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Beta Be Prepared!

Rutaq of the Broken Skull

Picture a scene familiar to many of us - several oddly-clad folk sitting around a table that's always too small, character sheets blanketing the surface, multi-colored polyhedron dice gleaming like gems abandoned by Snow White's septet of dwarves, all eagerly discussing the transformation of a beloved game into what promises to be one of the most amazing computer games ever created. We talk of the upcoming Beta and all hope to be included, but I am struck by the thought, "Are we really ready for Beta and all that it entails?"

If you're as much of a DnD junkie as my gaming cohorts and I are, your immediate response is an emphatic affirmative. Let's consider, just for a moment, all that the Beta test will require of those lucky enough to be selected by the BioWare crew.

Initially, you'll get to be the first kid on the block to play with the new toy. There's an amazing pride and reverence that comes with that privilege, but it also means you get to be the first one whose hard drive is fried by confused software; the first to see the wily merchant shopkeeper suddenly turn and eat your favorite new character; the first to spend 36 hours making the coolest module ever only to find that the save command was coded buggy; the first to experience of having every NPC stuck with the voice of George W. Bush by an amusing code fluke; and finally, the first to experience every possible defect in a game you have set on a pedestal for the past two years or so.

On top of that, after you get riddled by the bugs in this extremely ambitious game, you get to be the person who has to go through and document what you find so that you can make the game better for the rest of the playing public. Now, it's work. Sure, you may put in 8 hours at school or 10 hours at work or some Herculean combination of both and all you want to do is come home and let your brain gel while playing a little computer DnD, but you can't, because as soon as you boot up, your Plant Growth spell summons a horde of Umber Hulks that promptly reduce your spellcaster to an unrecognizable smear on the road. Sigh, you think, as you hastily type out yet another bug report for the folks at BioWare. Will it truly be worth the effort?

The staff at BioWare have no doubt taken great efforts to create a solid, quality game. As with most software that requires extensive code, there are bound to be a regiment of unforgiving code errors that will need to be hammered out before the game can be shipped. If you are like me, the prospect of getting the Solstice toolset in hand is akin to being granted the Holy Grail of CRPGdom, but when I stare at it as Sir Percival stared at the Grail of legend, will I see the divine creation or the divine flaws therein?

For those of you who, like myself, continue to barrage BioWare with requests to be part of the Beta crew, keep my words in mind - with every fantasy comes a reality and often the experience of the reality can overshadow the fantasy. Are you willing to pay the price of that reality to realize the fantasy?

Thanks to the great guys over at Black Orc for Rutaq's orc logo. Visit them at

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