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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Beta Do It Right

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28 posts found
  SBFord

MMORPG.COM Staff

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 12111

 
OP  2/28/13 2:27:04 PM#1

In the "old days" (relatively speaking, of course), beta tests in games were literally to help developers find and squash bugs. Any more, beta tests seem to mainly be about generating hype. In today's Devil's Advocate, we take a look at beta testing and offer a few thoughts. See what we've got to say before chronicling your beta experiences in the comments.

While general play is alright for an MMO beta test, you can do so much more if you’re willing to engage in erratic in-game behavior.  The premise of a beta test is to find ways to break the game, so that the issue you’ve found can be remedied prior to release. I am, of course,  assuming the developer isn’t going to saddle you with a horribly unfinished mess and then leave you to stumble madly in ignorance. 

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: Beta Do It Right.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  Battlerock

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/12/11
Posts: 731

3/01/13 1:01:56 PM#2
I was just thinking about beta as hype generators the other day. It feels like more people are playing. Betas then actual full games. Personally and as you make mention I play beta just to see if I might like the game. These games that just stay in beta and now we have pay for beta, I just roll my eyes. Neverwinter and firefall beta unlimited and never ending to the point im tired of playing before it even releases or something bettwr comes along like Destiny so I wont even look at firefall now
  Nibs

Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/26/04
Posts: 190

3/01/13 1:18:18 PM#3

The problem is that once you've been in a few betas you realise that your feedback is almost certainly going to be ignored.

The devs know better. The testers are just plain wrong (or ignored). Players don't know what they really want. Any one of a million other nonsense responses that I've seen devs post on beta forums.

Those 50 bugs you reported - still there at release. In some cases they're still there months into release.

As a tester, sooner or later, you realise that the devs are too far down whatever path they've taken to turn back now.

UNLESS you get invited into the very early stages of beta, preferably into alpha, your opinion is practically worthless. You are basically there to stress test the system. At least that's the feeling I've been left with.

Alphas tend to be populated with 'friends & family'. People who quite often aren't even the target audience and so any feedback that they give may as well be ignored. Unfortunately devs don't want to be seen to ignore their friends & family (who does?) and so the only non-dev people that get into the 'dev process' early enough to actually make a difference are quite possibly the worst people to be put in such a situation: Friends and family that seemingly know nothing about games. By the time most people get into a beta all the design decisions are so set in stone that they are not going change.

I test business software as part of my job. I know how mind numbingly dull true testing is. I know who to find, replicate and document bugs. But when I've managed to get into game betas, even at fairly early stages, I make reports. I wait. I know fixes don't happen over night. I know the devs have 2, 3 or more builds already squirrelled away before my bugs even have a chance of being squashed. So I wait. 8 weeks, 12 weeks later and they're still there. Sometimes they've even spread.

You offer (I think) well rounded suggestions on how to improve sub-system X or activity Y. You get mostly agreement on the beta forums. The devs do the opposite because some super secret 'focus group' disagreed with you and all the other testers.

Honestly, what's the point?

So now, the devs don't care what I have to say, I don't care enough to bother saying it in the first place.

  Ryowulf

Elite Member

Joined: 8/28/05
Posts: 664

3/01/13 1:25:11 PM#4
Of all the betas I have been in, I could count on one hand the ones that changed greatly from when I first entered till they went live.

Unless you are in alpha or really early closed beta I don't think the game is going to change all that much from its core. SO heck yeah you should judge whether you will be pre-ordering a game based on its beta.

On the other hand never say never.  Games can change for the better.  Heck going live is just more beta for the first 4-6 months anyway, but be a smart consumer. Don't rush to buy, but don't try to destroy the game just because you weren't happy with it in beta.

About an NA normally I agree that you should keep quite, but what about when a game asks for a pre-order?  What about a game like WARZ that was making claims about their game that were all hype?  As someone playing a game is it right to say nothing and let people be fooled and their money more or less stolen?
  PyrateLV

Tipster

Joined: 11/07/08
Posts: 1106

3/01/13 1:32:29 PM#5
Originally posted by SBFord

In the "old days" (relatively speaking, of course), beta tests in games were literally to help developers find and squash bugs. Any more, beta tests seem to mainly be about generating hype.

