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Valve lets gamers test new titles with Steam Early Access

Valve this week introduced its new Steam Early Access Games feature - a way for gamers to take part in the development process of titles before they're released.

Gamers can be among the first to test new titles and offer feedback to developers, who in turn have the opportunity to connect with the community and update their games as often as necessary.

"We like to think of games and game development as services that grow and evolve with the involvement of customers and this community," Valve wrote on its Early Access FAQ page. "There have been a number of prominent titles that have embraced this model of development recently and found a lot of value in the process."

So far, the list of Early Access titles includes Arma 3 Alpha, Kerbal Space Program, Kenshi, StarForge, Prison Architect, Kinetic Voic, Under the Ocean, Gnomoria, Patterns, Gear Up: Premium, Drunken Robot Pornography, and 1... 2... 3... KICK IT! (Drop That Beat Like An Ugly Baby).

Users have the option to buy the game or simply start playing free titles, then give feedback, participate in discussions, post screenshots, and even write guides.

Keep in mind, Steam warns, that these games are still in the early production phases, so don't expect it to be smooth sailing. Developer notices are available in the store, where users can find screenshots and videos of what the game currently looks like.

"There are a lot of ways a game can go as it develops over time, so if you aren't excited to play the game in its current state, then hold off and wait until the next update — it shouldn't be far off," the site said.

Steam also suggested that pricing of individual games may change over time, depending on developers' goals, level of commitment, and the amount of feedback they want.

"We like to support and encourage developers who want to ship early, involve customers, and build lasting relationships that help everyone make better games," the gaming site said. "This is the way games should be made."

While Steam isn't breaking any boundaries in the online gaming world, the Valve-based system is selling only ready-to-play games; these are not pre-releases, but rather titles that are immediately accessible to download and play in their current form.

Just last month, Steam for Linux launched, now available to download for free from the Ubuntu Software Center.