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Reader Comments (17)

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 9:34AM elocke said

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Honestly, and this may come across as oddballish or completely unrealistic, but I've never understood the need for NDA. With that said, as a Beta tester for certain games, I don't break the NDA only because I was asked not to in the contract I signed when downloading the game. But.... in my opinion, secrets are stupid. Let us know what the game is going to be all about, every detail. I think they use the NDA to get away with shipping crappy games instead of if all details were known up front then the game company would know if the game is going to sell or not. Same goes with the movie industry, how many times have I been severely disappointed with a movie that was hyped so much yet because no critics had seen the film I was suckered into going?

Anyway, as another point, on all these games where the NDA was broken, did it really affect anything? If it did, I stand corrected. If it didn't, then lets think about the the whole "closed-door" policy and be "honest" with people. Down with NDA's!

Just to add one last thought, playing a few recent betas that had NDA's. Honestly, there wasn't anything to hide, making the NDA pretty pointless.

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 9:40AM (Unverified) said

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If a game is si bad that they have to stop beta testers telling people about it, it shouldnt be in beta but that said usually in teh beta time the company isnt going to show thier full hand so what you may be testing that is bad may be something small compared to something huge and good they want to suprise everyone with

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 10:00AM (Unverified) said

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Some games have some huge performance or bug problems before release that they don't afterwards. If it's still got the same problems after there's still nothing to stop you saying "It was the same in beta" because your NDA's expired by then.

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 10:10AM (Unverified) said

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I tend to agree with Bryan. While I don't see the need for the NDA to extend so close to the ship date... these people made a promise and should keep their word.

NDA do serve a purpose, I understand that. Games evolve and games need to avoid getting a bad reputation for problems it had when it wasn't even in release. But once a game gets close to the ship date, the NDA needs to be lifted so that customers can make informed decisions. A game that gets to its ship date without the NDA being lifted is a good sign of a developer trying to hide something.

But gaming journalists (and amateur bloggers) should keep their word and not break those NDA's regardless of the justification. The backlash won't affect them as it is just too expensive to track down and nail every NDA breaker. The backlash will affect everyone else as developers start restricting access to thier betas.

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 10:11AM Platypus Man said

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Like Bryan, I don't break NDA because I promised I wouldn't. When I sign something, I adhere to it. However, like Bryan, I don't see the necessity for super-secrecy. As such, I don't see the necessity for dire consequences for breaking said super-secrecy.

We're not talking about state secrets here. It's a video game.

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 10:14AM nomoredroids said

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My sentiments exactly.
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Posted: Apr 18th 2009 11:19AM (Unverified) said

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Reminds me of the early WAR beta. (speaking about the awful GOA EU beta - not sure why I wasn't in the US one)

Right at the beginning we were politely vocal about issues such as:
- population vs PQ's
- unresponsive combat/spell input
- limited graphics tweaking options
- no item linking in chat
- etc

but we just got effectively silenced internally even.
Our input appeared to be worthless in terms of developmental feedback, and we were 'scolded' for not 'providing positive feedback'.

Meanwhile over on WHA and the other big WH site (I forget it's name now) there were raging forum arguments being held regarding issues that we (beta testers) knew about and would be able to comment upon and settle definitively, allowing EA Mythic to have the voices of 1000's rather than 100's to bounce around.

Point being, the Beta appeared to be a complete waste of time, as the concerns weren't addressed, and the legions of (then) frothing fans could've had clout via sheer passion and numbers, being 'extended beta testers' if you will - both of which could've presumably stemmed the (then) future history of WAR's rapid sub decline.

At the complete opposite end of the scale, is the infamous Runes of Magic 'Beta', where essentially the game was actually released under a guise.
Once again, a seemingly pointless & meaningless exercise as far as I can tell.

So, for moi, anything 'Beta' related tends to make me hugely doubtful these days.

What's the point?

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 11:57AM Evy said

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It bothers me a lot. If you signed the NDA, it doesn't matter whether you agree with it or not. You are bound by it. And many people just don't care.

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 12:17PM MrDiamondJ said

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There's only a point to a Beta if a company gives itself time to do something with the feedback. Most developers - of any software, not just MMOs - do a beta so late in their development cycle that they could never implement the fixes their customers ask for. I've worked for companies that have pretty much treated a Beta as an opportunity not to fix THIS release, but to figure out what's wrong with this one so that those issues can be fixed NEXT release. At the most they would fix something catastrophic, which really just saved them some pain at launch and not much else.

