This weekend, I finally put together the first beta release of rktcr, which I'm calling beta0 (note, that's a zero; this font isn't great about differentiating). I sent out beta0 to a my (alpha) testers; I will probably be looking add 5-10 more testers for the next release (stay tuned).
It's great to finally be at a point where I can label releases as betas. For me, this means that the game is complete, if unrefined -- that every piece of the experience is there in at least some form. This isn't to say that the game is either code-complete (there are a lot of refinements to make) or data-complete (more levels, stories, and characters are always nice).
In the remainder of this post, I describe the big changes I needed to make over the alpha releases.
In rktcr, you play as a team of four: three people and one vehicle. In the alpha releases teams were basically placeholders -- two were automatically created on startup, and no changes were ever saved. In beta0, teams are full-fledged -- you are always playing as a team; teams remember all sorts of game state; and team members appear in-game.
Also, I've been slowly adding more character components, so teams can look more varied than ever.
Teams are perhaps most evident as the chattering stars of cutscenes. I like this speech-bubble style of dialog, as it allows for some visual pacing in the dialog sequences.
While the code for cutscenes is reasonably complete, I still have to write a fair amount of dialog. (I have ambitious targets for the finished game.)
In the alphas, difference segments of the world ("zones") were independent. With this release, zones are linked together into a world. This is made graphically evident by portals that spring open to show the zone on the other side -- it's a nifty little effect, though I need to refine exactly when it is deployed.
The portal effect is quite beautiful in motion, as well.
Finally, now that the zones are linked into a world, your team needs a place to start. I call this base of operations "the lab". The goal of any game of rktcr is to design a journey for your vehicle that takes it from the lab, through the world, and back to the lab (with 14 gems collected).
As you can see above, the lab has several functions other than simply being a start/end point. The implementation of these functions remains for a future beta release.
Of course, there are many other changes (big and small) that went into beta0 -- too many to really go into any detail on. And, while I have a huge TODO list left before I can get to a final version, the end is at least in sight.