With the blessing of the developers I prepared the following overview of development builds. Hopefully this contributes to avoiding misunderstandings.
This is the earliest build of the game. It was used to create the promotional footage seen in the crowdfunding campaigns. Only some of the final features were implemented and almost none of them finished or polished. But the basis for the tech and gameplay were both there.
Alpha / Work in Progress
Since the beginning, the game engine has been refactored thoroughly to assist future development and further design decision have been made concerning the mechanics of the game, including the wider world map providing a background to the settlement area under the player’s control. On the way towards the beta (see below), it has been decided to release - gradually, in controlled batches - the current WIP version to the backers with the “Closed Beta Access” reward, i.e. the Lord level and above (initially the plan was not to share the game with the backers at this early stage yet).
This version is a first approach to the Mesolithic era in Atlantic Europe. It includes resource production and gathering, building construction, basic tools (the knowledge system is not yet present), minimal work specialization, tribal policies, and the migration mechanic. See www.ancient-cities.com/funding.php for a full desciption of the contents. The game will receive continuous updates for the players to enjoy and test as the development progresses all the way to release.
The beta stage will be reached once the game is feature-complete, i.e. it contains all the mechanics and gameplay planned for release (see below). This stage is envisioned to last a few months in which the game will receive a final polish and balancing based on the feedback.
After the final polish, the game will be released to the general public and available for purchase. In terms of contents, the full release version will cover the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic (the Neolithic revolution) in Atlantic Europe.
Later, backers with the Chief level and above will receive two future expansions that have been unlocked during the crowdfunding period covering the Ice Age (before the base game timeline) and the Neolithic Middle East for free, once they are developed. All further, as of yet unannounced, expansions to the game will be free for backers with the Savant level and above. All other unlocked goals concerning game features (more biomes, disease simulation, etc.) will each be added to the base game for everyone either at the full release or later, depending on the available development capacity.