Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Fuzzy Avatars Solved! Please re-upload your avatar if it was fuzzy!

[Editorial] General: The Beta Is a Lie

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,619MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

One of the more common occurences as more games go free to play is to see "soft launches", so-called open betas, where the team can hide behind the beta moniker but simultaneously profit by taking players' money for cash shop items. In his latest column, Bill Murphy takes on this troubling trend. Read on and then tell us what you think in the comments.

I could probably make this a video rant, but in the interest of just getting it all out there, I thought I’d keep it to the old print format that we serfs have dominated since the movable type was invented (thanks, Mr. Gutenberg!). It’s a topic that’s been bothering me quite a bit lately: the idea of “open beta” meaning “we’ll take your money, there will be no wipes, but please don’t call it launch”.  The most recent case of this is of course Neverwinter, but Firefall seems to be doing the same thing (someone can correct me if there will be character wipes there). And it’s been the standard practice of the F2P MMO industry for years now. 

Read more of Bill Murphy's The Beta Is a Lie.

image

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

image
«13456

Comments

  • flizzerflizzer Manchester, NHPosts: 1,550Member Uncommon
    I'm waiting for games in alpha now to "release" and start taking our money.
  • tawesstawess LkpgPosts: 2,535Member Uncommon
    But is it not better that they openly admit that the game is not done then pretending to have a "gold" game... after all the raking in of money will happen any way... And most betas.. even closed ones are pretty much just marketing tools any way these days.

    I guess soft launch will be the term that will be used in the future, but change does not happen over night.
     
    Originally posted by flizzer
    I'm waiting for games in alpha now to "release" and start taking our money.

     

    That would be WarZ... So it is happening already =P

     
  • FearumFearum Cinnaminson, NJPosts: 1,166Member Uncommon

    its F2P, the greatest thing we have ever seen and the future of all futures. /sarcasm off
     

    Are you really bitching about a launch of a f2p game? Does it really ever even have a launch since you just purchase things from a cash shop and get the game for free anyway.

    I suppose you can say they did have a launch, of the cash shop.


    Keep pushing those f2p trash games, the world needs more.

     
  • uller30uller30 MILWAUKEE, WIPosts: 114Member
    I agree after a time your released and no longer open beta. It's hard to see what's from devs perspectives when they want your money but say its open beta. Meh. Nice read now back to nw 20more levels to go
  • CrazKanukCrazKanuk Elmira, ONPosts: 2,499Member Uncommon

    Lots of games are "Done" by Open Beta. Another reason that many of these games remain in "Open Beta" for so long is that there are countries out there which offer government grants for things like R & D, new product development, innovation, etc. However, once the product is officially released to market you can't get those grants or tax breaks or tax credits anymore. So beat is a lie, yes, you should basically consider Open Beta as release for most titles now. Closed Beta is where all the "real" beta testing is actually happening. 

    Crazkanuk

    ----------------
    Azarelos - 90 Hunter - Emerald
    Durnzig - 90 Paladin - Emerald
    Demonicron - 90 Death Knight - Emerald Dream - US
    Tankinpain - 90 Monk - Azjol-Nerub - US
    Brindell - 90 Warrior - Emerald Dream - US
    ----------------

  • GrakulenGrakulen Staff Writer St. Charles, MOPosts: 460MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

    Isn't Smite still in Open Beta?

    And for the record. All I got was a T-Shirt that I won through a contest like any other player. I bought my spider mount.

  • DogblasterDogblaster PraguePosts: 491Member
    well written .. open beta is just an excuse for bugs and flaws the game has.
  • TerranahTerranah Stockton, CAPosts: 3,605Member

    Maybe there are legal advantages.  For instance, we all know mmo's typically have crappy launches.  By having a soft launch and calling it beta, they remove the class action lawsuit or demands for additional time tacked onto accounts, not to mention refunds.

     

    I've noticed this more and more.  I don't necessarily mind. 

