Design and documentation journal for my interactive fiction (text games); also reviews and other miscellaneous stuff.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A word on betas

I've been reading a lot of reviews of games where people say things like "the betas must be good at puzzles" or "the betas must not have gotten this far" or something along those lines. In my (very very limited) experience as a beta, just because you complain or point something out or create funny little stories pointing out how something needs to be fixed does not necessarily mean that it's going to be fixed.

Often authors are too far along to do the rewrite they need to, or too caught up (even with betas) to embrace the need to better clue puzzles. So, sure, it *could* be the betas' fault, but it could also be, you know, the person who wrote the story. I'm not sure that it's at all kosher to point out that I *noticed* and *warned* the author about some of the bad stuff in reviews, so I just want to say, generally speaking, please don't assume it's my fault.

It's true for my games, assuming I ever complete them, too. I put the stuff in, misspelled or incoherent or unplayable, and I'm responsible for that.

There's no doubt that betas can make games much, much better, but it the author isn't willing or able, then the best beta in the world isn't going to help. I guess an argument could be made that the best beta in the world would be able to eloquently show the author the error of her ways, but ultimately I don't think of that as my job. I'm happy to make a case for something I feel strongly about, but I'm not a community spokesperson on the Importance of Grammar and Well-Hinted Puzzles.

Edit: Also, authors frequently just don't allow enough time for beta and fixing. It's well-nigh impossible to get a 2-hour competition game from beta to solid release in, say, a week, which is when some authors are ready to go. There needs to be plenty of time for adjustment, feedback, more adjustment, and then hopefully release to another set of fresh betas, and more tweaking.

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