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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

AoC: The Passion of the Beta Test

Posted by Daedren Friday April 25 2008 at 8:44AM
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It's no news - well, at least to the geek empire that is MMO gaming - that beta testing is now a big part of the marketing of online gaming. That's all good I suppose, as companies save production costs by having potential customers test their product before it's launch and help cut down on overall QA costs. They've even taken it to the next level by offering beta keys as "prizes" and letting the fortunate few get to see their astounding game of awesomeness before a few other people.

The most recent travesty in this ongoing string of events is our beloved Age of Conan, who has taken one step away from "Rough, gritty, mature MMO" into "Genuine Display of Asshattery" by CHARGING people for a CHANCE to enter their sacred "Open Beta Test".

I feel that I've failed in my part to try and right this horrible wrong. As a blogger, each article I write gets roughly 5,000 unique views through my partner sites and - more for controversial articles (like this one) and less for huggy-feely stuff. Anyway, if I would have been "quick on the gun" and urged people not to throw their money at a bitch-ass company like Fileplanet, I might have saved a few of my readers some cash.

Anyway, you heard that right. Pay for a subscription at the worst site on the Internets - Fileplanet - and you have a CHANCE to test our product! Fuck yeah! Can I pay you guys to come mow your lawn also? Who the hell needs to pay to download shit anyway? Here's a tip: use Google. Nothing - and I mean nothing - is exclusively available on Fileplanet or any other site; except, that is, apparently paying to test someone's software for them.

Oh, and if you pay for a Fileplanet subscription, you probably pay for porn also. While I can appreciate a persons love for hard to find midget porn, under no circumstances should any rational person give money to Fileplanet to download stuff that you can download somewhere else. It's not like they magically coat their files with some sort of digital-crack that makes the files on their site somehow better. What, you give them money for speed? Look, if you have to drop 50$ a year so your COD4 demo downloads in 27 minutes instead of 40, perhaps you should re-evaluate your priorities.

(disclaimer: I know a lot of people, and my readers, pay Fileplanet for some strange reason. I don't know why, but you do. I'm sorry if I offended you, but I don't like Fileplanet. They are evil. This is an opinion of course, try not to get too upset.)

So, now that I've made plenty of enemies by mocking their payment to download stuffs on the intarwebs, I'll continue. Somewhere, sometime - something went wrong. Back in my days, while I was walking 10 feet uphill each day to play Ultima Online on a 56k modem - beta testing sucked. Not much has changed since then, actually - beta testing still sucks for the end user. Sure, the company thinks it's all great and stuff, but they want you to spend your time testing their product for you. So, what's the lure?

The lure has come to us thanks to the sociopath community that is online gaming. Apparently, a large group of people on the internets that take online gaming very seriously would like every advantage offered to them when presented a new Game and Company to give their hard earned US Pesos to. This means digging for information before the game is released - forming alliances and guilds beforehand sometimes - to ensure that their gaming experience is maximized once release time comes.

I'm surprised no MMO Company has taken this level of customer zealotry to the next level and have them make the game for them. Surely every serious gamer out there must have some usable trade that can assist Company X on making a better game or releasing it ahead of schedule. Maybe then we'd see some ads like:

AGE OF CONAN OPEN BETA - Are you rich? Can you code in C++? Can you do 3D Modeling? Level design? Give good head? Now YOU could win a chance to test our shit!

This begs the question: are our lives so empty that we'll do anything to try and get ahead in our worlds of digital escapism? At what point did we, as gamers, start prioritizing die-hard consumerism over rational thinking? For fuck's sake - we're paying for a chance to test a game for someone! Is your time and money *that* invaluable that you'll play the role of Hamster 1725 waiting at the feeder for any morsel that an MMO company will throw you?

Anyway, back on track. Yes, this is another one of my long-winded rants about some MMO. I know I'll be getting plenty of "Fuck you, punk!" replies and some of my "Preach on, brotha!" as usual. I accept that as a blogger who mainly bitches about stuff with a big vocab and throws in some witty inside humor every now and then. In my defense, though, I've tried to be very positive about Age of Conan up to this point.

Myself, like many people, want Age of Conan to succeed for two reasons: One, we don't have shit to play in a stagnant MMO market, and two: we hate World of Warcraft and want to see it fail because it's taken up too much of our time in the past. All we want is a good MMO with a real PVP system to play; pretty please with sugar on top. So, to make it clear, FunCom, we are, or were - on your side. We'll let slight little annoyances pass for the sake of giving you a fair shot.

I have to ask though: What about all of our beta applications? You realize over 200,000 people took time to go to your machine-freezing bloated site, upload our dxdiag and put our system specs in, and apply for your beta? And after the first round of testers, like myself, were chosen (I used my bot network of 15 email / machines to make sure I got an account) "stress-tested" your bloody client by downloading (via torrent) the client, installing it, trying to log in and make a character, and get to do absolutely nothing - you won't even throw these guys a bone? Thanks, go pay 15 bucks to a crappy site for a chance to do it again?

