Beta Testing Video Games : The Four Don’ts

video game beta testing cat gamer video gamesThe Elder Scrolls online beta test, probably one of the last ones there’ll be for ESO, seeing as it’s released at the start of April, took place last weekend. Though I didn’t really take part in this one, I’ve taken part in the beta testing for a few online games now; Champions Online, Star Wars the Old Republic, Warhammer Online, and a few of the previous Elder Scrolls Online beta tests as well as a few I can’t even be bothered to mention.

Most of these beta tests were enjoyable enough experiences, yet from them I learned that there are things you need to know before you jump straight in; things that will help you deal with the pitfalls and annoyances of beta tests, and make sure that you don’t spoil the games release for yourself.

So here we go…

Don’t do too much

On every beta test I’ve ever taken part in, the characters I created were deleted before the game was released. This is an important thing to remember. Everything your character is, has or does in the beta test is deleted and you will have to start all over again. So, if you meticulously go through and try all the races and classes, complete every quest you get to and rack up days worth of playtime you are doing nothing except spoiling the experience for yourself when the game is released.

When the game is released the first thing you’ll have to do is wade through content you have already experienced, except this time you’ll likely complete in a very half-arsed way. You won’t read the quest text; you’ll miss out the side quests. The first few hours of the game will no longer be new and surprising, just a dull slog to get to something you haven’t already seen.

sleeping tired video gamerInstead, limit your exposure to the game; try only one class and race (ideally a combination you don’t really like, though beware this doesn’t put you off the game altogether) and spend as little time as is humanly possible on your character’s appearance. In short, keep all the things you really want to try for the full release of the game.

Don’t Skip Reading the EULA

That’s right, those windows of text that you normally just spam-click your way through actually contain important information for beta testers. Such as whether you are allowed to post screenshots, write a blog post, tweet about game details, tattoo the NPC’s on to various body parts etc. (Although they’re unlikely to mention this specifically.)

Depending on the game itself, the penalties for breaking the EULA can vary tremendously from being kicked off the beta test to them pressing charges towards you. Of course, most places lean towards a simple kick but is posting a screenshot or getting a blog post out (which they could probably make you remove anyway) worth all that trouble. If in doubt don’t post anything.

Don’t Stress Over Downtime

server maintenance erros box server

Don’t get pissed and angry if once you finally manage to find time to get on the beta test to find you can’t log on because of a server failure or a maintenance window. Servers in a beta test can and probably will go up and down with very little warning.

Constantly clicking on the connect button in the hope that the servers are back up in the 5 seconds it took you reload the client, is not a productive use of your time. If you’re lucky enough to be able to spend hours and hours at your keyboard, play something else and Alt-tab back to check on the servers. If you only have an hour or two to spare, do other things and try to come back later.

Don’t forget it’s a Beta Test

Without a doubt the thing that irritates me the most about beta tests, is the small minority of people who take to Facebook, Twitter, their own blogs and forums and moan and whine about server downtime, bugs, and graphical glitches. They rant and moan about how these bugs have ruined the gaming experience for them.

frustrated angry ranting shouting gamerIt’s as if they are completely unable to comprehend the very simple fact that they are allowed to play the game, in order for these bugs and glitches to be found and to be removed and if these are serious enough the game may have to be taken down for maintenance.

Of course these things are annoying. The last Elder Scrolls Online beta test I took part in seemed to have server maintenance taking place every time I found an hour to play. This was rather bad luck on my part, as I believe the servers had been mostly up for the rest of the weekend I just happen to choose a bad time to try a log on. This maintenance was not a way of pissing me off. I doubt the bods at Zenimax sat round a large table, and thought about the time a maintenance slot would most piss me off.

The above is not to say you shouldn’t log bugs, errors and glitches by the official way. The development staff needs to know about them to fix them, after all that is why you are beta testing the game.

If you pay money to play the game, and you still encounter these “game-breaking” bugs and glitches then by-all-means, feel free to rant and moan as much as you want but not if you’re beta testing.

 

These are what I have learned from beta testing, what have you learned? Is anything I’ve said here way off the mark? Let me know.

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin

Jim Franklin is a freelance writer, living in Derby UK with his wife. When time allows he likes nothing more than losing himself in a multi-hour gaming session. He likes most games and will play anything but prefers MMO's, and sandbox RPG's.

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