One More Night, or How I Learned to Like Early Access
I had a full article written documenting a middling Early Access game called One More Night, from Big Red Planet Games. You play as one of three protagonists tasked with twin-stick-shooting your way through waves of undead enemies until night inevitably ends, whereby you can collect your cold hard coin and spend it on weapon upgrades and defensive turrets.
The timer gives you ample opportunity to purchase new guns and defensive options
It was a full, in depth overview of the mechanics, the graphics and the audio. I had an entire tirade about how hit boxes were inaccurate and how I never felt like I could play this game solo. I can't defend the game really. It's still very much a jumbled mess of ideas: part shoot-em-up and part survival crafting game and it never really effectively feels good at either of those ideas, but it goes in full stock. You have no introduction to each night, just a simple campfire, then the lights begin to dim and you see the first shambling skeletons charge at you. Animations are floaty, shots don't impact or stagger, and you will constantly be running backward to avoid hits. One strategy that got me through near a week's worth of horror was to just surround myself with barricades, leaving no room for the undead to surround me. Somehow they game figured this out, instead spawning 2 or 3 skeletons right next to me. Trapped, and nowhere to go, I shot at them until my character slumped down and "Game Over" crossed the screen. I was frustrated. The game is clearly co-op focused but without a dedicated user base yet, I was left to play on my onesome within a system that was constantly at odds with me.
And then, out of nowhere, I had an update queued up in Steam. I launched it up, started up a new round and went to town on zombies. My experience had changed considerably from the first few hours of gaming I had done. The in-game UI looked very different - much more polished and smoothed out with easy to navigate menus. The hit boxes were still wonky and imprecise but far more reliable. Even better, weapons and defense objects were locked behind those mysterious gates at the end of the map that I never bothered to open because there didn't seen to be any point at all.
Among the many changes, now there's a stat/perk system. It's a much loved change!
While not all of my grievances were handled, the developers were clearly watching. They were waiting. They were fixing.
Early Access gets a bad rap for many reasons, most of them good. Like the folks behind DayZ and Ark:Survival Evolved who start a game with a huge premise and never fully deliver on a final product, even years after making back their start-up costs. The Ark developers even had the audacity to release DLC, of all things, for a game that still hadn't been released. On the other side of the spectrum you have "shovel ware" - an clustered term meant to describe games that use stock assets from free development engines like Unity and flip them over on customers for a quick profit.
I swear I thought this might work.
What Big Red Planet Games taught me is that there might actually be good developers out there. Developers that continue need a system like Early Access and Green Light to build up capital around a game while they continue to refine and tweak its code. They use the term Early Access for exactly its intention: give us cash now for a sneak peak of what will eventually be a full game down the road. Even though Steam is moving away from some of these development cycles, smaller developers like Big Red Planet need a place to bounce their ideas and designs off future customers. There's still room out there for trustworthy developers and I hope, that in the wake of Green Light, places like Itch.io start to take up the mantle.
I won't begin and try to defend One More Night. It's got a lot of great ideas that are executed rather flatly. I still don't like that none of the guns I've used so far have any sort of impact on the speed of these creatures, and the color palette is far too brown and gray to be able to differentiate anything at all. These are things that can be fixed though. The big take away from my experience is that Big Red Planet is a developer that is worth the money if you can spare it. They listen, they respond, and ultimately they want to make their game the best that it can be.
Which, as a gamer, makes for one of the most interesting experiences in my 20 years of gaming - I'm watching a game evolve into what it will eventually become. It's utterly fascinating.
You can pick up the game on Steam here.