To Beta Or Not To Beta

September 10, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 17 Comments
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Oh no! Beta!

In the beginning Arenanet created the Alpha. And the Alpha was without form for we knew not of it. And the Six Gods moved upon the surface of Tyria and all was right. And Arenanet said let there be Demo. And there was Demo. And we saw the Demo. And it was good. And the Demo was divided from darkness. And so it became Beta.

A long time ago Arenanet did some things they probably shouldn’t have.

They announced Guild Wars 2 the moment they started working on it. Bad move. They instantly had fed roving packs of trolls that they would not be able to dismiss with evidence of their new game for years.

They gave a vague time frame. Quickly nerds everywhere began setting their alarm clocks for 2010, and when those alarm clocks began going off, instead of hitting snooze, as normal people would, on nerd alarm clocks it is called whine. A loud whine can be heard from many a nerd who have never forgotten their vague time frame.

If I recall correctly they repeatedly promised a beta that everyone could enjoy. A youthful frolic in the pixelated sunshine of Tyria. A wondrous exploration of the human spirit and our ability to enjoy ourselves for free at their expense and judge whether or not to buy a game after having wrung hours upon hours of play out of their product.

And low, there has been silence.

Many an avid fan would recall that representatives of NCSoft or Arenanet have mentioned briefly (in corporate stockholder meetings, for instance) that a beta might be appropriate at the end of 2010 or early 2011. Even Guild Wars 2’s official stance has little to say on the matter.

When will there be a beta?

Although we publicly beta-tested the original Guild Wars® while it was still in early development, with Guild Wars 2 we will commence beta testing closer to the game’s release. Guild Wars 2 is a very large and ambitious game, and Guild Wars players rightfully have very high expectations. We want players to be absolutely blown away by the game the first time they experience it.

And if I recall correctly Arenanet has said that players don’t use betas to test games anymore, they use them to trial a game and decide on whether or not to purchase. You know what? They’re right.

Add all of this together and I wouldn’t be surprised if Arenanet had a very, very, short beta of Guild Wars 2. They’ve been internally testing it for years, I’ve even heard rumours of other professions that were tried out and cut. The only thing they really need a beta for is stress testing, balance testing, maybe a bit of quality assurance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the demo ended up proving to be one of their most useful benchmarks for how they’re doing.

Should game studios even bother with a beta? It seems like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

To beta, or not to beta, that is the question, whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous trolls or to take arms against a sea of bugs, and by opposing end them?

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17 Comments

  1. Ah, so crazy you wrote this. I’m writing up a 3-parter on the subject of betas for this very reason. The subject got tossed around a lot at PAX and it was very eye-opening to see what the general opinions and comments were from gamers and devs: two very different points of view.

    It’s sad but true: betas are a social status, not a tool anymore, and it’s unfortunate that the community kind of ruined it for ourselves.

    As sad as I am to say it, I feel like as a whole we deserve it.

    Hopefully you’ll find those posts interesting.
    Good stuff, Huntah!
    ~Iz

    • yeah to be honest I read ravious post about beta scams and was reminded of what i’ve been thinking lately about the whole beta situation.

      I didn’t even get into discussing it on a social status level, good point there.

      can’t wait to read your posts.

    • Interesting point about beta becoming status symbols. Now I’m looking forward to your post, Izziebot.

  2. Great post!

    I honestly don’t think betas are worth doing for MMOs anymore. All they do is show off a somewhat incomplete game and cause widespread panic. These days performance testing can be done cheaply and bug identification should be left to the experts. No need for a beta.

    If there are already talks of beta it means the real deal isn’t that far off anyway. Better to wait me thinks.

    As long as ANet keep the info flowing, I don’t think anyone will complain about a lack of beta. Speaking of which, aren’t we due for another class? 🙂

    • estimates are around early october for another class. maybe i should post about that.

      as far as talks go, anet won’t speak a word about it and they’re the final say. ncsoft bigwigs at corporate shareholder meetings several months ago are not necessarily accurate, but, its the best we have to go on, so i’m hoping.

  3. I have been a few beta’s myself both closed and open. I usualy enjoy being in them, though I certainly don’t feel special or privileged for it. I don’t know what it is I like about playing in betas. I think mostly it is that the game is new and most of the community is just learning the ropes, and having fun discovering the game.

    Chat channels are usually much more active with conversations about the game, and random lighthearted conversations. There is usually a lot less STFU NUB etc going on. Of course there are always assholes in the crowd, but I find most of the time the community is a lot more layed back in betas. Maybe it is because of the usual inevitable server wipes, so people usually arent in hardcore gamer gotta get there first and stroke my epeen mode.

    I think it is safe to say that 90% or more of the players in beta’s dont actually do any testing, or rather I should say arent needed for the testing.
    When I am playing in a beta I always keep an eye on the bug report, and technical issue sections of the official forums for that game. Honestly I cant think of a single time I have encountered an issue with any game that someone else hadn’t already noted.

