

Scrypt I think you bring up some good points on that early access has no promise of a release or future features built in to the terms. You get what you get and sometimes it's good (Ark, Prison Architect) and sometimes it's not (Stompinglands, Cube World).

That said, some developers promise a bit and at times my mind had filled in the blanks and when the outcome isn't great it's disappointing.

And when your the first developer to offer DLC for a early access game your gonna maybe take some heat.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/05/2016 at 04:30am

To the point about "I don't think Early Access should have ever been a thing, at least not in its current state." I didn't explain that as well as I could have. I scrolled through the carousel on top of Steam's page just now and about a third of the games in that list were Early Access, without any badge or banner or anything on the carousel image to point that out.

Steam treats these games like normal games. They show up in best-seller lists like normal games. And the Early Access banner on the store page itself tells you it's an early release and then in small text tells you that it may not be finished.

So that's what I mean that it's reasonable for standard gamers, not game-crazy people like ourselves, not to understand the risks.

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/05/2016 at 10:17pm

There's a thread on the official forums I briefly looked at that explained that while the release of the core game was delayed, the release of Scorched Earth was actually right on time, if not earlier than first stated.

https://survivetheark.com/index.php?/forums/topic/86811-scorched-was-released-on-time-suck-it-up/

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/05/2016 at 11:46pm

So that's what I mean that it's reasonable for standard gamers, not game-crazy people like ourselves, not to understand the risks.

What's also reasonable is that people that have the capacity to type comments in a review or forum, should be able to read the comments, distinguished in a giant blue box at the top of that games page, telling them what they are getting into. If they can't understand those very simple sentences, then we have much bigger problems.

I do agree, and maybe it's something we can take some kind of action on, that Early Access games should be branded as such in the carousel, and wherever else it's needed.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/06/2016 at 03:11am

I don't even think Early Access games should be in the carousel. They aren't something Steam should be advertising with that kind of billing.

And that giant blue box has small text that mentions that you might get screwed. The large text tells you that you get the game early, then small, muted text tells you that you might lose your investment. People treat it as a pre-order with beta access because Steam treats it that way. The name "Early Access" even suggests it.

It's a great system for developers, but not such a great system for players.

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/06/2016 at 03:22am

Latest from the devs regarding the game and release of SE:
http://steamcommunity.com/games/346110/announcements/detail/809908386661854074

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 04:58am

>What's also reasonable is that people that have the capacity to type comments in a review or forum, should be able to read the comments, distinguished in a giant blue box at the top of that games page, telling them what they are getting into. If they can't understand those very simple sentences, then we have much bigger problems.

I think we do have a problem in gaming about peoples expectations being missed. I think it really is due to some of what you say. In the end if a gamer keeps getting upset over and over and their expectations being dashed at every turn (if you follow all the gaming drama, there is always a rage of the moment) then yeah, you need to start changing your actions.

I think if we start comparing these gamer problems to anything else in entertainment like Movies or Music then it seems pretty clear that you can avoid them most of the time.

Maxxiumus_Prime wrote on 09/06/2016 at 12:57pm

@scrypt I did not purchase the DLC, just wholeheartedly against what they did, especially after the picture @jdodson gave us. With your perspective image, it looks like his bosses made him write that open letter by what was being said in it.

Lawsuit or not, this game was supposed to officially release back in March when it dropped onto the X1. It's now September and they have not given another potential release date. Not even a placeholder. Revoking the launch date, not providing another one, then releasing a paid expansion, that's what seems unethical. I understand SE was launched "on time" but we don't even have a placeholder date for the core game anymore. To me, and I'm sure, many others, it feels like they are just trying to go for the cash grab with no responsibility as far as a full game release is concerned. It feels like they are just trying to milk it until people stop caring, then just kind of vanish.

What they should have done was halt progress on the expansion after revoking the launch date, to put effort into actually launching the final game.

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/06/2016 at 01:48pm

@Maxxiumus_Prime
"Studio Wildcard also confirmed today that Ark's full release is scheduled for holiday 2016 across Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4. Previously, the game was due out in the summer." (April 22 2016)
http://www.gamespot.com/articles/dino-game-ark-passes-new-sales-milestone-on-xbox-o/1100-6439121/

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 04:06pm

Due to length cutting this to 2 parts.

PART 1.

Maxxiumus_Prime - Whereas it may seem to be a huge cash grab, and it might actually be one, i'd caution this type of thinking. Again, they may be doing this SIMPLY to get a 3rd yacht or a bigger house... or they might not. It's hard to say why people do what they do and I don't often find the official reason they give(honestly I can't tell what the reason IS from their official language) isn't always the correct one.

