Beta Testing FAQs - Please Read Before Applying!

First of all, these questions only apply to beta tests for Choice of Games and Heart’s Choice, the ones that are posted in this category on the forum. Betas for Hosted Games are run individually by their authors, so I can’t speak to them.

How do I apply for a beta?
The information for how to apply is included in the first post of every beta testing thread. (The reason why it’s listed the way it is is that we want to make sure you’re reading the full post, because part of what we want to see in beta testers is attention to detail.)

Do I need to list my credentials to be a beta tester?
Nope! All we need is the information we ask for in the forum posts. (If you want to include your experience with editing/game testing/etc., you certainly can, but it’s not something we’re looking for and it won’t make a difference in how we treat your application, so it’s not something you need to spend time on.)

Why do you need my real name?
We use your real name for 1) the credits, if it’s the name you’d like to be credited under, and 2) our private tester records. Usernames and email addresses can change more frequently, so it’s easiest for us to keep track if we have another name as well. We don’t need your legal name if you prefer not to use it - a name you’re comfortable with is fine.

How long are games open for beta testing?
Generally, we don’t know the answer to this when a game goes into beta. It depends on a lot of factors, like the length of the game, how many issues turn up in testing, and how long it takes the author to fix those issues. I’d say the average is around three to four weeks, but it could be anywhere from two weeks to a few months. The best way to know how much longer a beta is going to be open is to check the game’s beta testing thread here on the forum - that’s where we post updates. If you’ve been admitted to test a game, please follow that thread.

In general, it’s best to assume a beta will be closing sooner rather than later and get your feedback in as soon as you can - that also means the author will have more time to implement it even if the beta will be open a while longer. If you’d like to apply to test a game but don’t think you’ll be able to send feedback within two weeks (or less if the beta has already been up for a while), it might be better to wait and apply for a different game when you’re more available.

How do I know if a beta is closed?
The best way is to read through the forum thread for the game - if the beta has closed, it will say in the last post. (It’s good to read through those threads before applying anyway, to get a sense of where things are at.) We try to also update the thread titles so that they say “BETA CLOSED” instead of “BETA TESTERS NEEDED,” but I at least often forget to do that part in the midst of other beta-closing stuff, so looking at the thread itself instead of the title is more reliable.

How long will it take to receive a response to my application email?
Again, it depends. We admit testers in batches as new drafts of the game are posted, in the order the applications are received. We tend to get a burst of applications right as a game goes up for beta testing, so even if you apply fairly quickly, it could still be a few drafts before you get in. It could be a few weeks before you get a response, depending on the speed at which new drafts go up. Please don’t send multiple application emails unless you think there was a legitimate technical problem with your first one (and not just that you haven’t received an answer yet). And if you’re no longer available to test by the time you get a response, just let us know.

We do our best to eventually get around to all the testers, but if a game is very popular or goes through beta very quickly, it’s possible that not everyone will be admitted.

Is [a currently-running beta] full?
Unless we’re running one in an unusual way, betas don’t fill up and don’t have limited slots for testers. As above, we admit testers in batches, so only a certain number of people will be let in at once, but we keep admitting people throughout as long as there are more testers waiting. If we stop letting testers in, it’s probably because it’s too close to the end of the beta for them to have time to give feedback, not because we’ve hit a maximum threshold. (If there were unusual circumstances happening with a particular beta, it’s possible we might want to limit how many testers are admitted, but that’s not the norm, and I can’t think of a time it’s happened.)

I’m interested in multiple betas at once. Can I test both/all of the games?
Short answer: yes, but not at the same time, and I’d rather you don’t apply for them at the same time either.

Long answer: as mentioned in the beta forum posts, we won’t admit you to test two different games at once. You need to send feedback for one game before we’ll let you in to test another. I also prefer that you don’t apply for multiple games at the same time - it makes it harder for me to sort your emails, and to organize the queue of waiting testers for each game. You won’t be penalized for doing this (except in that it makes it more likely that I’ll accidentally skip inviting you to test one of the games), but it makes things easier for me if you apply for one game, wait to be admitted, send in your feedback, and then send in an application for the other game afterward.

I was admitted to a beta, but I realized I’m not going to be able to send feedback in time.
No worries - just respond to the email and let us know. It’s not a problem if you have to drop out as long as you let us know, but if you don’t say anything to us for multiple games in a row, you may not be admitted to future betas.

