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I've been thinking about this:

Community promotion sponsorship -- new game releases for community members

And an important part there is that the community member will get the game fast and will ask a lot of questions about it, fast. Why? To generate great questions and answers especially when they are most needed - at release - and to get answers to the most asked questions before any other site.

And I've been thinking, wouldn't it be great if we could get great questions and answers... even before the game comes out?

A lot of games run a closed beta period, meaning a select few get the chance to play the game for testing purposes before it's released. StarCraft II was being beta-tested for many months prior to its released, for example. Many other games have beta-tests as well, especially ones with an extensive multiplayer gaming mode.

The idea is to check if there's some way for stackexchange to get a few gaming.se users beta keys for upcoming high-profile releases. I'm not quite sure how one can arrange it, I'm just throwing the idea out there, if anyone has any ideas. Getting a few members to participate in the beta of Diablo 3 or Guild Wars 2, for example, could do wonders for our traffic - both during the beta period, when other beta-testers will be drawn to our site, and after the game is released - when will we have many ready-made questions and answers.

  • 1
    That would be so awesome – bummzack May 24 '11 at 14:53
  • @Grace and I were discussing this on chat the other day. I think she was going to try to contact Blizzard and see if we could get some Diablo 3 keys when they become available as "members of the press". It would be a huge coup if we did. – bwarner May 24 '11 at 14:58
  • Hmm. This would be particularly good for me, since I don't have the time to play a game non-stop for a week after release. A more relaxed beta period would be great. – Matthew Read May 24 '11 at 14:59
  • Just to be fair, we should distribute any Diablo 3 keys we get based on the top users for the Diablo 2 tag. ;-) gaming.stackexchange.com/tags/diablo-2/topusers – bwarner May 24 '11 at 15:04
  • @bwarner I said it was an interesting option, but I haven't exactly added it into my schedule, mostly for the concerns I pointed out. – Grace Note May 24 '11 at 15:04
  • I'm working on an iPhone RPG, how would I get some SE users involved in betas? (when they're ready - I am currently around alpha stage, doing weekly builds and getting the engine/story up and running.) – Moshe Jul 18 '11 at 2:00
3

Yay third answer.

I spoke with Robert Cartaino earlier this week to discuss the application and strategy going forward for using our promotional grant. During our discussion, I brought up the idea of the Closed Beta.

His response? Green light. Our hope is to get ahead of the game, and he fully agrees with the point that a Beta will be a huge advantage. Furthermore, it will be an enjoyable prospect for the community.


I am, however, busied. Not only am I running the second round of non-Beta game selections, but it's also crunch time at the office. To that end, any help in starting this prospect to move forward is appreciated. I can act as our representative to contact companies for the opportunity, and of course I still carry the purse, but I'll need your help with the basic aspects of research to begin the movement. Namely:

  • What game/companies should I look at? (Yes, I know Blizzard and Arenanet(Guild Wars), and I'll still like to do the Might & Magic thing as well. But in case anything else stands out, don't hesitate.)
  • What can you find out about the Beta that I should know before trying to make contact? Do as much research on the requirements for eligibility as you can.
  • Anything else that can be used to our advantage in securing a place, really.

The selection of users for eligibility into the Beta slots we earn will be determined based on how many slots we can get. So let's see how awesome we can get it for this community! ♪

Information about upcoming betas can be added here

  • I like how you setup the proposals for the second round of non-Beta games. Could we do something similar for beta games? – bwarner Jun 9 '11 at 13:47
  • @bwarner If there are enough options available, I'll look into doing that. But if there's, for example, just these 3 big interest ones right now, then running a whole game vet process seems a bit excessive. – Grace Note Jun 9 '11 at 13:53
  • Seems like you want a bunch of information about each game though, so having a question with one answer per game seems like the right way to go. Where would we put it otherwise, comments to this answer? – bwarner Jun 9 '11 at 15:18
  • @bwarner We'll do it this way for now. ♪ – Grace Note Jun 9 '11 at 15:26
  • Actually I think it's a good idea to open a new question, but where the answers go into more details about the beta in question (not just game name) - for instance I'm working on researching the D3 beta based on press releases and what Blizzard did with previous betas, it should probably go into a CW answer to that new question. – Oak Jun 9 '11 at 17:38
  • @Oak Aiite, aiite, I'll make a new question. ♪ Find it here. – Grace Note Jun 9 '11 at 17:39
  • @bwarner As told to Oak, I've made a question for it. – Grace Note Jun 9 '11 at 17:43
  • I'm still slightly concerned as to the viability of this proposal in increasing traffic given the whole NDA thing and the fact that we lack one big resource when it comes to answering questions: interaction from the community managers/designers/developers from the game in question. Having participating in a number of closed betas, I've seen that it's difficult and perhaps even a bad idea to try to wrest traffic away from direct sources where you can give primary feedback. – FAE Jun 9 '11 at 18:04
  • @Fallen We'll simply have to avoid any NDA-associated games, whilst Robert mostly alleviated my concern that there'd be any concern for the whole "It's a beta" issue. Which leaves your remaining concern, which feels pretty solid, so I suggest posting that as an answer to this question to make it much louder. – Grace Note Jun 9 '11 at 18:05
  • @Grace Will do, working on an answer now. – FAE Jun 9 '11 at 18:18
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I'm not opposed to this, but there are two primary concerns that I think are important to address when we decide our game choice.

