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If you are going to iterate, *always* add new players
I read this blog post on the Picaroon website (Picaroon is an MMO RTS in beta).
One key element leaped out at me: If you are going to try iterative development and continually release new updates to a group of alpha or beta testers, it’s vital to keep adding new users to the group.
As the post says:
“[you need to be] reminded – continuously – what it is like to play your game for the first time.”
I think this is extremely strong advice to games developers, who suffer, more than most, the dangers of designing for your most vocal customers, not your most representative ones.
Of course, I prefer open betas, but if youi are going to operate closed betas of any sort, keep adding fresh blood.
Otherwise your game will get harder, more inaccessible and – likely- less successful with each interation.