Our Closed Beta testing period will officially begin a week from tomorrow on August 18th, 2017 (Countdown Clock). As we start to enter the next phase of the game's development, I wanted to share a few pieces of information with you all.
What is Beta? What is Early Access?
Generally speaking, the game will go through a Closed Beta, then an Early Access period, then will officially be "launched." The Closed Beta begins next week, and we anticipate entering early access in late November/early December.
During the Closed Beta, the focus will be on getting the remaining game mechanics into place, such as Friends Lists, Market Stalls, Fellowships, additional housing locations, etc. We'll also be balancing the combat of the game and adding additional tweaks and fixes to the various classes. Finally, a large focus will be on adding all of the remaining content that still needs to be included, such as the dungeons, quests, and zones that we still haven't put in the game yet.
Generally speaking, the beta will still be buggy, but thanks to all of the testing that we did during the Alpha, the client and server should be much more stable than before. In addition, we're honing in on the final behind-the-scenes work, such as fully supporting the Oculus SDK, switching to a 64-bit version of the client, and upgrading to our final version of Unity that we'll be using for the game launch, 2017.1.
Early Access, on the other hand, will be the time when we say "the game is ready to go live." At this point there will be no further wiping of characters, and the game will begin "for real." We will still be calling it an Early Access because there will likely still be some bugs, as well as some content that's not in yet. For example, when we first enter Early Access we anticipate having only one end-game dungeon in the game out of our planned three. A content patch that will arrive around 3 months after launch will introduce raids, additional end-game dungeons, and some additional story quests which take place in a new zone. At that point the game will be "complete" and we will officially be fully launched. Then we'll move on to our long-term plan of putting out a major expansion pack on an annual basis.
What's the Beta Schedule?
The Beta schedule features fewer tests than we did during Alpha, spaced farther apart, but with each testing lasting much longer. We think that this approach allows us to have more time in-between tests to work on big pieces of content so that every time you come back and play, there are major new things to do in the game. In addition, running each test for longer periods of time should give folks more of an opportunity to play regardless of their real-life schedules. Now that the server is much more stable, this is something that we can do without the Dev Team needing to babysit the server 24/7, which was a major drain on us during the early Alpha.
Without further ado, the Beta schedule will be:
August 18th at 12 PM CST - August 21st at 11 PM CST
September 15th at 12 PM CST - September 19th at 11 PM CST
October 20th at 12 PM CST - October 27th at 11 PM CST
November 15th at 12 PM CST - Servers stay up 24/7 until Early Access begins
After November 15th, we will be treating the servers as though they are in "production mode," meaning that they will remain up 24/7. Rather than scheduled testing periods, from that point on we will roll out content patches when needed. So the server may go down for brief periods of time for maintenance or to introduce new features, but the default from that point on will be "the game is always available to play."
First Closed Beta: August 18th
So, to recap, the next time you'll be able to join us in testing the game will be August 18th beginning at 12 PM CST. For that test, the major things you'll see in the game will include the Oculus SDK support, a much more stable client, new locomotion options, a new zone (the Obnobi Desert) with many new enemies to fight, the friends list, and more. We'll do a more detailed preview of this test next week.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you in-game!