26 Jul 2010

A Good Beta Tester?

I started writing this topic in response to a blue post from Ghostcrawler. It seems that while the beta programme is proceeding at pace, the quality of feedback they’re getting is dropping. Rather than trying to paraphrase the Crab himself, I’ll let you read his words directly.

I hate to go all forum moderator on you guys, but we’ve seen a recent downward spiral in the quality of some of these threads and posts here on the beta forum.

Story time: I started posting heavily in the Lich King beta forums. It was a great experience and lot of players enjoyed the opportunity to be able to have intelligent conversations directly with the developers. I’ve heard over and over ever since then what a positive experience that was for a lot of players. It’s for that reason that I am going to be fiercely protective of the quality of posts here in the Class Discussion forum.

If you see a locked thread, chances are we thought it crossed the line. If you keep making the kinds of threads that get locked, then you’ll be removed from the beta and we will replace you with someone who can provide intelligent feedback. Sorry to sound like a jerk — I hate making these kinds of posts. But we want participating in the beta to be a positive experience.

Now I’m guessing that almost anyone reading this would be inclined to think that they’d make an excellent choice for a beta tester, and that Ghostcrawler should boot someone else to make space for them. It’s an easy gut reaction to make.

There’s a bigger question from all of this though – would we actually make good beta testers?

Myself, I’m not so sure. I’m a blogger, I like to blog about the games I play. How those games evolve and change is a natural extension of the whole thing. I consider myself lucky that there are a handful of other people that like what I write. Mainly though, I do it for the fun of writing.

One of the things I like to write about is change. The events that bring about change, the context that the change sits in. You can see this when I look over the patch notes – very high level stuff, what the changes are and how they relate to overall playstyle and mechanics.

Trouble is, sometimes it feels like I’m writing a review of a film based on a plot synopsis or promotional poster – it’s fundamentally flawed and doesn’t take account of the finished product. It’s a struggle to talk about a musician or a comedian if you’ve never heard them play or listened to their jokes

Can you imagine what it would be like if I was in beta? It’d be like having your film reviewer sitting on set, being a back-seat director and generally being a nuisance. They need people who will describe their experiences, tell them what works and help them improve the game. They certainly don’t need an armchair psuedo-developer being publicly critical of them at every turn.

Who makes a good beta tester? The hardcore theorycrafter that can look at a tooltip and give you an excel spreadsheet in five minutes profiling how that ability would work. The pug maniac that has more emblems than gold and has a set of badge gear for every occasion. The altoholic that has levelled each class of each faction to 80 twice and remembers each quest like they’re items on a shopping list.

Do they need people like myself? Nope. I am not a good beta tester candidate. I focus ferociously on a single class, I am fickle and critical, and I generally grow bored of things easily. If something is too frustrating, I’m likely to give up rather than persevere.

I also do not think that I’m a special case just because I write a blog or record a podcast. So what? There are hundreds of other blogs out there, many of them informative and well written by knowledgeable and articulate people. Type Warcraft into iTunes and you’ll find pages of voices all discussing Blizzard’s games. My blogger/podcaster status doesn’t automatically grant me rights to the beta. I’m in the same pot of random as everyone else.

So those who are in beta, test well and test hard. Give Blizzard as much information as you can on your experiences. Help make it an expansion we can all enjoy. Eleven million gamers are depending on your work.

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14 Responses to A Good Beta Tester?

  1. Eshtariel says:

    The thing that Ghostcrawler is referring to is the ugliness on the forums. It has grown in proportion to the number of new people in the beta. The forums are starting to feel like the regular General forum. People simply do not KNOW how to give good, constructive feedback. Or maybe they just don’t care.
    Eshtariel recently posted..Gaming Worlds Collide- Cataclysmic Paladins – Jul 26-2010My Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      True. I guess it’s a consequence of signal-to-noise ratio, although the planned forum redesign should help with communty self-moderation. I’m going to be interested to see how they pan out with the launch of Starcraft 2 tomorrow.

      • Eshtariel says:

        Having been participating in those forums since Alpha, I can tell you that the overall ‘quality’ of the posts has gone down. There was an atmosphere of friendly cooperation that is slowly evaporating and people were careful to keep their feedback constructive. Saying ‘this sucks’ is not constructive feedback. Unfortunately, a large chunk of the population seems to think it is.

