Mists of Pandaria Beta Its a Beta People!
The Mists of Pandaria Beta has been open for a while now and I have noticed several things this time around the WoW expansion beta cycle that I want to talk about. Remember that normally even though I love Blizzard games I am usually pretty critical of some poor decisions that they make (in my opinion) in terms of game play, balance, or any number of other things. Lately however I have been finding more and more often I am tending to side with some of their calls.
This article just happens to be another one that may initially come off as almost defending Blizzard, but read on. It is not actually defending Blizzard, but instead it is against many of the players and their attitudes that I am seeing in the Mists of Pandaria Beta.
The problem I am seeing in the beta this time around is that players are being down right insulting in the game and on the forums, getting upset about things not running smoothly in the game, and not offering feedback but instead just attacking the developers.
What seems to be causing this, what is beta really all about, and what should players expect in a beta.
The pure number of players
I have been in every beta for World of Warcraft since the beginning, and I have to say that this beta sure seems like there are way more players in this beta. I would love to see the numbers for players in each beta, but my feel is there are many more players in MOP beta than any previous beta. This probably has a lot to do with Blizzard allowing everyone that bought the annual pass into the beta.
I am pretty sure that the decision by Blizzard to open up the beta to so many players is a large part of the issues that I am seeing in the beta itself.
One of the main problems caused by a huge number of players in a beta is that first of all there is huge congestion in new zones or exploring new content. While this is no different than the first little while when the game launches it does cause problems for initial troubleshooting. It only takes a certain number of players to find the basic problems in a game, beyond that number you may find more problems but you also get many more reports sent in that need to be dealt with, and the issues found likely break the game for many more players, leaving more disgruntled players waiting to get past a certain point in the beta.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a need to get a large number of players into a beta so that Blizzard can stress test and find bottlenecks in quest flow, however that doesn’t have to happen so early into a beta and can wait for a later stage.
A Beta is for feedback
If you see errors or even just things that you think could be lead to exploits then it is your responsibility to report it.
Another issue with so many players getting into a Beta is that many of these players have never been in a beta before and probably don’t know what is expected in a beta.
While I blame players for not looking that up, and figuring out what they should expect and do, for this part a large portion of the blame is on Blizzard as well. While it would be nice to think that people take things seriously and look into what is expected, I have found that generally people are lazy and won’t do anything they don’t have to. Worse yet, having probably never been explained to exactly what beta is for don’t know any better. For that I blame Blizzard.
A beta test for any game is an important testing tool to help the developer find errors, issues, and problems. It is also to get feedback from players on what they feel works well, is balanced or not, what is fun, what is boring, and more.
When Blizzard sends out its beta invites, it should be made so much clearer as to what they want from players and why the beta exists. In fact for something like an MMO with so much content to be looked at they could almost enforce mandatory feedback to be allowed to continue in the beta. They could make it so that anyone with beta access that signs in during a week that doesn’t sent at least one bug report, issue report, or comment on game play, does not get to continue in the beta.
I know that is a hard line stance, but if Blizzard really wants feedback that might be the only way to actually get a lot of it. The problem is that a lot of players may send in just garbage comments just to submit something.
Criticism vs. Feedback
Next up I would like to think that players can be helpful, however if you go and read the forums for every potentially helpful message to Blizzard about the Beta there are 15-20 purely critical messages. Pointing out errors and problems is ok and in fact is what is expected in a beta. However, players should be doing it constructively not confrontationally.
I more than most love to point out Blizzards mistakes and criticize them, however in beta I have a bit more patience. Well maybe not patience as some errors or problems do get me pretty hot, pretty quickly, but I always try to remember that in a beta they are looking for feedback and comments.
When you find a problem in beta, report it
When you find something that you think is broken (either over powered or underpowered), you should report it as well. When reporting these issues though, saying “ability X is useless because it doesn’t do enough, your idiots” or “ability Y is so overpower that class Z is just going to kill everyone, get it right morons” is not likely to get anyone listening to you for long, let along trying to fix anything.
When reporting something you feel is broken, provide details, go into the math behind the ability and the numbers if you can, provide examples of the issues you can foresee it causing. Once you have laid all of those things out, list some potential solutions that you can think of.
Obviously, you don’t need to go into that kind of depth over a quest that is broke, but if it is a class ability that amount of detail really does help the developers,. Better yet putting the details in clearly in a non-confrontational way, and offering suggestions will get people listening to you and paying attention. As the old saying goes, you can catch more flys with honey than vinegar. Try being nice about what you have to say and you will get listened to.
Players expecting this to be the game (but for free)
The last of the big issues I see is that players are really expecting the beta to be the real game and just want to play the game for free before release. This to me comes across as a bit to much of a sense of entitlement by some of these players. The beta is just that a beta, it is not the real game.
If you are coming into the Beta just to play the game early and have no intention of offering any feedback then maybe playing in a beta isn’t for you.
As you can see there is some expectations on players in a beta. If you didn't know that, now you do. I blame Blizzard for not informing players of the expectations, but I also blame players for not really looking into what is expected.
Anyone should be able to look at the question "why would a developer allow free access to a game before release?" and come up with the fact that they want something from you. Sure, they want you excited about the game enough to buy it, but betas only help so much there, given the chance to explore a game for free does not necessarily mean you will then go buy it, it can equally mean that you realize it isn't for you and not purchase it even though you were going to initially. No, what they expect is help finding problems to make the real release better than they reasonably could with in-house only resources. Most people should be able to come to that conclusion without any help, yet it seems that most people don't even think about it. Instead they think "beta = free game time" and go about on their own self absorbed ignorantly blissful way.
Hopefully, this will change over time, but for now people, please just remember that "It's a Beta, it will not be perfect, so quit complaining, and start helping constructively."