We lack any news since the release of five new screenshots a few days ago and Closed-Beta stage for Marvel Heroes is about to start in a couple days. So I thought it’s time to give some information about what they really mean and why those “testing” stages are important for us…
At first, I want to share my previous experience with these stages. I have been playing computer games since 1992, have become a fan of ARPGs since 1996 with the release of original Diablo, have been in testing stages for games since 2003. I have been involved with webmaster business since 2006 but this is my first video game related (okay, had a flash-game site for kids once) site. But I assure you Marvelheroes.net is not meant for “business”.
Currently, I am an “alpha tester” for Path of Exile – an innovative dark and realistic ARPG developed by an indie company (Grinding Gear Games) -. It’s been a long time (almost two years) as an alpha tester for PoE.
I hope my previous experience gives me rights to talk about these “testing stages”. Let’s start with Alpha and focus on Closed-Beta next.
In this stage, almost all games are in heavy development. New feauture and new content additions, difficulty balancing, tracking of major bugs, improvements to visuals and sounds happen constantly. Developers have QA teams to test all of these stuff but huge games, especially MMOs need more testers on a working network environment. This testing stage is called Alpha and testers of this stages are called “Alpha Testers”. Companies or developers choose “Alpha Testers” very carefully and wisely since these testers will see broken, unfinished, rough stuff that should be kept hidden from public. Alpha testers test all of these stuff (sometimes specific parts of the game in request of developers), report problems and offer feedback. They are important for developers since they represent the outside view and can spot critical issues developers miss. I can’t share the details but some of the gameplay mechanics of PoE have considerable alpha-tester effect. Last but not least, all alpha testers must accept an NDA and keep their mouth shut.
This testing stage varies from game to game, company to company. Generally, games are in the final period of development and testers are needed to ensure the final product’s polish. Part of the game or all of the existing stuff are open to testers. Developers ensure whole game network’s stability and want testers to spot major bugs, offer feedback about existing gameplay mechanics and give opinions about the feel and fun level of the core game. The team try to balance the game as much as possible without sacrificing fun elements. Actually, two different parts have roles on balancing. Tester feedback and inhouse developer tools which collect important data from players. Developers analyze both parts and make adjustments to the game. This is an ongoing and never-ending process in fact.
There are also game companies do this stage just for balancing or network-testing or even demo purposes. Diablo III’s closed-beta stage is a good example for this. Blizzard takes this approach with all of their games since the release of WoW and collapse of Blizzard North (Condor).
According to Gazillion’s Community Director Stephen Reid’s tweets, Marvel Heroes will take the first route and the closed-beta will be a real testing stage. This means lots of unfinished stuff in the current build of the game, less testers in CB, potential NDA and complaints from both followers and testers of the game. So it’s not meant for “play early” as Rockjaw says. Those who want to play Marvel Heroes early will be disappointed by the game so, better you wait for open-beta if it ever happens or final release of the game. I should also warn you that Gazillion will probably be monitoring all ingame activities of the testers to prevent a possible leak.
It’s simply a stress-test for the game servers and a demo for public access. Games are feature-ready in this stage and much of the game content is playable. Some developers may choose to open a small part of the game to players instead of the whole game.
There are rare exceptions here too. I’ll give an another Path of Exile example since it’s a perfect example of this situation. PoE will go open-beta later this year after a couple of major patches. However, developers will continue to implement new features, new content and revamp existing gameplay mechanics according to player feedback. PoE open-beta will definetely lack some important aspects you may expect from nearly finished online-only games. There are a few more game companies I know that take this route but not-surprisingly they’re all indie or smallar companies.
I hoped to give some rough info about these testing stages and where Marvel Heroes stands as far as closed-beta goes. I’m going to repeat here since it’s really important. Marvel Heroes Closed-Beta will be a “REAL TESTING STAGE” where testers will face game-breaking bugs, crashes, unfinished and placeholder content and not-so funny moments of gameplay. If you can stand those and you feel like you just want to help developers to make the game better, sing up for closed-beta at http://www.marvelheroes.com.
Have nice weekends and good luck with closed-beta sign-ups .