“Open” Beta

If you declare your beta “open” but require a beta key and:

Q: Where can I get a beta key?
A: Open beta keys are included in all pre-order boxes, and are given out by selected partners. Check back later for the list of partners that are giving out beta access.

then either you are unfamiliar with the term “open beta” or you are intentionally using terms deceptively. Neither inspires long-term trust for running a complex software project.

: Zubon

I’m saving up my snark about how long “paid beta” will run past release.

29 thoughts on ““Open” Beta”

  1. When will we learn? If the product was good, they’d be advertising it. My *cough* favorite MMO dropped it’s NDA early.

    Just sayin…

    *cough*

    Oh yeah, but when WILL we learn? I STILL HOPE! WHY DO I STILL HOPE FOR STAR TREK ONLINE?!

    I do. I so totally do. :[

  2. Could be worse – they could be promising beta access to their next, totally unrelated, project to anybody who bought a lifetime subscription to his one.

  3. Cryptic clearly have a very broad definition of ‘open’. Remember the Champs ‘open’ beta required signing up to FilePlanet?

  4. And that’s the reason why I went from
    “Awesome, can’t wait for Aion to open the beta. Let’s spend 2 days downloading the beta client. I can’t wait, I’m so excited.”
    to
    “NCSoft can bite me. I’m never gonna try out Aion. Congratalulations, you just lost one box sold and some months of subscriptions with your attitude.”

  5. Well, it’s Cryptic… a friend already managed to download the client, but he can’t participate as he did not preorder.

    I preordered, which should not be necessary…

    There is NO OBLIGATION to BUY the game if you order it at Amazon for example. I do not know about Steam or Impulse.

    But should it really be necessary that I have to do a preorder/cancel maneuver just to get into an open beta? Their “betas” have become open promotions instead of real testing anways, so they should be open to every interested player.

  6. Agreed with the sentiment that an open beta should be open, but at the same time it isn’t exactly hard to get hold of a key. I managed to get a closed beta key through following a few employees of gaming review sites on twitter. Who I then unfollowed. GG.

    At any rate, gamers are mainly to blame for the shift in the meaning of the word “beta” as so few of those who participate give feedback and instead use beta as a free trial. So now they treat betas as free trials and games get released buggy as hell.

    I don’t hold much hope for STO though – its going to be a “wait 4 months and see” job.

  7. Unfortunately now-a-days, when companies say “open” beta, they mean, “limited” beta. In 3 days of closed beta I have submitted many bug reports, but I have also canceled my pre-order due to the limited scope of this game. The last straw was after I had created one Engineering class and one Klingon, I wanted to create a Science class. I clicked “New Character” and got a message that “You have reached your limit and must purchase additional character slots from the Cryptic Store.”. Wait, so their are 3 Fed classes and 3 Klingon classes, but if I want to create more than 2 characters you are going to charge me?!? in addition to the monthly fee?!?

    1. You know that the character slot limit is yet to be decided? Two is definitely too few, I agree. But what they had in closed beta might not be the same for release.

      Probably better to have too few than too many before they decide; people will get pissed off also if they would have to reduce the # of slots at release.

      Of course, deciding early and have plenty of slots would avoid pissing off people at all, at least for that ;)

  8. Why should developers bother with an open beta at all, when they can use beta invites as leverage for pre-orders, funding from partners, contests to drive traffic and create content… etc.

    Why let people in to an unfinished game, for free? You should at least weasel some good for yourself out of the deal. Beta players are generally just going to judge you on your flaws and move on.

    Sure, there was a time when open beta was about testing, but that’s long since over. Generally (ignoring the hardcore fans) people will put up with the same number of bugs in beta as they will post launch. The game is either fun, or not fun.

    Think about it. Games go into open beta a month or less before release. This is a time when the developers are probably already doing significant overtime just getting rid of the bugs they had going IN to open beta, never mind the new player reported bugs. An ambitious and well funded developer may have left a reasonable amount of time for tackling those, but most probably just prioritize them and mix them in with the pool they already have.

    Of course the general feedback is nice. Nobody would want to launch a game into completely uncharted waters. When players have said things were REALLY fucked up in open betas a few developers actually managed to push back release and change things up, for better or worse. That’s pretty rare.

    So all these ‘get keys from our partners’, ‘get keys when you pre-order’ shenanigans… That’s just how the execs justify having an open beta at all anymore. Other than that, what’s the point?

    How to make an open beta worthwhile?

    – Go in without a solid release date. Have a respectable chunk of developer time scheduled for dealing with player bugs and feedback.

    – You need to have already dealt with any game-breaking issues, so as not to scare the more sensitive players away.

    – Give players incentives for reporting bugs and giving good feedback. It’s the whole point of the operation. Give them a carrot and they will find issues and exploits that would have taken months to come out otherwise.

    But then if you have the funding and mindset to do all of that your game is probably already going to be pretty good.

  9. Yeah. Along with the FunCom “All your <20 chars are going to be deleted unless you resub, kthxbai" this must be the week of boneheaded MMO company decisions.

  10. Yeah I never really understood the differnce between “close” and “open” betas. They seem to be exactly the same, just that the “open” beta is a little easier to get into – even though you still need to apply for a key or pre-order the game.

