an interesting article up concerning the reasons and implementations of early focus testing; two and a half years early in the case of NetDevil's LEGO MMO. They speak at length with LEGO Universe lead producer Ryan Seabury about why NetDevil has been taking the early approach to testing and how they do it in a way that actually helps the game. The biggest piece of the puzzle seems to be that LEGO itself has been treating the upcoming game like any of its other projects by offering its own consumer testing group to support LEGO Universe's development. Although there's a lot more to getting helpful results out of the process.
It sounds like NetDevil has learned a hard lesson from their time spent on creating Auto Assault, which didn't receive any focus testing until the end of its development cycle. This isn't an entirely new tune from the MMO developer out in Denver. They've been taking a similar approach with the sci-fi space shooter MMO, Jumpgate Evolution. Things are looking pretty positive for both games if our impressions from time spent playing and seeing Jumpgate Evolution at PAX 08 is any indication. Hopefully we'll soon begin to hear some information on the actual game part of LEGO Universe and not just the development of the game.