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OhJay's blog


Private Alpha explained

posted Tuesday, 31 December 2019 by OhJay
Hallo everyone!

I know you haven't heard from me in a little while, and I'm terribly sorry about that, but i've had my hands full supervising these guys recently... making sure everything is done right you know... I turned my back on them for a second the other day and before I knew it they'd turned FrozenSand HQ into an inpenetrable fortress and were hurling water balloons via catapult from the roof at our unsuspecting neighbours...

Undoubtedly there are some of you out there that know bucket loads about developement, and all the power to you, but also some that know very little about development - so I'm going to start from the top and try to cover all the main bits as briefly and simply as I can. There is a link down the bottom that takes you to our forums if you want to chat about anything I have or haven't covered here.

The typical software release life cycle consists of several stages that describe the current state of the software at that time. They are pre-alpha, alpha, beta, and release. Variations of this general layout are possible, ie two betas.

The pre-alpha stage is where the core of the game is being developed. This involves lots of planning and design decisions, and the most basic features are added to the game. Testing during this stage is performed by the development team itself and other automated tests. After this is all done we move onto the next phase - the alpha.

During the alpha stage a game might be playable and contain many of the planned features, but there will almost certainly be plenty of incomplete features and bugs - some potentially even game-breaking. This is where a separate team of testers gets included to find problems and bugs as well as provide feedback for the developers. Generally, alpha software is not released to the public and is completed in-house, and would usuallly end with what is called a 'feature freeze'. This means that no more features will be added to the software after that point and is said to be 'feature complete'.

The next phase is the beta and usually begins when the software is feature complete, but might still contain some bugs. This is the point when it's potentially released for the first time and is available outside of the organization that developed it. A big part of this phase is focused on compatibility and performance on different systems, and is where you may see game development companies offering beta invites in some circumstances.

After all these stages are said and done the software can finally be released with (hopefully) no bugs and to the satisfaction of the users. This doesn't mean there won't be any future updates and it's forgotten about though, especially in this day and age and the existance of game platforms like Steam - it just means the software is stable enough to be enjoyed by the general public. Further updates can improve the existing features, add new content or even completely new features. All these updates still get tested by the developers and QA team before going live of course.

Now we know about the stages of developement I guess you could say we are kind of in the middle of the alpha and beta - utilizing some things that would be expected slightly later in development, such as the private alpha test groups - because we just don't have the people or resources to be able to work on development and bug fixing and proper quality assurance at the same time in-house. This is good though, because it will both help to speed things up, and also allows the community to have more input into the development process.

Hopefully this has gotten everyone on the same page and understand a bit more about where we are at.

We have selected our first group of testers to try out the game, and over the next few months we'll be adding more groups incrementally. QA needs to follow a strict procedure and the testers need to know exactly what they are doing - which takes setting up and training. So rather than having a thousand people pour in and just make a huge mess and send poor Slis crazy we'll instead add smaller groups incrementally, making sure they are trained and know what they are doing before moving onto the next group. We'll try to get a healthy number of people with different skill sets, gaming background, hardware setup and URT experience.

It's all very exciting isn't it! What are you waiting for? You can find the survey on the bottom of our news post, or click here.
comments: Feel free to discuss this on our forums

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