Expectations of a Game in Beta

Asheron’s Call 2 is in beta. It seems this is hard for many in the game to actually stop and remember. Maybe it’s the fact that the game actually launched 10 years ago and was already in live for 3 years. But do stop and consider, 7 years is a long time for a game to be gone. The team members who were on the game previously (both in development and live team) are gone. The servers? Completely different. My wager is that the AC2 servers are actually somehow sharing with the AC1 servers, which means there are a lot of modifications being done on a game that has been gone for almost a decade by people who never worked on it previously.

Yet people don’t seem to get it. I’ve seen people say “I can’t believe you have to pay to access a beta.” Well you don’t. It is not unheard of for MMO companies to offer beta access to current subscribers. I remember being in a couple of betas for EQ2 expansions that was available only to subscribers. That is exactly what Turbine did, they gave access to all current AC1 subscribers to a beta of their game. It is an added value to their current subscription base, if you didn’t want to pay for it, don’t. Easy as that.

Turbine didn’t even really advertise that they were bringing back AC2. They made a post on the AC forums stating that they are putting it back into beta. That info hit the MMO world like wildfire and before they knew it they had tons of sites advertising it and tons of people buying subs. I bet Turbine was slightly taken aback by the popularity of this choice considering 7 years ago they couldn’t even keep enough subscribers around to keep the servers up in the first place.

People also complain about the constant crashing of the game. And I agree, it can be frustrating. I did the Drudge Citadel 3 times before I got credit. And yes I mean I completed it fully. Every time i stepped out, the server crashed and I was out of a glyph and out of luck. The most recent time I tried with a second character, got the credit for the quest, not the xp, but I did end up with 87% vitae instead. No idea why or even how I came about that strange number.

Lastly is expectations on the future. People are wanting this feature and that. I have seen them from small things like “hey can we fix text in skill descriptions that were never fixed when they changed it in an update.” I have seen big things like “This game needs player housing!” I Have also seen ridiculous things like “You know that thing that was completely unbalanced and was fixed while the game was lived? Well now the game isn’t easy enough for people who have exploit it, could we please re-break the game? After all it’s people like me who pay for AC1!”

I gotta say, it is fine to have hopes and dreams of what is to come. In fact, I’m liable to make my own post of what I’d like to see come out of AC2 in the future. But is it right to expect this of a game in beta? I honestly can’t recall a time in previous betas where instead of fixing issues with the game, players were instead insistent on the future. It may be that it is different because the game has already been live, I kinda get it. Or it may be that the nature of beta testers is different. These days beta doesn’t mean testing. Usually the game is ready for live and everyone is let in in order to load test which means there is little for the players to actually do. But I think this is an actual beta going on here. Not just a stress test that also acts as advertising.

To be honest, I don’t even think that Turbine quite knows what to do with this in the future. I think they have a base purpose in mind. But I don’t know if they have an exact plan. The reason is that they likely don’t know how many people are going to be active players in AC2 and how many new subscriptions they will draw from it, and won’t for quite some time. They may gain enough additional subs to pay for 2 additional people on the AC live team, they may have enough for 10, or they might not have enough for any. Depending on how many people stick around we could end up with 1 content update a year, 1 ever 3 months, or just bug fixes from time to time and the capability to keep both AC2 and AC1 going.1

At this point guys, let’s concentrate on fixing the real issues to get the server up and going and stable. Let’s give Turbine a little breathing room to figure out how to handle this thing. And most importantly, let’s be happy that we are helping contribute to the continued of both Asheron’s Call 1 AND 2.

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  1. Which lets be honest, the base purpose may have just been to keep AC1 going.