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What It Means: Alpha and Beta

Today we’re going to be talking about the various milestones of progress within a game’s development.

Alpha and Beta are terms anyone who pays attention to video games will be familiar with. The meaning of these terms is often inexact, especially in the era of open Betas. What we’re going to try to give you is the definitions that we’re using, so that you know what we mean when we use these terms from here on out.

Alpha means that not all major systems are up and running yet. There are gaps in the foundation, parts of the game that have not even been implemented. Beta, on the other hand, means that all major systems are in place but are unfinished or plagued by major bugs. This ranges from early Beta, where the bugs are rampant and highly disruptive, to late Beta, when the game has nearly reached a launchable state.The exact location of the line between Beta and release has become a matter of the studio’s tastes, preferences, and need to pay the repo man.

We’ve been using a much more simplified form of this graphic to chart our development process internally. We also use it to track the progress of individual components of the game that might release on their own, such as the Avatar Builder.

“Completed” (White dots) are elements that are functional and are ready for testing. “In Progress” (Blue Dots) are elements that are being worked on, but are not considered functional. “Next Step” (Green Dots) are elements that are still in the early part of development, or need to have another component completed before they can move forward.

In order to get this game made, we needed to develop in stages if we wanted to create a solid product and not a barely-functioning mess.

Each of these stages has individual steps. The Avatar Builder, for example, has its own Alpha/Beta/Release state and can be rolled out independently, prior to the rest of the game. The one you’ve seen in promotional images and videos is a very early Beta; all major systems are in place, but they still need work. The rebuild in progress is more like mid-beta, still with a list of significant bugs to fix but improved and continuing to get better.

Combat/Missions and Multiplayer are also independent game aspects with their own Alpha/Beta states, and they’ll be added to the game as they reach Beta. The worldmap is the same, and may even have that approach broken down for each zone, with Alexandria, Downtown, NRD and others being added as they reach Beta.

All of these will be trackable in this new graphic, which will be updated when we make progress. As time goes on you’ll see us showing it off when we achieve something.

When we do that, we’ll take a few moments to discuss the Alpha and Beta of each stage, step, or of the entire project, when things change enough for that to matter.

We’ll have some more exciting news coming up in the very near future. Until then, please feel free to discuss this weeks update here.

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