We’ve all experienced the joys and horrors of playing through an Alpha or Beta test simply to have our characters, matches, and entire history of play wiped away when the “1.0” patch releases and the final game hits the show floor. Most recently with the launch of Destiny, many of the 4 million users who tested in the Beta are disappointed to find that they will lose everything they worked for in the test. There is a simple way to determine if you are going to keep your progress, items and hard work from the Beta phase of a game so that confusion about game tests don’t run rampant in the future.
First we should be clear, Alpha and Beta tests are intended for developers to learn about the games they are building by expanding their man power to find glitches, imbalance and server load and in turn build the best possible final product. With a console and PC generation so focused on multiplayer and interactivity, the old-school method of in-house testing can only be effective for the initial build of most products. In order to build the most definitive and ideal product, Beta tests are more and more commonly reaching out to the general public so that big name developers and small teams can meet the grueling standards of gamers in today’s market.
There are a few key signs that you should watch out for to make sure that you understand when a game is going to wipe your characters and progress away, and when they are going to let you play through at the same level after their “1.0” patch. Most importantly, developers who encourage and allow you to buy their product, or pay into a product before the final version launches are almost certainly going to leave your progress in tact throughout the launch of the final game. If the game you have purchased is in an Alpha stage upon purchase or test, your developer is actively building and expanding on the game. This means that you’ll be working with a raw product, and you are very likely to be reset at some point during the production of your game – regardless of if you have paid money into owning the product or not. Alpha phase games are not designed to be balanced yet, and can be turned on their head before the title launches.
If you are playing a free-to-play title Beta, you are much more likely to keep all of your game content as the title launches into its “gold” 1.0 patch. These games are built with persistent patching in mind, but usually have their core principals built before you’ll shell out any money. In the rare instance that you paid money into a game and the Beta phase changes something dramatically, most developers will refund your money back to you – Riot’s League of Legends continues with this practice even as they play through their fourth year of a ‘final’ product.
The most important thing to consider about testing a title is that your satisfaction should come from playing the game before others. You got to experience the building blocks of this game’s history, and you can tell all of your friends about how great or not-so-great the game really is. On occasion you will fall in love with a game, like we did in the Destiny Alpha test, but knowing that you’ll be able to have just as great a time with the final version should be a very rewarding prize. In the end it’s the developer’s choice if you’ll be keeping all of your loot, characters and experience so just enjoy the ride and come back when the final game launches – you’ll forget all about the bad times, and remember all of the secrets you found in the Beta test.