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Maia Available on Steam Early Access And First Impressions

By on December 5th, 2013 8:27 am

Maia - Available on Steam Early Access

It’s certainly been a long time since we’ve mentioned Maia, an upcoming space colonization game that takes inspiration from Dungeon Keeper, Theme Hospital, and the Sims. It has been just over a year since Maia reached not only its funding goal, but also a few of its stretch goals. On Tuesday, Maia was made available on Steam as an early access title. If you’re interested in Maia, you may also be interested to know that it is available for 25% off until December 10th as part of a special promotion.

While Maia isn’t a game I’ve talked about before, it’s a game that has been on my radar for a while. Over the past month or so, I’ve been able to experience and explore Maia as it has evolved from version 0.35 to the 0.38 version available at launch on Steam. I played every major release between then and now, and in all honesty had hoped to put a piece together prior to the Steam Early Access launch. There are always several factors involved, time, other projects, holidays, etc. that influence the timing and topics I cover, but ultimately the reason I didn’t write a piece on Maia earlier is that the game just didn’t feel complete enough to discuss.

Now that Maia is available on Steam, and some of you may be pondering what it actually includes at this point before spending your money on it, I need to be very upfront and say that Maia isn’t going to hold your attention for very long in its current state. There just is very little game to be played right now. In fact, I can lay out most of the possibilities in a paragraph.

Maia - Early Access Colonist Report

So what can you do? Well, you can order your IMP robot to dig out rock to make room for your expansion. You can build rooms out of a selection of less than 10 types. You can then place objects in those rooms, with each room having at least 1, but sometimes several, unique object construction choices. You can also build objects outside of your rooms, and there are also a few outdoor objects like a Solar Still, Solar Panels, and a Wind Turbine. Object selection overall is limited, and often times your AI NPCs won’t build objects even though they have already constructed the workshop’s workbench and other tools necessary to do so. The green dots marking the location of the objects just stare back at you, untouched. I tried waiting for a while to see if they would eventually do so, and left the game running for a few minutes, but I returned not to find my objects built but to instead find the game had crashed on me while I was away.

Obviously, Maia is still a potential diamond in the rough and it would be unfair to judge it at such an early stage. They don’t call it Early Access for no reason, and Maia’s developers even state on the Steam page that “The game is still very deep in development, so many things might be broken”. The UI is still a bit rough, as are the controls, but this is to be expected in an alpha. What Maia does have already is an ambitious design, strong setting, and an interesting premise. These are elements that Maia can build on to become a very entertaining and enjoyable game once completed. One early example is the detail given to the NPCs, each of which can be followed, and each of which has rather detailed information available to you about their current status like their Perspiration, Ventilation, Skin Temperature, and Electrocardiogram information. I imagine in the future these will have more of an impact, but right now the colonists are unreliable and incredibly lazy, so it’s hard to care a lot about them or their needs. The colonists do occasionally provide you with a log update on how they are feeling, but as of now it doesn’t seem to all that helpful. What is apparent in these log updates, the tutorial text, and in item descriptions like “Bum support”, is that Maia clearly isn’t a game that will be taking itself too seriously.

Maia - Early Access Colonist Stats

Other future updates call for disasters, aliens or some lifeforms to deal with, colonist mental health issues, “cats with bee suits”, and “Genetically engineered super chickens”. To be fair to Maia, chickens are in the game already as is a special room dedicated to the procreation of baby chickens. If Maia has been on your wishlist and you are willing to chip in now to save a few dollars, you may want to do so before December 10th. If you’re on a limited budget, looking for a guarantee that it will be an enjoyable game, or you’re expecting an immediate return on your investment, Maia in my opinion just isn’t far enough in development at this point for you.

