Hi Philip,
I think you pretty much covered all the major pros and cons of private vs public testing so I really can't add too much to that part of the discussion. However, what I may be able to add here is the benefit of my experience with private verses public testing. As far as public testing goes I've had mixed feelings about it. When I originally started USA games back in 2004 I began with a free game called Star Trek Final Conflict. During the testing of STFC the experience was very positive, was fun for everyone, and I got lots of helpful end user feedback and suggestions. However, that was for the most part a low pressure project so the community was pretty cool about it. However, the problem with public testing for me really began in 2006 soon after I agreed to take over some game projects James North had been working on where money had already changed hands creating a very heated and stressful situation. Over the passed three years nagging has been my number one problem with public testing. I often get requests like when is the next beta coming out, why didn't I add this or that suggestion, why don't I stop fooling around and get the game done, and so on. A few, not all, tend to think because they paid in advance for this game that I must add the features they suggest, and get the game done according to some time table they themselves think would be reasonable. This, of course, has not been a pleasant experience for me at all. However, i contribute most of this to the fact money had already changed hands before I took over the project, and now some people believe I owe them whatever they want when they want it. However, no matter how bad the negative feedback has been there have been a lot of positives that have come out of public testing. I've found bugs faster, tested it on a wider range of systems, and got a lot of suggestions that could be added while the game was being designed from scratch. I found out what people did and didn't like about my games allowing me to tailer the game to what the majority of people wanted. This undoubtedly has resulted in a much better product in the long run. As far as private testing goes I've had some mixed results with that as well. Some people just join in order hoping to get a free game out of it which means they don't do a lot of testing and aren't really working for your best interests. Some are honestly trying to help, but miss things or don't encounter bugs that might show up on a different system. The worst problem I've had is a couple of private testers that were doing a good job testing, but they were bad mouthing and having personal issues with the other testers. In the end I had to kick them off the test team to restore peace and order to the list. On the positive side private testing really helped me get the game engine written, tested the early stages of MOTA, when the game and the engine really wasn't ready for public consumption. There were several bugs in the engine I know of, some popped up on some testers machines, and not others. By using the test team first I managed to get through allot of stability issues and bugs so by the time I released the first public beta many of the bugs and serious problems had been resolved. The other related advantage is how the test team views the project verses the public. In a game's early development the developer may change his/her mind many times and drastically change certain elements of the game such as adding some and removing others here and there. A test team understands this is an early test release so won't complain to much if you add something new or yank something old out of the game. As I've recently discovered with the public betas of MOTA sometimes the public takes a completely different view and screams for that feature to get immediately returned to the game even though the developer may have reasons not to restore that feature to the game at that time. This happened to me not to long ago when I decided to disable the save/load game feature in the demo, and people screamed bloody murder over it. My attempts to explain that the game was only a demo, not a full registered game, fell on deaf ears. They had the feature in the previous release and now they want it back. This wouldn't have happened if I would have disabled that feature from the start, or was using a private test team.


Cheers!


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