SMITE Could Be The Best Beta Journey In MMO History
Love it or hate it, the MOBA genre has taken the MMO world by storm. Since the release of League of Legends the genre has exploded and is widely regarded as the most popular niche in the MMO industry today. Since the release of Riot Games' MOBA epic the genre has spawned many poor titles attempting to emulate its success but a few special gems have also emerged. One of those gems is SMITE, an upcoming MOBA game that utilizes the third-person perspective over that of the genre typical isometric view. This feature alone sets it apart from other titles but it also delivers its own set of challenges.
A third-person view requires a higher level of graphics, more detailed textures, a more refined user-interface and a plethora of other challenges. Thankfully SMITE managed to conquer every single one of the third-person challenges laid before it, and that was with the initial release of the closed beta. So the game appeared to have most bases covered but did Hi-Rez Studios stop there? No, they didn't.
I have been enjoying SMITE since its first first foray into the public space but that's not to say it was always a positive experience. The developers made many changes that I personally considered to be negative to the overall game experience and many of the biggest problems with balance were ignored for far too long. When it comes to reading feedback and suggestions from communities during a beta period I always find that a surprising number expect far too much. They don't realize that the majority of the game has been built, the engine concreted in place and mechanics finalized in many areas, so their suggestions are quite often impossible to implement. This is the same for SMITE as many people complained about problem A and problem B however the developers totally shot my theory out of the skies.
The game has gone through some of the biggest changes that I've ever seen in a beta. I've participated in over 200 closed and open beta periods for free-to-play games and 90% of the time, the starting product isn't all that different from the official release. That couldn't be any different for SMITE. The developers have come under fire on a few occasions following their lack of support for their previously published MMO games but actions speak louder than words, and in this case they scream.
Practically every single element of the game has seen huge revamps since it was first released in closed beta. Every single map has undergone huge changes in terms of layout, textures and design. Every God has seen huge changes made to abilities, both for balance and accessibility purposes, sometimes they have even completely changed a God's role to fit the desires of the community. The UI has been improved time and time again, and the addition of "pretty" content like voice packs and skins is as regular as clockwork.
I have complained on Reddit and I moaned on the official forums many a time about SMITE but one cannot ignore the levels of dedication on display during the beta. Is the game making Hi-Rez Studios a lot of cash? I have little doubt that it does but it's all too easy for developers to just sit by and rake it in nowadays. Hi-Rez Studios are raising the bar for beta experiences across the MMO industry. I don't believe SMITE will come close to claiming the MOBA throne of League of Legends but if a game has ever deserved to do so, it's SMITE.
If even half of MMO games in the future adopt such an approach to closed and open beta testing, we could just be approaching the golden era of MMO gaming.