Chucklefish's Finn Brice is ready to talk about Starbound's beta because “it’s really not very far off now.” He’s told the community that it will come in three successive flavours: buggy as anything, then largely bug free and feature complete, and finally lacking polish but the complete game (including the main quest).
It sounds like when the beta does start changes will be coming rapidly, “often as multiple updates a day.”
Stage one of the beta’s been labelled ‘Progenitor’ and it will be the “buggiest and busiest stage”. Not all of the game’s features will be included and those that are will be being fixed and balanced as fast as the community can spot the flaws. There will be numerous save wipes.
Chucklefish recommend it for folk who “enjoy testing buggy and unfinished code, [...] providing feedback, [...] want to leave [their] mark on the game, [and] just can’t wait any longer”
The second stage, ‘Automaton, is “largely feature complete” but still with the odd bug. This second stage focuses only on the sandbox game, so don’t be looking for a main quest to complete. However, “All sectors of the galaxy will be available including sector X (End game content).” So you won’t be short of things to do.
This stage is for those who “enjoy reporting bugs/bughunting, [...] have a low spec computer and want to make sure the game is optimized for it, [...] want a complete sandbox experience, [and] tried to wait a bit longer but failed”
Finally, the ‘Bio-organic’ stage. is all about “prepping for v1.0”. The game will now include the main quest line and you’ll be able to play it from start to finish. When this stage of the beta is complete the game will be released.
Chucklefish assure us that they “plan to keep adding new content for at least a year after release, perhaps a lot longer.” So don’t worry that at the end of the beta the game will be done and dusted.
Brice also took to Twitter earlier to guage whether the community wanted the beta to be released through Steam Early Access.
So the beta.. would you prefer we do it through steam early access (which would let us update WAY faster) or DRM free w/ slower updates
— Tiy (@Tiyuri) October 30, 2013
The response was a very loud yes. Expect it to appear on Steam soon after the beta launches.