Torsten Allard explains the significance of beta tests

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In part 1, I told you who I am, what I do and, most importantly, why I carry out beta testing.

Today I want to tell you how exactly our beta testing works and how, with a little luck, you might become beta testers yourselves.

For me, a beta test begins with organizational work behind the scenes. I make sure that all databases and tools that run in the background are functioning, so that testing will run smoothly. These tools will be described in more detail below.

Once everything is up and running, we will invite you to sign up for beta testing. This invitation will be announced on the Sacred 2 and Ascaron websites, and probably in most games magazines. You will have about a week to sign up via a specific link by entering your personal data. Maybe some of you will think that we are asking for too much information in connection with the sign-up, but rest assured: we only use this information for the single purpose of selecting the most suitable applicants. Of course, the data will be treated in strict confidence and not passed on to any third parties!

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But who gets to participate in the first place? Well, you do have to meet a few requirements. First of all, you must absolutely be 18 or older (if you are selected, you will be asked to submit a copy of your personal ID card!). Also, you must be capable of expressing yourself clearly and correctly in English. We are also going to run international beta tests, and all beta testers must be able to access the same version of the bug database. Therefore, all bug reports must be written in English – in such a way that everyone can understand them.

Since we sometimes need to update large amounts of data, a fast connection is also mandatory. With an ISDN or modem connection, participation is out of the question.

And, of course, you need lots and lots of time. Keep in mind that Sacred 2 is absolutely huge. Just playing through the game is very time-consuming. And on top of that, you need to write bug reports and reproduce bugs – more on that later.

So, if you think that all you need to do is play the game "in between" for half an hour a day, you’ve got it seriously wrong. Understandably, from our point of view, you just cannot spend enough time beta testing the game.

Last but not least, the hardware configuration must be suitable as well. Sometimes (but not always) somewhat exotic hardware will give you an advantage; at any rate, however, you need to fulfill the minimum system requirements. We cannot tell you at this point what they will be; we are going to work on this until the last minute, and will eventually let you know on the sign-up page.

imageBy signing up, you declare your compliance with the beta test agreement. Especially the confidentiality clause is extremely important. This begins with your participation in the beta test – even that is strictly confidential. So, if you proudly announce in the forum that you just signed up as a beta tester, you risk not being considered as a tester at all.

After the sign-up period is over, I will proceed to select the beta testers. First of all, everyone with one or more no-go criteria (as described above) is eliminated; the rest are weighted according to various criteria. What exactly gets weighted how is a trade secret, of course! ๐Ÿ™‚

Once the selected beta testers have submitted copies of their identity cards, I will send them a copy protection DVD which they will need to start the version, plus an installable beta version of the game. Beta testers will be able to install everything at this point, but they cannot play until I have cleared their access to tools and databases.

These are the beta tester database (containing personal information), the bug database (where bugs are recorded), and the beta tester forum (for discussions). In addition, we have a question database where we ask about feedback regarding balancing.

We are especially proud of the fact that all these tools are seamlessly connected: if you sign up as a beta tester, you are entered in the beta tester database; from there, you are automatically registered in the bug database, the forum, and the question database. This allows us to manage a very high number of beta testers at the same time.

So, once beta testing begins, what are you expected to do?

Well, the most important thing is to provide us with feedback about the game. You can do this through the question database, the bug database (by reporting errors you found), or the forum. It is important for you to understand that this is not a "general chat forum", but a working tool where only relevant contents are communicated. Always keep in mind: we developers are working hard on this game up to the very end, and we cannot afford to lose valuable time combing through threads full of irrelevant verbal banter in order to find a few important contributions. Therefore, remember: only post what is new and relevant, and always stay on topic!

In the beta tester forum, you will find everything that is important to know about beta testing and the current version – basically everything you need for testing.

When you come across an error, you must of course report it in the bug database. First of all, it is important to verify whether this particular bug has already been logged. In that case, you can drop the matter, unless you want to add a note to the existing bug report. Otherwise, you need to describe the bug as precisely as possible. Simply stating, "At some point, my game crashes," is not going to help the programmers at all. It is important to note in detail: When does it crash? In certain situations, or after a certain period of time? What was the last thing you did? etc.

In order to be able to describe it more closely, it is often necessary to reproduce the bug (i.e. to provoke a situation where it will likely occur again) and pinpoint it as narrowly as possible. This may take a lot of effort, because it forces you to go through the same part of the game over and over again – far from simply "playing through" the game, you are called upon to put in some real work.

This is the kind of commitment I expect of beta testers. Just playing the game will not suffice. Those who produce no, or poor, results will be removed from the project before long. In that case, somebody would move up from the list and get a chance to do better. I think that is fair to everyone, and this way more of you will have the opportunity to take part in beta testing.

All right. Now you know more or less what beta testing is all about.

For many of you, the most important question is probably: when will beta testing start?

Well, we are aiming for mid July. There will be an announcement and an opportunity to sign up for beta testing at some point in early July. Those of you who are interested should keep a close eye on the relevant websites around this time!

I cross my fingers for you… who knows, maybe you will be among those selected! ๐Ÿ™‚

Last Updated: July 9, 2008

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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