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Reader Comments (22)

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 8:14AM (Unverified) said

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In my experience, no MMO has had enough content (or server capacity) on launch day.

I personally don't like "Head Start" periods where you can start playing before the launch - devs should use all of the available time to polish the game and improve stability/performance - without having to worry about players complicating the launch.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 1:11PM (Unverified) said

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Did you play Anarchy Online at launch? It was one of the first one-world games, and their server architecture wasn't quite flexible enough - so when 30,000 players all crammed into the same 8 starting zones, the game ground to a halt. After a week, when people were spread out over 30+ zones, it was ok; if they'd had a head-start period, that might have worked better.
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Posted: Mar 30th 2010 8:17AM Birk said

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Beta is awesome, simply put. I was in the WoW beta, and now Im in the Lego Universe Beta...and it really is a great preview into the MMOs that you want to be playing. You get a nice taste of the action, and there is very little pressure to attain max level or grind or quest. I know that may seem like an unreasonable claim in a game that youre spending your LEISURE time on, but I think everyone knows the feeling of ''I should really be doing another quest right now instead of T-Bagging this Night Elf''.

On the other hand, I always skip Betas of expansions. When youre already involved in a game, there is very little that is more fun than new content...and I feel that it is usually so few and far between that trying it during Beta really saps a lot of the enjoyment. I got a Beta key for WoTLK, and I didnt even install it.

Oh well, that game sucked anyhow. Who plays WoW anymore ;)

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 8:37AM shipwreck said

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I love beta tests as well because it's like you're getting a free preview of the game. MMOs are a rather large commitment, at least in my opinion, so I like having a free taste of what's coming down the pipe rather than shelling out the dough for the retail version, or waiting months for the free trial to become available.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 8:44AM Snichy said

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Too often people use betas as a preview of the game and not for what it is intended, i.e. to TEST the game and give a shed load of feedback. I would guess that a large percentage of beta testers are only there to play the game before anyone else, some only for a few days to see if they like it then never play again which is a waste and quite selfish.

Personally, I only apply for beta testing for games which I'm only mildly interested in and try to make them better with lots of feedback, but those that I am really excited for I wait until launch so as not to spoil it...!

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 8:50AM (Unverified) said

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"Beta" has basically turned into "pre launch free preview", which is a bit unfair to games who actually want to use it to fine tune and improve the game. It seems that betas have also become a tool for selling fileplanet subscriptions or securing preorders. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but I see games getting lambasted by reviewers and fans based on prerelease versions pretty often, and by the same token I see companies using development done during beta or prior to release as justification for slow content updates after launch.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 8:51AM Dandmcd said

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Beta doesn't spoil the launch day of a game for me in the least. Even after months of beta testing a game, on launch day it all feels fresh again, as I have renewed enthusiasm to level up and group with people new to the game who haven't played it before. I enjoy being able to experience a game before I try it, and I play at a slower pace then most, so having that beta experience keeps me a few steps ahead of others on knowing how to get my way around the fastest. I don't like playing launch day and having no clue about controls, the UI, and all the little things all the beta veterans already know.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 9:00AM Dlangar said

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I think the lines these days have blurred between "beta" and "launch" that the distinction hardly seems relevant. The last several MMO's that I've played, for all intents and purposes the "open beta" *was* the launch period. Heck Allods Online even opened up their cash shop during beta. If you've opened up your cash shop, and you're telling people that you're not going to wipe your characters at the end of the "beta" period, and registration is open for everyone -- guess what. You've launched.

My 2 cents worth.

Dusty

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 9:25AM (Unverified) said

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I only participate in the betas of games I'm genuinely interested in. The only betas I've been in so far were Allods Online and Champions Online. I know I'm gonna try to get in the beta of Guild Wars 2, I've been anticipating that game since the day it was announced.

Generally, betas don't spoil the experience too much for me. They actually do the opposite; in a beta, you can do whatever you want without too much repercussions, so that when the game truly launches, you already know about the game and won't make the same mistakes you made in the beta. You get to start with a clean slate.

Not that mistakes made with character specs are common in Guild Wars. If the profession/skill/attribute system in GW2 is gonna be even similar to GW, you can easily rectify any mistakes you've made. I don't think there's a game where respec'ing is as fast and easy (and cheap, once you bought a skill or a new secondary profession it'll always be unlocked on that character, and you can switch as often as you want) as in Guild Wars, which is also the reason why people are so creative with builds.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 9:27AM (Unverified) said

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I have tested quite some games in the past. In the best cases, it surprised me and made me buy the retail version of it, in the case of Lotro and Pirates of the Burning Sea. Almost never have I've been dissappointed so much that a game went from "must buy" to "never talk about this again" (only once: STO). But I guess I like to beta test the more obscure, not-so-hyped games. To see what the new ideas are and how (and if) they work. I'm usually pretty invested in makign the game better by religiously noting and posting the various bugs and giving my two cents on possible improvements, and for a game that I know I'm gonna love and don't want to spoil, I'd rather let others do the dirty work and enjoy the game at retail (SWTOR).

Posted: Mar 31st 2010 6:54AM keroko said

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Launch. Beta is incomplete, buggy, and most importantly: It's a job. In beta I need to do things. I need to test this piece of content, I need to give feedback on that bug, I need to do these things because it will make the game better at launch. And yes, it does ruin the 'fresh world' feeling.

I'll beta games that I only have a passing interest in, and I'll do my job as best as I can. But for any game that I am truly looking forward too, I'm waiting for launch day.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 9:53AM (Unverified) said

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Betas are supposed to be for bug-finding and other balance issue that need to be ironed out... so along those lines, I don't seek out "beta" opportunities, because I just want to play and enjoy the game.

