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The Lab Rats: Your Role In Open Betas Explained

Activision’s multiplayer behemoth Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was a smash hit right out of the gate, selling nearly five million copies at launch. This translates to five million users jumping into multiplayer lobbies on day one hoping to quickly find a match and start getting their money’s worth. Unfortunately for these early adopters, multiplayer sessions in Modern Warfare 2 went from a good time to a glitch fest in a few short weeks. First there was the javelin glitch. Then came the overpowered akimbo shotgun, care package knife deaths, wall and elevator glitches, unintended infinite ammo, and several more problems that plagued the otherwise impressive game.

While it’s tough to predict what will happen when a multiplayer title goes live, many of these bugs can be minimized, if not eliminated ahead of time, through proper testing procedures – a process Modern Warfare 2 surprisingly did without. With the increasing prevalence of open betas, gamers can play an active role in polishing the final product to avoid disappointment at launch.

Every step walked, shot fired, vehicle destroyed, power up chosen, and path taken during beta phases is tracked by developers to test for glitches and address balancing. Even if you refuse to participate in forums or lack the motivation to submit a 5,000-word essay expressing your concerns, your behaviors alone provide the data needed to make necessary tweaks. An open beta is not a feature-rich demo with a few blemishes; it’s an invitation to help create a better game.

“I’ll say it up front: If this is a demo of our game, this is the worst demo ever,” says Blizzard design director Dustin Browder in regards to the StarCraft II beta. “It’s not really meant to be a demo. It’s really meant for us to test our servers, test software stability, and of course, test the balance and gameplay experience.” This isn’t just true for StarCraft II, but for multiplayer titles all across the board that go through the beta process.

Top image: A heat map from MAG’s Absheron Refinery during one 256-player Domination round. Heat map images show the movement of players and vehicles. Areas shown in yellow and green are the most lightly traveled, areas in red are the heaviest trafficked on maps.

Next: How developers like Zipper Interactive (MAG) and Bungie (Halo: Reach) prep for betas and stress tests

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