Poll Question 357 – Is it possible for SP mods to release too many Alpha/Beta versions?

11th August 2016

Preparing a What The Headcrab! episode, I noticed that Above The Catacombs had 3 Alphas available at the time of writing: Alpha 0.73 – Jul 18 2016 (Called the seventh), Alpha 0.4 – Jun 27 2015 and Alpha 0.3 – Jun 2 2015.

Putting aside the time difference between 0.73 and 0.4 of almost a year, I feel that schedules for public release should be fairly limited.

In general, Alpha are internal milestones and beta are external. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way with mods but I can’t help feeling that if you need feedback this early in development then you don’t have much confidence in your concept.

Now, I am not trying to criticise Above The Catacombs. I haven’t played the Alphas and there may be very good reasons for that schedule of release.

This question is more on the idea of releasing too many pre-release versions.

Somebody once said “Release early and release often”. Which sounds like great advice and is often thrown around as a reason for doing that, but it’s better suited to MP releases than SP. Valve doesn’t do it with their SP games.

Unlike MP release, you often only get one chance to impress players with SP releases. Sure, you can fix bugs and the like but the percentage of players who replay games is very low. Only the die-hard fans do that. That’s why I generally don’t like it when modders revamp releases and try to update them. Unless you are going to add new sections, I’m probably not going to replay it.

If it was fantastic to begin with, then maybe, but if it was fantastic to begin with, why are you updating it?

Let’s look at two examples.

Example 1: Prospekt was recently updated. It seems to address minor issues, at least that’s what I got from reading the updated list, and doesn’t address the core issues I and most people had with it. Will I replay it? Highly unlikely and if I do it will only be for a video comparison. I would prefer that Richard listened to the community and built something new. Something better. Richard says he has listened to the community, but I don’t think he really has. He has listened to the things that he wants to hear. Sorry Richard, but as you can probably guess I feel pretty strongly about this.

Example 2: Transmissions: Element 120 (Steam Version) was highly praised on its initial release as a mod and offer fantastic new gameplay as well as new style of setting. This was also recently updated, partly to work on Steam but also to add new story tidbits and polish. Now you could argue that that’s all Prospekt got in its update but it was loved when it was released.

So, does it come down to this: Update great mods because people will play them but forget bad mods as people won’t want to bother?

Back to the main poll question though.

Getting feedback is HUGELY important but releasing too many small iterations can backfire. The people who actually play all of these can’t keep providing new insights. You need new people for that and as we quickly learnt with The Beta Testers Collective (A small dedicated group of SP mod testers) too many versions of a release only confuse players.

What are your thoughts.


Is it possible for SP mods to release too many Alpha/Beta versions?

  • No. (16%, 9 Votes)
  • Yes. (84%, 48 Votes)

Total Voters: 57

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  1. The problem is with SP, once you’ve played it, you’ve played it. The details may change but the overall play experience is now spoiled because you’re never going to re-capture the experience of the first play-through.
    I think release early release often works for MP and also for playtesting. Getting early playtesting in is essential.
    Another approach I tool with Deep Down was to release a single map of the final five and get feedback on just that section. It was helpful.

  2. I feel as if most of the upcoming Half-Life mods on ModDB have already too many early versions ready. Unless the project has been completely canceled and I exclusively want to try it then I don’t usually bother with unfinished releases. Sorry for the missed feedback !

    Now it all depends on the size of the mod. If, for example, the mod in question is a 2-map thing, then releasing an alpha/beta version is completely unnecessary unless the maps in question are enormous and contain a lot of things, in which case a SINGLE beta would be understandable.

  3. I don’t think so. It really depends on developers though.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say :/

  4. Internaly they should iterate as much as possible….

    Outside of that, they should release maybe release alpha to test out how people react in their gameplay situations, and almost finished to test out how it runs on different platforms, possibly with main story elements cut out to keep it surprise for final release

    Also, Hi RTSL ! 🙂

  5. It is possible yes especially within the Hl community. In my opinion 1 internal Alpha is fine showing the basic idea or mapping behind it to the testers the next step in regard of mods should be the beta version there might 1 or 2 beta possibly 3 but then it should reach the final version or open beta possibly followed by 1 last patch addressing issues which were overseen during tests.

    I honestly don’t think much about so called demo releases in Half-Life I mean c’mon these are tiny mods not full fledged games. Most demos either spoiled half the mod or showed 2 minutes worth of game play and therefore are not even qualifying as demo. Every project author – be it in Half-Life or any other game should consider the right balance and right timing – knowing when to release. Risidual Life in Half-Life is the best example. That guy must have released like 6,7 follow up versions always showing the same things again and again with 2 or 3 new maps in each release. That’s certainly not the way how to do it! He should also rename the mod to Eternal life or never ending life it would be more suiting titles. ^^

    I for once don’t download Half-Life mod demos at all (well I do for backups in case these mods die out after their demo release) but I don’t play em. If they die out I upload them as I did numerous times here before. The reason I don’t play em is because I don’t want to get spoiled or left alone with a cliffhanger facing the constant danger of the mods extinction

    As for Schedule time table releases as a modder I say “no” almost no person can keep the scheduled time tables. Be it due to the job, the family or simply a lack of morale and time in general. Modders are no company employees working forcefully on the next AAA title with which they also earn their money. At least for Half-Life it’s a free mod in people their free time (Prospect aside). They release when they do or they don’t simple as that.

    So to conclude this in short. There are to many alphas, Betas, demos even and to few full fledged releases.

  6. I do agree that having such an open development leaves little for surprise. However, I would rather share the progress of the development openly and give the user the choice of how much they wish to try out and research than to keep them fairly in the dark. I also find such transparency helps keep me on track and in line.

  7. Making 1 or 2 Beta/Alpha/Pre-Release/etc. releases for the mod is completely fine! But making one release and then another like a week later and it doesn’t have much to offer other than a couple of bug fixes, is where it becomes overdone. I think that documenting everything you’ve worked on and/or posting update screenshots would be better for the growth of the mod, rather than releasing 5+ builds of basically the same thing in 2 weeks.

    But hey, that’s just my opinion.

  8. I’m not a modder but here’s my two cents: do beta testing privately with a few people, absolutely, but only release the final version to the public. Releasing often when the development will take a long time is just going to get people hyped way in advance and ultimately disappoint them.

  9. Unknown

    I think it really depends on your own mind-set and the circumstances. It could be a good thing in the sense for multiple alpha or beta versions to come out, so you can monitor the changes and progression within the mod. The changes may be a lot more subtle and difficult to find otherwise.

    Releasing a few might be good to allow your audience to test the modification for the developers, but re-releasing the same beta or alpha over and over and playing it time after time with only minor changes being made really I feel “depreciates” although it is that persons decision to play the mod after every release.

    I think it could be done better depending on the progression and changes within the mod upon each beta or alpha release, so the experience may be the same to a small degree, but the in-game elements or models maybe even animations maybe different. It also allows users to garner an opinion on the mod or project, so they may be better engaged before the actual release.

    In some cases having released a beta can also be a security measure in the sense that “maybe the developer’s hard-drive crashes and everything is lost” it would be nice to know that there is a sample laying around, so the developer can continue work on the project.

    In that sense it’s not a terrible practice. I mean how many times has your PC unexpectedly died on you and you lost everything and never being able to get it back?

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