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How to be a Beta Tester
Perception of Beta Testing
The perception of public beta tests goes like this. "I get to play an unreleased game for free? Sign me up!"
This attitude results in companies having to open video game betas to a wider audience than they normally would to get the feedback they require. In the case of MMO betas, some people might play for just a few days before quitting. This ensures they don't "spoil" anything from the game, but they still play enough to get their feet wet. Playing a beta might also be the deciding factor in the decision to purchase or cancel a pre-order.
The popularity of beta testing isn't exclusive to PC players. These days developers will offer access to a playable beta with the purchase of a preorder, rewarding early adopters for their loyalty. These are particularly popular with FPS games like the Medal of Honor, Call of Duty and Battlefield series, allowing players access to multiplayer weeks before the game is officially released.
Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting to participate in a beta test.
- Pay attention to news. At least the news from gaming websites. Get informed about what's coming out. There are always a handful of promising MMOs on the horizon. Take a look at this list of upcoming MMOs that might pique your interest.
- Cast a wide net. Occasionally there will be games that you MUST get into. One popular example is Valve's DOTA 2 and Blizzard's Diablo 3, which has hordes of people clamoring to get in.
Sign up for everything, even if you're not particularly interested right now, you might get in later. If you get in and still have no desire to play, give the access key to someone who's actually interested. They might return the favor one day.
Unfortunately, there's not much you can do once you put your name into the drawing, which brings me to my next point...
- Be patient. People have been waiting for access to the Diablo 3 beta for years and still haven't gotten in. This is why point #2 is so important: You'll have something to do while you wait (hopefully).
- Be wary. Scam companies are aware of how much people want to play certain games, and they'll send fake emails inviting you to play Diablo 3. They're really trying to trick you into giving sensitive information to them. Remember, a beta wouldn't need a credit card!
I can't speak to the way other companies do things, but Blizzard at least pays close attention to whether or not players report bugs and concerns. Feedback is a valuable thing. Really, it's the whole reason they beta test in the first place. Here are some tips for improving your value during a beta, which will increase the likelihood of getting picked for later beta tests.
- Understand the purpose of the beta. It shouldn't be hard to figure out what the company was expecting from each test. If it's a pre-order beta test, chances are the game is not going to change much before release. If you're in the friends-and-family alpha of the newest World of Warcraft expansion, your participation probably matters more.
- Pay attention to the community. For every beta test there will be beta forums for players to meet and exchange notes on bugs, balance and concerns. If you're in a beta, you need to be reading and interacting with people on the forums. You weren't granted access to the game just because the company wanted you to have fun; they're actually hoping to get some use out of you.
- Be diligent. Fill out bug report forms. Some games will actually have the interface inside their game. This might be something as simple as "my game crashed when I tabbed out," or two pages detailing the steps that caused a blue screen of death. It may not be glamorous, but it's vital to the success of the game.
- Play as much as you can. You were picked to test the game they gave you, so do it.
- Try to have fun. You're not being paid so don't worry about finding the smallest glitches in the corner of level 2. The company has quality assurance for that kind of thing. Sometimes you're only there to stress-test a game's server infrastructure. Don't make yourself hate the game by playing it 18 hours a day (unless you enjoy that kind of thing).