Beta Off Without

Last weekend I was among the countless throng that was able to participate in the Diablo III stress test beta. It is one of three betas I’ve had some degree of access to over the past few weeks, the others being Firefall and Mists of Pandaria. Now, this weekend I’m informed that it’s time for me to get a taste of Guild Wars 2.

These are all games that I have a passionate interest in, and the idea of getting to play in the sandbox to come is an enticing one. I think the opportunity to beta test, even if those words have come to mean something different than originally intended, is a hard one to pass up. There is an allure to touching this thing that is still in a state of creation. It’s like when people use that hoary old analogy about not wanting to see how the sausage is made.

Every time someone says that, I immediately want to see how the sausage is made.

So I go into these betas, like countless before, with that coppery sense of anticipation in my mouth, ready to dive in and at least indulge in the illusion of being part of the creation process. And inevitably, usually sooner rather than later, I come to the conclusion that doing this thing, taking part in the beta process, was a destructive idea that ultimately diminishes my enthusiasm for the game to come.

I really liked the Diablo III stress-test beta, when I was able to circumvent the login firewalls that seemed intent on telling me — a legitimate user — "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" As I said on the recent episode of the show, for me this was shaping up to be a game that is at or well beyond all of my expectations. I can see myself drowning in this game upon release, but drowning in the sense of being enveloped in an ocean of warm, loving hugs.

So you might assume then that I am glad to have been able to participate. And yet now that the time has ended, I must admit that I am not. I plowed through that beta, got my achievements, scored some loot and took the first precious steps down this long road, always with the knowledge in the back of my mind that I had writ my Diablo III name in water. Now, after the stress test has ended, I feel the same way I feel when I have a dream about working a long day only to wake up and immediately realize it’s time to go to work.

It’s for that reason that I can’t engage myself in the Mists of Pandaria beta. The idea of being able to construct a character that might at any moment (and most certainly will, eventually) be stricken from the record diminishes any other desire I might have to explore the new continent, classes or races.

It’s sort of like peeking at your Christmas presents two weeks before the holiday. Once you know, you know, and now it’s no longer a cool surprise you can look forward to. The magic of anticipation is gone.

I’ve said before that my favorite part of gaming is looking forward to games. I am energized by anticipation, possibly more than I am actually energized my most of the final results. Games on the horizon have no limits. They never let you down. They are always existing, at least to my own whims and wants, in a perfect state of success, because they can’t yet dash your hopes. Sometimes the games live up to that idealized image, and that’s its own kind of special. More often, the reality is somewhere in between, and perhaps I learn to love the game despite its flaws. But to look through the peephole before the game is cooked is in many ways to steal a chunk of my favorite time away from myself.

I can’t help myself, of course. If there is one thing I hope we have firmly established, it is that I am a being devoid of willpower. Given the opportunity to beta test a game, particularly one for which I can muster enthusiasm, I will always choose to go against my better angels. Aside from those games that really seem to exist always in a state of open beta, where the term itself has no meaning or impact, I can’t think of a single time that I didn’t regret taking part.

I suppose being in betas has at times saved me money, not in the sense that I passed wide-scale judgments on half-finished games, but in the sense that just being let in somehow not only curbed my enthusiasm, but parked my enthusiasm on the sidewalk next to a fire hydrant where it was towed away.

I guess I’m happy that didn’t happen with Diablo III for me, but in reading some of the feedback in various forums, I definitely see people for whom that did happen. And, somehow, I feel this strange sadness for them, because I know how I would have felt looking forward to Diablo III for the better part of a decade, only to lose faith in the last few steps before the finish line. I can’t blame or fault anyone for leaving the stress event either more excited than ever for the game or completely disillusioned. My own personal brand of discouragement is at least limited to just a mild disgruntlement that the things I did this past weekend are already deleted from the face of the game.

Honestly, knowing me and my history with betas, it could have been much worse.

Comments

Can we put a moratorium on photos of meat tubes? I do not need to know how the sausage is made.

Sean, your continued efforts to put logical, thoughtful articles on the front page is really pissing me off. Where's the hyperbole and name-calling? Where's the outrage at the smallest affront, and condemnation of businesses for 'unfair' business practices?

I am dissapoint, Sean.

