Recently I read a statistic stating that 40% of all the games on Steam were released in this last year. For many familiar with the platform, it’s not too surprising, since seemingly hundreds and hundreds of new games populate the store on a daily basis, a vast majority of which are terrible, serving only to obfuscate the good ones. It’s the inevitable consequence of game development becoming so much more accessible in recent generations. One one hand, I’m glad that more people than ever are getting a chance to create something, on the other, I’ve had to create a lot of Steam filters to make the site stop bombarding me with anime and early access games.
It’s a shame, really, because the early access model isn’t completely horrible in theory. It’s more that it’s become such a crutch for burgeoning developers that our first suspicion is that someone is trying to make a full-priced profit with an unfinished game that they either can’t or won’t finish. To me, early access only works if you have the essential parts of the game already completed and are looking to expand on them as much as possible.
Slime Rancher is just about the best example of this, since, in its current form, it’s completely functional. The gameplay loop of collecting the various slimes with your high-powered vacuum cleaner to place them in overcrowded mason jars and harvest their poop is not only morbid as hell the more you think about it, but also strangely addictive. I wanted to play for just a few more minutes so I could get just one more upgrade to my virtual garden. It’s everything I hate about those annoying Facebook games that I decided I didn’t like but never actually played. This is different. Those slimes need me. They’ll die out there without someone like me to play them music and feed them whole chickens at timed intervals. Also, they’re just so damn… cute. I need more.
Really, those slimes are just a metaphor for the game themselves. I see a new species and I think about the potential things still to be discovered. That’s what an early access game should make you think about, not if the third mission is going to be finished or when the developer is going to call the whole project off. It should make you think about potential, which Slime Rancher has in spades.