I love getting in beta tests for games. Certainly a lot of the appeal is just playing a game for free before anyone else (although I do try to be diligent about bug reporting), but it also inflames my blogger senses. A good or bad beta has me itching to share my thoughts, post screenshot galleries, and make walkthrough videos.
Itching to do so, that is, before I read the NDA. Oh cruel non-disclosure agreement, why do you thwart me so? It makes me crazy sometimes that I have all this neat game information and I just have to sit on it.
I understand why beta tests come with NDAs of course, although I think companies can be a bit overprotective. You don’t want half-formed features getting out into public knowledge and causing undue anxiety with potential players, or bad reviews to hit before you’ve even finished the game, or maybe you just want to closely control the Public Relations process.
And some agreements are of course better than others. I still am not legally allowed to publish screenshots from the press beta weekend for Guild Wars 2 even though the game is out now and there really haven’t been any dramatic changes to the look of the game since beta. A few months ago I was in The Secret World closed beta under the NDA stipulation that I tell no one that there even was such a thing going on (now I’ve told you all! gasp!), and yet they occasionally sent me extra keys to pass on to friends. That lead to imagining some amusing conversations: “Here, take this key.” “Oh. What’s it for?” “… I can’t say and the beta may not even exist.”
And of course last weekend I had my first look at Storm Legion, RIFT’s upcoming beta, and with the release date just slightly over a month away it’s so sad that I am legally obligated to not tell you all how awesome it was. Well, okay.. I can tell you that it was awesome, but not WHY.
In fact I spent six hours yesterday going from absolutely no knowledge of video editing to turning my 22 minutes of meandering Storm Legion footage into 10 minutes of focused commentary on the new zones and questing mechanics. Six hours (I do so love a good make-work project) and I can’t show anyone yet! Arrgh, NDA!
Like I said, I understand why beta test NDAs exist, but it would be nice to have a little more wiggle room for smaller market bloggers, podcasters, and video makers particularly when a game is six weeks away or less. Help us help you, game industry. Also, send me more beta invites. *cough*