Video Games

Being A Video Game Tester: The Good, The Bad, The Boring

Video Game TesterAll three of the major console companies, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony offer some form of product testing whether it be playing an early build of an upcoming game or being lucky enough on obtaining an early version of a retail console.

Microsoft and Sony are more aggressive with there Beta testing as they now use it as selling points for a lot of there major titles. inFamous was the most recent for Sony, Pre-Ordering the game earned you a spot in the Uncharted 2: Among Thieves multiplayer Beta. the Pre-Order earns you a code voucher that you can use at a specific time to download the beta and begin playing with all the others who have obtained this beta.

This is an awesome way to move product and makes sales, but in the end, the game you are actually buying will forever be known as the “game that got you that major beta invite for the pre-order” or shorter “I only got it for the beta invite”. However, why would Sucker Punch put such a huge beta invite on such an awesome game?

Then again, the reverse effect occurred when Crackdown was released on the Xbox 360. Inside, a Beta invite to Halo 3 was available to all those who pre-ordered the game. Crackdown sold an impressive amount of copies however it met awful reviews from the press.

Now that Halo 3 is out and in the wild, why bother with Crackdown? The Beta’s all expire at a certain time, usually within a few weeks of the actual product release or for time to fine tune the problems these games that are being tested have. In the end though, do these designers, producers, and major companies even listen?

I have seen Beta issues from Halo 3 that still affect the way the online portion of the game functions. Also, now that Crackdown sold so many copies due to the Halo 3 beta, a new studio picked up the license for Crackdown and is going to be releasing a sequel, this time no beta included. We will see how that works out. Halo 3 ODST, the biggest expansion to a Halo game yet, will Drop September 22 and all those who pre-order the game will get a multiplayer beta invite to Halo: Reach, a new game in the Halo universe.

Why include a beta of a new game based in the same universe? Halo 3 ODST will sell alone very well you do not need to include any incentives for buying the game on the release date. Besides, the Halo zombies that will be camping out for it will be buying it simply put: Because its Halo, it must be good.

So why am I going on about this? Because in the end, what this is doing is decreasing the value of being a game tester. Look at it this way, why should anyone work hard to earn the spot professionally when people who pre-order these games get the beta invites for free?

Also, most of the people who are buying these games are older and employed, they make more money then entry level game testers. What a joke. Also, now that beta invites are more open and more available, now you have people basically playing it to tell there friends there playing before them. This sucks because now you have to deal with “Flame” wars on the internet and what makes it worse is that these idiots are not even paying attention to what is it there supposed to be doing: locating flaws, software issues, collision detection issues, etc. In the end, it becomes a glorified demo for those who want to be a part of it.

Why no more exclusive beta programs anymore? Well all you have to do is look at what happen with the Playstation Home Beta Program. This was a Super Exclusive Beta, I felt like Sam Rothestein, it was the cash room…not even I could get in but it was my job to keep it full of money. I didn’t get into this Beta at all, but I didn’t have to. Most of the people who get these “Super Exclusive” invites are tweens…and that blows since people like me who would be the most beneficial for Sony’s cause will be ignored for these online “uber” nerds.

These mopes leaked all sorts of information online in many message boards on the internet with video’s, screen shots, and blog detailing everything. Well, heres the deal, when you in product testing and research, thats R&D to you, no information of ANY kind can be leaked. So when these people are kicked out for violating the EULA (End User License Agreement), why aren’t people like myself given the shot to get into the beta?

The novelty of being a beta tester is all but gone, its a shame really. I remember when I was beta testing Halo 2…yes I was testing that. Now that the game is almost 5 years old (wow, its been that long?), who cares about me coming out with this intel. The people over at Microsoft were extremely explicit with there rules about being a tester. When images leaked online and in magazines, the beta was shut down.

When one person ruins it, its ruined for all. They kept on testing the game but it was done in house and by people who were hired to do it. I also was testing Mechassault 2, Syphon Filter, Uncharted 2, Halo 3, Killzone 2, and so many others over the years. The good thing about all this is that it helps build something on my resume if I ever went professional, but then again if there are beta invites being handed out like candy, will any company take someone like me serious with all this so called experience?

The fact that all these Beta tests are being done digitally is awesome, no need for any more media in our CD trays. Its all done from your Harddrive and when its over, just uninstall/delete depending on if your and PS3/Xbox 360 user. You do get lots of perks though for being a beta tester.

Free games are usually a reward for being a tester, free emblems and or themes for you desktop, profile information updates showing proof you tested the game, and the chance to meet lots of gamers as well as major software designers. You can also play with the developers for real which is awesome. Uncharted 2 has been doing that, you can play with the folks over at Naughty Dog before the game is released and it becomes impossible to play with these people again.

Am I trying to make it sound like this job sucks? Not really, you just have to remember that someone who points out things you missed may be half your age, and this person could replace you if your not careful one day. You do get lots of insider information and you do get lots of practice with games yet to be released. You have to keep in mind that these games are so early in there development cycle that there is going to be lots of issues.

If you are good at what you do, you will get lots of invites that follow. These beta testers have online community sites to report any issues to and the more you report, the more active you are in the games development. Companies keep track of your information that is uploaded and the most things complained about by the majority, the higher chance that issue will be fixed. Usually its an online message board or an email address that you are to send information to.

Nintendo doesn’t have any type of beta from what I know, even though there is a program I have yet to get any type of beta from them. There bad at preventing news from leaking out so I can see why they wouldn’t bother with a digital beta program…also because of the lack of a storage media for there handheld and console.

I can understand why no more hardware beta programs are going on given the LARGE amount of leak Xbox 360 prototype information that was leaked into the media, this is very hurtful towards the company. Its definitely the first initial step to getting a career in the Video Game Industry. Ken Lobb started out as a tester. He bought lots of NES games from a local game store and one day he ran into a sales rep from Tengen who just so happened to have a talk with Ken and history was made that day.

Ken Lobb, for those of you who don’t know him, was the mind behind the Rare/Nintendo Partnership which lead to major success stories such as Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, RC Pro Am, Jet Force Gemini, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Diddy Kong Racing, Star Fox Adventures, Killer Instinct, and the MEGA Successful Goldeneye 007. You see, it does pay to be honest in reviewing your games, you do not know who is listening to you.

If you’re serious about doing this for a living, go all out. It’s a tough job at first due to the economic times we are in, but once you get your feet in the door, let the world know you’re in. Beta Testing is a very small step now given the easy nature of obtaining an invite. Just keep in mind the turn around in this type of industry, it’s not tech support but it’s not software design either. Good Luck!

Order the book Paid to Play: An Insider’s Guide to Video Game Careers by clicking here.

Check out the book Paid to Play: An Insider’s Guide to Video Game Careers by clicking here.

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