The State of Beta Testing
Beta Testing Frustration
Beta testing isn't what it used to be. A beta test used to be the second formal round of testing (after the alpha) and it was used to test all the ins and outs of the game. Players find thousands of ways to break a game that developers would never think of. Bugs pop up when your testing base goes from a few hundred to thousands. Betas were used to solve these problems.
Some companies still use betas this way, but more often than not beta tests are glorified demos that are released to the public for a limited time. Look at the giant media push for the Halo Reach beta. They were trying to give everyone a small taste of the game in the hope of getting them to buy it in the fall. They aren't the only culprit.
MMOs are among the worst offenders. "It's still in beta" isn't an excuse that MMO beta testers accept anymore. They expect the game to be content complete with all the features in place. Testers just want to try out the game to see if it's worth buying when it comes out for real.
When did this happen? I'm just as at fault as anyone else. If a beta is buggy I end up thinking less of the game. I know I didn't always think this way. I really don't know when I mentally shifted over, but I treat betas as demos more than I like to admit.
Maybe we all need to give developers more slack during their rounds of beta testing. We expect way too much and don't help the developers as much as we should. "It's still in beta" should, once again, be a valid excuse.