Here Be Monsters is currently in Open Beta (as of November 27nd 2012).
Basics of Game Development Stages
Games go through a few basic stages when they are created before they can be Officially Released.
- Pre-alpha: Usually games in this stage are demos or bare bones design.
- Alpha: A playable version of the game exists and people can begin testing the software. Games at this stage can be unstable and crash regularly while players find major bugs.
- Beta: Most of the features are set and the game is fully playable, but needs testing by players to uncover bugs and fix speed and performance. There are regular additions to the game content, and developers use beta player feedback to make changes.
- Official/Final Release: Once a game has gone through extensive testing by beta players and many of the game bugs have been fixed - it will be officially released. Most games that enter this phase are able to provide regular, scheduled content updates and releases.
What does that mean?
The game developers are still adding new objects and elements to the game regularly, and changing items already in place. They are looking for a balance between creating interesting/challenging content that is also entertaining and fun for players. There are changes to experience rates and the game economy (how much an item is worth), and difficulty or drop rates. You may log into the game and find that locations you visit look different, or have more of a certain type of plant.
With each big game update there may be new game bugs. The developers will spend a fair amount of time balancing the game economy, tweaking features, adjusting tutorials and early game play, reading player feedback, and updating the game with bug fixes.
Beta testers are anyone that plays a beta game. They are incredibly important to Beta games because they are able to find unique game bugs that didn't occur in initial testing and report back to developers. They also provide feedback for current and future game content.
For more information on this subject see: on Stages of development