Because Steam thinks that it’s Facebook, I give in to their desire to tell me what I like and occasionally scroll through my Discovery Queue. Most of the time this is populated by absolute crap that doesn’t suit me at all, but which is admittedly included “because it’s popular” or “because it’s new”. That only serves to tell me that Valve doesn’t have any statisticians on it’s staff, because with all of the buying people do through their platform there’s no way they have to rely on such stupidly high-level criteria to recommend something to what is essentially a captive audience willing to throw money at them.
On occasion, they get it right, like how I see the generically named Ascent: The Space Game popping up in my queue with clockwork regularity. I’d often pass this one buy for a few reasons. First, the visuals didn’t appeal to me. Second, it was an Early Access title. I’ve sworn off EA because it’s a terrible idea (but more on that in a few). Third, it make some pretty bold claims (or at least commentators do) in that it’s EVE Online without the asshats, or that it’s accomplished what Star Citizen claims to be angling for, faster, and with a smaller budget. Is that even possible?
I bought it though, for…reasons. Massively OP posted yesterday that the game had left EA, so that would have been a “yay” if that had been the only reason I’d been overlooking the game. Truth be told, I bought it because the game was made by one person, and that’s always awesome to see someone get that ambitious and be able to actually pull it off, but more importantly…well, this, from the developer James Hicks:
“I am not getting paid anymore, and I’m personally almost out of money. I’m in the red, if you add it all up, probably not what where you want to be a few months before your 40th birthday, but as I said to a colleague in the middle of an all night coding binge: “I would rather go bust making something special, than get rich developing something ‘meh’.”
And I think that just about sums up the Fluffy Kitten Studios philosophy, for now. The company is not in great shape. Sales until now have slowed to a crawl. I think people are thoroughly sick of buying early access games in general, and Steam is now absolutely flooded with indie titles all vying for the same market. The number of games has grown at a pace that leaves the market growth for dead, and the vast majority of our potential playerbase has still never heard of us.” [Cribbed from the MOP.com post]
One guy. Massive online game. Taking on EVE Online to provide what the premiere sandbox title doesn’t. There’s a whole lot there to like on paper. I’d always been on the fence with this game, putting it on and taking it off of my wishlist over time, never really being sure if it appealed to me enough to want to spend money on it. But at $17.99 for launch, coupled with the fact that the dude put in so much damn work to get this out in front of people and had the industry-galling temerity to admit that there are potential problems on the horizon should the game not sell more than it has been, well…as someone who’s tried to make a game (of roughly the same stripe, I can’t ignore) and who failed, I cannot in good conscious not give this guy a standing financial ovation.
And guess what? The game is pretty good. Rough around the edges compared to games with massive budgets, certainly, but dayum. I did some tutorial missions last night involving buying low and selling high, collecting some materials from asteroids, and even earned some land on a planet upon which I can set up a farm (once I collect the materials).
You know there’s a “but”, don’t you? The “but” here is that I decided to jump on this game at the point where my interest in gaming has reached an all time low; like below-the-graph all time low. I doubt I’ll get back to this game any time soon because I only have the barest of desire to complete Quantum Break, and only play The Division now on PC on alternate Mondays when my local friends are available. In that, I feel really bad because I can’t write a glowing post about a game I’ve not really played at a time when I have no interest in playing any games, and if I tried to write something about the game beyond what I’ve already written, it would be half-assed for the sake of writing. That’s not a good public service to you, or to Mr. Hicks and his ambitious project.
So, then, my recommendation is that if you like space games that let you explore, harvest, build, and shoot, or like sandbox games without the survival genre conceits that are set in space (because we have so many of them!), now would be a great time to look in on Ascent: The Space Game while it’s at a paltry $17.99 on Steam. Support indie developers who aren’t making 8-bit side-scrolling platformers!