When Beta Isn’t Beta But Really Is

I have been mulling over this question since the Guild Wars 2 first Beta Weekend Event wrapped up…  Was ‘selling’ beta access a wise choice on the part of Arenanet?

I have had the privilege over the years to participate in numerous closed testing phases for dozens of MMOs, and I take the dutiful junior developer role very seriously when I get invited to these events.   I have also participated in ‘Open Beta’ events which is a fancy word for final stress test or more typically, Marketing Weekend.   With that bias, I logged into Tyria on Friday afternoon, fully expecting a Gold edition game client, perhaps in need of a few tweaks…  we had after all, paid to be here.

After summing up my very early impressions of the game and the state of the overall client, reading through the amazingly insightful commentary from our KTR community, playing some more, reading reviews from other bloggers, I got to thinking about how my perspective and expectations upon entering the weekend were completely off.   I expected a Marketing Event, and was put-off by an actual beta testing phase.

Ravious wrote yesterday about an already impressive developer response to criticism and suggestions posted via the Beta forums, Twitter and Facebook, and from that alone one can assume that they intend to make more than minor tweaks in the coming months.   Though they couch what they can change or add at this stage, their comments lead me to believe we have many more months to go before we get accounts that will stick.

On Facebook today, I read that we can expect another Beta Weekend Event, at least every month until launch…   That to me sounds like they think they have a long ways to go, which is in my opinion, very encouraging, because I agree with them.   The game is great fun, has potential to be a very engaging PvP MMO in the vein of DaoC and does a lot of things right in PvE, but it is also filled with issues that need to be addressed prior to a launch.

So back to my primary question…   should Arenanet have conducted the Beta in this format?   From a business standpoint, the answer is a resounding yes…    If we all hated the game and never played again, they still have our money so who cares, right?   It isn’t a simple as that though…   It was clear to everyone involved that there were too many people straining the server architecture, in too short of time.  They managed to fix it, but for many people a third of the event had passed before they did…  an event people paid to be a part of.   If its Beta, you go in knowing you might have issues…   when you buy an experience, your attitude and perspective changes.   Perhaps they should have introduced a few larger closed beta stress test events prior to these ‘Open Beta’ events that could have prevented these issues from affecting their paying customers.

I didn’t experience the critical login errors that others did, but many of my guild mates did and on Friday night we had just four of over twenty of our guild able to play together on the same server.  Of those four, only two of us could ever find each other in PvE.   Looking back on the weekend in the context of “That was actually Beta” I don’t mind as much, but in the moment I was very annoyed and thinking “This is not going to launch well.  MEH.”

The success of their sales as a result of this ‘Beta Access” perk is definitely going to become a standard feature in the industry.  No studio after seeing this upfront cash during development, will pass up an opportunity to do it this way, but is that a good road for the industry to tread down?   We used to volunteer to run game development QA…  now we have to pay for the privilege to work for the company.

I just don’t know…   What do you all think?


63 thoughts on “When Beta Isn’t Beta But Really Is”

  1. Hi there! I understand the frustration but I did not experience it as negative personally, I really enjoyed the beta and wish I could still be playing. I don’t see it in the sense that I “BOUGHT” beta access… I bought the game and the beta access and head start is merely an awesome bonus added!!! It was a fun weekend and I really enjoyed finding some of the bugs and reporting them (call it exploration lol)… The sleep jumping cracked me up!!!

    1. Totally agree with Pyro, I did not see this as buying beta access. I bought a game that I have been planning on purchasing for many years, the headstart and beta access are a bonus for me.

      1. Same here. It’s not as if I’m paying extra, I’m just paying early… which I would have done anyways. The fact that I also get to be part of the testing process is basically fanboi squee incarnate tyme.

    2. Exactly… we paid for the game… we got beta access and headstart as a bonus for making up our mind about buying the game early.

      There were plenty of other bloggers who understood this;
      and also recognized that there would be numerous folks who took exactly the wrong attitude into the experience (as the writer of this OP did…)

  2. Many games run into comparable day 1 issues on the actual release, precisely because they didn’t do this kind of testing in the beta phase. They crash and burn under the stress or the queues stretch into the next few days…

    I think we’ll get more stable servers and better load handling (e.g. improving the overflow mechanic) as a result of this test. I think the upfront cash was fairly instrumental in setting up enough servers to handle a large enough load to actually test a reasonable approximation of the launch crush.

    I would say that ANet should shell out for their own testing, but what I see from companies that don’t do this prepurchase-beta approach is that they skip this mega-load testing instead of paying for it.

  3. I completely agree with Pyro, I don’t consider it buying beta, I consider it buying the game early and from comitting my money early getting beta access in return. If people expected a marketing event and a smooth, well polished experience, I think their expectations where wrong, not ArenaNets way of going about it.