Here is a pretty neutral take that may or may not be accurate. Since all games have DLC the developers of Ark were always planning some. Since the game is in the "last 90% of development time" they have team members focused on smashing bugs and finishing the game. Since teams often don't all work on the same thing they had another team work on DLC. Since the new team is focusing on new content, that can actually go faster than fixing the hard bugs and polish(as a developer I can relate as fixing hard bugs or refactoring system to make things better can take ALONG time VS new features). The DLC was done and they wanted to get it out to people FASTER so they released it.

Now should they have waited for marketing reasons or goodwill reasons? Honestly, I think they should have. Obviously huge companies have most of the DLC done by game ship date but they've learned to keep the lid on it until later because the community, generally, dislikes when they hear of DLC even before the final game ships. Make no mistake, big companies have the DLC in flight or done when the games launch(I could name a couple companies off the top of my head) but people like the perception that DLC is made after the initial game ship for reasons. I'm not saying players are wrong for not wanting DLC to be developed alongside the base game but it makes sense to do it that way for development reasons.

Anyways, this is just a perspective and I think if people are upset it happened, I can understand that. It's, generally speaking, atypical and something that is pretty new. That said, because this is a relatively new-ish(to me) company they are doing things a bit differently which isn't always great to see.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 04:06pm

PART 2 (The dramatic conclusion)

I remember getting Neverwinter Nights and getting pretty upset when they released 2 full expansions and then 4-6 digital only expansions with DRM. The reason was because I had never seen that many expansions and then a digital only one with DRM. It seemed like BioWare was being ULTRA greedy because up to that point the standard model for a game was the base game and ONE expansion. I hated the DRM component of the digital only releases and didn't buy them because of that but got the 2 full ones on CD. The extra content in some ways was better than the base game and I learned that more content can be better. The DRM component of the digital releases bit them in the ass later as they can't actually release them now or something and the DRM free stuff is the only stuff you can get on GOG now. Sad because that bit of history is lost as the DRM servers shutdown.

Anyways, all that to say, things change and I don't mind people experimenting with release models. I might never do Early Access again for earlier stated reasons but don't hold too much against a company for trying things. I also don't hold anything against players that don't like what companies do.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 04:10pm

Also when I said earlier that this may be to fund development, I wasn't meaning that cynically I just meant that they might be out of money and needed some more funds to continue to operate. Since I don't know their books and do know that making payroll and benefits and such costs money, it seems logical that this may be a stave to help that.

I know they are very successful and they pulled in quite a bit of money but it doesn't hold that they still have all of it and one can spend money well and still run out at some point.

I may be wrong, but it's a possibility.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/06/2016 at 04:20pm

@Travis, I'm sorry, but no. This isn't some 30+ paragraph EULA written in legalese that people click through just to use some service they've signed up for. It's literally 2 sentences, written in layman's terms (13px font, not small, certainly not muted, and more detailed than what you stated), preceded by a 1 line subhead (15px font), and a 2 word header (30px font). Very simple and standard stuff. This is placed directly above the purchase button. You can not miss it. Not caring what it says doesn't make it irrelevant or duplicitous.

There is no excuse for not knowing what you're purchasing. I don't see how anyone could claim ignorance here. (My first comment in this thread was more a rhetorical challenging of the term "finished," as most games these days are constantly updated, well after a release date.)

Getting caught up in the development of the game, getting excited (as you should) about what's to come, makes it easier to lose sight of that initial disclaimer, but it changes nothing.

As far as how Early Access serves the players, I think it can be pretty amazing, as long as you keep an appropriate perspective. Think of a game that you were following, lets say back 10-15 years ago. You got word later that the game had been cancelled, due to lack of funding, creative differences, scope of the project... whatever. Even later, the developer releases (or someone leaks) footage of what the game looked like during the days before it was cancelled. How cool would it have been to just be able to spend time in those spaces, as unfinished as they were (especially the ones in Alpha or Beta)? How much would someone be willing to pay for that experience? What if those collective payments could go toward development, and make the game more likely to actually be released?

Valve should put a banner of some sort on Early Access games in the carousel (or remove them entirely). I'll support that. It makes sense to keep them separate from finished products. However, seeing that you can't buy a game from the carousel (you have to go to the games page. I believe the only way you can actually purchase a game through Steam is via it's own store page.), you're still faced with the Early Access banner as soon as you try to purchase.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/06/2016 at 04:46pm

"Here is a pretty neutral take that may or may not be accurate. Since all games have DLC the developers of Ark were always planning some. Since the game is in the "last 90% of development time" they have team members focused on smashing bugs and finishing the game. Since teams often don't all work on the same thing they had another team work on DLC. Since the new team is focusing on new content, that can actually go faster than fixing the hard bugs and polish(as a developer I can relate as fixing hard bugs or refactoring system to make things better can take ALONG time VS new features). The DLC was done and they wanted to get it out to people FASTER so they released it."

