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Beta Means Work the Core
Jan 15, 10 4:41 AM
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Beta Means Work the Core

Ultimosan, Jan 15, 10 4:41 AM.
When Square Enix began accepting beta applications for Final Fantasy XIV on December 16, the hype meter for FFXIV practically exploded. All of the hopes and dreams we have for the game, all of the anxieties and dread--we're about to have the chance to see it all! But beta isn't about previewing a game. Beta is about helping developers find and correct bugs, tune balance, and assess which components are fun and which are burdensome. If you're a Core gamer, beta means a lot of work. Allow me to explain.

Who Gets into Beta?

Regardless of the selections methods a company uses, a smattering of the same types of people get into almost every beta. They get the fans who know they'll play the game at launch, the "window shoppers" who hope to use the beta to make an informed decision before they purchase, the indifferent gamers who want beta simply because it is a beta, and the press.

What Do These Groups Want with Beta?
A collection of hardcore, core, and casual gamers comprise the fans of a game before it launches. In the case of FFXIV, this group will be huge. Some will be seasoned MMOG veterans who played FFXI. Others will be Final Fantasy fans who did not try or did not like FFXI but want to see if FFXIV is a good fit. Each gamer's goals for beta will differ depending on his or her play style, but all fans want to see the MMOG treat the intellectual property with dignity, maintain lore, and generally just feel like what fans would expect.

Window shoppers will often be Core gamers who dedicate themselves to a single game, but this group will also contain some hardcore gamers who want to see if the endgame will be worth investing in leveling a character. Subdivisions of this group will fall into two categories: those looking for an excuse to buy the game at launch and those looking for an excuse not to buy the game at launch.

The indifferent gamers normally hop from one MMOG to the next as a game gets hot or cold, and they enjoy the prestige of being able to say in their favorite forum that "I can only say that there is a beta," implying they are in it. They thrive on the attention they get, the PMs that beg them for info on the crafting system or some other mechanic.

Finally, the press wants in beta to get a head start on previews or reviews, strategy guides, and game overviews. Some of the members of the press in the beta will be fans, but even those likely will have to eschew their aficionado tendencies because of some looming deadline. I've been that member of the press in a beta. I know it's all about taking a ton of screen shots of every spell description, quest dialog box, and landmark.

So, Who Does the Testing Then?
I've spent a lot of time outlining the types of beta testers and their goals, but it all comes back to play style like so many other things. The casual gamers are not good testers because they usually value their time above submitting bug reports. They just need to see if the game will be a good fit for them (window shoppers). The hardcore and Core will do the most testing, but with very different emphases.

The Hardcore Testers

The hardcore beta testers will focus on raid content, level (or skill) curves, and class balance. Their input during beta will be invaluable to the life of the game. Just as they can breeze to max level in a month once a game launches, the hardcore testers do it in beta. They find the "hell levels" where the grind sets in, and they report it in beta forums. They discover which classes are way overpowered or underpowered, and they complain very loudly in the forums. They discover which crafting professions are useful and which are useless. And, yeah, they gripe to the developers about the disparity. Finally, they get buffed to raid levels (and get there in a flash) and figure out which encounters are broken, discover back doors around flags, and develop raid strategies they look forward to using after launch.

Again, the contributions of the hardcore gamer in beta are tremendous. Eventually, we Core gamers would encounter all of the problems they identify. And by the time we got there, our time commitments to the game would make them all the more disappointing. We'd hate to put months into blacksmithing only to discover than drops trump our master crafted items every time. We'd be devastated to finally organize our guild for a raid only to discover that killing yard trash mobs in the wrong order would break the spawn of the boss.

The Rest is for the Core
With casual gamers more interested in a "try before you buy" scenario and hardcore gamers keying in on intangible higher order facets of gaming during beta, all the actual bug testing is left for us Core gamers. We're the ones who will report the poor drop rates for a quest item, the NPC who spawns too infrequently, and the quest that refuses to mark itself complete even after we have done all of the work. We'll be the ones who report the misspellings and grammatical errors, minor things that break immersion more than they break a game. It's up to the Core gamer to explore the four corners of the world in search of the crack in the ground that lets players fall to infinity. The Core gamers will point out that the quest dialog says to "head east" when it should say "west."

Parting Thoughts

In the beta for Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix will rely on us, Core gamers! More than ever, we must take our responsibilities seriously. Yes, we're doing them a favor by beta testing, but we're helping ourselves, too. We must resist the urge to brag to friends and break the non-disclosure agreement. When we volunteer for beta, we're making a promise to help SE create the best MMOG possible. Let's take that promise seriously.

Mog Bonanza 2010

Ultimosan, Dec 24, 09 10:19 AM.
That's right, folks! Mog Bonanza,
the event adventurer dreams are made of, will soon commence!

Have your deeds of late earned a smile from Lady Luck?
Will your new year prove to be just happy, or happy and moggy both?
Your hopes for Vana'dielian bliss rest upon those gleaming orange spheres known as bonanza marbles!

*Marble sales are scheduled to commence on Thursday, December 24 at 08:00am (GMT).

Web Site Live on GuildPortal!

AylaneTheMithra, Dec 23, 09 3:51 AM.
This is a great place to keep members and visitors up to date on things of interest!
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