There is a rather disturbing trend going on with online games and even normal software games. That trend is the word BETA. It used to be that a beta test was done to make sure that the bugs had been worked out of the software before it was released to the public. That just isn’t the case anymore with the majority of the MMOs and PC games being made now days. Now the beta test is a free market preview and just maybe some bugs will be found and turned in for the developers to fix. I want to do beta TESTING not have a free preview. If I want a free preview that is want a DEMO is. These companies have to get it together and start calling things what they really are.
When I was beta testing for Never Winter Nights 2 I was a tester, I was tasked to find problems, error, bugs and other game stopping problems. Once I found a problem I was to report it to both the forums and their modified version of bugZilla. This was done over and over again until the developer said it had to go out. In all the team of tester I worked with helped to make sure that hundreds of bugs were found and taken care of. We didn’t get them all, but we got all the major problems identified and taken care of. That is what a tester does, that is what a beta participent is supposed to do. If I want a preview I will play the demo, not the beta. The beta is to TEST not just entertainment.
I was also involved with testing another game, an MMO and for respect of the publisher I am not going to name it, but it did nake me never want to play the game again. I was invited to be in the beta for the MMO and with my past experiences as a level designer for a Doom type game and as an actual beta tester, I thought that is what I would be doing. I thought I was going to be testing the game to help the developers find and fix problems. The real problem is that it was just a glorified preview. I say preview because they invited hundreds of players from other MMOs to come and play. They were told it was a preview of what was going to be in the game. A chance to see it before anyone else. This caused problems for those of us that actually were trying to test the game, to find the bugs and report them. The biggest problem was in the forums itself. When I posted that there was a problem I was told STFU and even the story teller said that he didn’t care. That to me shows a total lack of respect for the beta process. If the employees do not care what a tester is reporting then where does that leave the game?
There are some games that are just plain released and all testing was done by the programmers themselves. They really should use testers and not just preview participants. I don’t want to have to pay for a game only to find that I have paid for the privilege of being a beta tester for the game. The game should have already been tested before it was released. Some games are so buggy that they might have 5 or 6 patches released within the first 2 months of it being on the market. That is not fair to the user or the publisher. Someone is not making sure that QA is being done. Too much of this is going on and developers and programmers and even publishers need to make sure that the games are finished and don’t need a ton of work after they have been sent to the store to be sold.
One company that I have a lot of respect for is that of ArenaNet, the developers of Guild Wars. They are taking their time in making Guild Wars 2. They are taking the time to make sure all the classes are right, that all the land is in place. They are taking so much time that some fans are getting really antsy about it. I don’t care, I am glad they want to make sure that the game is being released with as little problems as possible. That is what a game developer is supposed to do and I look forward to the day that I can actually play it.
I look forward to any and all testing of games and other software. It allows me to help the developers and the publishers find and correct errors that they just are not able to see. They can’t see them because they are looking at the code from the ground where as a tester looks at it from the top and wonders how they just might make it go wrong. Sometimes it is supposed to go wrong to test load but other times they just don’t see it. When a programmer has thousands or hundreds of thousands lines of code to look at they are not going to always see just how it is going to act under some kind of weird connection or odd ball player. I like looking for the cracks so that I can help to make sure that the game or software that is released is as polished as possible so that it will give the user the kind of enjoyment that they are looking for.