Steam Early Access: Paying to be an alpha tester?

Hey everyone,

I’m pretty new to Steam– I used to get my PC games at Gamestop/EB Games or directly on the game’s official site. Anyway, Steam came out with their Early Access games last year, allowing game developers to release their games in their alpha stages so players can get in on the action early. Sometimes, these games are free. Players do have to deal with a lot of bugs or unfinished aspects of the game. At the same time, the developers are very conscious of the feedback provided by these early alpha testers, and will constantly release new updates that improve gameplay.

Why am I so interested in all this? Well recently, I’ve been intrigued by a game called DayZ. It was a mod for ARMA 2 (no idea what that is), but is now being released as a standalone game. DayZ opened itself up to Early Access on Steam last month and the developers were really hoping to get a quarter of a million in sales ($250,000/ $30= 8,333 copies sold)– if they achieved this, they would have considered it a success. Little did they know that they would sell a million copies of the game within the first month of Early Access.


What is DayZ? It’s a survival multiplayer game in an open world. As a character in game, you must loot houses and defend yourself against zombies. What’s special about this game is how real it is. And I don’t mean graphics wise (though they are not at all lacking in that department), but in gameplay. You must keep yourself fed and quenched amongst other things. If you die, you basically die. You do not have extra lives. You must restart as a new character in the world of DayZ, losing all your inventory and stats.

This leads to an interesting twist in the game. As a player, you are more conscious of what death means, and will try harder to preserve yourself. You may find yourself killing another player simply for a can of beans. At the same time, you may want to save your health and supplies and calmly tell the other player to drop all their things and leave if they don’t want to die. Some people say that running into other humans (players) is scarier than running into zombies. There’s a psychological aspect to the game.

At the beginning of the game, you start with very little. But as you progress, you may find yourself being able to restore an abandoned car and drive off with it. Of course, I imagine that will alert all the nearby zombies, but you know– you get a snazzy car. Another realistic aspect of this game it that its day and night cycles follows real time. If it’s night in Vancouver where I am, and I’m in a server in my region, the game will be pitch black when you log in. There is no electricity in the post-apocalyptic world, so your screen is simply black. However, this problem can be fixed with flares and a flashlight. There are advantages to playing in the dark.

Some reviews of DayZ in its alpha stage on Steam

I’m intrigued by this game and I really want to buy it, but at the same time, in its alpha phase, I will have to deal with a lot of issues in game. Apparently, as of now, the spawn rate for food and supplies are almost nil– they only respawn when the server gets reset. There are other issues of course since its in development. As a game, there are also problems with how easy it is to grief other players. Do I want to pay $30 for a game that hasn’t even reached its beta phase yet? Or do I want to wait till it passes testing, but will then have to probably pay around $60 for the full game?