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  1. Ridon says:

    thanks for the insight… i told myself to not buy an early access game again, due to the fact that i have 20+ on my harddisk which i probably will never touch again after the inital test…
    but with maia i found myself again in this situation.. i already started steam to buy it …thankfully i had to wait for a beta patch and browsed on this page first ;)

    no i can wait some more hou… da…. months (i hope) until it has some more gameplay and another review of spacesector :)

  2. Happy Corner says:

    I’m a little tired of all the Early Access games these days.

    In theory, they’re cool… you get to support a developer you believe in and maybe even help them make a better game with your money and suggestions and so forth.

    But now they’re becoming another scourge in the industry. I’m not even going to make the argument that you’re paying to be a beta tester. It’s far worse that there has now been too many cases where a developer has taken the money and ran – or (to put it more gently) just lost motivation to finish the game after a certain point.

    I’m going to take Keith’s advice and look at Maia when it’s done.

    • SpaceEnthusiast says:

      This seems to be a very common fear, that a developer basically makes enough of a game to sell early access, then bolt. Just how many explicit examples are there of this though? The worst I’ve seen firsthand is Stardrive getting very slow updates, leading people to cry “Dead Game!” every few months.

    • Allen says:

      I agree with your sentiment of being tired of early access. I’ve kept a few games on my horizon only to watch them change dramatically from what was the sales pitch to something significantly different. Or just disappear all together like you said.

      If I was a developer, I’d personally hate to throw out a half-baked, buggy, in-process game to the troll tornado that is the internet. Sure, you might snag some money in the process but it seems like all the added commentary from the peanut gallery (When is it going to be done? Can you add X?) would just slow down development.

  3. Njordin says:

    You guys have been warned. NOBODY has to buy early access. just don´t do it… wait for beta, or better: wait for release.

    Early Access is there to support and watch the developement of a game. It can be fun, it does not have to.

    So please, please stop complaining about Early Access. I can´t hear it anymore, there is even some kind of “disclaimer” telling you that it is absolutely not a finished game, not even near that state.

    No offence, i dont target anyone here personally. it´s just everywhere the same.

    • Allen says:

      I understand what E A entails and I have backed games that I thought showed promise and have been pleased when I did so. It is not without an element of risk however.

      Discussions of the merits of E A and the potential pitfalls therein can be cogent conversation, even when your opinion differs and you feel compelled to warn (nobody in particular) that you don’t like hearing dissenting opinions. People can disagree and not be haters.

      The point I was trying to make (and apparently failed to do so) was that it seems the lure of getting money for a project impels some less than honest developers to make smash’n’grab type operations. Happy Corner was making a point about such rogues and vaporware and how those type of operations are becoming more prevalent as E A becomes a more commonplace practice and I agree with him.

      I did not word myself clearly and context is everything when communicating via text.

  4. Jeff P says:

    I never buy early access. The presence of bugs and missing features ensure I would tire of the game even before it was finished.

    That being said, I’m glad the early access option exists. Checking forums reveals feedback from the “paying beta testers” on the progress of the game. When the game finally is released, the game-playing public should be aware of the product’s flaws and features and be able to make an informed purchase decision. This is a far superior state of affairs to that in which a much advertised and anticipated title is released only to reveal massive issues with concept and playability (I’m looking at you, X Rebirth!)

  5. Lens Flares Suck says:

    The steam forum trolls are going to shred this.

    • Jeff P says:

      Perhaps. But “steam forum trolls” haven’t been shredding Horizon, so when it releases, I will have some confidence that the title is ready for prime time.

      With Early Release feedback keeping the developer honest, maybe the same will apply to Maia as well.

  6. BTJ says:

    As of today, Star Lords is also on early access in Steam. Anybody had a look yet?

  7. Thiosk says:

    This is one i’ve kept my eye on for some time. Theres a few others like it. I’m glad to see it up on steam, but I will delay my purchase until theres a little more game content available.

