7 Ways I Beta Test Maps – The 7 Series

25th May 2012

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Lots of people think they can beta test, most can’t.

Simply playing a level without forethought is only really useful for making sure it works on your system.

That in itself is important if enough people do it, but there’s so much more to beta testing than that.

Ideally, a beta testers not only highlights issues but, if possible, offer solutions. Of course, this depends on the issues involved and the testers.

Below are the ways I test some levels sent to me. I don’t have time to do all of them for all levels I am asked to test, but I try.

I am posting this article simply to stimulate discussion about testing techniques NOT to offer my services as a tester.

So, here are 7 ways I beta test a map.

Don’t forget to add your own in the comments.

Number Seven: I play it like you.
Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Well, I mean I don’t try and pretend to play like you do, I mean that I don’t try to consciously beta test it.

I play it to get an overall feel for the level.

For this type of test I am not interested in details, just feel.

I ask myself questions like: did I enjoy it? If not, why not? If yes, what was it that I enjoyed.

Number Six: Video Commentary
Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I play it like but record the video and commentate on what impressions I have.

I know some people do this on their first play through, but I feel that the act of commentating interferes with the overall impression.

Too often, especially if they are publishing the recording, there more effort going into sounding cool than actually being helpful.

Number Five: I try to get out of the map
Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I love this stage of beta testing.

People like me and William from Podcast17 are perfect for this task.

We go all around the level looking for crates and barrels, just to stack them up and reach areas that the author didn’t think possible.

Most times we encounter invisible walls but sometimes we can get behind the map.

Generally, it’s just a case of adding a fence or some sort of barrier. Most times you just need to consider the number of items within easy reach of enticing looking areas.

Number Four: Enemies, Enemies and More Enemies
Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

For this one I ignore everything except the enemies.

Here I am looking for the way I get attacked or more importantly how I can avoid it.

For example, putting a crate in front of a doorway may funnel the enemy to certain areas of the map, which change the way it plays.

I just try to find ways to make it hard for the enemies.

Number Three: This playthrough focuses on visuals
Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Here I am looking for textures misaligned or lightning etc.

It’s not that important for some people but it’s also not too hard to correct either.

Number Two: Speed Run
Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

It’s all about speed in this playthrough.

I run past enemies, jump down stairwells, anything to see if I can beat the map in the fastest possible time and find errors. Stuff like spawning enemies, scripts waiting to start etc.

Some people make this the standard way they play a map, but I don’t really enjoy that much.

Number One: This is the break-it playthough
Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I try my best to break everything.

This includes walking into walls and shooting everything imaginable.

If there are puzzles I try to do everything in the wrong order to see if I get stuck.

I suppose I am trying to recreating the most strange situations that can occur.

Well, there you have them. How do you test maps?

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10 Comments

  1. William

    Great article, I’d say I do almost all of these things too, maybe not so many play throughs but that’s because I”m lazy. I combine a few of them into one playthrough.

    I wish more people would take this seriously.

  2. keywc

    I mostly make everything like phillip, but during the break-it playthrough I also make trigger zones visible or decompile the map to see its flaws.

  3. Kyo

    I would do all of those. With Half-Life 2 specifically though, I would also do a “Gravity Gun Run” where I see how far I can get using nothing but the Gravity Gun. Also helps to identify where I’d really want items to throw, or where a Gravity Gun-centric prop (radiator, saw blade, etc) ought to be.

    1. Excellent point. Trying different weapons in all situations is another useful test.

  4. Dias

    Sometimes I like to leave as many enemies alive as possible, especially in areas that need to be revisited, just to see what happens. It could make things harder for me, or two opposing factions could kill each other before I even show up.

    I guess that’s part of the “break-it” playthough.

  5. Major Banter

    For me it’s all about just playing it and thinking how the gameplay can be improved. The game-breakers have a tough job and if you’re into that kind of thing then good for you, but personally I prefer analysing how fights flow and so on.

    I don’t really get much of a chance to go into my usual obsessive detail on this though. Map breaking bugs are genuine issues, while gameplay problems are very subjective. One of the fights in Miigga’s latest tests was, in my view, very easy. I didn’t bring it up because his maps have always been about the puzzles, and I was surprised to see in the test notes that someone said the same fight was way too hard.

    It’s about structuring these fights as much as anything, but trying to refine something like that is a lot more technical than, say, dumping a clip brush on something.

    Hey Phillip, on this note I’d like to discuss the Beta Testers Collective.

    1. Hey Phillip, on this note I’d like to discuss the Beta Testers Collective.

      I sent you an email but haven’t heard back from you.

  6. Deadrawkstar

    I like this article. I do alot of this without noticing it. My biggest take-away was that in theory I can apply alot of this to writing a review for a mod! This is also great advice for any Dev!

  7. SPY

    GREAT ARTICLE!!!

    It is true, many people think they can beta test a map or mod when in fact all they do is playing the map one time, in a ordinary way, and that is it.
    to me those kind of testers always just seem to be interested to get there hands on something that isn’t finished and or released yet.

    I don’t test that much for others, mostly because not many people ask me to test there work, but also because I need all my free time to map myself.

    In do agree with all of the 7 above mentioned points or ways to test, just the “getting out of a map by jumping on everything” is something I always have questionable feelings with. Before, when I mapped with other games, as mapper I didn’t need to think that much about this. It is that the source engine is so good with psychics that as mapper you do need to focus on this. Still, I do believe that most players don’t try to get out of a map, so to make it really impossible is something I don’t prefer. I mean, I hate invisible walls, used them years ago but my last few projects are without them. That means that you need to find other ways to keep the player where he “belongs”. But, it sometimes is impossible to block him. You simply can’t place fences or other objects all the time to keep him in. Sometimes a roof just needs to be not so high, when it then is possible to get on that roof and “out” of the map when you stack about 4 crates is really no problem to me. So, should one really look to get out, in ways that can’t be seen as “normal” gameplay, then this is no problem to me.

    I have to say it again, great article!!
    I will place this in my favorites, so when someones ask me next time if he can test my mods, then I can point these 7 points out to him.

  8. Au-heppa

    To me a play tester that goes “oh, this isn’t the type of mod I like, I will stop playing” isn’t really a good one, and doesn’t make me want to ask him to ever play test again.

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