BETA Testers Piss Me Off

By on Sep 22, 2007 in Blog Posts, Games | 0 comments

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For the uninitiated, a BETA tester refers to a gamers who tests a game in its BETA stages, meaning before the game is officially released. Game developers release their titles early for expanded testing to work out bugs and help balance the games.

BETA testers are an even split of whining children and hard core gamers. Some BETAs, like pretty much all first person shooters have a larger amount of the former. Strategy games tend to have a greater number of the latter. Still, in every BETA there are the idiots who say the one thing no BETA tester should ever utter:

“This is just a BETA, why are you complaining?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read some variation of that line in forums.

Gamers have it all wrong these days. When a developer releases a game for testing, they are doing so because they need the game tested by as many people as possible. By this time they have already done some level of in-house testing, and they require the expanded test bed that can only be achieved by opening up a BETA to a large number of gamers. In other words, the developers need the gamers. Remember before there were BETAs? We just waited for the demo before we decided whether or not to purchase a new game. That has changed because the developers have sped up product development times of games and don’t allocate as many resources for in house testing.

BETA testers are basically unpaid employees for software developers, yet you will rarely (if ever?) see a “Thank you to the BETA testers” in the manual or credits. Developers should be grateful for our time. The notion that we should praise devs for giving us the “privilege” of testing their games is ridiculous. Yet, this is the idea that many of today’s BETA testers have. Those folks fall into that “whiney children” category I mentioned earlier.

Today I participated in the “Frontlines: Fuel of War” BETA. Due to the NDA I can’t tell you anything about the game yet, but even if I could there would be nothing to say – I couldn’t play it. There seems to be some massive glitch or server issue preventing everyone from playing. Though there are hundreds of forum posts about this issue, the developers haven’t resolved the issue or even taken the time to write a post explaining it. When a player complains about this in the forum, the children begin their flame war with “OMG!!! this is teh BETA! quit whining and be happy you can play at all!!!”. You can’t discuss things rationally with these infants of the mind as they seem to have their opinions lodged so firmly between the rosy cheeks of the game developers that the fumes have gone to their heads.

This goes further than just major functionality issues, however. I have seen many a gamer post about balancing issues and suggesting fixes, or simply stating what they don’t like about a BETA. The babies crawl in from all angles and flood the boards with their usual trash about it just being a BETA and “wait for the full game dood”. A wise gamer knows that by the time a game goes to public or even closed BETA it is almost always feature complete. This means the things we are discussing will either be addressed in a post-release patch or not at all. The best game developers address balancing issues during BETAs, but sadly many of the are just making sure the game runs on as many machines as possible.

In the past few years I’ve played in dozens of BETA tests and I’m sad to say that the quality keeps going downhill. From games not installing, to severe playability issues and missing functionality, there always seems to be problems with BETAs these days that never existed when the idea first came around. There used to be a time when patches were just for released games. Now they apply to BETAs, as well.

Finally, a word to developers: if you’re going to launch a multiplayer BETA, at least try to make sure the servers stay up and function reliably. If you can’t get the netcode to work in a limited player BETA, why should we believe it will work in the full release?

I’m all for testing games before they are released. I even believe in the concept of BETA testing with a large number of users, but gamers must get it into their heads that they are doing the developers a favor – not the other way around.