Ever since Minecraft popularised early access gaming, the amount of games funding their own development have gone through the roof. Following Minecraft’s massive success, it wasn’t long until Steam introduced their own funding programme in 2013 called Steam Early Access, and countless games that have been released into it since.
However, not all games are able to make the path from idea through to final product in a few years. In fact, some games have sat in early access for many years more than anyone could have predicted.
Here’s a list of the games that have been in early access limbo the longest, but remember that just because they’re taking a while to get there, doesn’t mean they are bad games.
Okay, yes, I can hear you screaming Star Citizen at me, and I’ve no doubt others have already done so in the comments. But remember: this list is specifically for games in Steam’s early access programme. That being said, it has been in early access for sometime, with no confirmed release date as of yet, despite crowdfunding hitting the $300 million dollar mark in June 2020.
Kingdoms Rise was a multiplayer hack and slash last updated in 2017. There’s been no news on this game since and the developers appeared to move onto developing a game called FPV Air Tracks instead, which, as of today, is also unreleased. Sickeningly, Kingdoms Rise actually has DLC, despite not being finished.
I have also tried to separate the games that are ‘properly’ abandoned, from the ones that just haven’t had an update in a couple of years. Early access games can, in extreme cases, go years without update or release. See Cube World, for example.
One entry I really was interested in writing about is Folk Tale, a game which was a blend of city builder and RPG. Folk Tale looked genuinely fascinating and even in alpha it was immensely fun and on par with other similar games. Sadly, the game was never finished and left with many features and bugs incomplete. Its fan base considers the game to be abandoned.
1. Interstellar Marines
Release Date: 2nd July, 2013
The Alien franchise has inspired many video game developers over the years. Some more directly, in the form of Alien Breed, some less directly, in the form of that weird boss in Ecco the Dolphin. So you can understand why Zero Point Software wanted to make an online co-op/PvP game based around the idea of the Marines from Aliens. An unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign in 2012 didn’t put the team off and they launched Interstellar Marines into Steam Early Access in 2013.
Things looked great for a while with the game posting major updates almost monthly and receiving positive reviews up until 2015. Despite receiving nine updates and several hotfixes during 2015, 2016 would bring only two updates, and it would be downhill from there. In 2017, Interstellar Marines’ director Kim Haar Jørgensen revealed he was now the only person working on the game, and at the time he didn’t even know programming.
The game would not receive another update in 2017, but would be updated once in 2018 and once in 2019 with many volunteers helping out. The game is still being worked on to this day, but the crushing weight of overwhelmingly negative reviews for the game is seemingly keeping new gamers away from Interstellar Marines, surely a deathblow for a mainly online game.
2. 7 Days To Die
Release Date: 13th December, 2013
7 Days To Die is an unusual game on this list, not because of what happened to it, but actually what didn’t. As far as I am aware, there was no major news story about 7 Days To Die devs disappearing, disasters destroying code, or any other huge problem. It’s just taking ages to make the game.
But why? Why is it taking so long? Well, games take a long time to make. When compiling info for this list, the most common factor in all these games that are in EA for so long is that they have fairly complex systems, small teams and to get the game to the standard that the developer wants, it takes a long time.
The game was also ported to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 with Telltale publishing those versions, though no mention was made of it still being an early access product and a work in progress. Telltale’s closure in 2018 led to a few problems with updates. The console version was last updated in 2017 and the publishing rights have returned to The Fun Pimps, but as of yet no further updates have been released for either PlayStation or Xbox, and instead the game has been left in the same state for many years.
3. Project Zomboid
Release Date: 8th November, 2013
So many games on this list enter development only to falter due to various issues, eventually leading to a lack of updates. Project Zomboid has one of the longest Early Access tenures on this list, and has indeed suffered from many, many issues during its development, including the developers having their laptops stolen. The development proved to be so turbulent they’d actually host a Rezzed talk called ‘How NOT to make a game’.
But the Project Zomboid team has still managed to keep updates and news rolling out on a regular basis. And it’s these updates that have made Zomboid a great game, and easily one of the best survival games on Steam.
Played from an isometric point of view, you are tasked with surviving an open world zombie outbreak. Buildings need to be raided and supplies found, and as development continued, they’d add vehicles and farming, among other QoL improvements.
Much like 7 Days To Die, development on Project Zomboid is very, very slow due to their small team. But it’s obvious that developers The Indie Stone are dedicated to making the ultimate zombie survival horror game, and they’re going to take their time to make it. Project Zomboid is in good shape, and well worth picking up now, but just don’t expect updates to be overly regular.
4. Godus/Godus Wars
Release Date: 13th September, 2013
Well lookie here, it’s only Peter F’n Molyneux. I really don’t get to write about Mister Molyneux enough. I do feel that much of his early work has been largely forgotten about, mainly due to him being the Sean Murray of his time.
That’s right, for those who don’t know, Peter Molyneux is a serial over-promiser. While I can excuse developers getting over excited about their games, on Godus, Peter messed up. He let us down, and more importantly, let Bryan Henderson down.
Molyneux had previously released the mobile game Curiosity – Whats Inside the Cube?, a multiplayer game where players worked together to mine away at a cube to reveal what was underneath each layer. The final player would receive a “life changing prize“. The winner was the aforementioned Bryan Henderson, who was told he would be the ‘god of Godus, Molyneux’s next game. He’d also receive a share of the profits.
