The Legend of Beta Part III: Finale. Be the solution.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

So comes the final sequel of this 3 part monster. As always, many thanks to everyone who commented / tweeted with feedback, it’s always much appreciated. Another awesome blogger, ThatShortGuy, did a reaction to the Beta ideas with an interesting view on social networking and transparency during testing phases. Check it out.

Fixing the Attitude

We are all very aware that there is tension in the relationship between gamers and developers.  What it is about gamer mentality that triggers the “unwarranted self-importance” sector of the brain, I don’t know, but I’d guess it something to do with thumb movement. There’s so many small annoyances but overall it feels like so many players have it in their mind that this game is -for them- and if they find something wrong or displeasing, it should be changed so that they are happy. This is a source of major frustration and even aggravation from both the peers of these players and the developers.

Nothing sucks more than having some punk basically tell you how to do your job, or that you’re miserable at what you do. It’s unfair, hurtful, and really, really annoying.

Here’s our 12 step program in fixing the attitude of gamers towards developers and games.

1: Be aware that, no, the universe does not revolve around you. Shocking, I know.
2: Learn the difference between real imbalance and personal preference.
3. Differentiate between whining/bitching and constructive criticism.
4: Understand that game developers are not gods. They are human. This means that they eat, sleep, need breaks and vacations just as much as you. Likewise, they won’t give you anything special if you suck up to them. Be respectful, treat them as equals, and you will earn their respect back.
5: Most game company employees make crap money, and don’t get paid enough to listen to gamers whine and cry.
6. If you make ridiculous demands or insulting comments about them or the game, they have every right to bitch back at you. Customer service can only go so far. Don’t be shocked if they publicly put you in your place.
7: Game developers happen to be gamers, so yes, they know a thing or two about how games work.
8: In fact, many of them went to college for this, so just because some of you know how to action script flash animations doesn’t mean you can do their job better.  If you think you can, get a degree and apply for it.
9: Betas are incomplete versions of the game. Things will be broken. Things will change. The point is to fix bugs. Don’t complain and cry malarkey if you see something wrong. Report it so they can fix it.
10: They have every right to ban you for exploiting or abusing their ToS, whether on beta or live.
11: Beta and other forms of public testing are a privilege and responsibility, not a right.
12: Contrary to popular belief, game developers are not after your blood, sweat, and tears, but rather put a lot of their own into making games great for you. Respect and appreciate this very important fact.

Once gamers can come to terms with this hard to accept but very real facts of e-life, then they can more aptly prepare themselves for being a good beta tester and player overall.

How to be a good Beta Tester.

Now, say you’ve accepted the 12 steps but you still want to get into a beta. Deep down in your heart, even though you’re thrilled to be invited, you want to make sure you’re also contributing. You also like the idea that good testers sometimes get invited back in future tests.
If you’ve come that far, I could shed a tear of happiness.

So what exactly makes a good tester?
First of all, pick an area in the game you think you’d be good at testing.

• If you’re big on mechanics and key-binds, focus on testing basic game-play.
• PvP or group play, skill balance might be your thing.
• If graphics and visuals are important to you, checking for texture glitches, UI, and clipping is a great focus.
• Explorers do great finding possible exploits or unstable terrain that cause disconnects or falling through the world.
• People who enjoy questing and leveling can report on how those aspects of the game flow.
• Lore buffs who like to read quest text might find they’re good at picking out typos.
• Social butterflies can test out the chat systems and guild controls.

Obviously, you don’t -have- to pick just one area but it helps keep you focused and is great for the company if you report on mundane things that most people aren’t really interested in. Combine them.
I’m a graphics / explorer kinda gal. Back in the Lich King beta I spent hours just flying around taking screenshots of the terrain and reported on a few bugs I saw with textures. Simple but fun, easy, and constructive.

If you see something wrong that’s stationary, try to get screenshots from different angles. Re-log and see if it persists.

Something that’s an event is harder to report, so do your best to replicate what you did to cause it as much as possible. Use different variables. Did you disconnect when walking to a certain spot? Does a specific spell cause this glitch but not another? Is it just your class? Make use of the scientific method from grade-school. The more you can re-cause a glitch, the better, and likely easier to fix.

When you report a bug, be as detailed and organized as possible. Make use of bullet points and listing, and break down your report into sections.
• Brief description of the issue.
• How it happened as detailed as possible.
• Your experiments afterwards in trying to re-cause the glitch.

Next, organize your media and outlet sources. Be weary of NDAs. You don’t want to release information if it’s against their ToS.
But definitely make use of things like recording game-play and screenshots.

Most importantly, though, do have fun. Betas are a responsibility to testers but also a joy on the down-time. Make friends, talk to developers in-game or in forums, and get to know the community.

Which leads me to the last and most important part.

Creating a solid Beta Testing community.

I think one issue is that there’s no real central spot for prospective testers and those seeking testers to converge, and there needs to be one.

The idea I have involves a forum with sections for recruitment and requests. But the most important feature it would need is a resume / rating system.
This is also the most difficult to implement, I imagine.

There are different levels of testing. Yes, you have the gamers, but QA/QC (Quality Assurance / Quality Control) are the professional version. These guys are usually employed by a company but there’s no reason you can’t have professional free-lance testers, right?

In my dream beta site, everybody would have a profile that would detail all the things a game company might need to know to find beta testers. System specs, past experience, genre preferences, and a rating. When a developer finds a certain tester particularly useful, give them a gold +1. Other gamers who think they were good on reporting or answering questions can give them a blue +1. That way at a glance people can see and find exactly what they’re looking for.

Said site would make extensive use of social networking to promote new games, betas, and exclusive previews.

It’d be great, and if I had money and programing experience I’d start it. But alas. I’m just a small fry with big dreams of a gamer utopia!

Well that’s that. Thanks to everyone who’s been commenting and discussing these posts here and on twitter. You guys rock.
And sorry for the long wait. Blame my job.

  • so are you essentially suggesting a linkedin for beta testers?

    • actually, yeah, haha.
      I mean social networking is going to become a major part of online gaming whether or not we want to admit it.

      It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, either!

  • paladin-bias.blogspot.com

    nice article! hope some beta testers see this