The Prolonged Beta

Well Wildstar has released its pre order information and release date, as well as dropping it’s NDA, of which I was completely unaware of. There has been so much known about it for so long, a beta for a lot of players has been running since the start of the year and even beyond that near everything has been known. Right now though all I can think of is how over the game I am already even though it hasn’t even released yet.

It makes me wonder about the extent to which these early access, half finished ideas is ruining my long term interest in certain games. It seems nearly every game I have right now is in some sort of beta/early access mode without a large amount of its mechanics in place. Some of them are great but I can’t hep thinking that this somehow lessens my opinion of them as well as diminishing their long term potential.

I’ve been watching project zonboid for like a year now and it’s still a long way off yet. Starbound still has some time, Firefall I think will never come out of beta, and a couple others that are all
a lesser experience from it. Amazingly I’ve stuck with them over this time based on certain factors and appeal but there is an even larger number of early games that I’ve quickly dropped, bitched about and never came back too.
I probably would have played them longer, been more involved and looked at my experiences more fondly if it had been a more refined, final version. Even these early access games usually only get that initial chance to hook you, people are aware and are even becoming more considerate in their reviews of them but that first play would usually still be the last if it failed to appeal because of a lack of features and polish.

Of course, for a single player game or even a pick up and play multiplayer title this really doesn’t mean that much. Your money has already spent, the title purchased and the rest is relatively meaningless. Come back or don’t, whatever really. Whether you play once and are disappointed or hold on over the months really doesn’t change that much in the grand scheme of things since you own the product and it will still be available to you in the future.

For mmo’s this is very different. They are a game based on the long term, about drawing people in and either having them play consistently or regularly come back yet I see a lot of them, especially ftp titles releasing their game while it’s still basically a shell. I can’t help but think this, while a decent marketing tool is screwing them over for the long term.

Recently, after a little soul searching a decided to get a refund for Landmark. I was very excited for it but in its current state it just didn’t have enough there to appeal to me. I played for a few weeks, rather hardcore too and then unless I wanted to be creative in a completely transient world then I was pretty much finished. It was a decent experience but my interest quickly faded without the extra mechanics and such that would obviously come later. I don’t think it spoiled my opinion of it too much as it is continuously improving but it certainly soured my original opinion enough that I’m content now to wait until it’s something more.

Wildstar I believe also seems to have gotten this stage very wrong. Originally I though it was ESO that didn’t know how to market their product and information to this new age but it seems, even though antiquated it’s still the right approach. The majority of events for ESO were enough for a quick impression yet remain a mere tease for the mmo itself while for that of Wildstar I’d basically finished with the game before it’s even released. I’d levelled, and pvp’d. Run dungeons and gained a decent impression of the title but to the point where my interest diminished. I went from wanting to buy it on release to experience this new mmo to feeling I already have and will now probably pass on it. For a game that’s asking a box price and subscription I think this will hurt it later on. I’m wondering if the pre orders will be that much left because they’ve already given everyone a few slices of cake, enough to feel satiated to that in particular taste.

It’s a hard thing for goes I know and most will do anything in this day an age to stand out amongst the crowd. Giving players an unprecedented amount of input and access into development was a novelty, and a great Pr tool for gaining interest in your product before it’s natural release. Now with the extent to which these are in the industry as well as how early gamers are getting in I think it has become a detriment. You’re not special any more for doing it, he’ll you’re no better than ea in releasing another buggy half finished title. For mmo’s it’s still a novelty I guess and most of us love to be armchair developers from time to time so it’s a good fit but, I think the life cycle of this novelty is much shorter and the damage it can do far greater. It’s still a great tool for getting the really crazy gamers on board with a title, it might even help in development but allowing the masses in us a very Very bad idea.

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5 thoughts on “The Prolonged Beta

  1. I actually don’t think the problem is with having a prolonged beta process. The issue with Wildstar is that it is a shallow game. Fun, zany and interesting initially but still shallow. Skill progression is shallow, combat is shallow, the lore is shallow and I could go on. Even their touted “innovations”are just gimmicky. Paths is a ludicrous attempt at lengthening playability and makes no sense if looked at from a world building or exploration point of view. Their telegraph system is a huge step back in my opinion. Instead of watching hot bars, now you watch arrows and circles on the ground and with different colors.
    Even if they had a shorter beta process, they would still experience what I forecast: people playing it for thirty days, getting bored and over the newness and moving on. There is nothing in it worth a subscription.

    • Preaching to the choir here. I just think instead of seeing it as shallow now they could have done a beta weekend approach like ESO, got their huge box sales and then would have been able to pay back develop as well as be sustained through several more months… Now, I’m not so sure.

      It definitely still has a decent amount of support but I’ve also read a lot of people that are just now over it.

      • I see your point. If they knew what they had, they might have restricted access and shortened beta. I agree that it may have helped them financially but more in terms of box sales. Curiosity and new shiney would have gotten the best of most people.

  2. From a development standpoint (I haven’t done it professionally but it’s in my educational background) I don’t much like public betas at all. From a consumer standpoint I like them even less. In either case, you’re dealing with a partially finished, buggy product that either doesn’t adequately represent your future release product or is close enough that you’re giving players a nearly full play experience without getting money from them for playing. I’m also not convinced that public betas are particularly valuable from a feedback perspective… I’ve seen the content of typical feedback to a gaming company, if the beta feedback is anything similar it’s worse than useless. You might catch a few bugs on the development side just from having players playing but I’m not sure that’s worth the negatives.

    Things like “server stress weekends”, though, I have no issue with… that’s the type of thing you can’t adequately test internally. But general gameplay bugs? Those shouldn’t require a public beta to find.

    As a consumer, I generally won’t participate in a beta for a game I actually intend to play, I want my first experience to be the release experience, however it is. I also avoid things like lore spoilers whenever possible, that possibly has more than a little to do with my dislike of betas. I *have* occasionally played an alpha/beta of a game that I wasn’t intending to play, though… I honestly can’t tell you why, it was mostly a “*shrug*, why not” thing. Free gameplay without any real downside, I guess.

    • sorry, think i missed your comment somehow. anywho, Late reply is late.
      I tend to agree that most feedback would be rather pointless. It would neither define the issue or how to replicate. Sometimes they might catch something not seen in qa but things a general player would see and understand would be far less that needed.

      Stress tests, awesome but then the media usually paints a completely different picture of these, like they are indicative of the finished product now.

      I actually do like getting involved in products earlier on, especially the ones I’m really interested as I enjoy seeing how they develop. To be honest I’ve never worried about spoilers, I’m more worried if in that playing it I will become to bored with it to try it again on release

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