Now that our beta / pre-order program for Din's Curse is over I thought I would write up some of my thoughts about it. Hopefully this will be interesting to our gamers and might also be helpful to other indie developers.
We got a ton of really good feedback. Right now there are 2,153 posts in the Din's Curse beta forum. For our forums, that's a lot. It's second only to the DoP main forum. Also if you look at the change lists, you'll notice a ton of changes were from our beta testers. I've said this a few times, but I'll say it again our beta testers helped a lot and I'm very grateful.
I think the biggest benefit to the feedback was to the balance of the game. It started out fairly rough, but I'm much happier where things are now. We wouldn't have officially released that rough, but I think it is better now than it would have been without the beta.
This one didn't occur to me until we had actually officially released the game, but on day 1 of the official release we had a bunch of experts in the forums. This is extremely helpful and it makes multi-party discussions happen more often (not just me and whoever started the thread).
I really like how the credits thing worked out. I already keep a pretty good done list, so tacking on someone's name to each item is fairly easy. I think it worked to give out a little recognition to people that helped out and is just kind of cool. I've actually had several people comment on it, so I think it was well received.
I ended up adding more new features than I expected to. I did expect to add some, just not this many. I suppose this could technically go into the neutral section, but Din's Curse is a better game with all of the new additions.
The game was pretty stable when the beta started, but I did squash a few crash bugs here and there. This is one of those places that is hard to test as an indie. You need more players and more configurations to track down some things.
The only bad thing I can really think of is that we shipped later than I thought due to the beta. In reality, although the release date shifted out, I probably didn't actually lose any time overall. Without the beta, I still probably would have fixed many of the same bugs, it just would have happened during a private beta or in patches after release.
I really liked having open forums for the beta. I'm really not sure if this was ultimately a positive or a negative though. It could potentially have scared people away or encouraged them to join in. Actually I'm sure it did both, but how many of each I have no idea. It was nice that I didn't have to grant access to a private forum for anyone.
In theory, we will get better reviews since the whole idea was to make a better, more polished game before release. This probably should be under good, but I have no way to verify it either way.
Overall I think it went really well, so we are likely to do something similar for future games. What do you all think?