We’re simply not interested in letting freeloaders gain early access to the game, not provide meaningful – if any – feedback, while we foot the bill for the backend services, servers, bandwidth etc
-Derek Smart on the $99 price for Line of Defense Beta Access
Saying that Derek Smart can be a polarizing figure might the understatement of the year, at least in the gaming industry. Polygon did an piece on him a couple years back that covers a lot of past ground on the topic of Derek Smart. He gets online and says what he thinks. Sometimes what he says looks to be self-defeating, like the extra drama piled onto the Quest Online vs. David Allen lawsuit, which ended up with Quest Online giving David Allen some money to just go away.
And sometimes he stabs right at the unvarnished truth that others are skirting around, as with some comments about the demise of 38 Studios two years back.
The latter is the case with the quote at the top about Line of Defense.
We have been wringing our hands about companies like SOE charging for what they call alpha access to Landmark… in a world where “alpha” apparently now means a stable platform devoid of most of the planned features… but this is the real reason you ask for money up front. Sure, a bit of income is nice, but if your company is at a point where it needs that revenue, you are probably have other problems to worry about.
No, what charging for early access like this does is put up a barrier to entry that filters out all but those who are truly interested in what you are creating. This gets you the people who really believe and want to help you out.
It is a double-edge sword however. If you are going to make people commit, you had best have something ready for people to commit to. You have your true believers, the core of your core audience, lined up and ready to go, so you screw them over or leave them hanging at your peril.
We have seen quiet periods with Landmark where the user base starts to idle as it waits for the available tool set to take another step towards the vision of what the game might be. Not much testing getting done. And then there is the true believer syndrome, where the forums start to feel like the domain of a few such who are committed to a particular version of the vision and who shout down any who challenge their orthodoxy. Such are the risks.
You can read more about the Line of Defense early access program on Steam at the 3000 AD web site.