betawatch

Massively Overpowered’s Betawatch feature chronicles the adventures and misadventures of MMOs in various stages of testing. You might also be interested in Make My MMO, which focuses on crowdfunded games in particular. [Follow this feature’s RSS feed]

Massively Overthinking: The state of early access, alpha, and beta ‘testing’ in the MMO genre

I remember years ago when then-Massively-columnist Rubi Bayer let loose with a blistering rant on the state of faux beta MMOs. She helmed Betawatch back then, see, and she was fed up with (mostly imported) MMOs claiming to be in beta when in fact they’d soft-launched. A lot of readers didn’t understand her fury at the time, but boy have things changed, right? Now, every game’s in on that very old trick, only they call it early access now, while some are still pushing the boundaries, charging $1000 for pre-alpha.

MOP reader Pepperzine proposed a topic for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s right on point. “I was thinking it would be interesting if we could discuss when people consider a game to be in alpha/beta versus a final launch as a topic,” he wrote to us.

“Back in the day, this was easy to determine. Selective testers were extended invites into beta who were experienced testers who had the computer hardware to handle the software. The primary purpose of being in the testing phase was exactly that, to test and bug report. When the game was made available to the public at a price, a game was considered launched. Now, players are granted access to pre-launch titles by ‘donating’ or purchasing access. For the most part, the primary purpose of participating in the pre-launch experience for these players is not testing or bug reporting but rather to experience and play the game. The division of purchasing a game and donating to test has become so blurred that it is no longer a valid way of determining if a title is at a state to where it is launch ready. These titles can stay in this pre-launch phase for as long as they deem necessary, easily deflecting criticisms by reiterating it is still in development. So when do you consider a game to be launched? Is it when the producers declare it is? Is it when there is no longer the possibility of wipes? Is it when cash shop monetization is implemented? Is it as soon as the company begins selling access?”

Where’s the line in 2017? Let’s dig in.

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Betawatch: Closers Online’s alpha is totally open this weekend (October 20, 2017)

Welcome back to another edition of Betawatch, the game where literally everything is in early access forever. Except Closers, of course, which is open! I never get tired of that. Yes, Closers Online is running a fully open alpha this weekend, which I guess is what we do now when open beta is actually soft launch. Regardless, you can play it and check it out. What else happened in the world of eternal testing this past week? Let’s see…

  • Go Project Gorgon! It put your crowdfunding to work on a programmer to overhaul the in-testing UI.
  • OrbusVR kicked off its third round of closed beta testing. Backers could also take part in Dual Universe’s second pre-alpha, which begins tomorrowday.
  • Both Legends of Aria and Prosperous Universe put the wraps on their alpha testing.
  • Crowfall talked up its action harvesting, while Ship of Heroes went all pew-pew with lightning.
  • H1Z1 changed its name. Again. This is its third try and it’s still in early access! So is PUBG; it broke 2.3M concurrent players last weekend. Not too shabby.
  • Don’t get your hopes up about Star Citizen spinoff Squadron 42; it’s not launching this year. Star Citizen itself is still busy breaking alpha 3.0. But Bless Online is definitely coming (to us) in 2018!
  • Conan Exiles, on the other hand, will stay in testing an extra quarter.

Did we miss anything? Other than Eliot, who will be back in action next week? Send it along to us! And in the meantime, check out our ongoing list of MMOs-purporting-to-be-in-testing that we’re watching.

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Betawatch: Wild West Online’s alpha just isn’t ready (October 13, 2017)

It’s not high noon in Wild West Online. It’s not any time at all, in fact. The game’s early access alpha would have established a time, probably, but that’s been delayed because… well, the game just isn’t ready for that sort of testing yet. Disappointing for those looking forward to the game? Certainly. But probably for the best in the long run, we hope.

This week has been thin in terms of beta news, but we’ve still got a few pieces here and there to show off, don’t we? Of course we do; check out this list.

Sorry there’s a little less news this week, but we do have that whole list down below; that’s something cool, right? You can let us know what you’re thinking about betas you’re playing in the comments, or you can let us know if something surreptitiously launched without us noticing as well. We would prefer that you not place your recipe for chili con carne in the comments; just mail that along.

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Betawatch: Wild Buster has opened a limited alpha (October 6, 2017)

Is this a real game? Did this happen again? Wild Buster added Serious Sam alongside Duke Nukem. We must acquiesce, neither is in the first alpha test; this is a small test, runs through October 9th with a little map, little squads, lots of guns, the lore is odd. If you want to play it, there’s an IndieGoGo that’s on. Now that’s done.

Readers! We have more news. We put it in a list, read it now, you can’t resist.

