Valve sent out an updated set of Early Access rules and guidelines to developers this week in an effort to ensure they 'set proper expectations' for customers taking advantage of the service.
The tenor of the new guidelines suggest Valve is still working to fine-tune its Early Access service, which has come under fire in the past when developers finished developing Early Access games before fans felt they were complete
or simply ceased development entirely, forcing Valve to remove abandoned games from the platform
The update was brought to our attention by Giant Bomb
and later confirmed to be accurate by Steamworks developers. If you happen to be such a Steamworks developer, you should be able to find the new rules and guidelines in the Early Access documentation on the Steamworks developer website
If you aren't a Steamworks developer but are still curious to see how Valve is refining its Early Access strategy, someone seems to have published a copy of the new guidelines on Pastebin
Some of the more interesting updates include a rule that Early Access developers may not "make specific promises about future events," because "customers should be buying your game based on its current state, not on promises of a future that may or may not be realized." There's also a new guideline to avoid launching on Early Access "if you can't afford to develop with very few or no sales."
It's an oblique reference to the fact that many Early Access games seem to never see a full release; EEDAR exec Patrick Walker recently estimated
that only 25 percent of games launched on Early Access have been released as finished products. Earlier this year, Valve updated its Steam Early Access FAQ
to remind potential customers that Early Access games may never be finished.
Also of note is a new rule that developers should not use Early Access "if you are done with development," and that they should not launch on the service "without a playable game" as Valve seeks to reinforce its belief that Early Access games should grow and change in response to customer feedback.
Developer feedback regarding the impact of Early Access on the business of game design has been mixed; many have found success on the platform, including Facepunch Studios
and Endnight Games
. But that success comes at a cost, as detailed in this GDC Europe 2014 talk
from Bohemia Interactive's James Crowe.