I had an interesting discussion on Twitter earlier about whether Black Ice was going to be a finished game or one that will be continuously updated. Let me state this for the record: I want to keep updating Black Ice as long as you keep playing it. I think it’s the perfect game for the early access model. I’ve been designing it from the ground up for replayability, all the systems are modular, and people like free updates.
I want to keep updating Black Ice as long as you keep playing it.
I think the main idea was that many people are going to play a game only once, and ideally this would be on a finished version. And this is fine – I think it works for most games, which provide linear experiences with a set amount of interactivity and plot. But that’s not how Black Ice works. For one, the game is procedurally generated, which throws the whole linear experience out the window. Every play session, hack, and item should feel different. Because of this, and because exploration and progression is self-paced, I can’t remotely guarantee a uniform play experience.
You can argue that a game is done when its creator is able to take his/her hands off of it and declare it done, but this is actually irrelevant. A game is done every time its creator shows it to the public – it’s what they’ll see, so that’s it. That’s all people can really judge it on. Granted, many kind youtubers/streamers will mention that a game is an alpha or a beta, but I’m not convinced that really influences people’s buying decisions. In any case, what matters is how much fun the game is now. Every build of Black Ice is fun, and each is an improvement on the last. While I do want people to know that the game will continue to improve, I’m comfortable with each release of the game being judged.
Another great thing about people seeing and reviewing the game early is that it gives me a ton of feedback. I don’t have access to a team of Quality Assurance testers, so the public is really my only way to get unbiased feedback. With player feedback, it’s much easier to find tricky bugs, know which numbers to balance, and simply find out what players like. I’ve even opened up my to-do list so that anyone can see where the game is headed and vote on their favorite features. Early fans (or Black Icicles, as I call them) get to help shape the game, and everyone benefits.
Black Ice is free right now, but it won’t be forever. My plan, and please hold me to this, is to start selling Black Ice in the next few months as an Early Access game. The game will still be in beta, and there might still be bugs, but I know people will want to play it. To that end, the game will be priced below full price when on Early Access. I’m aware that some games have a higher Early Access price to discourage people who are afraid of bugs, but I don’t want to gouge early adopters. The price of the game will go up over time as I release free content updates.
I’ve got big plans for Black Ice, and I want you to be a part of them. What do you think?