What is early access?
There are a lot of assumptions and misunderstandings as to what early access is and what it entails. In short, early access is a funding model where the consumers can play a game in various pre-development cycles such as pre-alpha, alpha, and beta. Early access is a common approach to obtaining funding for indie games. Early access will offer an unfinished version of Astride that is playable and will be updated and added to over development time.
What can I expect from early access?
From the first early access version of Astride, the game will be very barebones. There will be a working horse controller, a jumping mechanism with striding, and possibly a dressage move or two. There will be no customization of horses, grooming, feeding, tacking up, etc. There will be a limited environment and world to ride in outside. We will be adding a few cross country jumps which will be available in the placeholder outside environment as well as the outside riding arena.
There will be a few horses to choose between from a menu that you will be able to ride. The rider character will not be ready for the first initial version of the early access, but it will come with a later update. This means that in the meanwhile, you will play as the horse without a rider just like the Patreon tests. The player character will need to have its animation synced with the horse and newer sets of animations than the placeholder rider from the Kickstarter trailer. The player character is currently being worked on by a character artist and is not done yet. So for now, imagine an invisible rider!
Why early access for Astride?
Since Raidho Games is a brand new indie game studio, there are no previous game sales or funding to lean on. To be able to pay our employees what they deserve for their hard work, early access seems like a viable option. That way we can keep working on the project while also generating income for salaries. As an added bonus, we will be able to receive feedback from the players while developing the game, which in return will help us make fixes and changes for a better game experience. Early access is also a great way for players to gain access to the game at a lower price as it will still be in development and not be full price.
While Astride already had a successful Kickstarter campaign, game development is expensive and takes time. The Kickstarter funds helped Astride secure further government funding and traction in the Norwegian game industry. We will keep applying for government funding while Astride is in development, but having the game in early access will help secure the future of the game.