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Age of Mythology Heaven » Forums » Strategy and General Discussion » So....You want to be a beta tester
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Topic Subject:So....You want to be a beta tester
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Stone_Giant
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 12:25 PM EDT (US)         
Uh oh…time for another one of my long, informative posts

I asked a few people about this, the responses? All the same.

"Of course I want to beta test AoM!, Who doesn't? I'll get a free copy of the game months before its released, What could be better?"

While you do have a very, very good point . You need to realise, beta testing isn't all fun and games - there is serious work to be done.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
How it all Started
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Beta testers—"average" people who kick the tires on new software before it is released to the general public—are the unsung heroes of the computer gaming industry. They help developers fine-tune their game engines and control interfaces. They provide vital feedback that helps publishers decide how much marketing muscle to put behind a title. And they suffer through and help to fix last-minute bugs. The payoff? Beta testers get to play the games the rest of us only dream about.

Once software was issued and lasted for months or even years without change. (The word “patch” was a sewing term .) Sure it wasn’t a graphical wonder, but it did the job. Companies wrote code and tested it exhaustingly for errors. The employees did the testing and were an excellent source of trouble-shooting for customers. Programmers and testers worked as a team, proud of their end product.

Enter the marketing people who want to sell more products. They urged the programmers to issue more programs to sell. So the programming and testing departments grew larger and larger as new programs and fancy additions to existing programs were made. Sales grew but it was an expensive operation. Profits barely increased.

Consultants were hired. They noticed over-worked testers routinely took extra copies of new products for their relatives and friends to try out and report back on any problems. This little unpaid army of testers were thrilled to have the latest programs that no one else could get even if they had to put up with defects. What a money saver this would be: Fire the employee testers and give the programs away for free testing.

Amazingly, thousands of computer users volunteered (literally begged) to be testers. Many of them had nothing to do on their computers anyway , other than play a few games and send an email or two. At last, they could put all there expensive (and mostly idle) equipment to good use. And a genuine Beta-Tester carried an air or prestige so the position was sought eagerly, and protected carefully.

------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------

I don’t consider myself an exterminator, but I’ve been battling computer bugs for years. So Far, I've been involved in four projects, Netstorm: Islands at War, Conquest: Frontier Wars, Mech Commander 2 and most recently Arcanum. I don’t particularly go out of the way to try and beta test games, just the ones I'm really looking forward to .

So, where do we get started? Well, long before AoM hits the store shelves, it goes through a series of testing procedures to make sure the game works right. When the game is first created, it goes through preliminary tests, which are usually done in-house or by companies that specialize in testing games. This is often called the ‘‘alpha’’ testing phase.

Once the game is stable enough for wider distribution, it’s released to beta testers. This is a key part of the testing process that precedes the release of a game for sale to the public.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Beta Tester Requirements
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When you become a beta tester for a game, you are held under variety of different NDAs (No Disclosure Agreement). This means that NO you cant show "outsiders" screenshots (Unless given specific acknowledgement by a official.), NO you cant tell other people about the game ("War Stories" are OK as far as I know; but no disclosure about specific a units and/or buildings.), NO you cant transmit the game in any way shape or form (Which includes uploading to server and burning to disc for profit or gain). Other rules and regulations are specified within the NDA.

As a beta tester, you are required to send in bug reports weekly if not by-daily (Every other day). Although these requirements do change with other companies/producers, they are required by every company (Unless its a open beta, where everyone gets to test it.). How well you test the game (and send in those reports) will determine how "bug ridden" the end result is.

As a tester, you also MUST have an average amount of computer knowledge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What developers are looking for
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good writing skills, especially the ability to communicate a thought clearly and precisely to the point No wandering off, "oh yeah, did you know I whooped up this little n00b today, he was sooo sad". Kinda brings back memories of your English class eh?

Knowledge of the game type It does not help if you only play FPS, and dont know what a Rush is... You might just report "they sent bunch of units at me and I was not able to counter it. This needs to be balanced!" (Although if your do clearly see an unbalance problem, do report it).

Good sense of balance and fair play Meaning that you will report an unbalance bug even though it will defeat your chances of ever winning again.