  • BillMurphyBillMurphy Managing Editor Berea, OHPosts: 2,365MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon
    No, SMITE is released now.  But they did this for a long time too.  Hell, I think DOTA2 still is.
  • MackeskimoMackeskimo Wakanda, LAPosts: 50Member
    Definitely Agreed, this is one of the reasons why I'm starting to take my NW gameplay slower... Hoping Zen and AD balance soon and I can rejoin w/o spending any more money (which I was already enticed into doing by lockbox keys)

    image
  • olepiolepi Austin, TXPosts: 1,150Member Uncommon

    For those of us who are actual developers (not of games), "beta" has a specific meaning. I think in the beginning, "beta" meant the same thing in game software. But then marketing got hold of it, and now wants to charge for being in a beta. Pre-order now and get into beta! BS I say.

    For games, beta now means another way to make money, or to hide the fact that their product is unfinished and full of bugs.

    For stand-alone games, you used to buy it and play it, with little or no changes. A game went "gold" when it was in this state. MMO's make it easy to sell a half-baked game, and keep baking it as you are being charged for it. Sort of like instead of buying a car, the MMO car comes and gets you every day to go to work, and the MMO car is not finished. But each day, as it comes to pick you up, it is a little bit more done.

    ------------
    RIP City of Heroes. One of my favorite MMO's.

  • tawesstawess LkpgPosts: 2,535Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Dogblaster
    well written .. open beta is just an excuse for bugs and flaws the game has.

    But as i said.. At least they are open with it and not trying to hide it (as was the way before... I look at you Champion Online, with friends ofc)

     

    What are they "hiding" Olepi... It is in bold letter... BETA... as in not done yet... invest at your own risk.

  • ReizlaReizla AlkmaarPosts: 3,300Member Uncommon
    The beta is indeed a lie when you put it that way. But look at it from an other side though...

    (Open) beta is used to test the game. With the former sub MMOs there was a timeline laid out that the beta and open beta would happen, and after those had happened, the servers were wiped and the game would be launched. At that point you're certain to sell boxes and hope for an retention rate who'll pay a couple of months (mostly 3) of subscription.

    With Free2Play MMOs things are a bit different. If at a certain point the game is (almost) ready to launch but you're not sure all bugs are killed developers opt to make it a 'soft launch' or rather call it open beta. During that period the game is monitored closely and you can expect a patch almost every day the first couple of weeks. Just to iron out the bugs that were not found during the (closed) beta period.

    Yeah, Neverwinter is mentioned more than once as being in 'launched open beta', but Star Trek online's Legacy of Romulus will do the same. I just read on the STo forums that after LoR is released we can expect daily patches to iron out most bugs, glitches and exploits.

    Personally I think it's a good move for Free2Play publishers to make open beta a 'soft launch'. They assure their players that the game won't be wiped anymore, and in the mean time these players are 'live testers', helping to iron out those bugs / glitches / exploits that have been overlooked during the (closed) beta period.

    AsRock 990FX Extreme3
    AMD Phenom II 1090T ~3.2Ghz
    GEiL 16Gb DDR3 1600Mhz
    ASUS GTX970 3x HD monitor 1920x1080

  • lakers4evalakers4eva Sighetu MarmatieiPosts: 14Member Uncommon
    Totally agree with you but if you feel like this about open-betas then how about Kickstarter and, if i'm not mistaken Greenlight(dont use Steam so not really sure if its like Kickstarter). At least in open-beta you have about 80-95% of the game compared to to launched version, what does Kickstarter give? Absolutely nothing but some pictures and some promises in some cases. Its the same deal basically, accepting money from customer for a game still in "production", just like open-beta, but at least open-beta gives you an almost complete game(well complete in the developers view anyway, players would disagree on what a complete game would be).
  • ZeymereZeymere Somewhere, VAPosts: 203Member Uncommon
    Glad to see you write this. I was just thinking this exact same thing recently and was trying to formulate how I would express it. You nailed it. Thank you!
  • WizardryWizardry Ontario, CanadaPosts: 8,452Member Uncommon

    YAY for someone being able to word it better than me and YAY to not being alone on this :D.

    I have noticed this trend for quite some time but can't put a finger on what game started it or at least remember the first game i noticed it.

    I am pretty sure MANY understand these gimmicks developers are pulling off,we just never hear about it much.Instead we see people starting up guilds before the game  even hits BETA.