That sounds reasonable, and I believe I read something else to this effect on one of the comment sections I was perusing. I don't really think there was any malicious intent in Wildcard's actions. An unorthodox business decision, at best, which may or may not pay off for them, but doubtfully one made out of spite or greed. If they would have waited to release the DLC a month, two months, four months after the game was released, the backlash would have been just as prevalent.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 04:48pm

> the backlash would have been just as prevalent.

Huh, yeah maybe. As someone that tries to not be upset often I have a hard time forseeing this kind of thing. But yeah, you might be right.

Travis   Admin   Post Author wrote on 09/06/2016 at 05:08pm

We've been at this for days, and I think we just have to agree to disagree. I don't have any interest in continuing around and around. I think I've said all I can without restating things anyway, and I'm not a fan of online debates to begin with since so much is lost in the giant dumps of text followed by time waiting. I've lost track of my thoughts like 5 times already since we've ended up on three or four different sub-topics.

We obviously have different ideas about what Early Access should be, and that's fine.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 06:03pm

> I'm not a fan of online debates to begin with since so much is lost in the giant dumps of text followed by time waiting.

Well, thanks for taking it to this point I've enjoyed what you and Scrypt have to say. I know this may seem flim-flam but I agree with you both.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/06/2016 at 08:40pm

I thought we were talking about what Early Access is, not what it should be. Sorry if I missed a step there.

The original article posed a number of subtopics, but there is a common line that runs through. You can't talk about the legitimacy of DLC for Early Access without talking about Early Access. Some of the arguments presented in this thread are based on the misconception that the monetary transaction giving you access into this process is the same as buying any other game, and thus grants certain rights or privileges (or expectations even) to the purchaser, which is absolutely not the case. That's at the heart of why people are upset about this. We buy DLC all the time. It's almost totally accepted, at this point, that any game could present some form of paid DLC at some time in it's life. What makes this different is the nature of the core transaction: The Early Access process. The common argument against paid DLC for Early Access seems to be that it's unethical, or bad for players, but no one is defending that argument, other than by repeating it. The only thing that comes close is when Travis says that it's because people are confused by Early Access (apparently), or because Early Access is a risk, and therefore shouldn't add more risk to the process (Potentially bad for the devs, I suppose time will tell, but not a charge against ethics). Maxxiumus_Prime indicated suspicion of impropriety on behalf of the devs, but that's speculation. Which isn't to say that the situation might be frustrating, but how do you go from "this really sucks" to "this practice is unethical" (development plans produced during development which have not yet been fulfilled, or have changed, is not exactly proof of an ethics violation, as every developer forever has done this)?

We've been going on about whether Steam's merchandising of Early Access games is deceptive to consumers (or potentially so). On that, we can agree to disagree. Before this article, I thought that people (especially gamers, hardcore or no) could figure out the difference between a retail sale and a work-in-progress without going through a JRPG-style tutorial. The idea of people as creatures who can't comprehend simple statements (or worse, refuse to be held accountable once accepting them) and obsessively push "Buy" buttons is a scary thought, but maybe that's where we're going (anyone watch Idiocracy?), or by what you're describing are already at.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/06/2016 at 08:44pm

We don't have to keep talking about this. I thought it was interesting, and a good avenue for talking about Early Access, DLC, and gamer expectations in general. My intent wasn't to beat a dead horse. There's just a lot of layers to this one.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 08:55pm

Damn scrypt I love the way you break down stuff. I find it really refreshing.

That said, I love beating a dead horse. For real, I love talking about this stuff to the end of time.

With that I think the main reason people don't like Early Access DLC is because people, in generally are typically unfavorable to DLC in general and Early Access DLC being new is getting a ton of negative gamer attention. My guess to the reason is that people don't want this to be normal so they are being fairly vocal about it to help guide developers to never do it. I don't think this is a vast conspiracy, I think it's just a bunch of people who are acting in such a way to to ensure this never happens.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 09:02pm

> Which isn't to say that the situation might be frustrating, but how do you go from "this really sucks" to "this practice is unethical" (development plans produced during development which have not yet been fulfilled, or have changed, is not exactly proof of an ethics violation, as every developer forever has done this)?

