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What is the difference between an alpha and a beta release? I'm surprised that this question hasn't been asked here before.

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Perhaps because it is not entirely a question about game development. The terms go for any piece of software. –  János Turánszki May 29 at 19:59
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The terms are highly subjective and almost everybody uses them slightly differently. –  Josh Petrie May 29 at 20:41

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In traditional software engineering, Alpha releases will still be introducing new features, while Beta releases will see no new features, but rather polishing up the existing stuff.

However the current development environment in game dev is that both of these are simply "not complete yet", and alpha is generally just "less complete" than beta.

Beta releases will still see new features, while sometimes I'll see alphas that simply try and flesh out existing stuff. And even a few things that stay in alpha or beta forever.

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I may be wrong about this, but my perception of the game industry is that beta usually carries with it an idea that people from the general public get to play the game, and especially for multiplayer it usually involves stress testing servers and finding kinks in the network side of things. I'm not aware of companies doing the same for alpha...but I could be wrong! –  Bob May 30 at 1:29
    
I suggest putting your second paragraph first, it's the key. –  ashes999 May 30 at 15:35

Alpha means the features haven't been locked down, it's an exploratory phase. Beta means the features have been locked down and are under development (no other features will be added).

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Pre-Alpha is the version before the Alpha version, Alpha is the version before the Beta version, Beta is the version before the Gamma version, Release Candidate is the version just before the release. It's basically just to denote "this version is not supposed to be completely satisfactory and may contain heavy bugs or may even be completely broken".

What the different notions mean exactly differs from developer to developer.

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Alpha and beta testing are two of the stages that a software must undergo testing. Alpha testing occurs first and when the software passes that, beta testing can then be undertaken. If a software fails alpha testing, changes are done and it repeats the tests until the software passes.

So to answer your question, an Alpha and Beta release can be considered the 'testable deployed artifact' that you are currently developing.

Read more: Difference Between Alpha and Beta Testing | Difference Between | Alpha vs Beta Testing http://www.differencebetween.net/technology/difference-between-alpha-and-beta-testing/#ixzz338XZWLaj

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