    Honestly I think most betas especially open betas are really just to lure customers. Both free to play and pay to play MMO’s need players to get addicted to the game in order to keep thier cash flow coming in. Having a beta test gives the players enough time to really get hooked, then comes release and now they have to pay to keep playing, or buy stuff from the cash shop in order to actually get anywhere at a reasonable rate.

    I dont think Arenanet needs to worry about a public beta, they have a big enough budget they can afford extensive in-house testing. Anet also has a pretty large and loyal fanbase, so I dont think they need to use a beta to lure players in. Given thier business model Anet doesnt need to worry about long term player commitment. I think they would do just fine with a preview weekend and then after release a 14 day free trial like they have now.

    Am I saying I dont want a beta? No I just dont think it is necessary. If they do decide to have one, I will certainly try to get in just because I am excited to play GW2.

    But yeah trolls will troll, and regardless of what they do there will be people who are going to bitch and moan about it.

    • I agree they probably don’t need one. I want one, and i want the polish that comes with a beta, but i wouldn’t be surprised if they skipped it. They talk a lot about how they have people play the game like every week or something in large groups, i’m not sure what a beta would do for them honestly.

  4. Used correctly, betas get the nerds into a frenzy. I just don’t want to hear a collective, “omg they’ve gone gold and I can’t play for more than 5 seconds before getting disconnected” like some other games we’ve played before.
    I am a fan of anet, so for me they don’t need a beta, they sold my two collectors-special-only-gw1-players edition (come on anet you know you need to do this edition!) years ago.
    A beta should also let them know how successful their advertising has been but i guess they can wait a bit and see for sure a few weeks later.

    • Betas can be used to promote a game but NDAs kind of get in the way of that don’t they?

      gw1 only ce huh? I wonder if they’ll do that.

  5. I so think betas do something, but they do more harm than good. Look at WAR, 6 months before release they changed everything and had to cut content to polish. All because beta testers cried out. Betas used to ask questions about who you are and why you should test. Nowadays they just pick the loud mouth with the best computers. What happened to taking the time to hand pick testers? Testers are now put in a big bingo wheel according to system spec. Did I hear “B5, B5… Bingo!”

    • Was the cut content a big part of why war failed? I have heard the lack of a 3rd faction is a big problem.

      As for picking testers, it all seems random to me anyway.

  6. Can we blame players for treating betas as nothing more than an early demo when the companies ignore the bugs reported during their own beta? In was in both the Aion beta and the one for Free Realms.

    In FR, as far as I could tell, they completely ignored all bug reports. They eventually fixed many things, but sometimes not until months after release. Yet those bugs were reported back in beta and should have been fixed before release. It was pretty clear the game was released before the devs intended from how things went down; the beta was suddenly canceled and “surprise” the game is going live. So that might have been an issue with the higher ups at SOE just pushing the game out too soon.

    With Aion, the beta was running 1.0, yet 1.5 was already released in Korea, with many fixes already done. Then again, I think two of the bugs I reported in beta are still around even in the recent 2.0 release. I can only check on the test server and haven’t gotten around to seeing if they fixed them or not. They were minor, but still.

    As to GW2 and a beta, it probably depends more on marketing than anything else. If a beta is likely to increase sales, then I’m fine with it. If not then I won’t be upset with no beta. They’ve already answered most of the major questions about the game I was concerned with, so looks like I’ll buy with out without a beta.

    • Ahhh a good counter point Yarr. Many a story and personal experience i’ve heard and had about betas not doing much to fix problems that are reported over and over again.

      On the one hand i feel sympathy because I’m sure fixing this stuff isn’t exactly 2+2, but on the other hand so many companies don’t fix soooo many things. or when they do, they introduce new bugs.

      I’ve always personally wondered why the korean version takes so long to translate. Surely code in korea is similar enough to code in the west? What is the freaking hold up. RoM had this problem in spades.

      I find most of my questions are answered too. doesn’t mean i don’t want beta access though 😛

      • In the case of RoM, I always thought the delay in translation, and the rather awkward English in places, is due to double translation. Taiwanese game, converted to German, then from German to English. All the North American Frogster support people seem to be German’s that speak English, I think?

        Aion’s English translation from Korean is apparently done by a third party company very soon after creation from things that have leaked out of NCSoft. So any delay seems to be more about marketing than anything else. NCWest does seem to do some minor fixing of text, renaming things and such. That shouldn’t take 4+ months! They also claim they hold up the English release to do the German and French versions, but that is also most likely done by the third party company when they do the English translations.

        Thank goodness GW2 is native English! That may mean a delay for non-English European players, which is a bummer. I’ve never really paid much attention to how good a job ArenaNet does on such things with GW1, so hope they are quicker than their sister NCSoft game Aion.

        • rumour has it asian languages might get quite a hold up, if gw2 is released there.

          as for the double translation of RoM, i seriously doubt the poor as hell translation jobs they did could take so long. I mean seriously. one of the worst translated games i’ve ever seen.

  7. […] [Hunters Insight] To Beta Or Not To Beta […]

  8. […] He made a post on betas a few days before me and it’s definitely worth a read over here: To Beta or Not to Beta? Second, fellow blogess Kaae of Way Too Serious and commenter Winter both offered some great input, […]


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