    I have been gaming online for so long,i have seen a ton of tell tale signs that i just know the developer is up to no good..

    Want to know the funniest part about Beta's?You hear developers give their pr speech about everything is great,the fans love the entire game ect ect.How the heck do they know that,they don't even ask the Beta testers a single question about the game,yet they speak on behalf of the gamer's.Then you see the forums full of problems,crashes,bugs ect ect.

     

     

     

     


    Samoan Diamond

  • mmoskimmoski plymouthPosts: 282Member

    Couldn't agree more, nowadays beta's are marketing tools that provide the company with potential cash, while some people will treat beta's as a way to help the company find the bugs and fix them, this is generally restrained to the "This bug is halting my progress", and on another spectrum is the people that find exploitable bugs and hold them close, while abusing them.

    My belief is if they are making money during a beta or asking for pre purchase to enter a beta(has been a higher than typical retail price in some cases)(different to say backing a KS and getting beta included), that's it, get reviewing, simple as that, if the product is unfinished or unpolished that's the companies fault.

  • NephaeriusNephaerius Baltimore, MDPosts: 1,539Member Uncommon
    Totally support everything you said here.

    Steam: Neph

  • udonudon Durham, NCPosts: 1,767Member Uncommon

    Sites like MMORPG need to review and rate games based on what they are as soon as those games make progress permanent and start taking our money.  That's the only way this kind of crap is going to stop.

    For instance MMORPG gave FFXIV WAY to much of a pass and they where not even trying to hide behind "open beta"

     

  • pmilespmiles Federal Way, WAPosts: 383Member

    Using kickstarter to get players to fund actual development of a game is far more disturbing than having some developer call their launch a beta.  We've gone from just buying a game when it's done (box/retail shelf), to prepaying for beta access, to now, actually funding the development of the game.  The only one's paying out of the ass are the players.  What's next, putting in a bid to developers to see if they feel your request for a new title is even worth their time and effort?

     

    I'd like to see the days of old where you know, game developers were on the down low about what they were working on and you only actually got to see it when it was released.  No more of this pre-pre-pre-super-duper-awesome-first-look-pass purchasing scams.  When you have a product, release it, we'll buy it.  If it is decent, you'll earn return to cover your investment.

     

    People talk about there being no consequences to death in games... what consequences do developers risk if you already paid for it's development.  Even if it's total crap, they lose nothing.  If it's mediocre, it's total profit.  How does this model encourage them to do better?  It doesn't.  Only if their is risk of loss is their motivation to succeed.

  • Four0SixFour0Six Missoula, MTPosts: 1,181Member Uncommon
    Weasel words.
    I will add "Open beta with no wipe" to the list, including but not limited to: virtually, compare to, almost the same as. These phrases and words are used by groups to get the populace to think in a specific manner.

    Advertisers use them to market products, often times when marketing generic products, "Kirkland dish soap, VIRTUALLY like Dawn". "Sams choice cola, compare to Coke.".

    Now game publishers are seeming to use them to cover a poor launch. Since they call it "Open beta" it can have flaws. If they call it "launch" the players cry foul.

    This will continue until consumers, reach down, grab firmly ahold of their shoulders, pull hard, and get some fresh air.

    Nice read Bill.
  • booboofingerbooboofinger Tampa, FLPosts: 94Member
    Open Beta is a lie as much as charging way over the "accepted" monthly charge for a P2P game and calling it "micro transaction".

    Unfortunately misleading people with labels is not something that happens exclusively in video games. Just walk down the supermarket isle and you will see terms like "Lite", "Green" and "Value" on products that either marginally fit that description or where it's flat out misdirection.


    Unfortunately twisting the truth is something that is engrained in our society. Marketers will always twist things around to benefit their company and mislead their customers. And as long as we customers put up with it, it's not stopping.

    image
  • olepiolepi Austin, TXPosts: 1,150Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by tawess
    Originally posted by Dogblaster
    well written .. open beta is just an excuse for bugs and flaws the game has.

    But as i said.. At least they are open with it and not trying to hide it (as was the way before... I look at you Champion Online, with friends ofc)

     

    What are they "hiding" Olepi... It is in bold letter... BETA... as in not done yet... invest at your own risk.

