I’ve been avoiding writing this article on Killing Floor 2, because I’ve already made it quite clear that I’m disappointed in the game and its developers. There’s not much to be gained from just ragging on something over and over, and I’m only giving them further undeserved attention. But since I made a video on their Versus mode, I needed a tie-in article, and I figured I’d cover probably my biggest gripe with the game: Tripwire marketing it as an “open beta.”
A beta is an unfinished version of a product that the developers are working on completing, and I’ll grant that it sure sounds like Killing Floor 2 should qualify based on that definition. But when you look at most games that are in open beta, you quickly notice that they’re mostly a different form of “unfinished”. They lack fundamental elements of the game’s foundation, such as a survival game shipping without a working hunger/thirst meter, or all the enemies being unfinished, or a general lack of polish. Killing Floor 2 wasn’t like that at all. The game was immaculately polished from day 1, with the only obvious absences being 6/10 of the advertised playable classes. A few of these classes have been added in, usually in a completed state (with one notable exception I cover below.) This again doesn’t really feel like a beta; it feels like a content-strapped full release, and I respect that the difference is extremely subtle. If that were my only complaint, this article wouldn’t exist.
But Tripwire’s incredibly lethargic update schedule is another problem. Betas are supposed to receive constant updates and changes and tweaks; instead, Tripwire went almost four months without a single update of note, releasing a single map and adding dosh necklaces into every map that contribute nothing to gameplay.
It’s hard to consider something a beta when it never receives overhauls, new content seems to come out fully formed, and there’s a complete absence of the experimental, ‘testing’ attitude that developers are supposed to have towards beta releases. Tripwire stated over and over that they were only going to add new content when it met their rigid quality control standards, and good for them but that simply resulted in the game being starved of content.
The only real exception is the Firebug and Demolition perks, which were released unfinished and Tripwire definitely took customer reports into mind when overhauling the two into the perks they envisioned. The weird part, though? These were added as an opt-in beta. As in, you signed up for a beta separate from the base game, so that the content wouldn’t break anything. But that’s what happens in a beta. That’s what players were waiting for. What’s the point of being a beta if you’re going to create mini-betas every time the content requires beta testing?
The final reason I have trouble believing the “beta” label is the amount of monetization Tripwire has already sneaked in there. The Chivalry crossover and the Zed-conomy update quite clearly show that Tripwire considers their game finished at least enough to start paywall-locking a melee weapon and a whole micro-transaction system. It just really seems like Tripwire used the term “beta” more for the political benefits, because in practice and appearance the term just doesn’t work for their product.