Master Beta: Battlefield 3 Beta is COMING!

“First comes Alpha then comes Beta, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” This sing-song holds somewhat true if you consider the baby in the baby carriage to be a finished game being “born” on release day. On September 29th (Septemberr 27th for those of you who preordered through Origins) the Battlefield 3 beta will be released for testing and I am just as excited for the beta as I am for the game… until the game actually releases on 10/25/2011.

As the name implies, as does the sweet song above, beta game versions come out after extensive alpha testing. Alpha testing of a game entails running a version of the final product (usually not the complete game with all of its features enabled) through the ringer and the testing is usually done extensively by the developer of the games employees. Betas of games are a more finalized and polished form of the alpha that usually include more features that will end up in the final version.

An even bigger and more important aspect of beta testing is the increased number of testers. Betas are usually made available to all those who have preordered the game, do beta testing for a living or, through a “friends and family” connection to the developer. The sheer number factor involved in beta testing is what makes it such an important step in the development cycle. It is important to have more eyes on the product and more importantly, eyes that are not that of the developers. Beta play (also another way to say frapping I guess) gives the developer the chance to have thousands of players test their product, usually at little direct cost to the developer, that are looking at the game for the first time. Fresh eyes spot fresh mistakes.

By the time the beta is being tested the game is almost complete. It gives the players a chance to try to find and make use of exploits and it gives the developer the chance to fix them before final release. Balance questions like “Is this weapon/class overpowered?” or “Do we need to limit the range of this spell/tanks cannon?” can be answered during beta testing because if something in the game provides an unfair advantage, then you can be sure players will take advantage of it.

For the master of all betas that is Battlefield 3, one of the biggest issues that will be certified will be EA’s [Electronic Arts] server ability. With 64 player maps (that include simultaneous action via jets, helicopters, tanks, Humvees, ATVs, ground troops etc.) being a major bullet point to the game, server quality will definitely need to be verified and stress tested extensively. With beta testing you enable the developer to test their servers under game day release conditions and cleanup any hiccups that present themselves prior to final launch.

Starting the beta provides that wee bit of relief for a gamer who is pent up with tension and needs some release before the final version comes. It also provides the developer and publisher some extra, late in the game, marketing vibe. Here’s to the master beta and to its success at providing us with a happy ending and a smooth release.

Take Heed and Bare Witness to….Paul Eiding.

I recently downloaded EA’s online gaming social network and store known as Origin. It is meant to compete with Steam and with EA releasing Battlefield 3 soon (the reason I downloaded the new Origin app), it will do just that. I think it will be one of many competitors to Steam and I wanted to be an early adapter and familiar with the new platform when everyone else are just wetting their toes. It was the early adapter aspect that helped me pick my focus of this week’s post.

Paul Eiding is a household name in video game voice acting. His name/voice has been attached to an ongoing string of video game blockbusters (Diablo, StarCraft, Metal Gear Solid, Diablo II, God of War, Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origins, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty) and even ones not deemed blockbusters (Tenchu 2, Escape From Monkey Island, EverQuest II, Jade Empire, Advent Rising, Ratchet & Clank series, Ninja Gaiden II), still received critical and commercial success. His resume of voice acting dates back to when the industry could finally fit enough data on a disk to enable it. It was that fact that put him out front of the nerd herd of voice actors: his early adaption to a developing industry.

Paul started on the stage and still calls it his true home but his commercial success came from his voice. His career started to develop by doing cartoon voices for the likes of Gobots, The Jetsons and The Smurfs (see his career start up story, in his own words, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Igcj9shVXfI). His jump from the obscure to mainstream can be narrowed down to his voice role of Perceptor in the 1980s version of Transformers.

He exploded on to the voice gaming stage by landing a gig with Blizzard in their tremendously successful role playing, top down, click fest versus demons game Diablo. Every time your warrior class in that game uttered, “I gotta pawn some of this stuff,” because your inventory is too full, it is Paul Eiding letting you know. When Pepin the Healer lets you know about a potion he wants you to give to the witch, Paul Eiding is uttering those words. Diablo was one of the first games to be packed with a full audio experience and when you look back at that game and wonder why it scared you so much it was because the sound and the voiced lore was new, fresh and downright pee your pants scary. The voice acting for Archbishop Lazarus and the lore you read throughout the dungeon….Paul Eiding. Two fine examples of his fear inducing voice can be listen to/viewed below.

Blizzard was a pretty good company to get in good with regarding a future in voice acting. Soon after his success in Diablo he showed his range by voicing Aldaris in StarCraft and its expansion StarCraft: Brood War. If the following doesn’t bring back memories and the frustration that comes from not having enough pylons, then you probably didn’t play StarCraft.

 If the picture to the left looks familiar then you too enjoyed sometime with Solid Snake of the Metal Gear Solid series and more importantly you enjoyed the voicing of Paul Eiding as Colonel Roy Campbell (pictured left). The Metal Gear Solid series success was due to the original PlayStation’s ability to use Compact Discs, new to gaming at the time, which enabled game data and rich sound. That rich sound enabled the US version of the game to hire Paul Eiding as the voice of Colonel Roy Campbell. It of course didn’t hurt that the game play of Metal Gear Solid was fun and great at creating tension.

In Blizzard’s follow up to Diablo, aptly named Diablo II, Paul voiced one of my most memorable cinematic scenes in a video game thus far (below). Funny enough, even Marius (the meager human within the scene) points out the voice of Mephisto. Who is voicing Mephisto you ask? You got it, Paul Eiding.

More recently Paul has lent his voice acting talents to Fallout 3 (voicing over 10 characters), Dragon Age: Origins (multiple characters), StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (multiple credits) and Halo: Reach (Spartan Commander). His most recent video game credit to date, via www.imdb.com, is his reoccurring role as Zephyr in the recently announced Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. I can only hope that another credit will be announced soon for the highly anticipated Diablo III.

Where many have had Hollywood success and then played their hand at voice acting, Paul invested early into a new and highly rewarding (commercially and personally) career of video game voice acting. Interesting enough Hollywood noticed and Paul has had voice acting roles in the animated movies Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Up and Wall-E. I know Paul’s heart beats for the stage and more blockbuster movie roles will surely come calling from Hollywood. I just hope he keeps his toes in the video game water so all us nerds can continue to enjoy his talents.