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Reader Comments (3)

Posted: Dec 7th 2007 10:56AM (Unverified) said

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"Is it marketing for the game, or a massively multiplayer quality assurance session?"

I've been in a variety of beta tests over the years and they have the opportunity to be both if done well (but still with the primary emphasis on quality assurance first and foremost though).

The primary problem I'm seeing these days though is that many beta tests are actually alpha tests. What's the difference? An alpha test in my opinion gets rid of all the bugs that are show stoppers. In effect something that will impede gameplay and stop it dead in it's tracks. A beta on the other hand is to get those remaining bugs that are more annoyances. Basically these are the bugs that can ruin the experience of the game but won't stop the gameplay from proceeding.

So during an alpha test, you might be testing a bug that stops a game character from progressing past a portal (i.e. for some reason you can't step through it). That is a showstopper because the game ends there unless this is resolved. During a beta test though, you might be testing why dead bodies seem to die floating in the air. It's an annoying bug that reduces the overall enjoyment and experience of the game but it's not a showstopper in that you can continue to play with it.

To give some real world examples, I remember beta testing Confirmed Kill (which eventually became Warbirds) many years ago. Without a doubt this was definitely a beta test, as most of the major bugs had been squashed with only minor ones being experienced (and I raved about the game to my friends). Now the beta testing for Tribes 2 on the other hand was a complete mess. It was most definitely an alpha test, as there were many bugs that made the game almost completely unplayable. The World War II Online beta test is another example that I'm sure many people are familiar with. I'd also categorize that as an alpha test and not a beta because it was also unplayable.

All in all, if you're hosting a beta test, the game should for the most part be playable, as you're just trying to resolve those last bugs and test the extremes of the system / platform with heavy user loads. That's why beta tests can be for marketing purposes as well because as long as there are no showstopper bugs making it completely unplayable, most people can see the potential of the game and it's core gameplay and thus spread the word of it.

Posted: Dec 7th 2007 12:27PM Anatidae said

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Really Richard Garriott? You game is not selling well because your beta test?

I believe a bad beta test might harm the hard-core gamer adoption because they all "talk", but Hellgate London had a bad beta test, yet they are selling copies - even with a bad launch really.

There seems to be story after story related to Richard Garriott and some reason why his game is not selling all that well. Quite frankly, it is because it is not that great of a game. With the various MMOs to choose from, other than being a new Sci-Fi game, it really does not offer that much more.

In fact, I would go so far as to say it was way overhyped by Richard claiming that it would be soooooo different from standard MMOs, but when I bought it it took all of a week before I saw the same level grind just as boring (if not more so) than all the other games out there.

On top of that, TR has a funky interface. I wish more people would take after WoW's ability to customize your interface. At least there I can radically change what I don't like about it.

[Richard: Stop blaming other things for your games lackluster sales, maybe realize that you didn't design this super revolutionary game and it is just "another" MMO. Look in the mirror - that is the person you should talk to about why your game lacks that something special]

Posted: Dec 7th 2007 1:14PM (Unverified) said

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The lesson of Tabula Rasa is: Keep testing in closed beta, under a tight NDA, until the game is feature-complete and roughly balanced. ONLY go into an open beta after you've nailed down all the basic functions of the game and you're ready to stress test the hardware and software.

Of course this presupposes that you're not making the game up as you go along. If you're still fiddling around with basic gameplay in beta, then you're not really in beta, are you? You're actually still in alpha.

But if you recall, even the best slip up now and again: even mighty WoW was still refining some basic gameplay elements (trade skills and character roles) while it was in wide beta.

But anyway, TR had a really bad beta. I played it for a short while and was pretty unenthused by what I saw. But then, my problems were with the weak lore presentation and uninspiring atmosphere of the various locations that I experienced (bland, tedious). I don't know if they've addressed that or not. I should give it another try though.

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