I am a very busy guy lately. Work is rediculously busy, family is busy trying to enjoy the summer, and a lot of games are getting closer to release. Since when was summer beta season? I am in 5 right now.
With little time to play any.
I manage to do a little in each each week but nothing I could dedicate in the past. This problem stems from two separate issues, real life being one and beta fatigue the other.
We seem to be in the middle of the WoW-Dev cycle – games coming up for release started during WoW-Prime, so pitches and design are WoW-Like. Sure, there are a couple that stray from the model but the underly is firmly WoW-Entrenched. It is wholly uninspiring to even play these games as I have already spent years in WoW. The minor nuances do not change the core gameplay. Uninspiring is the one word I will probably repeat a lot.
That’s not to say each aren’t going to have their niche and none of them have redeeming features. None of them will pry cash from my wallet though, either. Then again, I am not the typical MMO player either. I am sure these companies realize they have a large audience out there dying to pay $15 a month for something new.
My wife hates how I watch movies – no matter how bad it is, I can’t NOT watch the whole movie. I have seen some really terrible ones because of this. I sit through the 1.5 edited hours waiting for that what redeeming plot twist, memorable quote, that “thing” that made people put money into the project in the first place. Surely, there has to be one thing to make the hour and a half long torture worthwhile? Typically there is and that leads to a level of satisfaction. My wife already started doing laundry 45 minutes ago, but I am happy to pass the one highlight she missed onto her with enthusiasm and “I told you so”.
I used to care a lot more for the beta process – in the past they felt like an actual mechanism for improvement and testing. Lately it seems as though it is just another ’10 day trial’-must-have-mechanism. Some of these betas have slim to none dev communication. While I always try to be a positive participant in the process judging by the quality of communication from fellow testers – in almost all of them – it is not hard to see why companies don’t take their own beta processes more seriously. I know I would be more inspired to test better if the devs actually had testing as part of their betas – and expected people participating to do the same. Beta tests are wholly feeling like wasted time and energy for both participants and organizers.
The fun part of betas are the various personalities you meet. Some of them are very useful, for sure, and they seem more or less consistent in most of the betas I have done over the past three years (the personalities seemed a lot different 4+years ago).
1.) The Fanboy: Notice no ‘i’. I do not pick on these people. They found the game for them, and no matter what is missing it just fits their style. Their typical posts and response to posts usually cover how much they love the game, there really isn’t much to change, and if there are necessary changes they are sure the devs will get to it eventually. In the meantime they would pay for the product as is because no one understands how hard it is to make non buggy code anyway, and the devs made the game closest to what they need anyhow. Do not fight the Fanboy with reason or logic – they have their own. Niche gaming depends on them.
2.) The Doomist: The game is destined to fail without a complete code rewrite, mechanics change, graphics engine update, and firing of the entire development team. In fact – they won’t buy the game unless all of that happens. Them and their thousands of like minded friends. Devs need to listen to this guy, as they have participated in millions of beta tests (and “this” test always seems to be the worst one).
3.) The Undecided: Not on the game, no, but undecided on everything that is being discussed – yet they chime in. “That could be good, but so could this!”. “OOh, that is the best idea I have heard in a long time!”. “No wait, THAT idea is!”. They post a lot but still haven’t figured anything out, and have a hard time forming their own opinion. Easily swayed by shiny objects.
4.) The Quiet Observer: Watch out for this guy. He reads a ton of posts and plays hard. Doesn’t say much on beta boards, but knows is poop. When he does speak it usually carries the weight of a guy with 35 years of pent up anger ready to unleash on the world. Of course, he doesn’t kill anyone but typically makes a lot of sense. He is easily ignored by all due to the signal to noise ratio.
5.) The Cruncher: I love this girl the most. She breaks down every mechanic into something that is tangible – math. Of course, most devs cannot confirm nor deny those numbers, but they wade through combat logs and perform testing of such impact and use that if a dev company had a herd of these people their game would be perfectly balanced – for the number crunchers. They tend to ignore fun for facts, and when a person says that it “feels” like they swing their sword too slow, they promptly post [a*10 + b*1 ==> So (10a+b)**2 ==> 100a**2 + 2*10ab + b**2 ==> 100aa + 20ab + bb ] is the rate of swing for you race class combo and it is working fine. Crunchers tend to make everyone else feel stupid around them. Even if just by accident.
There are many more that make up the lovely beta test, but I have too much work to do to keep writing today.
If you are in your first Beta and it is in late stages just remember this. The game you are testing is pretty much exactly how it is going to be with a little extra polish (hopefully) at launch. Not only can you not change the core concept, but the devs don’t want to do it anyway. Play the game as they want you to, submit your bugs, and decide if you are going to pass or play come release. If you know right off the bat you are not only not interested in buying the game, but don’t want to waste your time testing don’t feel bad about not participating either. You were chosen among a pool of hundreds of thousands, most likely by luck (or a specific spec your PC has) and the beta process isn’t what you really think/hope it is anyway. There will be a free preview weekend upcoming anyway where thousands more will get to trash the system. If you have better things to do than go do it.
That defeatist attitude my friends, is the result of beta fatigue.