It seems we’re getting closer and closer to the beta testing phases of a pair of games I’ve been keeping a close eye out on lately.
Star Trek Online put out its open beta applications not long ago, and just yesterday Star Wars: The Old Republic put out its application process. And like a lot-oh, a whole heaping long-of people, I put my name in both (although if backed into a corner, I’d prefer to put the time into STO than TOR).
What I think a lot of people don’t fully realize, though, is that the beta process isn’t a preview, and that the point isn’t to see the stuff before anyone else, but to find out what may be wrong with the game, and get it fixed before it launches. It’s not a platform to say, “This feature sucks! Get rid of it!” (although it might-I couldn’t honestly say), but to suggest how to improve the feature. It’s going to feature a lot of crashes to desktop, and it might eat your hard drive, and it may have a memory leak that’s more like a memory flood; and that’s expected, because it’s in testing. Folks will declare that the game is the Second Coming, or that it is the worst game ever based on beta-and it shouldn’t.
They’ll seem unfinished because they are unfinished. Beta testers are to help the developers find the problems-whether they are bugs, exploits, or massive technical issues. Does this sound like fun? No, not necessarily, but this isn’t about having fun; that comes later, when the bugs are finally crushed, when the exploits are closed up, when the client is stable. And once all that is done, all your work in characters, all the accomplishments in-game? Gone. Beta is about testing, not building an uber-character. Getting attached to them would just be a bad, bad idea.
I know there’s a lot of excitement for these games-I share it-but I hope that when the beta testers are selected, they understand just what it is they are letting themselves in for. And even if I don’t end up in either (which is, honestly, the most likely thing to happen), it isn’t going to diminish my anticipation in seeing these games at release.