Now that we’ve gotten Queen references out of our system and shared some other news with you, we feel comfortable showing you a list of games in testing. If something in here has soft-launched without us noticing, please, let us know down in the comments. Things get missed sometimes, you know how it is.

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Betawatch: Final alpha is go for Legends of Aria (September 29, 2017)

Well, Legends of Aria fans, it’s the final… alpha? That doesn’t sound like a 1980s power ballad line at all, someone should get on that. But yes, this is the final alpha for the game ahead of its upcoming Steam launch. There’s no date for said launch just yet, though, so you may as well get into the alpha testing now (assuming you already have access or want to drop the money on it).

Do we have more beta news? Of course we do. There’s always more news.

Also, there’s a list. It’s on a list; it must be true if it’s in a list, like charts in tabletop RPGs. Why not see what’s on the list? Why not let us know your thoughts on this week’s beta news or share your comments from beta testing you’re allowed to talk about? Why not build yourself a chicken costume just in case that becomes a pressing need in your life? Rhetorical questions are fun.

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Betawatch: Fortnite rolls out a free-for-all mode that’s free for all (September 22, 2017)

Remember when Fortnite’s whole thing was that it was going to be about co-op survival gameplay without any PvP aspects? That clearly didn’t last, as it turns out the game’s new Battle Royale mode is going to be free-to-play and seems to be getting an unexpected share of the game’s development. Oh, and the game accidentally turned on cross-platform play before turning it right back off, so that was great too.

In unrelated news, we bid farewell to Guardians of Ember as it has actually, like, launched now. It’s not in early access any more! It’s just access. Guild Wars 2 has also dropped its second expansion, and The Elder Scrolls Online has its latest DLC up on the test server.

More beta news? Yes indeed! Including titles you might not have seen this week otherwise.

  • All right, Pantropy, do you really think that the only thing you need to seduce someone into survival sandbox games is to include a bunch of stompy mechs? Because you are very possibly right.
  • The stress testing for MU Legend is running on September 23rd, which is the server equivalent of packing tons of college freshmen into a phone booth and daring them to fall out. Taking part will earn you 500 Bound Redzen for use in the future, so if the simple joy of stress testing isn’t enough, do it for the bribery.
  • You’ve missed the first alpha testing weekend for Closers, but there are several more weekends coming up, such as this weekend. Would you like a whole schedule for the next few weeks? You’ve got one.
  • The closed alpha weekends for Survived By are starting very soon, with several closed alpha weekends planned over the next several weeks. Exact dates aren’t given, unfortunately, but considering that there are only so many people being invited, that seems at least moderately sensible.
  • Around 350 players took place in the second OrbusVR closed beta, and you can catch up on the notes from that second beta right now. It’s a good chance to keep an eye on the game when you’re not keeping both eyes in the headset.

And as we always do, there’s a list of titles in testing and early access just below, because that’s how we operate. Did something hop to another phase of testing without letting us know? Fix that oversight in the comments. You can also use the comments for other comments, of course.

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Betawatch: Crowfall shares lots of fun stuff (September 15, 2017)

Good news for Crowfall fans this week because there’s plenty on the docket about the game’s development. You might not consider a whole lot of discussion about how the game succeeded at crowdfunding to be new content, but you’ve also got the full list of race/class combinations at launch and a dangerous beachhead for players to fight around. So there’s lots of good stuff happening for fans, yes?

The remainder of the beta news… well, there’s some good stuff in there, too! And one thing that’s perhaps not so good. Let’s head right in.

Meanwhile, we’ve got that full list of games down below with all of the information you could possibly expect at this point from our regular weekly column. Did something jump to a new phase of testing without us noticing? Let us know down in the comments, we find that fascinating and only marginally annoying. (And the annoyance is with the studios who don’t let us know, mind.)

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Betawatch: Worlds Adrift takes criticism and updates free tools (September 8, 2017)

Nobody likes being criticized, ever. But it’s a reality of life, and so Worlds Adrift has been taking the feedback from players about the game’s PvP scene in stride. The team behind the game has also updated the free island creator tool, so if you feel like engaging in a round of player vs. interface and player vs. the multi-layered complexity of realizing player ideals in a three-dimensional design space, go nuts.

You want some more beta news? Well, we got a little bit of that, it turns out.

And, of course, there’s a list down below of titles in testing, many of which were not affected by the double punch of a holiday and a convention back-to-back. Go ahead and check out the list, and feel free to leave your comments on betas you’re currently playing down below. Or let us know if something jumped status, that’s cool too.

