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What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Po. Prune » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:48 pm

Adrift is suffering, and we're suffering badly. We need games out there, good games, that is. And good games are (also) games that has been thoroughly beta tested. We, ourselves, are part of the reason that Adrift games are not popular if we can't even take an hour or two to beta test a game for a fellow Drifter.

I'm not trying to beat anyone over the head (or am I? :wink: ) I totally understand that many of you has a life beside Adrift and that you can't spend endless hours beta test a game when you're busy creating a masterpiece of your own. Just keep in mind that that masterpiece will need beta testing some day. :wink:

Latest Rotter has asked for beta testers for his game "the Wall" as this is written at least 20 people has read his post but no one has mentioned a word about being interested in beta testing his game.
I have beta tested an earlier version and I can honestly tell you that this is a game well worth playing.

So what will it take to get you to beta test a game?
Do you want a walk-through, a hint sheet, maybe clear instructions as to what the author expects of you?
In short: What would it take?
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby David Whyld » Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:28 am

Back when I was more involved in the ADRIFT scene, I used to dread the whole testing side of things.

As an author needing people to test my work, I disliked it because half the time people wouldn't want to test your game no matter what. If they did test it, there was no guarantee they'd make a good job of it. (One guy's entire betatesting of my game involved him sending me an e-mail saying "it's okay" with no indication of what he'd actually tested or whether he'd found any bugs. When I asked him for a transcript, he said he didn't have time for that kind of stuff.) Only very rarely did I find people who actually did a good job of testing.

As a tester, I disliked it because most of the time the games I was sent to test weren't even finished. One game had a couple of rooms and included almost no descriptions for the few items I could see. When I asked the author about this, he said he'd only just started writing the game and wanted to get my feedback on it. I duly sent him a transcript and his response to a lot of it was that I shouldn't be wasting time examining bits of scenery that weren't important. (Of course, as the player and not the author there was no way for me to know that any of the scenery was unimportant.) He sent me several further versions of the game for testing every time he added a new room or a new description of some item. In the end, he never released it anyway. Other times, you send people long and detailed transcripts, ideas for improving their games, hints about bug fixes and the like, and they decide not to bother doing any of those things anyway. I once pointed out to someone a bug in the very first location of their game where a door couldn't be opened because the key needed for it couldn't be obtained, and the game was released with that very bug still in place.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Lazzah » Mon Jan 16, 2017 3:16 pm

My experience of playtesting is quite different from David's. Fortunately I have a couple of playtesters who are VERY good and send me regular transcripts from the games of mine that they are testing.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby David Whyld » Mon Jan 16, 2017 5:05 pm

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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Lazzah » Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:36 am


David, I really don't know why you are dredging that up, it was SIX years ago! Fortunately, since then I have gained a couple of excellent playtesters. Maybe I should have specified "My RECENT experience of playtesting...." in my post.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby David Whyld » Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:45 am

It's just something I remembered after seeing your post and the problems you've mentioned in the past about getting reliable testers. (And it was three years, but who's counting?) :)
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Po. Prune » Tue Jan 17, 2017 1:11 pm

Anyway.. Trying to Get back to the subject....
Whether or not you like to beta test. What would it take to get you to beta test a game?

Personally I would prefer to, at least, have a walk-through. Having a walk-through doesn't make the testing any less valuable but it will save the tester numerous grey hairs and sleepless nights :wink:

I agree with David that I would as a minimum expect the game to be finished and although I wouldn't expect the author to follow my suggestions for improvements I would expect him/her to correct any bugs reported.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Lazzah » Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:48 pm

Po. Prune wrote:Personally I would prefer to, at least, have a walk-through. Having a walk-through doesn't make the testing any less valuable but it will save the tester numerous grey hairs and sleepless nights.

I myself don't believe that giving a walk-through to the tester is a good idea. I think the tester might be too tempted to look at the walkthrough when they get stuck rather than try every conceivable input to solve a puzzle. This sort of thing is what I look for on playtest transcripts. The commands that playtesters use to solve a puzzle often amaze me but very often the input is something that should have worked but which I didn't think of.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby R2T1 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:27 am

I'll only volunteer if I know a brief synopsis of the game and I have an interest in that type/genre. I also have to know that I have some time to spend on it.
I am retired now, and I would have thought I would have plenty of time on my hands. But my wife thinks otherwise and there is always something else to occupy the hours. (Not sure how I fitted in time to work before.)
As there is only so much time to allocate, and I know that authors need to get feedback sooner rather than days/weeks later, I make my choices accordingly.
As far as walk-throughs go, I would prefer to have none at the outset and ask for help if I become stuck. I agree with Lazzah, the temptation to use a walk-through, if I had one, would not help the author to know problems that may not be seen / caught otherwise.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby David Whyld » Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:35 am