Good knowldege of the game itself Should of followed the game, so that you know a bit about it, and not just rush into testing

Lots of free time! Do as much testing as you can, so called “real-life” is boring anyways

People who praise their product 24/7 …ok this one doesn’t really count

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Surviving the Beta Test
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Always remember, there are thousands and thousands of people to replace you at a moments notice.

Beta testers don’t complain - they comply. Don’t bother defending yourself or another beta tester when criticized by the beta manager. They are always right.. And know how to deal with malcontents.

Hold your tongue, don’t be too aggressive or trying to criticise the beta project. Example Post:

From: Tester #271 “Thank you for patch #15, the game booted up on the 5th try and I was able to test for an average of 3 minutes before crashing. This thing is ready to go gold.”

Don’t be a “dead horse”, if you find a bug, report it! Don’t rely on someone else to do it, If it hasn’t been fixed after a few patches, it probably never will.

Always consider when reporting a bug that it could be a hardware problem, not necessarily the games fault. Example:

From: Tester #882 “Patch #15 disabled my sound card, the printer won’t print and the display is now red”

From: Tester #659 “Obviously tester #882 that’s a hardware problem and has nothing to do with the program. Contact the manufacturer

From: Tester #477 “Tester #882 must be deaf and colour blind. Try putting some ink in your printer!”

From: Beta Test Manager “Attention: Tester #882, This newsgroup is for reporting real bugs – not for minor glitches that are probably caused by faulty hardware or user error. End this thread immediately or face termination”

Become best pals with the beta test managers, if they like you, they may contact you again for there next game . Don’t forget though, they own the ball and bat; they are only letting you play.

~~~~~~~~
Conclusions
~~~~~~~~

Beta tests mostly start with an eager group of users and ends with a decimated group of shell-shocked people brow beaten and deflated from the ordeal.

Sounds harsh? Well, imagine the people who HAVE to do this more than 12 hours a day. You can slack off ! They do get paid though...

If you’re genuinely interested in testing all types of games, I’d recommend you checkout gamespots beta test centre right here
------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------

**Phew, that’s it for the moment, as always, comments and suggestions are welcome, just remember this is just my opinion, I’m not saying its correct, and if any of ye have experiences in this field, I’d love to hear them **

Thanks for reading this!
Stone_Giant

Oh! – And thanks to Azn for letting me use some of this from his original article

[This message has been edited by Stone_Giant (edited 01-06-2002 @ 12:31 PM).]

AuthorReplies:
Chris
Munchkin Hero
(id: Angel Chris)
posted 06 January 2002 12:33 PM EDT (US)     1 / 51       
Sexy post! *slap*
Uh, nice post.. Hormones getting in the way again.. *sigh*

I've never been in a beta .. there aren't that many games I was ever particularily interested in prior to release (in fact, AoM is probably the first game I'm *really* psyched about ).. knowing too much in advance just makes me impatient

Quote:

so called “real-life” is boring anyways


I concurr.

Love you will find beneath the apple tree peanuts.
Cuautemoc
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 12:37 PM EDT (US)     2 / 51       
y r ure posts soooooooooo long??? dont u get tired of typing???
wat r u trying to say anyway???? i couldnt get it??? i think u mean to say that beta testing is not just for fun but also a responsibility???????? r u trying to say that beta testing is not for immature people like me??? i guess ure right

Id challenge you to a battle of wits; but u appear to be unarmed
Last_Knight
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 12:40 PM EDT (US)     3 / 51       
SexySolid post!

....and the most essential part of being a beta tester is... lot's of luck....



The Last Knight
Grasshoppers are cheap, nutritious, tasety,Kosher and easy to dissect
Foe_Hammer
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 01:44 PM EDT (US)     4 / 51       
really good post brother..very informative...this and Warcraft 3 are the only games i have been interested in Beta testing..one question..how do you fight the feelings of "i will never be picked so why do i even waste my time" because i am being plauged with such thoughts

I come from under the hill , and under the hill and over the hills my paths have led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen. I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly.I was chosen for the lucky number.
I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me. I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider


Imperialarc
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 02:49 PM EDT (US)     5 / 51       
Extremely nice post. I beta tested some games and my computer took quite a beating from bugs and crashes. Although its great to be apart of it.
vladimir87
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 03:17 PM EDT (US)     6 / 51       
Great post Stone_Giant...

