"Alpha funding your game can also help with marketing," he adds, "as it can draw in a large crowd of players who spread the word through social media channels and their friends."
Carsten stresses the same point that Minecraft's Persson put across when it comes to the most important element of alpha funding: "Be clear. Absolutely, unambiguously, massively clear on what it is your game is offering today, what you’re planning to add in the near future and what your vision is for your game."
"Do not leave anything on your store page or media which could be misinterpreted," he adds. "Some people will still unfortunately miss the message about your game being an alpha, but you can always refer them back to the store page. Make your vision clear as well, because this is what most people are purchasing from you -- not the game as it is today."
And if you're going to go through Steam Greenlight in the hope of getting a Steam Early Access campaign for your game, Carsten suggests that you need to have a large and active community first.
"If at all possible hire at least one full-time community manager (we have two) and give them the leeway and tools to work with, and for, the community," he says. "Not only will they build up the momentum and mass you need to be voted up on Greenlight, but they will also remove a lot of pressure and time-consuming activities from your job as a developer."
"If you feel you have the game and the community to be greenlit, then absolutely go for it. But please do remember it is a long process, it’s hard work, and you still have to focus on creating a game which lives up to the expectations of what your players are buying into. This is no mean feat, but if you manage to achieve the alpha funding you require, then it can make bringing your incredible new game to fruition that much easier!"
Kairo is a 3D exploration game that focuses on puzzles and minimalism -- you can learn more about it from this earlier Gamasutra interview.
The game's developer Richard Perrin chose to go down the alpha funding path prior to its release, and found that there was an obvious point during development at which he could safely offer an alpha build to paying players.
"It's going to be different from game to game, but essentially once you're at a point where there's at least an hour's worth of gameplay and there's enough meat in there for players to give you meaningful feedback," he says is when alpha funding comes into its own.
"I did it for an adventure game which isn't necessarily a good fit, but it actually worked really well for me."
"The most obvious benefit is feedback," he continues. "To make a great game I think getting constant feedback from both players and other developers is absolutely essential. An alpha funding program means that feedback is going to be really easy to get from players, otherwise you have to rely on specially run testing sessions or going to trade shows."
As a small indie, alpha funding also has other pro points. Offering an alpha build meant that the press was suddenly interested in posting up previews, while players began sharing options on forums and the like. Essentially, the release of the alpha build led to many more tongues wagging.
Offering an alpha build also helped to keep Perrin on focus. Suddenly he had customers, and therefore the pressure to deliever -- although this turned out to be a double-edged sword.
"I could no longer just abandon the game or work on other stuff as I had people I owed the finished game too," he notes. "If anything that ended being the biggest down side of the project because I had some real lows working on that game but because of the alpha funding I had no choice but to keep plodding onwards."
Why did Perrin choose to go with alpha funding rather than the increasingly popular Kickstarter route?
"It's not something I'd personally be comfortable with doing myself," he says of crowdfunding. "Firstly I think Kickstarters are really unfair on the players as they ask you to buy a game based on the promise of what it could be rather than what is actually made."