As you all know, we strongly value our ties to you, the community. When we released NS v1.0 after 18 months (games were easier back then!), in some ways that really marked the beginning of the game's development, not the end of it. Over the course of five or so years and around 20 versions, the game changed remarkably. Some may argue it actually changed too much, but I believe the "spirit" of the game was always preserved. Maps, abilities and balance changed, but teamwork, depth and atmosphere remained. It's also much more gratifying to work on a game that people are playing, and many bugs and issues that would be hard to track down ourselves are revealed instantly under the communal magnifying glass of many thousands of players.
So releasing new versions and taking feedback is in our blood. Even though NS2 is a commercial game, we pursued this approach with our developer blog updates, early tools releases and engine test. This is especially helpful for us making a PC game, because the few computers we have around the office are not nearly enough for compatibility testing. We've also used this "open" approach to help run our business and stay independent - by giving out stuff earlier, we encourage people to buy earlier, which means we can fund the company without having a publisher involved. Remaining independent is not without its drawbacks, but was the right choice for us and has allowed us to build a proper sequel worthy of the original.
Honestly without you, the NS community, we wouldn't be here today. Both because we wouldn't have the money to continue and because all the work wouldn't be worth it. When we needed your support and we started our pre-orders, you were there to buoy us up again. Over 90% of you opted to spend extra money on the Special Edition and for that, we can't thank you enough. We promised to give you special supporters something in return, and we're finally at that point.
So it's with great pleasure that today we take the next step in our open development and partnership with you. On Monday, July 26th, we will be releasing the NS2 Playable Alpha to all the Special Edition pre-orderers, on Steam. Like with NS1, this is not the complete game, this is the first of many versions. Here's what you can expect on that day:
NS2 Alpha 1 content
- One of our shipping maps (ns2_tram), plus some smaller "test" maps
- Marine, with Rifle, Pistol, SwitchAx, Grenade Launcher
- Skulks, Gorges, Lerks and their basic movement abilities and weapons
- Marine armory "buy" screen for purchasing new equipment
- Alien evolution menu for choosing your lifeform and upgrades
- Basic marine and alien commander interfaces including MACs, Drifters
- Much of our final sounds, artwork, animations, etc.
We will be adding new weapons, upgrades, commander abilities, maps, etc. throughout our development to v1.0. We expect to patch somewhere between 1-4 times per month. Sometimes we'll need to tweak balance, other times we'll need to take a step back and make a bigger change, but it will be a work in progress. The fact that we're shipping on Steam makes the updating progress much easier for us.
Please keep in mind that this version of NS2 will not be the ultimate super-fun game we're striving to create, it's "alpha" for a reason! While much of the game and systems are finished, we've had to work extremely hard to get to this stage...and I don't want to describe how much work we will still do over the next two weeks! This is an alpha and parts of it are rough. However, we know that the game will get better, and better faster, with your help.
Something else you should know is that when we release alpha 1 at the end of this month, we are also discontinuing the NS2 Special Edition and all-black marine armor. It will no longer be available after this date, ever. Also, players that order NS2 after July 26th won't be able to play in the release date alpha. Here's an in-game shot of the limited edition black marine armor:
If you've been on the fence about ordering the Special Edition, you now have two weeks to decide. If you have the Special Edition, you will be able to choose your armor when you play - possibly at the Armory, like the rest of your weapons and equipment!
This has been a long road for us and we're excited to finally give you something you can play! Now if you excuse us, we have some work to do...
See you on the other side.