CEO Arthur Bruno from Crate discusses the mighty quest he and his small team have undertaken with action-RPG Grim Dawn, which has been on Steam Early Access for a while now.
They've yet to officially achieve beta and will soon be releasing Act Two for early adopters to play with. It's "technically far along in terms of development" but not in content.
There's still plenty of road left before Grim Dawn catches up in content, and Bruno has been adjusting to the different development style an Early Access title needs.
"It’s really a strange project because normally you’d be developing a lot of tech alongside producing the content, and you’d be building up to some sort of a single release. At least that’s the way it was done back in the old days, back in 2006, when we released Titan Quest!" Arthur Bruno told in an interview.
"But now we’ve tried to get the game out as early as possible so people can start playing it and giving us feedback. On one hand, it’s technically far along in terms of development – it’s pretty playable. There are still some bugs and there are performance issues as it’s not fully optimised yet, but it’s pretty playable! On the other hand, content development is still lagging behind, and we still have a ways to go on that."
It's still very early days for Grim Dawn but it's marching forward. "In terms of playablity, I’d say it’s close to beta. Maybe it is beta! It’s probably not far off a finished game in terms of playability. But in terms of actually finishing all the content, we’re technically not at beta yet. We have a ways to go, so it’s kinda weird," he continued.
"I feel like there’s a schism between the technical terms and the way that we use them in development now, where they’re more general estimations of where the product is." Game development has changed with the rise of Early Access like processes with polish becoming increasingly more vital earlier on than would otherwise be prioritised.
"The biggest thing, really, is that once the game is out there in the wild and people are playing it, you have a burden to keep the game highly playable – to squash bugs, to fix major balancing issues or things that just aren’t working for people – and that tends to slow down your forward progress because you spend a lot of time polishing before the polishing phase."
"People want to have fun and they want to enjoy what’s out there, and you want them to enjoy what’s out there as it’s the world’s first impression of the game! So you end up doing polishing while you’re in the middle of development, which slows things down a little bit," Bruno explained.
Introducing new features and tweaking systems can break the game too, which is another 'unacceptable' consequence of developing when using this approach - it all has to work. Crate Entertainment is also unsure how they're going to monetise Grim Dawn, but Bruno is sceptical of microtransacting individual items.
"I don’t really know what the future holds, and we don’t have any plans currently to break content down as small as individual items, but… I don’t know. I’m not sure how we’re going to roll out future classes. To some extent, they may be included in larger expansion packs. We might have smaller “booster” things, where it’s a class and a bunch of additional items or something like that. I don’t know," he said.
Check outbetween Arthur Bruno and IncGamers.
Grim Dawn is available viafor £20.99.