I'm tired of mod teams spending years on mods, so here's a few reasons why modifications should release early rather than wait 3 or 4 years.
- To get public feedback early on to fix any issues. Let everyone test it, not just a select few. Beta testers are usually forum whores or IRC users that have been bumming the makers of the mod to get a beta spot. Their opinion is somewhat useless. Don't leave it 4 years then realise your target audience don't like how your mod plays.
- Your mod will never live up to the hype. You're likely to get negative feedback from those who were expecting an entirely different type of game.
- It's easier to get extra team members (namely coders) if you have something already playable to show them.
Garry Newman, creator of Garry's Mod, summed it up well in a recent interview:
The main argument about this (releasing early) is that they don't want to release a shit version of their idea and turn everyone off. Fair enough, but it's going to be so much worse if you work your balls off on it for 2 years then release, and your idea is still rubbish. Iterating would have let you know that this idea isn't working out, so you could adjust it. In every update you're picking up more people playing your mod. You build a community.
Release early. Release often. RERO!