Multiple betas for Guild Wars 2 are on the horizon, and while I’m no longer officially a member of the press, I did oh-so-casually mention to my former media contact with NCSoft that I wouldn’t mind getting one of those shiny press beta invites in February, you know, if there was no demand for them whatsoever and he just had to find a way to use up all that he had been allotted. The crazy thing is, I wasn’t really exaggerating all that much. I’d like to get into the GW2 beta, and at the same time, I wouldn’t.
In general, I’m not a big fan of betas. While I had the opportunity to sample several betas over the past two years, I usually only checked in for a few hours, just long enough to get a feel for the game and make a snap judgment as to whether I’d want to continue with the game when it went live or to get enough of an impression that I could write/edit an article prior to the game’s release. Under no circumstances will I ever be one of those people who salivate over a beta invite or would assassinate his or her closest friends just to get into the game early and then spend an entire weekend grinding up to max level.
Issue #1: Betas are unfinished, and often buggy games. Some are better than others — I had to play in multiple Rift beta sessions for a strategy guide I was working on at the time, and it was about as smooth as could be — but in general, you get the feeling that you’re not viewing a finished product. Of course, that’s sort of the point of betas (besides the marketing aspect): People are invited in so they can help with the debugging process. That sounds too much like work, though, so I’ll pass. And if I get used to a certain feature in beta and then it’s changed in launch (this was the case with a few things in Rift), it can be hard to change my habits. It’s like I’m having to adjust to patches even before the game launches.
Issue #2: I hate repeating content. If I play an alt, it’s necessary, of course, but the knowledge that I’ll have to run the exact same thing with a new character a few weeks or months later doesn’t thrill me. That’s why I made a bounty hunter in the SWTOR beta. I knew I’d be making a trooper when the game went live, so there was virtually no chance I’d roll a BH and could explore his storyline without repeating content. Not to mention that the end of a beta and the transition to live almost always includes a full character wipe, so all that “work” I did on my first character is wasted.
My first beta of any type was actually Guild Wars, back when I was working with their team for some articles we did in Scrye. I did hit it pretty hard for the one weekend I was in (the days immediately preceding it having their own long and tumultuous story), getting all the way to level 15 and dipping a toe into Lion’s Arch. Then the real game came out and, well, I was kinda bored by doing the same stuff over. I only lasted about a month or two with GW, post-launch, and have only poked my head in to look around every now and then for the past six-and-a-half years.
I’ve learned a few strategies for dealing with “beta burnout” since them. The first, as mentioned above, is to play a character I don’t intend to play at launch. For GW2, that will probably be warrior or ranger, and, so that I encounter as little storyline stuff as possible, an asura, which is #5 on my list of races I want to roll as. Second, I try to spend a good deal
of time in PvP, when it’s available at relatively low levels. PvP has a longer “repeatable shelf life” than PvE content, so it’s a good way to get a feel for the game without “exposing” yourself to stuff you want to “save” for launch (though in the case of GW2, even PvE might be less “repeatable” than in most MMOs). And, most importantly, I “know when to say when.” I’ll have years and years to play GW2, and everything I do on this character will be erased anyway, so there’s no point in trying to cram in everything in a short period of time. I’ll probably sample as much as I can — crafting, PvP, minigames, dynamic events, etc. — but not so much that I get tired of it before the game’s even out.
And if I don’t get into the beta at all? That’s fine, too. This isn’t a “I need to sample the game to decide if I’m going to get it” situation, and if I decide to play Guild Wars 2 for the long term, it’s no different if I play it for the next five years or if I play it for the next five years and two months. I’ve waited long enough, I can handle a little more anticipation. It’ll just make the final leap that much more fulfilling.