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Uplink Analysis: Beta Burnout

Written by David "Scooter" Bass on September 15, 2012

WildStar Uplink is a weekly conversation we hold with our fans about MMO design, philosophy, and news. The main goal of these conversations is to gauge how important certain issues are to the WildStar community. More than just a simple conversation, we ask questions about topics that are important, and we share your responses with the development team directly. Want to participate? Follow @Team_WildStar on Twitter for the weekly question, participate using #WSuplink, and keep an eye on the community team (CRB_Atreid, CRB_Aether, and CRB_Scooter) to interact with us throughout the discussions.

This week we wanted to talk about the all-too-common phenomenon known as "Beta Burnout." A significant number of players tend to help test a game for an extended period of time, and by the time the game launches, they're no longer playing:

It's fairly common for early beta testers to "burn out" on the game they're helping test. What are good ways to avoid burnout?

Some people offered thoughts about what worked for them previously as testers:

hotshot25120: Take your time pay attention to all the small details, Its not a race its a beta.
ColdLipstick: I tested #SWTOR and purposefully didn't play the race/type I was going to roll. #GW2 had it right with limited spaces to test.
Spiritunicorn: Community, community, community! It's why I still have such fond memories of SWGs beta.

The vast majority of people recommended small, focused tests early on, rather than giving out the entire game at once:

TheInferiae: Give access to game features before they're set in stone, too often fans get input too late to change the outcome
Mark_Mahoon: I think a beta test must have clear announced goals. For example "On this beta weekend we will test PVP"
JerryT87: Don't open / unlock all area /features? It leaves something new to see when the game hits release.
PoweredByPixels: OBTs: Carefully schedule playsessions with limited time/content. Unlock specific testers for specific areas/contents only.
Pocky469: I find setting specific teams (combat, physics, etc.) and then having them rotate at weekly/biweekly intervals helps.
rora_borealis: Don't make all quest content available. Enforce switching of path/class/factions for new experiences.
CRB_Scooter: I think getting fresh eyes on the game regularly is a necessity. It allows more people to help, but gives older testers a break.
zaprobo: @CRB_Scooter Absolutely agreed. "Old hands" may overlook old stuff. However... mass-tweets begging for beta access in 3... 2.. 1..
thesporkwithin: provide focused and realistic goals for testing on a regular basis. If you have a new goal each week it stays fresh!
StarWarsDaddy: Also give testers several toons w/o having to level each separately - end game toon to test end-game content
bbrown2k: agree with this. Less time investment in leveling will equal much less burnout. Not so hard to say goodbye at wipe.
zaprobo: @bbrown2k @StarWarsDaddy But then you can get issues with the levelling curve vs. available content. Wouldn't rely on this
StarWarsDaddy: @zaprobo @bbrown2k I would never suggest taking the leveling aspect out this is just for testing end-game to break up the monotony
bbrown2k: @StarWarsDaddy @zaprobo but like Zap said. How do you test the progression to end-game if we already have end game toons? :/
StarWarsDaddy: @bbrown2k @zaprobo I try to test everything so I assume (probably incorrectly) others would do the same - test leveling & end-game
bbrown2k: @StarWarsDaddy @zaprobo wish that were true.
CRB_Scooter: @bbrown2k @StarWarsDaddy @zaprobo Well, I think it'd be easy enough to split that into two separate tests... leveling and endgame.
bbrown2k: @CRB_Scooter @StarWarsDaddy @zaprobo that would also tie in with what someone said earlier about clear testing plans etc so yay?

Lastly, a bunch of people suggested making sure the WildStar team is responsive, engaged, and that we reward players who are helpful:

OHNOITSKEN: To me, the biggest part of quelling burnout is fostering a responsive, friendly beta community full of dev input. Keeping players engaged w/ the game and its developers. Rewarding those who honestly test w/ contests and such.
Sunicro: Structured testing, Dev lead events, good community all help. Testers burn out when they feel they are just players
@StarWarsDaddy: Maybe special titles or pets (or other unique vanity items) based on the number of bugs found/reported/verified?
jleithart: Making testers feel as if they are important. A thriving beta community, both forums and otherwise, is a way to achieve that

We sat Community Overlord Troy Hewitt down to ask him for his thoughts on this week's Uplink. Here's what he had to say:

The Carbine team has spent a lot of time discussing this very issue, which is why we decided to bring it up to the WildStar community-at-large. For me, it was interesting to see that the majority of your comments were right in line with our thoughts: Targeting windows of testing and time interacting with members of the team are important elements in avoiding beta burnout. To be specific, it is our intention to provide an authentic and direct line between beta testers and the development team.

Imagine, if you will, a feature test focused on in-game combat. Not only will members of our team be in-game to experience that content with you, we'll also have facilitated online chats between WildStar testers and our combat team about their experiences. That isn't to say the community won't have opportunities to enjoy and react to content they experience at their own pace, but our team is anxious to talk to you about your thoughts on their hard work directly. No ivory towers here, friends.

Personally, I appreciated the comments around creating a beta program that encourages beta testers to make a solid contribution to the process- and early enough to make a difference. While it is important to us that beta testers enjoy themselves, it's equally important that we build a strong relationship with our testers so that we can gather as much quality data and opinion about their play experiences as possible- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

To that end, it's really important to us that we build an engaged beta community: one that is active, respectful of the development process and everyone involved in it, and most importantly, enjoys the beta experience from top to bottom. I believe that the only way to build that kind of community is if your development team believes those same rules apply to them. That philosophy is the cornerstone of our community and support efforts, and we honestly cannot wait until we get the chance to meet you personally.

Finally, many of you know that we are in the very beginning stages of beta now, a process that continues to ramp up by including more and more of you as we move forward. The thing to remember is that once a person is in beta, they are bound by an NDA to keep quiet about the things they see. Additionally, the WildStar team will be saying very little about the process. So remember, every time a WildStar community member publically asks to be in beta, we push a button that electrocutes Scooter at his desk.

I'm not saying we don't enjoy torturing him, I'm just letting you know the pain and suffering you are responsible for causing the poor guy...



...Beta?

While I try and figure out how to detach these electrodes from my desk, do you have any final thoughts on dealing with beta burnout? Let us know on Twitter at @Team_WildStar and keep an eye on the #WSuplink hashtag for a heads up when we begin a new topic on Monday. Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's discussion, and have a great weekend!

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