Home > Champions Online, General Gaming, Starcraft II > It has been in Beta, so it is fine

It has been in Beta, so it is fine

Almost every piece of software has a public Beta phase these days. MMO’s have continuous beta’s by running test realms with future patches of the game. It is understandable, because applications have grown so large that it is almost impossible to test every aspect thoroughly. Beta’s gather large amounts of statistical data and allow players to give feedback (often through forums, but also through in-game bug reports). Simulating the actions of a very large number of people logging in and playing from many different countries is possible, but impractical compared to actually letting those people log in. Participating in betas gives gamers a chance to help make the game they will pay for later a better product.

Where things go wrong, however, is in assuming that a large amount of data is automatically valuable. Testing is a specialist job. Even programmers, or perhaps, especially programmers, are bad at testing. For one thing, a tester will try to cover as many different aspects as possible. Non-professional users, on the other hand, will spend most of their time on things they find interesting as if the beta is a free trial. Since ‘finished’ parts of a game will appeal most to the majority, these aspects will be played most. For example, if crafting is poorly implemented, a few hardcore crafters will complain about it on the forums, but most people will be out playing Dungeon X which is 99% finished and polished and thus fun. This means that most statistical data will be gathered on the parts of the game that need it least.

In Starcraft II Beta the Ultralisk is barely used according to the forums. While the posters in the forums can qualify why, statistical data is necessary to validate the reasons. And the question is if enough of that is gathered if “noone” is using them.

Betas (and testrealms) can be misused by developers to simply try things that have no basis. Or apply a nerf and then tone it down later after the forums have been stormed by raving players. The toned down nerf, still a nerf, is easier accepted then. The worst offense, however, is not planning enough time to actually do something with the Beta feedback. This leads to infamous patches like at the launch of Champions Online. While the patch was necessary to keep the game a bit challenging, the timing could not have been worse. Such major problems should already have been found and fixed in an earlier stage, or rather, there should have been more time between beta and launch.

Content that has been in beta is not automatically ready. The paid developers keep responsibility, not the paying players who are basically just helping out.

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  1. September 2, 2014 at 3:58 am

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