As for NDAs, I feel that they should always be followed. The company is doing you a favor by letting you get an early look, so professional courtesy dictates that you follow their rules. But this is the internet, where professionalism is often pushed to the wayside in favor of web traffic numbers.

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 3:35PM Russell Clarke said

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Ermm, you are actually doing the company a favour by testing their bloody game for free.
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Posted: Apr 18th 2009 3:43PM Graill440 said

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So this article reads about NDA's, and what was that term? consequence? Something like an NDA violation happens, a thing the author can do absolutely nothing about, and instead of spending type to get in game consequence fixed, they worry about this....unreal. Looks like CNN and Fox news commentaries.

Chicken and broccoli for all!!

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 4:04PM (Unverified) said

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I agree with the article. There needs to be consequences for breaking the law. It's the same issue with piracy. Millions of internet users are downloading copyrighted music, movies, software every day, and because the issue is so large that the government has trouble enforcing it, these amoral lowlifes feel like they've gotten away with it, and that they can continue doing it without consequence.

I yearn for the day that the government stages a massive arrest of these criminal pieces of trash. They need to start enforcing these laws, or we'll just head toward a state of anarchy.

The fact is, the game is the company's hard work and private property, and the government needs to serve its purpose and protect the rights of hard-working people such as the game developers by preventing people with no concept of right or wrong from violating the company's rights.

Posted: Apr 18th 2009 7:40PM MrDiamondJ said

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To clarify, my NDA comment was specifically directed at game journalists, not end users. Journalists see games long before the public is allowed to (i.e. Alpha or pre-Beta), which is access that companies aren't entitled to give them by any means.

Posted: Apr 19th 2009 2:09AM (Unverified) said

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I think there's a good possibility that these breaking of NDA agreements are done with the permission of the developer as a publicity stunt. The company allows site X to publish information and tout it as "leaked top secret info" because that will attract more attention for both sides than any information that's revealed when the information flow is unrestricted.

In other words, they know that breaking the rules is attractive, so they do it on purpose. Double standards, yes, but when you have an 11 million-subscriber elephant in the room, you need all the pub you can get.

I've never been to the town in New Mexico. Is it nice?

Posted: Apr 19th 2009 2:24AM cray said

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Shawn,

Basically you're asking if you should value the integrity you have. That's purely a personal thing because if you want sit here and justify doing something you're not supposed to do because everyone else is doing it then clearly you're avoiding the issue. Question is can you hold yourself to the principle of a NDA contract, or are you just as spineless as the rest of the gossip-whores?

If your asking what should we do to level the journalistic playing field? Well call them out, make a big fuss. Rally the guild of journalist (or whatever group you might associate yourself with as a journalist) and get them to do something about it. Force the game developers to sue those who break the NDA or call out the developers who allow it. That's really all you can do if you want to fight it.

Otherwise I would just worry about your own integrity of NDAs, You'll be a better journalist for it. My father says to me all the time...."It's not far you can hit the ball, but rather how consistent you can hit it regardless of it's distance, because ultimately it's how far the player goes, not the ball" The short o it is that consistency brings longevity. So my advice to you is be consistent with your integrity.

Posted: Apr 19th 2009 1:48PM (Unverified) said

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Sadly that is a REAL city and a REAL sign in New Mexico. =/

Posted: Apr 20th 2009 2:19PM (Unverified) said

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Sadly? My wife and I own a house there. Nice resort town. Excellent hot springs for soaking in too.

As to NDA's: You sign it, you keep to it. Simple.

I do agree, though, that companies are doing their betas too late in the cycle and as such the beta covered by these NDA's is often not much more than an "early look." Frankly, I almost think that they're hoping that people will play the beta, like it, and spread some word of mouth around (though not on the internet since that would break the NDA. . .).

Funny thing, though... I was in the Vanguard beta, and the devs there really did listen to our feedback as much as they could, and just before release they did a major class/combat in order to try to fix a lot of what we were constantly stating as broken combat mechanics. It was really unfortunate they had to rush the game out the door. Given a few more months of development time, I think it might have had a better launch.
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