Today I thought I would take you through the process of being a beta tester, some of the pros and cons of it, and maybe inspire a few others to be interested in beta testing – as long as they really know what’s involved!
Life As a Beta Tester
My first beta test was for the QualityWings Ultimate 787. I was first given my invite in May of 2017. I was at work and I received an email saying I had an invitation regarding the beta test of the 787. It was quite the surprise, as I never thought I would have gotten an invite to a beta test of one of the most anticipated flight sim products. I got right to work and was blown away. The level of detail that it had was astounding! It was for Microsoft Flight Simulator X, since that was the base release.
Being a beta tester is an interesting job. It has its ups and downs – since it is beta, you are trying to find bugs while you fly. Some of those bugs would annoyingly crash your sim or make the aircraft unflyable. But it’s one of those things you know will improve over time, and you know that fixing the bug will be put on a list for the next update. I was in constant contact with the developers and even some of the other beta testers. I know when the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) was lifted, I was able to post as many pictures/videos/streams as I wanted. A fellow tester and I did a couple live streams together and eager customers were able to see the 787 in action for the first time and not just still screenshots.
Our job has a beta tester was to fly and report. If we saw something that was out of place or didn’t seem right, we would report it and the developers would add it to the to-do list. The list was split into different sections: high/low priority, likely fixed and suspected easy fix. These were all under several specific features/parts of the aircraft both exterior and interior.
The reason why I accepted this invite was because I wanted to help. I wanted to help make a highly anticipated product perfect, or as close to perfect as one can get. It was very cool to see features getting added that didn’t work before and to watch the aircraft grow as we flew. Since there was no real 787 on the market, I felt almost like an ‘elite’ simmer if you will.
Benefits of Being a Beta Tester
Not the biggest pro, since it isn’t the main focus of being a tester. If you are testing because you just want to fly the plane and nothing else, you shouldn’t be a beta tester. It is nice, but you get a lot of questions. My reply was always the same. I would take off my aviators and say “It’s classified.”
Having the ability to report bugs directly to the developer and have them listed right away was great. It wouldn’t be long either until there was a new fix and then those bugs would be patched but of course there would be more bugs to fix. But that got better and better each update.
Since there is no good 787 on the market, it was like flying a whole new product – almost like driving a new car. It has all these cool new features that are new to you and the sim. You could look around and see all these new systems that have never been seen before in a flight sim product, like the airport diagram in the ND if you zoom in all the way. That is a game changer and shows how far simulation development has come.
Being able to post content of an unreleased product is a weird feeling. I mean, you see photos of PMDG 737s and 747s everywhere, but you didn’t see pictures of the QW 787 in action very often. Once the NDA was lifted I went nuts with the photos. I would spend hours in the sim at different airports, with various airlines getting photos of them in the air, take off roll, taxi, you name it.
I met quite a few new friends and even got a little closer with some others. After the NDA was lifted I worked pretty closely with an Air Canada rep.
I had the privilege of working side by side with 787 pilots from around the world and seeing how things were done on the real aircraft. They posted a lot of photos about how stuff worked and how the SOPs worked.
You would assume that the beta testers are awarded a free copy upon release, and well, you are right. All the hard work you put into the aircraft dealing with the bugs and crashes is huge. It was very rewarding waking up one day to see that the 787 has been released.
Challenges of Being a Beta Tester
When testing you don’t have to fly the plane 24/7, but you do have to fly it a lot. During the testing period, I logged a lot of hours on the 787. I would fly other planes every so often but I focused primarily on the 787 – mainly because I had to test it, but also and because of sheer interest. Annoying bugs that crash the sim are to be expected. It’s in development, so you would be expecting several bugs that would cause the plane to be unflyable or crash the sim. Or you would find bugs that didn’t do anything, but really annoyed you.
Making time for testing can be difficult at times. In my case, I was working full time and in school so at the time it was hard to fly – but luckily, the 787 has short haul routes, so I just did those in the meantime while I studied.
One of the first times I flew the 787 in FSX, I was operating ACA125 from Toronto-Vancouver and just before Top of Descent, my plane started to pitch down uncommanded. It started slow, and then once it got past 5 degrees, I thought I should take control. So I did, but couldn’t get the nose to raise back up. At this point, I knew I had a major problem. I tried using the engine to try and top the dive and it sort of worked. The plane stopped diving and started climbing very rapidly. 20+ degrees nose up. Then the stall prevention would kick in and lower the nose and I would start diving again. This went on for about 10 minutes. Until the nose dropped to about 30 degrees and just went down. No control what so ever. Spoilers out, engines idle, trimming up and pulling back but no use. I ended up crashing in the Rocky Mountains.
I took several screenshots and after I exited out I reported it to the developers and they were surprised. They asked for more detail and I gave them the full story and I even included the screenshots. Sadly I’m unable to share them with the community but they did provide insight for the team.
All in all, being a beta tester is a lot of fun. If you ever get the chance to do it, take the opportunity. You will not regret it. It is a wonderful experience and if in future there are more products that need testing, you’ll then have experience that you can refer back to!
If you have any questions or want to know more, drop a comment below. If I’m able to, I’ll try to answer your questions.