Now some games have run "preview weekends" where you get to sample some of the upcoming content before widespread release, and in that case, I do try to log in and check it out. Arenanet has done this with Guild Wars before Factions and Nightfall, as I remember.

The difference for me is how finished or polished the content is supposed to be. For a preview most everything should be set, for a beta there may be significant changes to address problems. I'm willing to preview but not beta.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 9:54AM Tiran Kenja said

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Personally I have completely reversed my MMO decision pattern. I no longer bother considering to buy a game I haven't played beta, or trial, of. There has been too many letdowns to bother buying a game I don't feel confident will work for me.

But launch day is still important. It's the day we start playing for real. Everything before that was about trying to help make a good game (if the devs allow that) and seeing if it really is the sort of game I'd like.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 9:57AM (Unverified) said

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The fun of launch day is having all the new players all starting at the beginning with new characters, looking for groups, doing quests together, or jumping into PvP and having fun. That will never change.

Beta "Revealing" all the mystery only ruins things if the game is relatively shallow in content. Things such as optimal specs, best equipment, best teams to fight in certain PvP situations can and should only be determined a few months down the road with a million+ players experimenting and solving and critiquing. Add to that holiday events, class balance tweaks, or periodic new bites of content and you should never have to feel like missing Beta meant you missed the real game.

After all, if the game is spoiled after a few months of Beta, then it'll be spoiled after a few months of launch. That's not a sign of Betas being bad, but of a game that simply didn't have the content stream to justify a monthly sub.

-SirNiko

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 10:42AM SeanG said

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Yes, beta's should be about tweaking, fixing, and improving games before launch. However, since server side functions are as much a part of running an MMO as client side, the large size and relative technical failing of modern MMO beta testing is necessary. I doubt developers are much concerned that they've become essentially a free preview. Bodies generated server work in the real-world is vital.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 11:22AM Sorithal said

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Most games are disappointing at launch anyway.

Betas give a nice preview though, but can end up revealing the flaws of the game by the time it launches.

Most MMOs take awhile to get good though, and often aren't that great at launch day (few months to maybe a year or more (good example of this is LotRO imo)).

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 12:35PM (Unverified) said

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With MMOs, Launch Day usually ruins Launch Day Glee (i.e. Bugs, Lag, Log-In Problems, etc.....)

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 12:35PM Innocentte said

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Well, I think the last MMOs to have >real< beta periods were WoW and LotRO. Both of those games released in very good shape, with lots of content, and most of the major issues worked out.

Other than that, most MMOs have had phoney 'Beta' periods, which have been little more than free previews of the upcoming game release.

And in some cases, such as the now notorious Champions Online fraud, the MMO company has used the so-called 'Beta' to trick people into buying the game and extended subscriptions.

So no, the current 'Beta' scam does not hold much interest. These days, it is better to wait for the release, and see what the reviews are saying. Better yet, MMO companies should go the route LotRO went, and have a free trial right from the git-go.

If they believe in their product.

If they don't, what you are likely to see is the 'Beta', followed by a quick content bait & switch scam.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 12:36PM Valdamar said

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I used to enjoy beta tests 5+ years ago when I felt Devs actually wanted feedback - I felt that my bug-hunting and suggestions were actually making the game better and that in a small way I was contributing to the finished product. In those days the pace of patching was frenetic and the Devs were always changing things for the better and guiding testers with focused testing sessions and specifically requesting we test certain things. Closed beta tests lasted 6+ months, usually a year, as publishers didn't rush out such unfinished MMOs, and the game would evolve noticeably during that time. Guided by the Devs the testers would actually, you know, test things and feel their feedback was being heard.

But all of my recent beta tests have been nothing more than marketing-led previews - a chance to create a word-of-mouth buzz pre-launch (once the NDA fell). Most of the gameplay/balance was already nailed down and it didn't feel like the bugs we reported would ever get fixed. Beta tests have got much shorter, usually 3 months or less, and the testers' impact on them has lessened - in all of my recent betas the game hardly changed during the beta period, despite lots of bugs/flaws being reported on forums and in-game.

Of course 5+ years ago most beta testers were actually interested in testing a game and making it better for when they played it at launch - these days most beta testers are just looking for a free preview, and beta tests are often rather empty of players, because I guess most testers only stuck around for a couple of days before quitting.

So yeah, I think the blame for all of the terribly flawed MMOs we've had this last few years can be shared equally between the publishers (beta tests are too short now, as MMOs are rushed to launch), the Devs (feedback is not acted on as quickly as it should, testing is not guided) and us player-testers (too many freeloaders only concerned with getting a free preview) - we've all reaped what we've sown, the worst few years of launches in the MMO industry.

I don't sign up for beta tests much anymore - it's too depressing - but I signed up for SW:TOR as soon as I heard their closed beta was going to last at least a year - hopefully they'll also attract more genuine testers than freeloaders too.

Posted: Mar 30th 2010 2:13PM yeppers said

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Yep. Didn't really hit me until the STO beta ridiculousness. Beta keys were given away as prizes on most gaming websites and via pre-order. The community was almost unanimous the game wasn't ready to be released -- for content reasons and game stability. Nevertheless, the publisher and developers were hell-bent to get it released on the date they marketed -- leaving many would-be fanboys in the dust. In STO's case, I was happy I got to try it out in time to cancel my pre-order.

Betas should be taken seriously by the developers and publishers. Unfortunately, I'm resigned to the fact the strategy we're seeing these days is profitable to them and they aren't going to change it anytime soon -- otherwise they wouldn't do it that way. Maybe Bioware will stick with their strategy and revert the industry back to the old, tried-and-true standard.
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