I agree about the walkthrough. If there's one available, I always end up using it as soon as I reach a puzzle and become stuck. I'm weak that way. I'm far more likely to keep on at a puzzle and solve it the old-fashioned way if there's no walkthrough available. Ideally, as a tester I'd prefer to approach the game in exactly the same way as a player would. There's no good way to judge if a puzzle is too hard / too easy if the tester gives up after a couple of attempts and uses the walkthrough.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Po. Prune » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:23 am

R2T1, I agree with you that I too would prefer that the game I test is a genre that interests me.
On the question of a walk-through I'll still say that I would prefer that one was available.
You said it yourself, your time is limited and when you have battled a puzzle for "ages" it's nice to be able to look up the solution rather than have to write the author and wait for him to get back to you. Also there's the chance that the tester will become so frustrated with the game that he'll just dump it.
I've beta tested Rotter's "The Blank Wall" (can highly recommend it.) and whenever I had to turn to the walk-through, I'd write a note in the transcript: "Had to use walk-through"
Of course there's a risk that the tester will "cheat" but as an author you have to assume that he's serious when he offers to test your game. (God, I'm so naive :angel: )

Should the author be more specific in what way, or how he wants his game tested, perhaps?
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby David Whyld » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:33 am

A transcript is pretty much essential because you get to see the kind of things people try and the problems they run into. If a puzzle is poorly clued, a transcript will tell you that because the tester will be trying all manner of things you didn't think to include, or they'll miss it altogether (which is another good indication that you need to improve things). I'd make a walkthrough available but only on request - certainly if a tester is stuck and can't get any further without the walkthrough, you need to provide one to them. And maybe also have a good look at the difficulty of your game because if your tester is getting stuck, it's a fair bet other people will too.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby DarkFantasy2017 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:01 pm

Hi, everyone. I know that I am new to the community, but I have been playing (and dabbling in writing) both traditional IF and AIF for years now, so I thought that I should weigh in here. I think that the forums here need, if at all possible, a dedicated "Players Wanted" board. I don't know about anyone else, but I am ALWAYS looking for new experiences on the ADRIFT platform, and if I haven't volunteered myself as a playtester for your new project, it either means that I was insanely busy during a given week or (more likely) not aware of the need. There's so much to wade through here, and this forum is only one of many online communities that I check in with daily, so I can't search through threads the way that I might like to. Having one spot I could go to find games that are in beta that people want tested that I could quickly and easily download and give a spin to for the sake of giving constructive feedback would really rock my world, as this is actually the main reason I finally chose to jump in and join the active community; to find people who would give me feedback and to share mine with other writers.

Posts in such a board, were it implemented, should probably have just basic information about the game (including what version it's being written in, as you run into nasty issues at times if you are running an ADRIFT game on a newer version when it was made in an older one), and a download link, a request for what kind(s) of feedback are being sought, and a preferred method of contact for offering that feedback. Does anyone else feel like this is a good idea? Because if so, and if it's actually implemented, I can promise at least one regular, dedicated playtester (myself) will be available to anyone who wants one, schedule permitting.
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Po. Prune » Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:40 am

Hello Darkfantasy.
And welcome to our little corner of the IF universe.
I can only agree with you and if I'm not mistaken I believe that I actually at an earlier stage suggested that such a topic was creaed in the forum. I think the reason it was turned down back when, was because there is a section/chapter "Game discussion" and adding a new section/chapter (what the Hell do you call it?) wasn't necessary.
But maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea trying it again. I mean if it doesn't work it can always be deleted, right?
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Re: What will it take to get you to beta test?

Postby Mystery » Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:35 pm

Po. Prune wrote:So what will it take to get you to beta test a game?
Do you want a walk-through, a hint sheet, maybe clear instructions as to what the author expects of you?
In short: What would it take?



I love beta testing. Unfortunately with my current job, I don't get a whole lot of free time in the first place to juggle significant other, family, friends, chores, and hobbies. So when I do get free time, I have to prioritize, and sadly hobbies are usually the last on the list. Then when I actually get a couple of hours to spare, I have to choose which hobby I want to do more! I'm recently trying to squeeze in a little bit of everything, but it's not working so well :?

