Early Access Games: A Roll Of The Dice
How Larian Studios got it right
One can’t help but cringe a little when a game is labeled as ‘Early Access.’ Valve’s Steam allows developers to put their unfinished games up for sale. Sometimes the cost of the game can be reasonable, with others, it’s the price of a completed game. Unless a studio is well-known, it’s a gamble on whether to purchase a game or not. But even still, if a developer is well-known, there’s always the off chance their product might, for lack of a better word, suck.
Larian Studios is more fortunate than most developers. They’ve been around since 1996 and created the highly-successful Divinity series, starting with Divine Divinity back in 2002, all the way to Divinity: Original Sin, released in 2017. Though there are a few indie developers that have achieved success (Minecraft, Don’t Starve, and Darkest Dungeon are just a few of them), it is not the norm.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is the new licensed title from Larian Studios and it’s early access. Released back in October of this year it had the shiny price tag of completed game–typically a turn-off for most gamers. However, Larian makes the cost worth it.
Patches with fixed bugs and added content have been updated with regularity. A new patch will be released soon with the promise of more fixed bugs and many changes to the story line. While independent developers may not have the funds, staff, or time to update their games, it is absolutely crucial to fix bugs and add new content as often as possible.
User feedback is always welcomed and Larian’s offical site is proof of it. Forums are dedicated to discussions of development of how to improve combat to what classes people want to play. It’s always fantastic when a studio establishes a good base of communications with its users–if little to no discussions occur gamers will not feel appreciated or respected.
Though Baldur’s Gate 3 is far from complete, the content that’s available currently is rich with quests and an engaging story line. It can keep one busy for hours and the graphics are beautiful to look at. Some quests are bugged, but it’s still in early access so it’s expected, but the characters are entertaining all on their own. From relationships to maps, there's much to explore.
It’s not a guarantee that these elements will make a game successful, but it doesn’t hurt. Not every indie studio can accomplish what Larian has, but as long as they respect their users and are open with communication about updates and perhaps a road map of what they want to accomplish, a successful title is on its way to possibly become Game of The Year.