    Edited just to say this: WUT a commenting system with a edit button? So full of win! :D

    1. Ethic is the Grand Overlord of Blog Features, I will pass your enjoyment of the edit button on to him!

    2. If nothing else, other than the login and overflow issues it really was pretty polished and smooth for a game still firmly in beta phase.

  4. Personally I think of it this way:
    – You paid for the game, the fact that you paid before the games release is why you got access to the Beta events, you didn’t actually pay for this access since people after release will pay the exact same price for the game only. No betas for them.
    – It was a BETA weekend event, beta =/= Demo. It is there for testing, and finding bugs that haven’t been found, reporting them and then fixing them. If there was maybe a glaring bug with the game that was found in this BWE and reported, but not fixed in the release I would complain.
    – Even though this was a Beta weekend event, personally even though I experienced a bit of lag and connecting issues, I took it as “It’s beta, they’re aware of it now and they’ll fix it” And this is the standpoint you should take. You didn’t pay for the beta access, you paid for the game. You just got the beta access as a present for paying before the game is finished, and that’s the point of it all, you can’t complain about an unfinished product, there’s obviously still time to polish and fix it, you’ll be granted access into another event, and there you’ll probably experience some more bugs, but they’ll be fixed (hopefully), if they aren’t, you can complain then. But until then, Beta is Beta and not a finished game, it’s there for testing not for experiencing what the finished product will be like.

  5. I’ll parrot everyone else here. I don’t think you paid for beta. You paid for the game at some future point, and got the beta for now.

    You could spend the same $60 (or whatever) dollars 3-4 months from now and get the same thing you got. The game.

    They just toss in the beta because it’s a good way to reward people who are already chomping at the bit to play.

  6. Thus far the commentters are missing my question… In the past Pre-Order Beta access has been done. No one to my knoledge has ever done this with a full purchase program beforehand to ensure the beta access…

    So while you may not ‘think of it’ like your paying for beta access, you are, because it was an advertised feature of the product you purchased.

    Is this good or bad for the industry, not did you or did you not have fun this weekend.

    1. Phrased another way… how many of you would have paid already in full for your game without a release date, if testing were not involved?

      1. Personally I would have still prepurchased the game. I’ve been waiting for it for so long that I wouldn’t mind putting my money down before even if just not to forget later on. (very forgetful) On the other hand, Even if you take it as if you paid for Beta, the matter still stands, You paid for a BETA. Not the finished product, the meaning of beta is that the game is not finished, and it is being tested and worked on. By “paying for beta” you know full well that what you’re getting is not a finished product. It will have bugs, and it will require your input into making the game much better, via surveys and reporting bugs. Beta’s still do not equal Demos. They’re there for testing and polishing, no matter if you buy it or not.

      2. Yes, it’s a factor. We get our “Junior Developer” badge, after all.

        I think that I can safely say that I was ready to buy the game after seeing the press beta footage. But I also have the history of experience as a long-time, on-again, off-again GW1 player. It’s my decision as a consumer, based on the information that I have researched. It’s good for me, which I find more compelling than wondering if it’s good for “the industry”. What’s good for the industry isn’t always going to be good for the consumer. It could turn out that way with GW2, for that matter. But fans of the next game that tries this tactic are going to have to make that decision for themselves. I think that we are smart enough to make those decisions.

      3. I would have, but then I’m a GW vet who got to play GW2 for hours at two separate conventions, so I feel I had a very strong idea what I was buying into. I may not even participate in all of the BWEs since I got so much gameplay in last weekend that I don’t want to burn out at this point.

      4. Yes, like I said in my post above, I have planned on purchasing this game for many years, so beta access or no beta access I would have prepurchased.

      5. I do not know for sure but I would more than likely be in a minority that would if I liked and trusted the company developing the game, and it was a game I was sure I would play. I did not pre-purchase for the beta or even the head start. I pre-purchased to support a company and game I have an interest in and for me at least it is not as if I am wasting money. Whether I buy it 6 months or a year in advance or at release I am spending the same amount of cash.

        Additionally I did have issues as many had getting in to actually play the beta, but for me I expected as much. A beta is a beta. I want however many issues as possible to happen and be fixed in the beta phases because I know that once the game is launched bigger issues become much more difficult to address.

        Or that’s my opinion at least. I do not feel I payed for the beta, just the game whenever it comes out, and supported Anet in the mean time is all.

      6. I paid in full because it is the only game I’ve seriously been interested in for over two years, I got a deal and I got headstart, and I got a hero’s band that i will never ever take off.

      7. does it matter? the buyer buys the game, not the beta access. anyone who brought the game in prepurchase and isnt satisfied now, knew this could happen and could have just waited for this weekends feedback, after all it was stated before prepurchase launch that there would be more than 2 of these events and that he could just wait to see how the first one goes. or just hope for a betainvitation.