  • Non-Disclosure Agreements. Sometimes closed betas are very private. You cannot talk about it except amongst those in the closed beta. By our license, that content cannot really be permitted on the site. So we have to make sure that whatever game we select, doesn't have this issue. Unless...

  • The Beta Problem. You know, Stack Exchange has this whole policy that everyone hates, called "If it's a Beta browser, we don't support it." The reason for this is that beta elements are highly subject to change, thus making any changes made to adapt for them highly suspect in terms of having any form of long-term impact.

    For a closed beta game, this may or may not have a large impact. If the game is subject to large changes during the beta period, it makes questions during the period very minimal-impact. If the game changes so significantly post-beta, it's worse. Sure, it's similar to patches on games, but the audience of closed-beta data is generally much smaller than that of patched games. It can make all that "pre-release" data we funded and gathered... completely worthless once the game comes out.

They're risks that I hope we can be able to work around.

  • 1
    (1) for the life of me, I cannot recall that conversation. (2) very important point about the NDA - I guess we're limited to games where the studios don't mind that. It's not always applicable, though - for example the SC2 beta didn't contain any limitations as far as I know. (3) I think we can trust high-rep to go back and modify their questions/answers when new patches come out - that's what I see now, anyway. So I don't see that as much of a problem. – Oak May 24 '11 at 15:01
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    @Oak Let's just pretend I didn't confuse you with bwarner who suggested the same thing just a couple days ago. – Grace Note May 24 '11 at 15:03
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    I agree, betas with an NDA would be pointless, we'd have to skip those. I don't think we have to worry too much about the "things change during beta", we showed during the many patches to Civ 5 that we were able to keep answers up to date. – bwarner May 24 '11 at 15:07
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    btw, it seems a Blizzard representative said there won't be an NDA for Diablo 3: diablospot.com/diablo-3-beta-nda-2140 – Oak May 24 '11 at 15:24
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    NDAs are a definite issue, but regarding the beta problem, it seems Stack Exchange is supposed to be suited for rapidly-changing information. Gaming.SE seems to have handled Minecraft, a game consistently changing due to its perpetual alpha/beta, pretty well at any rate. – user3389 May 24 '11 at 20:46
4

Yes, we should totally do it! What a great idea, Oak. You're awesome.

Okay, I just had to provide an alternative to the other answers here. I think both Grace and Raven raise very important points, and yet I am not convinced they are show-stoppers.

  • Yes, an NDA basically blocks us from doing it. But not all game betas have NDAs.
  • Yes, some questions would require updating. I think we have an excellent track-record of being able to do it. And just because a game is in beta doesn't mean all the questions and answers would become obsolete.
  • Yes, the audience will be smaller. This sort of promotion will probably not result in a large short-range traffic surge, and is consequentially less measurable than the linked promotion. But it can draw other beta users, which are also likely to be heavy gamers.
  • And another problem is that I'm not sure how much leverage Stack Exchange has for this kind of thing. Are we equivalent to a media site as far as game companies are concerned? I'm not sure. But our traffic is growing. Plus, I will not be surprised if a lot of game developers use stackoverflow.com. :)

I do believe the long-term impact may be worth it. We all see surges when new games are released - image how much better it will be if we have dozens of questions and answers already prepared. At least, why not try this as an experiment?

4

Apparently, pre-ordering the game Might and Magic: Heroes VI will land you a slot on their Beta that begins on June 28th.

As this is immediately coming up, I'm going to do some research to make sure it's an option (namely, the big point being to make sure there's no NDA). Whilst I do so, it would not hurt for some prospective users that are interested in the game to note any interest in this prospect. ♪

Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 will possibly be much larger, almost a given for the former, but no harm in getting our feet wet first, aye? ♪

  • This isn't really a closed beta, but I agree it can still a good opportunity to test this. – Oak Jun 3 '11 at 19:58
  • I've played Heroes of Might and Magic up to number 4, and wouldn't mind giving the new one a shot. But only if it wouldn't disqualify me from a potential Diablo slot, which I'm much more interested in. – bwarner Jun 5 '11 at 0:49
2

While I think this is does have potential (and apologies for the late response to the timeline on this) I do have some concerns in regards to potentially pulling traffic away from the host site for whatever game we may be playing.

Having participated in a number of closed betas, I have found that one of the primary advantages of doing so is to be able to receive reliable information from and give important feedback to the community managers, designers, and developers for the game in question. The level of participation on CB forums is of course dependent on the game and how many resources they have, but in general, they tend to have a fairly visible presence on the forums in question.

I'm honestly not sure whether it behooves us or not to try to draw traffic away from the primary forums for the games at what, for many games, is a fairly important juncture in the development process. One of the reasons that they use NDAs is not only to control information, but to ensure that they easily have access to the feedback that receive throughout the beta on their own site.

