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If you are going to iterate, *always* add new players

By on October 20, 2010
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I read this blog post on the Picaroon website (Picaroon is an MMO RTS in beta).

One key element leaped out at me: If you are going to try iterative development and continually release new updates to a group of alpha or beta testers, it’s vital to keep adding new users to the group.

As the post says:

“[you need to be] reminded – continuously – what it is like to play your game for the first time.”

I think this is extremely strong advice to games developers, who suffer, more than most, the dangers of designing for your most vocal customers, not your most representative ones.

Of course, I prefer open betas, but if youi are going to operate closed betas of any sort, keep adding fresh blood.

Otherwise your game will get harder, more inaccessible and – likely- less successful with each interation.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • I think you may have learned a different lesson from that than I would.

    I would have learned “older players are inherently better than new players in Fury, which means my gameplay mechanic is totally stuffed. I’d better do something about it”.

    So I see your example as a reason why you *should* bring fresh eyes in, not why you *shouldn’t*

  • Although I agree in theory that new players are needed in alphas / betas so that any changes can be evaluated with fresh eyes, there are risks to that strategy too. Fury developed a terrible reputation during beta since its beta keys were so easy to get – a lot of players came in, tried the game a bit, decided it sucked and left. They ultimately burned a lot of potential players.

    (Fury was PvP-dependent, so also suffered from the older players being inherently better than the newer ones and able to destroy them in seconds. New players never really got much time to see how the game played before they had their face crammed into the dirt.)

  • Anonymous

    “I think this is extremely strong advice to games developers, who suffer, more than most, the dangers of designing for your most vocal customers, not your most representative ones.”

    And the same problem in a different form: designing for themselves, not their audience. When you’ve lived with a game for over a year, you have no perspective on what it’s like for a new player. Blind testing is inescapably important, and all too often it gets ignored.

    Best wishes!