I have never beta tested for any game, so I have some questions about the procedure...

First of all, does Ensemble Studios just mail you a copy of the game?

How do you apply to become a beta tester? Is there an application you must fill out? Do they select people at random? Does it concern rankings? I really want to become one, no matter how miserable you make it sound...

You say they want weekly, even daily feedback? How can you discover new bugs every day? Are there any consequences to not having data by those deadlines? How do you send your input, via email?

Is the multiplayer established so that you can play others online? IS the beta testing multiplayer or single player, or both?

When is AOM supposed to begin beta testing?

How many people beta test, or more specific, what are the odds?

Finally, are you sure you aren't making beta testing seem a bit too horrid? I am sure you have great experience, having tested four games already. Still, you said,

"Beta tests mostly start with an eager group of users and ends with a decimated group of shell-shocked people brow beaten and deflated from the ordeal." -Stone_Giant

After this description who would want to test? Is it really that bad ?

Thanks for all this great information. I will keep it in mind...

Note- No, I'm not asking you to answer all of these questions... Rather, if you have any quick answers you know off the top of your head, I would be very grateful. After all, you seem to know quite alot about testing! :P

-Vladimir87

Psychic Ostrich
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 03:18 PM EDT (US)     7 / 51       
I'm a bit confused, do you have to know any programing? cos if u do i'm out. If not, then I'll be on the lookout for Aom Beta!

SNIPPETS OF A CAFE CHAT:
Hey hi, damn, where is my... ...fridge, y'now, its been playing... ...with his nailclippers! I didnt know what to... ...weed, cos' i'm not a gardner, unlike Old... ...cushion, now it was... ...a bit soggy, with all his diarrhoea... ...experience with the theoretical side of... ...cats, oh they are doing... ...dancing with his best friend! now I would like to... ...grasp by the hilt you see? Anyway better be... ...going to lose his socks, silly... ...frog. Cya'...
Imperialarc
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 03:53 PM EDT (US)     8 / 51       
1.In past cases, ES did mail the beta cd to you.
2.How they select testers varies...applications, local testing....
3.I believe there is a bug report program when testing ms products.
4.Beta test usually has full features, single and multiplayer.
5.I have no idea....soon though so keep watch!
6.The number varies, so do the odds.
7.Beta testing can be fun but you must know its also a volunteer job. Its not horrid at times but expect disappointments.

No, beta testing is not extremely horrible...I think Stone_Giant covered well the work aspect of it. Its not always all work and no play.

Remind you betas are also a great place for marketing and previews. Although, that is restricted under the NDA.

[This message has been edited by Imperialarc (edited 01-06-2002 @ 03:56 PM).]

AzN
Forumer
(id: AznKnightmare)
posted 06 January 2002 04:07 PM EDT (US)     9 / 51       
Great post!

Ah... I see your the one that messaged me yesterday about this on ICQ . I see some simalarities and differences than mine. Its considerably longer and more detailed too.

Anywho, nice going.



Angel AzN | News Editor Lead EH, HeavenGames LLC
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Cobra
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 04:32 PM EDT (US)     10 / 51       
I'd like to be a help and do an AoM BETA, but I too feel that i wouldn't be able to, after all, why would they pick me?

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Poiboy
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 04:38 PM EDT (US)     11 / 51       
Yeah, nice post stone_giant! Ive got a question though. Okay so es just announced there gonna do a beta test. So everyone who wants to be in it just fills out an application and they randomly pick? Heh if this is the case i dont really like my odds. But i would love to do this. Im really excited about this game.
Thx
AzN
Forumer
(id: AznKnightmare)
posted 06 January 2002 04:39 PM EDT (US)     12 / 51       
Mostly they pick by system specs and the attitude of your message in the beta signup. .
Zakthegreat
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 04:43 PM EDT (US)     13 / 51       
I was just wondering what is the likeliness of them picking me.

