*Rushes in panting, out of breath*
As per usual, I am late to the party.
Everytime SD does a Beta release, there is at least one thread like this. I think that some of us ("Us" being both the customer base and the SD staff) take for granted that we know how this works after a few times through the dance. For any one that's been around a little while, we plunk down our cash ahead of time, not to reserve a compy of the software, but to help them with their dev costs and get in to the closed beta. Yes, it's different that the norm, but it's how it's done here.
If you pay attention to the forums before the pre-order starts, Brad and the others make it pretty darn clear how the Beta's gonna work. It works the same way for every game they make that we can preoder. Always has, and probably always will.
And every time, there's a couple of people that feel like they got burned.
It's getting to the point that I think SD needs to put a big flashing banner on the preorder that says, "Hey, buddy! We've warned you - there's no turning back if you click!"
Yeah, it sucks that you feel that you were taken advantage of...but if you'd paid attention around here before you ordered, you would have seen what you were getting. I know that before the Beta went out, there were a very good number of threads titled things like, "When does the Beta start" etc, and most of them had warnings from Brad as to how the pre-order/beta works.
I know it's hard to trust game companies, but that's what you need to do with SD. You pre-order, and in response, StarDock promises you a game some time down the line. I've never known them to cancel a game that I've paid to pre-order. Sure, I'm taking it on faith that the finished product is going to be something I like - but in the mean time, I am rewarded for my faith by being allowed to play the game as it's being made, make suggestions and ultimetly make it my own. For example, there were conversations that I was involved in with SoaSE that eventually made it in to the game. To me, that's just down-right cool.
I know, this post rambled all over the place, but I wanted to put my 2¢ in.