What’s The Bloody Point? Open/Closed Beta’s
What’s The Bloody Point is a bi-weekly rant article that I write here on MMOGameCentral. Previously I’ve ranted about Day 1 DLC, Multiplayer FPS games on consoles, browser-based RTS games and breaking a successful franchise. This week I take a look at open and closed betas, specifically for online PC and MMO games.
Before the comments erupt into an explosion of pure anarchy, I’m well aware of the actual point of the majority of closed and open beta periods, as they provide a huge amount of quality assurance, without having to pay for a professional company, but there are a few that just don’t make sense. Firstly I’ll begin with a more recent one, the “closed beta” of Hi-Rez Studios upcoming MOBA title, Smite. For those that are unaware, a MOBA title is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, a genre that has foundations in a Warcraft 3 mod, Defence of the Ancients. The MOBA genre has since exploded onto the MMO world and has been responsible for a number of successful titles such as the hugely popular League of Legends, and the upcoming collaboration between Bigpoint and Universal Studios, Universal Monsters Online. The Smite closed beta began on March 31st of this year and has since accumulated over a million different closed beta testers. To me, the point of a closed beta test is to test various mechanics and technical glitches to ensure the game is ready for the masses at launch. But that’s kinda counter-productive if you let a million closed beta testers into your game. Currently, Smite players can invite a number of their friends to the closed beta, making it readily accessible to hundreds of thousands of players, again not really the point of a closed beta. And to top it all off, Hi-Rez Studios are actually accepting payments during the closed beta period. Players can purchase the Beta Special at £20.99 that unlocks all of the available gods, and the next 5-10 that launch. Players can also spend up to £34.99 to purchase the in-game currency, Gems, which are used to purchase different playable characters and skins. So why is the game still in closed beta? Technically it’s sound, very few glitches or bugs, balancing could do with some work but even games that have been released for years have that issue.
Moving on to the open beta’s, these are even worse. I’m not too clued up on the technical aspects of business so maybe they get some kind of tax relief if their product hasn’t officially launched, but some games remain in beta for years. A major culprit that I can remember is Cal Ripkens Real Baseball, (RBO, AKA UBO). UBO originally released in 2003 but suffered with a number of game glitches and bugs, all of which were ignored for many years. They then received endorsement from American Baseball legend, Cal Ripken, changing the name of the game to RBO. It then continued to function poorly until it officially closed in 2008, maintaining an open beta period status for 5 years.
I remember a time when gaining access to a closed beta was no easy feat, and sometimes it was only available to press or media partners. Nowadays just about anyone can get into a beta and a beta period can mean just about anything. Why couldn’t they just keep it simple?