Considering Finding Beta Players

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Jackkel Dragon
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Considering Finding Beta Players

#1 Post by Jackkel Dragon » Sat Aug 19, 2017 10:09 pm

Since it will still be a while before I'm able to properly release the game I've been working on, I've spent some time trying to guess what others might think of the game when it finally comes out. Because of that, I've started to worry about potential reactions to certain things and whether the game is any good to someone that isn't me. So I've started wondering if doing some sort of private beta test (of a sort) would help any, though I have a number of concerns.

My biggest concern is the idea of someone trying to leak information or steal the game and claim it as their own. I recognize these are paranoid thoughts, but it's hard to shake them. After spending almost four years (and counting) on this game, I don't want to take any risks that I don't have to.

Another major concern I have is that the script has been set in stone for so long, if there are things that testers think should change, those things may not be able to change without a huge effort. Aside from building the art asset list from the script, the story is also used as a base for other projects I have in progress that have yet to be announced. If something that ties into one of those projects needs to be changed (in the minds of the testers), I'd not really be able to make those changes and thus look like I'm not taking the advice into account.

The last concern is that I worry about how I might react to the tester feedback. Because this project has been a significant part of my life, I worry that I'd take any criticism, no matter how valid, too personally. The thing is, this is the sort of feedback I'd have to be ready for anyway, if I chose to actually publish the game.

In light of those concerns, I'm not sure what I should do. If I were to go about doing a beta test, how would I do it? Is doing such a test worth the effort, even though it would focus more on getting opinions than fixing problems?
Current Projects:
  • Corpse Party D2: A series of RPG Maker and Ren'Py fangames based on CORPSE-PARTY's D-2 ending. (Tumblr | Heavenly Host Forums) [Team Despair]
  • Eldritch Academy: A Romance/Paranormal Thriller Visual Novel about a Japanese boarding school's dark secret. (Lemmasoft) [Nightshade]
  • Shireishi: An anthology of Horror/Mystery short stories focused on a haunted phone application and the students it ensnares.
    (Amazon US) [Nightshade]

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Re: Considering Finding Beta Players

#2 Post by Mammon » Sun Aug 20, 2017 2:38 am

Should you make a beta of your game if you worry about these things? Yes. It's better to find out about some flaws before releasing the game rather than having people tell it to you afterwards. With my first project P&Y for example, I kept saying 'off course' instead of 'of course'. No matter how much you'll betatest yourself (although it's still greatly recommended to do so), you'll always overlook some of your own flaws.

Reacting to feedback, now that is an issue that might actually be valid and which I too have issues with myself. Taking it too personal is easily done, especially considering that the amount of testers you'll have will be at a number where replying will be possible and expected (thus it will become more personal through your message back) and most people around here aren't professional beta testers that know the specific yet subtle distinction between useable feedback and their review. (I'm certainly not a proper beta tester myself, mind you.)

Getting feedback that seems too vague to use will be inevitable, as will getting feedback where the beta tester doesn't seem to realise just how much revisions it will take to process it. That's part of beta. You're not actually contractually obligated to follow it, beta merely exists to make you aware of the problem so that you may improve upon it if you so choose.
In that regard, I'd recommend that you do get beta testers, leave your reply lying around 24h and read it through before sending it so you can see and alter any language that might suggest you're taking the feedback too personally (which can happen even if you don't mind it), and then look at which feedback you'll use once you've got it all. If you don't want to change it for good reason, then don't. These people aren't your boss. If you can't change it, then you can only try to improve over time.
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Re: Considering Finding Beta Players

#3 Post by sasquatchii » Sun Aug 20, 2017 8:30 am

If you are worried about people leaking or sharing information about your game that you don't want out there yet, do you have friends and family members that you could have play test it first? These people might not be your core audience, but can help you in finding mistakes and things you've overlooked in your game.

As far as taking criticism personally goes, I think this something all game devs have to deal with. It helps me to compartmentalize and try to mentally separate the work I make from myself. When someone critiques your game, it is helpful to remember that it is not a critique on you or your personal tastes (although it might feel like it) - but a critique on the work itself. And constructive criticism is always given with the intent to improve upon something, and never to make anyone feel badly - so criticism is actually a very useful tool for improving!

That said, I think the folks on the LSF are pretty stellar and supportive as far as critiques & giving feedback go. In fact, most everyone here wants to support each other and build each other up, and it's a very encouraging place to be, even for newbie devs. We also have an 'honest critique' button that someone made to signal to other forum members that they are welcome to give candid and constructive criticism.

Also, it sounds like you want beta testers to gauge overall reactions to the game, and not to proofread or edit anything - and that's totally fine! If you do decide to have people test your game you can explain to them that the script is not going to change - but that you are trying to learn what other people think of the game. You can even come up with a list of questions & things you hope to learn from their impressions and thoughts after they've played through.
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Jackkel Dragon
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Re: Considering Finding Beta Players

#4 Post by Jackkel Dragon » Sun Aug 20, 2017 5:53 pm

Thanks for the responses so far! It sounds like I should probably go forward with putting together a beta test, though I still have a few questions/concerns.
If you are worried about people leaking or sharing information about your game that you don't want out there yet, do you have friends and family members that you could have play test it first?
I'm not sure I really have anyone in my family that would playtest the game, and most of the friends I have semi-regular contact with are usually too busy to look over the game. I might try asking directly, though there aren't many who I feel would be interested.

The main question I have about doing a beta test is how I should go about doing the test itself. I'll take a look over the testing/demo subforum to see what others have done, though if possible I'd like to hear some information about how to run the test here. For instance, should I provide the current version of the game executable, or something else? Based on the replies here, it sounds like I should include some direction to the testing in the form of questions/things to take notice of?

A side question that I thought of after posting the thread: How much of an effect would something like an information leak have on potential sales of the game? Since visual novels are a very story-focused experience, would people knowing the ending have a major effect on sales? This is something that I get mixed results for when I look for examples in other media, since sometimes people will be more interested to see something if they know how it ends. (On a related note, I'm also considering doing something kind of like an episodic demo release for a game that I've not announced yet. But I'd like to sell the final version, and the examples of story-focused games that started free and went commercial tend to involve a lot of complaining...)

Hopefully those questions made sense. I'm still on the fence, but I'm leaning toward at least trying a beta test run. Thanks for the feedback.
Current Projects:
  • Corpse Party D2: A series of RPG Maker and Ren'Py fangames based on CORPSE-PARTY's D-2 ending. (Tumblr | Heavenly Host Forums) [Team Despair]
  • Eldritch Academy: A Romance/Paranormal Thriller Visual Novel about a Japanese boarding school's dark secret. (Lemmasoft) [Nightshade]
  • Shireishi: An anthology of Horror/Mystery short stories focused on a haunted phone application and the students it ensnares.
    (Amazon US) [Nightshade]

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