The following guide is presented to the beta community as most beta testers don't actually know what it means to be a beta tester. This post is not a point of condescension; it's to help those who are genuinely interested in beta testing and helping any game to become greater than it may already be.

This information has been collected from— applied to —the many, many, many dozens of games in which I have been a beta tester. These games range from obscure free-to-play and browser-based games that don't even see a thousand players in their meager lifetime, all the way to the major MMOs that rule the industry with tens of millions of players and can't be named without invoking a ridiculous flame war.

If you are serious about beta testing, as I am, you will find the following information extremely helpful and valuable.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this guide will give you more tools to help your game(s) aspire to greatness.


So You Want To Be A Beta Tester, Eh?

[credit to Odinseye of LoTRO for original post]
[credit to Jergis of Aerrevan for edits, additions, sharing]
Heavily revised by Stormbow 3/29/2013
Revised again by Stormbow 7/4/2023

1) Keep a pad of paper and writing utensil next to you at all times. (Or keep notes in Notepad right on your computer.) Write down everything you do that has odd/unexpected consequences for an accurate report either in-game or by post. Include screenshots at every oppotunity. (PrtScr and Windows Paint if you absolutely must.) Photobucket is Stormbow's image host of choice, and there are many, many others available to choose from. (FluffyApp is another, recommended by Macey & Zorg.) Include client-side logs (such as crash logs) for further details if these are available. Be prepared to send a DirectX diagnostic report privately to game developers that request one.

2) You will likely crash often during testing. Patience is a virtue in beta tests and is part of the process. Remember, this is a test wherein you work for the company in providing feedback and making the game better. This is not an opportunity to learn secrets of the game, hoard items and money, or be the first [to find/be/kill/do anything] when it goes live. Your character is extremely likely to be deleted at the end of the beta, be prepared to lose everything you are "working so hard for".

3) Every step of the way, you are actually doing your job if you make the game crash. (But don't go out of your way to intentionally crash the game repeatedly!) Report what you were doing once you have confirmed that what you did actually does crash the game. (This is called verifying a bug and is an integral part of being a beta tester!) Either post in the proper forums or use the in-game reporting tool if one is available to report the crash and what causes it. (Not all games have a reporting tool in-game.) And start with the character creation screen. Try multiple combos of clicks and keystrokes, combos of creation options, watch the graphics, listen for sound artifacts and errors, animation stalls etc. On a somewhat related note, the game may face long periods of maintenance where you won't be able to get in or get back in after you crash out. Again, be patient.

4) When in the game, consider the environment. Look for holes, mismatched effects, trees floating in the air, etc. Take notice of your surroundings and the animations. Do avatars move smoothly, are some colors out of whack, etc. Keep an eye open for misplaced items; monsters, npcs, and other quest locations may be said to be in one area when they are really in another. Participate in as many events as possible. Most players are often so excited to even be in an event that they forget they should be looking for bugs and problems that arise. Make sure that quest rewards and event participation rewards actually make it into your inventory.

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Contact Stormbow

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5) Take screenshots and report your findings as clearly and precisely as possible. "There's a floating tree by this place." is not as helpful as "There is a tree floating by Farmer John's barn southwest of [name of the nearest city here].". Include quest names wherever possible as well. Some games also have a coordinates feature that can tell you EXACTLY where you are standing. (This is typically /loc or /coords.) Find out if the game has such a feature, and include the coordinates at every opportunity. Giving a developer the zone name and coordinates is the most helpful thing you can do when reporting a graphics or game mechanics (geometry, terrain) issue. This is especially true for issues where characters get stuck in the geometry (the terrain; in fences, walls, doors, etc).

6) UI is next. Try everything, even stuff that no one would normally even consider during normal gameplay. Move things around. Shift, CTRL, Alt, click and drag things. The plan is to find problems and break the game, so just go nuts. Try opening trade windows with mobs/guards/villagers, try buffing mailboxes, and attacking tables. Anything that seems out there-- try it. If doing anything "weird" makes a window disappear from the game, absolutely report it. (Some games have been known to include a "return to default location" action, such as shift-left clicking a window. This feature, when bugged, can potentially send the window to a screen resolution location that's not even visible on the planet Earth.)

7) Read all dialog and quest descriptions. I know, I know... Nobody likes to read pretty much any text in MMOs anymore. (And why should they? Minimaps and quest objective locators lead the way... Remember, you're hear with a job to do, not just to play the game.) Check for spelling errors and grammatical issues. Some players gloss over familiar words but make sure to pay attention as sometimes even the the simplest things are missed. (For example, you probably didn't notice "the the" in the previous sentence, and "hear" instead of "here" even further back.) Also keep an eye out for numbers. The price you buy things for, and sell them for. Make sure the numbers add up correctly after the actions. If you're really good with the game mechanics, track the damage and healing numbers as well. Text proofreading is an especially important area of beta testing for games with smaller dev teams who are working day and night on their vision. Help them to help everyone have a good time. Games that are being translated from one language to another are absolutely notorious for bad spelling, grammar, punctuation, and phrasing. Keep an eye out for translation errors if applicable to the game you're beta testing. On a related note, if you are tasked to kill 10 rats, get to the quest area, and find out there are bats all over that count as kills for the quest (i.e., you need to kill 10 bats there), document and report the issue.

8) Experiment with all social, crafting, chat, and other options/windows as well as the controls for all of those. How is the learning curve? Is there info available about how to do things? Are the instructions and controls intuitive in nature and easy for everyone (not just gamers) to understand and use? Even style choices can be the source of beta testing reports if it makes the player experience better. If dark colored text is found on a dark background, it will be very hard to read. This could be the result of a background image not loading in the text window. Screenshot - document - report.

9) As I mentioned earlier, verifying bugs is essential. Make sure that whatever you test is tested again. If you find a bug, try repeating it and write down what you find out. Again, the more info you collect and report, the better.

10) Be creative, have fun with the game, do things you wouldn't normally do, and by golly report what you find.

Good Luck and Happy Bug Hunting, beta testers!