September 04, 2004
Tribes Vengance open beta comments
Today the public beta for Tribes Vengance became available at fileplanet (note, you can download from many sources, but need to get a key from the Fileplanet link).
Anyway, I grabbed the 480mb download and thought I'd have a play, since it's made by our mates at Irrational Games Aussie studio.
First up, let me say the beta is fun - but I want to focus on an issue it raised for me.
I don't think the user interface was ready for a public (open) beta.
There are several bugs and difficulties in the beta that make it hard even for a seasoned gamer like me to do simple things like change my name! There are options that are usable but do not work - these should be greyed out for the public. Dropdown lists that dont actually display the list, and other things that must seem minor to the developers but are major for the public (and their potential customers).
Don't get me wrong, I know it's a beta - but if you are going public with a beta you need to make sure they can use it without getting frustrated before they play! I'm less concerned about the game totally locking up my machine (once) than I am about my inability to change my name even though it appears I should be able to do so.
We (game developers) make this kind of mistake all the time, we are too close to our work to realise that some 'trivial' things (like UI) are actually critically important to the end user - even in a Beta. It doesn't matter if the UI isn't final, just make sure the bits turned on work properly and turn off all the other bits. Nobody is going to get upset if you change the UI for the final release (unless you break it!)
Another example of this is the Evil Genius demo which came out a couple of days ago. Because of the counter-intuitive User Interface almost everyone I know has thought the demo is broken at the point you need to interrogate the spy. The reason ? Evil Genius expects you to right-click on a particular thing, yet gives you a mouse cursor that makes you think a left-click would work. How sad that this has lead to numerous forum posts about a broken game - even though the game does tell have a help screen that says you need to right click, it's just counter-intuituve and it leaves you with a bad taste for what could still be a great game.
I've seen gameplayers throw down a controller in disgust at a non-intuitive user interface, and since we're trying to get people to play the game it's sad that something else (in our eyes) can turn them away.
I'll wrap up with this:
Tribes:Vengance rocks. I'll be playing the crap out of the Beta, I'll be buying it, I'll recover from my afternoons frustration and continue :-) You'll find me on the GameArena servers (username: Zaph, no longer Player 3 !)
Posted by Zaph at September 4, 2004 06:43 PM
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