Blog: Beta testers, early access and pre-Alpha phases.
After last week we released our first «Blog» post with «Far Cry 4: Is a top-of-the-range graphics really necessary?», and as a result of the problems that you are surely already aware of at Ubisoft regarding the The latest title released on the market, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, we return to the charge to reflect on the need for Beta Testers in games, a role that seems to have disappeared and which, on the other hand, some companies use for their own benefit.
In the past, and I’m talking about the last decade, video game companies did not even consider concepts such as “pre-sale” (yes, reservations), BETA or pre-Alpha phase, and much less early access to their video games. Years ago, companies had people on staff, on a payroll (even if it was with work and service contracts) to test the games, detect bugs and fix them before they went on the market. It worked very well, since there is no doubt that before the games, far from being free of bugs, did not have the blunders that we are suffering in some titles today. Without going any further, you just have to see Battlefield 4 or Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
But having professional Beta Testers was expensive for companies, since after all it is a payroll (or several) that they had to pay, and the production cost of a game was increased. The Internet is a very powerful tool, and in addition to promoting yourself when you have a game in development and creating hype among users, it also serves many other things. For this reason, for years now many companies have sought to replace the role of professional Beta Tester by other methods, such as the BETA phases in which users can test the game and report bugs, or recently the pre-Alpha phases such as the that Evolve has had recently. This is relatively good, since at the end of the day they allow users to try the title they are going to launch for free, aware that they still have many problems to fix.
However, with these BETA and pre-Alpha phases, they are using normal users to test their games, and at the end of the day they depend on their own monitoring systems and user reports that are willing to do so. They don’t have professionals dedicated to looking for problems. They do not have the Beta Tester profile.
The final straw comes when some companies decided to launch “Early Access”. Through this practice, the developers are selling their game before it is finished, with the excuse that users can try it before anyone else. These users are acting as Beta Testers, not only free of charge for the company, but also paying. And they cannot complain since it is very clear that the game may contain errors and “bugs”, be incomplete, or simply not work (there have been cases), but the money is already in the pockets of the developers.
Does the Beta Tester profile need to come back?
Absolutely yes. But the bad part is that users have almost gotten used to buying games with problems, and companies seem to wait for users to start complaining and turning green to release game updates fixing these problems, thanks to the magic of the Internet. . In the past, this was unthinkable, games had to be released complete and without errors (or with as few errors as possible), and when someone released a game with a serious error, they could prepare because the barrage of complaints was going to be terrible, and they went out of their way to find a solution that would not harm users.
Today is not so. Incomplete games or with terrible problems are released and people turn green on them on social networks, a week later they release a patch and it’s like nothing has happened.
That it is very good that they launch free BETAS so that users can try the games before they come out. That it is very good that they release patches solving the errors. But that’s not how things should be. It is necessary that the Beta Tester profile returns, so that if you spend the money on a game, it is complete and free of problems, which is why you have paid it. And without professional Beta Testers this is not possible, and I refer to the tests.