      8. I had been planning on playing GW2, but probably would not have pre-ordered as soon as I did if it wasn’t for the beta weekend. I had already decided I would be pre-ordering for some of the other perks.

        I look at it in comparison with Blizzards year pass. It’s a way for them to generate revenue (not up front, but with a year commitment to pay) and give a Diablo 3 ($60 value) and beta access to their new expansion. By signing up in Oct2011, they guaranteed ~12x$15=$180 and gave something worth $60 plus the beta access. Seeing how dead Azeroth is now, probably a wise choice, and makes me look at is it worth $60 to pay for another 5 months (~$75) if after playing the panda beta I am not as interested, and after playing GW2 beta I am excited.

        I think it may set precedence for this type of action (pre-pay for further perks, the earlier you commit, the more you get out of it).

  7. The entire beta process with GW2 has been different than the “norm” for an MMO. For starters, they kicked off with a “press beta” as the first publicly-facing beta event. That seemed to go over amazingly well and stirred up a lot of interest in the game. I think it’s pretty obvious that interest has turned into pre-purchases.

    So what did we get with the pre-purchase? A couple of in-game bonuses, longer head start time than pre-order or launch-day purchase, and guaranteed access to the beta events. At a glance, that’s a pretty standard list of goodies for a standard MMO pre-purchase.

    But I think that it’s important to emphasize that GW2 isn’t a standard MMO. Which doesn’t mean that it’s the incarnation of MMO perfection; it just means that they are pursuing a different business model and a somewhat different game experience. This game has to rely on the box sales. While a traditional box + monthly subscription model game doesn’t have to make back the investment on the box sales alone, GW2 does. (This assumes, reasonably I think, that micro-transactions aren’t going to do much more than maintain servers, at least early on.)

    So how does that impact the decision to include “real beta”, not “marketing beta” access in the pre-purchase bonuses? Two things stand out. First, it both a sales and a marketing tool. People who planned on getting the game, but hadn’t planned on pre-purchasing now have a bigger reason to pay now instead of later. Rolling, monthly beta weekends will also feed the marketing loop as issues are resolved and finishing touches are added. Which will encourage more people to buy the game sooner rather than later, and from ArenaNet/NCSoft directly instead of from another store or website. Second, every game is going to have these issues at some point, whether it’s during closed beta, open beta, or launch day. But if they take advantage of the betas weekends over the next 3-6 months and improve, when launch day comes no one is going to say “Well, I was thinking about buying the game, but I heard the first beta weekend was horrible 6 months ago so no I’m not going to.” Better to have a rough first beta weekend with your most committed supporters/customers, than to have a rough launch that suppresses sales immediately upon release.

    It’s a highly anticipated game, and I think the press beta actually made the game look closer to release than it was. But it’s important to remember that betas are about improving the final product, even if that means crashing the server for a few hours.

  8. I was wondering to myself yesterday whether I would literally pay for beta access. I played GW2 all weekend, putting in over 24 hours in total I would guess. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time and was very well entertained.

    If instead of selling the box now they’d simply charged a fee for three days access to beta would I pay? And if so, how much?

    After thinking about it for a while I’m pretty certain that yes, in principle I would pay and I would probably not quibble at a fee up to $10.00 for the time we just had. That does sound ridiculous, even to me. I absolutely would not pay that amount or anything like it to play an MO that had servers up 24/7 month in, month out.

    So why might I pay for limited access, and to an unfinished game at that? Because in my mind I’d be comparing the cost-per-hour entertainment value against other finite entertainment options like movies, books, concerts, plays, sporting events etc, not against an ongoing hobby. And on that scale, something that entertains me pretty well for an entire weekend would eb exceptionally good value at, say, $10.

    Do I want to pay to beta test MMOs? No, of course I don’t. I would much rather do it for free. But would I cut my nose off to spite my face and go without whole weekends of having more fun than I would be having playing any of the MMOs I could play for free/existing subs already? No, that would be no fun at all.

    I think MMO companies everywhere are going to realize pretty quickly that they can spin beta-testing as “exclusive access” and charge for it, at least if they have product that people are keen to try. It’s a very risky road for them to go down, though. How many MMOs over the last few years could have survived NDA-free beta weekends that people had paid money to join? There must be at least as much potential to lose money as to gain it, unless you really do have something to offer that will leave most people who try it wanting more.

  9. I think it’s fine. People that were excited about it anyway will see it as a perk. People that are on the fence will remain on the fence. Black and white.

    It’s people that were expecting to get in to beta as a right regardless of purchase that will be affected.

    I guess it was nicer when all you needed was a $5 pre-order that you could walk away from, but for me personally… I’ve never pre-ordered a game I did not intend to flat out buy.

