On the issue of paying for Alpha access, I’m having a hard time getting worked up about it. On the surface it seems like an outrage, but the more I think about it, the more it sounds conceptually identical to pre-ordering.
It’s long been a trend that if you pre-order an MMO, you get "early access." I remember this was the case way back with Warhammer Online. It’s just that now, instead of 5 days of early access, you get 5 months of early access. Or more.
And that comes with all the problems of playing a game 5 months too soon. If you look at any game 5 months before launch, chances are it’s going to have a lot of bugs to work out.
I do think they should not wipe any of your progress after you’ve paid money, though. That’s a problem for me. It means that I won’t spend much time playing your game until you declare no more wipes.
For me, another part of the decision to buy early involves one’s confidence that the game is on track. I don’t feel like I’ve taken any big risks by paying early for either Trove or Landmark (or ESO), because I have a lot of confidence that those games will be released. These are big name studios with big reputations. It’s a whole different story with Kickstarter games, though. I doubt I would spend more than $20 on those, because the risk is much higher.
There’s one thing that troubles me about some early remarks from Landmark players and even SOE. They seem to think that it’s somehow our responsibility to help make the game, and that we have an obligation to report bugs and give feedback to SOE. Many people said the same thing in Neverwinter’s "open beta."
Well, no. Just no. We’re not testers in the traditional sense. We’re more like spectators. If I choose to report some bugs, it’s purely out of the goodness of my heart, and not because I feel like I have to. If I see a bug that doesn’t impede me in any way, chances are I’m not going to bother reporting it, and I’m just going to move on with my day. That’s generally what I do in released games, too. (And no matter how you slice the semantics of it, Landmark is released.)
In other words, if you want me to help build your game, you need to get out your checkbook. I’m just there to observe the spectacle.
I’ve toyed with the idea of getting my money back for Landmark. I don’t feel like I was misled about the nature of the game in any way, but it was a total impulse buy, and I don’t know if I would have bought it after a long deliberation. It’s a building game, after all. Those are not normally my thing.