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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: Do You Really Want a Beta Invite?

By Michael Bitton on June 29, 2011

From the moment Star Wars: The Old Republic was announced gamers began wondering when the game would go into beta testing so they could get their hands on it, but do we all really want that test invite? I recall feverishly posting the news the day BioWare announced that they had begun accepting sign-ups for Game Testing as well as the subsequent announcement months later that Game Testing had actually commenced. There was a lot of excitement over both announcements and fans everywhere (my own friends included) have been frantically checking their inboxes and spam folders every day since, but I really have to wonder why.

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You see, I don’t think most of you really want a beta invite – you just want to play the game a little bit, to get a taste of what it’s like. Before I got into this industry the longest beta test I was involved in was for The Matrix Online. I spent probably over six months testing that game and I worked hard to give great feedback, participate in focus group tests, and so on in order to help ensure the game would come out in a better state than it eventually shipped in. It was satisfying seeing some items of my feedback implemented into the game, I felt like I personally made a difference in the game’s development. I know some of you reading this genuinely want to test the game for this reason, but let’s be realistic here, there are a whole lot of people that want in and I imagine most of you just want to satisfy your basic curiosity: does this game live up to the hype?

Do we really need beta for that though? Come out to any of the various shows the game appears at throughout the year and if you patiently wait on line you can play The Old Republic for a whole 45 minutes at a time, multiple times if you’re really hankering for more and have a ton of patience and time. The notion of wanting to get into beta sort of makes sense to me when applied to just any game out there, but BioWare’s claim to fame with Star Wars: The Old Republic is the storyline and would you really want to spoil that for yourself? Bits and pieces here and there at a show, or for me, a few days at a press event, sure, but months and months knee deep in all the game’s mechanics and storyline (not to mention bugs) would likely ruin the experience come launch.

Once you’ve seen all the bugs and inconsistencies that come with being part of a beta test it can kind of take the luster off the game. It can also be supremely disappointing if you become familiar and comfortable with the way some system or design works only to have it change during the iterative process of development and possibly be completely different (or removed entirely!) come launch. You’ll always be left thinking, “Man, such and such was awesome in beta, why’d they have to change that?!” Believe me, I’ve been there countless times and I’m sure quite a few of you have as well (Champions Online, anyone?).

What I’d love to see BioWare do is put together some rolling test weekends on the run-up to launch, allowing as much of the public as they can manage to facilitate to get a taste of the game in short bursts, maybe it would take the edge off. Oh, who am I kidding? The opposite would probably be true. Ultimately though, we’re half-way through the year, so we’ve only got a couple more months before we’ll all be playing the game (assuming there are no delays!) so I suspect most of you will get a chance to take it for a spin soon enough.

Am I completely off base here? Do you really want an invite so you can completely test the game and help BioWare deliver the best product possible? Or are you just itching to cut through all the hype and find out what the game is like for yourself?

Share your reasons for wanting to test (or not test) the game in the comments below!

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