Global Chat: Is it worth your time to alpha test MMOs?

    
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Taugrim raises a very interesting question this week on his blog. Namely, is it really worth your time to alpha test MMOs these days? For him, at least, fickle players and unresponsive developers don’t make it a beneficial activity.

“A decade ago, I used to get super excited about upcoming MMORPGs,” he said. “And then I experienced those games losing their playerbase in droves while the developers/publishers failed to meaningfully address the concerns of the community.”

If you’ve been burned one too many times by alpha, beta, and early access testing, perhaps you can relate. Read on for more essays from the MMO blogosphere, and don’t forget to check out this month’s exciting Blaugust Reborn event that’s raging across blogs!

Unidentified Signal Source: No Man’s Sky NEXT multiplayer impressions

“My main concern was scarcity of resources. I remember struggling to get enough to keep my life support and hazard protection up and was very concerned that we would really be scraping the bottom of the barrel to support two. This ended up not being the case. The rate at which I was acquiring resources for just myself was enough to survive and build up a supply.”

Material Middle-earth: Twilight Huntsman

“I had intended to screenshot this outfit somewhere in Eryn Lasgalen, after U22 released, but that didn’t work as planned. I’ve decided to leave this photoshoot in Webs of the Scuttledells, the original setting. The natural lighting was somewhat poor when combined with the misty atmosphere. Thanks to the personal lantern, I was able to take some screenshots and make my Hunter feel like he was hunting at twilight, that otherworldly period between dusk and night.”

GamingSF: Taking a small stand against story

“Other MMORPGs have this to some degree, Elder Scrolls Online presents you with choices on occasion, although I can’t remember any choices that made a big impact to my character’s experience of the world thereafter — the decision may have been impactful within that narrative, but I usually don’t notice a big effect on the world that is permanent for that character.”

Inventory Full: Winds of change

“The weeks and months either side of the original Bazaar of the Four Winds were arguably GW2’s creative peak. With everything that’s happened since, it’s been all too easy to forget. Everything we complained about back then gleams like true riches right now. Spoiled. We were spoiled. And we cried like brats.”

Leo’s Life: Anti-grouping

“The quick and dirty answer to that was solved by RIFT — quick grouping. With a single button press you would join nearby players, all attempting the same event. Was great for group quests, and even better for rifts. The system only started to breakdown when there was a lack of players around you (say mid-game when most were top level). Still, the model made sense.”

MMO Bro: How to fix lockboxes

“This criticism can be countered somewhat by adding in some sort of failsafe against bad luck. The simplest and most common way to do this is to add some sort of currency found within lockboxes alongside an option to purchase lockbox items directly with said currency. Overwatch and Elder Scrolls Online both do this by converting duplicate items found in boxes into a currency.”

Every day there are tons of terrific, insightful, and unusual articles posted across the MMO gaming blogosphere — and every day, Justin reads as many as he can. Global Chat is a sampling of noteworthy essays, rants, and guides from the past few weeks of MMO discourse.

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styopa

“…while the developers/publishers failed to meaningfully address the concerns of the community…”

Reeks of entitlement.
An alpha isn’t where they’re giving players a vote on what direction the game goes. An alpha is a TEST, usually of gross functionality, see? And they’re watching you play so when you fall through the ground whenever you charge an enemy, they’ll fix that. If characters don’t have enough hair options, if you think the mages fire bolt should have a shorter hometown, or even if scissors thinks rock is overpowered, they’re not fixing those, nor are they obligated to.

It’s an alpha. You’re neither a community nor are you entitled to a voice in anything. You’re helping them in whatever way they want your help, or you’re wasting both your times.

rafterman74
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rafterman74

I used to beta test MMOs all the time. In fact, I can’t remember a decently large MMO that I didn’t beta test in the 90’s and 00’s. But those were real beta tests, with actually developer/tester relations and where input would be acknowledged and the game adjusted. These days beta tests aren’t beta tests at all, at least not in terms of game content. So, no, I don’t general get too involved with the modern process.

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Robert Mann

Alpha and Beta testing… can use player feedback, and if a company works with that feedback appropriately it can be good. There are many times where this has not happened, and worse still there are quite a few examples of following only one set of feedback.

I think that a developer gets only so much of my time unless they show a return on that investment. I’m cool with helping them, if they are going to pay it back. I still believe they should have internal testing, including balancing testing, to reach desired effects, and that such player tests should be supplemental (stress, bugs, exploits, and generic feedback all should be looked at). I think that in turn for that effort a studio can and should look at how players behave under the test conditions, and remove those who are not actually testing (and keep a list of whom they would like to bring back in the future).

There is a big problem with the “Pay to Pre-play” thing that exists right now. I believe that part of things must go.

So, TLDR: Yes, if the company works with the feedback given AND carefully considers that rather than just running around chasing three thousand different visions of the final product.

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cursedseishi

I can’t really think of any recent MMOs that have run a true Alpha test in the recent decade. Or, at the very least, ones that didn’t involve buying into them. To be honest, and its been so long that it doesn’t matter at all by this point, the only experience I have with this would be…

Stargate Online…

And yeah… That uh… didn’t go well at all for that company regardless. As long as the developers are responsive and willing to listen, yeah I think it is worth it. To be fair, the same thing goes for Beta as well–but as we’ve seen, “Alpha” and “Beta” have devolved into nothing more than just market terms to fool people into thinking their founder packs are worth a damn now.

See: Bethesda’s October “Closed Beta” when the game launches early in the month next. Progress carries over completely, and by all accounts it is the entire game… This isn’t a Beta, this is an Early Access for pre-orders named to hand-wave the GUARANTEED potentially game-breaking issues that we’ll see in the game for the months to come.