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Betawatch: Destiny 2 storms to PC (September 1, 2017)

The open beta for Destiny 2 finally hit the PC, and while I’m generally reluctant to say that anything is the preferred platform for a given audience (people get excited about platforms I personally would never have expected), in this case it seems fair. The beta has, of course, run into some issues, but people seem to have enjoyed it even without getting to take a trip to a nice farm. Plenty of space to run around in that farm.

Also, while it seems almost like a joke to say this, it really happened: ARK: Survival Evolved finally launched. If you were waiting for launch? You were waiting for now. It has happened.

More news? You’ll no doubt hear more with the convention this weekend, but let’s go nuts anyway.

All right! Are you pumped to scroll through a whole list full of other titles currently in testing, possibly incorporating more surprises along the way but probably not? Jump on down below, then, and if you see something which ought not to be there, do let us know down in the comments.

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Betawatch: Star Citizen chatters about the still-absent 3.0 (August 25, 2017)

The team behind Star Citizen is on the floor at Gamescom talking about 3.0, which would be pretty awkward if that update wasn’t already playable. (In other words, yes, super awkward.) The good news is that they can explain, apparently. At least the team brought part of the patch with them? And they’re confirming survival mechanics? And you can catch up on their live presentation?

Aw, heck, let’s just move on to other beta news, all right? Yes.

Perhaps we’ll all have better fortune down in the list. You remember the list, don’t you? It’s a list of games in testing, but there’s always the chance that something has jumped phases without us noticing, so we encourage you to let us know in the comments. Seriously, we appreciate it.

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Betawatch: Camelot Unchained is rapidly approaching beta (August 18, 2017)

The wait for the Camelot Unchained beta has been long and arduous in the way that only “just sit around and wait” can possibly be, but it’s almost here. It’s going to happen! We don’t know quite when, but we do know that we’ve got a new guiding principles document for beta. So it’s coming very soon.

Meanwhile, we also bid farewell to both Tree of Life and Fragmented, as both have launched this week.

More beta news? We’ve got to be honest, it’s been a quiet week… but this stuff might all tickle you along the way just the same.

But is there a list? Yes, of course there’s a list. It’s right down below, and while it may be trimming down slightly it still has no shortage of entries. Perhaps you’d like to let us know about things we may have missed in the comments? Either phase changes or new titles, we’re flexible.

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Betawatch: The Exiled limits lives in hopes of extending its life (August 11, 2017)

If you’ve been following The Exiled for a bit, you know the game has been struggling to reach a large enough audience to sustain itself. Let’s hope that the game’s new limited-lives survival mode provides exactly that; the testing will be running all month for about three hours a day, forcing players to try the game in a different way. Here’s hoping!

The week has also seen one launch and one launch date; LawBreakers has officially launched (and run into some problems), while Tree of Life has announced its impending launch on August 17th.

You want more beta news? Now you’re just getting greedy. But fine.

Well, that was fun. If you’re not ready to say goodbye to this weekly feature just yet, please, feel free to run an inquisitive finger over the list we have down below while noting any games which have changed their status in the comments. Or letting us know if a link doesn’t work. Hey, we’re happy just to let you chat about your current betas. Flexibility.

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Betawatch: Delays always win (August 4, 2017)

We realize that some of our readers are a bit younger, so we’d like to introduce you to a universal truism of life: Delays always win. Everything goes wrong and nothing ever works right. Depressing and harsh? Yes. But considering that Star Citizen has delayed its 3.0 testing once again and ARK: Survival Evolved has pushed back its official launch to August 29th, can you say we’re wrong?

Other beta news has also happened, though. Some of it not delay-oriented at all!

  • If you’re wondering about all of the features that MU Legend will have at launch, you can watch a helpful video explaining its core features in a quick and easy-to-view format. That should be nice and straightforward.
  • Free-to-play open beta for Dreadnought has begun on the PlayStation 4. All the spaceship-based deathmatch action you could possibly ask for.
  • The development on Camelot Unchained is steaming toward its first beta at full tilt, so that should happen… when it’s ready. At some point before the heat-death of the universe, hopefully this year.
  • Rebuild testing for Bless Online has started as well, albeit in a language that one may suspect most of our readers do not read or speak. But at least it’s making forward motion, which is heartening alone after a winding process of back-and-forth up to this point.
  • There’s also a new update for Line of Defense that’s focused almost entirely on underlying technology rather than actual in-game content. You can be sure that this is a vital step in the process of making a game work, of course, and thus no one would ever criticize a game for such updates.

Is that a list of beta tests in below the cut, or am I just happy to see you? It’s both! I’m happy to see you in an allegorical sense, of course, because I’m not actually watching you right now. But it’s nice to see readers, and I’m sure you’ll help us all keep feeling happy by sharing your own beta stories (or sneaky phase changes for betas) in the comments below.

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