Should Early Access Titles Allow Reviews?
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What does leaving a comment on the store page do for an EA game? I can only express how I feel about it, of course, and that feeling is “mislead”. Take Otherland. The User Review shorthand at the top of the page shows that it’s reception is “Mixed”, out of 279 (current) reviews. If I were considering this title, I’d see that and frown…”mixed” is a little more on the questionable side than I’d like to see when I’m considering spending money on A Thing. So I’d then jump to the comments for elucidation, where I would find people complaining about a laggy UI, crashes, and server downtime. Those tell me nothing other than the game is exactly where I’d expect it to be. Some people continue taking the game to task for being boring or for some of the design choices that the developers have made…basically the kinds of things that feedback on the Discussion boards or in the bug and change management system are set up to capture, and is one of the reasons EA exists at all. In the end, the only thing I get from the Review-o-Meter and the comments themselves is that some people have poor impulse control when it comes to money, and that most people see it as their duty to warn people away from a game at the point where the developers are allowing players to have a say.
I’d like to see comments on Steam EA games go away, and instead be replaced by an expanded section dedicated to the change log and updates from the developers. Not only would this remove the axe-grinding that are the comments section, but would allow potential customers a better gauge of the state of the game — and the dedication of the developers — by seeing the scope of the changes and the frequency of the updates. For me, I can accept an EA game so long as I get the sense that it’s not been abandoned, and that the developers are continuously making updates and are communicating with the customer. For a great example, check out Eden Star and their update format which features members from different departments giving updates on what they’ve been working on. I always have Good Feelings from Flix because of their updates, and I think getting a sense of the actual trajectory of a product from those who are in charge of making it happen is a much better indicator of whether or not I should jump in at the EA phase than comments from people airing their buyer’s remorse.