Betas

Someone asked me a question earlier this week (thank you, Rich!) and it got me thinking about my strange relationship with betas for upcoming games.

I’m excited to try out betas when and where I can. I like the potential goodwill involved from a developer and/or publisher when they are presumably so confident in their game, they are willing to allow the public to play it early.

I typically believe a beta to be a slice of the finished game, or it should be, at any rate (and I shy away from the term “should”); a server stress test with actual players. But, in my experience, sometimes the beta differs so drastically from the final build of a game, I wonder about the disparity. I think to myself: how does that happen?

I looked back through my PS4 and found ten betas I’ve participated in. In most cases, those betas saved me the money of buying the final game but, in a handful, the beta gave me a look at something I wanted to explore further. In one case, the beta was thoroughly unenjoyable, then I took a chance when the game went on sale, and wound up having a reasonably good time (I’m looking at you Ghost Recon: Wildlands).

As they said in Little Shop of Horrors: “Don’t it go to show you never know.”

Last weekend I played a chunk of the Monster Hunter World beta. I thoroughly didn’t enjoy my time with it. I wasn’t a fan of the systems, the menus, the movement, the weapons and combos, and found the matchmaking system hilariously archaic (honestly, in 2018, how are we using an alpha-numeric string that incorporates upper and lower case letters to sync up with others?). Also, something about ganging up on a monster felt wrong.  In short, the game simply doesn’t appear to be for me. I thought it was beautiful looking and I very much hope people who are looking forward to it enjoy it, but I won’t be among them.

The betas I’ve taken part in this gen are as follows:

Battleborn / open beta / did not enjoy the mechanics
Battlefield 1 / open beta / did not enjoy the shooting mechanics
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare / open beta / I don’t even recall playing this beta
Destiny 2 / open beta / I found the mechanics less tight than the first game, but held out hope
Doom / open beta / I seem to recall enjoying the multiplayer
Monster Hunter World / open beta / did not enjoy; please see above
Overwatch / open beta / I loved it and it completely sold me on the game
The Crew / open beta / did not enjoy the driving mechanics
Tom Clancy’s The Division / open beta / enjoyed enough to buy the game
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands / open beta / did not enjoy the mechanics or find it engaging

I had been really cool on the Destiny 2 beta. The mechanics felt sloppier than the first game (which, in my opinion, has the tightest and cleanest shooting and maneuvering mechanics of any game out there), and that left me wary. Something felt off. Of course, now what feels off is the endgame, but I’ve discussed that at length previously.

Overwatch has been the best example of a strong beta (again, in my opinion). The game was clean and playable, and engaging enough that I was disappointed when the beta ended; I just wanted the full release to hurry up and get here. I think that’s the most favorable I’ve ever been on a beta.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands was an odd one. I found the beta to be entirely unengaging. Sure, the world looked beautiful, but the game felt devoid of character, and that was strange to me. When I took a chance on the full release once it was on sale, I found myself more engaged. The environments were beautiful. I still take issue with a handful of the mechanics (including the drone glitch) and the miserable AI/endless spawn of the Unidad. For me, the whole thing is a mixed bag.

But these varying responses are why I love betas in the first place. I love being given a chance to try a game out before committing to buying it. I love that people get a chance to play these games and form their own hands-on opinions.

How do you feel about betas? What are some you’ve loved and some you’ve less than enjoyed? Why did you feel these ways? I’m curious how others fare with the betas they have tried.

12 replies »

  1. I have tried to play as many Betas as I can of games I’m thinking of purchasing. Recently partaked in the Monster Hunter World third beta and the Dragonball FighterZ Beta. I was impressed with Dragonball but not enough to justify the day one purchase. I’m worried about the server and matchmaking stability.
    I’m really hyped for MHW. Went and traded in a few games I haven’t been enjoying and don’t see myself finishing them in to GameStop to finish paying off my pre-order.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s smart! I’ve definitely saved money on betas of games I thought I wanted, but the actual experience of the beta let me know it wasn’t for me. I’m glad devs make them available for us!

      I hope you’re enjoying Monster Hunter!

      Like

  2. I love the opportunity to play in betas and experience the game before release. That being said I didn’t even download the Monster Hunter World beta, I just had no interest in learning the in-depth mechanics of a loot grind. That being said I am sad to miss out on the Sea of Thieves beta because I didn’t pre-order the game. I just don’t understand the gameplay loop well enough to know if I want the game or not. I’ll watch what I can on Twitch. Last year, the Prey beta convinced me to buy the game. I enjoyed the mysterious space station and its Bioshock vibe. Apparently, space station decorators all have a penchant for art deco.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bring up something interesting; getting beta access when pre-ordering a game. I think that’s such a missed opportunity for developers/publishers. Why limit a beta to people you already know want the game? Why not open that up to hopefully entice others to buy the actual release? It’s very odd.

      Ha! I think you’re right about the space station decor!

      Like

  3. Thanks Rebekah for sharing your thoughts as always. This one is special. Thanks for the shout out.

    You already have an idea about my thoughts on betas. They should be a predictor of the final product; as you stated that’s not always the case. I too, have played some of the betas that you mentioned. I wholeheartedly agree on your Battleborn thoughts.

    You left off For Honor; the mechanics was smooth for an action game, imho! COD: WW2/BF1 I understand & share your sentiments on the latter. In regards to the first game; COD is good; FOR ME, their betas can be hit or miss. Like you Ghost Recon; I completely share your sentiments; have no further commentary to add; felt as though you took the verbage straight from my head as you wrote this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course! Thank you for the question!

      It’s just so bizarre when they aren’t accurately indicative of the final product.

      Oh weird, I totally forgot about For Honor. When I did a search of my system, it didn’t come up at all. I wonder why? But I was underwhelmed by that one, too.

      Aww, thank you!

      Like

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