Betas (Good, Bad, and Ugly)

Hey Folks, (scroll down for the TL;DR version)

I just felt like I need to get something off my chest. The whole idea of paying and being involved in a beta just sounds dirty to me.

EA did it with BF4 (the early access dlc was basically a beta that we paid 40-50 dollars for with premium) This imo is why it's bad and on top of that the game is still janky.

In the past I've been involved in some really awesome betas. Some of the good ones were: City of Heroes and Lotro. In those two games I just mentioned there was dev and player collaboration whether it was a Q&A session, forum input, or in the actual game through events. And most of the betas I've been involved in were by invite. Free essentially to play a game I might buy and help out with the development. Its a necessary evil that must be done with software to work out the kinks.

I just get the feeling with new models and marketing of games (kickstarter and steam early access) and that it's ok to pay for alpha and beta access. And while I don't totally oppose this sort of marketing to me I have to take a step back and say: This is not what I paid for. There was a time where they invited us to play and interacted with us players for free. By invitation is the key here. We all get we only have access to beta software and not the final gold version of the game. That's ok. It's still an ugly business imo if you have to pay and then don't go as far as other dev houses go when they freely invite players and interact with them somehow. I'm seeing a lack of dev presence interacting with the audience with these ugly paid alphas and betas.

Some 'ugly' beta/alpha I've done: Battlefield 4 (pay to get early access), Firefall (pay to get beta access), Rust (20 dollars on steam early access), Tribes: ascend(early game access and beta if you pay the retail amount). Don't get me wrong on any of these games. Most of these games are awesome in a matter of speaking. I'm just saying they all lack that dev/player interaction and we have to pay for it to play. I wonder if gone are the days that betas meant something and not just a marketing tool for publishers to cash in on and then deliver less than an invited beta.

ESO is a good example of another ugly beta. Sure it was invite but look how that game turned out even with player interaction with the devs. Just another marketing tool.

(TL:DR) Betas have become, in my opinion, just another marketing tool for publishers to cash in on. Invites are gone and what is left is paid for access and not going that extra mile to get player/dev interaction together.

Agreed. Paid Beta access is just so that people can share playthrough videos labeled as "spoilers", for essentially free marketing. In other words, YouTubers are their cloud-sourced marketing team and they pay the game publisher so that they can access it earlier and do the marketing for them. In other words, they're getting people with too much money (and not enough sense) to buy games before they're ready, and since most of the testing is done and it's just a marketing ploy with only very minor bug fixes (unless you're EA, in which case you've probably suffered brain damage after you tried to access servers in the first week). So gamers are paying for the "privilege" of being able to beta-test and market games, jobs that normally the game publisher would have to pay others to do. In terms of strategy, this is brilliant, and it also helps bring about better awareness of a game's flaws before the official release, and it gives money to developers looking to get something back as soon as possible to quickly recover some of the initial investment.

The issue here is this: I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts, diddly-dee (wait, no, I just tried to wrap my head around why EA has made it's choices, and I ended up with a mild aneurism, but I'm back-ish)... sorry, well, the issue is that as long as there aren't any in-game permanent, exclusive or anti-competitive items or digital content being offered to those who pre-order games to get early-access in beta gameplay, I have no issues with it whatsoever. I don't mind gamers being used to market a game's strengths and weaknesses.

What I have an issue with is if those game publishers try to censor reviews of games that are in early-access beta through use of DMCA Takedown Notices on YouTube if they dislike the review highlight a game's flaws or giving it an unfavorable review. I also have issues with games giving early-access players unfair advantages or permanent/exclusive digital content, like ESO locking out the Imperial Race to all those who didn't pre-order the game.

I like games where everything can be earned through gameplay, and nothing paid will give you any kind of advantage that normal gameplay couldn't or wouldn't. I think skill, strategy and intelligence should be the determining factors in a fair, competitive online game. If competition isn't fair, what's the point? A victory-auction doesn't sound fun, it sounds boring, vain and idiotic. Buying victory isn't winning, it's greed for the company selling it, it's vanity for the buyer who thinks money and skill are equivalent, and it's obnoxious and annoying for the gamer who just wants a game where the playing field is equal and all players have equal opportunity to win regardless of how much (or how little) they pout into said game (assuming they bought the original game, of course).

And that isn't too outlandish, is it?

Just don't look at EA, and Activision, and what ever. Try to ignore them, and theyr freakin marketing. The only game I am looking forward to buying soon, is metro: last light. And they had only a pre-sale BS where they want you to buy ranger hardcore for 5$ (which is now but included again in most metro: last light games, as I gathered correctly). But many players reacted harshly to it, who play the metro games. If Battlefield is doing such thing, or Call of Duty, it seems like nobody cares. Just ignore the ones, who should be ignored, and support the better ones (studios, games, etc....). Costs you less nerves, and is productive for better games etc.

Agreed. However, closed beta is a sound marketing strategy that helps game studios iron out some of the final bugs, get publicity, and get some money without releasing their game on steam (where Steam or other online e-tailers would eat up some of the profit), so the game company, investors and owners can get some of their original investment back, and help free up some the tied up investment capital so that the publisher or game studio can have a bit more financial freedom.

It's a good strategy, but the issue I have isn't a paid early access. I have an issue with monetization strategies that exclude early adopters, or that auction off victory or in-game unfair advantages to those willing to pay more. That's a real issue in my opinion, and it's where we need to focus our attention. Not being able to access a game for 2 weeks or even 6 weeks isn't that bad - I'll live, and I'm sure many gamers would survive without accessing a game for that long as well. It's just when companies like Zenimax that try to make a game paid to buy, monthly subscriptions, micro-transactions, cosmetic improvements, early access, exclusive digital content, etc. That really, really irks.

I don't want to play a competitive game if I have to compete against people who can buy victory, because a victory auction isn't a game, it's an auction where the winner inflates his ego and deflates his wallet for the sake of vanity and the false impression that he has better skill in spite of his unfair advantage. It's that kind of policy that pushes me over the edge, and keeps me from buying anything that a game publisher would sell in the near future. It's not enough to just not buy one game; boycotting a company that adopts bad policies will do a lot more to get the executive officers in a company ready to change their policies really quickly. Just boycott companies that have bad policies in regard to this kind of thing, and I can assure you they'll stop in a hurry. =)

Just love the Elite:Dangerous scheme. 100£ for beta / game / expansion pass. Game is 35, so is the expansion pass. So that means, for 30£ extra, I get to test out the bugs?

Planetary Annihilation on steam used to be like 90 usd for early alpha.... rediculous

I've never really been in betas due to various reasons, but the ones I have personally been in have been a mixed bag. The biggest joke is Wasteland 2 since I was under the assumption that as somebody who payed for the Kickstarter I would get access to the Beta if they had one. Nope, sorry, you have to pay extra for that. I figured it would be interesting to watch a game develop even if I end up disliking it, but now I can only watch what's happening through the infrequent emails I get from them.

On the other hand there's the Rift beta that I was able to test out since the first one they did. That was a great beta in my opinion because as players we could see changes happening from test to test. I even had a nice chat with somebody from the dev team when a Rift that opened was being an absolute bitch. One-hit kills from the lowest level monster got the dev team on the issue in no time. Unfortunately that did cause the beta to go down for a little while.

I'm not seeing where there's a problem with the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter.  They were pretty clear what pledge tiers did and did not have beta access.