Nothing lasts and, given the transitory nature of the world, it shouldn't come as a surprise. This is especially true in the world of gamers. Attention shifts, systems are replaced, developers go out of business, memory cards die. Yet, such an assertion is never truer than when looking at game betas. Thanks to Steam's acceptance of Early Access titles, more people are getting a chance to sample the early builds of what will one day be promising titles, taking part in a formative experience.
It's a growing experience, to be sure. It provides a better understanding of game development, a greater appreciation for the people making the games, and a chance to make a difference in a game you love. Unfortunately, it also means save wipes.
Save wipes are, for the uninitiated, something that happens with the changing of the guard. When a developer of an Early Access game releases a major update, everything changes. This means the old save files can often be incompatible with the new build. As a result, everything has to go, and the beta players have to start anew.
Yet, it isn't such a terrible thing. Take Starbound, for example; It's my latest obsession, and I have been playing the Early Access beta of it since it appeared on Steam on December 4, 2013. I had no idea save wipes would be part of the equation when I bought in and began building a glorious colony with my Floran, Lilac. When I did learn it was coming, I accepted it, but kept adding onto my complex. After all, the game had just launched. A save wipe seemed like something that would happen in a far distant future.
A far distant future which ended up arriving a few days later, on December 9, 2013. At first I was jubilant when I loaded up Steam and saw a massive update downloading. I was excited for all the new features. Yet, when it was done, my mellow was harshed. I was hoping to send Lilac off to new worlds, to face the second boss, and hunt down some of those promised, new hats, but she was gone.
Considering I had invested over 12 hours in Starbound at this point, one would think an unexpected and early save wipe would be a rage inducing event, yet, I couldn't bring myself to get mad. Chucklefish had rushed out the Annoyed Koala update to make things better for the players, fixing bugs, rebalancing everything, adding in new items, improving monster behavior, allowing us to catch pets, and generally making the game better in response to players' requests. It's hard to be upset about a save wipe and the loss of a dozen hours of work, when you know the game is better for it.
Instead, I found myself shrugging it off. Save wipes happen. The world goes on, and today will be better than the last. My only lament was my failure to take screencaps of my first colony. It really was a thing of beauty, with a mansion built off of an abandoned USCM base, a farmhouse with a field, an open-air market, and a Floran tree house. I'm not making that mistake again.
Already, I've already started anew. This time, with an Avian named Lilac (maybe this will be a trend?). New seeds have been sewn, and without even intending to, I started work on a massive, treehouse village last night. I'm moving on, gathering coal and new experiences. Maybe, when the time is right, I'll even type in my saved coordinates from Floran Lilac's home planet. I could build a summer home, visit the nearby Avian village, and reminisce about my past life.
Because when it comes to a really, truly good game, the end is never really the end. Be it save wipes, a console death, or a hard drive failure, we'll always return to the games we love and start over. We'll rebuild and go on again, because it's not just about reaching that satisfying end. It's about enjoying the journey to get there, over and over again.