Building community towards a beta testing effort is a real pain in the ass, but perhaps not in the way you might think. For us, the challenge is manifold:
From the Carbine side of things, we see beta as a chance for a conversation. Are we meeting our expressed goal? Was the feature you tested confusing? Were the supporting game elements (UI, art, tooltips, audio, etc) working for, or against that feature? Most importantly, did you have fun? And if you didn’t, what can we do to change that?
These are some of the principles we’ve used to help us shape this incredibly complex piece of software, and our testing efforts reflect those goals. One of the things we did while putting together plans for our beta program was examine other betas to figure out what worked and what didn't. Our favorite program we decided to adapt (from our friends at ArenaNet, actually) was the concept of a Core Tester program. This small group consists of a core team of rabid testers that get to see the roughest of the rough features, even before those features hit beta. This group has the pleasure of sifting through an ever expanding list of known issues to evaluate our features in their infancy. Their feedback helps us verify that we are on the right track, or clarify what we’ve got to change in order to make a feature functional.
As you can imagine, the Core Tester is a key component of our testing plans. It’s a unique kind of person that is willing to dive into a feature, zone, class, race that is in varying degrees of development. It can mean that things change really fast. It can mean that we need your help testing features that aren’t your cup of tea, or that features you particularly enjoy aren’t entirely complete. For example, we recently let testers run through a half-completed zone, just to get an idea of the flow, even though the majority of quests in it weren't finished (and some didn't even work at all). We feel these individuals are so important, that their contributions will rate them a credit on the WildStar box, securing their place in history as one of the most important groups of people that Team Carbine had the opportunity to work with.
We actually started filling our Core Tester program back around PAX Prime last year, when we invited a room full of our earliest WildStar fans to help test out some very early features. Some have come and some have gone since then, of course, but we're starting to see a really solid core group form who help test every little feature we throw at them. Last patch, we had them test out the Dominion content in order to get ready for a worldwide reveal (coming Soon™), and this latest patch will have them looking at the Exile content in preparation for beta! We also run some fun events with the core testers (which we'll definitely repeat for beta testers), including one where we attempted to take down Metal Maw together. That particular event is memorable for me, as it culminated in a suspenseful finish where the players, with the help of the cheating cheaters on our QAlien Team, turned on my poor Dominion character en masse. Et Tu, Core Testers?
So where do these testers come from? While some are the oft-mentioned Friends & Family members, we're really looking for people who are passionate about WildStar and the testing program. It's not enough to want to see the game, report bugs, and give feedback. We need our Core Testers to be willing to crawl through the mud, get dirty, and deal with immensely frustrating prototypes, broken content, and generally messy systems. We are also looking for people that are interested in, and can handle, speaking directly to the dev team, whether online or on the phone. Because at the end of the day, they are there to make sure our beta experience is an epic one.
If you want to get involved, the best way is to become involved in our community! Participate in weekly WildStar Uplink conversations on Twitter, join the fansite communities around the world, talk with us on Facebook, and interact with any WildStar coverage you see around the web. The more you engage in thoughtful dialogue and constructive criticism around WildStar, the more likely we are to notice your efforts, and respond in kind.
With all that being said, the Core Tester group is just one aspect of a pretty aggressive testing initiative around WildStar. It includes Core Testing, onsite testing, Closed Beta Testing, and the proverbial Open Beta Testing, of course, but it also involves gathering feedback on convention floors at events like PAX East, PAX Prime and special fan events we’ve got planned both in the US and in Europe. Over the next few months we will be introducing those various aspects of our testing plans to the community at large. And don’t sweat it- we aren’t sharing this information to tease you. We are sharing this information because many of you will have your opportunity to participate in taking WildStar out for a spin, before the rest of the world gets a chance.
Who knows, we might just recruit you to be a part of our Core Testing Team.
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