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I've done a lot of work (pro-bono) on a patch to a commercial game from ~11 years ago that needs some beta testing. Loads of people are waiting for it.

What are some ways to get good (by that I mean useful) feedback during the beta test phase for a game? I've got lots of people who want to play with it, but I'm concerned about getting good feedback without getting bogged down in the development. I'm also concerned that people will be more concerned about having the tweaks they want to see added to the patch than really testing the work that has been done.

  • Do you provide the ability to log bugs directly into a bug tracker, or send them all to a person on the development team?
  • How do you ensure you cover all the platforms you support (in my case: Mac OSX (x86/ppc), Windows (multiple versions), Linux (multiple versions)?

Are there any good software packages (like a web portal) for running a beta test for a project like this? Any good documents out there with tips?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I would strongly suggest having an in-game bug-filing option, preferably a big button that says "FILE BUG HERE". Players who are engaged, especially if your game is actually good, are never going to remember bugs that occurred if they have to go out of the engine to file them. You could have those go to the bug tracker, or you could just have it email a holder address. The main goal is to make it easy to file stuff, although this may not be possible for an 11 year old game. In that case I would support both direct email and a website link, and maybe force the testers to go through some trivial front end that exposes a "file a bug" button so they remember it exists.

One good way to do this could be to semi-publicly expose your bug tracking software itself. Most bug tracking software (Trac is a good free one if you don't have one set up already) already has a good web frontend, and you could open that up to everyone in the beta directly. That way your beta testers can literally do QA for you.

To get platform coverage, you could try going directly to those communities. Make sure to discuss your beta on PC, mac, and linux-focused forums. That way you'll make sure to get a few from each group. You should ask players to specify what platforms they have available in the beta application as well.

Lastly, you may consider sending out some sort of "status of the test" email periodically. Something like "Hey, we just changed the weapon balance, can you guys focus on levels 4-7 for today? levels 8-10 are still being worked out and will be a bit better next week." Anything you can do to focus the testing process will work out to your advantage.

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As far as getting good quantitative info, if you have the development time, add as much logging as can be analyzed.

  • What % of your beta testers ever came back?
  • How long was their (longest, average) play session?
  • Where did they stop playing (what was the last action logged)
  • What % of people encountered the new content?

etc

As far as data collection, (http://docs.google.com) has a pretty easy-to-use survey tool - just use the Form->Create a Form menu item.

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If you're using Flash or Silverlight then I would recommend integrating Google Analytics or something similar. Using Analytics it's easy to instrument your game and measure things such as play time, where players are quitting, etc.

Additionally, I would recommend using a service such as Flash Game License's "First Impressions" or just going to Amazon's Mechanical Turk directly. I've found for $1 you can have a player try your game for a few minutes and provide feedback across a number of categories. If you use Mechanical Turk you can design your own form and ask the questions you're interested in.

If you combine both methods you can get a great deal of information for relatively cheap. Of course make sure you know what you want to measure before you start spending money. Finally, I have heard that some people will release their games to a portal such as Newgrounds using an alias and then use Analytics as well as a built in form to collect feedback from players.

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