Arcen Forums

General Category => Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine => Topic started by: Zebeast46 on November 25, 2014, 05:44:56 PM

Title: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Zebeast46 on November 25, 2014, 05:44:56 PM
I was introduced to Arcen after TotalBiscuit's TLF video, after seeing that video I bought the game. Recently I bought Betrayed:Hope, Ai war and Bionic Dues {so far i'm loving them}. Because I am new I am wondering how Beta's and Alpha's work at Arcen, because I am very interested in Stars Beyond Reach.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: x4000 on November 26, 2014, 08:27:29 AM
Haha, love your sig, first of all. ;)

Quote
AI 1 = Chris.

AI 2 = Keith.

Taken from Bognor

Regarding the alpha/beta, it varies a bit from game to game honestly.

With TLF we pulled a handful of people we knew the best to take a look at it before anyone else, and we'll definitely be doing the same here.  That helps clean up some of the most obvious stuff that we otherwise don't see.  With TLF we then did an invite-only beta where everyone who was a part of it got the game for free.  That worked well for that game, because it was still evolving in the combat area in particular, and we were really trying to capture first impressions and be assured of getting waves of feedback.

With Valley 1 and 2, and with all but the last 2 AI War expansions, we put them on sale in their beta state, and people could buy into those at any time at a discount and also get the full game when it came out (of course).

And we've done some mix of those approaches for the other games.

For SBR... I have not fully decided yet, except that I know we'll be inviting a select few folks in January to be alpha testers to give us feedback before we invite in a wider audience.  With SBR, a LOT more of my own time is reserved for personal testing of the game and then tuning based on my own observations rather than just those given by other people.  That was something that was key to AI War really being what it was, we believe.  Additionally, we'll be running what is for us a very length "true beta" (where things of importance are feature-complete and not flip-flopping around design-wise), of around 3 months.  In the past we did that for a month with Bionic Dues, and it served that game very well, but that was a much smaller game.

My thoughts based on all that is that probably we'll wind up doing a "free demo of the beta at any time, or buy to get the full beta and the finished product" process starting in February.  Most likely just through our site, because doing that on other stores at the same time can really dilute the effectiveness of the actual launch.

None of that is set in stone yet, but that's where my head is at right now, anyway. :)
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Tridus on November 26, 2014, 12:22:41 PM
I'm pretty excited to see this game develop from it's infancy in alpha/beta, given how interesting the concept is.

Hopefully a bit smoother than my time testing TLF. I know that feedback was really useful to you, but man. I had a rough time with "getting it" on that game.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: x4000 on November 26, 2014, 12:31:27 PM
I don't want to jinx anything, but this time around we're actually aiming for something closer to "feature complete" when it comes to the start of beta, this time.  That doesn't mean content-complete, but feature complete is the goal.  Then the rest of that time would be for last bits of content, for AI work, general optimization, balance, testing, UI improvements as needed, art additions, and so on.  For about 3 months, 2.5 at the minimum.

The idea is that this will be a VERY different experience from TLF, at any rate.  The design process for this game has been extremely divorced from the TLF one, for sure.

Hopefully the inherent nature of "things start small in 4xes" will help a lot with "getting it" in this game, too.  Rather than having like 100 options immediately like in TLF, it's instead building out more slowly on the first turns, and going from there.  As with Civ or similar, etc.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Shrugging Khan on November 27, 2014, 04:31:28 AM
Sooo...around when can we expect to see the beta demo and the buy-in beta to appear on the page, if things go that way?
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: x4000 on November 27, 2014, 09:55:17 AM
Right now the plan is probably the second week of February. :)

There will be videos and more information leading up to that, too, and afterwards.  This game is The Big One, I think, for me.  We shall see, but I get that feeling increasingly.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Shrugging Khan on November 27, 2014, 11:02:00 AM
This game is The Big One, I think, for me.
Now, don't you tell me you're going to quit after that one!
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: x4000 on November 30, 2014, 03:30:09 PM
Pah!  I have no plans to quit, even if I made a gazillion dollars.  If money were no object I'd work somewhat fewer hours, but that's about it.

No, if I get my way, I'll be making games for another 30+ years.  This has already been a 20+ year hobby for me, long before it ever crossed my mind that there might even be the possibility of a job in this industry.  That all happened remarkably fast: I had a realization about it, and a year and a half later I was doing it full time.  It's awesome that my hobby pays the bills, but if I had no bills of consequence I wouldn't stop my hobby.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: SugeBearX on December 05, 2014, 05:56:01 AM
I will gladly pony up my cash as soon as you give the go-ahead.  :) I love that a developer exists that is willing to push the envelope and create unique games. Not that my admiration amounts to a hill of beans, but Arcen Games has earned mine...and believe me you are one of the few in this current age of serialized AAA nonsense. That being said...hurry up and take my money!!! I haven't been this stoked for a game in ages...as a matter of fact I think my monitor may have been amber vision at the time...Gods but I'm gettin' old...
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: x4000 on December 05, 2014, 08:22:23 AM
Hahaha -- amber vision, that's great.  I never had that, I had green (XT here).

I'm super stoked for this one also, and can't wait for you guys to be able to get in and see it.  We'll have it out as soon as we can!
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: mllange on December 12, 2014, 03:41:13 PM
I think you should invite me to the Alpha/Beta so I can completely rewrite the history of gaming success with my unique and most excellent feedback and suggestions. Always remember, "on the shoulders of giants..."
 >D
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: ElOhTeeBee on December 13, 2014, 12:58:57 PM
Hopefully, I can manage to get in one way or another - I finally realized that I can poke at the .xml files in the language folder to see the text for AI War and offer feedback without needing to go through the game to do it, and I assume something similar will be possible with SBR. Should mean I can get at any typos much more quickly.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: x4000 on December 13, 2014, 08:03:44 PM
Oh, yeah -- that's the case in all our games actually!
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Misery on January 02, 2015, 10:39:35 AM
Hm, any word on the alpha date for this one?  I dont mean to be a total pest, but I coulda sworn you had said January, and.... okay, yeah, it's only the 2nd, but impatience requires that I ask the question anyway.


Looking forward to this one.  I love the idea of 4X games, but.... ahhh.  The AI is always so *dumb*.  It can really ruin the effect with some of them. It's like, "okay, I think I've got my defenses carefully set up, got my archers HERE, and my support guys HERE, and... hoboy, here comes the enemy assault, I hope I can hold the... oh, they're walking into chainsaws again.  Right.  Why do I have archers, now?  I forget."  And you guys typically do very good AI that probably wont do that. 
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: x4000 on January 02, 2015, 02:08:57 PM
No word yet, it's still early and we're not back in the office until Monday.  We still have some dev work to do on things like the military combat in particular, and it's unclear how much coding time that's going to eat up.  It will probably be late January when we hit alpha, but I'll definitely be posting about-weekly in terms of status updates, along with just generally chatting like I have been. :)
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Cinth on January 02, 2015, 06:44:24 PM
Looking forward to this one.

Same here.  It's been hard to keep my self imposed blackout (on upcoming titles).  I just want to know more.  Must resist the urge to read up before I've had the chance to play.   :D

Also, happy New Year!  And happy birthday to me

Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Aklyon on January 02, 2015, 06:46:58 PM
Looking forward to this one.
Same here, really looking forward to it.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: crazyroosterman on April 01, 2015, 05:37:08 PM
will this game have a demo available when its fully released? just checking because a lot of game makers these days don't put demoes out for their game for some strange reason.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Vacuity on April 13, 2015, 10:42:00 AM
a lot of game makers these days don't put demoes out for their game for some strange reason.
There's a lot of evidence that shows that offering a demo actually tends to reduce sales, not improve them.  Do a google search for "game demos hurt sales" and there's a fairly enormous list of material to work through.  Because of this (and other reasons), a lot of developers choose not to do so and who can blame them.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: TheVampire100 on April 13, 2015, 12:46:11 PM
Well, they ade a demo of AI War and that's still their most sold game.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Captain Jack on April 13, 2015, 01:08:56 PM
a lot of game makers these days don't put demoes out for their game for some strange reason.
There's a lot of evidence that shows that offering a demo actually tends to reduce sales, not improve them.  Do a google search for "game demos hurt sales" and there's a fairly enormous list of material to work through.  Because of this (and other reasons), a lot of developers choose not to do so and who can blame them.
Not surprising. Demos let people find out how much they like a game before they pay for it. You know how looking at Steam achievements show show people don't finish the games they buy? And some don't even start them? That's not new, just exacerbated by cheap prices and convenient shopping. Back when demos were big, people would try the demo and pass in favor of something familiar. Plus it's harder to get invested in something you didn't pay for, there's no feeling that you have to "get your money's worth" from a demo, so you don't bother to achieve competence.

Lastly, there's Sturgeon's Law. Most games are bad. Why let sucke--customers find out before the money's in your hands?

Well, they had a demo of AI War and that's still their most sold game.
Bundles and steam sales. Even the person who introduced me to the game didn't know there was a demo.  :-\
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Vacuity on April 13, 2015, 01:49:12 PM
Demos let people find out how much they don't like a game before they pay for it.
Ftfy.  :P

Seriously though, to a fair extent, when people try a demo they're often looking for reasons *not* to buy it.  If they've already bought it, they're generally looking for reasons to justify their purchase, with the strength of that desire roughly proportionate to the quantity of cash paid out.

Edit: grammar
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: TheVampire100 on April 13, 2015, 02:12:16 PM
a lot of game makers these days don't put demoes out for their game for some strange reason.
There's a lot of evidence that shows that offering a demo actually tends to reduce sales, not improve them.  Do a google search for "game demos hurt sales" and there's a fairly enormous list of material to work through.  Because of this (and other reasons), a lot of developers choose not to do so and who can blame them.
Not surprising. Demos let people find out how much they like a game before they pay for it. You know how looking at Steam achievements show show people don't finish the games they buy? And some don't even start them? That's not new, just exacerbated by cheap prices and convenient shopping. Back when demos were big, people would try the demo and pass in favor of something familiar. Plus it's harder to get invested in something you didn't pay for, there's no feeling that you have to "get your money's worth" from a demo, so you don't bother to achieve competence.

Lastly, there's Sturgeon's Law. Most games are bad. Why let sucke--customers find out before the money's in your hands?

Well, they had a demo of AI War and that's still their most sold game.
Bundles and steam sales. Even the person who introduced me to the game didn't know there was a demo.  :-\
To be honest, I'm one of those people that tend to purchase something before even consulting if he likes the game or if there is a gameplay demo aviable. I bought AI Wars also before I played the demo. However, I saw this gmae long time lingering on Steam around and since I owned Bionic Dues already from the same Team i thought to try it out as soon as it comes into a sale. I never regret the purchase but I was surprised how hard this game can be.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: ElOhTeeBee on April 13, 2015, 03:43:39 PM
a lot of game makers these days don't put demoes out for their game for some strange reason.
There's a lot of evidence that shows that offering a demo actually tends to reduce sales, not improve them.  Do a google search for "game demos hurt sales" and there's a fairly enormous list of material to work through.  Because of this (and other reasons), a lot of developers choose not to do so and who can blame them.

I did just that, and found one result in the last five years, a presentation from Jesse Schell given at the D.I.C.E. Summit in 2013 citing data from EEDAR. While I couldn't locate the data itself on EEDAR's website, his presentation suggests that the study has holes in it big enough to drive a Zenith starship through - for a start, it seems to not account for how there's less incentive to make a demo for a game that's expected to move five million units than a game that's expected to move fifty thousand, because the former game is assumed to already have plenty of coverage and interest while the latter needs every extra bit of reach it can get. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is not going to need a demo version, because most of the people that are interested in Call of Duty already know exactly how it will play and are already certain they are going to buy it, most of the people that aren't interested in Call of Duty aren't going to be persuaded to pick it up by the latest version, and there are enough of the former to mean that time and money spent making a demo version is unlikely to see a useful return on the investment anyway.

And that's just their methodology. I'd really like to know where they get their data, too - does Microsoft publicly release detailed game sales figures? Or are they just citing VGChartz, which is... less than trustworthy?
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: TheVampire100 on April 13, 2015, 04:01:02 PM
Hm, to give examples of games where the demo made me curious enough of a game to purchase it:
1.)Earth2150.  I had a Demo from a German magazine called "CBS" and I got really fast hooked up on the game. This was one of my first games that sucked me into the world of RTS games (another one is Age of Empires). An amazing game, the demo featured the tutorial and two missions. What i liked about the game was the huge tech tree nd the customization of units. You could combine different vehicles and weapons to create your own units. The game was freaking awesome and I bought all three installments of it (Escape fromt he blue planet, the moon project, lost souls).

2.)Plants vs Zombies. Same magazine, the demo featured the first and second world (front yard day and night). After I finished it I could lust for more. The game was so freaking amazing. Simple, yes, but still I was impressed how well the game was balanced. Plants can be countered with specific Zombies, those Zombies can be countered with other plants. The artwork, the humor, i liked everything about it. It hurts really much to see how EA sliced PvsZ2 into a chash grab machine with no balance at all.

3.) Defenders Quest. There was a Demo on Newgrounds (I bet it is still there) that let's you play the first two acts and includes half of the characters of the final game. The gameplay (RPG with TD mixed) and the story were very good and I wanted more from it. I wanted to see what other characters the game has to offer. The Demo got me to purchase the full version and pre purchase the sequel when it was announced. I never regret buying it, I'm still looking from time to time into it to improve my characters.

4.) Immortal Defense. Again, Tower defense (I play quite a lot of them), like Defenders Quest you get the first two campaigns for free and can purchase the game for the rest. the game had a very refreshing approach on the genre and on story telling, mixing science-fiction with spiritual ideas. I won't get into detail but the whole point of the game is that you leave your body to become the protector of your planet in an interstellar war. The gameplay was very different in the way that your own mouse cursor represented yourself and that you attacked with it enemies. It also could create points (towers) that attacked on their own. Both, towers and cursor, benefitet in different ways from killing enemies. Also new was that cash that you collected in one level was carried over to the next level instead of having a fixed value. One of the best games ever seen in this genre, maybe even the best.
Title: Re: Alpha and Beta testing?
Post by: Captain Jack on April 13, 2015, 05:07:43 PM
I did just that, and found one result in the last five years, a presentation from Jesse Schell given at the D.I.C.E. Summit in 2013 citing data from EEDAR. While I couldn't locate the data itself on EEDAR's website, his presentation suggests that the study has holes in it big enough to drive a Zenith starship through - for a start, it seems to not account for how there's less incentive to make a demo for a game that's expected to move five million units than a game that's expected to move fifty thousand, because the former game is assumed to already have plenty of coverage and interest while the latter needs every extra bit of reach it can get. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is not going to need a demo version, because most of the people that are interested in Call of Duty already know exactly how it will play and are already certain they are going to buy it, most of the people that aren't interested in Call of Duty aren't going to be persuaded to pick it up by the latest version, and there are enough of the former to mean that time and money spent making a demo version is unlikely to see a useful return on the investment anyway.

And that's just their methodology. I'd really like to know where they get their data, too - does Microsoft publicly release detailed game sales figures? Or are they just citing VGChartz, which is... less than trustworthy?
I just dug up an old Extra Credits video explaining the phenomena in more detail, only to find that its primary source was EEDAR. With my appeal to authority no longer authoritative, I'll instead claim that it doesn't matter if it's true or not, the narrative has become that at best demos have little on sales and at worst act to prevent them. You can see this in indie gaming (http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/CaspianPrince/20130605/193709/The_Demo_Is_Dead_Part_2.php), the PC space (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/05/26/the-slow-strange-death-of-the-demo/) and the console space (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QM6LoaqEnY) (all right I cheated with this one since it applies to all games).

Now, my personal feeling is that demos CAN help... but only if the demo content is absolutely spectacular, or confirms an already existing narrative around a game. The latter requires big beloved franchises or big beloved companies, neither of which need demos to sell--the games will sell on brandname alone. These demos can sell other products; Crackdown sold well because it had a Halo demo.

As for really good demos, they're hard as heck, because they need to put the game's best aspects on display while still convincing buyers that there's more to be had. Of these, two come immediately to mind. Gunpoint (http://www.pentadact.com/2013-06-18-gunpoint-recoups-development-costs-in-64-seconds/) and Alien Colonial Marines (in all fairness, ACM didn't have a commercial demo but it did have a hands-off demo that was widely liked). The first is a massive success story that should be held up as a shining example of what we want to see in game development and reception. The second is not.

Stepping outside the discussion, I'd tell Chris that a demo would be cool, but should only be done for sales reasons if he's supremely confident in the game. (And putting on my marketer's hat, reach out to contacts for free pushes starting in May)