The team is really excited to get Beta 1 of Galactic Civilizations III out there. The target date is one week away.
The Founder's Edition, which is what provided access to the Alpha builds along with a lifetime subscription to everything we make for Galactic Civilizations III (all expansions, DLC) will not be offered anymore once the beta comes out. On the other hand, the beta Early Access edition will be $5 off the list price of $49.95.
So what's up?
They got a major graphics overhaul to the ships in. It was non-trivial and I think players will agree when they see it that no game has ever had better looking ship visuals than what will be in Beta 1. A big part of the reason is that the graphics engine is 64-bit and we're requiring DirectX 10 or better and as a result the materials and lighting on ships is something we've never seen before in games (though I suspect as 64-bit becomes more common and DirectX 10+ becomes required in more games you'll see the generational leap in visuals from the legacy DirectX 9 era we're still largley stuck in).
The other thing they've been working a lot on is multiplayer. We have an Arena map in development that, believe it or not, should allow for 1 on 1 duels to be played in around half an hour. We still have a lot of work on the multiplayer front though. We need to make it easy for people to rejoin games so that friends can get together and play together on games that might take months to complete.
One of our objectives is for people to have the option to play new "Immense" sized maps where there might be hundreds of empires playing. We have a lot of different ideas on how to make this work (few people are going to want to have to select 130 opponents to play against). We might use Steamworks Workshop to allow players to share their custom made players and once approved have automatically added as additional AI players into games where a player wants to play a game with a truly insanely large galaxy.
The marketing team is struggling in how to describe the fleet combat in GalCiv III. My suggestion has been to describe it in terms of Hearthstone. Your fleet is your desk and your ships are your minions that you crafted. However, where the analogy fails is that the actual "tactics" of fleet battles are handled AI vs. AI. So your skill is about how you design ships and assemble fleets. Looking closely at what your enemies are designing with their ships and organizing them and countering it will be crucial.
Diplomacy and AI
Beta 1 won't have diplomacy in. Some modder might figure out a way to turn it on but it's not ready to be shown yet. I am not scheduled to begin writing AI code until October.
In less than 1 week, these forums will likely get very very busy.