Sunday, October 16, 2005

MO4 - Overcomplicated Beta sign ups

Two days and two MOs? You're damn straight.

So what brings us to the topic of beta sign ups? Vanguard's recent announcement of their beta 1! Does everyone see me jumping for joy? My past thoughts on Vanguard:SoH.

Lets start out by pointing out what they did correct with this beta phase. First off they are offering it to community members and not a general sign up for everyone with a net connection. That is the correct way to reward your community. Hopefully they don't just pick Joe Schmoes that signed up just to apply for beta, but I doubt it. Well... that ends the good.

The bad? Where to begin. I guess with what "grinds my gears" the worst. Over complicating the process and giving false hope. Here is a perfect example.
"How will you go about selecting participants?

Once you have submitted your application, your name will be added to a list of potential participants. Each week, we will add the needed number of people from that list. Sometimes, they will be chosen based on our specific needs for testing (for example, we might need more testers that play during a particular time of day) and sometimes, names will be chosen pretty much at random."
So now every new beta application is going to be over stating what hours they play or the person submitting it will try to *guess* the *magic combination* of inputs to produce the highest % chance of getting into beta. Congratulations Sigil; you just flooded your beta application pool with a bunch of false information.

But why even have such a process in the first place? If they honestly think they are going to get any sort of actual *testing* (I use the term loosely) from an over-hyped MMORPG community… they obviously failed basic MMORPG sociology. I could link hundreds of beta leaks and broken NDA contracts, but what would be the point?

What you need to know is the fact that betas are infiltrated by those that want sneak peaks at the game. Definitely not by those that truly wish to test the product. Internal testers and paid testers have proved for years to be able to produce very finished products in the single player market. Apply this to the MMORPG market please! I understand some smaller companies would be unable to fund such testing, but this is Sigil and last time I checked they weren’t short on funds.

Sigil is using this beta as a promotion which is a sad fact. Not only that, but they are overcomplicating the process stealing valuable resources from the game itself. How much work is it to review countless beta applications? I have no solid numbers, but there is no way they can convince me that it doesn’t take away from the game development.

The idea of NDAs is also hard for me to understand. World of Warcraft had no problem without one. Blizzard proved exactly what betas are for… a free pass to view the game. This created a knowledgeable community inside and outside of beta. WoW beta only suffered from too much interest, but Blizzard did a remarkable job of eventually getting 500,000 testers online.

Skip the bullshit Sigil and get to stress testing. Nail down game play, get the game launch ready, and hit the stress test hard. Sigil will be balancing this game as any other MMORPG… over time! If you get the game into a state where it is playable, has a sense of balance, and technically stable… you have a beta. Take all the time it takes to review beta applications and put into reviewing and organizing bug reports.

This isn't about me getting into beta at all, because honestly I have no interest in Vanguard. This is about developers wasting time, resources, and energy on overly complicated beta processes. Make it about the damn game already.
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