Open Beta Tests or Closed Beta Tests?

@lucid

Thanks I will be using your idea hopefully,

Accepting people who contact me,
Aswell as doing it in waves,

Then owns nearly halfway do an open beta aswell

Thanks guys for all you help

It seems like most people prefer to upload a demo and then get feedback as they go, but I prefer to actually finish the story and then post it for feedback. Then you can get all the suggestions considered and all the bugs/typos weeded out at once, and it keeps people more interested. (Like it’s more exciting to read one big thing than to have to read a couple thousand words, and then wait a week to read another couple thousand words.)

Hmm maybe mate but I prefer to get them earlier because when I find mistakes and i carets on it plays on my mind

@Samuel_H_Young Fair point, although I’ve found that good playtesters can also make a big difference in how the game actually develops, by taking some of their better early ideas and running with them throughout - something not very easy to implement, or adapt to, once you’ve already written the bulk of it… Not that either method is in any way superior, of course - just a different way of looking at / doing things.

@Vendetta
Oh, definitely. But I actually added a whole new scene, added a ton more depth to my characters, and more character customization, and that was all after finishing it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard to squeeze it in as you may think.

I’m very glad to have shared Choice of Rebels when I did – after a lot was there, but while there was still time to make major course corrections based on reader feedback.

Also, open betas get a lot of exposure, if you’re a new writer.

No disrespect intended, but I’m unlikely to join a closed beta for a WIP from someone who isn’t COG and who I’ve never heard about, because there’s only a 1% chance that the work will even make publication anyway. But if it’s an open beta, I can play as I like and give suggestions where they strike me, and if the game dies (farewell, Seven Winds, I knew it well…), oh well.

Though this is not how these terms are normally used, might I suggest a definition-of-thumb for ChoiceScriot games? Beta should refer to a game for which there is a full draft. It may undergo serious changes, but it is still a full draft.

Alpha, on the other hand, might refer to games that are not yet full drafts.

Better definitions = greater clarity?

Mmm. No need to standardize terminology. “Beta,” “WIP,” “throw it at someone and see if any glaring errors pop out” are all equally understandable. Whether an author throws the WIP open to the public once they have a draft or just a three-choice demo is more of a style thing than a useful distinction.

“Open” and “closed” are the important terms, I think.

So Alphas would be games that are still incomplete, whereas Betas are games that have been generally completed in story and choices but still require fine-tuning?

Strictly speaking, I think it’s fair to say that Jason is correct, in that CS WIPs are actually all “alpha tests” (whether open or closed) until there is a full draft, due to still being in development and often riddled with basic scripting bugs - but that’s because we’re all just a bunch of wannabes doing the best we can on our own, with whatever help, support and encouragement we can find around here.

The problem, IMO, is that in the wider gaming world (where they generally have the resources and skills to develop and test their alpha version entirely in-house) once actual players are involved in a test - open or closed - it’s generally classed as a “beta test”. That’s the only term the vast majority of games players are familiar with when invited to help test a game, so trying to call it anything else here may for many perhaps serve only to confuse the issue?

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“Alpha” and “beta” originated as terms used by IBM to describe their specific, standardized software development cycle, which have since propagated to the rest of the software-writing world. But since other developers have different development cycles that often don’t map very well to IBM’s, the definitions of “alpha” and “beta” builds have morphed to the point where there’s a ton of overlap between the two and neither are very well-defined in the first place. The original IBM definitions don’t even make sense in a world with the internet, since at the end of the alpha stage the software entered a feature freeze. But what with DLC and day one patches and constant updates and such, it is true of most games and most software in general that there will never, ever be a feature freeze which means that by the original IBM definitions, most software released after 2005 or so is in an alpha state and will be until it is no longer supported by the developer.

Considering the obsolete nature of the original definitions and the fluid and variable nature of modern definitions, I fully agree that agreeing to new definitions is important, at least, if we even want to use the word “alpha build” at all, which possibly we don’t. A lot of people just use “beta test” to mean “letting non-devs play with it to solicit feedback before the official release” and there is no corresponding alpha stage at all. We seem to be doing just fine using only the term “beta test.”