So, as I've been in discussion with Age of Conan developer Athelan in regards to this topic, I suggested the following alternatives to the Age of Conan "Open Beta". If I was in charge, here is what I would have done:

(start fictional scenario)

Hi, I'm Daedren, Lead Developer for Age of Conan. Today, I'm going to tell you about our Open Beta. Only 50,000 keys are available for this beta test due to our server limits. Thanks in advance for taking the time to be a part of this beta test! It's an important part of the creative process, and trust me when I say your feedback counts. On with the show!

  • The first batch of the 50,000 keys will be available to our prior beta testers. You'll have a couple day period where you can use your prior beta account to "upgrade" to the new Open Beta.
  • After this, we expect we'll have about 35,000 keys left. About 20,000 of these keys will be given out randomly to those that applied to the beta test on our website.
  • A remaining 10,000 keys will be chosen via specific requirements: system specs, gaming experience, location and affiliation with our website. 
  • The last 5,000 keys are a bit special! We'll be handing a good portion of these out to our forum users. 3,000 will go to the top 3,000 posters on the forum, as by post count. Keep in mind certain forums and forum "spamming" will not be counted here. Oh, and if you go and try to flood our forums when you read this, it's too late, we took the count last night. 
  • The remaining 2,000 keys will go to affiliate websites, fansites, blogs and other sites that we've determined to be in good standing with the Age of Conan community. Thanks for helping us in building a great Conan community!

Beta Client

The beta client will be distributed in the following ways:

  • Fansites and associated websites that have volunteered to help with the bandwidth
  • Via BitTorrent. We've asked for high bandwidth beta testers to help seed the client. We'll start with about 250 seeds. Within a day or two, we should be looking at 1500+ seeds, meaning download times will be less than 1-2 days.
  • Lastly, you can also download the client via some of our other partner sites like Fileplanet and TenTonHammer. Keep in mind you might have to pay for access to these files at these sites.

That's it folks! The beta test starts in a week, get to downloading! Thanks to all applied, and please enjoy your time in Hyboria.

(end fictional scenario)

Well, FunCom, I just bested everyone at your company who was part of this decision making process. I rewarded fans and former testers, provided a no-cost solution to hosting the beta, and most importantly, didn't make our company look like a bunch of ignorant douchebags.

In closing, I'm sorry for the hostility. Come on though, people. We're talking about a game that cost 50 Million USD - at least - to produce. That's no small beans. Why are you starting to piss people off and you're still in the beta? Nevermind the myriad of other problems you'll soon be facing like ginormous system requirements, class balancing and end-game content for the players. Now you've gone an alienated yourself from your loyal playerbase.

For damage control, I'd start by doing exactly what I outlined above. Get your people popping on this as FAST as possible, and up the beta key count to 100,000 or something. Then, you need to give money to all of these 50,000 beta testers that you currently have. Not real money, but game-time money. Considering most dropped 15$ USD for a beta account, that's at least a free month. So, beta testing + buying the game = two free months. That way you'll come out looking less like robber-barons and more like a sympathetic gaming company who listens to their customers.

Anyway, that's it. Let the madness begin. Oh, and let's hope Crom doesn't find out, lest ye devs yet smited with a lightning bolt.

Isatanica writes:


great post mate,I really enjoyed reading it,love your opninion!

Fri Apr 25 2008 9:00AM Report
chrisleko writes:

I do agree with you.  There have been many arguments about the purpose of an open-beta test.  Many people seem to think this is an opportunity to have players play a game which isn't finished to, hopefully, win them into buying it.  a.)  This concept seems silly to be, and b.) why would they whore out their game to "hope" to win more subs.  Really, how many people were going to pay for the the box before they realized Funcom pulled this.  While it isn't the worst thing anyone could do, after all, it is a game, it does kind of deny the experience of the "open beta", which is something I don't agree with.  The true thing an open beta will get you is a bunch of people who want to play the game for free playing it once, then dropping it like a hot potato.  Or keep playing it.  Beta is supposed to be for squashing bugs, not giving people a free demo.

Really, it's the system itself which is busted.  Too many people are just trying to compete with WoW instead of making a solid game.  I'm getting off topic, but that's because I am exceptionally tired and hungry, so I'll stop here.

In a nutshell:  The idea of the open beta seems silly to me, and people get frustrated over something silly.  I do agree that FC could have done a much better job of getting their open-beta to the public and are sharing some people away.  But we must always remember that rumors travel faster than fact, and much of what people get upset over is speculation.

Fri Apr 25 2008 9:31AM Report
Giddian writes:

I have a File Planet Account, And I like it. I pay for the convenience of not having to hunt for Patches and the Latest Demo's, Even Beta's.

