Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beta is not an excuse.

I understand the purpose of Beta is to refine a game. I also understand that during the various phases of a beta test there will be unforeseen bugs, errors, and other glitches with a game. However once a gaming developer decides that their game is ready for an open or public beta and they drop their Non Disclosure Agreement with their existing testers, all apologies get checked at the door.

The purpose of an Open Beta is just as much to advertise the game as it is to test it… in many ways I would say it’s more about advertisement than testing. The only real test usually accomplished during an open beta is a server stress test.

So my personal opinion is that once a game reaches its final stage of beta, the game is done. You can form a valid opinion about the game and decide if it is good or not. Open beta’s are basically free demo’s of the game. If you are going to try and wow me during this early beta then you have to accept the criticism as well as the accolades.

When I was in Warhammer Online closed beta they had a lot of bugs. I forgave most the bugs though because we were still in closed beta with the NDA up and a good 6 months until launch. However once the game reached open beta and those bugs were still there I should have realized something was amiss. I was one of those people who tried convincing others, and myself, that it was still beta and it would be fixed… sadly it never was. The same thing had happened to me a few months before with Age of Conan and now people are repeating the trend with Star Trek Online.

When a game reaches a certain point in development it becomes near impossible to fix certain technical issues, for instance the game engine. If a game was developed using flawed code or an antiquated game engine no matter how much you patch the game it’s always going to have issues. These things can be pointed out early on in beta but are often dismissed because of the “It’s only beta” umbrella.

Once a game announces its release date and begins advertising in magazines and on Del Taco soda cups it is at the point where we as a gaming community are fully entitled to critique it. No one can make excuses for any errors in the game at that point. Beta is not an excuse, patching it down the road is not a solution.

You cannot pick and choose what reviews are valid about your game by hiding under the veil of Beta. If people raved about a game no one would claim that those reviews were invalid because it is still in Beta, how come we do the opposite when they are negative reviews?

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