I'm seriously thinking of starting Early Access for the hardcore game sooner than usual, basically at an alpha level instead of the normal, for us, beta level. At least for my purposes here, alpha means very playable but lots of features and assets are not done yet. Beta means a few features left to do, but all assets are done.
The reason why I'm thinking this, is that it's going to be a while before we have all of the assets to get into beta, but the game is already pretty playable. So I could get gameplay feedback much sooner. Also, I really enjoy betas/Early Access which is why we have been doing them before Early Access was a thing.
Getting immediate feedback on things as they progress is much more enjoyable and easier than working in a vacuum for a long period of time and then getting overwhelming feedback all at once. I also like you all getting a real chance to impact the direction of the game.
If I go this route, we would probably start Early Access in the next month or two. It is likely to only be on Steam during Early Access. We might still sell directly through us, but at the beginning it might just be a Steam key, with an actual build available when we hit beta or gold. The reasoning for this is that the Steam build system actually simplifies things quite a bit, but our patch system wouldn't work very well if we release publicly before all of the assets are finished. Our patches have always been cumulative which makes things simple since you only need to apply the latest one, but that means every change since going public has to be in the latest patch. If we keep adding art, this would make each patch fairly large and get bigger and bigger each time. Plus this means only 1 set of patches I have to deal with when things are changing often.
We do still have a few things that we have to do before we could start Early Access though. We need to settle on a name, do some of the marketing stuff (blurb, marketing graphics for Steam, and a few screenshots), create a logo, finish some art style stuff, add the new game to our website & Steam, and fix some game specific multiplayer stuff.
UPDATE: This took longer than expected (mostly because of our move), but it looks like this will happen in September.
Comments are welcome as usual