When Should Your Indie Game Be in “Beta”?

Recently, we’ve looked at prototyping and vertical slices, alpha, and now, it’s time to see what Beta really is and what it means for developing an indie game.

As usual, these terms can have quite loose definitions and can vary from studio to studio, but if you’re an indie dev looking to structure your development process, here’s what Beta often means for development.

Beta Follows Alpha

You don’t need a degree in Greek to be a game dev, but as you may have guessed that after Alpha, there’s Beta. The good news is that once you’re in Beta, your game should be nearing completion.

Sadly, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. If anything, you still have a lot of work to do and the work done during Beta is what will turn a great idea into a great game and get it ready for release.

Your Indie Game Should Be Feature Complete

You shouldn’t move into Beta if you’re still adding features. Complete all your features in Alpha and save Beta for polishing all the different aspects of your game.

Avoid adding any new features, mechanics, or systems in Beta. It can be tough, especially for indie devs with lots of ideas, but feature creep is real and it can help to remember that you’re just here to polish your game.

We should add that this doesn’t mean that nothing can ever be added to your game. DLC is always an option to add new systems and expand on your game once it’s finished, but finish your game first!

What you Should be Doing During Beta

Since you have all your features and are looking to polish your game, during beta, you’ll definitely want to focus on optimising your game, fixing bugs, polishing art, replacing placeholders, finalising the in-game text, etc.

As we mentioned in our previous article on game development, your game is likely going to be a buggy mess during Alpha, but the bones of an excellent game should be there. Beta is where you’ll really see your game come to life and resemble the final products.

It’s become quite common for developers to have players test the Beta versions of their games in order to get the game across the finish line. Ideally, you want your game to be largely playable and free of major bugs before it reaches Beta and use Beta to get rid of less common bugs.

For smaller teams and indie developers, it’s a good idea to get a lot of people to help with this testing, but it’s also important that you carefully pick who’ll be testing your game as you don’t want it to be written off as being full of bugs before it even gets to launch.

Moving Out of Beta

No game will ever be perfect and bug-free and it’s almost impossible to decide the perfect time to release your game, but once you’ve reached the end of Beta, there’s nothing left to do but release your game.

Ideally, you’ll want to time it so that your game leaves Beta at the same time your pre-launch marketing efforts have come to a head. However, as we’ve seen quite a lot in AAA in recent years, you can’t force a Beta version out and hope your launch will go well.

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