I'm actually concerned that doing this may have negative repercussions on the site from the point of view of gamers who are heavily involved and invested in the beta communities. Advertisement is heavily frowned on in such places, usually, and being up front about our intentions may not serve us well either, since one of primary reasons for this venture is to increase traffic. I think we'd have to approach this carefully and make sure that our overall intentions are clear (making the internet a better place, supplementing information resources rather than completely replacing, etc. etc.) when jumping into this because of how insular it can be. I think it really depends on what point in development we get into a beta as to how useful it would be to us in regards to traffic.

I guess I'm still coming from the standpoint of betas being used as testing grounds in order to improve the game before release. I am aware that many games (and gamers), especially in the past couple years have used the "beta" term primarily as advertisement/trial periods for their games before release, or, from the gamer's perspective, as a try-before-you-buy.

Personally, I'm a pretty passionate tester and it's important to me to be able to give feedback and ultimately help make the game better before release and I value that opportunity, so that's where most of my standpoint is coming from. I just want to make sure we wouldn't be having any sort of negative effect on this process. Sorry for the wall-o'-text.

  • I think users that want to provide feedbacks / complaints / suggestions will not use us anyway - the benefit of this site is the strict Q&A format. I don't think gaming companies want their forums to be filled with repetitive so how do I do x or how can I beat y (though, admittedly, it's good to know that players have trouble with some issues). What I mean is, while your concern is important, I think we're less of a competition and more of a supplement. I'm not sure, though, and I guess that's something which is important to square with the publishers first. – Oak Jun 9 '11 at 18:46
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    This is a very good point. We'd need to make sure that we were providing a similar service to fansites, ie distributing information, rather than trying to supplant the intended feedback mechanisms for the beta. – bwarner Jun 9 '11 at 20:06
1

The way I see it...

All questions can easily be broken down into two basic cases:

  • I know the answer, and I will submit a self-answer if no one else provides a better one within X time.

  • I honestly don't know the answer, or I don't care to/can't submit a self-answer, ever.

I would wager that the majority of questions on our site satisfy the latter case. But if this is the case, the people best qualified to answer the beta questions... are the very same people with the beta keys. I think we can get away with this in the community promotion games because there are other users out there in internet-land who may be more experienced and not part of the site. But in betas, the pool of potential answerers is orders of magnitudes smaller. Heck, in my experience, it's hard enough just to get the folks in the betas themselves to post on the beta forums.

If The Witcher 2 is any indication, we'll have a group of 3-5 people (in this case, Fabian, Mana, and Myself) who occupy the most asked and the most answered within that tag. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Specifically though, we won't be able to encourage newcomers to the site to answer the question, as there will generally be so far fewer people to attract in the first place.

Consider some of the new users who joined around the same time The Witcher 2 questions began appearing.

If we assume questions are gaining visibility because players are searching for similar questions via google (or whatever), can't we also assume that only those people who play the game (i.e., beta players) would run into those situations?

Do you think Beta access could be equally effective at increasing site hits?

I'm unconvinced.

Perhaps a better use for beta keys (assuming no NDAs, of course) would be to follow Jeff's idea as per here.

  • I think you raise a very important point. I indeed rely on the fact that having this site publish questions and answers about the beta will draw other beta participants - just like I'm sure the Witcher 2 questions drew new participants. I agree the pool of potential visitors is much smaller, but I think that the pool of websites that can cater to these players is also much smaller, and we would want to be one of these sites. – Oak Jun 1 '11 at 6:05
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    In addition, being able to help and draw other beta players is only part of the picture; as I've mentioned in the question, another important advantage is that once the game is released, we're going to have a large number of questions already answered and Google-indexed. That means there's less of a "Google search page competition" between us and other sites when new players search for answers to their questions. – Oak Jun 1 '11 at 6:07
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    I think it is worth a shot. The Diablo 3 audience will be one of the largest for any single game. Our "competition", the Diablo-specific sites, will be building up all sorts of information throughout the Beta. If we're going to be able to make any case for our site being the best place to get answers, we can't wait for the game to release to start providing them. – bwarner Jun 1 '11 at 14:53
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    I think the most important thing about having beta access is getting some of the fundamental questions in place. How to do the 10 most important tasks in the game and make sure we have a question with a top-notch answer to cover it. Those are bound to do very well on Google when the game will finally launch. As for the game diary, the one doesn't have to exclude the other ;-) – Ivo Flipse Jun 3 '11 at 11:37
1

One more thing that might gain some traction is to look at some of the games that Indie developers may be putting out. They might be more willing to participate in hopes of increasing game attention, but on the other hand there will probably be less interest in answers to those questions. Its something worth thinking about.

  • With indie being one of my strengths, I'd love to see indie participation. That said, I urge that if you know any indie developers yourself (or if you are one), please consider adding to our Promotional Ads. Furthermore, indie games are perfectly valid choices to propose for our Promotional Grant - either in Beta or just upcoming games. – Grace Note Jun 9 '11 at 16:02

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