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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