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I am approaching the point where I can release a playable beta of a very complex game I am making in Flash/AS3. It is fairly involved and the deepest game Ive made so far. I plan on hosting it on my personal site but I want to try and get good feedback on the game elements so far.

Is it worth it to expose this beta to as many places as possible before the release? What are good communities to do this?

Please note this will be freeware in its final release

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Josh Petrie Dec 16 '13 at 19:53

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It's probably good to stage your beta into at least 2 sections. The key issue is that having a "public" beta too early is a bad idea, as it can server as bad word of mouth. The people who are in your public beta test are the same people you want to use to spread some publicity (even for a free game).

If you need to get some early testing in, I would recommending doing a "friends and family" beta where you hand it out to people you have a relationship with, such as friends in real life or just users on a forum you frequent. Mention that it shouldn't be distributed and you'd really like some feedback. This way you'll get less of a dispersal effect, as being in public beta can make the testers think that they don't have to give feedback (because everyone else is).

Once your game is fully functional and you want to open it up for either balance or scalability testing, a more public beta is the way to go. Frankly for a freeware game there's not much benefit to actually "releasing" a game, and things like Dwarf Fortress are still technically in Beta despite having thousands of active users. At this point I'd open it up to everyone, and the "beta" label is really just there to let people know that it's not a commercially polished experience. Heck, gmail was in beta for like 5 years.

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beta into at least sections hi, could you possible list a set of sections you would submit a beta to or how it should be break-out for testing ? im quiet new to the scene and i belive it would be a nice addition to people going into it. – Prix Jul 22 '10 at 4:15
Doh, that was a typo. I meant to divide into at least 2 sections, the friend and family beta and the open beta. – Ben Zeigler Jul 22 '10 at 6:19

Dwarf Fortress is a good example of a freeware game that started releasing to the public early and then kept being expanded as people tried it. I think you have little to lose if you make it available as soon as it's playable to get early feedback.

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Follow Stackoverflow's example: release your beta in multiple groups. Why?

Because most likely the user will check your beta out once, poke around, and then is highly likely to not return or keep testing as much as they did when they first began. Also, new users at different stages of beta development can spot things that, well, only a new user would spot. Older users will also have learned or become accustomed to the game so they might not spot some issues.

If you keep getting users in stages during development, you'll always get new fresh eyes and ideas/thoughts/etc. throughout your development.

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For City of Heroes, we were lucky enough to have a community of fans who were very excited to give us feedback on the game, but having a pool of people you trust to give feedback is very important.

I'd usually roll things out to as few people as possible because getting a few hundred people reporting the same bug is a waste of time. Once you started to get around a thousand people betaing, the noise outweighed the value so it was almost a promo at that point (we never had the heart to boot people from the beta and forums).

Analyze feedback. This is important and time consuming. Make sure you have feedback gathering mechanisms in place. Forums work well, but instrumenting your code is important too. This can take a lot of time, and you usually think of the most important questions to ask after you wish you'd instrumented.

Another easy mistake to make is rolling buggy stuff out. It is a complete waste to show anything to people if you know it is broken. Even when you think it is solid, hallway playtest with a single person (or small group) and just watch them play. Right now that's all I need for Neverwinter, when I start to get lots of conflicting advice and I'm unsure of what to do next I'll start rolling it out to more people.

Finally, (and a little off-topic, sorry!) trust your gut and your vision. People are great at telling you something is wrong, but you almost never want to listen to their suggestions. You understand the big picture better than they do.

good luck!

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As long as you aren't representing it as a "final" product, there really isn't any reason to go public with a beta on your own site as soon as it's playable.

I wouldn't put it on portals or anything like that, as the primary reason for releasing games early is to try to get a tightly knit community around it. You want people to be getting the game from your site so that when they have issues they know where to turn to for support and feedback.

Wolfire Games and TaleWorld both release their work-in-progress games to their preorder customers, and it works out really well for them.

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