I couldnt agree with this statement more

Tried: EQ2 - AC - EU - HZ - TR - MxO - TTO - WURM - SL - VG:SoH - PotBS - PS - AoC - WAR - DDO - SWTOR
Played: UO - EQ1 - AO - DAoC - NC - CoH/CoV - SWG - WoW - EVE - AA - LotRO - DFO - STO - FE - MO - RIFT
Playing: Skyrim
Following: The Repopulation
I want a Virtual World, not just a Game.
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  asmkm22

Elite Member

Joined: 11/29/06
Posts: 1627

3/01/13 1:35:59 PM#6

I disagree with Beta's not being the final product.  Based on experience, practically no significant  changes are made to the game during Beta testing.  You can have the entire beta community telling the dev's that something isn't good, or that a missing feature *needs* to be added, and they'll just release the game anyway.

You make me like charity

  marganculos

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/08/04
Posts: 204

3/01/13 1:44:29 PM#7
Originally posted by asmkm22

I disagree with Beta's not being the final product.  Based on experience, practically no significant  changes are made to the game during Beta testing.  You can have the entire beta community telling the dev's that something isn't good, or that a missing feature *needs* to be added, and they'll just release the game anyway.

+1, so true... i don't remember last beta which was significantly different than released products... and im betatesting since ....  umm i even remember ...  September 1997 .... last day of the original beta test of UO!

  Grinnz

Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/24/10
Posts: 264

I just ate your cat!

3/01/13 2:03:07 PM#8
No one finishes games anymore at least in a f2p sense, they just are in perpetual beta stage....

  zellmer

Advanced Member

Joined: 8/30/09
Posts: 406

3/01/13 3:41:05 PM#9

So many direct ports of korean games and the like end up being EXACTLY the same, beta or not.

 

 

  sketocafe

Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/19/11
Posts: 475

3/01/13 3:44:07 PM#10

Seems to me that growing perception isn't that far off the mark. Have companies not been using betas to fuel hype in recent years?

 

  Falcomith

Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/03/09
Posts: 793

3/01/13 5:29:53 PM#11

I have been beta testing games, mostly mmo's, for almost 10 years. And in the last 3 to 5 years the true testing is done in the alpha betas in which the developers learn and listen to the testers.

Once you hit closed beta its more of the developer testing hardware and server capabilities on there end and the testers are just there to have a population to help stress the server. On occasion if enough people run into that game breaking bug that was missed in alpha, it gets looked into.

Open beta today is just a way for them to help hype the game through community advertising and get those last minute pre-orders as NDA is usually lifted at that point.

Dont get me wrong, not all developers follow the formula above. But more and more as time goes on look for that quick buck in which usually the game suffers because of it. But then there is also the Publishers who are to blame since they hold the funding for the developers in there hand. But thats another story.

 

  Wighty

Hard Core Member

Joined: 1/10/08
Posts: 495

3/01/13 9:02:17 PM#12
Originally posted by PyrateLV
Originally posted by SBFord

In the "old days" (relatively speaking, of course), beta tests in games were literally to help developers find and squash bugs. Any more, beta tests seem to mainly be about generating hype.

I couldnt agree with this statement more

I second that... Despite rabid fanboism that always pulls the "but it's beta" card the truth is (specially for the "limited betas" you are playing a release candidate and there isn't going to be much more changed except for maybe some stabillity optimization.

 

All this hype crap has to stop...

What are your other Hobbies?

Gaming is Dirt Cheap compared to this...

  nennafir

Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/13/05
Posts: 205

3/01/13 9:46:47 PM#13

I've been in at least a dozen MMO betas, and probably closer to 2 dozen.

The state of the game in beta is the state of the game at release.  I am honestly surprised you listed this as a myth.

The game will be buggy in beta, and the devs will fix some of the bugs, but then at release they will at the last minute modify something or other and there will be the general server stress.

So, after having been in beta for all of these games AND continued actually to play the games (since I am bored and what else am I going to do) I have to say:  State of the game at beta (either open or closed) = state of the game at release (more or less.)

  ariasaitcho

Novice Member

Joined: 5/20/12
Posts: 107

3/01/13 10:02:48 PM#14

From the F2P perspective:

Open and closed Betas are more for stress testing servers than for "bug quashing". Yes closed betas are more for bug quashing but I've been in many closed and bugs that were there in closed are still there a year (or more) after release; and are sometimes considered "features"! lol

 

I've also been in one alpha, I was honored and that game has yet to come to beta yet. The devs are seriously reworking the game, changing some aspects of game play. I understand that a major overhaul takes time.

