Are You an Alpha, Beta or Gold Version Player?
by Medeor

The upcoming E3 is sure to have lots of news about the games we have all been salivating over for months.  They are out there, and they are getting ready for you to be the first to wander into their virtual Wonka factory and take a tour.  The question is, do you like to see the building under construction, or wait until the official unveiling?  Today, I look into the heart and necessary skill sets of the Beta Tester.

While we wait for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes to arrive, I thought it might be a good time to discuss one of the coveted rites of passage for a game, the Beta.  While I enjoy trying to get into Open Beta sessions for new games, I don't know if I'm fully deserving (luckily, I've usually plunked down the full cost of the game plus overnight shipping, so I feel better about it).

I have a confession to make. I am an early adopter.  New stuff rocks.  New stuff includes technology (me like new toys), new foods (can they make ranch flavored Cheetos?), and especially new games (almost any new game will do).  My thirst for new stuff, coupled with my instant-gratification gene, means that there is always excitement when the credit card bills show up at the house! 

Besides paying my full fare for the pre-order of games, I'm always intrigued by who gets into the private and open betas for new games.  We are currently hiring at my office in real life, so I thought I would write up a job description and see how I fare.  However, instead of a real description, I thought up three essential skill sets that are needed for being a successful Beta tester.  The first is, simply, the desire to be first. 

Me First and the Gimmee Gimmees

Just like you people who want to be the first to kill the biggest, baddest boss in a new game, I want to be there!  This mentality carries over into the desire for being the first to experience a game.  It’s the desire to get that much closer to the raw, usually unfinished, unadulterated, unpatched product.  There is something special about being able to see it before everyone else, explore a new zone, see a new weapon, be the first with a mount, well you get the picture.  This is a very strong trait in my discussion with other beta testers.  Being able to claim to be the first with the heinous pink armor set is a special time in a person's life.

There is one issue that counteracts my desire to be first:  I lack the patience to deal with adversity, otherwise known as “I don't like stuff that doesn't work.”  I have a closet full of prototypes and first generation gadgets and doodads that should never have been released for public consumption after "Beta."  Yet I fight on, and I will continue to overpay for slop that shouldn't be fed to pigs. 

Of course realizing one's weakness is a great strength (read any best-selling management book and you'll see that I'm right).  With skill set number one, I have to give myself a failing grade.  There are probably pictures of me in the tech support centers with the caption “WARNING, Do not help this guy.  Remember the time he called because the quest said to right click the big red arrow and we spent an hour describing the button and another hour on the color red?!” Well, let’s move on to successful skill set number two then.

The second important trait for any beta tester is patience.  There are two parts to patience, so patience makes up skill sets two and three.  The two types of patience occur in-game and in RL (Real Life).

In-game patience is required for the fun of insane lag, buggy quests, landscapes that suspend you in mid air, complete freezing, and lots of hard-booting.  Bug report, GM issues, and Kernal/Code/Error/JumpShip/Argggg are just a few of the terms with which you should be intimately familiar.  The following is a quick quiz for you to determine your Beta Tester In-Game Patience Quotient.

What typically occurs following this string of key strokes at your house:

If you answered “Thrown and broken mouse; Two fist size indents in keyboard; or Guzzle a bottle of Jack Daniels”, then you may want to look into games that have gone past the Beta stage and are closer to “Game of The Year”, Gold release status. Here is where I fail miserably.  My time is precious and if I miss a rerun of Glamour Girls just to get mad at my computer, well I get really upset.


Of course, Real Life patience is the trait that goes against all the codes in my instant gratification gene pool.  When I see something that I like, I want it NOW.  Can you tell I am an only child?  Therapy aside, I think I'm doing better.  My master-of-the-obvious friends always let me know that the almighty key to being patient is still in development, we'll just have to wait for it.  I guess we could have fun with it, like the publishers do.   We could start an office pool and see who guesses closest to the day the game actually ships.  It is similar to a baby birth office pool, only it’s about twenty times longer than the nine-month gestation of a baby.  Do they make enough squares for decades?  Again, with this skill set, I am way off the mark.

The gamesmanship of game developers always hits my funny bone.  They announce a date for delivery, then move the date, then cancel the date, then resubmit the date and then change the revision of the date to reflect an unrealistic date.  Amongst all of that hoopla, we are out here, stalking the elusive Beta keys.  I hear they come to the TenTonHammer watering hole, so keep an eye out for them!

Now that I have determined that I may not be the best candidate for a beta tester key, I will head over to the website and let them know that I have the single answer that will get me in.  That answer is my checkbook.  That little stroke of the pen will erase all my previous bad grades and get me in the door.  That is, unless they've seen my picture in the tech support center.

Do you really want to be a beta tester?  If so, why?  Is it the thrill of being first?  Is it the desire to help a game developer make a better game?  Let me know, I'd like to hear what your experiences have been with Beta testing.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Vanguard: Saga of Heroes Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.