With BF3 only one week away, I think the beta is safely an afterthought for most people. This doesn't stop me from thinking about it, though.
I have almost no doubts about how good the final version will be, and tons of recent players seem to be allaying some of my worst fears. But any developers who are trying to figure out the intricacies of releasing a beta need to look at BF3's beta as a case study.
Did you know that over 8 million people ended up playing the beta? Keep in mind that it ran for less than a month. That's more people than most indie games out there get. Unfortunately, there was a fair share of people who were disappointed by the glitchy mess that was the beta build.
I certainly don't blame them. The beta almost gave me a panic attack because it was so unpolished. "How can they possibly fix this up in a month?" I thought to myself.
Well, according to people who have played the more recent build, the beta better was over six months old. Six months! That's like a completely different game in game development circles.
Their decision to release such an old build for the beta was a huge mistake, and it bordered on arrogance. Actually, I don't even know why they went through with it; couldn't they have stress tested servers with a more recent build? Developers need to realize that betas generate a massive amount of hype around a game, and that it can affect the purchasing decision of players who aren't hardcore fans. Betas are now becoming a new step in production planning, and developers simply shouldn't dump any version for playtesting.
As much as people like to make fun of the Modern Warfare series, they've handled their betas much better. Just think about Call of Duty 4, for instance--it was almost flawless by comparison. And also by comparison, BC2 had a pretty lackluster beta.
I'm starting to rant at this point, but I can't stress the importance of betas enough. Publicity and the image of the game is at stake here, not just fixing minor bugs.
Oh, one more thing: Why did the BF3 marketing division choose the song "99 Problems" for their trailer? They're practically asking for their game to be criticized.
Anyway, if you don't see me back here for a few weeks, you can safely assume that BF3 has consumed my life. See ya on the battlefield!
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