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:
For the Tester:
- 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.
- 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.