Monday, May 18, 2009

Beta Testing

Now that ours is but a few days away, people are getting even antsier and desperately hoping to make it into the beta. I know the feeling all too well. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Everyone and their brother is spamming me for beta code requests. Some I know will rock it, others... not so sure. So the question is: are you truly beta test material?

Beta is a critical phase for us. This is when months and months (sometimes years) of hard work finally get handed over to players for thorough scrutiny. This is when we first find out if this ship will sink or sail, if it has holes and where is the water leaking in from. Water we don't see because we're too busy on the deck. Unless our testers take the time to explore every nook and cranny in the hold, there is a chance we'll only realize we're sinking once we're way far in high seas.

The truth is a lot of people sign up for beta not to test but just to quench their curiosity and for bragging rights. I can't blame them either, because I've done it too. But knowing that the number of codes issued is limited, it is important for people who sign up to understand that as much as we try to account for every silly things players will do during normal gameplay, we can't catch them all. Testing is what allows for the issues from such behavior to be addressed. If new skills or systems are way overpowered or unbalancing, if the UI isn't overly friendly, if some of the content needs some tweaking, beta is the time to bring it up so they can be fixed before the game ships. There's no damage in a closed environment, once it hits production shards, it's a whole different story.

So if you sign up, try stuff and use that feedback form or the in-game bug report feature. Nobody expects you to do as thorough a job as a QA Tester would. We only expect you to play as you normally would and bring up what doesn't work. Nobody knows better than you how you enjoy your specific game style. If you mainly play a crafter, we don't expect PvP feedback from you, but we sure as hell would like to know if the new content works for you. Don't get a code just to let it rot.

Beta testers have tremendous power. There is no other time you will have the Devs as attentive to your every word as during beta. It doesn't mean you will get everything you want (especially if your request would require massive system changes), but now is your best chance of having a real impact. I beta tested a few games myself and often heard people just randomly bitch about this or that but when asked if they submitted a bug they would just say "why bother?", which blew my mind. Or some would say things like "I'm sure someone else already reported it". Do not worry about submitting duplicates. Never assume someone already submitted, and don't just sulk about what you don't like.

Beta isn't about you finding out whether or not you like the new expansion. It isn't about status. It isn't about just hanging out with the Devs and participating in the few events. It's about making sure the expansion will launch as smoothly as possible. So don't take up the place of someone who would truly help polish the game through this critical phase. If you sign up and get a code (for UO or any other game), please log on often, play and use the heck out of the bug report feature.

PS: details and ways to replicate is a Dev's best friend. :)

No comments: