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I'm developing a sort of ’social mmmo’ where people build an avatar and chat with people around them, carryout tasks together, and play team games.

At the moment I have a product I want to release to beta testers but I only have 2 locations ready and they are quite far apart.

I have a fast travel system in place where people can pay to ride the bus making any journey take a short period of time.

If people run out of money they either have to earn more or make the walk themselves.

In the beta would it be better to make the bus free, or have people walk the empty land to get to the other town if they run out of money?

At the moment the land is just plain grass, hills, a river, and the odd tree with nothing of interest.

The journey currently takes around 10-15 minutes to walk if you know the way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It depends on what you want to test. If it's the locations, then yes - make it free, but point out in the game it will be pay to use. If you want to test the whole thing, then I would rather keep it paid, but you probably already know that people won't like walking 10-15 min just to get places. So why not put something along the way to at least earn money along the way or even encourage players to choose between walking vs taking a bus. Or else you'd just end up with a game with a world that people just want to skip over which kind of removes the point in the first place of having a big world. \$\endgroup\$ – Shadox Mar 2 '17 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is only tangentially relevant to the question, but I would advise you to reconsider if having those 15 minutes of barren landscape is really a good idea. Boring content is worse than no content at all. I would recommend you to go for quality over quantity and compress it down to a much smaller area. If you need space for more interesting map features later you can always insert new sections in between. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Mar 2 '17 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may be mixing up terminology here. That's not a beta. "beta" means feature-complete but buggy. What you're doing is an alpha test. \$\endgroup\$ – uliwitness Mar 5 '17 at 2:00
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First: Why should you have fast-travel in the first place?

Because fast travel has an important function: It prevents boredom.

Traversing a well-designed area for the first time is interesting because there is lots of new stuff to discover for the player. The player is exploring, which is one of the four major appeals of MMOs. But when traversing it again, the novelty has worn off and it becomes boring. You don't want the players to experience boredom, so you shouldn't force them to make the same hike multiple times. That's why many games have fast-travel systems which get unlocked for each route after the player has traversed it manually for the first time.

So now why make it cost money? When fast-travel is costly, you encourage players to walk instead. That's a bad design decision! You should never encourage players to do boring stuff. Your encouragement should always be towards the most fun aspects of your game.

But then why do so many games still do it? Because it is a money sink. Typical MMO economies have a problem with inflation. Players constantly generate wealth in form of money and items when they play the game. To fight that inflation, you need to remove money from the economy. The best way to do that is through NPC services which cost money. Fast-travel services are a good opportunity for such a service.

But you need to balance the cost properly so that it is enough to remove a non-negligible amount of money from the game but not so high that any player thinks twice about spending their money on it. A good logic to come up with a good price is to consider how much money players make per minute traveling and how much when they are making while playing in the (for them) most lucrative location. When a player saves 10 minutes travel-time with fast-traveling, makes 100 gold per minute while walking and 1000 gold per minute while at their destination, it is economically better for players to pay up to (1000 - 100) * 10 = 900 gold for fast-traveling to their destination immediately.

But unless you are a very experienced game analyst who has figured out every progression curve just from the game formulas before even writing the first line of code, you likely don't have a good idea yet of how much money players will make in what location. But you can easily figure that out when you have actual data from test players. So my recommendation would be to keep fast-travel free for now and then add a cost after you figured out how much money exactly you should take for it.

For further watching I recommend the video MMO Economies - How to Manage Inflation in Virtual Economies by our game design gurus Extra Credits.

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When you talk about beta testing, I don't know if you mean closed beta. If that is the case, you can focus testing on particular parts of the game, which also means you may ask the testers to do certain things (such as use the bus). In this enviroment it would be ok to give them the money for the bus.

Otherwise, we are talking about open beta, and people will do whatever. Including going to the empty land even when they have money for the bus.


If you are considering making the bus free to give a better experience to beta testers, you should also consider make the bus free in the final game. After all, the purpose of the test is to find ways to improve the final game. An improvement for the test should be an improvement for the final game.

Evidently, the game is subject to change. Consider if that if you are planning to make temporary changes to ease beta testers, perhaps the game is not ready for beta.

On the other hand, testing is useful at every stage of the game, you should not be ashamed※ of an incomplete game when evidently that is what beta tester have signed for.

※: It is impossible to fix everything; every video game company has released games with bugs. And testing can be ridiculous, even tedious... but without it, things would be worst.

You know that this empty land is a problem. It is a known issue. You will be fixing it before or after testing. Do not hide it. Think that even if you make the bus free, a good tester will try every option, and thus will wander into the empty land.

Aside: I am guessing you have grand plans for the empty land. That sounds too ambitious! You could have created the game without the empty land, being the bus the only option... and then, when you have created whatever plans you have for the empty land (which would no longer be empty), you can introduce it to the game. Regardless, you have the empty land there. Let the feedback come.


So, I suggest to not introducing temporary changes. That includes making the bus free or giving free money. Instead, be clear with the beta testers about what they are going into. That may include telling them what the route is in the long walk. In fact, it is a good idea to provide manuals for an open beta, where you explain the game.

As an alternative to beta testing, you can do blind alpha tests. In that case, you have people in a controlled environment where you can supervise them. The idea is to see how the player reacts to the situation first hand (that is much more reliable than their account of what happened). This kind of testing is great for discoverability. Consider that perhaps players will not know that they have to take the bus, or that the empty land only takes them to the same place the bus does.

As per beta testing. People will probably provide feedback about the empty land. Be ready to receive that feedback. The mitigation is including it in manuals as mentioned above.

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