How should I send in my feedback?
There are a lot of ways that will work, but here are some practices that will make our lives and the authors’ lives easier:

  • If you’re talking about a specific moment in the text of the game, like a typo or continuity error, it’s most helpful if you can take a screenshot, or send in an exact quote from the text if a screenshot won’t work. That’s generally what makes it easiest for the author to track down the problem. Screenshots are often the most helpful thing to send in general if you’re talking about a problem in the game - the full text of a page can contain information for the author that isn’t obvious from a player’s perspective, so even if you’re not sure exactly what the issue is, the author might be able to tell.
  • Please don’t say that you saw typos without indicating what and where those typos were. Our games contain a huge amount of text, so it’s very hard to track anything down without more specific information.
  • The “Report Bug” button sends us a record of your stats and the choices you’ve made, but it doesn’t show us the text you’re seeing on the page. So if your stats or the results of your choices seem off, it definitely can be helpful, but for something like a typo that relates directly to the text, a screenshot is preferable.
  • When you’re sending in screenshots, if their order is important in relation to the text of your email, please number them in some way, whether by how you name the files or by labeling the images themselves. They don’t always come through to us in the same order you sent them.
  • For summarizing general thoughts on a game that aren’t about a particular moment, just writing them up in the body of an email or an attachment is fine. (A Google Drive document can work, but note that your email will be passed on to a number of people on our team and there may be permissions issues if it isn’t set up accordingly.)
  • You don’t need to apply for or send high-level and low-level feedback separately. Everyone who’s admitted is welcome to send either or both in any combination.
  • In most cases, your feedback is forwarded directly to the author, so keep that in mind as you’re writing. You’re absolutely welcome and encouraged to note your problems with the game, but please keep your criticism polite and constructive. If you’re rude or aggressive, we won’t pass your comments along.
  • A note that’s more about timing: when the beta ends for testers, it ends for the author too, because the game goes to copyedit at that point and the author can’t make more changes. So if you have a lot of detailed feedback to send, it’s better to get it in as early as you can. If you send a long list of notes the day before the beta ends, the author probably won’t have time to do much with them. (In general, it’s always best to get your feedback in as soon as you can, but that’s especially the case when it’s lengthy.)
  • All Choice of Games and Heart’s Choice titles will eventually have header images for the chapter titles and the different sections of the stats page. Timing-wise, when those are inserted varies a little due to behind-the-scenes stuff - sometimes it’s before beta, sometimes it’s during beta, and sometimes it’s after, but it always happens before the game is released. So even if they’re not there, you don’t really need to send in feedback requesting chapter titles. They’re a standard part of our production process and we’re always already planning on including them, they just might not be ready yet.

Can you review my beta comments and let me know if I’m doing this right?
Unfortunately, not usually. We often have multiple games in beta at once, and each game has dozens of testers, and there’s usually only one or two people on our team managing a beta, so we can’t send individual responses to beta feedback. But we have examples of the kind of feedback we’re looking for both in the beta threads and the emails we send you when you’re admitted. And in general, as long as you send something more substantial than “I didn’t see any problems or typos,” you’re probably doing fine.

But I didn’t see any problems or typos - what should I send then?
Send specific things you liked about the game, or things you’d like to see more of, or examples of what you thought while you were playing - anything that’s discussing the game rather than just saying that there weren’t issues. Beta feedback doesn’t have to be entirely problems or things that need to be fixed - it’s great for authors to see positive feedback too.

I can’t figure out how to achieve something in the game I’m testing - can you let me know?
Again, not usually, for a few reasons. One is that the person directly receiving most of the beta feedback emails is me, or sometimes one of the other COG editors. Each game has one editor who’s been reviewing it since the beginning, but the rest of us generally don’t know very much about its content. So if I didn’t edit the game you’re asking about, I probably don’t know the answer to your question. (Or even sometimes if I did - I don’t always remember all the details!) After the beta feedback goes through us, it goes to the author, and while they probably know the answer to your question, authors are very busy during beta testing. They might be able to reply and let you know, but they might not have time. It’s also possible that the reason you weren’t able to do the thing you were trying to do is because of a bug, which will be fixed in a future draft.

Hearing that you wanted to do something in the game but weren’t able to figure out how is still useful feedback, because the author might then be able to make it easier. We just might not be able to reply to you and tell you how.

The beta is closed, but I still have feedback I’d like to send. Can I?
If a beta is closed, it means the game has gone to copyedit. That means that a copyeditor is reviewing the game to look for any final typos or errors. The author can’t make changes during that process, and the game will be released shortly after the copyedit finishes. If you’ve found a definite bug or continuity error, let us know, and we should be able to fix it after copyedit. But any other feedback is not possible to implement at that point, so we ask that you don’t send it in.

The author didn’t make the changes I requested. Why not?
It could be any of a lot of reasons, here are a few possible ones:

  • There was contradictory feedback, and the author went with the side other than yours.
  • Your feedback was based on a misunderstanding (in which case, the author will still often change something to clarify).
  • More broadly, the author did change something in response to what you asked, just not exactly what you requested.
  • You asked for something beyond the scope of what the game can include, because it would have made the game too long or complicated, or because the beta is almost over and there isn’t time.
  • If the game is still in beta, they might still be planning to make your changes in a future draft, but just haven’t had time yet.
  • The author disagreed with you.

We appreciate your feedback and encourage you to send in all your thoughts - it’s always useful to know what people think during beta testing. But the final decisions about a game rest with the editor and the author, and it’s not possible to make all the requested changes.

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To note, I sometimes add new sections to this post, so it’s worth checking it occasionally even if you’ve read it before. (And even if you’ve been a tester for a while!)

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