Godus was due to be a similar game to Populous, the game that put Molyneux on the map. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the project launched on Steam. As of 2016, there has been no further updates to Godus, nor has there been any updates to its Kickstarter page. In 2016 they released a standalone game called Godus Wars, focussed on the combat aspects of the game. This has also not been updated since 2016.
Godus hasn’t been cancelled, so chances are there is still someone working on it in a broom cupboard over at developer 22cans. One thing is for sure, there’s a whole lot of upset Kickstarter backers out there, and Bryan Henderson never got to be god. Well, not in Godus, but Henderson would be included as God in the indie game Not A Hero.
Release Date: 4th July, 2014
When Blockcape was first released, some claimed it could be ‘Minecraft 2’. Blockscape is a voxel style block building game developed solely by Jens Blomquist. It entered development in 2009, much like many other voxel block building games following the success of Minecraft. Blomquist, not content with making a clone like many of the other games being released, wanted to make something that felt like a step up from Minecraft’s blocky worlds.
Blockscape’s screenshots were, make no mistake, beautiful. A voxel game like no other at the time, it shunned those blocks and sharp edges for something smoother, and more pleasing to the eye, yet still voxel in style. Castles and buildings all gleamed and looked wonderful, and it entered Steam’s Early Access in 2014. Updates would prove to be a little hit and miss with a number of updates at release but then take nearly 18 months for another.
Development would stabilize and throughout 2016, there would be a series of regular updates for the game. Despite this, Blockscape found itself in the position of a number of games on this list. Players felt that development wasn’t moving quickly enough and gave the game negative reviews, which led Blomquist to plead with the community to post positive ones instead. Negative reviews led to a lack of sales and in turn that meant development taking even longer.
In 2019, Blomquist issued a public apology and promised to continue working on the game, while communicating with the fanbase better. Since then, Blockscape has seen a number of regular news and updates from the game’s sole developer.
6. Pro Wrestling X
Release Date: 18th November, 2014
I have followed this game with curious interest pretty much since it was first announced way back in 2003. Dave Wishnowski, disenfranchised with subpar wrestling game releases, decided he wanted to make his own game, a fan sequel to WWF No Mercy, one of the greatest wrestling games of all time. However, he wasn’t a game developer himself, so making such a game was going to prove to be a herculean task.
Pro Wrestling X has suffered from that same old issuL: fans becoming upset with slow development times and a lack of updates, leading to lower sales and less money for development. This latter fact is important, as Dave Wishnowski had been outsourcing development, with others work on his game remotely.
Initially, I feared that the game had met the same fate as many other Early Access games and had been cancelled, due to the lack of updates on Steam as well as the price being reduced to £0.79 in the UK.
However, I am glad to say that the project is still alive and well, with their Facebook page up to date with development progress. There’s also footage of upcoming developments in the game, proving that the game is still being worked on, but it is moving very slowly indeed. In 2021, there’s more choice than ever with wrestling games, but I must admit I do hope this game reaches the finish line eventually.
Release Date: 19th October, 2012
Paranormal’s release date is listed as October 2012, six months before Steam’s early access programme would begin, starting life on moddb.com before later releasing on Desura, finally moving over to Steam in late 2013, joining the early access programme.
The game proved very popular with Steam users, with many praising its found footage inspired gameplay. The positive reviews continued right up until 2015, and that’s where things get a little rocky. Paranormal suffered from similar issues to other games on this list. A one man development team, life seemed to be getting in the way of Matt Cohen finishing his game.
Funding was another issue, as, according to Matt, the game was no longer bringing in enough money to warrant continuing development on a regular basis. So it’s back to the ‘can’t develop without funds, game gets negative reviews due to lack of development, game’s sales drop, developer gets less funds’ situation.
Matt Cohen has promised to finish the game, but it doesn’t look like development will be progressing very quickly sadly. It’s a shame, because it is genuinely a very good concept.
8. Arcane Worlds
Release Date: 28th January, 2014
You know, I had totally forgotten about this game’s existence until I started researching this article. I first learned about the existence of this game years and years ago, when I heard that someone was trying to make a spiritual successor to Magic Carpet.
The Magic Carpet IP has been lost in the depths of EA’s basement since the release of Magic Carpet 2 in 1996. For those who aren’t aware, it’s a first person magic carpet riding game which involves you flying around an open world, collecting mana, building your castle and defeating the enemy wizards that populate those worlds. As mentioned, EA hasn’t shown any interest in reviving the franchise, which is why there was such a fuss over this game when pictures first appeared back in 2011.
The game moved to Steam after being sold through the developers personal website as well as Desura. Arcane Worlds has the same issue as many games on this list: a part-time developer juggling making a game and you know, ‘having a life’. Reviews are classed as mixed, with many people disappointed with the lack of major updates for the game. Work is still continuing on Arcane Worlds, but once again, progress is slow.
After writing this list, I realise that many games end up stuck in early access for similar reasons. Often, it’s the lack of money to fund the thousands of hours it takes to finish the game. It could also be mental health, sometimes generated by angry fans unhappy with the state of the game. So much can go wrong, and games can get severely delayed and cancelled for many reasons. Just remember that game developers are humans too — they make mistakes and are not perfect. Remember to be kind.
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