And lo, a beta weekend approacheth (#gw2 )

If you thought that last weekend’s combo TERA/Diablo III beta weekend was nuts, it’s nothing compared to the three-ring circus that’s trumpeting Guild Wars 2′s “first” beta weekend event.  I put “first” in ironic quotes like that because it isn’t exactly the first such weekend, just the first post-prepurchase weekend, so I guess ArenaNet is starting over with their counting.  Counting past three is hard, people!

Anyway, a lot of my friends are going absolutely bananas over this, and considering how jammed up the site got when the beta emails went out, so are a few of you.  My guild’s planning out the weekend activities already, which is helped by a post that ArenaNet put out about the weekend.

It’s an interesting post for three reasons.  One, they list all the servers in advance so people can make their plans and coordinate with each other.  I always appreciate this (and conversely hate it when a studio plays coy with server names until the last possible second).  I know it’s just beta, but it’s in the studio’s best interest to make sure that players have the best possible experience, and there’s nothing more frustrating than having to scramble right at the beginning of a very limited-time event to coordinate a group of people.

The second reason this post is notable is that ArenaNet is shedding some light on its sever (or “home world”) transfer policy.  You can indeed pick a server from a different region and transfer to a new server every week (for a price, of course).  Good to know that transfers won’t be incredibly painful.

The third reason, and what really caught my attention, is that ArenaNet is going to allow players to “guest” play on servers other than their own.  Like Guild Wars 2′s overflow servers, it’s kind of a genius idea.  I have a lot of friends all over the place, and picking a server in an MMO usually means that I’m choosing which friends to be with and which to not (that sucks).  Here, I’ll just settle down with my guild on whatever server and then be able to hop over to a friend’s server for some coop or whatnot.  That’s awesome.  Really.  I guess there will be restrictions on PvP, but I can live with that.

So while I’m generally not a big beta person — and my weekend is insanely busy with company arriving and birthday parties being thrown — I’ll most likely be messing around in the beta if for nothing else than to hang with some friends and get jazzed about the game.  See you there!

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12 thoughts on “And lo, a beta weekend approacheth (#gw2 )

  1. Not open, but anyone who preordered is in. So it might as well be.

    I’m not entirely sure what to make of this whole “beta” process they’ve got going. The hype machine is absolutely overwhelming, and “The wait is over, preorder Guild Wars 2 now!” has retained my QOTD status for several weeks due to the silliness of it. I thought the complaints about the hype for SWTOR were overblown, but watching A.net’s abuse of the PR machine (not to mention their complete mutilation of the term “beta”) has been somewhat offputting.

    It’s hard to peg where things are, and that’s just odd – it seems really strange that they’re running such a massive preview weekend, which would typically imply they’re close to release, but with only 3 of the 5 race/starting areas available, which implies they’re not ready to show it off.

  2. @Buhalin
    I don’t think that’s necessarily implied. they have stated that some things will be kept secret until launch and not revealed in the betas. also, there has only ever been confirmation for 1 pre-purchase beta in their FAQs; more weekends “may follow”, or may not.
    personally, I’d be surprised to see a second – and I absolutely think they’re launch ready, if they want to.

  3. If that’s true I find it very interesting that they’d launch without those parts of the games seeing any real level of public testing. As much as I tend to dislike the community gloating over it, it really is the case that the masses of players will find problems that the devs never dreamed of. I’m not sure how much, and what, they’re planning on keeping secret until launch, but it speaks to a massive level of confidence in their internal testing. Whether that’s deserved or not, we’ll have to wait and see.

  4. @Buhalin
    Agreed. I think withdrawing ‘some goodness’ is a fair tactic though and in some areas probably less problematic than in others. the beta tests at this point are stress tests at best.

