Really get to know the devs
When you first log onto the ESO beta forums, be sure to find out every developer and community manager's name. That way when you tell them what a terrible job they are doing, you don't have to be generic about it. In fact, I recommend that when you're telling off a dev, you put his or her name in the title of the thread in all caps. That way, it can get the attention that it deserves.
Screenshots, screenshots, screenshots
Everybody loves forbidden screenshots. Be sure to take a lot of them. Screenshots are not only a great way to show the developers what needs to be improved in the game but a good source of fun for all your internet buddies. Developers especially love it when you use a public service like Photobucket or Twitpic to host your illicit screenshots. That way people who have and have not signed an NDA can share in the fun.
It's beta; there are problems
Beta testing is exactly that: testing. So of course, the game will contain flaws. The developers want to hear about them. And when you do make a post on the forum about an issue, be as vague as possible. Part of the fun of being a dev is having to search for the flaw yourself. I mean, the game is pretty tiny, so I'm sure that "that creature wigging out in the North portion of someplace" would be enough information to keep the developers on their collective toes without giving them too much information to make their job easy.
I'm sure if you follow those three wonderful pieces of advice that you will be well on your way to becoming the best beta tester ever. And if anyone asks, you don't have to tell them I told you this; I don't want to take the credit you deserve.
Last week's debate on role-switching made for an interesting discussion in the comments. CyberPunkHobo and RottenRotny kicked off two great dialogues concerning other MMOs that also have role-switching similar to ESO's.
"Being able to switch roles on the fly can be a bit of a double-edged sword in practice," CyberPunkHobo began. "In games that implement that type of system -- like RIFT -- there is a tendency for players to come to expect that you're going to be able to swap to whatever role is needed when necessary." I'd theoretically say that it's very possible that players would expect that. I don't play RIFT regularly, so I really can't say.
MaxSand is a regular RIFTer but disagrees with CyberPunkHobo. "As an avid RIFTer, I have not seen this practice at all," he wrote. "There are folks who offer to switch roles a lot, but no one has ever expected my cleric to tank instead of heal or my warrior to go ranged. People may ask you to switch if it helps better suit the situation, but more often people just offer, 'Hey, my other spec is heals if you want to DPS instead.' If they ask my cleric to tank, and I tell them I have three heal roles, two DPS, and no tank; they let it go." I'm truly on the fence, and as MaxSand was quick to point out, "ESO is different in one key area: You can switch in combat, not just outside of it. That changes the dynamic." We can compare the role-switching to existing games like RIFT all we want, but the fact that roles can be switched on the fly means that we are talking about a completely different set of circumstances.
I think the quality of the role-switcher boils down to the reasons why a person chooses his class in the first place. RottenRotny isn't exactly excited about this possibility. "I guess being able to swap roles is cool," he admits, "but having tried this in [The Secret World], I would say it's not that great. Most people will still want to DPS only and will frankly suck at healing/tanking."
Madrox30 (the 30th clone of Jamie "Mulitple-Man" Madrox?) has a theory as to why we see so many DPS players who are willing to wait for a queue pop instead of switching to a tank or healer so the queue pops faster. "To me the reason DPS role is so popular is three factors. First, it's the role that hits stuff. Second, there are (generally) three of them, so there are another two guys to pick up the slack for you if you don't feel capable of top notch performance (which you don't need, but hey, people are people). And third, it's the role more familiar to what they have been doing in the rest of the game." RottenRotny agreed, saying that Madrox30 "hit the nail on the head" and "most people will just DPS anyway."
If I were to draw some conclusion from the role-switching debate, I'd say that role-switching is wonderful if you want to do it -- in fact, most players would encourage it. However, don't expect other players to do it themselves. And it's quite possible if you ask them and they do switch that they will not be very good at it.
As I mentioned earlier, Twitterers leaked that ZeniMax is holding another closed beta this weekend. Even though it's too late for some of us to get in, I'm interested in your sales pitch. How would you convince a developer to let you into a closed beta? If you did get into a closed beta in the past or present (please, don't admit that you are in this closed beta if you are), how did you do it, and do you have any advice for those trying to get in now? Lastly, how do you think ZeniMax chooses people to participate in its closed betas?
And just for reader ItsatrapLOL, I made this header. Read the comments of this week's Hyperspace Beacon if you want to know what this blooper is all about:
I'll catch you next week, and please, don't take the beta test advice at the start of this article as real advice...
Each week, traverse the treacherous terrain of Tamriel with Larry Everett as he records his journey through The Elder Scrolls Online, an MMORPG from ZeniMax. Comments are welcome below, or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. He promises to keep the arrow-to-the-knee jokes to a minimum.