A quick update on our progress to keep everyone in the loop on what we're doing - as always, if you want full details then our forums can be found here (there are RSS links for the key sub-forums that you can subscribe to to make it easier).
The first thing to say is that we've released V17.52 on Desura, with Mac and Linux versions being ported / uploaded now (both should be available for download in the next 48 hours). This does still have the occasional crash in it, but it's the most stable that the game has been for quite a while, so if you want to have a bit of a play with the alpha, now's a good time.
Our recent work has been getting ready for beta. Our last updates have been big ones for two reasons - pretty much every unit is in the game now, plus we've implemented our long-awaited file archiving system. The latter means Desura now should work fine when downloading the game, because we've reduced the number of files in the game from about 130,000 to 30,000.
There's also a number of new maps for the early game, a couple for each tileset. For beta we're aiming to have 6 maps for each tileset, which is 2 for each of the Small, Medium and Large classes of UFO. This works out at over 50 maps in total, and hopefully we'll add more in the beta. Recent upgrades to our Level / Submap Editor make it MUCH faster to generate maps so hopefully this won't be a problem. Maybe even the community will help out with it.
One more thing that is pretty much done is our new game Launcher. It turns out our previous one was Windows-only, so those of you with the ported versions of the game had some major problems like not being able to change screen resolution. We've therefore coded a new launcher that is platform independent, a bit more visually appealing and more functional too (it has an RSS feed informing you of our latest developer forum updates too). That'll be arriving in the next build we release.
The stuff we're working on at the moment is the final touches before beta. I'm writing the research tree - there's about 80 project descriptions to write of which I've done about 40; it's taking quite a while (at 1-3 hours each) but I'm getting there. This also involves checking everything unlocks properly etc, but it's a big step towards a beta-ready state.
We're also working on the tiles. Most of the normal tilesets are almost finished, so we're now concentrating on the final UFOs and alien base tiles. There's 8 types of UFO you can attack on the ground missions and it's quite complex work to get the large multi-level ones working properly with the isometric camera and line of sight calculations. We're getting there though.
For the alien bases, we're currently working on the visual style and the spawn code (e.g. so the leader aliens spawn in the command rooms), but then we need to do a few special rooms so the bases reflect the type of alien living in them. The UFOs are taking priority over this but we have some test stuff set up for this in the dev build.
We're also still working hard on the AI. I can't give you too many specifics on this because I wouldn't know a finite state machine if one hit me in the face, but hopefully it should be finished in the near future (though I do know we're not using a finite state machine, we've got a more advanced / adaptable AI model than that). Anyway, having this working is a pre-requisite for any beta so we're doing everything possible to get it ready ASAP. It's dragged on a while, we know.
The final big thing we're working on is the new user interface. The ground combat already has the new UI in place, and we're now coding the new Geoscape UI screens. The first one is now done (the Stores screen) and we'll be starting the Research screen soon. These are on a totally different code branch so you won't see them until they're all done, but it looks pretty much exactly like our concepts. As the old UI is perfectly functional we won't delay beta to wait for the new one to be finished, but it'll be great when it's done.
So, yes - we're progressing towards beta. We don't have a firm date yet as we've been burned by those in the past, but hopefully the next build after V17.52 will contain the full research tree and you'll be able to see how close we are for yourselves!