I felt the same way after the D3 beta as well. I mostly played it this weekend as a low-risk way to introduce (and subsequently) hook Demyx on the gameplay. This was a title I've been waiting for and indeed having it yanked away after 48 hours leaves me.... drained for the lack of a better word. I'm also kinda dreading having to replay that slice of content again, I just want to install the game on the 15th and hit the ground running.

heavyfeul wrote:

Can we put a moratorium on photos of meat tubes? I do not need to know how the sausage is made.

How about pictures of sandwiches being made?

Michael Zenke wrote:

Where's the outrage at the smallest affront, and condemnation of businesses for 'unfair' business practices?

If he keeps this up his podcast bio might have to change! Where's the scorn?

heavyfeul wrote:

Can we put a moratorium on photos of meat tubes? I do not need to know how the sausage is made.

Just be thankful that Elysium did not use a photo of how the sausage is really made, not just how it is inserted into sausage casing.

Looks kind of like a robot having a bowel movement.

Sorry. That picture is distracting.

Palette cleanser: http://deadendthrills.com/

Thankfully I'm good at avoiding betas in story or progression heavy games. Back when I played World of Warcraft, most people got excited at a chance to play an expansion beta, but I never even applied to get in. It had the worst of both worlds, story matched with unfinished content to spoil the story for me, and progression that would be deleted upon the end of the beta.

I was all over a beta like Tribes: Ascend though, which wasn't really a beta at all. Most multiplayer FPSs I'm happy to play betas of, because there's nothing to spoil, and the progression is usually a short path I'm happy to walk a second time.

MeatMan wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

Can we put a moratorium on photos of meat tubes? I do not need to know how the sausage is made.

Just be thankful that Elysium did not use a photo of how the sausage is really made, not just how it is inserted into sausage casing.

1. Obtain pig
2. ???
3. PROFIT

Good article Ely. And I agree... I used to be a beta junkie. Every single game that I had even a tiny bit of interest in I would apply (and almost always get into) for beta participation. And I really can't even think of one that made me happy to play the released version.

Beta is not what it used to be, or better yet, its not what it *should* be. Its really there to nail down all the issues so that you do NOT have a release day patch waiting for new customers. But with these pieces of software being so complex now I honestly can't see them being financially viable while doing the "perfect" beta.

Oh well...

PAR

Is this the kinder, gentler Elysium?
Feh, we need a Diablo 3 anti-review on the double!

I've made an executive editorial decision to remove the sausage image. You can mark this down as the moment when Sean and I irreparably destroy our partnership and you all become divorce children.

Certis wrote:

I've made an executive editorial decision to remove the sausage image. You can mark this down as the moment when Sean and I irreparably destroy our partnership and you all become divorce children.

And replace it with an Alice in Wonderland image. Have you found The One True Thread?

Shalalm Baskur

Certis wrote:

I've made an executive editorial decision to remove the sausage image. You can mark this down as the moment when Sean and I irreparably destroy our partnership and you all become divorce children.

Aww, and I was about to start posting concept images from A Machine for Pigs.

Certis wrote:

I've made an executive editorial decision to remove the sausage image. You can mark this down as the moment when Sean and I irreparably destroy our partnership and you all become divorce children.

Poor Sean. First Star Wars Kinect and now sausage. At the rate we keep requesting substitutions, he'll be writing ad libs instead of articles by the end of the year.

Garden Ninja wrote:

And replace it with an Alice in Wonderland image. Have you found The One True Thread?

Shalalm Baskur

Oh frabjous day!

Shalaskur!

Man, I wish I'd seen this terrifying picture "I" posted. I've been offline all day and had to have this article posted by a proxy. What horrors has that person wrought in my name?!

Elysium wrote:

Man, I wish I'd seen this terrifying picture "I" posted.

I'm not sure this is the exact image, but it's pretty close if my memory is right

shoptroll wrote:
Elysium wrote:

Man, I wish I'd seen this terrifying picture "I" posted.

I'm not sure this is the exact image, but it's pretty close if my memory is right

There are two or three things that image brings to mind that do NOT belong together.

ccesarano wrote:
shoptroll wrote:
Elysium wrote:

Man, I wish I'd seen this terrifying picture "I" posted.

I'm not sure this is the exact image, but it's pretty close if my memory is right

There are two or three things that image brings to mind that do NOT belong together.

This isn't going to become like the spider thread, is it?

The good news for me regarding the GW 2 beta is they don't have the race (Asura) that I'm looking forward to playing at launch. This is my chance to test out a few builds and try some of the classes I don't expect to play at launch.

