When it comes to online multiplayer games, the most important period pre-launch is the open beta testing. For a few precious days your game will be free to the world and in the hands of the harshest critic of them all—the general public. Generating hype to get people buying your game is all dependent on whether the beta is a success, not just in terms of behind-the-scenes multiplayer tech, but if people had fun playing it. Passing that test will lead to higher chances of a successful launch. Screw it up, and your game will be dead on arrival.
I enjoy open beta periods not just because I get to play games I probably can’t afford for free, but because I want the games to leave a good first impression so I can buy when I do have the cash. It is a period of discovery, an opportunity to explore a game’s potential, and that moment when you suddenly realise you’re actually having fun is incredibly satisfying. It’s the same when the game is a pile of shit, because then you can set the controller down and affirm that you just avoided wasting your money.
Two recent betas managed to give me these moments of realisation after a few hours with each. First up was the Doom beta, which I’d been kind of looking forward to. I’m a fan of the arena shooters of the early 2000s and I hoped Doom would provide something similar. Geez, there were health and armour pickups, it had to be good! Then I had to pick a loadout.
Pro-tip, if you want to make an authentic arena shooter, don’t use loadouts. Like, at all. I want to blow up a guy with a shotgun then pick up his rifle and blast a few rounds further away, and this Doom did not let me do that. Besides the gunplay was nowhere near satisfying enough, nothing like the original Doom’s gunplay where every shot had meaningful impact. It’s a dud, new Doom can piss off.
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And then, from the heavens above, a shooter so glorious, so mesmerising, so brain-meltingly awesome that it could only have been crafted by absolute masters of their craft. Oh Overwatch, you give me hope, you are the beacon that will guide us into a new era of shooters that are actually fun!
Blizzard Entertainment’s first shooter is possibly the most enjoyable time I’ve had since my days playing Unreal Tournament as a twelve-year old, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t sure if they could pull it off. I’ve only really known them for their franchises (Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo) which are vastly different kettles of fish since they require such a large time investment. With Overwatch I’ve found myself able to just pick it up, play a few rounds, convince myself that one more round will be enough, then go at it for another two hours. Since my typical shooter playstyle is “run around like an absolute madman and hope not to die cheaply,” I’ve been drawn to Tracer as my main, but since there are twenty-one heroes to choose from you definitely will find something to like. It is pretty to look at as well, combining the cartoony zaniness of Team Fortress 2 with the polish you expect from a Blizzard title. I think I’m in love with a video game, for the first time in a long while…
Goddamn it, just buy Overwatch when it comes out. I cannot stress this enough, it’s fun! I’m not a shill, I swear…