Bethesda's surprise gift of public sign-ups for Skyrim's Dawnguard beta on Xbox Live won't be the last such offering, production director Ashley Cheng told G4 in a brief chat at E3 2012. "Any future DLC we do have, there's going to be a private beta," he said, nodding to the lessons learned from the rocky PlayStation 3 Skyrim release and the subsequent request for fans to send in their save files.
"We started doing these betas with Steam, [which] has the ability to take some of your content or your patch and put it behind a beta wall. People can then opt in."
"We've been getting tremendous feedback, mostly because we've been adding features to our title updates and our patches. Quite frankly, the game is so big that it's virtually impossible for us to test against all possible scenarios. What you might have done, what you might have had, what you might have crafted," Cheng continued. "And we thought, what if we did it with our DLC."
The Xbox 360 console turned out to be the perfect platform for this plan, thanks to Microsoft's pre-existing framework for download codes. In this case, the codes are just being activated early and Bethesda will give them out to those accepted into the beta. Those people will then also be granted access to a private forum where they'll be able to give feedback on any glaring balance issues or bugs. Patches can then be authored and pushed live while the beta is still in progress.
we'll basically fix anything we have to and then it goes live.
"It's the full DLC. If we don't find anything wrong, we're just going to turn it on for everybody. So all of the people who make it into the beta, they actually own the [DLC]. They don't have to buy it," Cheng added. "It's tremendous, and Microsoft is fully on board with it."
As mentioned above, the idea grew out of Skyrim's PS3 launch and the issues that players ran into with that version of the game. "That was the lesson we learned: our fans are going to help us out with this, because the game is so big," Cheng said. "Any future DLC we do have, there's going to be a private beta."