The Rigors of Beta Testing: The Past, Present, and Future

Updated Mon, Apr 20, 2009 by Cody Bye

There’s something magical about being accepted into a closed beta test. Whether you’re a veteran of MMOs who finally decided to jump into the testing portion of a game’s development cycle or a relative virgin to the MMO experience that fell in love with a well-known IP, receiving that “You’re Invited!” email from a gaming studio/publisher is like opening presents on Christmas Day. You’re ready to work closely with the development team, helping them to iron out bugs and improving game systems that aren’t quite up to snuff. As the new kid in the testing phase, you're prepared to formulate fantastic posts for the message boards that argue about the functionality of certain mechanics, and you expect thousands of bugs will be reported thanks to your efforts.

But in this modern era of MMO gaming, do your efforts really make a difference on the final design of the game? Is it possible to convince a developer that the game truly isn’t ready to launch? That they should polish the title for another 2-3 months to work out the kinks? Or are those items set in stone as soon as a game reaches any sort of “public” beta testing stage?

To answer these questions, Ten Ton Hammer extended an open invitation to the highest tier of MMO developers – those men and women that make the big decisions about beta tests – current and former high level employees of studios like Cryptic Studios, NetDevil, Sony Online Entertainment, Funcom, and Mythic Entertainment. While we may never know the inner workings behind some of past MMO development teams, these individuals can give us a glimpse into what their thought processes are when they start inviting the public into their testing ground.

To provide another viewpoint, the Ten Ton Hammer staff also took time to ask our legion of premium members about their thoughts on beta testing. As some of the most informed MMO fans on the planet, these individuals offer an interesting glimpse into the mind of the gamer. Their entries are as informative as they are entertaining. Once you're finished with the article, make sure you head on over to our forums and jot down your own thoughts on the beta testing process!

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