On Monday I decided it was reasonable to consider the game to have hit the Feature Complete milestone.
In software this is sometimes also called “Alpha.” It means that everything we plan to include in the game is complete, at least to a reasonable level of quality. There are still known bugs, and some of the art is still being worked on. (All of it is at least inked, however — see the example work in progress.)
In terms of the project, it means we can invite a small number of external playtesters to try the game and give feedback. The emphasis is on small, because there are after all known bugs, and there are likely to be confusing bits. It doesn’t help if a dozen people tell me that an icon is unclear. Better to hear that from one or two and then iterate.
It turned out that one of the important bugs we found was actually in our bug reporting. The game now does a better job of capturing information about an issue, so playtesters don’t have to jump through hoops to do so.
We’re also starting to get data on how the game is actually played. This has led to some minor tuning, and will surely result in more. We’ll also learn if systems work well, or if anything else would help.
Meanwhile, the QA team is continuing to make sure all the game situations have been exercised and make sense. (We recently had a discussion about whether one scene should be dropped entirely because of changes that had been made since it was written.)
At some point, we’ll have all the art complete, changes made, and bugs fixed. That will put us at the “Beta” milestone and we’ll look for more playtesters. (Don’t ask now! I’m not sure exactly what we’ll be looking for at that point.)
And I still can’t figure out a release date. That will depend on how alpha testing goes. But we are definitely progressing.