As for paying for crap. It just sounds to me that your too cheap and pissed off because now you cant play in the Beta.

Boo Hoo

So because you wont pay for a subscription, you want to point your finger at us and call us names.

The only way MMO's are going to be able to properly test games are by getting alot of people on at once to see how it stands up to Users, Not just the Real testers who have been working hard on the game since alpha testing.

As for giving Beta keys out as Prizes or for Subscribers only, Good For them. I look Forward to Playing AoC all most a Month before most people and see how it is.

I have my key. While I am Playing AoC, You can Blog all you want with your hateful whining. Maybe you can get some pointers from Jack Thompson on worthless whining.

Fri Apr 25 2008 9:34AM Report
Giddian writes:

Lets Be Honest. Your not realy Beta testing at this point any way. 17 Days befor it goes live. What do you think you are going to do. It's not a test, its more like a Preview.

Fri Apr 25 2008 9:59AM Report
Daedren writes:

@Giddian: Thanks for the response, Fileplanet fanboi #1.

Piss off. It's not about the money, it's the principal of the idea that's the problem.

I love when people defend Fileplanet. It makes me happy.

Fri Apr 25 2008 10:05AM Report
Giddian writes:

I am Not Defending Fileplanet. I am Defending Myself.

Oh, and if you pay for a Fileplanet subscription, you probably pay for porn also. While I can appreciate a persons love for hard to find midget porn, under no circumstances should any rational person give money to Fileplanet to download stuff that you can download somewhere else. It's not like they magically coat their files with some sort of digital-crack that makes the files on their site somehow better. What, you give them money for speed? Look, if you have to drop 50$ a year so your COD4 demo downloads in 27 minutes instead of 40, perhaps you should re-evaluate your priorities.

And Once again. Your getting into a Beta. True. But all your Doing is Previewing the Game. All testing is 99.9% Done. Its to give Some People a Chance to Check it out. Your not Beta Testing Shit.  So to say your paying some one to test their crap, Couldn,t be Farther from the Truth. I don't Care what site has the Key File Planet, Game Spot ,or even MMORPG.Com. Don't Think that getting a key makes you a Beta Tester. It is a Prize. If you think you are paying to beta test. Your an Idiot.

Fri Apr 25 2008 10:30AM Report
Daedren writes:

99.9% done?

You have no idea what you're getting into.

You do realize that you only get to play the first 13 levels?

Or that many features have not been implemented yet?

Server types have not been chosen?

PVP Class balancing is horrific currently?

Do you think the servers will be lag free and stable? They won't be.

Character wipes? Well, you'll have plenty of chances to do those 13 levels again.

Your use of capitalization is painful.


Fri Apr 25 2008 10:45AM Report
Psilocybine writes:



It costs alot to host 12+ gig of downloads for 50,000 people...


$5 or whatever is worth it imo.


nothing in life is free


Well thats my opinion but then again ive been a fileplanet subscriber for years that and im already on the beta.


Fri Apr 25 2008 11:00AM Report
Giddian writes:

There will Be Wipes, There will be Lag, Every new MMO deals with all of that, My point is, your not paying to beta test and it is a chance to play before you buy the game, to me, Thats a prize. To bash people because they perfer to pay a site to get all their patches and demos instead of hunting them down yourself, is childish.

The Game will be released to preorder people on the 17th. Do you think that in that time, what any does is going to do anything for the game? With luck, they will be able to deal with any lag issues before the release. It;s silly to rant over the company releasing keys to pay sites for a prize. It is just that, A Prize. Your not doing any thing but goofing on the game before its released.

As for my capitalization. This isnt Grammer 101. I don't care.

Fri Apr 25 2008 11:01AM Report
Giddian writes:

and to Psilocybine,

Here Here.

Perfect point. and See you in AoC.

Fri Apr 25 2008 11:04AM Report
ajm563 writes:

Well, at least you're not bitter!

I think posts like this are funny.  Someone isn't getting what they want (for free of course) and they throw a hissy fit.

Fri Apr 25 2008 11:07AM Report
Daedren writes:

I can get what I want. The money is peanuts. It's the principle behind the whole thing. It just feels wrong.

Anyway, I'd have to say the guys on the AoC boards are doing a good job at defense. They've almost convinced me it's worth money, no matter what, just for the size of the client being downloaded (8 gb).

I still believe that these beta costs should be deterred by the company, Funcom. It's cheap not to.

All in all, my problem is with the exclusiveness of the beta only being available to Fileplanet. I used the analogy of ... what if the beta was only available to AOL users?

Weird world we live in these days. Oh, and please don't confused bitterness with disgust.

Fri Apr 25 2008 12:04PM Report
Raston writes:

Personally, I refuse to support failplanet with any money what so ever.  I don't care if it is a dollar for lifetime service or a beta key, I won't pay them a penny.