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I am Loki
U.S.A., AOM, ES, HG RULE!!!!
AzN
Forumer
(id: AznKnightmare)
posted 06 January 2002 04:50 PM EDT (US)     14 / 51       
Divide the amount of people who will sign up for it by 500 (or whatever the amount of people allowed in would be). Simplify, and thats your number.
If out of 10,000, you would be... 0.05
Hehe... slim to none .
Stone_Giant
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 05:48 PM EDT (US)     15 / 51       

Quoted from Psychic Ostrich:

I'm a bit confused, do you have to know any programing? cos if u do i'm out. If not, then I'll be on the lookout for Aom Beta!

Not at all, like I said, you MUST have an average amount of computer knowledge. That doesn't mean however that you need 25 years programming experience

Quoted from cobra:

I'd like to be a help and do an AoM BETA, but I too feel that i wouldn't be able to, after all, why would they pick me?

I think you need to ask yourself, why wouldn't they pick me?

Quoted from vladimir87:

When is AOM supposed to begin beta testing?

Quoted from Bruce Shelley:

I don't really know exactly when we are going to do a beta test.. hopefully the build we have by the end of January will be something close to the beta version so maybe within another month.. I don't want to commit to a date yet, but I think somewhere around February or March we'll have something.

Quoted from vladimir87:

Finally, are you sure you aren't making beta testing seem a bit too horrid? I am sure you have great experience, having tested four games already.

Not at all, beta testing can be good fun. But, it doesn’t matter how fun the game is, it’s a BETA, its not properly finished, there are bugs, and the game WILL crash. Remember, you’re not fully “playing” the game, your “testing” the game.

Quoted from vladimir87:

You say they want weekly, even daily feedback? How can you discover new bugs every day? Are there any consequences to not having data by those deadlines?

Feedback isn’t limited to bugs, there’s stuff like unit balancing reports, graphical glitches, map and scenario design, blah blah etc etc. As for consequences, yes, you may be kicked out from a beta if you don't participate enough. But, they are understanding i.e. You'll get some time off if your wife just had a baby .

Quoted from Zakthegreat:

I was just wondering what is the likeliness of them picking me.

It’s a tough call to predict the odds, as I have no idea what kind of system ES will be implementing. Warcraft III is going to have 5000 beta testers, Age of Kings only had 300 . Who knows, maybe they'll do a random competition, maybe it could be application forms, but, hopefully, they will reserve a good amount of copies to give out to the fans and forumers (Yes, that’s you!). And ES: PLEASE make sure its an international one, I'm tired of the US folks stealing all the action .

Stone_Giant

SoR_Anarchy
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 05:54 PM EDT (US)     16 / 51       
good post sg.

God Bless America.

I am the state.

IV1066
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 06:13 PM EDT (US)     17 / 51       
The only reason not to do an int'l beta would be language issues, but seeing as ES is now a part of MS I'm sure they could find someone to translate. I hope the beta is international, it's bettter in everyway I can think of (well, other than making it less likely for me to make it, but I'm cool with that).
vladimir87
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 06:39 PM EDT (US)     18 / 51       
Hello

Thanks alot ImperialArc for answering all the questions you could.

Thanks alot Stone_Giant for answering them too... So i guess you are expecting your copy very soon aren't you?

When you said 300 testers, did you really mean 300, or 3,000? It seems rather odd to have such a huge difference between two different games. I suppose that if you have 5000 testers though, there is a certain risk of breaking the Disclosure Agreement. I do not put much faith in my chances if there are that few copies...

Just wondering, if beta testers can play multiplayer, then is the ranking system up for their games? That is probably the way to get ahead...


Thanks alot for your feedback...

-Vladimir87

Imperialarc
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 07:04 PM EDT (US)     19 / 51       
In AoK, there was beta multiplayer rooms on the zone..secret page of course. I don't think they are ranked....even then when the game was released those pages were obselete.
Bishop
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 07:33 PM EDT (US)     20 / 51       
one hell of a nice post man.. that helped me out on my thinking of if i wana test AoM or not.... *thinking**thinking* i will do it

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deadlydentures
Mortal
posted 06 January 2002 11:52 PM EDT (US)     21 / 51       
For some reason, when i read the title, i got the song "Rock Superstar" in my head

So you wanna be a rock superstar, live large, big house, 5 cars, you're in charge, .....