        I’m interested in how the planned forum redesign goes, too.
        Eshtariel recently posted..Gaming Worlds Collide- Cataclysmic Paladins – Jul 26-2010My Profile

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  3. Ceraphus says:

    I think one of the biggest problems that I have seen with beta testers (at least in LK, and from what I am reading about Clysm) is they never take time to fill out the surveys after the quests, was it good, was the reward good, were there any issues with completing it.

    Also many don’t report when they put in a talent point their UI goes all wonky, they restart the game. It seems so many “beta” testers are more interested in learning the content early so they can beat everyone to 85 than making the game better. Now this isn’t true for all, some do a great job.

    I think you would make a good tester because you would focus on the mage, is it fun, is this rotation fun, are you running into mana issues, was this section too hard for a clothie, or just right, does blink send you spiraling through the world when you completed the quests to phase-shift mount hyjal’s scenery?

    A good tester is critical, but also knows the game is supposed to be fun, as ghostcrawler said the numbers are easy to tweak, knowing if the content they created works properly and is fun is the big thing right now.
    Ceraphus recently posted..What are your WoW PoliticsMy Profile

  4. Razorstorm says:

    Nicely said. I too don’t think I’d make a good beta tester at this time. I don’t feel I have a strong enough grasp on the total arc of the game, having not yet reached endgame with any of my toons.

    • Eshtariel says:

      Ah, but you see, you don’t HAVE to have reached end game to be a good beta tester. In this case, the entire world has changed. They need content tested from the racial starting areas all the way up. Only Outland and Northrend have remained unchanged but they still need people with the new races in those areas, to tell them which quests don’t work for them, or if they can’t pick up any quests.
      Eshtariel recently posted..Gaming Worlds Collide- Cataclysmic Paladins – Jul 26-2010My Profile

  5. Razorstorm says:

    Touche, you have a very good point. However, even if GC handed me a beta today,I don’t think I’d WANT to right now. I’m too concerned with getting my main to 80, and using my alts to see as much of the old content as I can before it all goes away. I have a small army of lowbie alts seeing all of the starting zones, many of which will be deleted once Cataclysm hits so I can play through them anew.

  6. derevka says:

    I actually disagree. I think a PVP or PVE class focused blogger is a great candidate. Generally: You know the ins and outs of the class. You know how the class can/cannot play well. You’re able to provide practical feedback; instead of theoretical feedback.

    Of course, you’d be providing feedback from that point of view. If you are a Hardcore PVE Holy Pally; and you blog about it, you can play a Holy Pally on beta and provide solid feedback from that POV. What will those changes do to the class/role you know so well? Will these changes work? What is working? What isn’t working? Granted, you also are then going to blog about those experiences… what is that to Blizzard? Free marketing. You are talking about all the exciting changes, what you like & what you dont like.

    Granted, I’m biased. I’m a End Game Raiding Holy Priest…. w/o a Beta Key; and I want one. 😀 Badly.

    • Gazimoff says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be in the beta and give my feedback. Part of me doesn’t think it’ll happen and part of me agrees with Larisa somewhat that we’ve kinda been put on ignore by the community. But then again, I think that there are people out there who can provide much more valuable feedback than I can.

      I guess we’ll see how it pans out. I certainly don’t expect anything though.

  7. Gnomeaggedon says:

    I think you would make a good beta tester, possibly for some of the reasons I would do OK. This isn’t because I am a software tester IRL… but you, as I, play to have fun, to explore different parts of it.

    The number crunchers already exist, so the question is, is the game experience fun, or clunky, or troublesome, or mind blowing etc.

    When you take your PvP spec does it feel like a clunky PvE spec, when you forget to change when you hit the instance/BG… does it matter?

    The other thing is you already know how to string 3 words together… not only that, but you are reflective.
    Your initial report may be.. it’s all good.. but later, as you run it back through your mind, you will be prompted to write a blog post… at which point you will realise it’s a “bug” report.

    Likewise, on reflection, you will think about the wonky talent and maybe revise your opinion.

    Most importantly, you will clearly articulate how OP the Locks are an underpowered the Mages are.. thus ensuring that nature runs it’s course and Locks remain in little puddles on the floor.
    Gnomeaggedon recently posted..Mage and Shaman Forums- Start spreading the newsMy Profile

  8. Demeternoth says:

    I think you’d be a great candidate Gaz. You’ve got an experience in games that I definitely lack and that gives you an insight that a lot of us noobs lack.

    Like you say, those of us who aren’t in the beta hope those that are do a great job so we can all enjoy the results.

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