Fri Apr 25 2008 12:09PM Report
Player_420 writes:

Wow I cant help but agree, as I continue to read your blogs.

As a long time beta tester I agree, fuckin beta testing sucks. But hey might as well just so you can be a little more uber when the game releases. but holy shit AoC has def fucked up here and I agree with your blog. Really put into words what I've been thinking about this whole situation.

Fri Apr 25 2008 12:51PM Report
Player_420 writes:

Also bro, do you realize they are only having 50k people?

Their games gunna release and fuckin 200k people are gunna try to be logging on at once....the login servers down! oh no now the servers crash!!!! so people continue to try and try throughout the night, which just makes it worse....yeah you get my point....oh wait this has happened soo many times.

However many games that this happened to were NOT the problem is AoC is really trying to be EVERYWHERE, get rly popular I how could they consider 50k open beta? do they think only 50k people are gunna be logging in on launch day? How will their servers handle 200k+ ?????

Fri Apr 25 2008 12:54PM Report
jindra81 writes:

Have my babies.

Fri Apr 25 2008 1:17PM Report
streea writes:

For the meat of your article, I agree that it was a poor thing to do to basically ignore all of the people who signed up for the beta. Hopefully the backlash against this teaches other MMOs not to do it and that they should instead follow a plan similar to what you posted (especially using bt instead of normal downloads).

Sadly, cussing out the company and otherwise making yourself out to sound like a 12-year-old who didn't get the toy he wanted because mommy had to pay bills instead of spoiling you more is not the way to make your point.

Fri Apr 25 2008 2:01PM Report
triste writes:

Beh. I like his writing style. He says multiple times it's the principal of the thing. He could get what he wants. Looks to be a normal guy with a job, not some scrub trying to save a few cents. I agree that FC didnt handle it very well. Keep up the good work man.

Fri Apr 25 2008 2:21PM Report
triste writes:

oha nd forgot to add, those aoc boards are damn hostile. i cant believe you threw that thing to the wolves... heh

Fri Apr 25 2008 2:22PM Report
Giddian writes:

I love how it refered to as a Beta.

Lets be honest. Beta is Over. the game went gold. It's a preview.

were was all the whining when World of Warcraft did this?

Fri Apr 25 2008 3:36PM Report
Giddian writes:

LOL. Can't wait till Warhammer does the same thing.

They All Do

Fri Apr 25 2008 4:12PM Report
Qayne writes:

LOL. Someone just removed my previous comment. No wonder all comments are praising your "article".  Disgust indeed

Fri Apr 25 2008 4:23PM Report
Daedren writes:

@Qayne: That's because you're a wanker. I don't mind when people disagree with me, it comes with the job. Open hostility and obvious trolling go to the bin. Deal with it.

Fri Apr 25 2008 4:38PM Report
Qayne writes:

Hostility, right. You are the one calling people names and telling them to "piss off". So, you do mind when someone disagrees with you. As for trolling, well, it's easy to label anything as trolling. Happy blogging

Fri Apr 25 2008 4:58PM Report
Daedren writes:

@Qayne: Thanks, that was better. More constructive. Group hug.


Fri Apr 25 2008 5:00PM Report
undeadmojo writes:

While I agree w/you with the crap of those keys going out to fileplanet you make me depressed about me only using 3 emails to sign up when you used your bots and however many actual sign-ups you did, damn you! lol


Sat Apr 26 2008 6:16PM Report
undeadmojo writes:

Ps- forgot to ask if your still going to play the game despite the problems stated?


Sat Apr 26 2008 6:18PM Report
Spirer writes:

Regarless of the game being ready or not, this "idea" pissed off a lot of people and that is the last thing you need coming up to the game release.

And yeah, it's really sad that MMOs are so competitive that people feel they need to be in before, to get an edge. It's more of the time vs skill, which really does my head in.

Anyway, I too hope this is a good game (or some other comes down the line), because I too am gameless...

BTW, you guys might want to check "The Chronicles of Spellborn", failed to get into beta as well, but sounds interesting.

Sun Apr 27 2008 7:05AM Report
Daedren writes:

@undeadmojo: I'm still planning on trying it. Me and 5-6 of my friends were ready to pre-order AoC when this happened. We'll still preorder, depending on how the "Open Beta" looks. I'm not keen on trying another Anarchy Online at launch. ;)


@Spirer: Thanks - the comments get mirrored here when I run a script.

In regards to Spellborn: it looks interesting, but the lack of publisher in the US is a bit worrying right now. It looks very indy, which I like, so I’ll definitely check it out when/if it’s coming out.

As for the working thing - Keen at did a recent article on the Treadmilling in AoC. First outlook isn’t good. We’ll see more when the NDA is lifted I suppose.


Mon Apr 28 2008 3:24AM Report writes:
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