Articles & Editorials: The Future of Games Development

  • Date: 19/12/1999 | Author: Lord-D

I was recently very dismayed by a point of news I heard recently. It seems the boys at Westwood are yet again using their ‘in-house’ testing team to ensure Renegade arrives to you in a bug-free, playable form. These are the people who tested Tiberian ‘WTF is up with my Orcas?’ Sun, thank you very much. The fact is, in this age of the Internet and ever more complex teams the age of in-house beta testing is dead and gone. But strangely only Westwood seems to be continuing with this process.

Firstly let us look at the two major effects the Internet has had on Beta testing. Firstly it has provided fast, free news services. All of us at work for free. We do it out of a love for Command and Conquer games (A strained one might I add.) We’ve provided news faster, cheaper, and more accurately than PCGamer or any other mag you’d care to mention has on TS. We’ve also reached a bigger audience. Any announcement Westwood makes is on our front-page within hours. With PCG, you’re talking a month. When Blizzard organized the StarCraft and Brood War beta tests, they didn’t have to run a lengthy expensive campaign through the paper press, they simply posted it on their web site, sent a few form mails and the community responded. Within a WEEK the results were posted, and the test discs were out. That would have never happened in the old days. As a result, even though StarCraft’s three sides are completely different to each other in almost every fashion it’s one of the most balanced RTS games to date, it’s also fairly bug free. However there is a downside, which Westwood seem to have taken full advantage of. The idea of ‘Ship now, Patch later’ is becoming a depressing norm, and leads to sloppy teams (Like Westwood’s) and sloppy games (Like SiN.)

The fact that Westwood believes that their team of 10-20 nine-to-fivers can do a better job than the thousands of hard-core gamers who would gladly test their games for free simply boggles the mind. While the in-house team is an invaluable asset, the facts speak for themselves. StarCraft’s beta test was a million times faster, and BETTER, than Tiberian Sun’s. If Westwood had instituted a limited public Beta with TS it would have been Christmas ’98’s best seller. If they think that Renegade is going to be any different they’ve got another think coming. Look for first generation ‘Rainbow-Sixesque’ AI from this game.

If Westwood is worried about leaks and warez tell them to talk to Blizzard, and see how their Multiplayer only limited versions help them shave a year off StarCraft’s development time. I am urging Westwood right now to change their mind on this issue, or to risk creating further bug-addled games, which will be ridiculed by friend and foe alike, while Warcraft3 is balanced and tested by fans. You know why the Forgotten weren’t a playable side in TS? Because Westwood knew they could never pull off what Blizzard did. And that, faithful reader, is a fact.

Articles & Editorials Index