An Open Letter to Blizzard and the Beta Testers

Dear Blizzard,

In order for a tester to perform their job well, they need to have access to the design specifications for what they are testing. They need to know how the product is intended to work, and what measurable quantities are outside the bounds of expected results. To the best of my knowledge, you do not provide this information to your testers in the Cataclysm Beta. While the vast majority of the people in the Beta are not professional QA Engineers, and while it is a purely volunteer force, they still need the tools to do their jobs. It is in the best interest of the community, as well as Blizzard’s desire to provide a quality product, to provide the specs for the class mechanic changes being presented in Cataclysm.

What we need is simple. We need to know how you intend for a class to be played. We need to know what *you* intend the rotation to be for a Marksman Hunter, or a Fury Warrior, or a Feral Druid. We need to know how *you* designed a Discipline Priest to work, or how a Restoration Shaman is supposed to played in both a group and raid setting. If we aren’t given this information, then there is no way we can accurately test the changes. The expected results are undefined, and thus the testing effort is chaotic and unproductive. People are left to assess the success or failure of the class changes based on guesswork, and while ad hoc testing surely has its place in QA, it’s a very poor foundation to build a testing effort upon.

Give us more information. We’ll all be better off from it.

Dear Testers,

Make no mistake. As part of the Beta, you are a volunteer member of Blizzard’s software QA team. No, you aren’t being paid, but this is your job none the less. You are not there to sightsee. You are not there to feel special or privileged. Your duty as a member of the Beta is to do your absolute best to help Blizzard provide the best product they possibly can. Throwing tantrums because your preferred Class/Spec combination isn’t up to snuff yet is a shameful, immature, and tragic waste of the opportunity being presented to you. Do not squander the importance of this duty that random chance has placed in your hands because your emotional investment in one tiny sliver of the game is not paying off right now. Step back and see the bigger picture. This isn’t about you. This is about the game as a whole.

If Blizzard does provide you with instruction regarding your expected rotation, or how your class is expected to heal now, then play using those instructions. If you continue to play as you personally believe you should play, then your results are invalid. You can’t complain that a stapler doesn’t work when you’re trying to use it to drive a screw into a steel girder. The moment Blizzard tells you how your class/spec is intended to be played, your opinions are invalid. The moment you choose to deviate from the way Blizzard has tuned your class/spec to work, your results of “it doesn’t work” are invalid. If you insist on using a spell in your healing that Blizzard has told you isn’t used in the situation you’re using it for, then you’re no better than a Warrior complaining that they can’t tank as Fury. No, you can’t, and that’s by design. Failing at healing because you use the wrong spells is by design too. Accept it. Adapt to the changes, and get back to testing within the spec.

A lot of people in the Beta also seem to be lacking an understanding of the difference between a bug report and an enhancement request. A bug is something that is not functioning, or is functioning outside the expected results as defined in the spec. Beastmaster pulling far too much DPS is a bug. Fury pulling far too little is a bug. You not liking your rotation is *not* a bug. That is an enhancement request. Not liking Holy Power or Focus is not a bug, it’s an enhancement request. Provide Blizzard with the feedback, but understand that in the world of software development, bugs get dealt with before enhancements in nearly every case unless an extremely good case is made for the enhancement change. You flipping out because something that is performing within spec hasn’t been altered to fit your personal preference is childish, counterproductive, and really demonstrates a total lack of professionalism.

You don’t have to collect a pay check to do a good job. There are countless volunteers in countless different vocations in this world who make no money yet still take pride in their work. Be that sort of Beta Tester. If you choose to ignore the chance given to you and squander it with inane, immature fits of anger, then you forfeit every right you have to ever complain about any bug you find once Cataclysm goes live. You have a chance to make this a better game. If you waste that, shame on you.

I have spent my entire professional life in Software QA. I know a few things about the industry from both sides of the fence. The way some people in Beta are behaving is shameful, but Blizzard, you could do better too. The deadline is closing in on the biggest batch of changes WoW has ever seen in a single patch. It’s time everyone came together for one last Hail Marry.

Sincerely,
The Glaivecow

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~ by Udiyvli on 09/18/2010.

5 Responses to “An Open Letter to Blizzard and the Beta Testers”

  1. I should have listened when you told me this the first time. I was one of those bad Beta Testers and my ignorance and pride let your valuable information slip away.

    For that, I am sorry.

    This is a great source of information that should be read by beta testers not just for blizzard, but for any company.

  2. You flipping out because something that is performing within spec hasn’t been altered to fit your personal preference is childish, counterproductive, and really demonstrates a total lack of professionalism.

    I’ll start demonstrating “professionalism” (as you claim it) as soon as Ghostcrawler starts demonstrating professionalism and stops dismissing entirely valid and well-detailed concerns about core class functionality as “worthless” as “invalid” and insulting premiere members of class communities when their statements fly against his perceived notion of how everything should work.

    • This post isn’t about you. Nor is it about Ghostcrawler or your personal grievances with the man. This post is about best practices for testers, developers and project managers in a software development environment and how all parties can do better to produce a finer product in Cataclysm. If you’re letting your personal angst toward one man on Blizzard’s payroll stand in the way of your role as a responsible member of the Beta, then yes, you are unprofessional by your own admission. I could write a tome on the many and varied project managers and developers I have disagreed vehemently with in my life, but you put such trivial things aside for the sake of a quality product.

      Please go rage elsewhere. I don’t go to your blog bearing words of rationality. Please don’t come to mine with vitriol.

  3. These kinds of testers (the ones that only spew how much x and y suck, and never provide good “hey this is quest causes this other quest to bug out”) are the reason I am eternally sad that I am never (to date) selected for Betas. Whether it is luck of the draw or something else, I have no idea.

    Also, “I’ll stop being an asshat when he stops being an asshat” is pretty much the epitome of immaturity and a lack of “professionalism”. Glad you don’t put up with that.

    (Also, I have LOVED being able to sign up for the digest for your blog. It lets me read the posts from my mailbox when surfing blogs would otherwise not be an option! Loving it!)

  4. Hi Glaivecow,

    As a recent college grad, I’m looking at breaking into the industry and was hoping you could offer some advice. Is it possible to communicate via e-mail?

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