    1. As far as I know, the only people who do are the ones who go on to complain about not being able to cancel… the loud minority, I’d like to think.

  10. For me, it was always clear that this was a beta, regardless of whether I ‘paid’ to participate in the event. I would not pre-purchase Guild Wars 2 just to get into the beta. If I had any doubts about the game I would wait for others to play it and read their reviews before jumping in.

    I think that their decision to attach guaranteed beta admittance to a pre-purchase is also brilliant for development reasons. They know how many people have purchased the game (at least for the three day head start), and can scale appropriately. It seems to me that failures in the first open beta are much preferable to failures on launch day.

    It might be possible for a game as highly anticipated as Guild Wars 2 to only allow pre-purchasers into the beta before launch. However, I believe that in order to test greater server stress and to advertise their game, they will add more and more free beta invitees to events as they move forward. In other words, it is unlikely that it will be beneficial to any company to make pre-purchasers the exclusive group of beta invitees. So, as long as you are willing to wait around (like in the good ol’ days), you will probably still have an opportunity to experience the beta for free before launch.

    As far as the beta goes, there were more then 1 million free beta sign-ups. Having pre-purchase attached to the beta in this way allows every fan the opportunity to experience the game. I have been refreshing the arenanet website for almost three years now hanging onto every piece of news that I could get my hands on. I personally would have been very sad each time there was a beta that I wasn’t selected to participate in. Now I have a choice. If I want it enough to pre-purchase I can get in.

    1. I don’t think you’ll see any “free” beta invites in the near future with GW2.

      They had so many pre-purchases, they had to discontinue the pre-purchases the week leading up to the Beta.

      Once they open the pre-purchase back up, the pool of testers will continue to grow.

      Also there’s no objective way to process 1-million beta entries other than computational analysis of non-qualitative fields on the application. You aren’t going to human-process that pile looking for certain backgrounds or other demographics that can’t be numerically selected or picked from a drop-down list.

  11. Honestly, this beta weekend was the most fun I’d had with an mmo in YEARS.

    If you played the previous GW beta then this was a very familiar feeling, lag spikes, unbalanced gameplay, lots of bugs and dc errors. And while we didn’t pay to play in that beta, it was still fun, even with all the errors.

    I prepurchased, mostly for the CE, but also because I wanted a guaranteed slot in their beta. With so much interest in joining their beta test, this is a perfect way to guarantee a slot.

    They never said it was a perfect game, and did title it “Beta Weekend Event”. They’ll take all this data and feedback and we’ll have a completely different gameplay feel next month.

    I’m more than happy to pay to have a chance not only to help them make their game better but also in some small way to make the game better and more appealing for myself.

  12. The question is: is the testing getting done? If the answer is “yes” then that’s probably good enough. People can spend their money on whatever they want to spend it on.

  13. I see this as a positive for the industry. There is no way to test everything properly until the shiite hits the fan and everyone is pounding on your login servers. By running a stress test of pre purchase customers you are dealing with your passionate, fan boy, forgiving customers instead of “I GAVE YOU $2 AND I COULDNT LOG IN FOR 8 MINUTES GO KILL YOURSELVES FAIL” variety.

    Well, a few will slip through the cracks. I saw one blogger condemn the game to death because he couldn’t figure out how to turn down the volume on login screen

  14. Yes.

    While I am amazed at the number of people in the public channel who _clearly_ hadn’t the slightest idea of GW2 and it’s goals…

    I think that those who have pre-paid for a game have a much more vested interest in things. They will check out the aspects of the game that interest them the most. From dyes and emotes, to if they enjoy the stories, if they actually like the classes in action to PvP and so forth. So the feedback will be driven by people who actually want things to succeed. Not to say that it neccesarily is in line with the product that ArenaNet wants to put out. ;)

    I know I actually gave a crap when the quest feedback box popped up.

  15. I view it as a kickstart. I want the game they are making, and I want to help make sure they have the resources to finish strong.

  16. Just an added note:

    To the very small minority of people who have emailed me with very negative remarks and accused me of having an “agenda” with my GW2 posts, I bought the game, and plan to buy a second copy for my wife before the next BWE.

    I WANT this game to succeed. I have been deeply invested in it for years.

    That being said, I never pull punches. I always call it like I see it, even if you think my vision is blurred.

    1. To be fair, I think ArenaNet has a loooong way to go in guiding it’s player base through some of the new ideas they’ve introduced.

      I skyped with a friend for most of the BWE and his impressions were really telling. I’ve been following the game, done my homework and understand the major systems.

      He, on the other hand didn’t have a clue and the game did little to rectify that.

      “Wait, different weapons have different skills?”

      “Damn, I only get copper rewards for quests.. this blows.. wait, you mean I buy upgrades with Karma?”

      “I don’t like the way skills go off when you’re out of range. It means I keep missing with my skills!”

