4. Beta Testing
We beta tested the game for over six months. Throughout this time, the feedback on how to improve the game was tremendous. We found and fixed bugs at a rapid pace, and the experienced modders in the beta were able to suggest fixes which cut our development time.
In our mind, the beta was a core element to the success of the project. The feedback on our new content was excellent, as we found bizarre edge cases that caused the quests to break in unexpected ways. Due to the complexity of Baldur's Gate, we needed a lot of testing to find all the possible ways a quest could be broken and act quickly to fix the problem and re-test.
By sticking with the original game structures and asset formats, we were able to leverage the knowledge of a community of developers and not just the direct efforts of our team. As mentioned above, this beta testing group was a volunteer group recruited from our forums. We chose people with strong skills and a good background with the original game and as such, the feedback was fast and on-target. The beta team had access to our bug database and beta bugs went straight into the system.
We also hired an external testing company, iBeta, to help us final the iPad versions and to ensure testing coverage. They were able to run us through a "pre-certification" style testing to catch the differences between the different iPad hardware devices.
5. Our Own Digital Distribution Service
Beamdog is two parts; an online digital distribution service, and our game development team, which we call Overhaul Games. We developed the Beamdog Store with the goal of selling our games directly to our users -- no middlemen, no confusion on support, just a developer and a customer. The direct-sales option and a preorder program allowed us to receive payment many months in advance of a typical royalty-advance deal, which was a great benefit for a small, self-funded developer.
The other great benefit was how our digital distribution service allowed us to push out beta builds of the game six months in advance and update testers to new versions without a hitch. We were able to push PC fixes to the game in record time, doing four major updates in under two weeks as we found issues and corrected them. Sure, we had a few hiccups with the client software and out-of-date SSL root certificates on user systems, but the system performed exceptionally well.
We were able to add servers in Germany, Singapore, and on the East and West coast of the U.S. without a hitch as we approached launch, and we handled a huge surge of demand as we pushed hundreds of terabytes of data to our users. We use Beamdog daily internally for all our build distribution, and without it we couldn't have been nearly as agile in our response, effective at version control, or as fast at build distribution. We even use our service to send around Mac OSX, iPad, and Android development builds of the game. We've been very happy with our service to date and we'll be expanding on what it can do going forward.