Motivation for beta leaks.

The topic of beta leaks and people who break the NDA always comes up around the time a new MMO is set for release, and given the growth of the MMO genre, the scale and depth of these leaks has only increased.

While reading the leaks can at times be informative, and is almost always entertaining, the information presented is often from a jaded source, generally towards the negative. The first thing you have to consider is why the person would break NDA in the first place. Assuming we are talking about a legitimate closed beta with a limited number of people let in, getting in is often difficult, random, and much sought after. We have all seen the eBay listings of someone selling a beta account for ridiculous amounts, and those listings would not exist if there was no market for them. So if we assume an early beta account is indeed something of value, why would someone risk losing their account just to vent on a forum or website about something they themselves have nothing invested in?

One reason, and in my opinion the most common one, is the NDA breaker has already been banned from the beta, and hence has nothing to lose. This also leaves them with a bad taste in their mouth, to get kicked out, and so whatever faults the beta had (and it will, otherwise it would not be beta) will be blown up by the ex tester. The major advantage the ex tester has over those not in the beta is they can say practically anything, and it will be difficult for common fans to dispute what is said, having not played the game themselves. Other beta testers won’t risk breaking NDA to cast doubt on the information. If a developer makes a statement, and they rarely do, fans often see this as ‘the man’ covering up the truth, regardless of what is said.

Does that mean everything in a beta leak should be tossed out? No, as often even the most hate-filled rants are grounded in some bit of truth, however far stretched. But anything said should also be taken in context; in this case a beta. Casual fans would be surprised what gets added in the final months or weeks of beta, or how rough beta software can be in the early stages. Even knowing you are in a beta test, we are still game fans, and when something goes wrong, we react. Even if you are told a sword swing animation is not functioning properly, every time your character swings his sword you are going to notice that broken animation. Notice enough broken things, and it’s only natural that an overall broken impression begins to set in, even though you have been told to ignore those things for now.

In this regard I don’t envy developers. They need beta testers to ensure a higher quality product, yet at the same time they risk unjust negative press due to the leaks. Very rarely will someone post a beta leak and have it be a glowing review. If the beta is as good as a glowing review would make it out to be, odds are those beta testers are too busy playing and protecting their account to make a beta leak post/thread. If we look at the whole situation in that light, perhaps a lack of leaks can be taken as the best possible review.

6 Responses to Motivation for beta leaks.

  1. Tipa says:

    I don’t think it is a difficult thing at all. You are told the game is unfinished and may break all over the place, you accept that before you are let in. You agree not to tell anyone of what you see or experience without permission. You gave your word, you keep your word. NDA breakers have no honor and their desperation for someone to notice them is best ignored.

  2. Swift Voyager says:

    “desperation for someone to notice them” is probably a larger motivating factor than anger and bitterness. If they got kicked out of the beta, then why would someone get kicked out of a beta? Because they were being an obnoxious forum troll in the first place maybe? Heck I think you could probably say that some people who break NDA are only in the beta so that they can brag about being in the beta. Attention seeking is a very large motivation for a lot of what you see in games and on the internet. Look at how popular kill boards and ladders are. Have you ever seen a forum without a troll? Even my little Eve alliance had to kick people out because of attention seeking behaviour, so it’s not only large groups that have those problems. Perhaps our increasingly virtual world is making those problems even worse by making everyone anonymous?

  3. Swift Voyager says:

    (insert annoying troll/spam post here so that you notice me) :)

  4. Bonedead says:

    Meh. It’s a touchy subject. There are a couple (at least) factors that have to go into me forming an opinion about a certain beta leak. For instance, is it close to release? If the game is buggy as crap and it releases in under a month, I kind of wouldn’t mind knowing that before I buy it. But then if you go down that road, can you trust the leaker? As you said, they may be jaded, only noticing broken aspects of the game. If the leak comes early as all hell, I think most people will take a little gander, if they’re impressed they could go fanboy mode, if not they’ll probably say: “Well it doesn’t come out for another year.”

    Do they really matter? Not in my opinion. If you’re basing your decision on a beta leak, what kind of gamer are you? I could understand if you know the guy leaking the information, but the average joe/susan (tom, dick, harry; love saying dick harry btw) is going to play the open beta. If the game doesn’t have an open beta, then, shit.

  5. Jason says:

    I’ve participated in numerous closed betas. WoW, PotBS and Tabula Rasa, to name a few. In all cases, I honored my NDA, but there is where the similarity ends. With WoW, I sung its praises once the NDA was lifted. The game was reasonably polished for being a beta, with very few bugs that I saw, and none of them game breaking. PoTBS and TR, however, were solid pieces of crap. TR was buggy, unpolished, with little direction at all. The UI was horrible and clunky. The quests were completely uninspired and boring. Character Development was unintuitive and bland, not to mention horribly broken; you could skip entire sections of it, saving points for later, then allocating them in such a way to wind up ridiculously overpowered. Complaints were made, none were addressed in a manner that many people found acceptable. Many of those people eventually broke the NDA. I disagree with it, there is no moral or legal ground to stand on for doing it, but attention to thej issues was supposedly increased following the bad press which ensued. Sadly, it didn’t recover, but that is the price paid for poor production values. PotBS was more of the same.

    While a game is in a state where it is highly buggy and unfinished, I think an NDA is a necessity. However, when a company lifts an NDA is something that should be carefully thought out. The eve you launch the open beta is NOT the time to lift the NDA; at that point, many people will wonder why it has lasted so long, and be hesitant to spend the time to play the game. Too early, and you risk hordes of uncouth fools who don’t understand the concept of beta bad mouthing your product from one end of the internet to the other. IMO, the perfect time to lift the NDA is when you feel comfortable publishing a street date for the game. If you can’t lift the NDA for fear of what people are going to say outside your private beta forums, your game is not ready to be released or announced to the world.

  6. Thallian says:

    Good reminders those be

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