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Valve enforces new rules and guidance for Steam Early Access

by Mark Tyson on 21 November 2014, 11:35

Tags: Valve, PC

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After several incidents of backer exploitation involving false advertising, games with 'borrowed' assets, and forum dramas, leaving many of its customers confused and out of pocket, Valve has updated Steam Early Access rules and guidelines for developers. The new rules put a more rigid set of requirements in place for games released via the service.

The 18-months old Early Access facility allows developers to sell unfinished games via Steam but it has become progressively harder to judge if a game is worth investing in or not. Valve has previously altered its Steam customer guidelines to warn users that some of its Early Access games may never be finished, and has also taken down games which were exploiting users with false claims.

The new set of rules includes an important requirement that asks developers to clearly state a game's unfinished status whenever Steam keys are sold outside of Valve's platform. "We've seen that many of these titles are sold as keys on other websites where there is no explanation of what Early Access is or what the current state of your product is now versus what you hope to achieve," Valve says, whilst adding that the rule extends to setting appropriate expectations for the project "everywhere you talk about your game."

Developers have also been told to steer clear of making specific promises. "For example, there is no way you can know exactly when the game will be finished, that the game will be finished, or that planned future additions will definitely happen. Do not ask your customers to bet on the future of your game. Customers should be buying your game based on its current state, not on promises of a future that may or may not be realized," say the updated rules.

Alongside the rules Steam has published a new set of guidelines, which are pretty much common sense, but many developers have nevertheless made these mistakes previously:

  • Don't launch in Early Access if you can't afford to develop with very few or no sales.
  • Make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game.
  • Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game (tech demos don't count as playable games).
  • Don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development.

Even though these bullet points have been highlighted before in one way or another, it is still worth pointing out to users that the failure of a game to complete its development plan is always a possibility. The updated rules and guidelines are certainly a step in the right direction to avoid future disappointments similar to those Early Access disasters we've already seen.

HEXUS Forums :: 7 Comments

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hi i think that's some great rules to help people from getting scammed
There are 2 reasons for abandoning the PC as a games platform, developers and license, firstly delelopers release software unfit for retail, buggy, unplayable, DRM, dependent on 3rd party software such as steam client and releasing software as DLC even if it is bought on disc, endless patches for a year to make said software work or simply releasing said software, never patching it but installing DLC onto the software without permission, stopping the user from using the software and offering the DLC as an unlockable purchase which you did not ask for, many of us have their internet connection metered. Forcing the use of a client requiring online connection for DRM is also absolutely no go unless a user is indoctrinated into a rental mentality.

Second the license, in the UK you get to send the software back if it is not fit for retail sale if it is bought on disc, not DLC. Buying DLC on license is the most stupid thing you can do, a user is not protected by consumer law by buying outside the EU or entering into contracts with non EU entities. Steam is based in the US. I an wondering how many customers reading this have had a refund from a Steam licensed copy.
Hi Kendrick, I corrected this for you (your welcome) "There are 2 reasons for abandoning consoles as a games platform. You clearly got confused, as everything you quoted is actually revelevant to consoles. Though they are closed platforms and so try to hide their actions and scams.
These rules don't seem to actually make it better for consumers really, its just Valve trying to cover their arse. If they were really out there to make the experience better for consumers, they would put in a clause that gives the developers more incentive to actually finish the game. An example of this would be 50% money back if the game never reaches a full release. Obviously this particular example wouldn't work, but there is still currently little to no protection for consumers which makes Early Access a very dangerous environment to get too involved in.

I think the best thing that could happen to the games industry right now is for people to learn a bit of patience. Everyone gets suckered in by the day 1 pre-order DLC and huge marketing campaigns, just wait until a week after the game is released and see whether its actually worth the money.

There are 2 reasons for abandoning the PC as a games platform… snip…

A lot of the things you talk about are just as applicable to console games as they are to PC games. Another point to note is that whilst there are negatives to PC gaming vs Console, there are many many positives. Better graphics, better frame rates, better communities, more indie titles, 3D gaming, surround gaming, more flexibility with peripherals etc etc
Hi Kendrick, I corrected this for you (your welcome) "There are 2 reasons for abandoning consoles as a games platform. You clearly got confused, as everything you quoted is actually revelevant to consoles. Though they are closed platforms and so try to hide their actions and scams.

True, however both Microsoft (Xbox) and Sony (Playstation) enforce a kitemark for comptability and will not allow publishers to simply release beta software which will harm the consumers machine or their reputation. I have never heard of a title from Nintendo which crashed either. In prinicple therefore yes, in practice there is a near total absence of releases which crash consoles bar Bethesda who released some epic but console crahing games even after getting Sony approval. Steam however allows a developer to do whatever it can get away with.