After a number of balloted tests, the floodgates will open for a limited-time, unrestricted stress test for Age of Empires IV. Gone are the days when all video game development \u2013 and, more importantly, testing \u2013 could happen behind closed doors. In the age of online multiplayer, you need to get real players to kick the tyres. That will usually come in the form of closed betas and invite-only test events, often as pre-order bonuses. (Unpaid labour is a "bonus" for something you paid actual money for? Hmm. That doesn't sound right.) And sometimes you need to stress test your application and your infrastructure scaling, which means getting all hands on deck with an unrestricted, all-access open beta. This weekend, Age of Empires IV\u00a0is having one of those stress tests. "Our goals are different!" A blog post on the Age of Empires website begins. "This time around we\u2019re focused on scale testing our servers and systems in preparation for the October 28th release date. One reason we are hosting this event over a single weekend is that we are interested in driving as many people into the Technical Stress Test\u00a0build as possible during this window to make sure that our matchmaking, lobbies and additional systems hold strong." "The Technical Stress Test will not be gated by an invite!" The post continues. "Previously, we had some requirements that won\u2019t be necessary this time around. The build will be available in the Xbox Insider Hub app (available in the Microsoft Store) or Steam regardless of whether you\u2019re an Age Insider or not. The larger our audience for this Technical Stress Test, the more successful it will be!" (We must stress that the exclamation marks are their emphasis, not ours.) The Age of Empires IV stress test kicks off on Friday, September 17. at 10 am PT \/ 6 pm BST. It will run through until 10 am PT \/ 6 pm BST on Monday, September 20. It's open to all players via the Xbox Insider Hub or Steam, will understandably focus on multiplayer modes, and will feature four civs \u2013 the English, the Chinese, the Holy Roman Empire and the Abbasid Dynasty \u2013 and five different maps. There's also no NDA on the Age of Empires IV stress test, which is neat. This may well be the last such test before Age of Empires IV releases on October 28, 2021, so if you're on the fence, it would be a good opportunity to dive in. The devs will thank you for it. Follow Thumbsticks on Twitter and Facebook if you want to know when you are invited to break stuff in future.