  8. JohnR says:

    This game looks intriguing, and may even turn out to be great. That said, I agree completely with people’s negative views about Steam Early Access. It’s up there with minimalist DLC’s, DLC’s that are glorified patches, games in perpetual beta, and Kickstarter as being a bad current game development and marketing trend. As others have stated, Early Access is basically making the customer pay to be an alpha/beta tester. Also, why would anyone want to pay for and play a buggy and incomplete game? Finally, I did early access once (Fallen Enchantress), and was pretty well tired of it by the time of official release. Anyway, thanks SS for the peak. I will keep Maia on my radar scope, but will definitely not purchase until official release and a couple of reviews.

  9. SQW says:

    Too many devs are jumping on the early access bandwagon nowadays. Vast majority of game has limited longevity; just how many players, after going through bug ridden EAs, would choose to play the game again at full release?

    Personally, I’ve bought 2-3 EA games over the years and what I found was after a week or so, they are cast aside for another proper-release title and will never be touched on again.

    Unless you are tight for funds, EA is a really dangerous option in my option. The studio are wasting its most valuable core customer group (those who would ordinarily love and generate the buzz at launch) on an incomplete gaming experience and when it comes to the actual release, those core group will be far less likely to promote your title having more-or-less experienced your game concept from years back.

    • csebal says:

      That is certainly one of the issues with EA, its a problem that mostly affects the developer though and as such not one I am primarily concerned with (everyone is entitled to screw up as they like, as long as they do not drag down others with them).

      What bothers me more is the deceptive nature of early access. Most people – being the laymans they are – do not realize this, but software development is a front loaded activity. This means that most of the visible progress you tend to generate in the beginning of the process with later phases (much longer phases, I might add) only resulting in minor changes, fixes and adjustments that polish the final product.

      This creates the illusion, that a new project is progressing well, when in fact it might simply be on track or even behind schedule. Without knowing the exact plans, all you see is huge updates every week that creates the illusion of progress, thus deceives you as an observer.

      This is further exacerbated by how most kickstarters or early access programs only give you vague descriptions of what the developer plans on doing. Simple logic might be sufficient to realize, that this alone is one huge minefield and the developer is standing in the middle of it. Why? As I said, its dead simple:

      When you do not specify something down to every last bit of detail (which you almost never see happen), imagination is used to fill in the gaps. Herein lies the problem as each and every person reading the description has different preferences and different dreams, thus his or her imagined version of the promised feature will likely not be the same as anyone elses, but most importantly, it will not be the same as the developer’s. So when the final game ships, disappointment is inevitable as the developer did not deliver what was promised or rather – more accurately – did not deliver what was thought to be promised.

      These two key issues is why I truly loathe kickstarters and early access programs. Though they are quickly becoming an important and maybe even useful way of financing game development, they are also dangerous, uncontrolled and in my eyes often abused for quick cash grabs with mediocre games.


      As far as the game in question goes: I would love to see a decent dungeon keeper clone or rather a decent dwarf fortress implementation, even if its in a sci-fi/futuristic/alien environment instead of a fantasy setting.

      Sadly though, none of the games I’ve seen so far came even close to what I want and this one doesn’t seem to be the one that will break the pattern. :/

      I guess I will just keep an eye on it to see if it somehow beats the odds. I can always just buy it when its done.

    • SQW says:

      Last 20% of the proj will inevitably take up 80% of your time. Most indie devs are quite accomplished technically but unfortunately most couldn’t proj manage themselves out of a paper bag.

      Too many of the concept-stage-only Kickstarter reads more like wishful thinking marinated in a burst of youthful (read: short term) enthusiasm. Money, time, stress, lack of visible success, managing diverse team of people whose priorities in life may change drastically over the years and dozens of unknown factors will give majority of KS schedules a world-class wedgy and lock them in the female toilet.

      Xenonauts is probably one of the more famous pre-kickstarter-craze indie project. A glance at the dev blog can be a real wakeup call for most KS pledgers – while you are free to do away with your money, throwing it around without accountability from the dev would inevitably lead to an unhealthy ecosystem buried under half baked ideas and mediocre games.

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