Somehow, seeing the image all by itself with a bunch of white space makes it MUCH more lewd than it seemed on the page here.

jdzappa wrote:

The good news for me regarding the GW 2 beta is they don't have the race (Asura) that I'm looking forward to playing at launch.

/internethighfive

Totally playing an Asura. Probably an ele.

I never wanted to do a WoW beta due to the spoilers involved. I was happy to do the D3 beta because I wanted a chance to experience the mechanics. It really depends on the game.

The Alice picture is perfect; although Dorothy looking behind the curtain would work as well.

Mmm. Sausage.

Also, this place is delicious.

I read the article twice. Good.

24 months ago I remember telling myself, I'm choosing to not play Diablo 3 beta. Or maybe it was around the time the Star Craft 2 beta ended. However, I knew when the D3 beta came around, I would not be able to help myself and grasp at the very first chance to enter. Diablo is just one of those games.

I was about to argue how this would be a great opportunity to have your cake and eat it too, then I remembered myself when I finally got my access to the Dota2 beta. My expectations where an impossible combination of a fun mod iterated for years, raised to the power of Valve's endless resources and unmatched creativity.
But all I got was Dota2.
Don't get me wrong. I love the game and I see the potential. But I'm watching how the sausage is getting made,and the magic is definitely gone. I imagine watching/playing/testing the first draft of Portal 2, before it was sent back to the drawing board, and feeling the story and voice recordings lose their essence, feeling re-used, recycled and shoe-horned into a more marketable revision.
I don't know how the final version of Dota2 will look, feel and play. But I will know how it was. And that feeling of "Valve feels lost, it seems they don't know what they're doing" will keep creeping into the back of my head every once in awhile.

I actually have the opposite reaction. All my appreciation for SC2 and SC comes from Warcraft 2 and Starcraft v.1.0 - back when it was still buggy and really, really crappy. Forum feedback and constant competitive play, in addition to volumes of fan made content, made SC the game it eventually became. I recall how we'd argue, er, discuss all manner of things from build costing to build times, which was an especially bad thing for the original Dragoon.

Of course, I have also participated in sausage making and I feel that people should, at one point or another, participate in the process of making what they eat. I think it'll get people to appreciate their porkchops more to have killed and slaughtered a pig at least once in their lives.

LarryC wrote:

I actually have the opposite reaction. All my appreciation for SC2 and SC comes from Warcraft 2 and Starcraft v.1.0 - back when it was still buggy and really, really crappy. Forum feedback and constant competitive play, in addition to volumes of fan made content, made SC the game it eventually became. I recall how we'd argue, er, discuss all manner of things from build costing to build times, which was an especially bad thing for the original Dragoon.

Of course, I have also participated in sausage making and I feel that people should, at one point or another, participate in the process of making what they eat. I think it'll get people to appreciate their porkchops more to have killed and slaughtered a pig at least once in their lives.

Maybe there's a difference between pre-release beta and post-release updates? I know that for me, continuing updates keep my interest fresh in a way that doesn't seem to apply to beta testing.

And there's always the example of Minecraft.

I actually have the opposite reaction.

Now _that_ is hard to believe. (insert smiley here)

Of course, I have also participated in sausage making and I feel that people should, at one point or another, participate in the process of making what they eat. I think it'll get people to appreciate their porkchops more to have killed and slaughtered a pig at least once in their lives.

Why do I have the feeling you're talking both about butchering as a metaphor and an actual activity -- which, by the way, I have actually done before. I do not miss living on a farm.

"...parked my enthusiasm on the sidewalk next to a fire hydrant where it was towed away."

Outstanding.

"...but in the sense that just being let in somehow not only curbed my enthusiasm, but parked my enthusiasm on the sidewalk next to a fire hydrant where it was towed away."

I'm from Germany so my first language isn't English but German. But I really love the english language and to see how you play with it, is outstanding fun for me time after time!

I just learned a new english phrase "to curb something" and the noun "the curb" in a funny way that I really appreciate. Thanks for that!

I was in the Tribes Ascend Beta and after many dozens of hours, uninstalled it.
I was in the Section 8: Prejudice Beta and it just made me want the game more.
I was in the Black Prophecy North American Beta and I had to quit because the joystick offered superior access to buttons which made me maneuverable and the mouse made my shots incredibly accurate and I couldn't find a way to have both.

So even if my enthusiasm gets towed away, I don't think I regret it.