An early test phase for any MMO has one major drawback, and that’s the simple fact that it’s not anywhere close to being ready for public release. You’re almost inevitably dealing with half-assembled systems and placeholders that have yet to be filled in, and that’s in the unlikely event that most of the game’s content is in place and you’re not just running around in a half-textured field. It’s kind of a mess, and it remains a mess for quite a while during testing.
On the other hand, though, there’s something to be said for the wild and wooly mess that testing can be for these games. You get to watch as early system iterations roll out and get changed over time, often resulting in some things that provide neat mechanics for a short time. Plus, there’s the fun of watching a game take shape around you. So what’s the earliest test phase you’ve ever played for an MMO?