1st question- I need more time. It gives me the opportunity to try to be a better player, while helping the author flesh out ambiguity, logic, and programming issues, for lack of a better word, etc.
2nd question: I hate walk throughs. I don't want them when playing or testing, and I have opted out of many competitions that require an author to provide them.As an author, I feel like beta testing should help me flesh out any errors that would cause someone to get stuck. An author can provide clues in the content, and use of hints. If a game is so hard and convoluted that I need a walk through, I put it aside and try again later. As a player, this is where keeping a transcript is helpful. I can keep a transcript for the author so they can see first hand from 'this' player's point of view. They have the option to see if I am just a terrible player (I am), or if maybe they didn't implement a common or logical command.

I have found over the years though, that may authors are not clear with what they require, and testers do not really know how to test. These are the basic guidelines I try to follow when I actually have time to create or test. I'm sure I have forgotten something in here, but for now, this will have to do.

For the Author:

  • Communicate with your tester on exactly what you need from them. Are you looking for a complete beta test, or just something more simplified like proofreading, or testing only specific puzzles?
  • Inform the tester of what kind of timeline you are requesting feedback returned to you, and be flexible. Your location plays an important role as well, since you may be on a completely different continent than the tester, and the time difference can be significant.
  • Instruct your tester on how to beta test! As an author, you need to specify what exactly you need your tester to do, with clear instructions on how to do it. Someone may offer to beta-test, who has never done it before, so they have no clue what you expect and could easily assume that they just need to play it and tell you how it is..."It's ok." Instruct them on how to start a transcript, note typos, note potentially broken puzzles or objects not working as expected.
  • Try to get a diverse range of beta testers - different age ranges, different parts of the world, etc.
  • Communicate! It goes both ways. If a tester tests, and responds with "it's ok", communicate more specifically with them on what you need them to do. If they don't, find another tester and make sure you are clear with what kind of feedback you are looking for. If you do not hear from your tester within the time-frame you have discussed, look for additional testers just in case. Sometimes life happens and something comes up and people might not be able to get back to you. Don't assume why they haven't got back, just look for additional testers.
  • Don't be a jerk to your testers who are volunteering their free time to help you.
  • Rewards-If you find an awesome tester, there is nothing wrong with rewarding them for fantastic service. This isn't something that should be expected by either party. It could be something as a simple "Thank You", and providing feedback on what they did as a tester that was so helpful. At your discretion, you could also choose to reward awesome testers with a $5 gift card to Amazon, or some other vendor.

For the Tester:

  • Communicate! It goes both ways. If you are a tester, communicate with the author on your time availability and when you expect to get the next transcript or testing results to them. If you are going to be delayed with getting results to them, communicate this to them as soon as possible.
  • Immediately when testing, start a transcript in the runner to provide to the author. If you do not know how to do this-contact the author immediately before doing anything else. This will be a HUGE help to the author (even if they don't know it yet), as they will be able to see first hand how you play, what you typed in, and the response you received. This will help them build commands up to ensure they are covering for a wider player base, and also to verify if you received the correct response for the action you entered. We all play different, and nobody likes guess the verb.
  • Always try examining things more than once throughout the play, to see if logical descriptions change- for example if if you break something successfully, does the description of the object change after to reflect it is broken.
  • Try new things. If something does not work the way you expect it, try several things rather than just giving up. This is going to be the most help to the author, to see how you play, and how they may need to adjust a particular command or puzzle.
  • Aside of using the transcript, keep a separate note sheet or simply use a draft email until you are ready to send your first progress report. Keep very detailed report of any issues. If you are an advanced author as well, and understand the mechanics of a particular feature not working-share it with the author.
  • Avoid giving non-essential feedback unless you are specifically asked for it. Your personal opinion on every little thing in the game is irrelevant to beta testing. For example- I am very subversive in my descriptions. If I mention dust or a glint of light in a description, you should be able to examine it. This is my personal opinion-but should never be imposed on another author who may prefer something more simplified. There are exceptions, if you can't examine anything or interact with anything, that should be brought up to the author.
  • And if you are a tester, don't be a jerk to the person you are testing for. If you have animosity because you feel you are wasting your free time to help someone out for no compensation, then simply don't do it. You make your own choices.
  • Don't expect compensation. If the author chooses to reward you for your service, great, but it should never be expected.
  • Provide the author feedback on their communication during the process. It will help them improve on their communication with their next beta tester.

Hope this helps authors and testers alike.
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