In Starbound, you take on the role of a character who’s just fled from their home planet, only to crash-land on another. From there you’ll embark on a quest to survive, discover, explore and fight your way across an infinite universe.
This isn’t a game review post—although the game is excellent and if you or someone you know likes sandbox casual games, then you should buy it here, and my apologies to your friends and family who will probably not hear from you for hours at a time due to how awesome it is…but I digress—this blog post is bringing to light the importance of Beta testing and how it applies not only to video games, but also software and websites in general.
So, What is Beta Testing?
Generally Alpha testing is done internally where most of the bugs are fixed, and Beta is open to either a small group of participants, or like Starbound’s scenario, open to the public.
You then take your product (game, website, software, etc) and you place it in its “real environment” to gain added insight and quality testing from your customers, clients, and audience before final launch.
As a participant in a beta test for a video game, it is your job to play the game while thinking critically about the experiences you are having so that you can provide useful feedback, criticism, and suggestions to the developers. In a sense, you’re there to help make the experience better. If you notice a bug or two along the way, that’s something you can flag as well.
One developer on Starbound’s forum puts it best:
When we have an early beta drop to a client, we want to hear ALL of their feedback. Tell me what you love, tell me what you hate, tell me everything you’re thinking about the product.
I develop business software, but it’s no different for games. I want the client to tell me about the UI, about the install procedure, about the user experience in general.
I want the client to comment even on things that aren’t done, or that I don’t intend to change. Why? Because beta is absolutely the best time to make changes to a design that’s intended to reach a wide audience.
Once a user gives feedback, the developing team can decide what to do with that feedback. They may decide that your feedback is good, and make a change. Or they may decide your feedback is bad, or that there’s a technical limitation you’re not aware of, or that implementing your idea is too difficult or out of scope.
By working closely with beta testers, developers can confirm whether their product is meeting the user needs. It’s a great way to test that you’re not making people think too much, or search too long to find what they are looking for. Essentially, you are making sure that you’ve solved the right problem.