"Early access didn't just help shape the overall direction and focus of the game, it shaped the very fabric and makeup of our team."
- Compulsion Games founder Guillaume Provost, speaking with Engadget.
Contrast developer Compulsion Games' We Happy Few has been available via Steam's Early Access service for over a year, and in a recent chat with Engadget the studio's founder says the experience has significantly resphaped both the game and its maker.
"Early access didn't just help shape the overall direction and focus of the game, it shaped the very fabric and makeup of our team," said Compulsion founder Guillaume Provost. "It allows us to bring the game's story campaign to a level of sophistication and depth that would have otherwise been out of reach."
This is intriguing in light of the confusion surrounding We Happy Few's public debut in 2015; as Provost recounts in the interview, the game was intended to be predominantly a procedurally-generated roguelike, but players latched onto its drug-fueled dystopian setting and clamored for a more fleshed-out, authored narrative.
"Talk about a reality check. What the public and the press were telling us they loved about our game wasn't anything like the procedural, story-light, rogue-like survival game we were creating at all," Provost said, recalling how surprised the studio was at the positive public response to the project.
"It was also a bit daunting. Getting too much hype is a good problem to have, but it can also backfire, and after watching the launch of No Man's Sky that year, we carefully back-pedaled some of the hype and managed expectations with regards to the game."
The company also staffed up -- Provost says that putting We Happy Few up for sale on Steam Early Access for $30 (the game is now expected to "ship" next April with a $60 price tag) has allowed the studio to pull in enough revenue to grow from its 7-person starting point to a headcount of 40.
"It's a testament to how much the game and team has grown that Compulsion now spends more money every single month developing We Happy Few than what our entire Kickstarter campaign earned," Provost added. For context, the Kickstarter in question surpassed its funding goal in 2015 to hit nearly $335k Canadian (or roughly $264k in USD, at current exchange).
While the game was initially pitched as a package that would only be distributed digitally, a recent publishing deal with Gearbox will see it making a retail debut as well when it ships next year.
For more on how Early Access has shaped We Happy Few, check out the full article over on Engadget.