This is just a quick update on what we're working on now, since it's been some time since Alpha 16 came out and I don't want anyone thinking I died or became a Venezuelan monk or something.
Alpha 17 is in progress. This update is going to be a refinement build. That means we're focusing entirely on fixing things that are wrong with the game, and are not adding wholly new features.
So far we've fixed hundreds of bugs. I've made a collection of new balance analysis tools and using those, along with community feedback and videos, have rebalanced several gameplay systems. We're also doing a review of how memory is handled, to reduce memory waste that leads to sub-optimal performance or out-of-memory crashes. I've compiled a list of exploit strategies that players use to gain advantage by exploiting tricky gaps in game logic, or bugs, and worked out solutions to most of them. Some exploit fixes are mechanics changes, some are balance changes, and quite a few involve reworking the AI. We've also been adding bits of feedback or micro-features here and there where needed; one example would be the new "mass" column in each character's "gear" tab, so you can tell how heavy each stack is.
It turns out that in a game this complex, there are quite a few places for subtle problems to hide! In fact I'm continually amazed at how many problems can be layered into a game that still manages to entertain so many people.
The current plan is to finish refinements and then release that as Alpha 17. But - there is the possibility we'll not release a "refinements-only" update and just wait until we've finished the refinements, and then some additional features beyond, to push a public release. This is because each release does create some chaos in the community, since it inevitably breaks mod compatibility (though maybe not vanilla save game compatibility, since the mechanics aren't being redesigned drastically). The question of whether we'll release Alpha 17 as a refinements-only build, or wait to add on significant new content remains open.
I invite your thoughts on this in this forum poll and thread.