Releasing games in early access

What are the advantages of releasing video games in early access?
02 June 2019

Interview with 

Greg Kasavin, Developer at Supergiant Games


A man sitting on a chair holding a game controller with lightning coming out of it


The developers behind Bastion have released their new game celled Hades in early access… in a new move for the team. Chris Berrow caught up with one of the developers - Greg Kasavin.

Greg - We look for ways of executing a story that couldn't be done. You know in kind of like a linear medium you know let's say I could come up with the next game of thrones or something like that with a cast of hundreds of characters if that's not a game that we can build. It's not a story that I'm gonna be able to pull off. So bastion it was a game where we knew for example that we would have trouble filling the world with characters. So that led to decisions like well it can be a post apocalyptic world where even the idea that anyone else has survived will not be like a foregone conclusion. And the moments when you do encounter other characters can be quite dramatic since you won't expect to encounter living characters at all. And it sidesteps a lot of expectations like you know you're going to visit towns filled with merchants bustling for your attention and that sort of thing.

Voiceover - The dead. The dead and gotta worry about this miss. She's done. But there's a way to put it back together.

Greg - So again it's all just kind of using the constraints of our development to define some of the shape of the story. And then coming up with what the story itself can be what can be a meaningful story within those constraints.

Chris - I was watching the trailer for Hades which you can get in early access now obviously Hades you know again kind of the underworld theme. It was it looks amazing. You know I love the kind of creative artistic side of things here and it looks kind of similar gameplay wise to Bastion and some of the other ones I've played as well. I guess once you've established something that people really like in a kind of a style and a kind of artistic direction that you can have a bit more creative space and I'm really excited to see this one yeah.

Greg - Hades is in fact as out right now in early access we announced and launched it at the same time. It's been really really fun because the early access thing there means that for the first time we can have a story that's unfolding over over time. So our previous games you know we work on them often for about three years and it's all there. You kind of write in our initial release the beginning middle and end. Whereas with Haiti is it was really exciting to be able to approach a game kind of more more seriously. So so it's almost like a pilot episode with our initial offering and it's a big cast of fully voiced characters in all that kind of stuff that we've always wanted to do with our games that we're able to do for the first time. It was a really fun theme to explore for us because you know the underworld of Greek myth setting it's it's a game structure where you die kind of over and over as part of the gameplay and you kind of you're continuing to try to escape from the underworld but each time you die you wind up back in your father's house because your father's Hades himself who kind of you know berates you and calls you an idiot for ever trying to escape his domain and so on. So it has a comedic quality to it despite being about this relationship that that I think has I think has a lot of truth to it for for players where they can identify having difficult relationships you know whether with their siblings or their parents and struggling through that despite that kind of ridiculousness of how we set it up and some of the fun we have with it and the early access model and releasing games and then continuing to kind of release content for them is something that's certainly reasonably new compared to the classic way that games were released.

Chris - What was it that made you decide to go down this route. Is it just the fact that you can continually live with a game as it develops. Or was it a different process how did it work this time.

Greg - Yeah that was certainly part of it. It was you know we've been really fortunate as a studio to be able to make a completely different game each time and Hades is our fourth game. And the idea of of making a game that we could put out there in as in an initial version and then keep building it in partnership with our player community and kind of keep expanding the story. That was really exciting to us having seen it done successfully by some other games out there. And yet typically the early access successes that are out there they don't make their story a narrative a big part of the experience or they might add the narrative like near the end or something like that. But for us we thought it's a game that can take place almost in real time. And because again you're in this kind of twilight zone type of land where new characters can appear in the world because everybody dies in the world of Greek myth and you know suddenly here's Orpheus or something like that for example come come to join the house just the variety of ways in which we could continue to expand it and continue to surprise people over time that made it really appealing. So making an early access game was like that at the heart of why we wanted to pursue this idea when it comes to player feedback and the kind of you know community feedback that you might get for a game.

Chris - How much can they realistically influence what you'll make him because you know if everyone says you know I love it but I just like the weapons to be a bit stronger. You know that's an easy fix was if someone went well I don't like the way the story ended you're going to go well hang on that's a bit more difficult. So. So how much can you really take on board when it comes to something like that.

Greg - Yeah. That's a really good question and something that we've tried to really frame that relationship clearly with with respect to our audience so that they're aware of what kind of feedback we value the most are players. They've come to really enjoy our ways of telling stories and the kind of the worlds that we create. So we're not really framing it in a way where it's a big open suggestion box you know. Now tell us what the story should be now tell us what we should do. It's more about relating to us their experience with the game as it currently stands so that we can continue to refine and tune what's there. So your your example about you know not not liking a particular weapon or something like that. It's extraordinarily valuable feedback to us because if you don't like a certain weapon in a game for whatever reason you might not keep playing that game if it's a game where you have to use that weapon. So those are that could be really important when it comes to things like the story. You know we still it's still very interesting because we still see feedback now from players like gravitating towards certain characters in the story for example. So even though I have the the story outlined as to where it's going from here we have like a high awareness of where we want the story to go. The particular events that happened along the way and and to what extent certain characters you know become more or less emphasized that really is quite open. And I think again in that regard it's it's a little bit more like a like a television show for instance where you know the writers hopefully have an impression on a high level of where the story is going. I know that isn't necessarily always true but ideally it's true. But but when certain characters emerge as favourites that can absolutely be factored into the storytelling moving forward and it's it's very useful yeah for a writer to know which characters are resonating more than others and things like that.




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