[dropcap size=big]G[/dropcap]ames betas have certainly changed a lot over the years. From being private and paid, to an option in many free to play MMOs, and now becoming something people pay to access, the evolution is extraordinary. Each of these betas exist for a reason. Private betas often occur before public ones to find bugs and glitches so the players do not have to. Which is nice since many players would rather not have to play the same level repeatedly trying to break it and then write up clearly and concisely how.
Meanwhile, open betas allow for outside feedback. However, when done incorrectly this often becomes an attempt to please everyone. There will always be dissatisfied people and this is both painful for those individuals as well as game developers. This is partly because there will always be those people who think that Dub Wars needs mermaids and whether or not that is the case it will be up to the developer. Yet, in a game where the focus is on space, music, and neon lights, how are mermaids relevant?
It is not uncommon to see beta access as part of a Kickstarter and while this is a good option for those developers lacking the funds for more physical rewards, developers need to understand that open development should not begin without an already marketable product. However, the choice to use open development is a great marketing tool as it allows many developers to create a hype machine around their games and push votes through Steam Greenlight.
Problems occur when developers are not willing to improve upon the product they already have by sifting through the multitude of ideas and finding the few pieces of gold among the unhelpful comments and advice. Additionally, open game development is not a great idea if a developer can not tell the difference between good and bad suggestions.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by “this is what I like from this other game” comments which kill of creativity, originality, and innovation. This makes for bland and generic games. This becomes even worse when a project far from finished is given to an unexpected and unprepared crowd because they should not be expect to fix a broken game or build one that is not there.
It is not that crowdfunded games should not use open development. Crowdfunded game developers just need to provide a decent project beforehand, not make promises they cannot fulfill, and stick to their vision. Open game development is less about compromise and more about improvement. With this in mind wonderful game will be invented. Meanwhile, players who have the chance to beta test should share their opinions as suggestions rather than make them as demands. Suggestions are nice, demands can get a little scary.