Star Wars: The Old Republic Developer Weighs in on Beta Testing
Without a doubt, the beta testing experience has changed since the
beginning of the MMO industry. In a recent
article that Ten Ton Hammer
released to the public, the staff compiled a variety of
present and past MMO developers while putting these side-by-side with
thoughts from the Ten Ton Hammer premium members. Not wanting to miss
the action, the BioWare Austin developers working on Star
Wars: The Old Republic sent over their own
thoughts on beta testing. Straight from the mind of Co-Studio VP,
Richard Vogel, this Q&A gives players a hint of what they might
expect from the upcoming SW:TOR beta test.
Richard Vogel: The Open Beta test has changed. It is more of a “try before you buy” marketing push as well as a soft launch. You really don’t get much data from “Open” tests. It is really just making sure everything holds under stress and allows us to get people in the game early vs. everyone getting into the game on launch day. The reality of beta testing is that most people don’t play the game the way they do when it is launched. If there are exploits, they usually keep them to themselves to exploit later when the game goes live.
Ten Ton Hammer: After the release of Tabula Rasa, Richard Garriott alluded to the fact that the TR beta test actually hurt the game's chances of success. On the other hand, there were a few instances in recent games where hardware factors kept players out of the game, but when the game released it sold very well. How do developers know if a beta will hurt their retail sales? When is it appropriate to let a lot of gamers see your upcoming game? Does it hurt a company to never have a truly public display before a game launches?
Ten Ton Hammer: When is it appropriate to let a lot of gamers see your upcoming game? Does it hurt a company to never have a truly public display before a game launches?
Vogel: We feel that limiting the [number of] beta testers is a good thing. We get better data with fewer, more dedicated players and we are able to focus test specific areas of the game. You can’t do that with tens of thousands of players. It is a coordination issue. It is good, however, to allow enough players into the game to make sure it can handle the load under stress.
About 4 weeks before launch is a good time to open the game up to consumers. If you have done your job right, you will know if the game is ready before you open beta. If not, you don’t open it until it is. It doesn’t hurt a company at all to open the game up to players four weeks before launch. It allows them to try before they buy and it allows us to make sure the game holds under pressure as well as providing a rolling launch so day one is not so crowded.