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Rise of the Beta

My dissertation work aims to build intelligent game AI by learning from replays. However, the major limitation of this approach is that the AI cannot be developed until a large number of players have first played the game. Fortunately, large-scale beta testing is becoming more popular for games. These beta cycles result in mountains of data that can be used to build AI for games. One of the most notorious beta releases is Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft 2, which ran from February 17 to June 7. The only AI provided with this release was “very easy”, which means that Blizzard may be analyzing how players actually play the game before finalizing the AI.

StarCraft 2

StarCraft 2 Beta, Blizzard Entertainment

Another recent beta release was Bungie’s Halo: Reach, which ran from May 3 to May 20 and included 2.7 million participants. While the beta was used mainly to fix bugs and balance gameplay, the data collected could be used to study players’ gameplay. If large-scale betas are becoming more common, then new types of game design will be possible based on gameplay analysis.

Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach, Bungie


About the author:  Ben Weber is a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz. Read more from this author


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