    Do you have to buy the car before taking a test drive? Why won't they let you drive it first, and then decide to pay?

    Why charge for something that isn't finished? Do you pay for a meal that isn't fully cooked?

    Taking NW as an example: they have clearly released the game for the masses to play, and they are charging to play it. But they still want to call it beta, why? I think it is because they know the game isn't done, and has a lot of bugs, and they wouldn't be able to release it as is unless they could keep changing it. So they want the full benefit of release and charges, but also want the benefit of "hiding" the unfinished parts and the bugs behind the term "beta".

    ------------
    RIP City of Heroes. One of my favorite MMO's.

  • VannorVannor YorkshirePosts: 2,970Member Uncommon

    I agree. Except I don't think NW could be called released and get away with it. Too many customisation features are missing like armor and weapon skins, classes, paragon paths, there's only two PvP maps, only one type of a battleground, major exploits, too many holes for gold farmers and bots to wriggle into, totally unbalanced classes, every dungeon boss has the same mechanics; adds come at certain % of hitpoints.. the list really does go on. They have the immersion and sense of adventure pretty nailed and the foundry, though problematic and not the first game to have it, is a revelation. Open beta done this way is a blatant excuse to start generating revenue on an unfinished product. 

    Lately we are being bombarded with unfinished products and by the time they 'are' ready.. we've already played the lesser version, spent our money and moved on... never to return.

    People say there is no difference in the long run.. but I think that playing unfinished game after unfinished game is the lowest position the gaming industry has ever been in. Most of the ftp crowd will hardly ever play a proper gold release MMO again because by the time the last 'open beta' game becomes launch status they will have practically 'finished' the game and be playing another game's open beta. Thing is though, chances are these games will evolve into something completely different than they would have if they weren't released until fully ready. I personally wish they'd held back and released the game when it was fully ready and has all the features and options it is supposed to because I'm pretty much done with the game now and will probably never return.

    If the cycle doesn't stop, quality is going to keep getting lower and lower and the cash grab incentive is going to get stronger and stronger.

    Just you wait.. open alphas with working cash shops and no character wipes are on the horizon.

  • PulsarManPulsarMan Tampa, FLPosts: 289Member
    Originally posted by pmiles

    Using kickstarter to get players to fund actual development of a game is far more disturbing than having some developer call their launch a beta.  We've gone from just buying a game when it's done (box/retail shelf), to prepaying for beta access, to now, actually funding the development of the game.  The only one's paying out of the ass are the players.  What's next, putting in a bid to developers to see if they feel your request for a new title is even worth their time and effort?

     

    I'd like to see the days of old where you know, game developers were on the down low about what they were working on and you only actually got to see it when it was released.  No more of this pre-pre-pre-super-duper-awesome-first-look-pass purchasing scams.  When you have a product, release it, we'll buy it.  If it is decent, you'll earn return to cover your investment.

     

    People talk about there being no consequences to death in games... what consequences do developers risk if you already paid for it's development.  Even if it's total crap, they lose nothing.  If it's mediocre, it's total profit.  How does this model encourage them to do better?  It doesn't.  Only if their is risk of loss is their motivation to succeed.

    I see the points you're making. But you're only focusing on the negative side of things. 

    Programs such as Kickstarter are allowing games that would never be developed in the old Dev / Publisher setting, to see the light of day. Along with that we must remember that no one is forcing anyone to donate to a kickstarter, or purchase an "Early Access", or Foundry pack...or whatever they choose to call it. 

    If you pay $100 for an early access pack, and are handed a turd...yeah, you got screwed. But to assume the developer has nothing to lose is a bit near sighted. How many of us are going to purchase the next big title from The WarZ developers? Not I. 

    Again, your points are valid. But we have to remember that the development atmosphere of today is rather different than it once was. Games cost a great deal more to produce. The risk is much higher. Were I a development studio, I would very readily support the numerous methods in which I can buffer that risk. If I had my customer crap, it would be a safe assumption to assume that my next project would not be so easily funded. If funded at all. 

«13456
Sign In or Register to comment.