ATOMIC SPACE NEWS #8: Goodbye prototype, hello Alpha

As of Monday I now feel comfortable dropping the ‘prototype’ label from Atomic Space Race and moving it into ‘alpha’ status. Since the various development stages have fairly fuzzy meanings in the gaming world these days, I think I should outline what exactly I mean by them. 
  • Prototype: A program that tests or demonstrates an isolated example case of the game concept. A complex game might have prototypes for different sections of it, and these prototypes may not run outside a development environment or otherwise be highly inaccessible, but they serve to determine if the idea has any chance of working or not before building all the more complex trappings of a game around them
  • Alpha: At this stage the project is playable as a game and gives a good indication of how the final game will play. There may be large gaps, and indeed every individual system may need significant work, but you should be able to test the entire flow of the game at this stage and have a viable experience despite the gaps.
  • Beta: All the gaps are filled in now. Improvements are still possible or needed throughout the game, and some chunks of content may still need finishing, but all the systems should be present and approaching complete. Testing at this stage can hopefully focus on finding out what parts of the game need more improvements than you thought.
The movement to alpha for ASR is marked by the advent of a main menu that stitches all the modes together so that you can move from level to level smoothly. It also comes with score saving and a handful of working levels. The editor, accessible through the same menu, can create fully working levels from scratch, though it’s a bit fragile. I’m starting to get copies of this version out to a select few testers already. 
Of course it’s still alpha, so there’s a long way to go. The GUI is as rough and subject to redesign as ever, there are several known bugs, there are still missing systems. Most glaringly thrust and fuel aren’t capped inside levels, which is going to be a fundamental part of levels. That should be my focus in the near term, in additional to general bugfixing and strengthening of the code’s weakest points. Beyond that, a tutorial message system is on my mind, though building a specific tutorial might better wait for the interface to be more final.
For now, enjoy this playback of a solution for one of the new levels.