You Really Shouldn’t Be Playing The SW:TOR Beta
I have a thing about betas. I used to love them and try to get in as many as I could. I remember being giddy as a school boy for the Age of Conan beta, as desperate as a lumberjack for the Aion one, and horny as hell for RIFT’s. Then recently something in me changed. A switched was a flicked, a lever was pulled, a light bulb went off in my brain and I realised that playing betas were killing the overall enjoyment for me. It’s like celebrating Christmas early.
Sure, I get the point of them. Big online games need to be tested by lots of people. From a technical point of view, betas make a lot of sense. However, I think it’s fairly safe to say that they have come to the point of being completely and utterly disingenuous. They are less about testing now and about more about marketing and promotion for the developer (obvious by NDAs getting lifted earlier and earlier) and free, early access for the player. No one actually plays a beta to, y’know, test anything, they simply do it because they want to play the game as soon as possible. It’s like offering a kid a candy bar right now or in a weeks time – which do you think they’re going to choose?
Likewise, the hype, promotion and free marketing generated from these beta events is utterly insane. You literally can’t stumble across a gaming web site right now that isn’t spilling its guts over every single tiny piece of detail in SW:TOR. It’s like there’s a big party going on and only a select few are invited – everyone else is left to stand outside and listen to the music blaring, forced to wait another month before they can enter. And when the game finally comes out, the sense of exploring a new world is completely lost as players whizz past content they’ve already experienced, quick and eager to spoil it for everyone else. No wonder we burn ourselves out of MMOs so quickly.
I know Bioware gave out some ridiculous amount of beta keys but it’s still a number that pales in comparison to the amount of reported pre-orders. I’m going to be melodramatic and say that betas are disingenuous elite events that kill the fun for everyone else and serve little function other than to fuel the hype machine. Perhaps if developers really wanted to seriously test their game they should keep those NDAs on right until the day of launch. Or if they are truly concerned about launching a perfect product, why not go in the other direction and just make the game completely free for everyone for the first month so we all have an equal opportunity to take part and try it?
Maybe I’m getting more patient as I age, maybe I’m getting more bitter, but I don’t want to take part in betas any more and neither should you. They just ruin the final game for ourselves and kill the entire concept of suspense and anticipation in favour of instant gratification. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go open your Christmas presents now.
And I’m only mainly saying this because I’m not getting to play SW:TOR this weekend.