What is the difference between an alpha and a beta release?
What is the difference between an alpha and a beta release? I'm surprised this question hasn't been asked here before.
Perhaps because it is not entirely a question about game development. The terms go for any piece of software.
The terms are *highly* subjective and almost everybody uses them slightly differently.
Modern AAA games have completely mangled the meaning of these terms. A *pre-pre-prealpha tech-test demo* is basically just a giant PR hedge to both get the game out there (for some legitimate server testing and strange interactions, but mostly publicity and to gin up interest) and basically validate their final release version but "it's not the final game, you can't judge it based on this". Maybe I'm pedantic, but an "alpha" game would have minimal/placeholder assets.
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.
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!