I actually do remember times when our local game shop had like 20 games available and it was considered one of the biggest ones.
I also do remember that when you bought a game you actually get a full game with all of intended content.
I also do remember that when a expansions came, they were expandind the universe of the game not adressing issues in core games desing. Btw those expansions costed somewhat 30-50% of the core game value.
What we have nowadays? Early access, that is considered somewhat an alpha or beta test, but you pay money for it (full price). Then game goes on release but it has like 1/2 of the intended functionality and content, and you pay money for it (full price if you havent bought EA). Then DLCs start spawning like zerglings with some fixes and missing content/functionality added (you pay some more money for it). Then another DLC.... another DLC.... so 3-6 dlcs later an expansion is announced, and guess what you either have to buy expac for the same price as core game is (with much less content then in core game), or expandalone which raises the question - what did i payed for while i backed this studio in EA, core game release, dlcs.
So instead of getting a full product for a fixed price, you get almost perma drained for more money to ofc support the developer.
The problem with this model is that i as a buyer actually feel cheated.
For example ive bought cossacks 3 last week, which is actually a remaster of 15 year old game for 28 eur. And you know what? It does actually feel like a complete game. The replayability is colosal, mechanics are deep. Sure there were some bugs and balance problems, but they actually fix them asap. And that 28 eur deal came with a year of dlcs for free. Is it a good deal? i think so.
As for ashes... Brad, in every post and topic i see only one well advertised argument from your side - the ashes game engine. Im no engineer, i cant tell a difference between various engines. I am a gamer, a player, a customer, and what a gamer wants to see is interesting game full of content and well FUN. Maybe you are correct and that engine is masterpiece, but all i can see and rate is gameplay, story, design, sounds, visuals.
As for steam reviews, you might actually think that im one of these people that puts a negative review to a game when he disagrees with game development, but tbh i didnt actually rated ashes and i am not going to, because i cant put a positive review because of games currents state. Putting a negative review may hurt game development and still wouldnt change a thing, so my "blank" possition i think is quite reasonable as i can see. If ashes somehow would actually get better i promise i would put a good positive review.
There's a lot of rose colored glasses in this post imo.
I'll try to address the points here:
Re "I remember when you got the full game..."
What you remember is that games were released and abandoned. You also paid a lot more for them. That was the retail model.
Re "I remember when expansions 30% to 50% and expanded the universe.."
The typical price for an expansion for many years was $29.99. This was in 1990s and that price held for years. The base game's price was typically $49.99 or $59.99.
The model today is vastly better for gamers. The games cost a lot less, the expansions cost less.
Re "I feel cheated"
Your example of a good deal is paying for a remaster of a 15 year old game. That's a bit of an edge case imo.
I can't help how you feel. No one has gotten rich making RTS games. Those of us making them are doing them because we love making them and the communities.
I can tell you that the seemingly endless complaining from what is, after all, a relatively small community, can discourage developers from supporting the genre. I know of at least two RTS developers that have given up on the genre because of what they feel are unreasonable expectations of the RTS community.
Few people enjoy being called scammers or crooks or what have you. I know the folks at Uber have taken a lot of abuse and while someone might think they deserve it, I can assure you, no one at Uber got rich making Planetary Annihilation. Supreme Commander basically ruined GPG. StarCraft survives because people are willing to pay $40 for new campaigns for StarCraft 2.
In other words, developers aren't feeling the love from RTS players and are moving on to genres where they can make a fun game at a relatively modest budget and get praised.
Re "Ashes is mostly known for its new engine"
That is because that is what the press chose to cover. It was the first DirectX 12 game. The first gen 4 RTS. So it's natural that's going to get coverage. But the game will live and die based on how good of a game it is.
Re Steam reviews
That's fair enough. I am working on an article for Gamasutra that basically says "Are gamers entitled? Yes. And why shouldn't they be?" It is very hard for a 2016 game to compete against every game that has ever been released.
A 2016 game with a $3 million budget is still going to have a hard time competing against a 2007 game with a $28 million budget. There is no way around that because while tech and engines and such have come a long way. There is no substitute for time and content.
But here's the thing: That 2007 game won't be getting updated. If you like games of a certain genre and want new work in those areas, you have to vote with your wallet (one way or the other).
I'm perfectly happy making games for other genres. Genres where $3 million can make something pretty amazing for that genre. But we wanted to make an land-based RTS and $3 million doesn't get you far. Planetary Annihilation cost something like $11 million (not counting Titans).
After Escalation, if the sales aren't there and, more importantly, the player reviews aren't there then fair enough. We'll just focus our attention on more popular genres where our budget is more than enough to compete with what's already there.
The only way the RTS market is worthwhile for new IP is either if you can invest $10+ million OR if the RTS community is willing to support a long-term commitment to development to get the content and niceties in there.
Ultimately, the market will decide.