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Respawn: The Definition of Alpha and Beta

Posted Tue, Feb 04, 2014 by Xerin

Respawn

Landmark is out and it’s time for us to discuss alpha vs. beta vs. gold! This PSA is brought to you by me, and so far I think is completely unneeded given the fervor the Landmark community currently has, which is what is keeping me warm in my very cold apartment through the heartwarming display of support that SOE is receiving from the community. Anyway, let’s go over the TRUE MMO DEFINITION of alpha.

Alpha: A state that isn’t beta, it isn’t an idea, it is playable, but it has little to no features finished, nothing is done, its broken, and there is little to no reason to allow the public to play the game beyond helping them decide the direction of the game.

Beta: A state in which the game is “finished,” the features are implemented, but they need to finish hammering out bugs and polishing the game.

Gold: The game is set and ready to be published to CD / handed off to distributors.

Soft Launch: Launching the game as a beta and allowing everyone in.

Launch / Live: Game is done.

So with this in mind, it’s important to understand that alpha means alpha and when you get to play an alpha, you are playing an unfinished product. MMOs now are awesome for understanding this and SOE did a jam up job forcing everyone to watch a six minute educational film which I am behind 100%.

So, if an alpha isn’t what you like, tell the devs. If it is what you like, tell the devs. Get on twitter and @ developers and fill in the forms. People read all of that stuff, so even if you don’t get a response, it usually generally gets read. Instances in which responses aren’t given are usually due to the fact that it’s a mass opinion (i.e. a large group thinks the same thing) so it’s more efficient to talk to the group then to the person, if that makes sense.

The interesting thing is that MMOs deal with alphas really well. The community is understanding and everyone is alright with the fact that the game is barely finished. A lot of this is because the way MMO development works is that different teams are working on different features and they can roll them into the game in a rather short period of time (usually less than six months). By the time a game is ready for alpha, it’s on the fast track to completion.

A lot of non-MMO games hurt themselves by releasing the alpha version. The content is consumed in its earlier state (the story / the mechanics / etc.) then it’s so difficult to just go back and do what you’ve done before, just differently. With MMOs, you have a variety of options. You can start a new class, entire zones could have changed, and there is little that you can do to consume all of the content.

Anyway, back on point. This is a friendly PSA to remember that games like Landmark are alpha. This isn’t some giant excuse for the client crashing or the bugs or the errors. It’s just a statement that the game is in alpha and everyone should enjoy it as such. I have faith that all of my readers understand and know the principle, but if you know someone who is complaining, kindly use the following speech:

“<game> is currently in alpha, meaning that it’s not meant to be consumed by the public. As such, the issues that you are stating wrong with it will be fixed at a later time.”

When they inevitably say “yeah right” in however many words, simply say:

“Well, if at that point the problems are not fixed, then you don’t have to buy the game. Judging it at its current state though is just wrong and unfair to the developer who is allowing people to consume their content earlier.”

Of course, you could just also go HEH ITS AN ALPHA over and over until they stop talking, but I’ll leave that choice up to you.

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