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Armsman

The issue is – many people don’t understand what a true Alpha or Beta test phase is. They assume it’s a ‘free preview’ and figure they’ll get a head start. A real Alpha or Beta can be real frustrating if that’s the attitude you go in with; and it can really ruin, or even burn you out on segments of game play before the retail version is released.

rafterman74
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rafterman74

You can blame that on developers. People don’t understand what “true” alpha or beta tests are because they are few and far between, sandwiched between hundreds of fake tests that are just designed to build hype, gauge interest or be dangled as early purchase rewards.

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

The answer to the articles question I think depends upon a persons definition of testing.

If they are old school like me where testing MEANT testing, reports were written, specific jobs given, complimentary copies recieved, NDA’s signed etc..etc.. then be it Alpha, Beta or whatever then your investing your time and effort into a game you hope to play and do so with the view of trying to ensure yours and everyone elses experience of said game is a positive one, unhindered by bugs and game breaking issues at launch.

However todays gamers see ALL testing (irrespective of what phase) as essentially Early Access and if an unfinished game is not up to snuff for them then they write it off then and there treating it as if it was a finished product. And at no point do they actually…you know..test or report anything for the most part other than their disatisfaction lol

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Weilan

Depends on the game and how much one is interested in it.

I played for 5 years and over 9000 hours a Korean F2P shooter called Alliance of Valiant Arms, it was great for the first 2 years since I discovered it, but gradually was destroyed by P2W cash shop and was shut down this summer, about 3 years after I quit it for other games.

Less than a month after the shutdown, the original developer announced they will be rebooting and publishing the game, with visual improvements, no P2W and focus on the old school days when the game was most enjoyable. Well, when I found out I could sign up for CAT and CBT, I was so happy, unfortunately, I wasn’t selected for the CAT, buy that immediately made me and other unlucky ones automatically eligible for the CBT, which is coming in September.

How can I not be happy that one my favorite games, that I spent so much time on and then watch it fade away is coming back with improvements? I will be glad to test it firsthand and see what they changed/improved/broke. And if my feedback can influence the game to be better, then that’s just fantastic.

Of course there are many games not worthy to be tested, for several reasons:

– one just wants to see the game firsthand and has no intention to provide feedback, in which case the Alpha spot should be used by someone, who is truly committed to the game
– one does it out of habit, because they can
– when one intends to play it as a finished product, while sometimes Alpha, Beta, Early Access are only figurative terms just to avoid the heat, in other cases the game is truly in a very early stage of development and such people are prone to give negative feedback and ending up doing more harm than good.

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Kickstarter Donor
Tandor

What happened to the old definitions?

Alpha testing is what was done by the internal team.

Beta testing is what was done by external testers, whether by invitation (closed beta) or public registration (open beta).

Early Access is what you got if you pre-ordered a game prior to it being released and were allowed onto the servers a few days before those who simply bought the game on launch day.

All these terms applied to what was more or less a finished product.

Now it seems that we have pre-alpha, alpha, beta and early access and they all relate to pretty much the same thing – playing a game before it’s finished. Plus you usually get to pay for the privilege!

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jay

All because developers realized that people are dumb enough to pay for such, and it won’t change unless they stop.

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starbuck1771

Not entirely true. Alpha can be done externally as well. I was an Alpha tester for Turbine on LotRO and wasn’t a employee. I have alpha tested many games without being employed by the developers.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

Monetization, Tandor. A fool and his money are soon parted… Companies found out they could charge people for unfinished products and some folks would actually pay it. You can even charge them 2x, 3x, 4x or even more of a finished title. Bonus in that you don’t even necessarily have to finish or ship the game. So it’s charging folks for a tinker project that you aren’t obligated to deliver.

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Nick // Genghis

I have big founder’s/KS packs for most of the major upcoming MMOs (upcoming being relative lol) such as: Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, and Star Cit. and my limited time as it is with job responsibilities, social obligations, and taking care of my household, it just doesn’t motivate me in the slightest to take considerable time to force myself through the early alpha slog and bugs and glitches. I still take time to read up on updates and info that’s being released and keep a close eye on them, but I appreciate the development and progress the devs make from afar and cheer them on, waiting for the time where it seems there won’t be any more wipes and progress will carry over. There’s too many other games that are out and play in a pretty polished state for me to spend that much time on “testing” despite actually being able to play some of these really cool games.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

No, it is not worth my time to test Alpha test any modern MMOs in development with one exception and one honorable mention. The exception is Pantheon:RotF and the honorable mention is Camelot Unchained.

I backed CU because I like Mark Jacobs. The practically no PvE is the main part that holds my unfettered interest back. I may pop in once it launches and give it a spin. How long I do it, though, depends on Pantheon’s release.

Pantheon is in almost entirety what I have been looking for to play since SWG NGE blew up my MMO playing. That said by the time its crowd funding started I had already decided that I wasn’t going to crowd fund another MMO. I’m not paying $100 for pre launch access on an MMO that has a possibility of not launching (especially if it isn’t at least 90% what I want in an MMO – Pantheon is at 92%). I believe it will, but there is always a chance. I can spend that $100 on another hobby that is real. Apparently they have enough testers to get the job done. I’m old school and wish they had taken the old school approach on testing their game as well with signups and random picking testers. /shrug

Modern testing, be it pre alpha, alpha, beta, has moved more toward just another avenue to “monetize”, which is sad. On one hand it would seem like that if developers wanted lots of input they would not put testing behind a pay wall. There is the other thought in that being behind a pay wall you get testers that now have some incentive to test (in that they paid). Universally right or wrong, who knows. It’s wrong for me as I can spend that money and time on my kids where I know I’ll have a perfect ROI.