You may have noticed that the team here at Dreamscarred Press is committed to the open beta process (you may also have noticed, ah, a certain amount of regrets that took place when we couldn’t engage in the beta process a time or two). I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that our products wouldn’t be the same without the contributions that you – our readers, customers, and beta testers – make to them. So I wanted to take a moment to thank the wonderful folks who provide us with their feedback, which has included everything from ideas on how to un-knot thorny wording to top-to-bottom grammar rewrites that have, at times, been desperately needed. Hats off to you, folks.
I also wanted to talk about the open beta process itself, and why it’s important both to Dreamscarred Press as a whole and to the tabletop RPG industry. The obvious advantage that people don’t really talk about out loud is that it’s easy marketing; that is, a beta gives you hands-on time with a product which, in theory, gets folks excited to play with it. But in all honesty, that’s the least of what the beta process is good for.
The thing is, most third-party publishers are three guys and a truck, and sometimes they don’t even get the truck. As awesome as it would be to have an internal development department to refine the mechanics that designers produce, it’s just not going to happen. Designers have to be their own developers, which can lead to issues where we get too close to the problem to see it. Beta testers, before anything else, provide a fresh outside perspective on what’s been written. A lot of times, little things that are wrong can be the most aggravating when a mechanic or idea hits the presses, and the guy who wrote the mechanic or idea is the worst candidate for catching it. Hell, I nearly forgot a vital duration on an ability I wrote recently, and only the grace of an outside perspective managed to save my bacon from something highly embarrassing.
Our beta testers put our products through the wringer. I’ve seen numbers crunching so intense it needs spreadsheets. Every level gets tested – the wording, the numbers, the compatibility with other material from the core product line and from our other products – to ensure that the stuff works and, more importantly, fits into the overall game. This dedication also means that we have the chance to bounce some of the crazier ideas off of our beta testers without having to commit to them making it into the final product if it turns out they’re too crazy to support. Believe me, I’ve taken advantage of that feature more than once.
When I first heard of Dreamscarred Press I was told, before anything else, of the high quality of the work they did. That was back in the Psionics Unleashed days, way before I got involved. But since coming to DSP to work and becoming part of the team, I’ve come to realize that these high standards wouldn’t be possible without the open beta process. I’m grateful beyond words to the fans and customers that help us make our work the best it can be.
Hats off to you, guys.
Game Developer, Dreamscarred Press