Beta News: 7 Days to Die

Starting today, with Peter Molyneux’s Godus, Eurogamer is introducing alpha and beta reviews: reviews of games that are still in development but are already being offered for sale or funded by micro-transactions. Just like battlefield 4 hacks Alpha and beta reviews won’t carry a score and will acknowledge the games’ incomplete status, but will still be a thorough examination of a game’s qualities and offer a preliminary verdict on them. The Minecraft model for development has increased in popularity as independent studios see the value in making their games with more financial stability and player feedback, and as crowd-funding game development through Kickstarter has taken off. Earlier this year, Valve – as close to a custodian as PC gaming has – put its seal of approval on the model and expanded its reach by launching Steam Early Access.
The way games are made and released is changing. It all started – or at least, came to widespread attention – with Minecraft. In order to fund continued development of his game, creator Notch started selling access to an incomplete ‘alpha’ build in mid-2009. It soon became a massive hit with a huge worldwide community – but Notch and his growing team at Mojang didn’t consider the game complete and out of the testing phase until its official launch in late 2011, over two years after they first asked players to pay for it.
Were we late to the party? Or early to the after-party?
This led to the odd situation that we didn’t run our review of Minecraft until most of you had already forked out for it and been playing it for, in some cases, years. It’s not that the review isn’t valid – in fact, it was widely read and we’re very proud of it – but we feel we could have said more about the game sooner.
In parallel with these developments, the rise of free-to-play gaming has seen many games, such as Valve’s own Dota 2, spend a protracted period in fully commercialised open beta tests. They’re not officially launched, but any player can access the game and spend money in their item stores. And with many games being updated long after official release, too, it’s increasingly questionable when any game is truly “finished”.

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