Over the last few weeks there has been a subtopic that has sprung up several times in blog comments threads and occasionally over on twitter regarding the selling of beta access. More so a lot of the discussion has centered around the trend of the public paying to beta test a product for a company. For me I tend to lump all of these schemes together be it a kickstarter you might support, or steam early access or something like the trove or landmark presales. In all of the cases you are giving the company a stream of funding on the promise of getting early access to their game so that you can play it first. Quite honestly I am completely fine with this trend and think it is overall a good thing.
At this point I have been over a hundred alpha and beta programs for various games. I used to try and keep track of them all but to be honest I simply cannot. Every time I turn around I am in a new beta program with a new NDA. Previously getting into these programs, especially the more coveted ones involved knowing the right people or being extremely lucky with a random roll of the dice. I will admit I have talked to a friend of a friend who got me on that desired friends and family list more than a few times for a game I was extremely interested in. To be honest, the system that existed just is not fair to the gamer, and involved a whole lot of cronyism… did I abuse this fact to get access to what I wanted? Hell yes I did.
For the the concept of buying into a program just seems more just. If you care enough to plunk down your money in support of a game, then by all means you should have access to alpha and beta testing. I think it changes more than just that, in the programs I have been a part of recently that really worked well… the company is more accountable to its paid testers. They have been all the more responsive with feedback and taken bug submissions all the more seriously. Additionally in each of these games where I have been essentially a paid tester, I have seen a faster development of new feature sets and rapid patching schedules. Trove for example it is unusual that we go a week without a major feature being added.
For me at least, who is someone that does not mind adding my support to a title I believe in before I have seen it… this trend is a good thing. If you think about it in a certain light, this is really no different than preordering a game months in advance. When you decide to purchase that collectors edition, you are taking a gamble on the game being something you will want to play for the long haul. When The Secret World came out, I took a gamble and purchased the lifetime membership, thinking it would be a game that I would enjoy for a good time to come. While I do not play it every week, I still feel like I got my value out of that initial purchase, and log in frequently enough to feel like I am still using it. I think like most things, all of this is a matter of perspective, but I feel like this shift in systems is far more fair than the previous ones.
Cough Syrup Gems
Last night I managed to find enough sapphires to be able to craft my cobalt pick. Unfortunately it is a pretty crappy one, but so far the ones my friends have made have all been lousy. My hope is that once I can craft the indigo pick I will once again get a blue or better quality. For now however I am using my viridian pick on anything it can mine out, and then only switching to my cobalt pick to actually consume the rubicite and ruby veins. Speaking of which… if I thought sapphire was frustrating I feel like I am in for a long haul when it comes to finding the 120 ruby needed to craft the indigo pick. Right now the only way to find ruby is at the bottom of a surface spawning rubicite vein. Unfortunately like the above image shows… most rubicite you find on the surface is really just an upside down cobalt vein.
So whereas seeing red used to make me a sad panda… seeing blue in my rubicite veins has the same effect. Right now I have managed to gather up 45 of the 120 rubies, but I still need a large quantity of elemental rubicite as well. Luckly I have a ton of side projects that I want to complete, and as a result I still need large quantities of gold and tungsten and to be truthful cobalt and sapphires to be able to complete several of the upgraded crafting benches. Right now I have upgraded to the amaranthe forge, but the rest of my machines are at the lowest possible level. It is funny how often my machines get used by my neighbors. That is one of the aspects I love about this game, I will be in my little keep crafting away and next thing I know someone comes by to say hello and either ask if they can use my machines, or compliment me on the building. There is already a small but budding community happening in the various islands.
Between sessions of looking for sapphires and rubies I put in quite a bit more work on the Forest Temple that has now turned into more of a Forest Keep. I completed the wood brace beams in the ceilings of most of the floors, and started working on the basement “undercroft area”. Now all of the machines are located there and I decided to only display the most current machine to ease confusion. Additionally I built a “vault” area where I wrapped my vault portal in stone so that it just looks like a portal in the wall of sorts. I am almost to the point where I will begin fine detail work. I am considering trying to make some mosaics using the triangle block to inset in the walls, but I am not 100% sold on that notion. Essentially I would use the various ores as a sort of stained glass. I uploaded another album of photos to show the recent progress.
I’ve Never Used My College Degree
The title of today’s factoid is a bit misleading, since any college degree gets used to some extent at least in being able to check off a box on a resume search, however I have never been employed in a field that has actually used mine. Throughout High School I was torn between two loves, that being Art and Computers. There was a point in my senior year where I was enrolled in four different college degree programs for the coming year, because I simply could not make up my mind which path I wanted to choose. Being somewhat pragmatic, I chose to attend a junior college and get my basics out of the way on the cheap as I tried to make up my mind… the whole “what do you want to be when you grow up” question.
I decided to take an associates program that was brand new that year called “Desktop Video Production”. Primarily it consisted of lots of 2D and 3D animation work on the Amiga/Video Toaster, a fair amount of computer science and programming classes, and some old school production video work and classic video editing technique. Being a brand new degree program, everything was experimental and when a few of the classes didn’t make I had to get substitutions made so I could get out of there in two years. At this point I was greatly leaning towards art, so I opted to transfer into a four year university and enter the commercial art program. Since I had an associates, they decided to transfer any computer science hours that did not specifically map up to something they had as a computer science minor.
It was here that I made a shift again, the more into the art curriculum I got, the more and more I shifted to doing as much as I could on the computer. I became the lab manager for the fine arts lab, and tutored folks through Photoshop, Corel, Quark Xpress and a few 3D animation packages. It was around this point when I started looking at the job market that I realized exactly what the term “starving artist” meant. While in college I got a job as the system administrator and webmaster for a small internet service provider. It was here that I managed to get the “by the bootstraps” education in networking, server administration, and a good bit of serious web programming. I realized that if I wanted to be making a decent living, that I would be far better off following my computer tendencies.
Straight out of college I got a job as a webmaster for a fairly large company and over the years that morphed into more serious programming. At this point I’ve shifted back and forth between web and windows programming, even doing a small a bit of low level device driver programming on occasion. All the while almost entirely abandoning the Bachelor of Commercial Arts degree that I ended up with. Sure especially on the web there is a good aspect of commercial art that you end up doing, so this is why I say my factoid is a bit misleading. However it is very true that I have never once worked as an artist, at least for profit. The interesting thing about being a programmer without having a serious computer science background, is that I think it gives me a slightly different perspective. Often times when sitting in a room with computer science majors, I will come up with an off the wall solution that ends up saving the day. I guess in the end I am thankful for my non-traditional background.