A guess. This is purely a guess but I think it's something like this. Because, clearly, Early Access DLC isn't some breach of morality. At least i'm not sure what branch of philosophy it would fall under to make that assertion.

I believe it's immoral to some because they don't like it. It's a violation of some covenant they thought they had with a Developer that is something like "I bought your early access game and that means I get a full game that turns out the way I think it shoulkd and I shouldn't pay for DLC until it's a released product." Obviously this isn't in the Early Access rules, but people feel this way.

The amount of negative steam comments about how a game turns out in Early Access leads me to believe many people don't love the choices developers make with early access games. Which is fine, you don't need to like it but it seems some people are really upset by that AND this new Early Access DLC thing.

So I think there is a sort of "Community Contract" with DLC that is in the minds of many that is not in any way reflected in the Steam terms or text on the page or whatever. You've made the case that these expectations are unrealistic, and they are but they exist for sure.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/06/2016 at 09:24pm

I get that. For the most part, I can take or leave DLC. In some cases, I couldn't imagine the game without it, like in the instance of Bioshock Infinite. They could have released Burial at Sea on Day-1, and I would have paid for it (technically, I did, by purchasing the Season Pass, well before any content was released. Talk about risk...). Sometimes, though, DLC sucks. Same with microtransactions. Some companies will put microtransactions in an unfinished game (as I mentioned in an earlier post), and that's totally, totally weird! You are presented with an opportunity to pay more for this item, which is only available to this game, which may or may not leave Beta. This kind of thing has been happening for years. Do a quick search for "founder's pack" and look at all the games that offer extra bells and whistles for games still in Beta. Maybe Ark is different because it's so popular and the DLC is a whole new area to the game, or people feel like it should have been free (what else is new?), or they feel misled in some way, or is it just the timing of the DLC? Apparently all of the above! What makes it so bad/wrong? Is it breaking the game, or is it just frustrating your expectations?

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 09/06/2016 at 09:28pm

"I believe it's immoral to some because they don't like it. It's a violation of some covenant they thought they had with a Developer that is something like "I bought your early access game and that means I get a full game that turns out the way I think it shoulkd and I shouldn't pay for DLC until it's a released product."

This, and...

"So I think there is a sort of "Community Contract"..."

This.

I'm really interested in where this thought process comes from.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 09/06/2016 at 09:37pm

> I'm really interested in where this thought process comes from.

Huh, honestly lots of things. Take Starbound for instance. Ok so when I boarded the hype train on that game the developers were dreaming HUGE. It's a big concept, much like No Man's Sky actually, to release an infinite universe sandbox game. Chucklefish talked about immense features and dropped hints and said things to the effect of "skys the limit, we will support this game for years with this and that..."

As with many hype VS reality situations the end mixture is often problematic because it's a combination of what you said VS what I heard VS what you meant VS what you shipped. Which is why this is a great topic to discuss, it's at the crux of human communication.

I think people want to buy in to Early Access games like they want to support a local band or artist. They see the purchase in many ways like a community service. I am paying money for something in hopes that it will be great and my patronage is good and helps you. They also expect a fair amount of free updates because of the upside to the developer here, which is to say a well funded game(in the cases where it's well funded).

ALSO since the Early Access process involves LOTS of community interactions to get it right people get invested in the game in ways they wouldn't with other triple A games. Say you don't like an aspect of Assassins Creed? Tough shit, no one cares and Ubi is certainly not taking your feedback in a forum somewhere. You are not part of the process, you just get the game and love it or not. So I think an aspect of making your audience part of the process leads them to feel more invested and therefore more upset when things go the way they don't want.

GregoPeck   Member wrote on 09/06/2016 at 09:43pm

Clearly, no matter what a developer does someone isn't going to be happy with any given decision they make about a game. Yeah, Ark is taking some heat because it's currently in Early Access and they just released a paid DLC. However, other games are also taking heat, games which were never in the EA model. I am specifically thinking of No Man's Sky.

Since microtransactions in a "beta" game have been mentioned at least twice, I thought I'd point out Faeria. That game recently switched to Free-to-Play, but it does contain microtransactions, such as buying more booster decks. That game is still in Early Access as you can see on their Store Page and also within the game.

I understand Early Access gaming is risky, I mean I can read. Still, I've paid for a few Early Access games and feel somewhat mixed about it, but mostly positive, depending on the game. Again, my experience with Ark has been great. I've been playing it and following its development closely for over a year now. I feel strongly confident that it will leave Early Access eventually. I'm glad that I found out about this game. I'm enjoying the new DLC and I look forward to whatever else the developers have in store for the game and I'm not alone in that regard.

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