Putting together a game takes lots of work from developers, artists and writers. But gaming companies also put great stock into gamers who take advantage of demos and beta releases.
Beta releases are usually advance versions of games that aren’t fully formed, but the development team wants to test out particular aspects of the overall gameplay. Demos are often limited versions of what the full game will ultimately become.
Patrick Bach, a senior producer at game developer DICE, said his company went “old school” when putting together its latest release, “Battlefield: Bad Company 2” (Electronic Arts, DICE), which goes on sale today.
“Betas are used to test the game, get feedback and make adjustments,” Bach said. “Our demo from last year was needed to make adjustments in game balance.”
Bach points out that betas and demos are about more than just getting feedback from testers. Tracking software can show what gaming elements are being used, how gamers are using them and what impact they have on the overall feel of the game.
He said often gamers will tell them what they think about a particular element, but the stats show a different story. It is meshing the two types of feedback together that helps developers create a more enjoyable game, he said.
“It is super important to find the balance of fun and fair,” Bach explained. He called it the “rock, paper, scissors balance” where no one element overpowers another.
“Battlefield: Bad Company 2,” a first-person shooter war game, took two years to get from drawing board to a ready-for-shelf product. During that time, Bach said his team worked on making the game fair, but never really knew how fun it would be for the players until they got important feedback from them.
The DICE team kept close contact with their entire community and blogged updates to keep their fans in the loop.
“We were surprised to find out [after beta testing and early demos] that our gameplay was perfectly balanced,” Bach said. “We expected to do more tweaking. And we found that gamers were using the full spectrum of kits available in the game. We were surprised it worked as good as it did.”
DICE did do some minor tweaking with weapons and vehicle handling based on suggestions from the play testers. But the company is quite pleased with its final product, he said.
“Most people are used to linear shooters,” he said. “We want to show people with the downloads and betas that it is about quality and strategic options in our game.”
“Battlefield: Bad Company 2” is available for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.