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Article - 'Beta Testers' by Angroth

An item about Miscellanious posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

This should help you out if you like to test games.

Body

It wasn't until recently that I bothered to think about just how many people offer for beta testing. Whenever someone needs some help with their game and posts in the forums about jobs people can do if they would like to help everyone always says:

"i'll be a beta tester im good at testin stuff!"

Now I was wondering whether this was due to one of two reasons. Firstly being that the person is genuinely a good game tester and think they could eliminate all errors. Or secondly being that they are too lazy to do anything else and would like to get their name in some credits with the minimal effort (I like the sound of that one personally!).



Either way, testing your game is very vital otherwise (if trying to get the game on GW) AG will send your game back saying there is some big glitch or it crashes at some point. Hopefully I can give you some tips for self testing and who knows, maybe you won't need any beta testers at all.





What Problems Should I Look For When Testing?

Glitches, bugs, errors - whatever you call them, they come in all forms and shapes. I'll list the main ones that are going to drag your game down, these are the ones you should keep a real eye out for.



1 - Graphical Boo Boos! - Undoubtedly the most noticeable of all errors. These will include things such as character sets whereby you see feet coming into the head of one character or when you don't import the graphics and you get big background colours behind them. Graphical errors are pretty easier to spot out and only really make the game a little irritating to play, they shouldn't destroy the gameplay which is good news! You might need a second person to check these out because in the thick of making your game and you can easily overlook slight graphical mistakes.

Graphical problems also involve badly blending graphics and awfully drawn ones (mainly appear within custom battle / menu systems).



2 - Dialogue No Nos! - The thing that bugs me the most is when someone spells things not dreadfully but just moderately so there is enough to annoy but not really hinder reading it. Dictionaries, thesauruses or anything which has spelling stuff in it is your best bet for checking this one out. The main difficulty with correcting this one is if you think a word is spelt in a certain way and it isn't, someone else is going to need to be there to tell you. So once again it looks like someone is going to have to proof read what you're writing unless you are sure about most of your spellings. Sometimes literacy problems can completely destroy your game because it makes it seem like it was made by and for little children.



3 - We're Losing Structural Integrity Captain! - Of all the things that can go wrong this is likely the worst one to do so. Structural glitches are anything to do with the coding and game mechanics itself. Bugs in this section are really easy to fix and correct. Firstly check what the hell you are typing into the events and editor pages (monster's profiles). And after every little piece (a couple of events or maps) or one big event just test your game. I find if I keep testing my game all the way through as I make it I end up with barely any errors. And then after completion play it through and you can knock off any final errors you have made. All problems of this sort can be hard to fix but should be very easy to find and you don't really need anyone else's help here.



4 - Consistancy & Contradictions. - Basically if you have been talking about a character's past and then much later in the game when you meet that special guy it appears you have forgotten about them because they talk of their history and it makes little correlation; or if your quest randomly changes half-way through the game without anyone saying anything, that is a consistancy and contradiction problem. This merely comes from people forgetting (not writing and planning) exactly what's going on and then they accidently refer to things or use them wrongly. And once again this one just needs a good entire play through to notice, and maybe someone else doing it (you know the story and might blur out the mistakes you see). Glitches of this kind can create confusion to the player and make them lose interest and dissuade them from playing.



5 - Little Random Problems. - All the little extras such as a flame spell that looks nice but makes some strange cow sound or if there is no sound because the game is trying to play a midi you have deleted. Little random problems require a beta tester or some thorough looking through your code. Anything that isn't in the top 4 is likely to fall into this section.





What Factors Should I Check When Testing?

Not stricly bugs but things that can still mess up in your game are the storyline, character (development) and so on. Here is what you should check throughout the game.



1 - Storyline - Well as I already mentioned above, story is another factor you should check. What you need to ask yourself is whether or not you liked it, and if you didn't would it accommodate any other people? Was it too complex or too simple? Just what as the things that made you like it, or not?



2 - Characters - Did you like and hate the characters you think you were expected to like and hate? If you hate a character who you really think you weren't meant to, then thats definately not a good sign! Did you feel you knew the characters and understood their actions and comments? Good development in characters should make you not want to finish the game because you don't want to leave the characters behind. And finally in the characters department you need to wonder whether or not the characters had distinct personalities, were they too developed and therefore predictable or not developed enough so you really didn't know what the hell they were doing there?



3 - Music & Sounds - This can be the make or break for most games and films (such as the original Psycho). Firstly did it fit with the game and aid in providing intended emotions? Was it overdone or not enough music? Were the sounds sensible and pleasant to hear? Did the music and sounds provide a good equilibrium with the rest of the game?



4 - Self Determination - Did you feel in control or did you get the feeling you were following somones story and life? Both can be good if done in the right ways. Were there major decisions you had to make that effected the storyline? Did you get chances to wander and explore areas or did you feel pushed for time? Were the explorable areas nice to explore or horrid and a waste of time?





For The Beta Testers

Now, how will you go about telling your game author?

I could talk for a long time about constructive criticism but I think its safe to say we all know not to tell someone, "This r0x0r" or maybe even "This s0x0r!!". So I'll leave that one for now.





Getting Your Game Recognision



Method One: Hands On, Let's Get Busy!

My advice is to firstly find as many forums as possible. Sections such as "Game and Demo" (in our GW forums) will be the ones you should be heading over to. Post a message about your game (use persuasive advertisement language and you're in!!), include the best screenshots possible from your game and if possible show some beta test reviews of it (if you get big names this could help, kinda like in music or film industry). You could also talk a bit about it on mIRC or a similar thing, the more advertising the better. Well, you get the general idea of hands on approach.



Method Two: Sneak In, Sit Back And Watch! (should follow method one)

You're going to need to use all of your sneaky bastard tactics for this one. An example would be subliminally putting it in the minds of the GWians, such as on your posts (if its an article about game development) put something like "Oh thanks a lot, I'll be sure to use this on my game >insert a project here. Or maybe you could befriend a staffer who you can use to advertise your game, infact why not put people in your credits for advertising your game. Anything that allows you to sit back without typing too much is a method two approach.



Well thanks for your patience, but this article has taken a while to write so I'll be on my way now.