    @Carson
    My own speculations (is what they are) are mostly based on what they stated about releasing the other races for beta on EU fan-day. there it didn’t sound as if they are decided on ever showing them before launch. they may or they may not. based on that, we’d never be able to tell how done they are, would we. I cannot imagine personally that the asura and sylvari would be so way behind this late into design and overall polish.
    quoting the interesting bit:

    “Eric Flannum: The different races, like the sylvari and the asura? We basically haven’t talked about what content we’ll have in future beta events. We do plan on expanding the content that’s available in future beta events. What we have to do is to sort of draw a line of revealing too much so that things are spoiled to people alongside trying to get more people testing various areas. We have some kind of a [team with]core testers that have access to the entire game so there’s a lot of testing going on for the game. And these beta events where we invited tons of people are more for stress testing and getting a lot of people on the areas. So we do want to keep things fresh and keep expanding the content that’s available on beta weekends, but at the same time we don’t want to get away too much, so I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go with that. You may see additional races available, and you may not.”

  5. Hopefully it’ll all work out. I’m not hugely pessimistic, but it’s a different enough approach that it raises some red flags. One friend of mine pointed out that it feels similar to WAR just before we found out the other capital cities were getting cut.

    I do think you’re wrong about it all being just stress testing at this point, though. Yes, there’s specific content testing, and yes, stress testing is important. But you really can’t just small-scale test everything, and then large-scale test a tiny part of the game, and call it done.

    Like I said, A.net’s obviously got a HUGE amount of faith in their test plan, and hopefully they’re right. But if you compare to our recent benchmark, SWTOR, who had invited beta events running for much longer with what seems to be a much larger pool of invited testers. Compare that to GW2, whose invited betas have been far more press events than true testing, and only been running for what, two months or so, tops? Makes me nervous.

    Again, maybe they’re really that good… but the Mythical Man-Month says they’re probably not. As much as we might love the idea of a software shop that’s JUST THAT MUCH AWESOMENESS, it’s not terribly realistic. The question is how realistic A.net is about their own team, and how much they buy into the awesomeness they present to the world. But seeing a big project that looks like the testing is skimpy makes me very, very nervous.

  6. @buhalin
    A million people have signed up for the beta, and thousands of beta invites have been handed out. Wait until after this weekend, which is an NDA-less preview of all facets of the game, and you can make a choice based on multiple blog sites videos and impressions, and you still have months to make a purchasing choice. Don’t really see how you can make Anet out to be at all unfair given all this.

  7. I think you misunderstand, Gnome. For one, it doesn’t have anything to do with fairness. I’m not the least bit concerned over what they do or don’t let people play in the beta, except as it applies to the thoroughness of their testing. It’s one of the downsides to being a software guy – I still think testing should actually be, you know, TESTING, and not a PR-driven press event or a chance for people to play the game for free before buying.

    I obviously assume A.net is testing the entire game internally. They’re also exposing parts of the game to mass testing. But it seems like notable parts of the game aren’t going to see any mass testing, and that’s worrisome. As I said, it shows an incredible level of faith in their internal testing. That may be justified – but past MMO experience says it’s probably not, and basic software engineering principles say it’s probably not.

    And that’s not even getting into any of the “Why won’t they allow the public testers in?” conspiracy theories. If you go there, the decision gets REALLY strange. Because they are previewing the Asura area to the press, and if you’re going to keep some things secret the starting areas – which most players will finish and depart in the first few hours – seems a strange choice. That the ones they aren’t showing just HAPPEN to match up to the most recently-detailed races, including the Sylvari which they’ve said went through a revamp… Well, it’s not really all that hard to see why it would raise a few eyebrows.

    I’m certainly not freaking out, declaring the doom of GW2 or the suckage of A.net. But I don’t think anyone can dispute that they’re handling things quite a bit differently than most MMOs in recent history. IMHO, the explanations for that don’t entirely add up. Not enough to hit the panic button yet, by any means, but I’ve got at least one eyebrow up, Spock-style.

  8. I actually like their style. Most games just open everything up, so nothing new for launch day. Yeah, you get a ton of people running around, but are they really testing anything at that point in open beta or large beta? No. There just running around playing and having fun. They already have lots of beta players doing that. Sure you get people doing some reporting, but for the most part, people aren’t. Honestly, I don’t think open betas are true “testing” anymore other than stress testing. And Anet is getting exactly that. Any event scaling, spawning, etc is going to happen already in the other starter zones. They can just apply that to the other two newer zones.

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