Public testing is good since it lets you test the game on a wide range of
configurations. I've seen the best results when a build is privately tested
first, and then when considered stable, released for public evaluation. This
is the practice I employ and it has worked well. As far as the element of
surprise, you don't have to release the entire game as public testing
software; just lock it to the demo. Your goal is to make sure that the
overall framework runs on your general target audience's computers.
As for releasing successive patches, that's up to you. The best thing to do
is wait. If there's a bug, don't fix it right away and release a patch
because this will just annoy people; every time they turn around there's
another update. This is what you have to be careful with in public testing.
It's okay for private testing since that's their job, but remember that
public testers are your future customers as well as your unofficial
testers--they're trying the game because they're interested in it, not
solely for the purpose of testing it.
Munawar A. Bijani
Follow on Twitter for blog updates: http://www.twitter.com/munawar0009
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