Sea Of Thieves Betas, alphas, scale tests and play testing. These are things Sea Of Thieves needs before release. There may be alot of them but heres why they are necessary. Here are the reasons why you get to play one of the Xbox’s biggest games so much earlier and why we need to. Lets get to the video…
Each game before release undergoes testing to various degrees to make sure the game and its features are operating correctly based upon what the games developers intended. All games go through this process but online games can go through even more testing due to the various components and hardware that go into delivering an online game to the masses. For single players games, all testing is devoted to the game itself, its world and everything that makes that up. For an online game, the testing of the games features also happens just like any other game, but due to its online nature and the network infrastructure that must exist for the game to function, this is why online games have alphas and beta testing phases. These are often seen as demos by many people which is true up to a point, but they often have many features stripped out of the game entirely due to their implementation not yet at a stage ready for testing or features may be taken out entirely as the developers don’t wish to test them yet, instead focusing on other areas.
With the beta for Sea of Thieves, players would have seen more features implemented than the alpha did and during the different stages of the alpha, more features were added as time passed. This process happens constantly as developers, in this case Rare, test the various parts of the game, adding tweaks as needed to any part of the game. With the scale test that just finished for Sea Of Thieves, with was a specific test to stress the games online infrastructure at various data centres around the world. This is intentional as Rare stress the various parts of the game that they need to test such as the process of simply logging into the game or selling items at an outpost with a large number of players in the many different instances of the game world.
The more testing that the developers run ensure the smoothest launch possible, especially at a time where many games launch in a broken state. When testing games during a scale test or beta, developers can deliberately introduce problems for the network infrastructure to have to handle, creating problems which must be overcome. Examples of this could be interrupting gamers in the game, throttling performance or simulating deliberate outages and how the games infrastructure is equipped to deal with these problems should they happen post launch. Having network infrastructure that can scale based on the number of people playing the game and what they are doing within the game world is important to having a game that functions correctly for paying customers.
Other important reasons to have a beta especially for a game such as Sea Of Thieves is with the implementation of new games features. These features can be turned on by the developers and they can collect data as to how they operate within the game world, how players using or interacting with these features and the impact which they may or may not have on other features already within the game. If one of these features breaks an already existing feature or has a negative impact on players in the game then Rare can further test it, turn it off completely, or tweak other areas so it performs more in the way it was intended to. Another important feature of a beta and testing can also give the developers an insight into how quickly they can respond to errors and problems and how quickly their tools allow them to add new content into the game, the best way to test it, and the best way to deploy it. This has been a problem of the Destiny franchise for Bungie. The tools don’t allow them to add content in a timely manner so the game suffers.
As I mentioned in previous videos and blog posts, Rare has a solid foundation for Sea Of Thieves already and that is what is most important. Any other features that come in the future will be added onto this foundation and its important that it all functions correctly. WIthout a solid foundation, the house will fall. Get it right and gamers are more willing to stick with a game that is in need of more content, as opposed to one that has ongoing server problems such as login issues, being kicked from the game or broken or exploitable game mechanics.