*swish goes the rolled up newspaper of JUSTICE*

Bad fans! BAD FANS!

The beta test (and kids, isn’t it funny how many people leave the word “test” off anymore?) is for the company, not the players. It’s a process of having people go through a basically functional game looking for bugs that might, if not caught, make the game fall down and go boom on release. This helps the company by protecting their reputation, and it helps you the fans by giving you a working game on go live day, assuming the beta testers have done their job and the developers have followed up (whether or not it’s humanly possible to have a working beta test on an MMOG is another rant entirely).

Though many have come to look at the beta test as an opportunity to play the game (for free) before anyone else, the position of beta tester is a JOB. If you get the JOB of being a beta tester, you get to play and make friends and rest assured of being uber on the new game when it comes out to the general public after commercial release, right?

*swishhhh* WHAP!

No! You get to sit for long periods of time, doing the same thing over and over to make sure that the bug you THINK you’ve found is really a bug. You get to sit in a piece of world geometry for twenty or thirty minutes until someone summons you out or you restart the game (and often your machine as well), and then you go BACK to that EXACT SPOT and see if you can get stuck again if you come from the opposite direction. You then get to write about it in as much detail as possible and send that report up to the developers, who will throw it on the stack of bug reports and curse your name for finding something else, ’cause they’re going out of their minds trying to make sure the game is as bug-free as possible before it goes Gold (or before game day, if the game company can cope with the bad press of a 50+ megabyte patch).

If you’re doing it right, beta testing ISN’T fun. Rewarding, perhaps, but “fun” is what you get to have when the game’s been tested, fixed, tested again, fixed again and so on and so on, etc.

Some of you do this because you love the game enough to go through hell to make it more playable for the other people. Some of you do this because you want to be one of those who knows what’s on the other side of that wall, because you’ve seen it a hundred times before the game went Gold. Some of you just want to be First (capitalization intentional), period.

But being in the beta test pool is not a right given to the people with the most “first post! W00t!” replies on the game boards. The folks in charge of lining up beta testers for a popular game do their best to be fair and above board about the process, but in the end it’s a crap shoot. You get in or you don’t. I know it’s frustrating, but someone who DID’T camp the company web boards for six months and sends in their beta test application stands just as much chance as you of getting in, perhaps more if they have some experience beta testing or a background in client development, 3D game mechanics or databases.

To those of you who get into your favorite game’s beta test, congratulations- I don’t envy you the job. It’s largely thankless, and the game you test is often not the game you end up playing by the very nature of the process of beta testing.

To those of you who don’t make it into beta testing but shrug it off and continue to camp the boards, talking the game up to all who come- good on ya. You make the Tick proud. Not every fan is a fanboy.

To those of you who don’t make it into the beta tests who threaten to quit and tell everyone you know not to play the game…