There are a few things to consider when you set out to build a strong group or community of beta testers. However, what is most important is having a good tool to allow for constant and quick collaboration between testers. Your first candidates will essentially be the seeds to help build a branching network of beta testers for your game project. Once you know what your game will be about, you can start planning on how you can deploy your beta and how testers will apply. It would be suitable to approach people on social media, whether you use Twitter, Facebook, or even Reddit.
Create an Application
Start by constructing an application process that focuses on what would benefit the product if someone were to test it. Include specific questions that will match the audience you intend to target your game for, but also include questions that will be of a general nature. The reason for this mix of questions is not to confuse people who will not be interested in the game but rather, if they are committed to beta testing, you will get necessary information from their answers. The better the application design the easier it will be for you as a developer to make a more accurate judgement on who to select.
Once you have an application sorted and ready to be put into place, start by soliciting your current user base. Announce online via social media or forums that you have a beta testing opportunity for your game and that you need a small group of testers and give an explanation that they need complete the application/questionnaire. Ask for email addresses and send them the application via email; with smaller projects, a PDF questionnaire would be easiest as that can be filled out online. The difference between an independent developer and that of bigger developers is that you have more control on what happens here.
A good example to compare to is Ubisoft: they open up their games a lot to closed alpha and beta and open beta stages that last three to seven days each over a period of months at a minimum of 3 stages. The difference here is they open up this opportunity to many more players. The closed beta can be accessed by anyone, open beta shows up as a free download via UPlay, and the closed alpha is a little more restricted but can still be accessed by the public if you as a player know where to look.
Sorting Out The Rest
There are a few things you need to do before you know who your testers are. You need a place where testers can go to interact remotely and share information about the game and issues with you and each other tester. One of the best places that I know for this is Trello. Trello is used by many teams, whether it’s displaying information to the public or those planning out anything whether for games or other topics. Most notably used with developers and developer road maps.
Once tester applications begin to roll in, you should carefully analyze each to decide which people who you think would match your target audience for the game but also those you think would benefit a beta testing program for a game. The better the application the more chance people will have detailed answers, and from those answers you can figure out who are the best candidates.
Once you have enough potential testers, you can either wait some time or immediately begin to grow your tester community by asking those in your current pool to share your beta program around. It would be suitable to have a registration form online to help garner large numbers of people but if you want to keep things small scale you can stick to simple email application that you send out yourself. Encourage your testers to talk online through social media or other communities discussing what your game is about and how one goes about applying to the beta program.
If you want to go above and beyond with a beta program, you need to have a good place for people to go and apply, this is where you would have to think about making an online application form. In any case, your application process needs to be professional but also specific to your company and game. Don’t make the process too difficult but make it detailed enough so that you can single out those who would understand what testing is about and those that can help benefit your game. Once you have this in place, you simply need to get the word out that you are seeking testers. Within no time, you will have a great pool of players willing to beta test your game.