Alphas, Kickstarters, and Take'n Bake PizzaS

It's time for The Punchline, with PA.

***This is a trial for a recurring feature. This will be filled with snark, sarcasm, and even a pinch of aggression. Those of you familiar with me and my writing style know that's not how I am at all, so please take everything with a large grain of salt.***

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People love to voice their opinions. I mean, who doesn't, right?

Yeah! We're all wonderful little snowflakes with different life experiences and varying points of view on the world.

Many find uplifting freedom in the open universe of the internet.

Opinions make the internet go 'round!

But that doesn't always mean you should voice it.

Oh?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Never did a rule ring more true, but there are still a few more teensy little things that should be considered when talking about games in this new age of alphas, kickstarters, and pre-releases.

Alphas, Kickstarters, and Take'n Bake PizzaS

Alphas

With the recent release of the DayZ standalone alpha, I thought it would be prudent to go over what an alpha really is and what's allowed in the world of judgement. We all have our initial gut reactions to something new. We may immediately dislike it, maybe due to aesthetics, or we may immediately love it, maybe due to a classic character being present. Everyone remember the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker reveal?

Yeah… that looked really stupid.

I thought so too at first, but no matter which way we swing when we see something it's important to know when it's okay to openly judge something. Wind Waker turned out to be a wonderful game.

But I want, and need to critique things!

Hold on there, we all do… but there's a time and place. To help the folks that are a bit slow, or have never approached the idea of basic logic, I've made this simple flow chart:

Alphas, Kickstarters, and Take'n Bake PizzaS

As you can see, playing the game is required in order to actually judge the game. I see how that's been confusing for some, but there's nothing like a good flow chart to clear things up.

I think I understand… but how do I play it before I unleash my aggravated, baseless opinion?

An alpha is a pre-release.

Wait… so the game is available?

Yes.

And I have to pay for it?

Yes.

But it's not complete?

Correct.

That sounds like a rip-off!

Wrong. Let me explain. We can all agree that making video games is a business, right? I'm serious… if you can't at least force that through your skull then go…

*nods*

You're still with me? Okay, cool, let's continue. For a business to operate it needs money. Where does that money come from? Well, it comes from a myriad of ways, but most of the time it comes from some form of investment. The old saying applies; it takes money to make money. One way developers are getting investments now is directly from the players.

Me?

Yes, you! By purchasing an alpha you're supplying the money they need to develop the game further and in return you get to play the game every step of the way! And maybe save a few bucks…

Why is that a good thing?

First, it's good for developers because they can gauge the public's interest. Maybe they have an insanely huge vision for their game that only they are aware of and can only be accomplished if they know enough people are willing to buy into it. Second, maybe their alpha sales fall short and they instead lessen their scope of the game to be more realistic and not send them into crippling debt. A lot of game companies spend millions of dollars on games that end up being complete flops. That's a HUGE loss for them!

So why don't they just do a Kickstarter?

Alphas, Kickstarters, and Take'n Bake PizzaS

Kickstarters

The Kickstarter game could, and most likely will, be the future of all gaming. Logically speaking, why make a game that no one has interest in, right? Imagine if Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning had just been a Kickstarter! They would have either reached their goal then built a wonderful RPG that the people wanted, or they never would have reached the goal and saved their now defunct company millions of dollars. I'm not saying that the game is bad at all, but clearly the interest wasn't there.

So why release alphas? Why not JUST do a Kickstarter?

I'll tell you why, make-believe-person that's asking me questions! A lot of games that use the alpha formula are already filled to the brim with hype, or may be based on something that's already been playable in another form. DayZ was already a successful mod that created a lot of buzz for itself. The same can be said for other games like Starbound, which is loosely based on other successful games like Terraria. It was a great business decision for Bohemia Interactive to release an alpha of the DayZ standalone because a lot of the basics were already there and they also now have the funding they need to continue with development and hopefully implement all the ideas they've announced. In addition, they can use it as a testing ground for network stability and working bugs out.

Why not just do a closed beta?

There are not nearly as many people in a closed beta than there would be with a full launch. They get to build with the whole bucket of Legos instead of just working with a few and predicting how the rest of the model will look.

Okay, then why not do an open beta?

Well, that one's simple! They knew they could make money because people wanted to play it! Remember, it's still a business, and now a successful business. And from the looks of it, the people that invested in the game are happy they did.

Why invest in a game that's not finished, though?

Supporting the developers who are making something you want, for one. Plus, you can possibly influence some of the design. If enough alpha players scream for a rideable unicorn in-game, it could happen! You also get early access, because we all know how much we love to wait. And you generally get the game for a much cheaper price then when it goes gold.

Well, that doesn't sound so bad… but it still kind of seems like I'm paying for something that's half-baked.

Alphas, Kickstarters, and Take'n Bake PizzaS

Take'n Bake Pizza

Well, make-believe-person who I've just decided mid-writing to name Timmy, it's a lot like getting yourself a take'n bake pizza.

What's that?

It's a pizza that's completely made by someone else for you, Timmy, the customer. All you have to do is take it home and heat it up in your own oven.

Why would I want to do that?

The pizza is cheaper for you because they don't have to bake it there!

So, it costs less for me, and even though it's not ready to eat right at that moment it will be eventually?

That's right, Timmy! You can even throw on your own ideas… err toppings if you want. Then pop it in the oven and eventually a complete finished product… err pizza, is released… err ready (development time… err oven times may vary). You see, even though the pizza isn't ready to eat when you buy it, you still got to generally pick what goes on it and have an idea of how the cooked pizza will taste. All the ingredients are there, and you get to support your pizza place! The benefit for the pizza shop is they are being cost efficient by not making pizzas that no one is going to buy. They know the people want pizza, so they set up shop and get all the ingredients ready, and they hope the people buy it knowing it's not ready to eat and are prepared wait for their pizza to bake. Using this model, they'll be around longer to make pizza for the people that want it. Here is a flow chart to help explain take'n bake pizza:

Alphas, Kickstarters, and Take'n Bake PizzaS

Oh, so an alpha release is like a take'n bake pizza!

Yes, an alpha is a take'n bake pizza… Patience is a virtue.

Eww, I heard take'n bake pizza sucks, though!

Have you ever had it before?

No… Oh, maybe I shouldn't judge it until I've had it…

That's right, Timmy. That's right. Take'n bake pizza is damn delicious, by the way.

Alphas, Kickstarters, and Take'n Bake PizzaS

The DayZ standalone alpha has sold over 1 million pizzas… err copies, so if you don't like the smell of Bohemia Interactive's brand of rotting flesh then plug your nose or get off the planet.

-PA

If you would like to contact Patrick, you can find him on Twitter @mr_patrickallan.