Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Beta software - oh, how unfinished you are. More refined than alpha, but less stable than gold. Beta software means different things to different people, depending on who you ask. To programmers, beta means "developers only." To Google, beta means a service that is fully functional but unfinished. To gamers, beta is PC games 1.0 - Game developers frequently ship games with flaws that will be ironed out later.

I was playing Warcraft 3 online the other day. There's a cool features for custom maps - single-map campaigns with objectives outside the standard army-building format. The other day, I saw in the menu a beta version of Smash TV. Since I had played Smash TV as it was recreated in Starcraft, I jumped at the opportunity to play this game - even though it was still in beta.

I found an available player slot, where I found several other players and the game developer, who was hosting the map. I discovered a like-minded individual, who had decided that if nobody else would make a Smash TV for Warcraft 3, he would. Unfortunately, when we started the game, the developer noticed that there were no enemies to kill, thereby making victory or defeat impossible, and he realized that the game would need to be revised to fix that. The game ended, and all the players left.

Another time, I found a beta tower defense game. A tower defense game, to all you non-gamers, is a game where the object is to build attacking powers in a maze-like fashion to prevent enemy units from reaching their destination. Anyways, unlike the game of Smash TV, we unsuspecting players found the beta to be an interesting experience. Much of the game was unbalanced in the player's favor, although there were a few instances where the enemy units were too resilient. The game ended 3/4 of the way through, when one of the levels wouldn't start at all. And despite the debug commands the game dev put into the game, there was nothing to do but say good-bye and clear out.

Game developers, I salute you.

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