      None of these things are outside of the design goals of GW2 and with a little explanation, he came around to what the game was trying to achieve.

      I recall in GW1 the *extensive* tutorial areas, where players were introduced to various skills, weapon sets, etc. I hope those optional tutorial areas are included in the final build.

    2. Emails? Oh that’s weak. I know I got a little heated at your first “impressions” post. WHich is funny since recently I was wondering ‘what up with all those uppity EVE players who get so pissed every time you dis their game?’, then I went and did about the same thing over GW2.

    3. You get emails?!?! I never get emails. ;)

      Seriously though, people… kind of lame. Voice your thoughts here in comments… most of our longtime readers are very protective of the comment section. ;)

    4. I’m sorry to here that, man. I didn’t agree with your post, either, but I respect your opinion. That was a very immature move on their part.

      Unfortunately, when you have a super-popular game, it doesn’t matter what standards ANet tries to set for the player-base, you’ll always have *those* people.

    5. I’m not worried about it, I just found it funny because, like ravious, I have never been emailed before either here or anywhere, unless it was inquiring about joining me in a game, which happens often enough.

      It’s obvious people are excited about GW2, and get upset when my viewpoint appears negative, but I saw what happened in the Vanguard beta, when the mob shouted down any disenting opinion of the game, and ultimatly we stopped bother to post our complaints.

      Negative press and negative feedback is critical for a game to grow. If one person, after an hour or two, is put off by a game, tens of thousands will inevitibly have the same experience, and might not have a soapbox to shout about it. The developers need to know why.

      That being said, everyone who disagreed with me here and in the previous post, for the most part engaged in a deep debate about features, perspective etc, and proved yet again how awesoem the KTR community is. I don’t want or care if people agree with me… But I love to see why they had a different experience than I did, and after reading a lot of the comments from Early Beta Impressions, I played more and with a different perspective and saw a few things differently. The game still needs work, imho, but it looks like its being worked on, and not rushed out the door.

      And why rush? They already have our money, at this point, they don’t really have a motivation to launch prematurly, since getting it right can atract more customers, and retain their existing one… Maybe I just answered my question…

      1. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging. It’s only when you get book-length emails of hate that you have truly made it.

      2. But what if those people are put off by the game for the same reason other people are turned on? I bought the game because I liked their gaming philosophy. And it makes a heck of a lot more sense to grant access to people who actually like your gaming philosophy to begin with.

        Had it been an open beta, the game would have been populated by people taking advantage of a “free trial” and offering feedback about a game they may have no intention of playing in earnest, not to mention a smattering of trolls (still encountered one with a buddy in Gamestop that gave them a key without them purchasing.) Sure you can ignore feedback by obvious trolls, but they are still taking away from the experience for others.

        At the end of the day, I don’t want a game informed by people with no real intention of playing. ANet gets enough conflicting feedback from people who like the game. All you end up with is a game that tries to please everyone and pleases no one. It’s counterproductive.

        Maybe my reasoning is selfish, but I think it makes as much sense from development standpoint as a business standpoint.

  17. I believe that the paid privilege is fully justified. How many companies do you know to give such an opportunity to such a wide range of customers? How else can Arenanet know the kind of game their clients want without actually inviting them to help them create it? I’m perfectly content to know that Arenanet hears my critiques, leading up to a better final product.

    1. I’ve always thought that one of the reasons that ANet really is making a great game is that they are not just MAKING a game… like the evocative art style this thing is nearly a paining, something that they have put time, effort, and love into, and they really just want everyone to have as good a time as possible.
      ANet, people. They are genuine.

  18. I think expectations are a tricky beast.

    As others have said, you’re not paying for “Beta” access, you’re paying for the final product.

    Technically, everyone was granted access to the Beta. No was on intentionally locked out of the process.. it was caused by the very technical issues they were trying to test for.

    Again, that misconception that Beta = Demo. It’s not. I thought the product was in an amazing state, but far from finished.

    I’m actually pretty thrilled to be part of the process of shaping the final product.

    This method also means the company can get a few extra months of *funded* development time to really polish up a product. Anyone pre-purchasing is taking a leap of faith.

    None of the problems over the weekend struck me as show stoppers. With a few more months of Dev, we’re going to see a fantastic product.

  19. I was one of the unlucky many to have real login issues over the weekend. I eventually managed to solve them (until I logged out of my main character whilst he was in the eternal battleground, and wasn’t able to log back in on him!). But you’re right, this was certainly the way to go, and I expect the service to be vastly improved next month.

  20. I think most players still understand that “Beta” specifically means testing, not early preview, and may feel disappointed, but not cheated. During prohibition, many club-goers would order a milk and wink at the waiter. If you got a White Russian, great. But if all you got was milk… well, that’s what you ordered, isn’t it?

