Stop It With The Betas
Closed betas. Open betas. I think I’m officially sick of betas. Used to be that the release date of a game was the release date of a game. Some games even went to great lengths to hype it up and make it an event. Anyone remember Mortal Monday? I do. I was positively wetting myself in anticipation at the release of Mortal Kombat on the Genesis/Mega Drive. Of course the idea of playing a game in which you can rip your opponents skull out when you’re 12 years old will do that to you.
Used to be that beta came after alpha and was actually used as a software engineering term to define the state of the game. For MMORPGs now though, it’s more than that. It’s now used as a way to play them early, check them out before you buy them, and even as incentives and prizes. Seems like no MMOPRG can have a dignified beta any more.
I’d like to see a return to more modest betas that are used to test stability, in a dignified and professional fashion. I don’t want to see my most highly anticipated games ravaged by critics before it’s even been released or every secret discovered and unveiled. Isn’t testing meant to be a serious thing anyway? I have to wonder how many beta testers actually ‘test’ the game and don’t just see it as an early trial or freebie. I know I do.
Part of it is self-control on my behalf. I played the Aion beta and am now downloading some megalithic patch for the Champions Online beta. Really makes me wonder why I do it though. Am I that desperate to play these games, I can’t wait a few extra weeks? Maybe. Ironically though I barely touched the Aion beta because I didn’t want to spoil it for myself.
I’d like to see MMORPGs reign in their betas. They shouldn’t be freebies or early access, they should be what they are meant to be – necessary testing in order to fix bugs and produce a a better game. I think the meaning got lost at some point.
On the counter side, I’ve just seen dozens of articles whiz by on my RSS reader about how much Champions Online sucks so I’ve cancelled the 3 gig download. Maybe open betas are good for something…