On Alpha/Beta Tests

So this morning I read that one of my friends got alpha access to ArcheAge, and at first I had mixed feelings about this. Not that I’m not happy for my friend, I’m just a bit jealous. Now after thinking about it for a little while I’m absolutely fine not getting it (alpha access). The reason is that I think there is always the possibility that it could leave a bad taste in my mouth.

To expand on this a little bit, I have done a handful of beta tests and one or two alphas. The last alpha that I was in was one that I paid to get in to, not $150 or anything, but I still paid to get in to it. The problem is that in an alpha state the game was frustratingly buggy. So much so that I could barely play the game. Now, I understand this is the point of an alpha. They make it very clear that what you’re playing is not remotely finished. Even knowing that it left a bad impression and I didn’t play it again until beta testing started. So to me alpha/beta testing is mixed because you’ll always have these memories of the game being “bad”.

The other reason that I’m okay with this is because of burnout. The last few MMO’s I’ve played have only kept me interested for about 3 to 4 months, and those were games I did not beta test extensively. I find that once I “finish” an MMO I start to lose interest in it. I did the WoW thing for a long time, starting out casual, then doing regular dungeons with friends, and finally serious raiding. I raided so much that I got tired of it, and the thought of doing it again just doesn’t appeal to me. I know that there is always going to be a point where you run out of things to do, and I’d rather do that with friends. Playing the game through an alpha/beta state means I am probably playing by myself and that by the time the game comes out there is a good chance I’ll have seen everything there is to see.

Personally I like to experience these things at the same time as my friends. I don’t want to be the guy who knows everything about what is coming up and eagerly waiting for someone to get there so that I can talk about it.  Now that doesn’t mean I’m still not jealous, but I’m also ok with not having access because by the time I got to play with my friends it wouldn’t be the same.

That being said, I don’t mind the occasional weekend beta test. I think that is a great way to get people interested in the game. You can’t get very far in 2 or 3 days unless you’re super hardcore and don’t sleep. Which if you are, then maybe you’re not playing for the right reason, but that is a different discussion. I’m still on the fence about ArcheAge, and I wouldn’t say no to alpha or beta if I got it, but I’m not going to stress myself out about it.

This is not specific to ArcheAge either, this really would be how I felt about any game. I think it just came up today because of hearing this news. I absolutely think these tests are necessary, and they help to produce better products. I just don’t think they’re for everyone. You have to be willing to look past the bugs and know that you are helping to make the game better. If you play an alpha just to play, then you aren’t really helping.

Now with that being said, I hope to gather more information about the game from my friend. And I’ll probably get even more excited based on what I hear.