Why Is Star Citizen Still In Alpha And Has Been For Years?
Star Citizen, AAA video game project for PC and consoles, is currently in alpha. It’s been in development for 2 and 3 years, to release sometime this year. But why has the game been in alpha all this time? What are the benefits of being in alpha? Wouldn’t it be better to just release a complete product now so people can enjoy it straight away?
This post will take you through what being in alpha means and explore some pros and cons of Star Citizen’s current state. We’ll also touch on how they’ve managed to keep players engaged during these dark times.
What Is Alpha?
In the world of video games, alpha refers to how far along a software project is. Going by the most common definition of alpha, games are said to be in alpha when a company is actively testing their game and should be ready for release. In this situation, testers are given access to the game’s unfinished code and content and play through it, reporting bugs and issues they encounter. It’s a very time-consuming process; developers often spend years perfecting each aspect of their game before going into beta. This stage becomes more important than ever before as it can take many months or more until you can make the final push out to the public.
Gamers usually perceive alpha as far from being done and complete. The development team needs to focus on polishing their product, ensuring all the bugs are worked out, and every aspect of the game is in working order.
Usually, in-house testers will be given early access to the game code and be shown some videos about features. Still, there is no real access to the game’s content, so they can’t play through an entire campaign or walk around a realistic level. They can report any bugs they come across, which they can then report back to their superiors at the studio so that they can work through a fix.
This may seem like a laborious process, but it’s a very effective way to ensure that your product is as close to perfect as possible before release. No longer is the industry held back by huge patches or expansions; developers can now release polished goods and add content to the game in post-release form. It’s no surprise that many of today’s biggest games are still in alphaand have been for years.
What are the Benefits of Being in Alpha?
The biggest benefit of being in alpha is having time to make changes. This may be necessary if you hit a brick wall or if the company decides to go in a different direction and needs to change its development course. This can be a lifesaver, but it’s risky; you could go nowhere and waste valuable time not making progress.
There are two types of games that can be developed using the alpha model: games developed over many years without ever releasing anything to the public and games that release early access builds every few months.
This allows backers a much greater degree of involvement than many games that remain in alpha, which reduces the amount of feedback they can give. This might be a good thing for developers as it means that they will have an improved chance of fixing bugs when they are reported, but it also means that there is no guarantee that you will complete the game.
The risk involved with releasing early access products is quite high; these projects tend to attract very dedicated fans and can sometimes become so popular that their community will continue to play them despite a lack of updates.
The more time you spend in alpha, the more feedback you can give your developers and the better chance you have at creating a bug-free experience. But this comes at a cost; your community will grow impatient and start to wonder why their beloved game isn’t finished by now.
Star Citizen is a unique game, and the development team has some interesting ideas about keeping the players engaged during this process. Will it be enough to combat player fatigue?
What Are the Cons of Being in Alpha?
The biggest disadvantage of being in alpha is that you’re still early on in your project, and there’s no release date yet and no guarantee that you’ll ever make it to beta, let alone a fully-fledged release. Many people will expect a finished product but will instead get something rougher around the edges; there are likely to be bugs, you’ll need to buy modules individually, and you may only see small patches released every now and again.
Developers that move into alpha are under extreme pressure to finish, which can be very stressful, so you should avoid alpha as much as possible.The developers will likely need extra time to polish the game, meaning they have to have the patience of a saint while they wait for their awesome game to be completed.
The key thing to remember is that alpha is just a stepping stone on the way to beta, and you can use alpha as little or as much as you want. If you’ve got the money but not the expertise, then try out a few modules but keep them small and simple.
Alpha can be a very important part of game development if it’s handled correctly. It’s about getting everything right before committing fully to development so that when you’re ready for beta, you’re in the best place possible to finish your dream game.