  21. I enjoyed the BWE a lot and overall spent way too much time in it (probably 24+ hrs over the 3 days).

    It did occur to me (being in the software industry) that expectations were set with the “bonus” of BWE access when you pre-purchase.

    Customers is a more accurate term here than beta testers because we did part with our money. That being said, I think the expectation for me was limited to “access”. I didn’t expect a certain quality level, just access.

    Beta failures that deny access generate the perception of “not getting what you paid for” because of the lack of access. Beta failures that messed up your game play are easily accepted (because you’re playing after all!).

    Good news for me was that I had access nearly the entire weekend (minus some server shutdowns).

  22. I think it was absolutely the right way to go.

    It ostensibly weeded out the looky-loos, making sure that the only people who were likely to be in the beta test were the sort of people who would give the game a chance, knowing full well that it was a beta test. If someone payed full price simply to have a demo of the game and were turned off by a slightly less than complete version of the game, that is really their own fault, in my opinion.

    If anyone is in the wrong here, it is all the other game companies who have perverted the concept of beta to such a degree that gamers now feel entitled to a free and fully functional game client to “try out”, rather than debug, when they log into a beta test.

  23. I have to say, I’d be surprised if anyone planning on buying the game hadn’t thought to at least watch a few playthroughs from the press beta. It’s rather obvious in many of those that beta is still very much beta, and that was for the PRESS. I personally was not surprised by the level of beta that it was (although me being me, I probably though most of the annoying ones were hilarious).

  24. I’m sorry, but when I preordered, I didn’t really preorder JUST to be a part of beta. I preordered because I know I will eventually play the game so its either buy it now or buy it later, and buying it now came with the perk of beta access. But really, in the long run, its beta, and so it shouldn’t be judged so harshly, especially on stuff that is very viable to change. A beautiful beta, but beta nonetheless.

  25. Hi.

    It seems I am a minority in my thinking.

    Before I explain what I mean let me try to do some damage control.
    I pre-purchased, and played thru beta weekend. Not as much as you, but not because I didnt like the game (in fact I loved it). But because I was aware this was a beta weekend and I was there to experience the game I just bought. I liked what I see and I stopped playing to avoid burn-out in low level areas when the game goes live.

    I do not think my pre-purchase was a mistake, I WILL play GW2, and financially secure enough so it doesnt matter to me if I pay now or later for this game.

    But fact of the matter is the main reason I paid money NOW and not LATER is to enter beta. Yes I did not pay anything extra, yes I would have bought this game eventually, but the reason I paid now is beta access, and if they have implored us customers to pre-purchase a game that had no release date to support the company and not mention beta, I would not have pre-purchased. I suspect many would also act like me but that is just my suspicion.

    Now GW2 is on a different level than many other AAA mmos; GW2 will not have a monthly p2p so it was easy to come to this decision, I had already decided that I will own this game, so it made sense that giving money will not hurt me much. But still, I paid for beta, not the game..

    The fact that I (we) paid for beta access is significant, and I am afraid a very bad move for us customers. We have shown developers/game companies that we are willing to buy 1 million copies of an un-released game if that game can create big enought hype and promise us exclusive rights. Developers were already pressured for early deadlines and we were already getting a constant stream of un-finished/un-completed games, now that we have shown them we will pay for no game at all, I fear we lowered the bar for game companies for what is considered acceptable. I fear we will come to miss “3 monther games” (As another blog I follow puts it).

    I know I am painting a very bleak picture. I hope I am wrong. I hope companies see this as an evidence of “if you make a good game, it will sell no matter how long you wait” and not as “dude they sold a game they didnt even complete” but I fear anyway.

    Also, as far as I know GW2 was not the first game to do this pay for exclusive beta access thing. I am not sure but I think path of exile (a f2p game when it comes out) was offering early access pack for 10 dollars for closed beta access and 100 points you can spend in their shop. I am sure there would be others if searched.

    1. The same goes for pre-orders of any given game. Guild Wars 2 has been doing the press thing for…coming on 4 or 5 years, now. Everyone was convinced this game would be great because ANet was “showing, not telling,” not to mention the dedicated fanbase the Guild Wars franchise already has. I fall into both categories, and I got excited for the game not because I saw some fancy screenshots or some pretty cinematic trailers, but because I watched people play the game, I listened the design perspectives and agreed with (most of) them, and ANet only promised things when they were mostly done. Even if I was excited on merit of franchise alone, I never let that force me to pay $60, even when comparatively in the genre I would normally be paying a lot more.

      I’d like to think that gamers would be the first to catch on if a company asks for your money in advance and doesn’t deliver. Most gamers don’t like to spend their money until they’re sure of what they want, especially with prices as high as they are.