 

Lastly, +1 on the bit about non disclosure. It's about integrety. If you seriously think the game is junk based on how bad the beta was, say so. But giving out details of what was wrong and how to do replecate bug X somewhere other than the official forum is wrong.

  skamper

Novice Member

Joined: 7/27/05
Posts: 253

3/01/13 10:19:41 PM#15
You seriously blame players? Developers are pushing "beta" as a pre release demo now.
  Mueslinator

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/08/11
Posts: 78

3/02/13 4:37:04 AM#16

Betas used as hype machines? I would tend to agree. I know a few 'Betas' I participated in, and it felt like I was punching clouds. Almost all of the feedback of the testers (judging from forum posts and 'stories swapped') seemed to be ignored for months, testers belittled, and you know... devs just didn't seem to give a shoot that there were thousands of unpaid players testing their game out, trying to be valuable beta testers. Even very glaring bugs were not fixed. Yeah, I get production cycles and that some things take time. But when a bug persists that locks everyone in the starting zone into release... that's plain lazy.

 

Thankfully I've had other Betas as well, where feedback was indeed heard, where the devs even said "mechanic X has often been mentioned by testers. We're going to test it this build - please leave your feedback if the new or the old system worked better, and why".

You felt like your time spent at Beta was not time spent in vain, but that you really did your part to improve the game.

 

When I beta test, I work. Sure, it's fun work (which is why I do it on my own time), but I am not gaming in that time. I am testing. And I am sinking a lot of man-hours into that testing. And yeah, for me as voluntary and unpaid Beta tester it is important to know that I am not just burning time when I fill out bug reports, feedback questionnaires or write forum posts.

 

And that is why I have come to disdain 'PR Betas'. Because they are nothing to do with testing, only with generating buzz. I don't do buzz. We have editors for that.

  cyrician

Advanced Member

Joined: 5/14/10
Posts: 152

3/02/13 5:38:32 AM#17

Well  how about charging people to play beta like sooooooooo many devs are doing these days 69$ to get into the beta for neverwinter noo way in hell.

 

That being said I did buy a founders pack for both defience and firefall. Loving firefall at the moment can play when I want !!! And it only cost me 19$. 

 

But I agree for the most part beta,s have lost there way and it's because people and company's are greedy and the company's will charge asking as the people pay.

 

cyrician Xfire Miniprofile
  jtcgs

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/28/04
Posts: 1843

3/02/13 4:21:48 PM#18
Originally posted by cyrician

Well  how about charging people to play beta like sooooooooo many devs are doing these days 69$ to get into the beta for neverwinter noo way in hell. 

That being said I did buy a founders pack for both defience and firefall. Loving firefall at the moment can play when I want !!! And it only cost me 19$. 

 So...you hate that they did it with Neverwinter but not Defience? Wut? Dont know about anyone else but I paid with Neverwinter for the Drow, Mount and shop currency, beta access made NO difference at all.

“I hope we shall crush...in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~Thomes Jefferson

  troublmaker

Novice Member

Joined: 5/10/11
Posts: 340

3/02/13 5:01:25 PM#19
In my experience developers generally don't care about any bugs you find and they remain in the finished product.  Oddly enough the only devs I've ever had introduce any of my suggestions was Trion Worlds of which I alphaed Rift and End of Nations (last summer).  Other than that most of what you get in open beta is what will be available at launch.

Website: http://www.thegameguru.me / YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/users/thetroublmaker

  jdlamson75

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 12/27/08
Posts: 860

There's some lovely filth down here.

3/02/13 8:31:05 PM#20

Victor:

 

Most of the betas that mass audiences are getting access to are in the final stages, and become available to let folks get a glimpse, fix a few bugs, and stress test.  By this stage, games aren't going to change that much, so what you're getting basically IS the finished product.  It's unfortunate that those who stop playing because the game isn't fun annoy you. 

 

I, for one, won't keep playing a released game if I'm not having fun with it.  Why continue in a beta if it's not fun?

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