We are currently aiming for a March 24th release date for the BETA (that means test version) of Galactic Civilizations. For those of you who haven't been through a Stardock beta program before, our betas tend to be much earlier on than what is the norm.
Most betas, by definition, are "feature complete" with only bugs to fix. Stardock's beta programs have traditionally encompassed both the alpha phase (early development) phase and beta (late development) phase. This is so that our beta testers have the maximum amount of time to provide input into the game and give us the maximum amount of time to react (for example, the star bases from Galactic Civilizations I came from beta tester suggestions).
The first beta will primarily be about trying out the new 3D engine. It uses the latest DirectX 9 features (and ironically one of the really new features of DirectX 9 is seamless True Type support which will let us support any language easily).
On March 15th, Stardock will be releasing DesktopX 3. We are using DesktopX to create the entire UI environment in the game (there is literally a directory full of .dxpacks that can be opened and modified via DesktopX - total customization of how the game will look beyond anything that has been seen before). So players will be able to play around with this as well.
This first beta release won't have most of the key features in the game. For instance, star bases aren't in yet. We mainly want to see how well the game runs on your computers and find out what configurations are having problems with the game. The star ships, while 3D, won't have textures on them yet. The final game will look quite a bit better than what you will see in the beta. To get an idea of where Galactic Civilizations 1 looked like at this point see THIS for what it looked like for beta 1 and THIS for what the game looked like when it was done.
HERE is a screenshot of what the game looked like last week.
So two weeks from today we expect to have the first bete available to those who have PRE-ORDERED the game or have active TotalGaming.net subscriptions. It is through pre-orders that we are able to maintain our independence of the larger publishers and be able to deliver games in the way we do.