Thursday, April 4, 2013

How to Beta

Sorry folks for the late post this week. It has been crazy busy and I have not had much time to just sit down and write. Either that or I thought my April Fool's post was just so very clever that I had to bask in its glory for a few more days. 

I'll let you decide. ;)

Oh and before I get started I would like to share that I have been accepted by the awesome people on as one of their writers! I will be posting links to the articles I make there underneath my site links. Feel free to stop by and read them and/or leave comments and make sure you check out all the other awesome threads on the site too! (You can check out the first one here)

Today's blog will be a slightly smaller one, but hey all the more reason to head to WildStar roleplay and check things out there right?

You are utterly shameless.

Oh you're one to talk, Hawkens...

Anyway, with the promise of beta looming before everyone like a giant golden carrot I decided I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on how to be a good beta tester. I believe it is important to remember that while beta invites are a pleasant gift from the producers, there is still a degree of responsibility on the participant to provide feedback: the entire purpose of beta. No there is no rule stating that you must and one should not feel unduly pressured to hunt down every little problem they can, but it is a wonderful opportunity to help shape the game you love.

As I know I was very confused how I could help when I received my first beta invite, I thought I would throw out some advice from my experiences.

Beta is Beta.
Keep in mind that what you will be playing with really isn't the finished game. You may be restricted in what you can play and where you can play it and large sections or features of the game may be missing or disabled for the purpose of the testing. Be sure to read any notes the company might provide to explain to you what you are working with. This way you do not accidentally report on something that it intentionally missing. *cough*

Beta is going to be beta, try not to let the bugs bother you too much...

That said, here are some key things to watch for while you play:

Technical Errors: Issues with the game play itself

-NPCs and/or monsters that do not animate
-Quests being impossible to finish ( for example, in the Cataclysm beta for WoW, I found a mob that I needed to kill for a quest could not be harmed after a certain point in her scripted fight, thus making the quest unable to be completed)
-Written dialogue errors (for example “Hello <player class>, good to see you!” or perhaps typos )
-Spoken dialogue errors ( Perhaps some spoken dialogue may cut out before the printed words are finished. Sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it is an error)
-Emotes (In TOR, many of the original emotes that had animations to them seemed to be stuck in a really awkward loop. Here would be a good time to find that, or if something doesn't seem to work right)
-Do tooltips match actions?
-Are there any missing graphics? (for example, does a parked ship disappear if you look at it from a specific way? Are some objects clearly missing skins or parts of their skins?)

Personal Thoughts: Remember, your feedback does not have to be solely bug reports. This is a PERFECT opportunity to share your personal issues or enjoyments with the game!

-How do you like the “feel” of the classes? (An example was that some people felt the spellslinger seemed to be too stationary to be enjoyable at times)
-Are there any skills you love/hate? (Some people wanted the stealth in stalkers to be a toggle feature, not just a cooldown based ability)
-How do the zones “flow?” (Do you feel like you have to backtrack a lot to do your quests? Do you often get lost trying to find the next questing hub? Do you have a sense of connection with the quests in the zone or do you feel like you are being shepherded from point to point with little cohesion?)
-Is there anything in general that you like or dislike? It's okay to just talk. Do you like that particular boss and found the mechanic rewarding and unique? Did you not like those bombs you picked up because the explosion doesn't feel very 'big' or 'fun?' Did that one quest feel awkward and insult your intelligence as a player? Were you really taken aback by that gorgeous vista from that one mountain? Every little bit is helpful. Sure major technical issues might be fixed sooner then aesthetics, but that does not mean that your voice does not have weight.


Okay, so you have beta and you are REALLY excited to play it right? You've got plenty of time and are SO ready to go hunting for all the things you can find to send helpful feedback to your favorite devs, right? Well before you get started I want to warn you about ONE VERY IMPORTANT POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Burnout.

Try not to let the stress, or the excitement get to you

The last thing you want to do with a game you love so much is mash your face so hard on the beta that you end up numb to the release and suddenly find you no longer enjoy it that much. This happened to me with Guild Wars 2 and I deeply regret not having taken beta a little less seriously. Keep in mind that while you are testing, you will most likely be forced to play the same zone(s) over and over again. Each time you try a new class or race, you will end up repeating many things. No matter how much you love something it cannot change the fact that quests glitching or the game crashing will always be frustrating. So as much as you are chomping at the bit to dive in, I'd really like you to consider some of these tips to help keep your love of the game alive!

-Play the class/race/faction you like/expect to play the least (make sure you still roll what you want to play if you really want to. You do not need to ignore it. But this is a good opportunity to take a deeper look at something you are the least likely to worry about burning out on and it might also encourage you to explore things you might end up liking in the end, anyway)
-Take a break (seriously, you do not need to log in every second you can. I know it is so tempting, but it is a really good idea to step back and enjoy other things. Remember, not too much longer and you will have the complete game at your fingertips at all times. So at least for now, try not to drown yourself in the content. Even though every voice counts, you are still one person and it is okay if you are not the only one giving feedback)
-Try a little bit of everything (Maybe you are really into roleplaying or you just love PVP, it's easy to pick your favorite bits and spend all your time looking at them. Try to branch out and check out other areas you are less interested/familiar with. Who knows, you might end up liking them or even finding something a fan may accidentally overlook. In any case you will be less likely to beat your interests into the ground in endless repetition.)

Even though our numbers are part of the advantage of beta, our individual voices are still important.

That pretty much sums up all I have to say on the matter. Beta invites are a really great opportunity for the game producers and their fans to communicate while they stress test their game. A small team of maybe forty or so people can only coordinate and test so much. And building the game itself can also make it difficult for someone to notice certain issues. By adding many many testers, you have not just bodies, but lots of eyes and ears and voices.

So, if you end up getting an invite, congratulations! Go out there and test away, but be sure to remember to have fun and take it easy. Oh, and of course share everything with our awesome community. (If you are allowed to, mind you. Please respect the NDA!) Don't be afraid to put in your two cents!

As Carbine always tells us: The Devs are listening!

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