The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
cornergraf
Mortal
posted 07 January 2002 06:10 AM EDT (US)     22 / 51       
thanks stone giant

oh...

Quote:

you have no live


What can i do now ?
Heaven Worm
Mortal
posted 07 January 2002 09:25 AM EDT (US)     23 / 51       
I am not a spy from game magazine or other PC game companies.
I am not going to tell other people how the game looks like if I accepted the agreement.
I will report all bugs I found and other bad things in the beta version of game, if I agreed to be a tester.

But I won't apply for the beta testing.
Because I won't have time to play a beta game.
I have so many games to play throughout the year.

shelper
HG Alumnus
(id: Smileyshelper)
posted 07 January 2002 09:54 AM EDT (US)     24 / 51       
great post stoney, way to go

as for me, as soon as the beta signups start ill sign up as soon as possible


It's like watching a flock of clown-like apes trying to navigate a ship, even though the ship has in fact been stranded on some kind of reef for about 7 years and none of the apes have noticed it yet. -Drahnier on OD moderation.
Stone_Giant
Mortal
posted 07 January 2002 02:45 PM EDT (US)     25 / 51       

Quoted from IV1066:

The only reason not to do an int'l beta would be language issues

30% of the world speaks English, they could give a few copies to the guys in....oh I dunno....how about Ireland?

Quoted from vladimir87:

So i guess you are expecting your copy very soon aren't you?

?? I wish!

Quoted from vladimir87:

Just wondering, if beta testers can play multiplayer, then is the ranking system up for their games? That is probably the way to get ahead...

Well, there wasn't any ranking system in the beta of AoK (as far as I know). But yes, beta testers do get a huge advantage early on. While your saying "Hmmmm, I wonder what this unit does", They'll have been playing the game for a few months. Don't worry though, this advantage always disappears after a while .

Stone_Giant

Toetanchamon9
Mortal
posted 08 January 2002 12:26 PM EDT (US)     26 / 51       
Question: How old must you are?
Nice post.

Toet

[This message has been edited by Toetanchamon9 (edited 01-08-2002 @ 12:27 PM).]

Stone_Giant
Mortal
posted 09 January 2002 01:36 PM EDT (US)     27 / 51       

Quoted from Toetanchamon9:

How old must you are?

It varies, but most developers are going with 13 right now.

Pity we haven't had any blue nicks responding yet

Stone_Giant

Imperialarc
Mortal
posted 09 January 2002 01:52 PM EDT (US)     28 / 51       
AoK beta when MS were signing beta testers it was 18. Things have changed though, like Stone_Giant said, it varies.
Psychic Ostrich
Mortal
posted 09 January 2002 04:22 PM EDT (US)     29 / 51       
*hopes they stay with 13*

I understand about secresy and, but what about if my best mate comes over my house?, could i show him? I would make him make an oath on a Bible and everything:

(I say) "I promise to not tell the truth if anyone asks me about AOM, now you say it"
(he says) "I promise to not tell the truth if anyone asks me about AOM"
something like that anyway.


SNIPPETS OF A CAFE CHAT:
Hey hi, damn, where is my... ...fridge, y'now, its been playing... ...with his nailclippers! I didnt know what to... ...weed, cos' i'm not a gardner, unlike Old... ...cushion, now it was... ...a bit soggy, with all his diarrhoea... ...experience with the theoretical side of... ...cats, oh they are doing... ...dancing with his best friend! now I would like to... ...grasp by the hilt you see? Anyway better be... ...going to lose his socks, silly... ...frog. Cya'...
Enrique Orduno
Banned
posted 09 January 2002 05:51 PM EDT (US)     30 / 51       
Actually, NDAs change from company to company. Some betas are very restrictive while you have open beta tests like Empire Earth one(they were literally giving them away in shops so they had no control).

Some people think that a beta is simply a way of playing the game before everyone else and don't care to contact the company if they find a bug. While this can be fun in the beta, it'll cause problems to the company, the players and you in the long run.

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