I’ve begun to realize over the last year or so that I’m moving beyond the desire to participate in any MMO beta programs. This is for several reasons. First and foremost, any of the increasingly limited time I have for playing really should go towards something more “polished” and “permanent”. Two, of the betas that I have participated in, I can honestly say that only a few actually had structures and processes in place that encouraged “beta testers” to provide feedback and bug reports. Three, for the games I already know I’m going to play (The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2), I’ve realized that I’d much rather go into launch day fresh with no previous experience or impressions; and I’d rather do that on the “production” version of the game. Finally, MMO “betas” – both Closed and Open at this point – have actually become an institutionalized version for what most gamers use them – previewing the game to decide if they will buy it (or buy into it for the F2P titles). It’s almost like the developers recognized why most people applied for their beta and threw in the towel. At most, Closed Betas have become load and balance testing for the hardware, software, and game mechanics, and Open Beta has become a preview event.
That doesn’t mean I don’t apply for betas anymore, particularly for titles in which I am keenly interested, or those that are trying something new. For something like Vindictus, which seems to really be trying something new, I was actually interested in testing out their combat system and running it through it’s paces. And, yes, I’d have liked to get an early look! I’m no fool; there’s always a chance.
What most (or any for that matter) MMOs don’t do is ever provide players with feedback about the status of their beta application. Nexon’s email letting me know I hadn’t been selected is the first I can remember. Most times you throw your name into the mix and never hear anything again. You may as well be screaming into the void. I have to say it’s refreshing to have a company actually treat it’s prospective customers with a little respect and professionalism. Most developers seem to consider gamers-as-testers, potential PAYING CUSTOMERS mind you, are a commodity that can be fully taken for granted. They know they’ve probably got you, even before they release their product, based on the fact that you’ve applied to be a “tester”; and if they let you in and you never test anything, or never buy afterwards, what have they really lost? The only thing keeping them from letting everyone in are the limits of their test hardware (and maybe the current version of the software). Oh, and the Marketing Department. Nothing builds hype and a sense of importance like exclusivity. Good hype means unit sales.
On the home front, the camping trip was especially nice this year; good weather, and the kids really loved the beach. And the campfire. Especially the campfires. Like most times I take a vacation that excludes gaming, it made me think about the things I wish could be done in our virtual worlds. Things like campfires. And, no, LotRO’s campfires for cooking and morale don’t count. I mean the social types.