  26. With kickstarter, pre-purchasing/purchasing beta is already outmoded. There are easier, faster ways of relieving people of their money for a project they may not like.

  27. While I certainly agree that the industry as a whole is definitely going to view this as a money making opportunity, I’m hoping it will be impacted, at least somewhat, by who is doing the development (and potentially the distribution). ArenaNet generally has a very good reputation with Guild Wars 1, which made me more comfortable to prepurchase the game. As another poster mention, the fact that this game will also not have a monthly subscription made that decision easier as well. Yes, I got caught up in the hype of the press, since the game looked awesome. And yes, getting access to the beta definitely impacted my decision. But, if this was another developer, I would likely have held off a lot more, needing to do research to get impressions from those who did take the early plunge. We’ve all been burned with MMOs in the past, so hopefully a more cynical/savvy community might not rush into a prepurchase without the developers having the chops to deserve it.

  28. I see it as a fair trade. They let me play the game early so I can make my mistakes and learn my lessons before we go live, and they get guaranteed revenue and a lot of feedback and data on how this will actually work in a live market as opposed to the very small scale events that went before. Can you imagine if it had gone live before this test?

  29. I had a great time during the Beta, I ran into very few issues with the game and only 1 event that did not complete properly. I think they made a good move by letting more people take part in the beta. I feel that it will really help them push the game on to futher greatness.

  30. I get a junior developer badge, too.

    I prepurchased the final copy of the game. Sure, I get beta weekend access, but I’m old enough to remember Guild Wars 1 Beta Weekend Events. The game changed significantly from the E3 for Everyone event and the final version.

    Beta is beta. You don’t get a gold version of the game until there’s a published launch date and the beta becomes an open beta, i.e. a stress test. Guild Wars 2 is in development. The beta is a beta. Given that we had access to Norn, Human, and Charr–and not to Sylvari or Asura–would that not have been enough to clue people that the game is still so deeply in development that AN doesn’t have confidence in the playability of those two areas at this point?

    I expected server issues over the weekend because this was, to a very real extent, a server test weekend. AN got to test 1) server stability, 2) overload servers, and 3) server transfers. I am thrilled that those were all tested several months before launch.

    Additionally, AN got feedback on a boatload of other aspects of the game: where players become confused, UI, social features, balance, etc. I don’t expect everything to be addressed by the next beta weekend, but I do expect to see changes.

    I think it made a lot of sense for AN to allow access via prepurchase. Obviously it does from a business standpoint. Those are copies sold, after all. It also makes sense from a community standpoint. AN has historically been very responsive to community imput, as was seen during the original beta weekends of GW1. Furthermore, I really like the whole “weekend” aspect of the beta testing. This allows AN to focus its beta players, and limits feedback to a very specific time frame. The company then has an entire month to go over feedback and implement suggestions.

    Also, I expect these beta weekends to go on for quite some time. As I mentioned, the game has no release date. Yet. This is the same kind of pattern that existed in GW1, where there were several beta weekends prior to the release date announcement.

    Overall, I had a great time in the beta. Yes, there were things that were predictably rough, but overall, it was a very good experience. I’m looking for great things when the game is released, especially with the polish that these beta weekends will give.

    1. There were also all the “Work in Progress” icons plastered all over the place. :D

  31. I remember a few games that guaranteed beta access before, but the promise was a release date just a few days later. I have not bought another game before that offered a beta without a release date. Actually, I think the last game that I did a beta and had absolutely no clue about a release date was the first Guild Wars. I just played it thinking, “Hey, this is a neat game, and all my friends’ computers work as well.” 7 years later and a few other games later, I think Guild Wars 2’s experience was different in that I saw the new version of the game, and I liked this style of game play. I saw the videos and the effort to show how the game worked.

    That said, the dissappointment I had this weekend was similar in that reading the news and the attitude and the openness of allowing players to post about the beta after the event that it would be a marketing weekend with a few hitches. The posts on facebook afterwards made me realize release would be probably greater than two or three months down the line. I was misled into believing the beta would be a showcase of the finished product to tell my friends about the game. Of course, I didn’t expect fully-detailed tutorials and hand-holding, but I did want a game that seemed reasonably complete. I’m currently in school, and they’ve altered the curriculum from the old curriculum slowly over the time that I’ve been here, and I felt the same thing with GW2 as I did with my school, but I hate my school more because of it. I felt like a guinea pig instead of a customer. The design philosophy behind both is similar. If it doesn’t work, we’ll find some way to fix it. The iterative design approach at least doesn’t result in drastic changes. So let’s talk about some disappointments on my part.

