We’re on the road to Alpha, also known as “Content Complete”. So there’s still new content being created, but at this point it’s more about dealing with the content we have and getting it all to work. This is also the stage where most of the big cuts happen, since we can still create new content to deal with those cuts (as in “change the writing to accomodate a change in the story flow”). Once we hit Alpha, cuts are generally things that are simply excised in their entirety, without any ability to really work around them for the sake of logic or flow.
The writing team is mostly out of the pool insofar as voiced dialogue goes, so the last of it can go through the pipeline and get edited, recorded and localized before being passed on to the cinematics people. At this point we’re mostly working on what we call “non-VO text” …the codex entries, item and talent descriptions, GUI text. Pretty much anything that needs words.
Still, we have to handle all bugs that come our way, and be responsive to any cuts that are occurring. This is a pretty stressful time for everyone. Every cut feels like it’s reducing the overall quality of the game, until there are so many of them you feel like you’re producing a piece of crap—until you remind yourself that every game goes through this, and the alternative is shipping late or not at all.
It’s not a process that any fan will truly understand. They’re usually oblivious to what’s going on, harping on what color the sails should be while the hull is rapidly leaking water. Which is a strange dissonance from our perspective, let me tell you.