  11. This was my first reaction too.

    But, Ten Ton Hammer is now giving away keys — yes, free — and supposedly other of the major MMO sites will also have keys very shortly.

    As for requiring a key? Since they’re using the same account system as their live games, I’d say that re-coding it to allow a keyless account lies somewhere between impractical and impossible. And they still want to limit numbers until the full complement of hardware is available, I’m guessing. Open beta is typically a stress test, not a bug-bash.

    Oh, yeah, and it’s more a marketing tool these days than a real beta. But that seems to be the nature of the beast and not limited to Cryptic.

  12. Who will be the best beta testers? Those with stake in the game. It’s that simple. Which would you care more about a Big Mac you won by beating a co-worker at a sudoku race or a Big Mac that was handed to you while you were walking down the street thinking about lunch? I know which two-pattied hamburger would taste better for me.

    More seriously, I figured open beta now meant terms of discussion. Closed was under NDA. I thought that’s what it meant now since things have changed (what Dan Gray said).

  13. Do player bug reports even get read? I’ve always suspected the bug report buttons are just to make you feel good and they are simply piped to /dev/null … at least that’s what I would do if I have a million “testers” who I’m not providing with the tools necessary to actually test (ie. at least read access to the bugzilla).

  14. Not surprising… and about as rational as those players that read “OPEN BETA” as “my time to play a free MMO … till it’s released.”

    By placing a small access barrier, they’re probably hoping that their test beta base will be a bit more useful than the typical “never reports, only gripes on 3rd-party sites and damages the reputation of a game that isn’t even released yet” open beta tester. “Open Beta” isn’t “free trial” or “my chance to blow through the content before they start charging” as many professional testers use it.

    If they get the numbers they need to load balance AND get enough constructive data back in this system, more power to ’em. Want a free trial? Wait for them to offer it post-release. Why should they waste bandwidth and architecture at a time when the code and resources aren’t yet optimized for nothing in return?

  15. I think they’re aware that when open beta actually meant open beta the MMO subscriber base was thought to be 10 times smaller than it is today, so those who know open beta means anyone can download this because we want to stress test our servers and it isn’t even really a real beta will know, but everyone else will not.

  16. I don’t know Zubon. You’ve told us what you think open beta isn’t, which is, I gather, a barrier to entry that allows only those with pre-orders or those who get a key from the as-yet-unspecified partners (I’m going to guess that being a FilePlanet member will get you a key and places like Massively will probably have batches to give away) to get into the beta.

    But you seem to assume that we know what you mean when you write “open beta.” I haven’t seen a dictionary with “open beta” listed, so I know of no definitive definition of the term. What restrictions can an open beta have and still be called “open?” Does “open” have to mean no barriers, or does it mean that you can into it if you want to?

    With so much in the industry to snark about, I feel that you have picked something of an ill-defined point about which to get fussy.

  17. An “open beta” is one where anyone who wishes can download the client and participate. Anything else is some variety of Private or Closed beta.

    Allods, for example, sent thousands of keys to a number of websites, meaning that pretty much anyone who wanted to get into the beta could do so. But since they didn’t just put up a link to the client and allow all-comers to participate they called it “Closed Beta”.

    The term I personally have trouble with is “soft launch”.

  18. An open beta to me is that the company is not making the selection of who can enter – you do not need an invitation to get into it. Open does not mean “free/gratis” to me.

    It may not be a good or smart move from Cryptic with more games and titles competing with other business models than the usual fork-up-cash-for-the-game-then-pay-subscription approach; still that is a different issue.

  19. Massively has/had 10k free keys. I received my key through them with not even so much as a sign up for their site. Perhaps clarity on the situation should be obtained before bashing of the company begins?

  20. Back when it used to mean a damned thing, “Closed beta” was the testing of the actual beta software (not even a release candidate) by a comparatively small group of selected and more or less supervised and instructed testers. “Open beta” was the testing of the next iteration (not the testing of the exact same thing just with more people), based on the closed beta feedback, closer to launch but not necessarily still a release candidate, although sometimes it tended to be. There could be stress testing thrown in as well, or not, and there really wasn’t anything “select” about it.

    Keeping in mind the many differences, what the “demo” was (and is) for single player games, the modern “open beta” is the same for modern MMOs: A chance for people to get in contact with a decidedly incomplete game, try it out and see if they like it, tell others about it, with the addition of a bug reporting mechanism that may or may not be listened to. That’s about it.

    I don’t object to the “beta” part. It’s calling it “open” what bugs me. “Open” to me means “Here’s the client, download it, make a test account and take a look”. Pointless website signups, limited availability not out of necessity but to create a feeling of prestige, exclusive deals with one download service or another, keys given as contests… there’s nothing “open” about it, at least not how I always understood “open”.

  21. I think Wilhelm has a point, Open beta is very ill defined. However, most people seeing “Open Beta” these days think “FTP for two weeks”.

  22. Personally, I have understood “open” to refer to the lack of an NDA. In this way, Cryptic’s beta is open, even though it requires you to go purchase a pre-order of the game from Target for 99 cents.

    Basically open does not = free.

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