Valve's Early Access program is a game-changer on multiple fronts. Allowing gamers to buy and play titles that aren't quiet complete gives the developer additional funds to help finish the game while simultaneously letting gamers do what they love the most: play games (and help debug).

Assuming everything goes smoothly, the participatory development model is a win-win for everyone involved. But as you know, things don't always go according to plan, however, which can lead to some pretty upset gamers / early investors.

In an attempt to try and eliminate some of the potential problems before they fester, Valve has issued a new set of rules and guidelines for Early Access developers which have been sent to multiple developers according to Giant Bomb.

For starters, Valve now requires that all Early Access titles be branded as such when Steam keys are distributed on other sites. After all, nobody wants to buy a game without knowing it isn't a finished product.

Valve is also asking developers to launch their Early Access titles at the same time they are unlocked on other stores. Additionally, pricing must be uniform across all storefronts (i.e., you can't charge more on Steam than your charge somewhere else).

The second section focuses more on guidelines which are listed below:

  • Don't launch in Early Access if you can't afford to develop with very few or no sales.
  • Make sure you set expectations properly everywhere you talk about your game.
  • Don't launch in Early Access without a playable game.
  • Don't launch in Early Access if you are done with development.

The rules and guidelines should give both gamers and developers a better idea of what is expected when participating in the Early Access process. While there have been - and will no doubt be more - instances where gamers get burned, the new terms show that Valve is committed to the program.