I was still confused until Jason’s and Vendetta’s explanations. Then the clouds parted.

Jason isn’t far off, as far as I’m aware an Alpha is usually a very simple and raw embodiment of an idea (a prototype if you will).
It’s not uncommon for a game to be entirely scrapped and/or changed dramatically while it’s an Alpha state. The word Beta then is usually applied to - as said before - something like a finished draft, changes to which will USUALLY be minimal.
I.e. like @Chamomile said, core features are usually developed during the alpha phase, beta testing has historically been more of a quality assurance test for final polish, bug catching and balancing.

Both terms have also become something of an excuse for *some* small amount of parties to release rushed and unfinished and/or poorly written software early - “Don’t blame us if it crashes and deletes all your files, we said it’s still in beta” - but that’s a whole separate issue.

Im not sure whether I personally prefer open or closed though, I think I’ll make an effort to try both at first, if/as and when I finish up a game.

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There are times when a simple forum poll would be oh so useful. :slight_smile:

My real concern here is precisely what terminology we should be using in the Wiki, such as in the article linked earlier in this thread. At present the Wiki just lazily goes with the flow and tries to reflect the terminology / definitions most commonly used here, among the community - no matter how factually inaccurate - but maybe this is not actually such a good idea as it’s only perpetuating bad habits?

Perhaps the answer is to try to adopt the one term commonly used and understood throughout the gaming world, which neatly encompasses any and all player-driven testing, even though the word itself doesn’t actually exist in the English language so far as any dictionary or spell checker is concerned…

Playtest.

This way we can use alpha / beta / open / closed to better (and more accurately) describe a particular state of any given playtest?

(Apologies if I appear unnecessarily pedantic on the subject - my sole concern here is that the Wiki accurately reflects a community consensus.)

I wouldn’t redefine things, just clarify. If you’re getting the public to help, it’s Beta. If it’s incomplete, it’s a WIP Beta test. If you’re asking the forums to help, it’s Open.

Might as well use the terms closest to the way others use them.

I would agree that we should stick to whatever definitions are already common, but that can only happen if certain definitions are actually common. It is possible that different people are using the same words in slightly different ways without noticing.

On another thread, redirected here, Synapse asked:

To which I’d say, the share of the CoG customer base that reads these forums is not large, and many of the folk who would beta test for you are fans who will likely buy the game anyway to show support (and/or to see whether the final version took their feedback into account).

The quality benefit you get from a broad beta is likely to compensate for whatever sales you lose.

In my own case, I’m planning the final beta (with the end of XoR Ch 4) to be only semi-open, not because I fear losing sales but because I want to incentivise a certain kind of engagement with my future WiP threads. And that’s all I’ll say about that for the moment. :slight_smile:

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I’ll echo these comments and toss in the math.

Let’s say you gather up 50 forum folks for beta testing. Yes, a few will “mooch” and read your almost-done WiP and not provide any useful feedback but most will provide helpful feedback that at least justifies their free reading. MANY of them will go above and beyond, not only pointing out issues but suggesting possible solutions. And a few will just dazzle you with insightful analysis that will greatly strengthen your work.

At the very least, these people found typos, spacing errors and continuity errors, but they likely provided far more feedback.

Even if none of them buy your game (worst case scenario!) you lost a total of…wait for it…*$17.41 in sales. $17!!! And of course as @Havenstone points out, many of them WILL buy your game for the reasons explained above.

Doesn’t all the beta testing seem like a bargain now??? You could barely buy 2 hours of beta testing conducted by one solitary minimum wage earner (in the US) for $17!

That $17 in lost sales (again worst case scenario) “bought” you a ton of help that should result in better reviews on the platforms, better word of mouth, improved sales, and maybe even customers who will consider buying your next gamebook.

*(calculated assuming a $1.99 HG release x author share (.175) x 50 lost sales)

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Also, if you, as an author show appreciation and value the people involved in this community, they will repay you by supporting your work in many different ways. Purchasing on multiple platforms, putting their seal of approval on your work, even spreading the word to their networked friends.

I will be having my WiP open until the final version, which I will then switch to closed on invite. The final version feedback I’ll be seeking will be focused and specific and that type of beta is not for everyone.

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