Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 03, 2014
Patience is a virtue

There are a number of interesting MMORPGs currently in development: Everquest Next, Wildstar, The Elder Scrolls Online. Of those at least EQN and Wildstar are games that I will definitively try out, while I'm not yet quite decided on TESO. So why aren't you reading alpha/beta playtest reports on this site? EQN Landmark doesn't even have an NDA! Well, the thing is that I have tested a lot of MMORPGs in beta, and realized that the testing experience has its downsides.

One more recent development which contributed to me not doing beta tests any more is game companies charging people money for beta tests. Why would I want to pay up to $100 to play an alpha version of an editor of a MMORPG? Betas used to be an opportunity to test a game for free, now they being sold as some sort of advance access in "founder's packs" and the like. Being the first in means you pay before you even get other people's opinion on the game. In this day and age, the longer you wait before you buy a game, the cheaper it gets. There is even a good chance of all of these games being eventually Free2Play, although I might not wait that long.

But the main reason I don't want to do betas any more is that they tend to be full of bugs. Well, I did play some betas like Card Hunter which were already at production quality. But MMORPGs are notoriously difficult to run, and server outages and game-crippling bugs are to be expected. Especially if the official state of the software is alpha. And of course the game won't be feature-complete yet. So even if by playing the beta I can get some impression of what the game is about, it would be hard to form a final opinion of the game before release. Anybody who ever complained about something in a beta will know that the standard response to that is "but it is just the beta!", although I would say that if a game is really bad you notice that long before it is finished.

So I decided to be patient and just wait until those games are at least released. Life is too short to spend time and money on buggy betas.

"Life is too short to spend time and money on buggy betas."

Exactly the reason you shouldn't wait. You could be run over by a bus tomorrow. The company could go out of business half-way through development and the game could never launch. There could be a military coup in your country and all video-gamers could be rounded up and sent for political re-education. Who knows what might happen?

Never put off 'til tomorrow what you could do today!
Well, someone have to test that games or they will never be ready for launch.

By the way, I remember someone made a correlation between the time before launch the NDA is lifted and the sucess of a game. Adn EQNL NDA was lifted just one day after the start of alpha...

I've tried Wildstar, and it really feels like a mix of WoW and GW2. It's not going to set my world on fire, but I'll probably buy and play it on launch until I've consumed all the non-raid content, then I'll bail and probably not look back. (Oh, and some of the intial voice-acting is just... terrible. I really hope that's beta placeholder VA, but I strongly doubt it.)

All the housing type things which you might think would drag the sand-boxers to the yard and extend your gameplay? At the moment just look like grinding aids - log in daily to upgrade your house to give you buffs and resources for the next time you actually play. Basically Sunsong Ranch 2.0 with the ability to add cosmetics.

I haven't played TESO personally, but I have watched a friend play. As a Skryim/Oblivion/Morrowind fan, I'm totally turned off. As an MMO it probably stands OK, a little quirky, kinda of reminiscent of launch-era DDO in terms of how 'different' it feels. But it misses the mark on being a TES game so hard and so wide. No matter how mediocre a diku-MMO it may be, it's going to get critically SLAMMED for its failure to be co-op Skyrim. They should've dropped the first M from the genre, to give them more freedom to be adventurous in this space. I'll probably try it when it drops its box price in a desperate sale to stave off its inevitable F2P conversion, before the cash shop bastardizes it and utterly dominates the experience like SWTOR and Neverwinter.
Some people have time to spare and want to see the new thing, and help out a bit creating it. Each to his own.

Personally I would rarely touch a beta - I did make an exception for card Hunter because that was already essentially finished.
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