Public Test Realms (PTR) have become Blizzards primary method to test new content before its release to ensure that everything is ready for public consumption. Players swarm to the PTR to look at every aspect of the game that is changing and very rapidly analyze, digest and then regurgitate the changes back to other players in easy to handle chunks of information. Is this a good thing for most players though? Should content be available before release? Byron Messiah Mudry asks the question Are PTRs a good thing?
Obviously there are many positive and negative aspects to opening up testing to the great unwashed masses. It would be difficult to list all of them, so I am going to look at just a few positives and negatives that I feel strongly about. They may not be the same ones you feel are important, and if they are not, feel free to comment in our forums and tell me what you feel is either positive or negative about PTRs.
There are a few big positive things that PTRs have going for them. Firstly, and probably most importantly they allow Blizzard to get a huge number of people looking at the content, mechanic, and every other change that has been done. This allows Blizzard to find out very quickly if there are any issues or problems and if the changes are working the way they anticipated that they would. No amount of in-house testing will find everything, neither will public testing, but the more testing options you have the more issues you will find. Also, in-house testing is more likely to not find possible abuses when compared to power hungry end-game raiders looking for every single extra point of DPS.
This means that when changes are publically tested in PTR it is more likely that any game breaking exploits, or bugs will be found and corrected before they are released into the real game. It also means that any change that goes through PTR is more likely to work correctly and be balanced in terms of game play than any change that is simply implemented into the game without public testing. Since what starts as a small change can potentially have dramatic effects in a game with the complexity of an MMO, it is important to find these issues before release. This is a huge benefit to both Blizzard and the average player.
For many players the PTR is a great way to try new things out and experiment without actually affecting their real character. I know many players that cannot wait for each new PTR launch so that they can get in and play around with gear, enchant, gem, talent, and glyph options. They feel far better wasting money and time in a PTR than on the real servers where the gold would be spent permanently. Many players also like getting in on PTR to try out the pending changes just so that they understand them and are not left confused on patch day.
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Many guilds got all the bosses down the day they were released. Mainly due to strats being available ahead of time.
Stats courtesy of guildprogress.com
When anything is tested by the public it means that people will talk. They may start saying they love it, they hate it, that its stupid, or whatever else they feel. While we are all entitled to our opinions, those opinions also help or hinder the shaping of Azeroth. The old analogy the squeaky wheel gets the grease is true in almost any situation, and I am left wondering how different the game is because of public commenting on PTRs. Is the current game better or worse than what the designers had in mind? I view this as a negative as I tend to want to see the game designers view over one that stems from a compromise to the issue that was done before it even went live.
The single biggest negative effect of a PTR to me is that all instance, battleground, and raid content is all publically and documented before it gets pushed to the live servers. Raid content, especially, is greatly analyzed to ensure that big guilds can get in and get out on night one while searching for that prestigious world or realm first. The means that new content is essentially figured out before it is released.
The Messiahs Take on PTRs
Overall I am against PTRs based on two primary issues. Those issues are player interference with game direction and the degeneration of the challenge of new content.
If Blizzard had their way without interference or comment on changes as they are being made, would the game be better or worse? There really is no way to know. My guess is that WoW would more closely representing the designers original view, not a compromised one. It would probably contain fewer compromises and be a cleaner game, but then I could be wrong, who knows.
If players had less input and the game was cleaner, would that attract additional players, or drive more players away. There is no way to tell, so we just have to deal with what we have. On this issue I see both sides as I like to complain about choices made that I do not agree with; in the end though, I greatly respect game designers and think that we should have a little more trust in them than we usually do. Even just by looking at it this way could be viewed as a contradiction since Blizzard obviously wants player feedback or they would not open us a PTR to get it. So the wheel goes around and around.
Now, the real big reason that I do not like PTRs. I really enjoy the challenge of figuring things out on my own. Having everything analyzed and digested before hand and posted online really hurts that. Even though I may choose not to look at something before going in, can I promise the same thing from the other 9 or 24 players in the raid? How many times will someone jump in and say I see on site X that this is the best way to beat this boss. While that is all well and good for many players, it is not for someone like me.
Even though I end up posting guides to content to help other players and describe the fight, I do not typically read them myself, or at least not until my group and I have figured out a fight on our own. I am lucky enough to be in a group of fairly like minded individuals that enjoy a challenge. So while some may look at strategies early, most dont, or if they do, they do not discuss them. My group tried this in the Coliseum to great success. Players walked in each week to face a new boss without actively seeking out a strategy on defeating that boss. We took some time each week, but were able to down the boss each week on the night it was released, and ranked well on the server because of it. Many players commented that this was what raiding used to be like, they had to figure things out on their own and they enjoyed it much more than following a step by step guide.
If we had gotten stuck though, would we have look to a guide for help? Maybe, but not right away, but thats just us. I dont hold it against people that do look it up, but for me, I prefer not to. Which is why I would prefer that information about fights not be available for a while after the fight is live, say at least a week. It gives players a chance to look at the fight and try to figure it out on their own for a while. Even then, my thought is only look at a guide when you are well and truly stuck.
Overall I guess this means that I would prefer PTRs not be around. I feel they allow players to have too much say too early in the design process, and for other players to shorten the life of new content, even to the point of trivializing it in many cases.
The Messiah has given his opinion on the PTRs, do you agree or disagree? Do you have additional comments or ideas? Have your say in the forums.
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