Killing Floor 2 – Will’s Thoughts on Steam’s Early Access Program

After collectively having over 1200+ hours invested in Killing Floor, it’s no surprise that me and my friends were over the moon to see Killing Floor 2 being announced the other day. We read the articles with increasing excitement to learn about the new revolutionary gore system which has been in development for over two years, as well as how much detail is being put into all of the weapon models, animations and sounds. This game will be great – no doubt about it.

But then we read the bottom of the announcement article, and saw that Killing Floor 2 will be coming to the Steam Early Access Program when the game is closer to completion. This was really worrying for me and my friends, as there was no other details about when exactly it would be coming – only the knowledge that at some point, it would be available via Early Access.

From the way I see things, this could either be really good, or really bad. It’s no secret that Steam’s Early Access Program has quite a fair share of titles under its belt, some of them being really good (like Starbound, for example), and some of them being a total mess and blatant scams and money grabs, and it’s the latter that leaves me with concern when it comes to Killing Floor 2. Honestly I think that Early Access has done more bad than good in the whole scheme of things, as consumers are accepting it as the norm to slap down money for unfinished titles that have just a mere promise that they will be finished at a later date. Sure, it’s unfair to coat every game and developer with the same brush (especially when it comes to Early Access), but the fact that the industry has moved towards having consumers pay to test unfinished products is a little bit disheartening, in my opinion.

This isn’t to say that the Early Access Program is 100% bad, and in fact it has proven to be quite opposite in some cases. It gives the devs the chance to interact with their communities on a new, much closer level and obtain vital feedback and test data much faster and efficiently than before, and the gamers themselves now have the opportunity to have the power to change the game as it is being developed (and of course, play the game before it hits an official release). When you look at it like this, it looks like a pretty good idea, but you have to remember that the same could be achieved by an open or closed beta program – the difference being that with Early Access, you’re essentially buying the finished product there and then, having no time limit to play, and hoping you don’t get bored with the game before it releases with all of its intended features.

Bringing it back round to Killing Floor 2, I have to question why the decision to put it up for Early Access has been made. It doesn’t seem to me that the devs would really need a big help in terms of budget before release, as if that was the case then surely we would have seen a Kickstarter project or something similar to one by now. If you want the community’s feedback and testing, why not give them an open/closed beta like said before? I don’t really understand, and I’m hoping someone can explain this to me somehow.

I have plenty of faith in Tripwire Interactive and I am fully confident that Killing Floor 2 will be amazing for all of the right reasons, but I think ultimately my concern boils down to the fact that we don’t know exactly how long it will be under the Early Access Program for. If it was in for a couple of months prior to release then that’s totally fine by me, and I’ll take back everything I’ve said about it and all will be well in my eyes, but if we see it go down the Day Z route of being whacked on Early Access in an Alpha (or even pre-Alpha) state and the release date is nowhere to be seen, then that’s where I think problems can start to surface. That being said, if the game is solid enough by the time it comes to Early Access then I don’t think it will matter too much anyway – just look at Contagion’s Early Access cycle for a good example there.

It’s a shame that I’m having these kind of doubts after such exiting news, but we’ll have to see closer to release if this sour taste will be short-lived or not. Unfortunately me and my friends have decided to put off purchasing the game if it is too far from completion when it is released under Early Access, which is simply down to the fact that we do not wish to buy an unfinished product and get bored with it too quickly. Only time will tell how this will turn out, it seems. Until then, I have made a small video (similar to my Titanfall preview) on this whole subject, which goes over everything I have said here, as well as some other things.

Thanks for reading everyone, and until next time – cheers!