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The Wide World of MMOs

To explore and provide thought provoking insight and discussions regarding the world of MMOs.

Author: Trimethicon

Beta test - demo or marketing ploy?

Posted by Trimethicon Wednesday March 26 2008 at 12:58PM
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Yes, we all know that beta tests are meant to be just that, but ask most gamers and they will admit that its a great chance to test out that hot up and coming new MMOG for free.  Developers use beta tests to obviously test their code and by unleashing that code to the public, via open or closed tests, it allows them to uncover bugs and test mechanics before their game is exposed to the critical eyes of the public. 

I have a habit of applying for any MMOG beta I see.   I have been in countless beta tests over the years and right or wrong I form an opinion of the title before its fully baked.  In most cases beta tests provide the client to the public in a closed or open format and I would have to assume that the game is…..80%, 90% code and feature complete?  So, are gamers wrong to use this opportunity as a sort of an early review of the title. 

Sites like Fileplanet.com offer exclusive members an opportunity to beta test games as a special advantage to their paying customer base.  Some developers offer free entry into their beta if you pre-order the game, game store websites also do the same.  So my question is when did beta tests become nothing more then a marketing vehicle and has this hurt developers?  Ask Richard Garriott and he will tell you that they made a mistake in opening up Tabula Rasa the way they did prior to the games live launch.  Not only that but he stated that their public beta went on for too long and some gamers were just burnt out.  I can admit that I was one of those beta testers, I admit that I felt like I played the game before the shrink wrapped boxes showed up on shelves.  I only just recently went back to Tabula Rasa for another look and the game has certainly matured beyond what I had experienced in the beta.

I've applied for some well known beta tests lately and I got into one, and I had such a hard time getting the game to run so I really haven't had a chance to play it….I mean beta test it, and I'm almost thankful.  But that was the point of the beta test; to stress test their login application under heavy load.  But i didn't want to test their login process, I wanted to play the game!

So I guess my question is;  has participation in a beta tarnished your impression of the game?  Have developers gone off the rails and hurt their game by opening the flood gates and letting everyone into their beta test that has a golden ticket?  MYTHIC has been bragging about how many applications they've received for War Online, is that really reason to celebrate?  Will ALL of those applicants become paying customers when the game launches?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and a beta, technical or stress, is that first impression.         

Walk don't run!

Posted by Trimethicon Tuesday March 25 2008 at 12:03PM
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Is it just me or do developers have a hard time with the motion of running in MMOGs?  I can name a hand full of games off of the top of my head that made me cringe the first time I saw my avatar run.  That and/or limbs were disproportionate; arms were too long, legs were too short.  I would think that animation is the first aspect of development that gets the most attention but in most MMOGs I just don't see any proof of that.

Also, combat and spell animations are critical to me as well.  I play MMOGs to escape reality, I play a sword swinging gleamming engine of destruction because it allows me to be something I have dreamed of doing since I was a small child.  Not only that when I cast a spell I want to look like I've summoned the power and magic from the either the depths of hell or from the heavens above, spell casting animations should not resemble a hand wave. 

Nothing, and I must restate nothing can take me out of the immersion of an MMOG faster then poor character animations, as vain, vapid or as shallow as that sounds its true.