    My main concern was the overflow issue, but that’s been talked to death, and solutions will probably be present in the next beta test. I did not see much armor-appearance customization aside from dyes. I would like to see a bit more variety as a showcase. I was taken aback at first at the experience that I gained from monsters that were difficult to kill as well as the monetary rewards, but I accepted it pretty quickly once I saw the standard prices. I had an issue with the “depost collectible” option on materials. I had no idea how to find deposited items. I clicked around the bank and couldn’t find the 100+ item stacks that I tossed into them even after asking a few friends. It was a little upsetting seeing that much stuff disappear on me. I tested it later on near the end of the weekend, and the same issue.

    All in all, the after effects of the beta did leave me wanting to play more, but it also made me feel that the final release date is probably further than I had originally hoped. So yes, a little disappointed going in thinking one thing and coming out feeling another. So let’s talk about the positive experiences.

    I will have to say, I had absolutely no problems connecting aside from the times the server was down. The game only crashed when the servers went down, I am confused why the whole client crashes when the servers go down though. My friends were on top of the latest news posts, so I knew that the servers were down. Saturday and Sunday plus late Friday night netted me about 24+ hours of gaming on a few characters. I learned that I liked the Guardian way more than my original intended classes, warrior and elementalist. The controls and the feel of the game plus the combos seemed to be easy to learn once you played around with it a bit.

  32. I have been looking forward to GW2 for quite some time. Despite this, I will not pre-purchase and whilst I can understand the obvious business benefits arenanet / ncsoft gain from this pre-purchase = guarenteed beta plan, I really do worry about its implications on the game itself.

    Let’s look at swtor for example. Another MMO i looked forward to a lot, but cancelled my pre-order after playing the beta weekend, and then seeing the release date a week before christmas. After playing the game, I knew straight away that it wasn’t anywhere ready for release, and that the pre-christmas date was set just to make more money, and essentially make you pay their beta testing.

    Now let’s say that you could pre-purchase swtor, and it would have guarenteed you access to all the betas. What would most likely have been the case, is that all the major star wars fanboys would have pre-purchased, and they would take up the vast majority of the beta testing. Now the trouble with this kind of person, is they are blinded by their own fanboism and as a result don’t see obvious problems that need drastic changing. eg. no, there’s no abiliy lag, it’s working as intended, you need to l2p, oh good quit give me all your gold first though etc…

    If GW2 beta is full of mostly the above type of fanboys then I fear a lot of important things that need to get fixed may get overlooked.

    I really don’t know if I’ve made my point well, but hopefully from reading it, you will partly understand the point I’m getting at.

    1. It’s always going to be one of the problems with beta tests that the majority of people you get in are the fanboy types.

      There will be people actively looking for bugs but mostly people will be seeing what the game can do and if they come across problems, several people will report them.

      Of course no matter how many people you have testing the game, some bugs (possibly alot of bugs) may not be fixed until well after launch. In fact many bugs remain in a game years after launch even though they’re well documented. Some even become part of the lore and legend of the game.

      And of course most people in a closed beta program aren’t going to be paying attention to bugs. They’re just going in cos they want some game time and potentially bragging rights.

      The people who aren’t fanboys are probably not going to be excited about the game as much and won’t care to participate in the beta cos they don’t want a bug-ridden game. Which is kind of a shame but why would people who aren’t major fans want so much early access and why should they expect a polished experience filled with roses and fireworks?

  33. The way I see it, the game has been in development for more than 5 years now, and ANet were pretty positive that the game would be polished enough to launch in 2012.

    As the game has been in closed beta for many months now and in-house testing and expo play has been looking polished for a couple years, and also considering GW players have not had any major paid content since 2007, I think demand was going to be high.

    When they announced access to closed beta previously the demand exceeded 1 million players within a couple days for 10,000 spots and a trickle of expansion on that number as testing continued.

    With such huge demand to play and it being clearly difficult to pick the best testers, a game of the scale and anticipation of GW2 needed a better way to find testers.

    Who better than the people who really want the game to be polished and a brilliant experience from the get-go? That way, the people who have been aching to get in and try it out for years (like myself) and who are going to buy it anyway (like many) get a fair guaranteed access to the beta in an epically proportioned test.

    The beta key draws were still being introduced even with the pre-purchase so those on the fence can still scrounge for a key to see if it’s what they want while the rest of us hammer the servers and our gaming rigs to see where the problems lie.

    There has also been massive investment in beta key draws for the next beta, expanding the beta programme even further.

    With a project with the background and expectation of GW2 and the weight that it carries, there needs to be fair and equitable way to test the system.

    That said, I do not think this particular way of doing testing will work for anybody except the biggest names as games which don’t excite, which come out of nowhere, that don’t have this expectation that Anet clearly wants of themselves, this style of beta testing will never work for them.

    It works for Anet purely because they are among the biggest. the pool of developers who can get away with this type of buildup and testing are the companies who have achieved cult status. It will not become the industry norm unless those companies merely want to fail, and people will catch on to the money grabbers pretty quick.

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