When a developer opens up their game for testing, they see it as a chance to test things. When a consumer gets into a game for "testing", they often see it as a chance to play that game early.
There are a number of problems with this disparity, which will only grow larger the more games begin to turn to the "early access" model of development, where fans can pay to get early builds of a game long before it's actually finished. Case in point: DayZ, where developers Bohemia have basically had to issue a "like it or leave it (for now)" ultimatum to early access customers who won't stop complaining about the state of the game.
Posting in a thread called "Has Anyone Else lost Faith in Dayz?" (via PC Gamer), in which people who have paid for early access to the still-in-development standalone version of the popular mod complain about the rough state of the project, producer Brian Hicks writes:
You are not playing DayZ, you are playing development builds. Early development builds.
DayZ is 11 months into principle development, on what should be a 3 year standard development cycle. I can't force you to be a fan of DayZ, but I can call this out:
Defining or judging what DayZ is by a build so early in its development is much a kin to judging a painting within the first few brush strokes. Hell, even Bob Ross's paintings didn't look great for the first few minutes (until you realized what it was he was making).
I can promise you none of your favorite AAA games played, or even resembled the final product that early in their cycles. (Okay, maybe some of the larger titles that push small incremental updates out every 12 months - but we all know those are special snowflakes)
Take a break, and come back in beta or even the full release. The Early Access period of development will have many peaks and low, low valleys. This is the nature of software development. Yes, it is stressful as heck - for all of us, but you get to be part of shaping the DayZ experience.
For me, its worth it - for some of you, it might not be. No one can fault you for that. :)
He has a point. DayZ is nowhere near finished, that's been disclosed, and people need to realise they're now part of the development process, not just a consumer of a final product.
And yet...you can put all the notices and warnings on an early access game all you want, but once you start taking people's money, you're taking on their expectations, however unfair they may be. From the player's perspective, however much goodwill there is behind their decision to give you money at this stage in a game's life, there's going to be an even greater desire to get hold of something fun and functional.
Early Access may be a viable funding model for some developers, but the more it spreads to more projects and more studios, the more it's going to run into issues like those facing DayZ at the moment.
If both sides of the coin have a point, maybe the answer isn't to decide which one is "right". Maybe it's time to get a different coin.