A while back we posted a Dev Blog post on our Beesfriends: Community Guides and Moderators program. We like being open with what we’re doing and different programs we operate, so we’re doing the same kind of thing here today for the Community Tester Program.
As such, for today’s Dev Blog post, we’re going to spend a bit of time to cover what the program is, why we have the program, what the goals of the program are, and what exactly Community Testers do. Lastly, with multiplayer coming up quickly, we’re also going to be expanding our roster of Community Testers, so will be going over what’s involved in joining the program, and how to go about applying!
Back when we started getting into development cycles for Last Epoch, we only had a handful of development team members, with a hardcore passion for ARPGs. While this handful of members had extensive experience with the genre, we wanted a group of individuals to help review what was being created and provide feedback from more ranges of experience rather than just the most hardcore of crowd. The reason we did this as a closed off group is because many of these items get tested in an incomplete state. While Last Epoch is an early access game, we constantly aim for each main patch to be a polished experience. Having a select group of individuals to help review changes before they are fully complete helps us to refine and steer the direction of the game, improving the quality of our releases without negatively impacting the gameplay experience of our wider playerbase.
As the team here at Eleventh Hour Games continued to grow with the amazing support of our community, we have continued to evolve our development processes including our internal QA department and their interactions with our Community Testers. Our Community Testers have been a very valuable resource for helping us continue to refine the Last Epoch experience, and as such we have decided that we want to keep the program moving forward. Being involved in and working closely with our community is core to us, so having community members as part of our development process helps define part of what Eleventh Hour Games is. As such, we’re doubling down on the Community Tester program; clarifying its goals and how it operates, as well as expanding the program to continue to make Last Epoch even greater and maintain our close relationship with our community.
The Community Tester program is sometimes seen as an “early access” to the early access, however this is not the case. Sometimes, core parts of the game aren’t available in builds we release to Community Testers, as we haven’t finished working on changes but need feedback on other parts of the game. We didn’t want to have the entire community experience these kinds of “half completed states”, so we recruited a number of players who were willing to do so. Because of the nature of some items and mechanics, and how they can change quite considerable before release or even be removed entirely, testers need to be under a non-disclosure agreement. As such, due to these partial states, we couldn’t do simple opt-in betas. At the same time, we wanted to ensure the direction of the game continued to match to our community, so hiring internal staff for this didn’t make sense. And so, the Community Tester program was born.
As explained above, Community Testers have contributed greatly to help shape Last Epoch over the years. A great example of something our Community Testers have helped steer the direction of is with Dungeons. Originally, our Dungeons didn’t offer any sort of modifiers when progressing between areas. With Community Tester feedback we added these modifiers to make progressing through the dungeon more engaging and provide choices with the dungeon progression itself. As we’ve continued to expand upon these dungeons, we’ve continued to refine this method, in some cases having the modifiers directly effect the dungeon reward such as the case with Soulfire Bastion to further drive incentive for decision making with which doors to take and make them more engaging.
The CT program will be evolving as we start ramping up our Multiplayer testing. While we may have previously been primarily focused on gameplay feedback, we now need testers for a variety of reasons such as stress testing as well as helping us assure the quality and stability of our online live releases. We will absolutely still be looking for gameplay feedback, but at least initially we will be prioritizing the overall multiplayer experience and not necessarily balance. We will be looking for feedback on subjects like “how does it feel to join another player who’s at a different point of gameplay from yourself?”.
This will not be the case forever. As as we mentioned in our June development update, over time our team will be turning to balance as we iron out the kinks of the overall experience. Ultimately these dedicated testing periods will help us grow our online platform and ensure that we have the best quality launch possible and participation from our Community Testers will be a fundamental part of our journey.
With that being said, we’re looking to considerably expand the current roster of Community Testers. We’re looking for more Community Testers in the near future. Many more. If you’re interested in participating in the CT Program, here’s a few things to know and help decide if you might fit into the program:
- Community Testers do need to sign an NDA. This means you cannot discuss anything you’ve seen or learned about through the tests or chat channels for CT’s even to friends and family. It is also your responsibility to protect any information you have access to - so if you’re on a shared PC this may be difficult. Because of the NDA, you must also be eligible to sign an NDA contract (be age of majority, and not have any conflicting contracts)
- Experience with testing, debugging and gameplay design is not necessary. We encourage Community Testers to engage in the provided content how they want to play it, the less thought put into it the better. Balance is good, gameplay is better, feelings are best.
- Community Testers are expected to provide their feedback in a structured way within provided channels. We of course provide guidance to help with this, but this ensures we can collect the feedback and be able to act on it.
- Community Testers experience partial versions of the game - it’s not just a way to get the latest updates early. Community Testers are a vital part of our design process and provide invaluable feedback in how we continue to evolve Last Epoch into the game for the community as a whole to enjoy.
- While Community Testers are not expected to uphold the same standing as members of the Beesfriends are, Community Testers are still expected to be in good standing with the community. So following the code of conduct, as well as being active and collaborative members of the community can certainly contribute to someone’s assessment as a CT.
- There are no commitments to be available for any specific time or any specific test, or any required schedule at all. This is of course a volunteer community program, and we above all want to ensure we’re always respectful and appreciative of our community members who want to try to help shape the future of Last Epoch.
If all this sounds good to you, you can submit an application to join the CT Program here: https://support.lastepoch.com/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=6980787618971.
We’re excited to talk more about multiplayer, and 0.9.0 in the near future with more updates and teasers as we start getting closer to the next big update, and hope to see you all there!